Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Researchers develop technique to track yellow fever virus replication

Researchers at Princeton University have recently developed a technique named RNA prime flow that have allowed scientists to look at RNA molecules within individual cells. Thus, they have used this technique in order to look at replicating viral particles in cells of mice. This in turn has allowed the scientists to arrive at a very complete and precise method to track yellow fever virus replication in immune system cells!
This discovery is very exciting, as while there is already a Yellow Fever Virus Vaccine, Yellow Fever is a flavivirus that is very similar to other flaviviruses, Dengue and Zika virus that do NOT have a vaccine currently developed. Thus, a complete and thorough understanding of yellow fever virus replication could contribute towards the development of new vaccines that could help to save lives across the globe. 
-- Ashley Jowell

Product Red - Apple iPhone 7

While perusing the news, I was VERY excited to see that Apple has introduced the iPhone 7 into the Product Red Special Addition. The (RED) partnership has help to raise over $130 million dollars for HIV / AIDS programs giving counseling, testing, and medicine to prevent HIV vertical transmission from a mother to her baby. 
The addition of the iPhone 7 is very exciting, as it demonstrates Apples continuous efforts to help stop HIV transmission. I believe it is the corporate responsibility of companies to lead social impact projects, such as Apple’s RED Program. If all “for profit” companies were to in fact donate towards antiviral transmission efforts, mitigation programs, vaccination programs, and viral research, this would lead to an additional billions and billions of dollars being invested in public heath each year which could have huge impacts! I was so thrilled about Apple “loudly and proudly” being at the forefront of this effort, and hope that other companies will follow in its footsteps. 

-- Ashley Jowel

Hepatits C Cures while New Drugs Wait in the Wings

Drugs DO currently exist that can cure Hepatitis C Virus (HCV); nine fact, the drugs were developed four years ago! They have high viriologic response rates, low side effects, and can prevent cancer. However, this article describes how there are a number of barriers that are preventing the drug from actually being implemented. 
These barriers include, first of all, the INCREDIBLY high cost of these drugs; they can cost thousands of dollars, which in turn results in doctors being reluctant to actually prescribe the drugs! Doctors instead will send people who have the virus to liver specialists or delay treatment until symptoms occur even when they know that an individual is infected with Hepatitis C virus, which in turn can lead t the virus having detrimental effects upon people, worsening health, and ultimately lead to death.
This article exemplifies to me the important link between science, policy, and action: while the science to help prevent or cure a given condition might be there, a number of other additional barriers do continue to exist that limit treatment. 
I think it is simply not ok that drug companies make these drugs so expesnive; it is our moral obligaiton, in my opinion as global citizens, to not limit access to drugs that can CURE a disease and allow more people to live simply to get wealthy and make a profit. I fear, however, in the current administration that these drugs wil be less and less subsidized within the US and globally, and that people will in turn suffer. 

- Ashley Jowell

Donald Trump and HIV: What Do Black and Trans Women Got to Do with It?

This article described a disturbing effect of Trump’s desire to repeal the ACA (Affordable Care Act). The ACA provides care to 20 million uninsured adults, and also helps to fund AIS organizations. urthermore, Medicaid currently helps to provide medical treatment and cover for over 40% of people with HIV, funds HIV testing / prevention, and helps women living with HIV receive housign, nutrition support, and prevention services. 
Curenlty, there is a dirproportiantliy high prevalence of HIV amongst Blac women and transgender women of color. Thus, Trump’s desire to slash tthese services that offer services and care for patients with HIV and AIDS would be a social and racial justice issue, as it would disproportionately impact  African American women and transgender women of color. This potential threat is emblematic of President Trump’s complete lack of awareness of the health of Black and trans women, and how this manifests itself through viral transmission particularly those in lo income community. 

The author of this article advises readers to amplify the chalenges that Black women and transgender women face, particularly through increased research, medical tools, and advocacy. I wonder how we at Stanford can make this a priority in our institution - to make sure that the voices of marginalized communities are heard, and what we as a privileged University can do to help. 

Ashley Jowell

A Child From 17th-Century Europe Might Have Rewritten the History of Smallpox

The article described a finding regarding the age of the smallpox disease. An evolutionary geneticist worked with scientists in Lithuania to analyze the genes of crops from the mid 1600s; one crops that this geneticist analyzed was the viral virus, also now n as smallpox. While Duggan was not originally looking for smallpox, this was an exciting discovery, w and is the oldes definitive trace of smallpox that has been found.
After finding this sample, the scientsits worked to compare this sample with other viral stains that had been collected in the 190s ad found that, based on the number of mutations, viral actually arose in the late 1500s or 600s, which is MUCh later than researchers had thought beforehand.
What is so striking about this discovery is that scientists are now questioning - what was the source of earlier plagues that scientists had thought was due to smallpox? Perhaps it was chickenpox or emasles? Furthermore, what was the supposed “smallpox” that wiped out many Native Americans… if it were not variola (as this most recent discovery indicates that viral was only originating the late 1500s), then it must be another virus! I wonder what other virus could have had such deadly effects so similar to smallpox, and it makes me concerned tha ta similar epidemic could break out in the future if it is not a virus that humans ad treatment for or vaccination against). 
This article i fascinating, as it reminds me to always questions what I know regarding viruses, even if this might lead to a paradigm shift in the way that viruses are considrered. I wonder how many other viruses we might have wrongly identified in history!  

- Ashley Jowell


Trump’s Dangerous Support for Vaccine Skeptics

This article reports  terrifying new piece of news  - that President Trump has been meeting with vaccine skeptics, including Robert F Kennedy Jr, to discuss the possibility of developing a panel that will look into claims that vaccines result in neurological disorders (such as autism).
What’s striking about this is that this claim, that vaccines cause neurological disorders, originated with a 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield that has been proved to be fraudulent. It is simply horrifying that Trump is  essentially endorsing these unscientific findings. The President’s support of this pseudo-science could result in many people choosing not to vaccinate their children and would have significant public health impacts, particularly among immunocompromised people.  For instance, in CA, the highest numbers of whopping cough disease occurrences (whopping cough  had an outbreak in 2014) were in counties where vaccination rates were BELOW herd immunity. 
The article continued to describe successful PRO vaccination effort s- such as the CA state for passing legislation that eliminated personal belief from being a valid exemption that alowed unvaccinated kids to attend school, as this increases the prevalence of disease transmission. IHopefully, President Trump can get on board with this scientific fact rather than “fake news,” as aligning the US with scientific facts regarding vaccination would have significant and important public health effects. 

-Ashley Jowell
Source: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Trump-s-dangerous-support-for-vaccine-skeptic-11021228.php

Powdered Vaccine Raises Hopes of Stopping a Top Killer of Kids

This might be my favorite blog post that I have ever written! This exciting article described a new rotavirus vaccine; rotavirus vaccines are incredibly important, as rotavirus results in gastroenteritis that infects hundreds of thousands of children across the globe, and can kill ~100,000 each year.
This new vaccine being developed leads to 70% effectivity in preventing retrovirus. While retrovirus techniques have developed in the past, this vaccine is particularly exciting, as it is the first vaccine available in a powdered form, as it was freeze dried. This is very important, as one of the limiting factors towards vaccination efforts is that the rotavirus vaccine has typically needed to be kept cold. Having the virus available in powdered form would allow it to be more easily distributed to children in sub Saharan Africa, where there is the greatest need. The vaccine is also an oral vaccine, so is easily administered. All a health worker has to do is dissolve the powder in salt solution and put on top of the baby’s tongue. The vaccine is equally safe and effective as those now, and will ultimately be cheaper as it does not require a cold chain reaction!

- AShley Jowell