Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
UC San Diego scientists have explained how very large viruses can self-assemble at such a high rate. The secret? A tiny viral motor which procdues twice as much power, relative to its size, as car engine! This motor allows the virus (Bacteriophage T4 in this case) to package its long genome at incredible speed (around 5 minutes).
Using lasers, the researchers measured the forces generated by these molecular motors. The viral motor was found to be faster than any known cellular motor, including those in cells. It is also able to stop and speed up as appropriate, making it the first molecular motor to demonstrate this ability.
The scientists hope the discovery will aid in development of in vitro herpes virus and better antiviral drugs (knock out this motor to halt viral assembly).
People started noticing the virus's effects on cancer up to 100 years ago; however, its cancer-killing potential was only recently confirmed. This discovery represents an important and promising new approach to very serious forms of cancer!
Bad news bears.
"Warning Is Sent to AIDS Vaccine Volunteers"
Washington Post (10/25/07) Timberg, Craig
According to the research team, the experimental malaria vaccine uses a type of adenoviruse that does not usually infect humans. People receiving the vaccine will not develop an immune response against the virus packaging, nor will they contract malaria from the vaccine. The antigen carried by the adenovirus is derived from the part of the parasite that triggers the immune response and is not the entire parasite.
The vaccine is produced by Crucell, a company in the Netherlands, and favorable studies in mice and large animals have led the NIH to sponsor himan testing, first at Vanderbilt and now at Stanford.
The vaccine center at LPCH is looking for healthy volunteers ages 18-45 to receive three injections of the malaria vaccine into the upper arm, if anyone is interested in promoting malaria research or earning a bit of extra money. :)
Read about the vaccine and the clinical trials at http://med.stanford.edu/news_releases/2007/october/malaria.html
Monday, October 29, 2007
Through genetic analysis, scientists have discovered the initial source of HIV/AIDS in the US --> allegedly, it was brough to the USA in 1966 by a Haitian man.
-Shingles, or herpes zoster, can infect anyone who has had chickenpox (though it is not known whether it will infect those who have received the chickenpox vaccine)
-The virus causes a latent, persistent infection (in the theme of the week) that chills out for years in nerve roots near the spinal cord
-When the virus is reactivated, it migrates down the nerve to the skin, where it causes severe pain and a blistering rash, in addition to fever and headache. While rare, there is the possibility pneumonia, blindness, encephalitis, and death
-The vaccine, which has been approved for those 60+ who have had chickenpox is proven to prevent 50% of shingles (1 in 2 85-year-olds will have had shingles), is given in a single injected dose and contains the same attenuated virus as the chickenpox vaccine but is 14 times as potent
Link to NYTimes Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/02/health/02brod.html?_r=1&n=Top/News/Health/Diseases,%20Conditions,%20and%20Health%20Topics/Viruses&oref=slogin
WASHINGTON --Drug makers pulled cold medicines targeted for babies and toddlers off the market Thursday, leaving parents to find alternatives for hacking coughs and runny little noses just as fall sniffles get in full swing.
The move represented a pre-emptive strike by over-the-counter drug manufacturers -- a week before government advisers were to debate the medicines' fate. But it doesn't end concern about the safety of these remedies for youngsters.
Thursday's withdrawal includes medicines aimed at children under age 2, after the Food and Drug Administration and other health groups reported deaths linked to the remedies in recent years, primarily from unintentional overdoses.
A remaining question is whether children under 6 should ever take these nonprescription drugs.
Baltimore city officials filed a petition with the FDA -- joined by the Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and prominent pediatricians around the country -- arguing that oral cough and cold medicines don't work in children so young, and pose health risks not just for babies but for preschoolers, too.
"Pediatricians are taught these products don't work and may not be safe. Yet almost every parent uses them," said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore's health commissioner and a pediatrician, who blames ads that overpromise relief.
The challenge, he says, will be to convince parents to try old-fashioned methods, like suctioning out infants' noses or using salt-water nose drops.
"If you can actually pull a booger out with a suction device, people can feel better," Sharfstein said.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced Thursday that manufacturers were voluntarily ending sales of over-the-counter oral cough and cold products aimed at infants. The list includes infant drops sold under the leading brand names Dimetapp, Pediacare, Robitussin, Triaminic, Little Colds, and versions of Tylenol that contain cough and cold ingredients.
CVS Caremark Corp. added that it would also end sales of CVS-brand equivalents.
"It's important to point out that these medicines are safe and effective when used as directed, and most parents are using them appropriately," said Linda Suydam, president of the industry trade group.
The American Academy of Pediatrics disagrees. It said, in general, the drugs shouldn't be used for colds in small children.
"This is not a situation in which pediatric data are lacking and we are unable to say one way or the other," Dr. Jay Berkelhamer, the academy's national president, wrote the FDA last month. In multiple studies, they have "been found not to be effective in this population at all."
Lark Hackney of Anchorage, Alaska, said her two grandchildren, 1-year-old Taylor and 2-year-old Julius have had many colds.
"We go to the doctor if it's gucky and it lasts very long, but a lot of times we just treat it with, you know, treat the symptoms" like fever or cough with children's medicine over the counter, said Hackney, who was at the National Zoo in Washington with her grandchildren.
She said they have used children's cold medicines and neither child has had a bad reaction.
The FDA is bringing its scientific advisers together Oct. 18-19 to debate the issues, but its own preliminary review concluded that very young children shouldn't take some of these commonly used medicines. And while the FDA's main focus is on children under 6, it also will ask if there's evidence that these drugs work in children up to age 12.
FDA praised the drugmakers' withdrawals Thursday as important for protecting babies.
For other youngsters, parents should understand that cold remedies treat only symptoms, they don't make viruses go away any faster, stressed FDA pediatrician Dr. Dianne Murphy, who urged parents to consult their pediatricians.
"What's the risk? That's what this whole meeting is about," she said. "You need to weigh 'Is that symptom that important to treat?' "
Most coughs shouldn't be suppressed -- that's how the body clears the lungs, she added. Low-grade fevers are how the body fights infection.
Maureen Javers of Silver Spring, Md., likes to let colds play out unless a doctor says her children, 3-year-old Declan and 1-year-old Evelyn have an infection.
"I don't really like to medicate them if they don't need to have the medicine," she said.
Health groups say that while low doses of cold medicine don't usually endanger an individual child, the bigger risk is unintentional overdose. For example, the same decongestants, cough suppressants and antihistamines are in multiple products, so using more than one to address different symptoms -- or having multiple caregivers administer doses -- can quickly add up. Also, children's medicines are supposed to be measured with the dropper or measuring cap that comes with each product, not an inaccurate kitchen teaspoon.
And, since "the medicine isn't doing what the family wants, instead of giving as directed every six hours they give every four hours or every two hours," says Dr. Basil Zitelli of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, who sees such children in the emergency room. "What they in effect are doing is poisoning their child."
What to try instead? Pediatric and public health groups recommend:
--Plenty of fluids and rest.
--Suction bulbs to gently clear infants' clogged noses. Saline nose drops loosen thick secretions so noses drain more easily.
--A cool-mist humidifier in the child's bedroom.
--Acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as recommended by your doctor, to alleviate pain or discomfort -- but check that they don't contain extra ingredients.
--Some chest creams can ease stuffiness with menthol or other fragrances, but check labels for age restrictions.
Article link: http://www.boston.com/yourlife/health/articles/2007/10/11/baby_cold_medicines_pulled_off_market/
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The article didn't mention the effectiveness of the nasal spray vs. the injection, but that would be interesting to know...
In reading this article I learned that foot and mouth disease virus is airborne and that foot and mouth disease virus is sensitive to UV radiation (extensive UV radiation works to inactivate the virus), which I think is pretty cool.
Read the article here:
Lots of viral love,
Saturday, October 27, 2007
An associated press examination of state by state vaccination records indicates a troubling trend of parents making false claims of religious objections to avoid mandatory vaccinations for their school-age children. You can read the article here, but the main points are:
- 28 states allow parents to opt out for religious or medical reasons only. In 20 of these 28 states, the number of kindergarten opt-outs doubled or even tripled between 2003 and 2007.
- It is believed that the false claims of religious objection may stem from parental distrust of shots due to the internet hype regarding the purported link between vaccination and autism.
- Children who are not vaccinated can spread disease to other non-vaccinated children as well as those vaccinated children that did not receive complete protection from their shot.
Interestingly, researchers for the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) have discovered a hybrid cocoa variety that is tolerant of the virus - it does not affect growth or development of the pods up to harvest. Ghana is trying to promote the hybrid variety so that cocoa production can increase.
Plant viruses are so cool! Read more here:
Check out his scientific memoir- "For the Love of Enzymes: The Odyssey of a Biochemist"- if you're looking for some pleasure reading.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Aww, I feel like pink eye is something that everyone can relate to as being super crappy :( -Raquel
Date: Thu 25 Oct 2007
Source: The Saipan Times [edited]
Pink eye, a viral eye infection that could lead to vision loss, is
sweeping through public schools in the CNMI [Commonwealth of the
Northern Mariana Islands], with 323 cases among its students and some
teachers. According to a Public School System report obtained by the
Saipan Tribune yesterday, [Wed 24 Oct 2007] at least 6 schools on
Saipan and one on Rota have reported schoolchildren and teachers
contracting the eye disease.
Kagman Elementary School posted the highest number of pink eye
infections with 87 cases, 2 of them teachers. The majority of the
infected children are in 3rd grade, totaling 20, while 17 are
kindergarten pupils. Following Kagman Elementary School is the
William S. Reyes Elementary School (WSR) with 80 cases: 75 students
and 5 teachers. Of these, 16 are 2nd grade students, while 15 are in
6th grade. Oleai Elementary School recorded 79 schoolchildren with
pink eye. No teachers there have been infected. Garapan Elementary
School reported 36 cases, while Dandan Elementary School has 35.
Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School (GES) only has 5 cases, while
Sinapalo Elementary School on Rota reported one case.
WSR Elementary School vice principal Naomi Nishimura told Saipan
Tribune that a child who exhibits early signs of the infection is
usually brought to the main office for observation. If confirmed, the
school requires the child's parents to pick up the child from school.
Nishimura said parents are advised to have the child's eye checked in
an eye clinic and for the student to refrain from going to school
until the infection disappears. Those with severe eye infections take
about a week to completely recover. To make up for missing regular
classes, "the teachers provide assignments to students while they
stay home," she said.
GES principal Boni R. Gomez said whenever a student shows early signs
of the infection, teachers refer them to the school nurse, who
assesses whether the infection is only redness, the result of an
allergy, or the onset of pink eye. Once found to be a pink eye
infection, the student is advised to go home for proper treatment and recovery.
Marianas Eye Institute director David Khorram, M.D. said his clinic
has been receiving at least 12 patients a day for pink eye treatment
and consultations. Most patients complain of pain and itchiness in
their eyes. Khorram said the current outbreak is one of the more
severe forms of pink eye infection, falling into a class known as
"hemorrhagic epidemic kerato-conjunctivitis," with blood in the eyes.
The eye specialist said the disease is caused by a virus that could
be transmitted through physical contact. The symptoms of the
infection include redness of the eyes, extreme irritation, swelling
of the eyes, photosensitivity, and the presence of tears.
For more information at
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Similar to Julia's previous article, the people are suffering from a disease known as "acute hemorrhagic conjuctivitis" more commonly known as pink eye. There are a total of 157 elementary and junior high school students infected as of Tuesday.
It's a long shot but I wonder if Julia's case and the case in Taiwan are related.
To find out more,
In addition if you want more information about the Cold Medicine issues that are occuring, here's a link to CNN. FDA panel: No Cold Medicines to Children Under 6.
Keratoconjunctivitis = + corneal inflammation
Ever had pink eye? Well pink eye, know as keratoconjunctivitis, is a viral eye infection that is sweeping through public school in the Northern Mariana Islands. There have been 323 cases reported thus far. Some schools have many as 87 cases, with the majority of infected children in the 3rd grade, followed by kindegarteners. Most of the infections have been involving children - very few teachers have developed pink eye. Eye doctors in the Mariana islands report that they have been receiving at least 12 patients a day for pink eye treatment. Doctors report that the current outbreak is one of the more severe forms of pink eye, classified as "hemorrhagic epidemic kerato-conjunctivitis," resulting with blood in the eyes.
Read more at http://www.saipantribune.com/newsstory.aspx?newsID=73612&cat=1
A few terms:
conjunctivitis = pink eye (symptoms include redness of the eyes, extreme irritation, swelling, photosensitivity, tears)
keratoconjunctivitis = pink eye + cornal inflammation
Julia (ok, I think I've caught up now...)
The link for the Canadian mumps article is http://www.cbc.ca/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2007/10/24/mumps-upei.html
While WNV is on the decline, mumps is running westward across Canada. 3 student teachers have recently come down with mumps at the University of Prince Edward Island (anyone read Anne of Green Gables?!?), causing practicums to be postponed. If no new cases are reported, student are allowed to return to practical teaching in mid November.
These are the most recent cases of mumps in the 2007 Canadian mumps epidemic, which originated in New Brunswick (north of Maine) as has spread westward as university students returned home from school. As of October 12, 2007, 848 cases of mumps have been reported from 9 of the 13 Canadian provines and territories, but remains centered in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Mumps is caused by a paramyxovirus and is spread from person to person by saliva droplets.
But...did you know that in the US, WN fever is NOT currently on the list of nationally notifiable disease due to the less sever cases that show no evidence of neuroinvasion that are typical of the WN fever? However, West Nile meningitis and West Nile encephalitis do refer to severe disease cases where the virus does invade the brain. Either way, it is optional whether or not state health departments in the US have to report West Nile fever cases to the CDC.
But data is being collected on a weekly basis from state and local health departments. Pretty much all the states (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, Maine - hmm may have missed one. I had to read the list while singing the 50 state song in my head to see which ones weren't listed) have cases report of human, avian, animal, or mosquito WNV infections. I had no idea the virus was that well spread in the US!
Check it out on PROMed.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
"South Africa is recalling millions of locally manufactured condoms after tens of thousands failed an air burst test, dealing a further blow to the country's campaign to prevent the spread of AIDS."
2. Jamaica-282 confirmed cases of Dengue, with 1770 suspected cases; 11 suspected cases of deadly DHF (secondary infection)
3. Barbados (Uh, oh Chad)-255 confirmed cases (as of end of Sept), 592 suspected cases, currently no reported cases of deadly DHF
4. Mexico-22, 943 Dengue infections, 5,000 are infected with fatal hemorrhagic variant
**in 2000, only one case of the hemorrhagic variant was found in every 50 cases; now in 2007 the ratio is about one in five
**In Mexico, the existing DENV 4 infection may develop into the hemorrhagic variant, but luckily the mortality caused by the hemorrhagic variant is still currently low...only 6 have died so far this year of this variant)
5. Honduras-13 deaths so far in 2007; about 1230 of DHF type have been confirmed and about 24, 207 cases of classic dengue fever have been confirmed thus far; in 2006 68 people died of DHF
6. Brazil (San Paulo)- 1 in every 5 municipalities is facing an epidemic (due to worsening of disease during the summer months); the Ministry of Health has declared the current state of infections as an "epidemic" when 300 cases occur per 1000 inhabitants; this year 127 of the 645 San Paulo cities have registered at least this level (300 per 100,000); state of epidemic has only been declared in these individual cities, not the entire state
**Sales is the city with the highest rate of Dengue in 2007: 1 in 20
I'm not sure that they have identified Japanese encephalitis virus as the 'mysterious disease' that Rohan had talked about in India. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary called a major meeting to come up with preventative and control measures for the disease. It has already killed 400 people and has caused over 1200 cases from this state in the past year. With a population as large as India's, you can imagine how fast it might spread! It will be interesting to watch this unfold.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
According to the article (in yesterday's Palo Alto Daily news), San Francisco has the highest rate of liver cancer in the country. This is because of the large Asian American in the area and hepatitis B, the virus that can lead to liver cancer, infects Asian Americans at a higher rate than other populations.
For more information, check out the Asian Liver Center's website: http://liver.stanford.edu or the American Cancer Society Northern California Chinese Unit: http://nccu.cancer.org
Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the Philippines are entering their wet "summer" season. The rainy season brings more than just a few storm clouds and typhoons, however; because of poor water/drainage systems, all the rain water has nowhere to go and collects into stagnant pools-- a public health ministry's worst nightmare and a virologists' study site.
Just this last week, the Philippine Department of Health released a public notice to warn people about diseases, such as dengue, that are preventable. Even in the dry months, dengue was already a problem (with 12,734 reported cases and 130 deaths in the Philippines in the first half of 2007).
I thought the "4-S campaign" of the Filipino Department of Health was clever:
* Search and destroy possible breeding grounds for dengue-carrying mosquitoes, such as old tired, broken vases, and bottle caps
* Sleeved shirts (long) and pants for protection
* Seek health professionals for fever if it persists for more than 2 days
* Say no to indiscrimiate fogging.
I'm not sure what that last one means, but I thought recommendations using those 4 S's were really clever...
On Friday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard stated that the Australian government is investigating means of tightening immigration restrictions against people with HIV.
HIV-AIDS social workers have come out strongly against this, stating the Minister is blaming sufferers for their illness and that such measures are irrational and immoral.
To aid his position, the Minister cites statistics that state that 20% of newly diagnosed HIV cases are from recently arrived immigrants.
Under current policy, potential immigrants are already tested for HIV, and are already normally rejected due their "unfair" burden on their new country's healthcare system. Many other countries, including the United States, employ this practice.
There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B used in this country, but not used as routinely around the world. The frequency of liver cancer is rising in part due to immigration. During the 1960s and 1970s, Hepatitis C was spread among IV drug users. There is no vaccine for Hep C.
Check out the article here:
Companies are working to make a vaccine against H5N1, but the fact is that when a pandemic hits, scientists won't be able to develop a truly effective vaccine until they have samples of the pandemic virus strain--once the pandemic is already under way. Because of this, the U.S. government has recognized the need to prioritize which groups will have access to limited vaccine supplies!
The plan is going to be released at public meetings and online, for public review and revisions. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out!
Monday, October 22, 2007
Dr. Frankenstein would be proud.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
This ability of the lethal virus to 'recombine' genetic material has important implications for vaccine development, write the researchers. A vaccine that is made up of weakened viruses could merge with the wild virus to form new strains, making the spread of the virus in humans and apes harder to predict and control.
The Enterprise was initially proposed by 24 pivotal HIV vaccine researchers in 2003 and has mobilized over $750 million US dollars for the vaccine development effort. According to The Enterprise’s website (http://www.hivvaccineenterprise.org/), the organization focuses on six specific areas of research:
3)product development and manufacturing
4)clinical trials capacity
6)intellectual property (http://www.hivvaccineenterprise.org/)
The Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise is also opening its first independent secretariat in New York, which Dr. Bernsteinof will have a critical role.
According to the Enterprises press release regarding the secretariat's opening,
"[t]he US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded up to US$7 million over the next seven years, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $20 million over the next four years to support the secretariat’s activities".
Crazy that a virus could put the entire global economy in danger.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
The study was done in mice, but the authors say that the findings have implications for human infections as well.
The study article was published in Immunity on October 18th, 2007, but also got covered by ScienceDaily.
Interesting to see where this research goes!
Fortunately, the researchers showed that injection of a West Nile antibody prevented this condition in animals models.
Read the article
Friday, October 19, 2007
A 73-year-old man from Nazca is the 3rd presumed
fatality as a result of the application of yellow
fever vaccine. An autopsy will be performed in
Lima in order to confirm that the cause of death
is the same as that of the young woman, a
university student, who died a few days ago.
Meanwhile, there are other 3 people under medical
observation at Ica Regional Hospital. They
present the same symptoms as the 2 victims:
diarrhea and fever.
A 79-year-old man [73 years old according to
other media reports] is the 3rd victim of the
alleged adverse reaction to yellow fever vaccine
that has been reported over the past 5 days in
Ica. According to the Regional Hospital in Ica,
the cause of death was "multiorgan dysfunction."
Clarens Campos, attending physician and head of
the Epidemiology Department of the hospital said,
"The patient was rushed to the hospital from
Nazca, with irregular hearth rhythm and acute
renal failure added to a severe pulmonary
problem, which resulted in his death given his
However, the patient's children maintained the
man was in good health before he and his wife,
66, were vaccinated by nurses who setup an
ambulatory post in Nazca's Central Market. "They
vaccinated them without asking their age." they
The regional health director, Bryan Donayre,
indicated that the person responsible for the
vaccination campaign is preparing a report to
justify the vaccination of elderly people given
that it is indicated for people between 15 and 59
years of age.
The Ministry of Health, Carlos Vallejos, said
only that the cause of the deaths would be
revealed when the results of tests on samples
sent to Brazil and the United States become
There are 13 persons that remain under
observation in Ica's regional hospital (8) and
San Jose de Chincha Hospital (5), after reporting
adverse reactions to the yellow fever vaccine.
According to the Pan American World Health
Organization (PAHO), during 2007, there have been
11 deaths attributed to yellow fever vaccine
associated viscerotropic (YFV-AVD) disease and 26
cases of encephalitis [neurotropic (YFV-AND)
The vaccine used in Ica is produced by
Biomanguinhos, a laboratory that undergoes strict
quality control evaluations.
PAHO performs tests on the vaccines.
Check it out at
Thursday, October 18, 2007
"Report: Flu Plans Overlook Children"
USA Today (10/18/07) P. 8D www.usatoday.com
As we all know, Al Gore and the U.N Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for spreading awareness on the impact of global warming on our planet. The fact that global warming is a problem is old news to Humans and Viruses students because global warming is the answer to all questions.
To do your part in keeping track of international global warming news, Mac users can download the desmogblog.com Widget. For PC users, Widgets are applications found on the dashboard of Mac computers and can range from reference databases to the timely Halloween costume generator.
This widget displays current desmogblog.com news and shows the planet's estimated accumulated carbon footprint from January 1, 2007.
So why is this widget applicable to Humans and Viruses? Global warming can greatly affect the incidence of diseases transmitted by mosquitos because they are relocating to locations around the world that are warmer and now more habitable than before. Erratic weather patterns (floods, hurricanes) create standing water in places where mosquito infestation was not a problem previously. Proper education of the effects of global warming can help us combat emerging infectious diseases (and prevent our planet from withering away).
Interestingly, supporters of the MMR vaccine as a major cause of autism site two observations as 'proof':
1. The incidence of autism has increased steadily since the MMR vaccine was introduced
2. Children with the regressive form of autism tend to show symptoms of disease around the time that the vaccine is administered
Thankfully, both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have confirmed that the vaccine does not induce autism.
NYTimes link: http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/autism/overview.html
CDC Site: http://www.cdc.gov/od/science/iso/concerns/mmr_autism_factsheet.htm
Here's a link to the article if you want to learn more:
Check it out:
From: MC Masters
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Many skeptics of the anti-vaccine movement accuse that parents citing religious reasons are really afraid to give their children vaccinations because of autism or other complications. Either way, unvaccinated children can spread diseases to others who have not gotten their shots or those for whom vaccinations provided less-than-complete protection. The article cites several relevant (and scary!) examples of this. The anti-vaccine movement will no doubt continue to stir conflict over the social and ethical aspects of disease prevention.
Link to the article
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Not new, but definitely caught my eye.
University of Wisconsin in Madison scientists found that mice and chickens infected with cold-symptom causing human adenovirus-36 were more obese than non-infected animals. And even more interestingly, adenovirus-36 is more common among overweight people (20-30% v 5%).
Through their experiments, the researchers found that infected animals weighed 7% more than non-infected animals, but their bodies had two times as much fat.
Considering that other viruses are known to cause chronic conditions, it may not be so far-fetched that a virus may play a partial/facilitative role in obesity.
Herpes Virus Can Be Used As Nanomachines For Cancer Treatment
Many of us are in Environmental Change and Emerging Infectious Diseases, and have learned about possible reasons for the recent increase in Dengue- likewise it was a probelm set question this week. Also, my best friend from home was infected with Dengue while she was in Thailand this summer, so I'm Dengue has certainly been on my mind recently.-Kelsey
Dengue cases up sharply in Latin America, Asia
Global health officials have noted sharp rises in the number of dengue fever cases in recent months, particularly in Latin American, Caribbean, and Asian countries where the disease is endemic.
A recent surveillance update from the World Health Organization's (WHO's) Southeast Asia office in New Delhi reported that Thailand has more than 40,000 cases so far this year, reflecting a 27% increase over 2006, Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) reported on Oct 9. Indonesia's total of 100,000 cases represents a 10% increase over last year, and Myanmar has reported almost 12,000 cases—a third more than it reported in 2006.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which tracks and manages health issues for the WHO in Latin American and Caribbean countries, reported on Oct 4 that the disease is reaching epidemic levels in some of the locations it monitors. In a statement released to journalists, the organization said it has recorded 630,356 cases so far this year, an 11% increase from 2006. Of this year's cases, 12,147 were the more severe dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), and 183 cases were fatal.
Dengue fever is a flu-like illness transmitted by certain species of Aedes mosquitoes. Symptoms include headaches, rashes, cramps, and back and muscle pain. DHF, a potentially deadly complication, is characterized by high fever, bleeding, thrombocytopenia, increased vascular permeability, and in particularly severe cases, circulatory failure. No effective treatment or preventive vaccine is available.
The virus occurs in four serotypes, and infection with any one induces immunity only to that serotype, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A second infection with a different serotype increases a person's risk for DHF.
Jarbas Barbosa da Silva, PAHO's manager of health surveillance and disease management, said in the press release that all four dengue serotypes were in circulation, "which increases the risk for appearance of the most serious forms of the disease—namely, dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome."
For the first time, Paraguay has reported cases of hemorrhagic fever and deaths from the disease this year, Barbosa da Silva said.
Southernmost Latin American countries have accounted for 60% of the region's dengue cases, with Brazil reporting the most, the PAHO report said. The Andean region has had 19% of the cases, with Columbia and Venezuela reporting the highest numbers. Other countries reporting high rates are French Guiana, Martinique, Costa Rica, and Honduras.
PAHO's report says Mexico has reported 67,563 dengue cases, of which 5,212 involved hemorrhagic fever.
Health officials in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, on the US border, recently reported 71 pending or confirmed dengue fever cases, according to an Oct 9 report in the Laredo Morning Times.
A recent article in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said that dengue fever is gaining a stronger foothold in southern Texas. The report documented the first DHF case in a Texas resident native to the Texas-Mexico border area and found that 38% of surveyed Brownsville, Tex., residents had IgG antibodies to dengue, indicating that a substantial proportion of the city population had been infected with the virus.
Puerto Rico's health department is recording 500 cases a week, with a cumulative of 6,175 cases and 4 deaths this year, according to a Reuters report. Local press reports in the Dominican Republic say the country has logged 6,000 cases and 30 deaths.
PAHO noted that one contributing factor is waste tires and dumps filled with discarded plastic that create potential breeding sites for mosquitoes.
In July, the WHO's Western Pacific regional office in Manila warned countries in the area that a major dengue outbreak could occur unless they quickly undertook coordinated efforts to curb the spread of the disease. The WHO said the disease had arrived earlier than usual, but it was difficult to estimate the magnitude of the outbreak because official information from most of the counties was incomplete.
John Ehrenberg, a WHO regional adviser, said several factors were contributing to the spread of dengue: population explosion, migration, and rapid urban growth, all of which strain public health services and access to clean water.
"People exposed to these settings often rely on containers to collect water for their own drinking supply. These containers can become mosquito-breeding sites," he said. "Water storage practices are therefore a key target of dengue prevention and control programs."
Aug 9 CIDRAP News story "Dengue fever expanding its foothold in Texas"
July 23 WHO Western Pacific Regional Office press release
Jun 21 Eurosurveillance report on dengue status and implications for Europe
CDC information on dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever
Your red, bumpy eczema might just be annoying, but it could be deadly if it is ever necessary that you receive the current smallpox vaccine. The problem is that the smallpox vaccine is contraindicated in individuals with eczema, those with a previous history of eczema, and even those living in close quarters with family members who have the condition. Individuals with eczema have an extremely high risk of developing a condition called eczema vaccinatum, in which the live virus in the vaccine spreads through the body and causes severe rashes over the area once affected by the eczema. The CDC recommends that members of this large, high-risk population NOT be vaccinated against smallpox.
The federal government has expanded a previous contract with a company called Bavarian Nordic by $15 million with the hopes of developing a new smallpox vaccine that would be tolerated by those with atopic dermatitis. The contract provides the funding needed to test the experimental vaccine IMVAMUNE in Phase II trials.
Developing a smallpox vaccine that would be safe for this considerable high-risk portion of the US population is of strategic importance.
The press release about IVAMUNE and Bavarian Nordic is here. Bavarian Nordic is headquartered in Denmark, but operates a subsidiary right next door in Mountain View!
Still interested? Check out this great article about the search for the pathogenesis underlying the vaccinia-eczema relationship.
PS. As a child, I had pretty severe eczema. There's no way I could get the current smallpox vaccine!
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
(fangler= farm angler)
The 12 year old junior high school student from Tangerang, on Jakarta's south western outskirts, died after being treated for 5 days at Persahabatan Hospital -- a designed bird-flu hospital in Jakarta -- said Daswir Nurdin of the ministry's bird flu center. "He was reported to have had contact with dead chickens close to his school," Nurdin said, adding that the boy 1st developed breathing problems and a fever on 30 Sep 2007 and initially visited a local clinic. The boy was brought to Persahabatan on Tuesday [9 Oct 2007], Nurdin said. "His death raised Indonesia's death toll of bird flu to 88 deaths out of 109 cases, he said.
Indonesia has been hardest hit by the virus since it began ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003. Its human death toll now accounts for almost half of the recorded 200 fatalities worldwide [actually 88 of 202 worldwide (43.6 percent) as of 14 Oct 2007 - Mod.CP], according to the World Health Organization.
Adenoviruses are responsible for the stomach flu, common cold and more serious syndromes such as myocarditis. Adenovirus 21 is especially dangerous for immuno-suppressed patients, killing 50%.
for more information
Influenza vaccine clinics are scheduled at Vaden Health Center at 866
Campus Drive on the following Wednesday afternoons from 3:00 pm to
October 17, 2007
October 24, 2007
October 31, 2007
November 7, 2007
November 14, 2007
(no clinic on Nov. 21)
November 28, 2007
December 5, 2007
The vaccine will not be given to individuals with severe cold or other
infection or who have an allergy to eggs. Pregnant women in their
first trimester will require medical clearance from their obstetrician.
University employees will not be charged for the vaccine. Please
bring your Stanford Employee ID. Their spouses/domestic partners can
receive the vaccine at Vaden Health Center for $22. The term
"employees" includes faculty, staff, emeritus faculty, retired staff,
medical school and research faculty and staff. It does not include
Stanford Hospital and Clinics employees.
The cost for students and spouses/domestic partners is $22. For
students enrolled in Cardinal Care the cost is $11. Medical students
must present their Medical Student ID card for a free shot.
CDC Article Link
Also, can you guys at least once type the specific virus(es) addressed in your article, so people can just search a virus in the search function if they aren't sure about whether their article was posted or not? For example, the 4 people who re-posted the polio vaccine article could just type "polio" into the search and be shown all the article with polio in it, and would see someone already posted the vaccine one.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
And I'm obsessed with The Office and couldn't believe they filmed this sequence in their deleted scenes from last week. Zoom to -0:46 and enjoy!
Friday, October 12, 2007
I found this article quite interesting since we were just talking about chickenpox parties. It is an op-ed; however, the author, Julia Snyder Sachs, has good credibility. She used to manage Science Digest, and is coming out with a book "Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World." The article "lyses" the myths about childhood illnesses being beneficial. It had been shown, by Dr. David Strachan, that exposure to early illnesses helped children not develop allergies or asthma. However, the cause was incorrect. It is harmless bacteria that seems to protect children. Having many childhood illnesses actually increases risk of dying from heart disease or cancer! It creates a wear and tear on the immune system. Ms. Sachs warns: "In a world abounding in harmless, even beneficial microbes, don’t embrace the tiny fraction that can make you ill." She includes chickenpox as a virus to avoid. I suppose that is safer now since there is a vaccine, because, as we discussed, it is more dangerous to get the disease as an adult. Ms. Sachs thinks it is important for anyone who is eligible, which includes children 6 months to 5 years, to get a flu shot to possibly help protect against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Appartently, it can be carried in the body via viral respiratory infections.
The HPV vaccine that I'm receiving hurts. This is one of the few times I wish I was a boy.
It is a 3 shot series, and I'm deathly afraid of shots. Not to mention the 3 shot series costs 120 per dose, so 360 for the three (an interesting fact that my doctor just happened to leave out). But considering that it might save my life, I sucked it up and have gotten 2 out of the 3 shots. Just for you boys out there who I'm sure are quite jealous, the shot is injected into your muscle and you can FEEL IT going into your muscle. The rest of the day, you can't move your arm. It's sad, really, just plain sad.
Since it's probably more interesting for you to watch than read, here is a video I converted from youtube - specifically for your viewing pleasure. Have fun!
Anyways, I thought this was an interesting article because I never consider viruses that infect animals or the associate diseases they cause. If you want to know more, including how the disease progresses, go to the following link:
PROMed tells me there is a potentially deadly form of community aquired pneumonia linked to adenovirus type 14 running around Oregon. This type of viral pneumonia was first encountered in 2005 in the Pacific Northwest and leads to a 20% fatality rate.
Six months of actualy surveillance has revealed that the number of cases increases between January through April, and almost all the cases involved adenovirus 14. This serotype was first identified more than 50 years ago but has rarely been detected since then and never in association with outbreaks!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
According to a Promed article, Dengue fever is moving fast and on the rise. I chose to report on the Philippines because that is where my family is from.
As of September 2007, there has been 4000 new cases of Dengue fever. Since January 2007, 283 cases out of 24, 689 have been fatal. The wet weather (it's rainy season from June to November) provides a breeding ground for Aedes aegypti, a day-biting mosquito that prefers to feed on humans.
www.worldtravels.com recommends those traveling to the Philippines that the best protection against Dengue fever is to "avoid mosquito bites". Now that doesn't sound hard!
The Philippine Health department has initiated a 4-S Campaign against Dengue:
S - Search and destroy mosquito breeding grounds
S - Seek immediate consultation
S - Self-protection (i.e. avoiding mosquito bites)
S - Say "no" to indiscriminate fogging
*indiscriminate fogging makes use of insectides to target mosquitoes. In some cases, fogging has led to an increase in Dengue fever.
New Yotk Times
Article Tools Sponsored By
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
Published: October 11, 2007
Nigeria is fighting an unusual outbreak of polio caused by mutating polio vaccine, world health authorities say, but the only remedy is to keep vaccinating children there.
Officials of the World Health Organization fear that news of the outbreak will be a new setback for eradication efforts in northern Nigeria, where vaccinations were halted in 2003 for nearly a year because of rumors that the vaccine sterilized Muslim girls or contained the AIDS virus. During that lull, polio spread to many new countries, although most have snuffed out the small outbreaks that resulted.
Officials deny suggestions that they kept the outbreak, which began last year, a secret, and say that they did not realize until recently that as many as 70 of Nigeria’s last 1,300 polio cases stemmed from a mutant vaccine virus rather than “wild type” virus, which causes most polio.
“It was an oversight on our part,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, director of the polio eradication campaign for the W.H.O., said yesterday. The agency discussed the first 16 cases it knew of at meetings early this year and posted information on its Web site in April, he said, “but only in places where lab people would look.”
Outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio are unusual but not unheard of. Individual cases have been known for years. For example, a former lieutenant governor of Virginia was partly paralyzed in 1973, apparently after changing the diapers of his son, who had received oral vaccine.
The first spreading outbreak of a vaccine-derived strain, in which 22 children were paralyzed, was detected in 2001 in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Experts now believe another took place in Egypt in the late 1980s but went unnoticed amid the much larger numbers of wild-type infections. There have been others in the Philippines, Madagascar, China and Indonesia.
All were eventually eliminated by immunizing more children, and experts argue that the latest outbreak was able to spread because, until recently, only 30 to 40 percent of the children in northern Nigeria were vaccinated. About 70 percent are vaccinated there now, Dr. Aylward said.
In 2000, the United States switched to injected vaccine made from killed virus, which cannot mutate. But oral drops with the live, weakened version of the virus are still used in most poor countries, including those where the disease has never been eliminated: Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
This vaccine, invented by Albert Sabin, is easier to give, offers much stronger protection and can beneficially “infect” other family members or neighbors, protecting them too.
But in rare cases, it can mutate into something resembling wild polio virus, which can paralyze or kill. Dr. Aylward pointed out that 10 billion doses of oral vaccine had been given in the last 10 years, so such mutations are presumably extremely unusual.
Polio often circulates undetected; in only one of 200 infections will it cause paralysis, which signals health officials to look for the virus in the area.
See the link here http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/909c3446e3769d44bee810287ff3eee0.htm
New South Wales deputy chief veterinary officer Steve Dunn on Saturday [6
Oct 2007] confirmed that 5 horses near Rosehill racecourse have contracted
equine influenza (EI). Tests came back positive late last night after a
number of horses stabled in the north east corner away from the main
racecourse showed signs of the disease.
Mr Dunn said the sick horses were stabled with a group of 40 horses, but
said every effort would be made to prevent the virus spreading to another
240 horses stabled at the main complex. "This confirmation is another
disappointment for the racing industry, and indeed for everyone working
round the clock to prevent spread of this disease," he said.
"We will be investigating how the disease moved to the Rosehill area. Again
we must stress the importance of people adhering to the movement
restrictions and taking all necessary biosecurity precautions when moving
between horses. We can only successfully manage this outbreak if everybody
does the right thing and follows the movement and biosecurity directions."
Mr Dunn said because the Rosehill racecourse complex and surrounding
stables was located in the red zone, strict quarantine measures were
already in place. All horses in the Rosehill racecourse complex were
vaccinated a week ago [1 Oct 2007], however, as the vaccine takes about 2
weeks to be effective, strict movement controls will be in place to help
give the vaccine the best chance of having an impact. "However, we will now
be adding extra quarantine measures as of first thing this morning to
prevent any further spread of the virus to nearby racehorses, or to any
Horses at the NSW Department of Primary Industries Elizabeth Macarthur
Agricultural Institute (EMAI)'s Belgenny Farm near Camden have contracted
equine influenza (EI). The historic property had been free of the disease
but recently some horses have returned positive EI tests despite the strict
quarantine measures maintained by staff. Belgenny Farm has 11 horses, all
of which have been moved into a higher level quarantine area away from
public access. The boundaries of this area have been marked by red/white
DPI Quarantine signs.
Belgenny Farm, which is situated on the EMAI property, is a popular
function centre for weddings and other events and as a school education
centre. These functions will not be affected by the EMAI quarantine --
visitor restrictions apply to the farm area only.
EI will not infect other animals or human beings, but the virus may be
carried by people who come into close proximity to an infected horse
thereby spreading the disease to uninfected horses. The public and visitors
are not to approach any horses located within the bounds of EMAI.
If you're interested in learning about the quarantine protocols or the vaccine, here is a link to the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries:
Companies that make cold meds (the common cold is caused by a rhinovirus (family Picornaviridae)) specifically for infants are removing these products from the market. The reason is that there has been some overdosage of infants. Also, anecdotal evidence suggests the meds may actually be unsafe in young children. They have been reported to cause hallucinations and death in some cases.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Go here to read more:
A good summary: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071009132014.htm
The actual article from American Journal of Pathology:
Hugs and kisses,
Unfortunately, this outbreak will likely lead to more opposition to vaccination efforts in the country, rather than support for the scale-up that is required to prevent such occurrences.
- Elizabeth Kersten
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Originally, Human Bocavirus was thought to be involved in respiratory illness, as it was commonly found in the respiratory tract. However, since other Parvoviruses are known to cause enteritis, it was hypothesized that perhaps Human Bocavirus did as well, and actually did not cause respiratory illness (I guess this is why we classify viruses into families and look at commonalities...).
Long story short, it was found that Human Bocavirus can be found and replicates in the human gut, but it was inconclusive if it is linked to gastrointestinal disease. But add one to the list of parvoviruses that infect humans!
Link to the CDC article
Although debates whether treatment or prevention strategies should be targeted are still heated, the consensus that both are necessary to ensure the success of the other is growing; if people know there is a treatment, they will be more likely to get tested and know to prevent transmitting the virus to partners or unborn children.
I'm preaching the choir here. But I was super excited to hear that Uganda will be opening a factory to produce antiretrovirals for HIV and anti-malarial drugs. This would cut out import costs and would keep some money in the country (or bring money to the country, depending on whether international organizations will be purchasing the drugs or whether buyers will be mostly internal. Not all of the money would be staying in the country, though, since the Indian pharmaceutical company, Cipla, is the one bringing the factory in.)
I hadn't known until I read this article that Kenya and South Africa already had pharmaceutical factories, and that other sub-Saharan African countries like Ghana, Tanzania, Congo, and Ethiopia have plans to build pharmaceutical factories, too.
While reading through smutline band emails last night in the viral library, Dave read off an idea for a Band-sponsored t-shirt to commemorate Stanford football's unexpected victory over USC last Saturday: "Sometimes Trojans Break" (or something along those lines, sorry if i'm butchering it).
Anyway, since we were working on the problem set and viruses were taking over every thought running through my brain, I thought about how many similarities there were between what happened on Saturday and a potential viral infection caused by tearing a condom:
1. Condoms have a very low failure rate. According to Stanford's SHPRC website, male condoms have a failure rate of 3-14%. While it's debatable whether the odds of Stanford winning against USC were higher or lower than that, I think it is fair to say we were on the lower end of the probability spectrum.
2. Stanford students' reaction after the victory could be compared with lysis of a host cell. On the viral side, some viruses replicate using the host machinery and assemble within the cytoplasm of the host cell. Once a threshold level of viruses is reached, the host cell bursts, releasing all these virus particles to wreak havoc in the system. Similarly, each loss Stanford football had accumulated over the last 4 years has been creating this build-up of unspent celebratory energy. This win over USC was the breaking point that allowed Stanford students to release all this pent-up energy (that can be measured by the liquid volume of alcoholic substances consumed on campus between 8pm and 8am).
3. Some viruses have a latent stage, when they fly under the radar of the immune system, and then catch the body by surprise when it becomes virulent. Stanford football's pitiful winning record in past years made it all the more surprising that this upset was pulled off.
4. At Maples Pavillion at midnight when the football team returned to campus, a HUGE crowd had gathered to welcome them back. As the buses pulled up on Campus Drive, the entire crowd rushed toward the buses like macrophages toward a foreign antigen, and the crowd consumed each player or team staff member as they got off the bus.
5. The immune system sometimes responds to viral infections by inducing fever. Analogously, several enthused students started a bonfire in the middle of Main Quad to fan the flames of a rising Stanford-excitement response.
6. It may take a long time to control a viral infection, and even after it is contained, "memories" of the virus are created in the form of B and T memory cells, so that a more robust and rapid response can be mounted against a secondary infection. The campus is still simmering from the victory, and the victory is still on the minds of a lot of people on campus. If Stanford football were to continue its one-game winning streak a secondary, tertiary, or quaternary response may be successively greater.