Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Because it's never too late...

One step closer to understanding adenoviral oncogenesis...

Hope you are all having a good summer!


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mamavirus and Sputnik

Awesome stuff about the new giant virus they found in a Paris water cooling tower, called "Mamavirus" since it's even bigger than Mimi. Don't go nuts Dave.

Also, more info on "Sputnik" the virus that was found inside of it - apparently it causes mamavirus to "get sick", making misformed capsids, etc. Read here. So cool!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Viruses that infect viruses

Hey guys, check this out - apparently there's some sort of super huge virus that was found to contain inside of it. Not just co-infection, or even a HepD type deal, but actually inside the virus. Really cool, I'd love to know more!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

DNV-2 infected mosquito loose in laboratory; bites professor

This happened before my very eyes yesterday!

On Monday, July 14 (Bastille Day - guess the mosquito took its chance at liberty) in the Tulane Department of Tropical Medicine, my mentor, a post-doc and I were feeding A. aegypti mosquitoes Dengue-2 infected blood for an experiment looking at a peptide that has successfully blocked more than 99% infection in Vero cells. While attempting to transfer sedated mosquitoes into their appropriate containers (they had been knocked down in the freezer for 5 min), one feisty mosquito revived quickly and managed to escape. My mentor later found that he had been bitten!

Hopefully the virus had not yet disseminated to the salivary glands since we had just infected the mosquitoes.

The culprit was soon apprehended with a squirt of ethanol.

Hope your summers are all virus free! (I just got over pink eye) I missed you all this spring!


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Summer Virus Alert

Hey guys, I've just been following Pro-Med and saw that there has been another suspected case of Ebola in Boende, DRC. Check that out here:

AND one of our rare Paramyxoviruses has taken the reigns in Australia. Find out about the Hendra virus reports here:>

Hope you're all having a great summer!


Thursday, June 5, 2008

WHA discusses Intellectual Property Issues

This is a topic near and dear to my heart for several reasons, including the fact that I did a lot of research into intellectual property when my own creation was at risk of being taken and controlled by a corporation. Also, this follows my ethical discussion of quarantines and isolation across country borders.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) recently approved a global strategy for managing intellectual property issues and made progress on a draft action plan that was presented by a World Health Organization (WHO) working group.

Intellectual property rights have become a hot-button issue in global health circles, spurred by Indonesia's decision in early 2007 to cease sharing its H5N1 avian influenza virus samples. The country's stance has raised the possibility that it and other countries affected by H5N1 influenza might claim legal ownership of flu virus samples. Samples are needed to track viruses' transmissibility and drug susceptibility and to develop vaccines.

The WHO's recent work on intellectual property issues is related to but separate from its efforts to broker a virus-sharing agreement.

The United States is one of the countries that have opposed or had reservations about some of the items in the working group's draft plan.

Aside from balancing innovation with health needs and greater access to treatments and diagnostic tools, the strategy lays out a framework to:

* Assess developing countries' health needs and identify research and development priorities
* Promote work on diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries, along with those that impact vulnerable populations in all countries
* Explore and implement, when appropriate, research and development incentives
* Boost research and development capacity in developing countries
* Improve, promote, and accelerate technology transfer
* Remove access barriers to medical commodities
* Secure research and development financing for developing countries


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The diminutive Basrur dead at 51

Sheela Basrur, Toronto's chief medical officer of health (are there any other kind of medical officers?) during the SARS hoo ha. Her death came after a 2 year battle with hemangiopericytoma, a rare vascular cancer. "She was the one that lifted us up on her
shoulders even though she wasn't that tall," said Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman.


Monday, June 2, 2008

also, a front page report about the severe lack of access to ARVs for HIV+ individuals

A major report just released was conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAids and Unicef shows that " just 31% of people in need of treatment in low and middle-income countries had access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2007". This leaves about 6.7 million people without access. It also reports that about 2.5 million worldwide are newly infected each year.


speaking of the importance of vaccines!

Seven cases of measles were confirmed in DuPage County, Illinois by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Health authorities have suggested that none of the children who were diagnosed with the diseases had received adequate vaccinations. Reasons for this suggested in the article (link below) were for religions reasons or because people think vaccines cause autism (silly americans!). This makes a total of 64 cases identified in the US between January and April, 2008--the largest outbreak in the last 7 years in this country.

Source: eFluxMedia [Sunday, June 1st, 2008]
Vaccine info can be found at: .

Happy to be in California!


Friday, May 30, 2008

[Insert Alarmist Heading Here]

Strains of North American H7 bird flu have recently acquired the ability to infect human cells. This could mean bad news; we'll have to see...


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hepatitis E Outbreak in Uganda

Hey guys, here's an update near to my heart (HepE was my model),

I've been reading about a recent outbreak of Hepatitis E virus in Kitgum, Uganda that is striking more and more victims. Initial reports quoted 314 cases and 11 deaths from the disease, but that number has recently been updated to 1797 cases and 35 deaths. The virus affects pregnant women much more than others, particularly women in their third trimester of pregnancy. Reports suggest that the virus has come across with refugees from Southern Sudan. The fecal-oral spread of the disease could easily be exacerbated by the crowding associated with refugee movement to the area. Here's the full link:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Avian Flu Confirmation - Bangladesh

The first case of Avian flu in humans in Bangladesh was confirmed Friday by the WHO. The flu was present in a 15-month old infant male who survived but the outbreak has now made Bangladesh the 15th country to have had human incidence of the virus.

Click here to read the primary report


Hand, Foot and Mouth Outbreak Continues - Mongolia

Infant and child outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in Mongolia continues. Health Ministry of Mongolia now says that 1000 cases have been confirmed. All kindergartens, elementary schools, and 4th and 5th grades have been closed in hopes of controlling the outbreak. Since the disease thrives in warmer temperatures, it is thought that the peak of the epidemic is still to come.

Click here to read the primary source


Chikungunya Outbreak - India

Survey conducted on Wednesday found that 400 people are infected with Chikungunya in the regions of Sullia, Puttur, Belthangady, and Bantwal taluks. 2100 of these cases have been confirmed. Authorities hope that early monsoons will stop the outbreak by washing away mosquito larvae and are currently encouraging people in the area to dump standing water.

Click here to read the primary source!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

USDA bans "downer" cows

I'm not sure if Bob covered this in the TSE/prions lecture, but some meat industries use "downer" cows, or cows that have unknown disabilities that prevent them from moving as effectively as other cows. There are obvious and terrifying implications of this- a faulty gate is one of the first signs of "Mad Cow" or BSE infection, which we know can cause "human" BSE, or vCJD. This is a really scary loophole that the industry has been using for decades.
Well, the USDA just changed that! As an effort to boost public confidence in US meats, the USDA has closed this loophole and banned the use of these "downer" cows in meat processing. Since the discovery of "Mad Cow," the USDA banned the use of downers, but allowed for the use of cattle that became disabled after their preslaughter inspection. Again, as we all know, the "incubation period" of BSE and all the prion diseases is 5-10 years, so even a cow that is just showing signs of this has likely been infected for a long time- a useless and very harmful loophole. Regardless, the use of downers came to the spotlight in January when the Humane Society released undercover tapes of a slaughterhouse in Chino, CA using all sorts of mechanisms to move disabled cows. This resulted in a public outcry and the largest US meat recall in history: over 143 million pounds of beef.
Full story at


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


a breakthrough strand of chickenpox not covered by the vaccine has broken out in 90 children along the central coast. the school districts are offering booster shots to kids, but it's not clear what good these will be if they aren't immunogenic for this strain. also, getting people to congregate together to receive the vaccine is probably one of the worst ideas given the fact that chickenpox is one of the most infectious viruses. a far better model would be to distribute the vaccine (if you even decide that would be wise at all) from door-to-door so that people aren't exposed to each other.


correy dekker's vaccine email:

Chicken Pox Outbreak Hits Central Coast Schools

More Than 90 Students Infected

The Chicken pox is hitting the Central Coast in a big way this month. Two local counties have been dealing with an outbreak of the virus. More than 90 children have been infected by the virus in four elementary schools. One school had to cancel class for a day in hopes that a day apart would help kids avoid the itchy illness.

Sixty-two cases have been reported in Santa Cruz County, with another 31 cases reported in San Benitor County. All 31 of the San Benito cases came from one school. Only 11 of those cases have been confirmed by county health officials. Southside school shut its doors Friday and gave students a long weekend, hoping that the time apart would allow the virus to run its course. Southside principal Eric Johnson said the virus has hit all grades equally, kindergarten through eighth grade.

"At this point, we're watching when they come in," Johnson said. "We're asking parents to keep them home if they show symptoms and go see their doctor."

The school has posted warnings outside to warn visitors of the potential health hazard and school officials have sent information packets home instructing parents on the symptoms of chicken pox and what to do if they think their child is infected. School officials also reminded families that the school will be offering booster vaccine shots on Wednesday.

As of July 2001, state law requires that all kindergarten and pre-school students have a dose of the Varicella vaccine before they can attend school. Health officials said that even though a child has received the vaccine, they can still become infected with a "breakthrough" chicken pox virus, which is milder but still contagious. The virus can be spread by nose and mouth through physical contact or through the air.

The Vaccine Page (

Monday, May 19, 2008

This was my new and hot last class...

Adults over the age of 60 are now being recommended to get the Merck and Co. Zostavax vaccine against shingles. The vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2006 and insurance companies are suspected to start covering the cost of the vaccine. According to the article, there are about a million cases of shingles in the US each year, half of which occur in people 60 and over and the vaccine has been shown to reduce the occurrence of the disease by about 50%. However the vaccine right now still costs about $150, so that is a current limitation given its recommendation for everyone over 60 in the US.

the article:

Yeah vaccines!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Smallpox drug? Tests are lookin' good

A new antiviral drug is being developed which could protect against smallpox and other related viruses. Bonus is that it has already performed well in the first test of its safety and activity in humans. It's called ST-246, and was recently tested in 38 volunteers. At the moment, the only "treatment" for smallpox is vaccination within 4 days of exposure. As we learned, cidofovir has also been used. So in case smallpox is leaked again, we might have something to rely on.
Check it out!
Full story at


Seoul just killed all poultry in the city

To prevent the spread of H5N1, of course. SCARY!


EV71 Spreading across Asia

Hey all,

I reported on the outbreak of EV71 that started running rampant in China a few weeks ago. At the time, it didn't show any signs of slowing down, and cases were just beginning to be reported outside of the initial province in which the virus had killed 26 children and infected nearly 10,000.

Unfortunately, the disease has not slowed down. The enterovirus has migrated out of China, with thousands of cases being reported in Singapore and Mongolia. Just recently the first fatality from EV71 was reported in the capital of Beijing. Although admittedly the fatality rate is still very low, (36/ 20,000+) I'm just in awe of how fast this thing is traveling. There have been reports of it infecting adults as well as children, making this an even greater threat. I can't imagine what would happen were this to be sustained until the summer olympics. Let's hope China can get a handle on it long before then. Here's the most recent update.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

okay, this isn't news

so this isn't news, but i thought it was so cool, i just couldn't pass up putting it on the blog. it's basically a flash animation of one of the sixteen possible models of HIV replication. this one is better than the classical model because it avoids the 2nd jump, which is really thermodynamically unfavorable, but it still fails to explain the virion's diploidy:

the flash video is at the bottom of the screen (i could get it to play on safari, but not fire fox)


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Next SARS?

So mystery disease on a Canadian train kills a 60-year-old woman via ARDS within minutes of coughing. Train was quarantined when 6 other passangers suddenly fell ill with a flu-like illness. Is it a new virus or just anthrax? Turns out, authorities claimed the incidents were unrelated.... Quite a riveting recap on promed.

Click here for more info


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Who should MDs let die in a pandemic?

What a headline, right? This is an article written by the Associated Press, for better or worse. I'm focusing on the ethics of pandemic situations as my project currently, although I haven't really focused so much on this portion of the ethical issue. More to come in my presentations.
My opinion on this article is mixed. On one hand, it's good to see that physician leaders are beginning to get some press on this incredibly hard triage decision that would be faced in a pandemic. The public needs to understand how hard this decision is, and perhaps be involved in the decision process, as they have been involved in making decisions about quarantine policies. However, lots more work needs to be done in this area of concern, and this article is somewhat lacking when it comes to the hard-core ethical arguments.
Would love to hear what you all think of this issue!

Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever in Turkey

In the past week, 5 people in the Samsun province of Turkey have died on what has been confirmed to be Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever. Four more patients are currently hospitalized with characteristic symptoms of CCHF. Half a dozen more children from the central Anatolian region are also under surveillance. The Turkish health ministry is attempting to increase public awareness about the dangers of tick bites, which are the vector of CCHF, and are encouraging people who have been bitten to seek medical care quickly, particularly if they experience fever, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea after being bitten.

For more info, check out:

- Claire

Links for Presentations

Just in case you wanted to reference these sites for yourselves:

The WHO flu report document:

The man I thought was Bob:

Gardasil for Men Studies:

In tomorrow's May edition of Science, researchers from Harvard Medical school and University of Wisconsin-Madison are reporting a new discovery regarding the molecular underpinnings of CMV host infections.

The scientists found that CMV mimics a human host cell protein to help hijack the cell's machinery. The viral protein UL57 mimics a human protein and functions as a regulator of a tumor suppressor gene. The viral protein modifies the tumor suppressor gene Rb to accelerate cell growth which is preferable for the virus's proliferation.

Check out the original article here.

yours in calici,


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

someone was sick!

okay, so i don't really have that much to write this week, but someone in our class was really, really sick this week with what probably was norwalk (was it coming out both ends, unnamed person?). virology research, indeed. what a good student! probably was norwalk if it was accompanied by diarrhea. could be a shitload of things if not (pun not initially intended). just in case you've forgotten the wonders of caliciviruses, i've linked to the ictv site on them. hope you all are less miserable than this person was. they looked pretty healthy today, though, so that's good.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Deadly Hand Foot and Mouth Disease in China

So if anybody's been getting Pro-Med reports lately I'm sure they've been hearing lots about the outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease that's hitting China REALLY badly right now. The disease is caused by enterovirus 71, and like it's near cousin polio can have paralytic symptoms apart from the namesake rash. Although the mortality rate is not strikingly high, 23 children have already died from the disease, testimony to the enormous numbers of children that are being infected. In the hardest hit city of Fuyang, 3736 children have come down with the disease, and it shows no signs of slowing down. 415 reported cases arose in the last 24 hours alone. And that's only the cases that are getting reported. Worse, reports indicate that the virus may be spreading to other provinces, as a case was discovered in Guangdong Province yesterday. Serious stuff, it's growing like a wildfire.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Differering responses to HIV treatment

A recent study has come out showing that there are differing responses to HIV treatment, depending on race and sex. As one might guess, those that are often already in more stressful, lower socioeconomic environments on average, do not fair as well (Whitehall study, anyone?):;_ylt=AgTfdZX54OWKH_YHJT.nIzTVJRIF

Also, measles have hit 70 cases in the US today:;_ylt=AnqX9Vch.4c7fyBmGdCVRDnVJRIF


Measles stalks in Arizona

Hey guys,

In Pima, Arizona there is currently an outbreak of measles confirmed in 16 people, and potentially affecting many more. It's the largest outbreak seen in the US this year. This is an update that reinforces a lot of the concepts we're talking about. The trend we're seeing of measles outbreaks across the US is the end result of many factors promoting re-emergence. For instance, there's waning immunity from the early vaccines or incomplete dosing of vaccines that theoretically gave lifelong immunity. The article suggests that many people who believe they are immune may in fact be at risk, particularly if they were vaccinated in the 1960's. Secondly, in this case we see the ease of foreign travel leading to the introduction of new diseases (or those that had not been seen in a long time). The "patient zero" for this outbreak was a Swiss woman on vacation, who then came into contact with others at the hospital when she subsequently developed pneumonia. Now there are 4th and 5th generation cases. Lastly, it brings to mind a lot of discussions we've had about "eradication" and what it would really take. If the US, a country with enormous resources and a very strong public health system, can't shake this disease completely, how are countries like Sierra Leone going to accomplish this? Anyway, here's the Pro-Med link for the article.,F2400_P1001_PUB_MAIL_ID:1010,72385


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NY Times Comments on Gardasil for Men

This is a bit outdated but my presentation for tomorrow refers to it so I figured I'd make the link public in case anyone was interested in reading it!

Click Here


Tick Alert! Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever in Russia

A Russian man died on the 27th of April of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, making it the second year in which fatal cases of CCHF have broken out in the southern districts of Russia. Nearly 30 other individuals have been identified as having had close contact with the victim, 3 of which have been hospitalized for observation. The other contacts are under close surveillance. Active surveillance for additional cases is being carried out by healthcare workers in the district. The Head of the Russian Trade and Sanitary Inspection Authority, believes that this year’s early tick activity signify a high probability of a more widespread CCHF outbreak in the region.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

4 Kids die from measles vaccine

After receiving the measles vaccine this past Wed, 4 children from Tamil Nadu, India have died of brain hemorrhage due to anaphylactic shock. Two possible explanations for the deaths have been offered: 1) the people giving the vaccine mixed the vaccine with something other than saline; 2) vaccine contaminated by some pathogen after reconstitution. It is also possible that the vaccine company is not using safe vaccine production techniques and a team is being dispatched to investigate this. Oddly, these deaths all occurred from vaccine constituted from the same vial, but another 230 kids also inoculated with this vaccine did not suffer any consequences (except for boosted immunity!).,F2400_P1001_PUB_MAIL_ID:1000,72355


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boxer down and out due to aseptic meningitis

OK, so this one is pretty lame, but here goes:
Apparently, boxer Clinton Woods was suffering from aseptic meningitis during his world title defeat to Antonio Tarver.  After consulting Medline Plus (I'm a little rusty, okay?!), I remembered that nearly half of the cases of aseptic meningitis are due to coxsackie and echoviruses (both picornaviruses).  Other possible viral causes listed include HIV acute retroviral syndrome, herpes viruses, mumps, and West Nile.  Also, he should be tested for certain fungi and mycobacteria and it should be determined which meds he was recently taking, because these, too, can cause meningitis.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mutated fatal Adenovirus!!!!

A deadly new mutated adenovirus is about in the China seas. This promed email was forwarded to me by Luke Beckman:

Deadly virus> ------------> Medical examinations have determined that 8 other Chinese sailors> have the deadly virus, but have not developed any illness. The cook,> aged 40, and a crewmember of the vessel, aged 38, died on 9 Apr 2008,> after suffering high fevers for hours. No medication was able to stop> the progression of the disease.>> Experts of the Forensic Medicine Institute of Public Prosecutions> [IML] have determined that the cause of death was an adenovirus that> has become extremely deadly.>> Adenoviruses are spread by physical contact or through the air and> are one of the causes of the common flu, but were not considered> fatal. At least, not so far.>> The virus that causes severe acute respiratory [syndrome], an> atypical pneumonia that first appeared in November 2002 in Guangdong> Province, China, has been ruled out.>> The head of the IML, Luis Bromley Coloma, indicated that "we are> facing an adenovirus that has mutated and become deadly, but it is> still unknown what caused the mutation and how fast it can spread",> which is why an Epidemiological Alert has been declared.>> The autopsy performed on the 2 victims hurled death, multiorgan edema> in the brain, lungs, heart, liver, pancreas, and kidneys, and> microhemorrhages in all organs. Toxicological, biological, and> pathological tests performed revealed the presence of the mutated> adenovirus.>> Now, health authorities are working to establish where and what> generated the mutation to find a cure or a way to contain it.>> "Chan An 168" is a squid and shrimp fishing vessel that sailed from> the port of Yautay, China, on 19 Aug 2007 with 23 people on board.> Since then they have not had contact with dry land. On 13 Dec 2007 it> delivered its catch to another boat and received 2 other crewmembers.> The same happened on 15 Mar 2008.>> On 9 Apr 2008, the port captaincy of Callao received a distress call> from the captain of the "Chan An". That morning 2 Chinese crewmembers> -- the cook and a fisherman -- had died. The only symptom was a high> fever lasting from 2-5 hours; none of the medicines on board helped.>> Unfortunately, the Navy and International Maritime Health personnel> boarded the Chinese ship to provide the care they needed, without> taking the precautions needed to avoid contagion, hence it has been> decided to quarantine them. The disease can manifest itself in 14> days to 3 months.>> Specialists from the IML, and epidemiologists from the Ministry of> Defense, the Navy, and the Ministry of Health, met yesterday 19 Apr> 2008] to assess the results of the biological and pathological> examinations in order to take the necessary preventive measures to> avoid spread of the virus.>> "The autopsies carried out indicate that the 2 Chinese crewmembers> died from pneumonia resulting from an adenovirus, a cause of the flu> that is not usually fatal. What happened in this case is that the> virus has mutated and become deadly, and we are on an epidemiological> alert,'' the head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, Luis> Bromley, said yesterday [19 Apr 2008].>> The specialist added that this outbreak has 2 characteristics: the> victims are people with weakened immune systems, having been almost a> year at sea, isolated and living in subhuman conditions. The other> factor is still being studied -- still unknown are the cause that led> to the mutation and how to fight it.>> "The entire crew has been evaluated and it has been found that 8> crewmembers are infected with the mutated adenovirus and are under> observation; they can not be treated, because we do not know how to> fight this virus," stressed Bromley.>> It has been arranged for 30 Peruvian people who have been to the ship> to provide help and have come into contact with patients remain under> epidemiological surveillance, isolated, and without contact with> their families until the deadly disease has been ruled out. In these> cases ''security measures may sound extreme, but prevention is better> than later to have to bear the consequences if nothing was done,"> asserted emphatically the head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine.



More on Influenza: From Linguistics to the WHO

So I think someone up there heard my cries last week in class - this article is really right on my target. It is 1) a super cool story of a man who was studying linguistics when he realized his ability to pinpoint subtle differences would be a great way to track influenza mutation - and then he got offered a job by the WHO to be a member of the elite committee who picks the vaccine strains semi-annually (the future of many of our classmates? We can only dream...) and 2) Talks in depth about the complicated nature of picking the next vaccine strains:

"To tell how much a new strain differs from previous ones, researchers test how well its HA is inhibited by antibodies to known strains harvested from infected ferrets. If the antibodies bind well, the new virus is "antigenically close" to those earlier ones; if they don't, the new strain is more distant. These results are used to create complex tables with thousands of numbers, each describing the outcome of one binding assay; they are impenetrable to all but the most experienced researchers."

Now isn't that just what we were saying last week?

Click here to read it all for yourself


Monday, April 21, 2008

New Hemorrhagic Arenavirus found!

Hey everyone, sorry I didn't get to see you at class last week! I'll post my make-up article soon. But first, big news!

A team of scientists from Bolivian Health authorities, the US Navy, and the CDC Special Pathogens Branch has characterized a new Hemorrhagic Arenavirus that they are calling Chapare virus. Although similar in its clinical presentation to the other New World Arenaviruses such as Junin and Machupo, Chapare demonstrates different genetics than both of these two viruses. The disease seems to be found only in a remote part of the Andean foothills of Bolivia and may carry a fatality rate of 30% if untreated. It has been suggested that recent human migration to the area may have brought about increased contact with the assumed rodent carriers of the virus. Read the Pro-Med Post Below:



A ProMED-mail post


ProMED-mail is a program of the

International Society for Infectious Diseases <>

Date: Thu 17 Apr 2008

Source: EurekAlert! Public News, PLoS [Public Library of Science] Pathogens report [edited] <>

A team of Bolivian health authorities, US Navy health experts based

in Lima, Peru, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

(CDC) has characterized "Chapare arenavirus," a previously

unrecognized arenavirus, discovered in serum samples from a patient

in rural Bolivia who eventually died of the infection. A full report

of the study is published 18 Apr [2008] in the open-access journal

PLoS Pathogens.

Named after the Chapare River in the eastern foothills of the Andes,

the new Chapare arenavirus produces clinical hemorrhagic symptoms

similar to those associated with other New World arenaviruses, such

as the Junin, Machupo, Guanarito, and Sabia viruses. Genetically,

however, Chapare is different from each.

Junin, Machupo, and Guanarito viruses have been associated with large

outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever. Initial symptoms often include fever,

malaise, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and anorexia, followed later

by hemorrhagic symptoms. Untreated, more severe neurologic and/or

hemorrhagic symptoms may develop, and death occurs in up to 30


In this study, the authors first tested for yellow fever and dengue

hemorrhagic fevers, but results were negative. Tests for Machupo and

other related viruses also were negative. Sequence analysis of

specific segments of the virus later confirmed it as a unique member

of the clade B New World arenaviruses.

Due to the remote nature of the region where the case occurred, only

a limited description of a possible cluster of cases in the area was


"Further surveillance and ecological investigations should clarify

the nature of the health threat posed by the Chapare virus, and give

us better information on the source of human infection," says CDC

virologist Tom Ksiazek of the Special Pathogens Branch.

"We need to learn more about this virus: how it is related to the

other arenaviruses, how it causes disease, where it lives in nature,"

says Ksiazek. "Together with our colleagues in Bolivia and Peru,

we're anticipating a more intensive investigation that improves our

understanding of the virus, the disease it causes, and its ecology."

[Byline: Craig Manning

Health Communications Specialist

Special Pathogens Branch

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]



Delgado S, Erickson BR, Agudo R, Blair PJ, Vallejo E, et al. 2008:

Chapare Virus, a Newly Discovered Arenavirus Isolated from a Fatal

Hemorrhagic Fever Case in Bolivia. PLoS Pathog 4(4): e1000047.

doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000047 [available at


[PLoS Pathogens (<>) is an open-access

journal that focuses on pathogens and their interactions with hosts.

- Mod.TY]


Communicated by:

ProMED-mail Rapporteur A-Lan Banks

[One hopes that this interesting report of a new Bolivian arenavirus

that causes human hemorrhagic disease will prompt timely follow-up

studies on its pathogenesis, epidemiology, and its natural hosts

(presumably wild rodents). The relationship of Chapare virus to other

South American arenaviruses, and especially Machupo virus found in

lowland Bolivia, will be of considerable interest. The Chapare region

is ecologically varied, transitioning from higher elevation foothills

to lower tropical forest. Over the past 20 years, this region has

been the site of considerable human migration from the high plateau

(Altiplano) and inter-Andean valleys into the Chapare for

agricultural development.

Jon Dyal

6 million vaccinated against yellow fever in Mali

A group of boys wearing vaccination campaign T-shirts.

Almost 6 million people in Mali have been vaccinated against yellow fever in a landmark vaccination campaign this week. About 6 000 health-care providers and 2 000 volunteers were engaged to reach and vaccinate people at risk of contracting yellow fever across southern Mali.

You thought I was gone, but I'm not.

Full Arcticle


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Source-Sink Model for Influenza?

Scientists proposed yesterday through looking at the genetic maps of over 1000 strands of influenza A that the evolution of influenza follows a source-sink model - where the source of influenza A is located in the tropics and the sink the mutations spread out to is throughout the rest of the temperate regions.

Click here


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NY Times Flu Surveillance

This is a cool little article about flu surveillance in Asia. It's not terribly informative, but interesting:

Apparently, flu is endemic year-round in certain areas, not just winter. Wonder if that still fits with the UV theory for flu seasonality...


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Japan plans first large-scale H5N1 vaccination program

Hey VIP! Thought all of you bird-flu enthusiasts would find this article from the BBC interesting...

Apparently Japan has just announced its plan to vaccinate around 6,000 health care professionals with H5N1 stockpiled vaccines. Officials report that the purpose of this first large-scale vaccination is to test the efficacy and side effects of the vaccine. This represents a governmental policy change, as Japan has stockpiled 10 million doses of the vaccine and in the past only planned on using the vaccine in case of a break-out.

Check out the article here.

Of course, there's no telling if the vaccine would be at all effective considering that if an avian flu pandemic were to hit Japan, it's likely that the newly arisen strain of virus may not be protected for by the current H5N1 vaccine.



Monday, April 14, 2008

Measles in Wisconsin

So this is not one of the most interesting posts ever, but there were two more cases of measles in Wisconsin, bringing the total to 4.  These cases represent the first infections in that state since 2005.  The rest of the article goes on to remind parents how important it is to get both doses of MMR.  However, even the requirement of the booster shot does not prevent all cases of measles; the two diagnosed on Wed were just below the age of their first vaccination.  I guess the question that this raises for me is whether this is an acceptable incidence of measles in the US and we should spend our money on other problems or whether we should continue such vigorous investigations.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mumps vaccine failure?!

Apparently, MMRV may not be as long lasting as we all thought. A study found that in 2006, there was a significant increase in the incidence of US mumps, despite vaccination in over 90% of the cases! Is there a need to update vaccination schedules for another booster shot?

Hugs and kisses,


Bird Flu Transmission Evolution Scare

BBC announced that there was a scare yesterday that a case of bird flu was transferred from one human to another, when a 52 year old father assumed he had caught bird flu from his son. Genetic analysis by the Lancet falsifies these claims but the potential for the virus to mutate and allow for human to human transmission strongly exists. Interestingly enough, after the 52 year old man was treated with anti-virals and a plasma cell transfer from a person who had previously vaccinated against the virus - he surrived!

To read more click here


Monday, April 7, 2008

First Post of the Inquiry Project!

Hey all, just browsing for info on the Olympics protests around the world I found a link to an article revealing that Spain has had two death due to vCJD (hBSE) in the last 3 months.  The only other case Spain has had was in 2005.  Could this be the tip of an iceberg
When should the government step in?


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Avian, human flu coinfection reported in Indonesian teenager

The first case of coinfection with H3N2 and H5N1 was reported nearly a year ago in Indonesia in April 2007.  This type of coinfection is what many public health specialists fear will give rise to a pandemic flu strain, given the possibility of genetic reassortment that could lead to a H5N1 strain that is more easily transmitted human to human.

The 16-year old girl who was tested only experience mild fly symptoms, but RT-PCR demonstrated both H5N1 and H3N3, although antibody sera were positive for H5N1 and negative for H3N2.

Check it out:


Monday, March 17, 2008

Interferon + Hep B medicine might be bad news...

Health Canada is warning hep B patients that taking interferon in addition to Telbivudine might increase the risk of peripheral neuropathy (weakness, numbness, and burning in the arms and/or legs. The antiviral agent was not tested for the use with interferon when it was licensed and approved. A small case tested by the maker's of the drug (Novartis) tested a small population of people and found that there were cases of serious peripheral neuropathy in 10% of the cases (5 out of 48). It is difficult to know, because Telbivudine and Interferon both produce the same side effect when used on their own, but Health Canada is convinced that using both increases the risk. 

More info:


Baby of Chronic Hep B mother is forced to be vaccinated - judged in court

In Canada (somewhere), a mother with chronic Hepatitis B is refusing to vaccinate her baby with the Hep B vaccine. IS SHE CRAZY? DOESN'T SHE KNOW THE HEPB VACCINE IS THE SH*T?!

Anyway... She and her husband have agreed that the Hepatitis B vaccine is too dangerous because its "links" to autisim. Ontario judge ruled that the baby must receive all three doses of the vaccine. In fact, he's smart :) he says that the links between the vaccine and Hep B have been disproved in many cases, both in Adults and Children. 

Someone's been talking to Bob....


Sunday, March 16, 2008

also, Measles in Iraq

"Health workers try to halt Iraq measles outbreak"
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), a measles outbreak stuck hundreds of children over the past few weeks and hundreds of health workers have been recruited to the
Anbar province of Iraq to to vaccinate children against measles. This is in an effort to contain the outbreak.

The vaccination campaign was scheduled to last 10 days, beginning on Sunday, March 9th "Nearly 600 vaccinators are taking part in the house-to-house drive and they are determined to reach every child under age 5 who missed routine vaccinations," said WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib in a Geneva briefing.

Before this effort was put into place, measured at the end of 2007, it is estimated that only one in 4 infants in the Anbar province had received the vaccine for measles.

Really important work! Go WHO!!!


Source: Tue 11 Mar 2008, Reuters News

Boy attacked by Rabid Mountain Lion

Just north of Phoenix, Arizona, a 10 year old boy was attacked by a rabid mountain lion on March 8th, 2008. The family shot and killed the adult female mountain lion just after the attack and transported it back to The Arizona State Health Laboratory for analysis. The boy suffered scratches on his back and is currently being monitored and is stable health-wise thus far. The article suggests that he is receiving post exposure prophalaxis, but does not state this explicitly.

During this year so far, 14 animals have tested positive for rabies at the ADHS State Health Laboratory. Two of these tests have occurred in the last two weeks.

Scary stuff! Bottom line: don't stop your all-terrain vehicle for a break in the wilderness before survey for large rabid animals (or something like that)...


Source: 10 Mar 2008,

Measles in Virginia

Health workers are hard at work trying to track down individuals who might have been exposed to a 15 month old child from northern Virginia who, it is now confirmed, contracted measles virus in February in India. The infant visited a grocery store (probably not alone, although that is what the article makes it sound like:) as well as the Fairfax Inova Emergency Room and children's clinic. As the measles viruses has about a 3 week gestation period, health workers expect that potentially-exposed people, if they had not been vaccinated against the virus, would probably start showing symptoms by March 19th.


Source: Fri 14 Mar 2008, Fox5, myFox, Washington, DC [edited]

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More Dengue in Thailand

A top Thai health official has just issued a warning that dengue fever incidence in the country may be particularly high this year. So far in 2008 6,000 individuals have been infected and 6 have died; last year less than 5,000 individuals had been infected by mid March. The peak of dengue infections--during the rainy season from June to August--has not even struck yet. Just last year 91 people were killed and 63,000 were infected by the dengue virus. Fumigation efforts to kill the primary vector, Aedes aegypti, are underway.

-Tad Henry

Mathematically modeling malaria eradication

Scientists in Portugal, led by Gabriela Gomes, came up with a mathematical model to see if there is a threshold between malaria being endemic in a region or not. What they found, after applying the model to 8 Sub-Saharan African states, is that there is such a threshold. Theirs is the first model to take into account asymptomatic infections' role in disease transmission. They hope that it can be used to develop feasible interventions with a numerical value/percentage of mosquito nets that should be handed out or the number of people treated with anti-malarials to make a certain area malaria-free.

Check it out:


Pot + HPV = Head and neck cancer

A Johns Hopkins research team reported in 2000 that HPV infection is associated with some head and neck cancers, such as the upper throat and oropharynx. In their study, HPV16 was found in 92 of 240 individuals with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

The research team recently found that marijuana use was associated with increased prevalence of head and neck cancer in individuals with HPV, but that tobacco and alcohol was not. They reported that people who smoked pot for > 5 yrs were 11x more likely to develop cancers that tested HPV-positive. At the same time, they also said that the association was stronger with increasing numbers of oral sex partners, so that could be a significant confounding factor.

If it is pot that's increasing the risk of developing H&N cancer, the research team suspects that cannibinoids may inhibit the immune system's ability to clear infection; if pot were an immunosuppressant, you would see an increased prevalence of lots of infections in pot smokers.

Read more about it here:


Friday, March 14, 2008

HIV 'hides from drugs for years'

Basically, researchers followed patients getting ARV treatment for seven years, and who responded well. They found after seven years of therapy, although they still had a really low viral load, there was still detectable amount of HIV within cells 'hiding' from the drugs.

Cell infected with HIV

The research suggests that although potent antiretroviral therapy can suppress HIV infection to almost undetectable levels, it cannot eradicate the virus.

Link to article


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Norovirus in New York

The Daily Star reported findings of norovirus in emergency room patients in A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, NY. To prevent nasocomial transmission, the hospital has been closed to visitors who are younger than 18 years old. Only 2 visitors at a time for one patients and immediate family (spouse, parent, adult children) are allowed in the hospital at this time.

Read more about it here


No Polio Shot in Belgium = JAIL

On 12 March 2008, the Associated Press reported that two sets of Belgian parents who recently failed to vaccinate their children against polio were handed prison sentences by the Belgium government. Each parent was fined $8000 and given 5-month jail sentences.

Belgian law requires polio vaccination, and there are no exceptions (not even for religious reasons) EXCEPT if parents can prove that their child will have a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine.

France is the only other country that mandates polio immunization by law. Another case of required vaccination is during the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, where pilgrims must show proof of vaccination if arriving from polio-endemic areas.

Read more here: Jail for Belgians Who Reject Polio Shot


We Are All Future EIS Officers

Someday, members of Humans and Viruses 2007-08 will become future EIS officers. We will join the ranks of former H&V students in investigating interesting and (at times) dangerous outbreaks of infectious agents.

Until then, here's more information on the Epidemic Intelligence Services (EIS).

EIS was started in 1951 (after the start of the Korean War) as an early warning system against biological warfare and epidemics. 2/3 of officers are medical doctors; the remaining officers may be MD-PhDs, Physicians Assistants, or researchers with a doctoral degree. Assignments last for 2 years and include on-the-job training by epidemiologists in the field (ie in the heart of an epidemic).

60% of the 180 current EIS officers (80 officers for each year) are women. Interesting how women are making their presence known in the scientific field!

There have been a number of H&V graduates that have gone on to be EIS training. Ask Bob for names and contacts. I'm sure they would be happy to talk to us!

Check out the EIS website at :


West Nile Virus appears EARLY in CA

On March 11, 2008 vector control officials announced that the presence of WNV (flaviviridae) has arrived earlier than ever before. The virus has been found in 6 birds. Usually this evidence is not found until summer or fall. 

"While there have been no (human) deaths from WNV in San Diego County, 14 of the 15 locally acquired human cases last year (2007), were in people over the age of 50." said Gary Erbeck, director of the county's Department of Environmental Health. He continues to say that people over 50 and immunocompromised individuals are more at risk of serious complications to WNV. 

The virus is passed when mosquitoes feed on infected birds or horses and then bite humans. The mosquitoes particular to this disease usually die during the  winter, but a wet winter or spring have aided their survival recently which may be the cause of this early arrival of WNV.

More info


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Flu fears close schools in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has closed all kindergartens and junior schools through the Easter holiday as a precautionary measure due to fears of the spread of influenza, which has already claimed the lived of three children. While closed, the schools will be disinfected (which won't help much when sick kids come back and re-spread around their germs).

-Rebecca Hebner

Scientists at the NIH have concluded that….germs come from Germany.

So that’s why the Red Cross won’t let me give blood! (I was born in Frankfurt). I swear I don’t have mad cow…

Now for the real story on the evolution of influenza that doesn’t really tell us more than we already know, but influenza is the topic of the season after all…

Researchers from Penn State and the NIH have conducted an evolutionary analysis of influenza viruses sampled from 1918-2005 in the hopes of investigating the cause of seasonal epidemics in humans.

Researchers found that the 1947 and 1951 severe influenza epidemics were caused by genetic reassortment events (…rift!) between two human influenza viruses of the same H1N1 strain. Why these severe epidemics, where illness and mortality exceeds the standard epidemic level, occur is unknown. Major influenza pandemics (like 1918) are caused by reassortment between human and avian influenza viruses (…shift!).

Findings from the evolutionary analysis suggest that the evolution of seasonal influenza is “more complex than previously thought” (hurrah…), where multiple forms of the same strain circulate and reassort within the same population and thus rapidly generate novel viruses that can erupt in major epidemics.

Julia "Apparently I have tainted blood" Liebner

Mumps in Canada

The Canadian mumps outbreak has spread across the country from east-west, now reaching the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. A total of 399 cases of mumps have been reported in Alberta, Canada from 9/1/2007 to 3/4/2008, with outbreaks in Chinook (Southern Alberta), Calgary and Nova Scotia. 5 new cases have appeared in Chilliwack. Mumps was called “sneaky” by Fraser Health medical officer Dr. Gillian Arsenault, who reported the cases. Because the virus is spread through saliva, it can be transmitted by a cough or a sneeze. However, 1/3 of infected people are asymptomatic, making the infection hard to track and to contain. Another 1/3 suffer from swollen glands or testicles, following cold-like symptoms. Fraser Health is offering 2 free doses of the MMR vaccine to kids < 18 years, university students, or child/health care workers, because older people who have been around the virus are more likely to be immune.


Influenza and prisons

PRO-Med story on recommendations to vaccinate inmates for influenza based on the belief that MRSA may be a complicating factor in the severity of illness from influenza infection. MRSA has become a common infection among IV drug users, who the author believes, composes a fair proportion of the prison population in California. MRSA is the main cause of soft tissue infections and of severe infections like endocarditits and bacetemia. An epidemic of MRSA has been spreading in Europe and Nroth America where IV drug users have a higher colonization rate of MRSA than the general population. Why this association has been observed is unknown.


Flu virus DNA and a needle-less vaccine...hmmm

This is rather old, but it caught my eye. And it comes with a video!

With pandemic flu afoot, people in the medical field are questioning the logistics of current vaccination plans. Even with a new flu vaccine available, many in the field do not believe that the world would handle a widespread flu epidemic, given the way and the time required to mass-produce vaccines.

The biggest drawbacks to vaccines is that they take too long to make, which would be problematic in the event of an outbreak. A new vaccine, supposedly based on flu virus DNA (I thought orthomyxoviruses were RNA…), is promised to be a faster way to fight the flu. A few genes can supposedly be extracted from the DNA of the flu virus and used to make a vaccine. Microscopic particles are then coated wit this vaccine and shot at the body as super-fast speeds (sounds almost as painful as an injection…) using a needle-“free” device.


Pandemic Influenza Outbreak in Chicago!

Using computer simulations and modeling, scientists determined how a pandemic influenza outbreak might travel through a city the size of Chicago, Ill (population 8.6 million). The information can be used to help determine an efficient intervention strategy. Such strategies proposed included antiviral treatment and household isolation until a vaccine was available as a way to reduce contact and prevent transmission



Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Even the stars get the flu!

Janet Jackson got the flu! Crazy, huh? She had to cancel her SNL performance. Yay for flu publicity?


More on Nipah in Bangladesh

In light of the recent deaths due to Nipah virus infection in Bangladesh, here's a little more info on Nipah virus:

Nipah virus infection is characterized by an onset of influenza-like illness, generally with high fever, and can progress to encephalitis, coma, and death. The case fatality ratio of clinically apparent cases is approximately 50%. There are currently no drug therapies that effective treat Nipah virus infection, although ribavirin may have some efficacy. As a response to the deaths, local health and governmental authorities have begun a campaign to raise awareness about Nipah virus infection in the area. In the past, there have 7 more reported deaths as well as 10 serious cases due to Nipah virus infection in this region of Bangladesh.

Nipah virus is a member of the paramyxoviridae family, and is a zoonotic virus that was first isolated in 1999. It is thought to infect various species of fruit bats. Transmission to humans is proposed to be through exposure (either direct contact or contact with infected bodily fluids) to such infected animal reservoirs. Pigs and other domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, may also have the ability to be infected, and to transmit the virus to humans.

For more info on Nipah virus

- Claire

Nipah Deaths in Bangladesh (ooh, that rhymes)

Over the course of last Thursday and Friday, two children died of Nipah virus infection at the Faridpur Medical College Hospital in Bangladesh. Local authorities began a campaign last Saturday to educate people about the risks of contracting this new paramyxovirus (from pigs).


Monday, March 10, 2008

Follow-up from last week: End of HIV/AIDS may be near

Hey all,

Its interesting how the media can misguide their readers so easily! This is a follow-up story from my post last week on the TRIM 22 gene, which was isolated and has been shown to stop HIV from leaving individual cells. Unfortunately, it is going to take a long time for them to develop a drug that can actually do this in a number of people--they'll have to run clinical trials, etc. Considering all the time that this will take, it seems to me to be misleading to talk about the 'end of HIV/AIDS being near'.


It's Sin Nombre time!

As you guys know, we've had quite the wet winter.  This means that more nuts and stuff are available for deer mice to eat, allowing their population to blossom.  There is one report of a man in Kiowa, Colorado that died in late February of a hantavirus.  Could this be the first of many?  The article gives the normal advice about rodent-proofing your home and using precaution when cleaning mouse nests.,F2400_P1001_PUB_MAIL_ID:1000,71771


Japan Investigates new type of Flu Vaccine

A group of Japanese researchers has discovered that a certain peptide from the influenza virus can protect against multiple strains of influenza--including H5N1--in mice. Studies have only been performed on mice to date -- human trials are to come. These are some promising results, and the findings could potentially aid in the fight against HIV, cancer and other diseases.

-Tad Henry

EBV to blame for Federer's Australian Open loss

Federer, who has only played in 2 tournaments thus far this year (both of which he lost to 20-year-olds), announced on Saturday that he has been diagnosed with mononucleosis. His doctors report that the champ likely developed mono in December of 2007, but he has now been medically cleared to compete.

The NYTimes description of infectious mono:
Mononucleosis is an infection usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It can produce flulike symptoms and extreme, lingering fatigue. Physicians often discourage those with mononucleosis from taking part in intense physical activity because of the risk of rupturing the spleen, which can become enlarged because of the infection.

Federer reports that "They weren’t sure I was over it, but now I’m creating antibodies, and this really shows you are over it". He is now focusing on Beijing this summer...

Some final words of wisdom from my favorite tennis player: "Through a career, a long career maybe as No. 1, you have to go through injuries and sicknesses.”


Hantavirus found in human saliva

Researchers in Sweden published information this week about a study done on possible routs of transmission for Hantavirus. The disease nephropathia epidemica is a mild form of Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome and is caused by the Puumala Virus, a member of the Hantavirus Genus of Bunyaviridae. Patients with this disease were tested for the presence of the virus in their saliva, and 10 of the 14 patients were found to have measurable amounts of viral RNA in their saliva. To detect the virus, the researchers used RT-PCR (cool applications of retrovirus biology). This discovery suggests a possible route for person-person transmission of hantavirus. Scary in light of the severe consequences of infection!


Jon D.

Bird Flu Outbreak in India

There has been a new bird flu outbreak in India. In order to try to control the outbreak millions of birds are being/have been slaughtered. Poultry sales have dropped more than 70%! Experts think that the flu came across the boarder from Bangledesh.

Clink here to read more


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Folk Remedy for Chicken Pox: White Paint

A field doctor in Sierra Leon witnessed an interesting event; the villagers of Kroo Bay were rubbing a white paste over their bodies to provide protection against chickenpox. Apparently, this remedy (made from a mix of bean plant leaves, alcohol, and chalk) is effective treatment. However, I doubt a double blind study is possible to test this potential placebo effect...

-Rebecca "yes, two posts in one evening" Hebner

Canada to fund voluntary HPV vaccines for girls

The province of Manitoba, Canada, has pledged to spend C$10 million to provide the quadrivalent Gardasil HPV vaccine to girls between 4th and 8th grade. Experts cite the responsibility of public health to provide protection and prevent girls from the initial infection. Approximately 40,000 doses are to be available on a voluntary basis for girls in this province over the next 3 years. Go Manitoba, go.

-Rebecca Hebner

California Prison Outbreak...

Ha. You probably thought that I meant that a bunch of prisoners escaped in California (Chuckawalla Valley State Prison), but instead something even worse has happened: an influenza outbreak has affected over 546 inmates, with two dying and ten being hospitalized. Visitors and new inmates have been "barred" in order to try and put an end to the spreading of the infection and to protect the public.

oooh. scary.
becca briggs

Blood pressure linked to fetal viral infection

Pre-eclampsia, the high blood pressure in pregnancy that can endanger both mother and baby, may be associated with a virus infection of the fetus, an Australian study has found.

The scientists tested baby’s blood within five days of birth for the DNA or RNA of eight different viruses, including five strains of herpes. Virus exposure was associated especially highly with pre-eclampsia. Mothers of babies who tested positive for any virus were more than five times as likely to have had pre-eclampsia, and those whose babies tested positive for a herpes virus were almost six times as likely.

The study appears in the March issue of The British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.



Thursday, March 6, 2008

Potenital protein target for HIV vaccine

Host protein FOX03a has been found to help contribute to T-cell death. Researchers from San Diego and University of Montreal believe that turning off the production of this protein may assist in reducing mass T cell death associated with later stage HIV disease. As we remember from the train analogy, more T cells means that cliff is farther off, improving the odds for the patient to fight the virus for longer.


Indonesia says H5N1 samples show no signs of mutation

Bird flu virus samples that Indonesia sent to a World Health Organisation laboratory last month have not shown signs of any mutation, a health ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

The lack of mutation means the virus remains hard for humans to catch. Worldwide, the virus has infected 368 people in 14 countries since 2003, killing 234 of them, or 64 percent. But it has killed millions of poultry.

Full Article


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Prom Day: Dad reminds daughter of safe sex...

click :) it's a special dress


New Gene to Treat HIV Viral Formation

Hi all,

Dr. Stephen Barr at the university of Alberta has been researching genetic response to interferons, especially in the context of HIV/AIDS. He found a gene a few years ago, TRIM22 that is activated by interferons, but they just learned that this drug will chemically react with gp120 to block the virus in cells to prevent further viruses from entering the body. This could be very useful in drug development! Since its genetic, it might have less side effect than other antiretrovirals.

"TRIM22 is one of hundreds of genes turned on by interferons, chemicals produced by our immune syst"em to combat viral infections.
“It’s been known for a long time that interferon treatment of cells can block HIV infection, but nobody really knew how or what the genes were that were involved,” Barr explained.
“We found that TRIM22 was turned on quite a bit in response to interferons [...], and our later studies showed that [it] actually blocked [HIV] by trapping the virus within cells so it can’t get out to infect other cells.”


Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I don't know if people have heard about this even but LIVERight is a 5k run/walk on May 10, 2008 in SF Golden Gate Park. This is the third year that the Asian Liver Center (here at Stanford University) is holding this. The Asian Liver Center actually does a lot around campus and around the Bay Area. They launched the Jade Ribbon Campaign to spread Hep B and liver cancer awareness around the Asian American Community. Partners of this campaign include the CDC. 

Apparently Liver cancer is the greatest health disparity between Caucasians and Asians - 80% of which is caused by the Hep B virus. 10% of all Asians and Pacific Islanders have Hep B infection while 0.1% of Caucasians. The Vietnamese are especially vulnerable, with the highest rates out of all the Asian populations. 

You can register for the race at


What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas (hopefully)

Remember my post about the Hep B, C, and HIV outbreaks in LV due to the unsanitary practice of sharing syringes between patients at an endoscopy center??

Well, today, it was announced in local news that 3 MORE CLINICS owned by the same doctors who initiated this syringe-sharing practice as common policy were SHUT DOWN.

Everyone and their mom (literally) who got any sort of scope done at any of these clinics is being tested.

Becca Briggs

source: my mom

Lookie what we have here...

What did we learn about in the last three minutes of lecture on Monday?? That's right...Hepatitis E. Well, it looks like there has been a Hep E epidemic in Uganda recently. A total of 314 cases, with 11 deaths, have been reported since the epidemic began in 11/2007. It is interesting that about 75% of the cases have been in the age group 15-44 and also that approximately 60% of the cases have been females.

As we learned on Monday, "vowels in the bowels," meaning that Hep A and Hep E are both transmitted via the fecal-oral route. This route of transmission has important implications for sanitation practices...meaning that increased sanitation results in decreased incidence of disease. The Ugandan Ministry of Health has attributed the epidemic to extremely low latrine coverage, contamination of water at household levels, and poor hygiene practices. In an analysis of sanitary conditions carried out in Northern Uganda, it was found that an average of 112 people share one latrine...which is about 6 times above the limit of 20 people per facility. Also, since most communities lack latrines altogether, the people have taken to the practice of open air defecation. Also, there was no indication of communities using soap to wash their hands, even though it was being supplied to them (the water for handwashing was also found to have tons of e. coli).

Looks like international health advocates might focus on spreading awareness about Hep E in these areas experiencing Hep E epidemics.

Becca Briggs

Okay, so this isn't exactly virology

The cover story for the science section in Newsweek is on treating drug addiction.  Apparenty, there are "vaccines" in the pipeline against addiction that train the body to recognize them and prevent them from crossing the blood-brain barrier.  This is so cool, but the article doesn't go into much detail over the mechanism (I would imagine antibodies would be an order of magnitude larger than any active ingredient in a drug, so it's a mystery to me how this works).  I feel like this might have a lot of backlash from conservatives that don't want to promote casual use of drugs.  Hopefully a dem will be in the White House when this is going for approval so we can all start using heroin (again)!


Monday, March 3, 2008

Anti-HIV gel has huge potential

A study in New Delhi shows that a vaginal gel containing an anti-HIV drug can safely be used by women on a daily basis. However, the microbicide's efficacy against the virus has not been tested. Lead researcher, Dr. Craig Hoesley, characterized the gel as a "potentially terrific option" for sexually active women. Now that safety tests have been passed, efficacy tests are currently being planned. Previous microbicides have not only failed to work, but have actually showed an increased risk for HIV infection.

HIV gel for women?

Gilead Sciences Inc. is selling a gel that contains tenofovir under the premise that it 'protects women from the AIDS virus'. However, reporters aren't sure that the gel actually prevents infection. Just another poor use of the 'AIDS' acronym!


Obama tested for HIV

Among many other things, Obama - who was born to a Kenyan father - has been working to show people in Kenya that it is not a stigma to be tested for HIV, which is currently ravaging he country. Both Obama and his wife Michelle were tested in a rural area of western Kenya on a 2006 trip.

Flu in winter, enteroviruses in summer...

A new study has been done that may shed light on why the inlfuenza virus and other respiratory viruses tend to strike harder during the winter, rather than the summer. Although previous theories have suggested differing amounts of UV radiation during winter vs summer, or groups of people staying indoors and thus huddling more together, this study refers to a different aspect of Flu microbiology. Scientists at the National Institute of Child Health and Human development have suggested that flu virus actually becomes hardier at colder temperatures due to a "lipid shell" (i can only assume they mean the envelope) that actually becomes harder. The scientists suggest that this may help it survive more easily in the environment, facilitiating its spread in respiratory droplets and potentially off of other surfaces. Once inside the body, the lipid layer melts and allows the virus to enter the host cells. It's an interesting theory, although I'd like to check out the more scientifically written paper. Thoughts?

Here's the article:


Sunday, March 2, 2008

TRIM22 implicated in blocking HIV infection!

Researchers led by Dr. Steven Barr at the University of Alberta have found that the human gene TRIM22, implicated in the natural interferon response signaling cascade, may have particular efficacy in blocking the progression of HIV infection in vitro.

The work, done in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, shows that when TRIM22 is activated in cells infected with HIV the virus can't assemble properly and leave the cell. Apparently interferon signaling is dysregulated in patients infected with HIV.... by activating TRIM22, the viral infection progression could potentially be halted.

Did the Canadians discover a "cure" for HIV/AIDS?

This could be exciting?!

Check out the news-story here.


Nipah virus claims 8 in Bangladesh

Eight people (including four children) have succumbed to the deadly Nipah virus in the central districts of Bangladesh according to AFP. Direct contact with pigs is associated with the development of flu-like symptoms, which sometimes develops into viral encephalitis.

Apparently more individuals are in critical condition. Hopefully this doesn't turn into a full-blown outbreak. Keep posted for more info on Nipah in Bangladesh.

Check out the news brief here.


HBV, HCV, and HIV scare: 15 minutes from my house!!!

That's right. The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, located at 700 Shadow Lane in the heart of Las Vegas, was closed down last week after allegations of unsafe injection procedures related to the administration of anesthetics to patients that may have resulted in exposure to contaminated blood products. Like Thomas mentioned, 40,000 patients are being notified of their potential exposure. Any patient who had a procedure done at the clinic between March 2004 and January 11, 2008 is at risk. This all came to light when a cluster of three acute cases of Hep C popped up in January 2008, and six have popped up to date. Medical providers are required to report Hep C cases as they pop up and typically two acute cases are reported to the health district annually, making these six cases really stand out. FIVE OUT OF THESE SIX CASES WERE ALL SHOWN TO HAVE RECEIVED ANASTHETIC INJECTIONS ON THE SAME DAY.

It is important to highlight that the potential nosocomial infection allegations, if found to be true, stem from the unsafe administration of anesthetic and NOT the actual medical procedure of the scope. In depth investigations conducted in the clinic discovered that syringes, not needles, were being re-used to administer anesthetic to different patients. Apparently, the administration of anesthetic can really burn if injected directly. So, to ease the pain, a little bit of the patient's blood is taken up into the syringe so that the initial contents of the injection are not pure anesthetic, cutting down on the stinging. Now, we potentially have small amounts of people's blood products in syringes that are being passed along to the next room to be used on another patient. The needle is changed, but the syringe is not, the syringe is filled with fresh anesthetic, the next patient's blood is taken up into the syringe to ease the pain of injection, the anesthetic is administered...AND THE CYCLE CONTINUES. Thus, people's blood products were potentially being shared through the contaminated syringes.

The big scandal in town right now is that this clinic is part of a large, cheap HMO that has a reputation for cutting costs. The cost for replacing each syringe was estimated at a mere .57, all that money saved on syringes (and more) will be spent in defense in court. Nurses and other healthcare staff that were aware of the potentially dangerous procedure are now coming forward, disclosing more information about how long this procedure has been in practice. Also bothersome is that there are two other clinics, under the same HMO that were using the same unsafe injection procedure. The practices of these two other clinics are currently being investigated.

Unfortunately, we have quite a few family friends who recently visited this clinic (during the high risk time period) and are very shaken up. They are all getting tested next week for HBV, HCV, and HIV. The worst part is a vast majority of the patients attending this clinic are patients over 50, going for their mandatory colonoscopy. By definition, this is a problem if the main demographic at risk is the elderly (not saying people in their 50s are "elderly" but you know what I mean). As we all know, the main problems with these diseases (especially HCV and HIV) is that they often have long periods of asymptomatic infection, making detection of nosocomial transmission cases exceedingly difficult.

Becca Briggs

Another Flu Season, Another Vaccine Failure

In hospitals across the country, patients are in intensive care units, battling off complications due to influenza. Many of these patients received the flu vaccination for this year -- however, the 3 strains included in the vaccine gave no protection to the strains that dominated this year's flu season. The major factor in the intensifying epidemic is the Brisbane/10 strain -- the CDC, WHO, and FDA (organizations ultimately deciding which 3 influenza strains are included in next year's vaccine) are aware of the severity of this particular strain but had not predicted it to be present this year. Dr. Michael Osterholm has called for a "Manhattan Project" to create a flu vaccine that does not need to be reformulated each year. However, such a vaccine is years off. Until Osterholm's "Manhattan Project" is accomplished, the CDC, WHO and FDA must continue to work tirelessly to predict what the influenza viruses next move will be...

-Tad Henry

CDC to destroy oldest smallpox vaccine

The government announced Friday that it has said goodbye to one of the world's greatest lifesavers _ the oldest smallpox vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month made arrangements to dispose of the last of its 12 million doses of Dryvax, and notified other health departments and the military to do the same by Feb. 29.

Dryvax — produced by scraping virus off the skin of infected calves — is being replaced in federal vaccine stockpiles by a more modern product manufactured in laboratories.

Dryvax was unusually dangerous for a vaccine, blamed in recent years for triggering heart attacks and a painful heart inflammation in some patients.

Dryvax was created in the late 1800s, by the company that became Wyeth Laboratories. Wyeth was a primary U.S. manufacturer of smallpox vaccine by the mid-1940s, and was the only company left making it by the early 1960s, said Dr. D.A. Henderson, a University of Pittsburgh vaccine expert who played a key role in international smallpox eradication efforts.

-- Nidhi


HIV Home Care

Anew study show that treating African HIV patients in their homes instead of in a clinic is just as effective at saving HIV-positive lives as are many European clinical programs. The costs of new home care programs is just 25 cents per person per day and is important because in many parts of Africa there are no clinics available and setting them up would be difficult and costly. Is it time for new approaches to HIV public health protocol?

Click here to read the article

- Raquel

Friday, February 29, 2008

New and safer smallpox vaccine?

Soybean oil, alcohol, water, and detergents as ingredients in the next smallpox vaccine???

No way!

That's what I thought when I read the tagline on a ScienceDaily article on using oil-based nasal nanoemulsion vaccines. They were first reported in 2003 to vaccinate against influenza, and it's since been tested for HIV and smallpox. They used gp120 to vaccinate against HIV and killed whole vaccinia virus for smallpox. In both, they "were able to promote an immune response." Apparently, for HIV, if mucosal immunity is induced, immunity is conferred for the genital mucosa as well. Crazy. Their HIV vaccine also induced cellular immunity and neutralized antibody to HIV virus isolates--

The smallpox vaccine with nanoemulsion-killed vaccinia would be safer than the current live-attenuated vaccine. This vaccine induced mucosal, antibody, and Th1 cellular immunity. \

Results from both smallpox and HIV vaccine were published this past moth in Clinical Vaccine Immunology and AIDS Research Human Retroviruses, respectively.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

HCV outbreak in Vegas!

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas... and that includes viral infections of all kinds.
There's recently been a Hep C outbreak from a Endoscopy center. Apparently, a sedative used was contaminated and 40000 people need to be tested! Go listen to CNN's impeccable Dr. Sanjay Gupta for more details:

Love and happiness,


First worldwide public health analysis says India is in trouble


I found this cool article about one of the first (the first?) worldwide public health study that looks at infectious disease outbreak regions. They studied past outbreaks and where they occurred from all over. We know that zoonotic jumps/recombinations are most likely to cause 'new' diseases, or epidemics. They found that the regions that had high population density, warm climate, and wildlife bio-diversity were the regions that were most vulnerable to new outbreaks of infectious disease. This makes India and China especially vulnerable countries!

Not surprisingly, they found that, "The study has indicated that disease surveillance resources are misallocated, with the best efforts limited to rich countries." (DUH!) I personally really appreciated this global study because its looking at the world as a whole--like maybe the rich countries actually have a real obligation to watch out for the poorer countries. 20 years ago (not that I knew anything back then) this would be been out of the question. Maybe we're all moving in a better direction?

Quoted from the study:

An international research team analysed 335 outbreaks of new infections over the past six decades and found that more than 60 per cent were zoonotic diseases, caused by microorganisms jumping from animals, mostly those in the wild, into humans.

These include HIV from chimpanzees, the deadly Ebola virus from fruit bats, the West Nile virus from common sparrows and avian influenza (H5N1 virus) from wild ducks.

“We found infectious diseases strongly linked to human population density, changes in population, rainfall, and wildlife bio-diversity,” said Kate Jones, a team member and research fellow at the Zoological Society of London. “These links allow us to predict where future outbreaks are most likely to occur,” Jones told The Telegraph.

High Hopes for TB Vaccine

Trials in children of a new TB vaccine are underway in South Africa.

Tuberculosis sample grown in the lab

This new vaccine, MVA85A, is being developed as a booster for BCG, and has been in testing on humans for six years now. It is currently being tested in South Africa on young children and adults with HIV. If successful here, it will go into a phase 3 trial next year. However, it still needs at least 8 more years of trials before it can be considered for a license.

Here's the link to the article!


New Flu Shot Recommendation

An advisory panel to the CDC recommends that all children ages 6 mos to 18 years should receive the flu vaccine, which extends the previous recommendation to immunize children up to age 5. This recommendation is likely to take effect in the 2008-2009 season and will add nearly 30 million kids to the list of who should receive annual flu immunizations.

The official CDC recommendation will increase the number of government-subsidized shots supplied to families who cannot afford to pay and may result in more insurance companies covering payment for the shots.

The move to vaccinate schoolchildren is an effort to prevent spread from children to adults and elderly persons, of which about 35,000 die annually in the US from flu complications.

Check out the article on the front page of today's (2/28/08) San Jose Mercury News.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A promising combination vaccine for Ebola and Marburg using VLPs!

Whoa! This is amazing! So exciting! So many exclamation points are warranted!!!

Scientists at USAMRIID have announced the creation of a promising combination vaccine for Ebola and Marburg which has been shown to be 100% efficacious in cynomolgous macaques. This breakthrough vaccine for filoviruses is composed of virus-like particles (VLPs) and is totally non-infectious in nature-- just like the Gardisal HPV vaccine! Monkeys treated with the VLP based vaccine were then challenged with lethal doses of virus and none developed signs of infection while all of the control animals succumbed to the agents of hemorrhagic fever.

VLPs are likely now to be the leading candidate for human filovirus vaccine development due to their high safety, efficacy, and immunogenicity. This is a truly exciting development and the primary researcher, Dr. Kelly Warfield, hopes that the vaccine will be in human trials in a matter of years.

Check out the news release here.

Check out a more scientifically rigorous description of the work here.

yours in filo-mania (!),


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Carraguard microbicide for HIV

It doesn't seem like anyone has posted on this and since Jon mentioned it in his post, I thought I should include the whole story:
Carraguard, a gel substance made from seaweed, was being investigated as a possible microbicide for protection against HIV.  Results of the trial, though, found that those that used the carraguard got HIV at the same rate as those that used the control gel.  A number of explanations have arisen, including that the women in the experimental group didn't use the gel as much as they were supposed to.  The experimental group did not have any serious complications from the gel, prompting investigation into carraguard as a base into which antivirals could be added in the future.


'08 Flu Vaccine Strains

WHO has come out with the recommended strains for the '08 flu vaccine.

A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)
A/Brisbanse/10/2007 (H3N2)
I hope this year's vaccine is a better match than last year's.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Ashton Kutcher turns 30 and gets Hep A for his bday present.

Celebrities attending Ashton Kutcher's 30th birthday party had a little viral scare. 

Okay not REALLY.

BUT, the bartender at the event serving drinks to Lucy Liu, Salma Hayek, Madonna, and other celebs was found infected with Hep A! Since he was handling these with his bare hands, the New York Health Department was worried that he might have transmitted it through serving drinks. 

The vaccine should be administered within 2 weeks of exposure, and may minimize health risk and give the celebs a sense of comfort.

I'm not providing the link cuz no one REALLY cares...


China, Pakistan, and Vietnam are in Bird Flu Trouble.

China and Pakistan have announced bird flu outbreaks among poultry, a day after two women, one in China and one in Vietnam, died of the virus. In Pakistan, there was a fresh outbreak of H5N1 in chickens, the fourth case in a month. China needs to be on alert, especially because they have the largest poultry population in the world. The country has done its best to educate those who handle poultry and mass immunize birds. 

More Info:


New CDC in Nigeria

The country of Nigeria is opening up a new CDC, based after the US' to help them record and track infectious diseases. Why do we care? Because Nigeria is one of the countries that HIV is endemic in and this is a strong step toward reducing HIV prevalence within the country!


Click here for more info

Gardasil for Boys!

By 2009, Merck's Gardasil should be licensed for boys as well as girls, though Merck may be a bit up a creek in that it spent considerable time & money marketing the vaccine for girls. Now, How are they going pitch that to parents of boys. Think altruism. Responsibility. Chivalry, even? Oh, and yes: some explicit details about genital warts and sexual transmission. Will it work? What's the benefit if their sons won't get cervical cancer? Some thoughts!


Avian Flu Update

The Chinese Ministry of Health has recently confirmed a 29th case of human H5N1 infection in a 41 year old man from the Guangxi Region. The man died 8 days after onset of symptoms, and his infection has been traced to contact with sick and dead poultry prior to his first symptoms. His symptoms were characterized by a pneumonia-like syndrome, which manifested as chills, fever and cough. Of the 29 cases reported so far in this outbreak of H5N1, 19 have been fatal.

In response to the outbreak, the Ministry of Health as well as local Municipal Administrations of Industry and commerce have recently implemented avian influenza prevention measures, including contact tracing. Despite these measures, however, a 30th case of avian influenza is suspected in a women from Guangdong province in southern China (which is where SARS originated).

- Claire