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?

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- Raquel