Monday, October 31, 2011
It's amazing to me that epidemics can be spread through mosquitos. I think of epidemics as being spread by coughing, but in this case if you're sick and a mosquito bites you and then bites the person next to you in bed, you've effectively infected the other person. Thus, sick patients aren't wearing masks, but are shrouded in mosquito nets! I think they're spraying and sucking viruses up in an effort to contain the mosquito population. See pictures.
The other article.
A important link to understanding this other method of viral exit is the fact that all eukaryotic +ssRNA viruses replicate genetic material on membranes in the cytoplasm (e.g. mitochondrial, ER, Golgi).
Kirkegaard postulates that polioviruses and some other nonlytic viruses can induce and be ecapsulated by cytoplasmic double-layered membranes, in which they mature and are eventually shipped out to the extracelluar fluid.
Despite the normal use of this autophagy pathway to degrade intracellular components, the digestive properties of said double-layered membranes seem to be ineffective or inhibited by nonlytic viral invaders.
Inhibition of cellular autophagy resulted in a lower yield intracellular viruses (because they are dependent on these membrane surfaces) but an even lower yield of extracellular virus; this is consistent with the non-lytic escape hypothesis.
Furthermore, experiments in which cells were polarized such that vesicles would only exit in one direction and infected with poliovirus showed virion emergence from the predicted side of the membrane.
His physician, Dr. M V Rao, sent samples to Mumbai under suspicion of hantavirus. They came back positive, and Dr. Rao presence of rodents in the area, especially deer mice. This poses interesting questions in relation to the 1993 outbreak in the Four Corners Area of the United States. Should precipitation increase in the Karimnagar District, should the hospital take precautions in preparation of more hantavirus cases?
This act seeks to make research into solutions for antibiotic-resistant bacteria profitable enough to attract pharmaceutical companies to devote their resources to the problem. Pfizer and Johnson&Johnson, both large pharmaceutical companies, have recently shut down some or all of their antibacterial resistance research, because the profits are miniscule when compared to other drugs they manufacture. The mot profitable drugs for large pharmaceutical companies are those that have to be taken for years and even decades. Drugs that would fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria would only need to be taken for a few days.
These shutdowns come at a bad time, as deaths from anti-biotic resistant diseases have reached a high this last year, causing about 70,000 deaths in the United States. These infections are mostly hospital-acquired, and are often MRSA or vancomycin-resistant enterococci. Additionally, these infections cost the U.S. healthcare system up to $34 billion a year.
The author of this article was pessimistic that the incentives offered by the GAIN Act would be enough to encourage pharmaceutical companies to continue their research. Until this issue becomes a crisis, it's just more profitable to make other drugs.
One of the researchers argued for reduction of regulatory barriers, stating that,
"'The difference between 69% effectiveness and 90% effectiveness will have a major public health effect in any pandemic that causes serious morbidity or increased mortality.'"
An interesting note is that the researchers only deemed 31 out of 5,707 studies screened as eligible to analyze. They chose to only include studies that used highly specific tests like RT-PCR to confirm the presence of flu and excluded studies on the basis of study design. It is admirable that they had such stringent requirements for their analysis, but that also means they looked at less than 1% of the available studies that have been done in the past 40 years. Are they skewing theirs numbers by being too picky?
I think this is a very interesting finding because although cold sores are not as severe as other herpes infections, it is very annoying to have to deal with them. Having had cold sores my whole life, I'm very excited to hear that there might be new long lasting treatments that might prevent future outbreaks.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Successful Application of Sterile Insect Technique to Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes, But Concerns Raised Over Public Reception
The same technique has already been used successfully in multiple cases to limit or even eradicate entire insect populations, such as the screw-fly in most of North America. Those cases relied instead on ionizing radiation to sterilize males and/or female flies with the rest of the protocol unchanged. Unfortunately, such techniques can't be applied here since irradiated flies maintain their ability to compete with natural males, something not seen in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Indeed, researchers were pleased to attain a 50% competition rate in the studies conducted so far, with the release of enough males to approximate 16 % of the total population having the lethal gene resulting in 10% of larva dying in one example.
Unfortunately, numbers like this form one point of possible controversy. Like with the screw-fly program, an eventual program to eradicate or seriously control the mosquito will have to rely on 'over-kill', with tremendous amounts of modified mosquitoes being released. Given a 3.5% rate of offspring mutating to survive the presence of the gene and a 0.5% rate of females accidentally released alongside the males, programs such as this carry the risk of unintentionally making the situation worse if major errors occur. What may influence public perception the most is that this program involves “genetic modification” and the introduction of vast numbers of modified organisms into the environment. Even if similar programs have been performed with incredible success for decades, these projects needs to be handled with care, lest a public backlash prevent the control of such a deadly pest.
New York Times Article:
Concerns Are Raised About Genetically Modified Mosquitoes
Sterile Insect Technique:
Screwworm Eradication in North and Central America(1987)
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Nipah is a deadly disease that has killed 251 of the 475 people known to have been infected with it (most of whom worked with pigs); the movie Contagion was based upon the Nipah virus. Hendra has only been known to have infected 7 people (4 cases were fatal), but this preliminary vaccine may also have saved the lives of an Australian mother and daughter who were sick with the virus. Antibodies are relatively expensive to produce, however, so scientists are also looking into the possibility of peptide vaccines for the two diseases - an option which has shown promise among hamsters.
I find this an interesting progress because it's vital that we research vaccines for not only the traditional headliner viruses (HIV, ebola, etc), but even those that occur less commonly. Nipah and Hendra may not be household names, but given how quickly swine flu mutated from an infection among pigs to one that could be readily transmissible among humans, it's quite possible that these deadly diseases could quickly mutate to become much more widespread. If such a scenario ever occurs, it would be hugely beneficial to already have a template vaccine available to work with.
Original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/25/health/25global.html?scp=1&sq=viruses&st=cse
- Elena Higuchi
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
This is pretty cool, especially if it's replicable in humans. I'm not sure I understand the biology (how does the intracellular levels of pMAPK make a difference to the virus? I would have thought that the virus would be targeted to a specific cell surface receptor for entry). However, a few key properties will probably be interesting clinically, based on what we know about these viruses.
1. Herpesvirus causes local infection. That means that it can be specifically targeted to the cancer site, but also that it may not work for metastases.
2. Herpesviruses are latent. Does this mean that they'll stick around to screw up the patient later, or perhaps provide lasting protection against recurring cancer?
In any case, it's been an exciting time for herpesviruses—Alzheimer cause, cure for cancer? Also, we need a new "chemotherapy" term for viruses. "Vironcotherapy?"
Natural Killer cells are a type white blood cells or lymphocytes that are an important component of our innate immune system. They are not activated by molecules found on a tumor or a pathogen unlike most other cells, but are rather "shut down" by proteins, called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) found on our healthy cells. Since tumor cells and pathogens lack these HLAs, they are immediately killed by Natural Killer cells, (since they are not shut down like with our healthy cells.)
Natural Killer cells recognise the HLA molecules on our cells using a system called "Killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors" (KIR). This pairing is known to play a role in limiting viral replication in people with HIV, slowing the progression of the disease to AIDS. The exact mechanism is unknown, but it has been suggested that a better understanding of the structure of the KIR proteins may help to develop new ways of using Natural Killer cells against viral infection.
This is another promising piece of good news for the fight against HIV!
- Julie Saffarian
Monday, October 24, 2011
Earlier we talked about how HPV is a known cause of cancer of the cervix, anus and throat. It can also cause cancer of the vulva and penis. While this study does not prove that HPV is linked to heart disease it shows a strong link between the two. The researcher suspect that HPV, with its ability to sabotage the P53 gene, could possibly lead to inflammation and thickening of the arterial walls.
Clearly, more research needs to be done to determine if this link between HPV and heart disease is really causative and also if it is causative in men as well. If it is, this would lead to ever more reason for more people (men and women) to get the HPV vaccine. It also might signal that a paradigm shift about the vaccine is needed as more health concerns become linked with this virus.
Read more at:
While fear of water (hydrophobia) is a commonly known symptom of rabies, hypersexuality can also be caused by the virus. Other symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, and general tiredness, discomfort, numbness or pain at the site of the bite. Later infected people may experience insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, excitability, hallucinations, agitation, hyper-salivation and difficulty swallowing.
It would be interesting to learn the mechanisms for such a change as hypersexuality. Could rabies be spread sexually? How might behavioral alteration benefit the virus itself?
Read more at: http://www.promedmail.org
Published Date: 2011-10-24 20:04:45 Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Rabies - India (16): (TN) canine, human Archive Number: 20111024.3169
Vaccines can be problematic in developing regions because they often need to be refrigerated, they expire, and it takes health personnel to administer shots. Daniell is working with lettuce leaf proteins to create oral vaccines that won't go bad or require training to administer. Basically, with a little bioengineering, a lettuce leaf becomes an antibody pill. While this sounds a little far fetched, he has successfully tested vaccines for malaria, TB, polio, cholera, anthrax, black plague, and dengue fever. There's even potential for his vaccines to work on genetic diseases, like diabetes I. Now his lab is working out the final kinks, testing appropriate dosage and longevity of the vaccines. If this new kind of vaccine proves to be as great as it sounds, it will change the future of vaccination.
The makers of Tenofovir are now debating whether or not it is worth it to spend the millions of dollars that is necessary to get the gel approved for selling in America. How popular would a gel that protects against HIV and herpes be in the States? I wonder if people would go through with the hassle of buying it or not?
The problem is that while this vaccination will surely prevent you from getting Hepatitis B-related liver cancer, most of the individuals who have Hepatitis B acquire it in Asia as opposed to when they come to the United States. While one doctor argues that the challenge is to educate and motivate Asian immigrants to get vaccinated, another one says that recent increase in vaccination rates in the U.S. has no correlation with rates of HBV infection. The latter doctor justifies his argument with this graph: http://www.gideononline.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/HepB-US.png).
HBV is transmitted via similar routes as HIV (blood & semen) but is much more infectious.
This of course raises the question of whether or not our public health spending is allocated properly and intellectually. If our education of Asian immigrants is indeed useless scientifically, how has this gone unnoticed?
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Some doctors think that the increases in pre-cancerous growths are due to people having more sexual partners and giving themselves more opportunities to get infected to HPV. According to the researchers, more than 50% of sexually active men and women become infected and 80% of women have been exposed by the time they are 50. While more people are developing growths, rates vulvar cancer are not increasing, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is possible that the growths are being appropriately treated, or that not enough time has passed to the cancer to develop.
It will be interesting to watch HPV-related cancer rates in the future - and this article really puts into perspective how important getting the HPV vaccine in childhood/early adulthood can be. The vaccine, Gardasil, was made to prevent cervical cancer, but can also help precent the growths (cancerous and non-cancerous alike) from developing, although only the growths caused by HPV. Those caused by herpes viruses are another can of worms, so to speak.
read the article.
I feel like this information could be particularly useful in studying viral epidemiology when examining changing environments. It's important to keep an entire ecosystem in mind when examining either natural or human-induced changes on an environment, but knowing the key species that could in turn impact infectious disease is especially important in measuring the effect that these changes will have on human populations.
One possibility for the age-related difference is the fact that younger doctors did not witness disease epidemics such as as those that were included in the survey since vaccines were already in place and prevented many cases before the doctors were born. Older doctors, in contrast, witnessed the epidemics of these diseases before vaccinations were available and are thus more likely to believe in vaccine safety and efficacy.
The article also talks about another study on parental opinion on childhood vaccinations. Results suggest that parents are most likely to reject MMR, HPV, and flu vaccine. Top reasons for deferring vaccines included belief that vaccines could lead to autism, too many shots, and fear of side effects.
I think this article is interesting because it focuses on both doctors' views on vaccines and the parents' beliefs about vaccines. I think it's particularly interesting that the older age group is more likely to believe in vaccine efficacy and safety than the younger generation because I thought since the young doctors just graduated medical school, they would have a fresh memory of vaccines and know that Wakefield's study on vaccine and autism has been long discredited. I feel like based on the results of the two studies mentioned in this article, there should be more public education programs to teach the public about the accurate pros and cons of vaccines. I'm also curious to know if there is correlation between the parents' opinion on vaccines and the age of their doctors (whether seeing younger doctors would make the parents less likely to agree to having their kids vaccinated)
According to Prof. Itzhaki, the team leader in the University's Faculty of Life Sciences, "the viral DNA in AD brains is very specifically located within amyloid plaques. This, together with the production of amyloid that the virus induces, suggests that HSV1 is a cause of toxic amyloid products and of plaques." These results therefore suggest that a possible effective treatment of AD (to slow disease progression at least) would be to use antiviral agents to target the replication of HSV1 DNA. This would be successful only if the accumulation of β-amyloid and P-tau caused by the virus occurs at or after the stage at which viral DNA replication occurs.
- Julie Saffarian
Saturday, October 22, 2011
These benefits though are only effective against herpes when tenofovir is taken as a vaginal gel and not when it is ingested in the form of a pill. As a gel, the active tenofovir metabolite directly inhibits the herpes simplex virus DNA polymerase, thus inhibiting its ability to replicate. Not to mention, the tissue concentrations of the drug are approximately 100 times higher in the gel than in its pill counterpart.
The benefits of this gel are more than physiological, there are also behavioral and economical factors that weigh into the pros. Financially, this product as a combination of an anti-HIV and anti-herpes drug increases its targeted population, especially in the United States where almost 21 percent of sexually active women are infected with the herpes simplex virus. In regards to behavioral benefits of this form, since the use of the vaginal gel is controlled by the woman herself, she can ensure a level of protection from infection by sexual transmission that is not offered by certain forms of contraception. Further studies need to be conducted in order to test the reliability of the gel as well as its effectiveness if used on a daily basis rather than being used prior to and following sexual intercourse.
McNeil, Donald G "Gel Cuts Women's Risk of Herpes, Study Finds"
Andrei, Graciela et al. "Topical Tenofovir, a Microbicide Effective against HIV, Inhibits Herpes Simplex Virus-2 Replication." Cell Host and Microbe. Vol 10,4. October 1011. pp379-389
Thursday, October 20, 2011
These “amplifiers” inadvertently allowed the virus to become the pandemic that it is today, and Pepin argues that evidence for their strong role in HIV's spread can be seen in the geographic diversity of current strains. For instance HIV M subgroup B, which is an obscure strain in central Africa, is endemic to Haiti and much of the Western Hemisphere. Pepín argues that the likely number of infected Haitians returning from the Congo, the cradle of the disease, could not have sustained the virus on their own, but instead that a plasma bank notorious for poor practices amplified the virus, creating a foothold for the epidemic seen today.
Though cliché, it's true that hindsight is 20/20 and there's a certain degree of irony that in trying to save patient's lives, doctors may have accidentally created the HIV pandemic. Whether or not this is how it actually happened, this possibility should serve as a warning for the future and a cautionary story of how quickly human factors can exponentially increase a virus' threat to global health.
New York Times Article:
" Chimp to Human to History Books- The Circuitous Path of AIDS"
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
In mothers who were infected with the 2009 (H1N1) strain of the flu virus, baby deaths were almost 5 times as normal between September 2009 and January 2010: In these 256 women, seven of the babies were stillborn, and three died shortly after birth - this is equivalent to approximately 39 babies dying out of 1000 before and after birth, which is a drastic difference compared to 7 deaths in 1000 in uninfected mothers.
This article primarily aims to send an important message to pregnant women biased against getting the flu shot during pregnancy and encourages them to get vaccinated in order to avoid the harmful effects on the virus on their unborn babies. Since pregnant women are likely to develop more complications if they get the flu virus, getting vaccinated should definitely be on their "to-do" list, especially at this time of the year. Contrarily to what most people believe, the vaccine can be given very safely at any stage of pregnancy, and studies have even shown that some of this protection from the vaccine can actually be passed on to their baby and last for the first few months of their lives.
Pregnant or non-pregnant, get your flu vaccine!
- Julie Saffarian
Monday, October 17, 2011
United Therapeutics is working on a broad-spectrum drug called UV-4 for dengue and the flu, which might also combat the issue of drug resistance.
The drug company CUBRC is developing a tetracycline that could treat community-acquired pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. There are also plans on testing this drug against Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis, which cause anthrax and the plague, respectively, and are bioterror possibilities.
Entana Pharmaceuticals is working on broad-spectrum antibiotics called bicyclolides. These are effective against both gram positive and gram negative strains of bacteria, and have shown promise against anthrax, plague, and tularemia.
XOMA LLC (from Berkeley!) is contracted to develop an intravenous botulism poisoning treatment.
Rubella is a highly infectious disease that is caused by rubella virus and transmitted via respiratory tracts. The women were of young age, which is problematic considering that rubella can do irreversible damage to developing fetuses. While the women are stable, it raises the numerous and well-versed questions of why groups of people choose not to get vaccinated against preventable diseases.
This article that I came across described the use of engineered herpes viruses used to treat patients with head and neck cancer. The modified viruses had the unique ability to multiply inside the cancer cells, but not the patient's healthy ones, thus making it the perfect agent to target and kill (through bursting), the tumor cells, and to also stimulate the patient's immune response. This also meant that since the herpes virus wasn't able to enter the patient's healthy cells, it also couldn't cause its usual symptoms, including cold sores. The study leader Dr Kevin Harrington, further added: "The genes that normally allow the virus to hide in the body and pop out later - called latent infection - have been removed so the virus can no longer do that."
Wouldn't this kind of genetic modification make any virus the perfect cure to cancer?
This virus was injected into 17 patients’ cancer-affected lymph nodes, in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. About 93% showed successful results since no trace of cancer was observed after their tumour had been surgically removed. This is truly remarkable...
I do think his dream is worthy of serious consideration, taking into account the increasing number of lives that could be claimed by a pandemic. However, Wolfe's proposal is essentially an early warning system. If the virus emerges quickly and spreads rapidly, then we won't be able to respond quickly enough to stop it.
Still, Wolfe's vision of the future of infectious disease reveals a multidisciplinary field that requires all sorts of skillsets and knowledge. It's exciting, and it reminds me why I am a HUMAN Biology major. :]
WSJ: Nathan Wolfe on How to Stop the Next Pandemic
Measles incidence rates have fallen to under 1% of the population under the age of 30 in regions where the vaccination is readily available. Even though the MMVR (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) vaccine has been available in the United States since 2005, there have been recent outbreaks of the corresponding infections. In Berkeley, there have been over 40 cases of confirmed mumps.
On an international scale, the World Health Organization recently published a report regarding measles outbreaks worldwide which affected regions of the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Regions in the Americas suffered from several outbreaks that were linked to importation of the measles virus from other regions- primarily Europe, Malaysia (outbreaks in the US and Chile) and Kenya (outbreak in Ecuador). In Europe, 40 of 53 member states of the WHO reported over 26,000 confirmed cases of measles with 11 of these cases being lethal. The last region that was affected this year was Africa, with the most confirmed cases- over 103,000. The Democratic Republic of Congo have also reported over 1100 measles-associated deaths this year.
The Americas had not had a measles endemic since 2002. In Europe, they’ve responded to the outbreaks by adapting their vaccination schedule accordingly including lowering the cost (offering free vaccinations in school) in order to increase accessibility. This report reinforces the dangers of international trade and travel and the possibility of tourists or foreigners introducing new viral strains to a susceptible population. Control and preventative measures should be implemented to avoid viral exportations.
Original Source: http://www.who.int/csr/don/2011_10_07/en/index.html
Sunday, October 16, 2011
There have been two suspected cases of measles in Wellington. The cases are believed to be associated with a gelato cafe. The suspected cases involed one adult and one pre-schooler. Health officials believe that it's possible that the cases are transmitted by a visitor from Auckland, where measles cases have been reported since May. Dr. Nesdale warn against traveling with sickness or related symptoms and that even when someone presents a "minor" symptom like cough and red eyes, it could still be measles and very infectious. To date, no secondary cases have been identified.
I think the fact that a pre-school is infected should be taken seriously, especially if the pre-schooler went to school after being exposed. The article does not talked about the potentially exposed population size, and I feel like that kind of information would help with the epidemiological investigation of the measles cases.
The paper announcing this find, which was published in PNAS, goes on to speculate that these properties offer further proof of a reductive evolutionary theory of viruses. This theory postulates that viruses were all once cells themselves that, after falling into an evolutionary niche of exploiting other cells, slowly lost their resemblance to and autonomy from cells in order to streamline their proliferation and cut away all functions that couldn't be taken over from the host. While the complex genome of mimivirus itself could be explained as a fluke of horizontal gene transfer, the paper argues that the homology seen between mimivirus and megavirus in combination with their unique genes points to a common viral ancestor, a cellular organism.
Sorry if this is too broad of a topic seeing as how megavirus was found by proliferating samples through amoebas, but this presents an interesting development in theories about the evolution of viruses.
WIRED article: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/10/megavirus-cell-evolution/
Distant Mimivirus Relative with a larger genome highlights the fundamental nature of Megaviridae
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
A recent prospective cohort study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases found a correlation between forms of hormonal contraceptives and the risk of HIV contraction and transmission. The longitudinal study was composed of 3,800 heterosexual couples in which one of the members was HIV-positive and was positive for the herpes simplex virus type 2. The couples were monitored for rates of HIV transmission and acquisition (in respect to the female member of the couple) from 2004 to 2010. In this time, they found that women who were initially HIV-negative and were taking either birth control pills or the Depo-Provera shots had a probability of contracting HIV from their HIV-positive partners that was two-fold higher than HIV-negative women that were not taking birth control or were taking a different form of birth control. Similarly, women who were initially HIV-positive and were on the birth control pill or Depo-Provera shot were twice as likely to transmit the viral infection to their HIV-negative partner. Furthermore, when the women who were HIV positive and were taking the Depo-Provera shots had significantly higher levels of the virus in their genital tract but normal levels of the virus in their blood.
Even though further studies need to examine the correlation of certain hormonal contraceptives, specifically Depo-Provera, and rates of HIV-transmission and acquisition in order to take definitive action, I believe that women who are at high-risk of contracting the virus should be properly counseled on this study’s findings and the need for protection. The World Health Organization has recently released a similar statement, saying that, “We want to make sure that we warn when there is a real need to warn, but at the same time we don’t want to come up with a hasty judgment that would have far-reaching, severe consequences for the sexual and reproductive health of women… This is a very difficult dilemma.” WHO will convene in January in order to review this study’s findings (as well as others) to recommend action that should be taken concerning the use of Depo-Provera in regions characterized by a high-risk of HIV transmissions.
AIDS Beacon- http://www.aidsbeacon.com/news/2011/10/06/hormonal-contraception-increases-the-risk-of-hiv-aids-acquisition-and-transmission/
Thursday, October 6, 2011
In New York, 9 cases of West Nile virus infections, including one virus-related fatality, were reported. Queens and Staten Island had the most number of mosquito pools, 88 and 51, respectively. The Department of Health is spraying down the mosquito pools in effort of reducing spread. The mosquitoes that carry the virus are most active during the months August through October and the virus is believed to affect older people and immuno-compromised people the most. Health officials believe that the mosquitoes were brought into the United States by international flights. They suggest people use insect repellents and protective clothing when going outside.
I think this article is very interesting because it is an example of what we learned in class of how the immuno-compromised population is especially susceptible to infection. The article didn't mention the timeline of mosquito pool spraying or the amount of funding and manpower the state dedicates to it, but I'm curious to know how seriously NY is taking the presence of West Nile Virus. Also, I would like to read more about how the mosquitoes were brought into the United States, where it came from, and if this strain of WN virus is similar or different from its parent strain.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
For your reading pleasure (full text also available):
Human Papillomavirus and Rising Oropharyngeal Cancer Incidence in the United States
Monday, October 3, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Liver damage is a potential side effect of virtually any medication that is metabolized by the liver. The risk of acquiring this damage is even greater in patients that are required to take cocktails of drugs- one prime example being HIV positive patients. These high-risk populations should be closely monitored for liver damage in order to avoid death as a result of liver failure. AIDS patients in Africa, however, are 12 times more likely to die from liver failure than their American counterparts largely due to a lack of proper resources needed for diagnosis. This may soon change.
A new diagnosis test created by a Harvard professor, Dr. Whiteside, has the potential to diagnose liver damage for less than a penny. This device is smaller than a postage stamp and is composed of a sheet of paper, wax, and reagents that are used to measure the level of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) in a patient’s blood. With a single drop of blood placed into the center of the layered paper, the plasma is filtered through a porous membrane allowing it to seep into the second layer. At this stage, the plasma comes in contact with two chemicals. If AST is present in the plasma, it will bind to these two chemicals and sulfite ions will be released. These sulfites trigger a chemical reaction with the blue methyl dye on the last layer of the diagnostic test that turns the dye colorless. Since this layer contains a pink background, the blue dye forms an initial purple spot on the sheet. If, however, the sulfites cause the dye to undergo the chemical reaction, the spot will be light pink by the end, signifying high levels of AST in the blood, which indicate liver damage.
This new form of diagnostic testing can have drastic effects in international health care. The low cost and feasible manufacturing of the exams can potentially lead to an increase in diagnosis a decrease in death attributed to liver failure. Not to mention, antibodies can potentially replace the two chemicals in the second layer in order to diagnose viral infections.
Original Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/health/27paper.html?pagewanted=1&ref=science
In Boston Dr Whiteside of Harvard University has created a postage stamp sized diagnostic test for liver damage. Instead of the usual method of creating a diagnostic lab in miniature with small instruments, test tubes, and the like that fits into a small case and can be used in remote locations, Dr. Whiteside's lab is putting aside the glass and aluminum and settling instead for paper.
His laboratory devised a model which uses paper etched with tiny channels "mined with proteins and chemically-triggered dyes proteins”. All of this fits within a square of paper about the size of a postage stamp. To use the diagnostic tool, only a drop of blood needs to be placed on the square and as it runs through the channels the dyes respond to enzymes in the blood and light up different colors. Based on the colors, the health care provider can determine if liver damage is occurring or not.
The great thing about such a test is that, while it cost a great deal to create a working prototype, mass producing a small paper model is particularly cheap. Patients who suffer from AIDs and tuberculosis (in combination) take high doses of powerful drug cocktails run a high risk of liver damage and failure which can be even more deadly than the diseases they are trying to control. This makes it imperative to test on a regular basis to see how the drugs are affecting the organ. However, regular testing is far too expensive for many patients.
Dr. Whiteside's test has the ability to revolutionize the way people are being treated for HIV with tuberculosis. If it could really be made for fifty cents, that could be affordable even for impoverished populations which could be a wonderful tool for trying to reduce liver failure associated with treatment of these combined illnesses.
The original article is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/health/27paper.html?ref=health
This puts close to estimated 2 million toddlers and infants at risk for deadly and disabling diseases. A larger federal survey showed that 1 in 10 toddlers and preschoolers delayed or did not have important vaccines like those for chickenpox and MMR.
Not only does this have repercussions today this various outbreaks of easily preventable diseases like mumps and measles among the general population but means that more and more people (including the misinformed parents) are not getting the vaccinations they need and therefore are themselves not protected against typically vaccine-preventable diseases.
Altogether, this survey puts the spotlight on the CDC, American Academy of Pediatics and American Academy of Family Physicians to re-evaluate their vaccine information communication to the general public and their patients. They ultimately need to revise their strategy and focuse on directing parents to valid sources in order for the parents to become fully informed before making decisions about their child's health.
Past research has indicated that white blood cells with lower-than-normal levels of cholesterol are unable to be infected by HIV. Knowing that the protective coat that surrounds an HIV virion also happens to contain cholesterol, a team at Johns Hopkins decided to explore the inverse of what was previously known: they wanted to see if altering the amount of cholesterol in an HIV virion would then prevent it from being able to infect host cells.
Normally, HIV infections produce an overwhelming immune response that leads to system shut down. HIV cells with altered levels of cholesteral initiated a normal immune response, however, allowing the immune system to more effectively detect and combat HIV.
This discovery probably can’t provide much in terms of a solution for people whose immune systems are already dealing with the effects of HIV, but, as the article concludes, it could help people who are newly infected with HIV better detect and successfully fight the virus before it wreaks havoc on their immune system. Three cheers for prevention efforts.