Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Bird Flu In Canada

Last year, New Brunswick, Canada experienced a very difficult flu season. However, this year it looks like the flu may hit the city just as hard and starting even earlier! Doctors from the area say that they normally don't notice symptoms or an increase in flu outbreaks until December. This year, starting in August, there have been 42 cases of flu and one reported death.  Most of the cases are likely caused by Influenza A, H3N2, and two of the outbreaks were within hospitals after patients with the flu were admitted. A similar virus was reported to be deadly and with severe symptoms earlier this year in both Australia and India making it possible to have spread to Canada.

Despite this potential fear, health officials are still optimistic that vaccination protocols will help to reduce the spread of the virus. The vaccine costs $25 for people between the ages of 18 and 65. It is free for everyone else. So far, over 7,000 have been vaccinated and many others are in line to have their appointments at a variety of available vaccination clinics. Last year about 244,000 vaccines were administered so there is still many people to receive the vaccines. Only time will tell if this virus will spread more quickly or if health officials can vaccinate people in time and stop its spread.

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/flu-new-brunswick-death-vaccination-1.4422118


Bird Flu Is Spreading in Asia, Experts (Quietly) Warn

This year, H7N9, one of the deadliest strains of flu has had a fifth wave in China. To date, 1600 people have been infected with H7N9 in this wave in China, and almost 40% of them have died.

Research has indicated that H7N9 is also beginning to transmit from person-to-person. Research in ferrets which are similarly affected by the flu has shown that ferrets die of flu and are also able to transmit the virus via a respiratory route to other ferrets.

This brings up the possibility of a global pandemic. This is one of the most dangerous strains of flu because the mortality rate is so high, and research indicates that it is getting more virulent. In 2009, there was a false alarm with the H1N1 pandemic that killed relatively few people. The flu is notoriously difficult to predict, but this new H7N9 development is putting scientists and the global health community on edge.

Bird Flu Is Spreading in Asia, Experts (Quietly) Warn


Nearly 21 Million Now Receiving AIDS Drugs, U.N. Agency Says

Antiretroviral drugs are the standard of care in developed countries like the U.S. and in Western Europe. With these drugs it is now possible to live close to a normal lifespan.

The UN has aimed to try to reach the "90-90-90" goal. This means that 90% percent of infected people have been tested. 90% of those tested have been prescribed drugs. And 90% of those have the virus at undetectable levels. Today, 44% all infected individuals have their virus titers under control. This is remarkable progress in just over a decade. However, it is still short of the goal.

Today, HIV/AIDS is still the leading killer of women in their childbearing years. Today, there are 16 million children and teens who are orphans due to having lost their children to AIDS. The UN and other global organizations continue to distribute antiretroviral drugs in hopes of bringing down the number of people dying from this disease.

Nearly 21 Million Now Receiving AIDS Drugs, U.N. Agency Says


Gene Therapy Hits a Peculiar Roadblock: A Virus Shortage

Many new gene therapies in development and clinical trials right now use viruses such as lentiviruses or adenoviruses as vectors to deliver genes. There is potentially billions of dollars at stake in this industry. However, there is one critical shortage: the viruses.

Currently, it is incredibly expensive to manufacture the viruses. On top of that, there are a limited number of facilities available to manufacture these viruses. Biotech firms that want to have their batch of viruses often have to book slots in the manufacturing queue years in advance in order to develop their products. On the research end, innovation is also being delayed by a shortage of viruses even on the experimental level.

All of this is leading to crippling delays in the bringing of gene therapies to the market. Additionally, it is also making the costs of these treatments commercially unviable.

Gene Therapy Hits a Peculiar Roadblock: A Virus Shortage


7 Million American Men Carry Cancer-Causing HPV

Just recently, the number of men who have cancer of the mouth or throat due to HPV has surpassed the number of women who have cervical cancer do to HPV. 7 million men and 1.4 million women carry oral HPV strains that can cause cancer.

It is a common misconception that HPV is only a risk for women. In really, HPV can also cause anal, penile, and scrotal cancers in men. Additionally, engaging in oral sex puts you at risk for contracting oral HPV which can result in cancers of the mouth and throat.

This underscores the importance of vaccinating BOTH boys and girls before they become sexually active in order to prevent these cancers.

7 million American Men Carry Cancer-Causing HPV


Viruses in sea of men

Viruses can be transmitted in just about any means. For instance, viruses can live in men’s semen. With the recent Zika virus outbreaks, it was found that the virus can be present in semen. This raised the question to researchers at the University of Oxford of how many viruses can be found in semen. They found that there are at least 27 viruses that can make their way into human semen, which include Ebola, Zika, HIV, chickenpox, mumps, chikungunya JC virus, simian foamy virus, etc.  The rest of the body can be free of the virus except for the testes because this is an “immunologically privileged” site in the body that the immune system is hand’s off. There are at least 11 viruses that can survive in the tests which include dengue and influenza. Viruses will also vary in how long they can survive and be transmitted in semen. Zika virus can last up to 6 months in semen and be sexually transmitted up to 41 days.

Though some of these viruses can be spread sexually, it is still unclear if they all can. Having identified viruses in sperm, this begs the question whether these viruses can infect sperm. Infections in sperm can affect sperm DNA and cause mutations, which can affect the egg and pass on this mutation to offspring.

Since the number of viruses present in semen is quite significant, scientists may also have to consider where treatments for certain viruses are effective in all parts of the body, such as the male reproductive tract.

For the full list of viruses in semen see the table in the second source (pdf version)
 Jessica N

Monday, November 27, 2017

Microbiologist administers live herpes virus with no government oversight

NOVEMBER 21, 2017: Kaiser Health News reported that in 2016, William Halford injected at least 20 people in St. Kitts with a live herpes virus that he created (1). The administration of this novel vaccine had no approval from the federal government or the Institutional Review Board, and it is a flagrant ethical violation (5). William Halford was a microbiologist, not a clinician trained to administer vaccines (3). Furthermore, one of the co-founders Augustin Fernandez, apparently was unaware of the need for FDA or IRB approval for vaccine administration.

Furthermore, some of the individuals who were injected fear the consequences. One individual expressed concern that the live herpes vaccine may have actually infected them with a different type of herpes. The individual already had herpes type 1 (which is commonly manifested as cold sores on the mouth) and fears they may have contracted herpes type 2 (which is commonly manifested as sores and/or blisters on the genitals).

Halford worked as a professor conducting research at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. The medical school released a statement in which they essentially expressed that Halford's work was solely on behalf of the company Rational Vaccines (for which Halford and Fernandez worked).


1. https://khn.org/news/years-before-heading-offshore-herpes-researcher-experimented-on-people-in-u-s/
2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/years-before-heading-offshore-herpes-researcher-experimented-on-people-in-us/2017/11/21/064823d6-cebe-11e7-a87b-47f14b73162a_story.html
3. https://www.facebook.com/TheYoungTurks/videos/10155219139164205/
4. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs400/en/
5. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/01/herpes-vaccine-firm-backed-by-peter-thiel-promises-fda-oversight.html

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Wake Up Herpes

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) effects more than 80% of the world population. HSV includes HSV-1 which leads to cold sores and HSV-1 which causes genital warts How the virus works: When infected HSV can go to “sleep” le dormant in the body until an external factor such as stress, illness, or sunlight wakes up and reactivates the virus. HSV is very contagious and it is during this reactivation period is when it is most contagious.  Herpes simplex virus hides from the immune system in nerve cells and sleeps. The immune cells cannot directly attach HSV without also killing the host’s nerve cells. Therefore, if they can’t find a way to kill the virus without harming the host, scientists want to find a way to find a safe way to put the virus to sleep.

Scientists at Princeton University exploring how to wake up the herpes virus from its sleep have developed a laboratory method to more naturally and calmly induce the latent mode of the herpes virus using pseudorabies virus, a herpesvirus closely related to HSV-1. First they developed a three-chamber environment to put the virus to sleep in infected nerve cells. Then, they explored ways to wake up the virus and found that the presence of a cluster of tegument proteins triggered the virus. The analogy they used was tegument protein is “like a splash of ice water on the face of the viruses” , awakening them from their sleep.

Now that scientists have found a way to wake up the virus in a lab they want to use these findings to see if the same goes in the body. This new technique serves as a great advancement in studying virus latency cycle and moderating infection. Researchers are hoping that this research could lead to the development of drugs that target viral tegument proteins to awaken or put to sleep the HSV.

Jessica Ngo 

CS and viruses

CS seems to be able to weave itself into different aspects of life. Recently, a group of scientists from the University of York and University of Leeds developed a code to control the assembly of viruses. Similarly to how some viruses use a code in their genetic genome to create proteins, this research team of scientists used RNA molecules as the artificial messages, which are harmless because they can no longer make viral proteins, to make the code. Scientists have studied the hidden assembly code of viruses and have manipulated this code to write their own messages for viral assembly. They have even been able to write an artificial code for assembly that is better than the virus’s code.

What this team hopes to do with this code is make a harmless coat protein shells that looks like a virus and holds the artificial code into the body to make protein shells. These artificial shells could trick the immune system to trigger a response to defeat the actual virus in the body. Others methods that they are looking into is transporting cargo to specific cells and in therapeutic application such as creating synthetic vaccines or treating cancer patients.

It’s estimated that it will take 2-3 years before this technology is available since it will take time to do human trials. However, this new discover is a great example of how CS can applied to positively impact human health in medical treatment and immunization.

Jessica Ngo