Monday, March 11, 2024

WHO report Nipah virus outbreak in Bangladesh - [XZ - W10]


WHO reported Nipah virus (NiV) outbreak in Bangladesh; usually cases were reported between April-Dec, during the seasons for the consumption of date palm sap. However, since February 2024, two laboratory confirmed cases of Nipah have been reported

NiV is a bat-borne zoonotic disease transmitted to humans through infected animals from bodily fluids or oral-fecal route. Incubation period of the virus is between 4-14 days. There is no current antiviral for NiV

The first patient was a 38 year-old male from Manikganj district, Dhaka division. He was reported to have consumed raw date sap on December 31st and developed a fever followed by restlessness on Jan 11th. After admitting to intensive care, he was intubated after rapid deterioration of symptoms and passed away on the 28th

The second patient was a 3 year-old female who passed away from a two day fever of NiV and was tested positive on the second day. 

The WHO and Bangladesh government are working to implement health education activities through electronic routes and print, such as posters and leaflets. WHO is also working to strengthen communication and surveillance in high risk districts to diagnose and triage patients.

Experts Debate Whether COVID-19 is Still a “Pandemic” 

Experts Debate Whether COVID-19 is Still a “Pandemic”

As we gradually return to a normal, pre-lockdown life, the use of the word “pandemic” has declined. In my own life, I notice people using the term less frequently, or saying “when we were in a pandemic” to refer to the 2020-21 lockdown period. Although SARS-CoV-2 is certainly still circulating across the world, with dangerous new variants such as Omicron and JN.1, it’s unclear how much people are willing to use the term ‘pandemic’ itself.

The technical meaning of ‘pandemic’ is an epidemic that crosses borders, but experts disagree on the exact usage of the term. Instead, many have chosen to say that we are no longer in the emergency phase of COVID-19 response, but that health guidelines should continue to be followed. Furthermore, using the word “pandemic” could drive lawmakers to move towards more direct action to combat the disease, instead of assuming that the disease is of less urgency to address than previously.


Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Scientists finding antibodies targeting little-researched protein on influenza virus 

Scientists finding antibodies targeting little-researched protein on influenza virus

Scientists are trying to find a better way to create a flu vaccine — potentially one that wouldn’t constantly require a seasonal update. Currently, the viruses target a protein called hemagglutinin, which is an envelope protein that helps the virus perform receptor-mediated endocytosis. However, this protein mutates rapidly, which is part of the reason why we have a new vaccine each year. 

The viruses also have a protein called neuraminidase, which is a mushroom-shaped protein whose underside has been relatively unexplored by scientists. This protein doesn’t mutate as fast, and is fairly conserved among different flu strains. Some antivirales currently exist that inhibit the protein, which helps flu find its preferred entry site on cells. Antibodies that connect to this ‘dark side’ could be explored and targeted by future drugs or vaccines. 


Monday, March 4, 2024

Looking at the dark side - antibodies targeting NA proteins on influenza - [XZ - W9]

Recently, researchers at the NIH have been able to target neuraminidase (NAs) on influenza with two monoclonal antibodies 1G01 and DA03E17.

NA proteins contain a globular head and a narrow stalk portion. They are responsible for cleaving sialic acids from glycoproteins and glycolipids to allow the release of progeny virus from host cells.

The antibodies were isolated from the blood of two people who had recovered from H3N2. The antibodies were found to inhibit the propagation of both H3N2, a predominant subtype of the virus, and H2N2, a variant. Researchers used cryogenic electron microscopes to visualize and analyze the structure of the antibodies.

The antibodies target the NA’s catalytic site with an extended complementarity determining the H3 loop, and effectively inhibiting all NA subtypes of influenza A B.

This method might prove more useful than regular vaccine methods as the underside of NA proteins are considered “conserved” regions of the influenza virus, regions that do not change based on mutations. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Novel siRNA gene therapy targets HIV evasion system - [XZ - W8]


Researchers learned the value of mRNA during COVID vaccines, now they are trying to apply this to HIV. 

Recently, associate professor Emmanuel Ho has developed a novel nanomedicine based on siRNA in gene therapy. Normally, HIV produces a protein called Nef which prevents autophagy, the process by which the body gets rid of pathogens. In addition, the gene CCR5 in HIV assists viral entry into cells. 

The new gene therapy, a ph-sensitive dual preventative siRNA-based nanomicrobicide targets both the Nef and CCR5 gene and prevents infection in vaginal CD4+ cells. The therapy is composed of siRNA-PEI encapsulated PLGA-PEG nanoparticles and knocks down both genes. The siRNAs are mainly released in neutral pH conditions.

Retrovirus found to be a key player in ancient myelination -- LL 

Retrovirus found to be a key player in ancient myelination

Research shows that an ancient retrovirus helped activate the production of a protein encoding myelin. Myelin helps insulate nerve fibers, and is a coating of fat and protein which protects axons, which may have increased the complexity and speed of the brain. These coated nerves also allowed fibers to grow thinner and longer, which may have contributed to an augmentation in the size of animals. The retrovirus is embedded in the DNA of jawed vertebrates. Retroviruses are RNA viruses that embed themselves in the DNA of cells, meaning they can occasionally (albeit rarely) become part of the genetic material passed down from generation to generation. 

The researchers were able to make this connection since they found high levels of the retrovirus in cells that compose myelin. Though the RNA (dubbed RetroMyelin) from the retrovirus doesn’t directly code the information for making myelin, it latches on to a protein that starts myelin production. Furthermore, when quantities of RetroMyelin were reduced in jawed vertebrates, the production of myelin dropped.


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

New Study Says Herpes May Double Risk of Dementia - LL 

New Study Says Herpes May Double Risk of Dementia

A new study examined more than 1,000 70-year olds in Sweden, and determined that having Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1), the same virus that causes cold sores, can double the risk of having dementia. Around 80% of adults in Sweden have been exposed to HSV-1 at some point. 

Currently, the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease (a type of dementia) are age and APOE-4, a genetic variant. The significance of this study is that it indicates that certain viruses could increase likelihood of future cognitive decline. This is in line with the theory that dementia could be an out-of-control immune response to certain antigens, which has been a lowly-regarded scientific theory since the early 1900s. However, there is research pointing in the direction of HSV-1: unusually high levels of the virus have been found in the brains of people who succumbed to Alzheimer’s. 

However, there isn’t enough substantive evidence to implicate HSV-1 in development of neurodegenerative diseases. Some research indicates the opposite, and some neuroscience research fails to include microbiology experts.