• Contact tracing, targeted insecticide spraying can curb dengue outbreaks

    Contact tracing — a process of identifying everyone who has come into contact with those infected by a particular disease — combined with targeted, indoor spraying of insecticide can greatly reduce the spread of the mosquito-borne dengue virus. The new approach of using contact tracing to identify houses for targeted insecticide spraying was between 86 and 96 percent effective in controlling dengue fever during the Cairns outbreak. By comparison, vaccines for the dengue virus are only 30 to 70 percent effective, depending on the type of virus — or serotype — involved.

  • Acting fast: Two months to stop pandemic X from taking hold

    Over the past several years, DARPA-funded researchers have pioneered RNA vaccine technology, a medical countermeasure against infectious diseases that uses coded genetic constructs to stimulate production of viral proteins in the body, which in turn can trigger a protective antibody response. As a follow-on effort, DARPA funded research into genetic constructs that can directly stimulate production of antibodies in the body.

  • Disease “superspreaders” were the driving cause of 2014 Ebola epidemic

    A new study about the overwhelming importance of “superspreaders” in some infectious disease epidemics has shown that in the catastrophic 2014-15 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, about 3 percent of the people infected were ultimately responsible for infecting 61 percent of all cases. The issue of superspreaders is so significant, scientists say, that it’s important to put a better face on just who these people are. It might then be possible to better reach them with public health measures designed to control the spread of infectious disease during epidemics.

  • World leaders urged to take action to avert existential global risks

    World leaders must do more to limit risk of global catastrophes, according to a report by Oxford academics. He academic define global catastrophe as a risk “where an adverse outcome would either annihilate Earth-originating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.” Three of the most pressing possible existential risks for humanity are pandemics, extreme climate change, and nuclear war.

  • Malaria superbugs pose threat to global malaria control

    A lineage of multidrug resistant P. falciparum malaria superbugs has widely spread and is now established in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, causing high treatment failure rates for the main falciparum malaria medicines, artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs). The emergence and spread of artemisinin drug resistant P falciparum lineage represents a serious threat to global malaria control and eradication efforts.

  • Global partnership to prevent epidemics with new vaccines launched

    A global coalition to create new vaccines for emerging infectious diseases, designed to help give the world an insurance policy against epidemics, launches today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

    With an initial investment of $460 million from the governments of Germany, Japan, and Norway, plus the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, CEPI - the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will seek to outsmart epidemics by developing safe and effective vaccines against known infectious disease threats that could be deployed rapidly to contain outbreaks, before they become global health emergencies.

  • Cocktail of bacteria-killing viruses prevents cholera infection in animal models

    Oral administration of viruses that specifically target cholera bacteria prevents infection and cholera-like symptoms in animal model experiments. The findings are the first to demonstrate the potential efficacy of bacteria-killing viruses—known as bacteriophages, or phages—as an orally administered preventive therapy against an acute gastrointestinal bacterial disease.

  • Engineering mosquitoes to fight Zika

    The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a $1 million grant to Michigan State University to fight the Zika virus in Mexico. The funding will be used by Zhiyong Xi, MSU associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, to build a mosquito factory in Yucatan, Mexico. The facility will be modeled after a similar facility in Guangzhou, China which Xi leads in partnership with Sun Yat-sen University.

  • World still “grossly underprepared” for infectious disease outbreaks

    The world remains “grossly underprepared” for outbreaks of infectious disease, which are likely to become more frequent in the coming decades, warn a team of international experts. They reviewed reports on the recent Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa and say better preparedness and a faster, more coordinated response could have prevented most of the 11,000 deaths directly attributed to Ebola and also the broader economic, social, and health crises that ensued. “We will not be ready for the next outbreak without deeper and more comprehensive change,” they conclude.

  • Odds are against a large Zika outbreak in the U.S.

    Is the United States at risk for a large-scale outbreak of Zika or other mosquito-borne disease? While climate conditions in the United States are increasingly favorable to mosquitos, socioeconomic factors such as access to clean water and air conditioning make large-scale outbreaks unlikely, according to new analysis of existing research — but small-scale, localized outbreaks are an ongoing concern.

  • Final trial results confirm Ebola vaccine provides high protection against disease

    Since Ebola virus was first identified in 1976, sporadic outbreaks have been reported in Africa. But the 2013-2016 West African Ebola outbreak, which resulted in more than 11,300 deaths, highlighted the need for a vaccine. An experimental Ebola vaccine was highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial in Guinea, according to results published in The Lancet. The vaccine is the first to prevent infection from one of the most lethal known pathogens, and the findings add weight to early trial results published last year.

  • The new “100% effective” Ebola vaccine owes a debt to the scientists who beat smallpox

    Almost a year after the official end of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the final results from one of the only Ebola vaccine trials are now in – and they look very promising. Despite being carried out under some of the most challenging conditions, the trial appears to be an exceptionally well-run study, comprehensive in its nature, and with a very positive result. This surely cements this vaccine as one important tool in controlling outbreaks of Ebola in the future. It also gives us a way to test new vaccines for other viruses that can crop up and take us by surprise, such as Lassa fever virus and Nipah viruses. We just have to hope that scientists have got more vaccines in the pipeline for us to test.

  • New math can help fight viral outbreaks

    HIVSARS … Ebola … H1N1 … Zika. The list of communicable global health threats seems ever growing, and frequently the limited resources available to fight these diseases must be picked up and redeployed — often haphazardly — as the next new threat emerges. But what if there were ways to wage a more effective war against all communicable diseases, using new combinations of proven complex sociological and statistical mathematic models to tell where an outbreak might occur, how it might spread and how best to fight it?

  • Real-time online epidemic tracking tool relies on open data, collective intelligence

    Until now, disease data and geographic information about the movement of an infection or disease as it evolves and spreads has been locked up in databases that are often out of people’s reach. Researchers have been left to rely on published information in research papers, which may be many months out of date, containing static visuals which show only a small part of the whole disease or infection threat. Now, researchers have developed Microreact, a free, real-time epidemic visualization and tracking platform that has been used to monitor outbreaks of Ebola, Zika, and antibiotic-resistant microbes.

  • Predicting disease outbreak in a hyper-connected world

    At the first hints of a disease outbreak, epidemiologists, health care providers, policy makers, and scientists turn to sophisticated predictive models to determine how an illness is spreading and what should be done to minimize contagion. New research is upending the traditional modeling process, yielding predictions that are both simpler to calculate and more attuned to a hyper-connected world.