Infectious disease

  • EpidemicsGenes of Gypsies show traces of convergent evolution in response to Black Death

    The Black Death once exterminated up to 30-50 percent of Europeans. Researchers have identified immune system genes in Europeans and Gypsies that likely underwent convergent evolution during Europe’s deadly epidemics. Immune system genes evolve under the influence of infectious diseases, but few studies have attempted genome-wide assessments of infection-driven evolution.

  • SuperbugsSuperbugs were found breeding, spreading in sewage plants

    Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been raising alarms for years, particularly in hospital environments where public health officials fear they can be transferred from patient to patient and are very difficult to treat. Bacteria harboring the encoding gene that makes them resistant have been found on every continent except for Antarctica. Tests at two wastewater treatment plants in northern China revealed antibiotic-resistant bacteria —“superbugs” carrying New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1), a multidrug-resistant gene first identified in India in 2010 — were not only escaping purification but also breeding and spreading their dangerous cargo. NDM-1 is able to make such common bacteria as E. coli, salmonella, and K. pneumonias resistant to even the strongest available antibiotics.

  • SuperbugsNew test for detecting newly emerging strains of drug-resistant superbug

    Molecular assays for MRSA are used in active surveillance programs to identify colonized patients rapidly. Active surveillance is a proven strategy to reduce transmission in healthcare settings and it helps prevent infection in vulnerable patients. BD Diagnostics has received FDA clearance to market the BD MAX MRSA XT Assay for use on the BD MAX System. This is the second assay from BD Diagnostics capable of detecting newly emerging MRSA strains with the novel mecC gene.

  • Pandemics1950s pandemic flu virus still a health threat today, particularly to those under 50

    Scientists have evidence that descendants of the H2N2 avian influenza A virus that killed millions worldwide in the 1950s still pose a threat to human health, particularly to those under 50. The study included twenty-two H2N2 avian viruses collected from domestic poultry and wild aquatic birds between 1961 and 2008, making it the most comprehensive analysis yet of avian H2N2 viruses.

  • Public healthNew view of dengue fever

    By Anne Trafton

    Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne illness that infects at least fifty million people worldwide each year. This infectious tropical disease is found in more than 100 countries, and it has no cure and no vaccine. One reason why it has been difficult to develop new drugs for dengue fever is that there are no good animal models of the disease, which only infects humans. Researchers have now produced a “humanized mouse” that mimics many features of the human immune system. These mice with human immune cells help researchers discover how the mosquito-borne virus depletes blood platelets.

  • Infectious diseaseRisks of SARS, MERS spreading greater than thought: scientists

    Outbreaks such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS) have afflicted people around the world, yet many people think these trends are on the decline. Quite the opposite is true. Scientists discovered that the genetic diversity of a viral population within a host animal could allow a virus to adapt to certain conditions, which could help it reach a human host.

  • BioterrorismScientists develop safe method for research on deadly flu viruses

    In 2012, scientists around the world agreed to a worldwide, yearlong voluntary moratorium on research into the deadly H5N1 bird flu. The ban came after several scientific teams successfully altered the H5N1 viral genome to enable airborne transmission of the bird flu between ferrets — mammals considered a good research model for humans. The public health concern was that altered H5N1 could escape the lab, infect and spread among humans, producing a global pandemic. There was also concern that terrorists would use the altered H5N1 viral genome in large-scale bioterror attacks. Researchers have now been able to turn molecules in human lung cells into viral scissors that cut H5N1 bird flu and similar bugs into pieces. This dismantling of the viral genome in human lung cells will ensure safe research on deadly strains of influenza.

  • Infectious diseaseCDC: Action needed now to halt spread of deadly, antibiotics-resistant bacteria

    Data show more inpatients suffering infections from bacteria resistant to all or nearly all antibiotics. CDC says that the findings are a call to action for the entire health care community to work urgently — individually, regionally, and nationally — to protect patients. During just the first half of 2012, almost 200 hospitals and long-term acute care facilities treated at least one patient infected with these bacteria.

  • Infectious diseaseSuperbug crisis shows progress in antibiotic development “alarmingly elusive”

    Despite the desperate need for new antibiotics to combat increasingly deadly resistant bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only one new systemic antibiotic since the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) launched its 10 x ’20 Initiative in 2010 — and that drug was approved two and a half years ago.The IDSA says that time is running out for meeting the IDSA Goal of ten new antibiotics by 2020.

  • ParasitesCDC warns of parasites-related illnesses in fifteen states

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Monday that the number of Cyclospora cases has risen to 373 in fifteen states. State and federal health officials have not named the food or water source responsible for to the outbreak, but fresh produce is the likely source.

  • MalariaNew malaria test kit would help global elimination efforts

    A new, highly sensitive blood test that quickly detects even the lowest levels of malaria parasites in the body could make a dramatic difference in efforts to tackle the disease in the United Kingdom and across the world, according to new research.

  • Public healthBird flu in live poultry markets source of viruses causing human infections

    Following analysis of H7N9 influenza viruses collected from live poultry markets in China, it was found that these viruses circulating among birds were responsible for human infections. These results provide a basis for the government to take actions for controlling this public health threat.

  • Infectious diseaseEbola's secret weapon revealed: its ability to short-circuit the immune system

    Researchers have discovered the mechanism behind one of the Ebola virus’ most dangerous attributes: its ability to disarm the adaptive immune system. Scientists determined that Ebola short-circuits the immune system using proteins that work together to shut down cellular signaling related to interferon. Disruption of this activity, the researchers found, allows Ebola to prevent the full development of dendritic cells that would otherwise trigger an immune response to the virus.

  • PlagueMankind is still at risk of the plague

    The plague has affected global population levels, with around seventy-five million people perishing during the fourteenth century’s Black Death. A new study finds that a number of factors show we are still at risk of plague today. The study also provides lessons for how best to control the plague.

  • MalariaMalaria infection risk influenced by daily variations in temperature

    Identifying areas of malarial infection risk depends more on daily temperature variation than on the average monthly temperatures, according to researchers, who believe that their results may also apply to environmentally temperature-dependent organisms other than the malaria parasite.