Infectious disease

  • EbolaRate of infection in West Africa has begun to slow down

    Public health officials monitoring the Ebola epidemic in West Africa say the outbreak may have reached a turning point in which transmissions may have begun to slow down. Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, the organization funding a series of fast-tracked trials of Ebola vaccines and drugs, says that although the virus will continue to infect people in the months ahead, “it is finally becoming possible to see some light.”

  • Infectious diseaseInfection outbreaks, unique diseases on the increase since 1980

    Ebola has a lot of company. In a novel database now made publicly available, researchers found that since 1980 the world has seen an increasing number of infectious disease outbreaks from an increasing number of sources. The good news, however, is that they are affecting a shrinking proportion of the world population. The number of infectious disease outbreaks and the number of unique illnesses causing them appear to be increasing around the globe, with more than 12,000 outbreaks affecting forty-four million people worldwide over the last thirty-three years.

  • EbolaLack of federal authority makes fashioning coherent national Ebola policy difficult

    Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) issued new guidelines on how states should deal with travelers from Ebola-stricken regions, but a lack of federal authority to mandate such guidelines has led to conflicting strategies, varying from state to state, which includes mandatory at-home quarantine for some travelers. Under current U.S. law, the states have the authority to issue quarantine or isolation policies, and they also control the enforcement of these policies within their territories.

  • EbolaInfection projections: how the spread of Ebola is calculated

    By Jonathan Keith

    Ebola is an example of an emerging infectious disease (EID): one that has newly appeared in a population or has undergone a rapid increase in incidence. Bioinformatics plays a key role in detecting, monitoring and responding to EIDs. In the case of Ebola, the bioinformatics community has responded rapidly. For example, the current outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone was first detected in May, but by September a study reported sequencing 99 Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients diagnosed with the disease between late May and mid-June. Bioinformaticians have been developing and refining algorithms for sequence assembly since the late 1980s, and are constantly adapting them so they can handle new sequencing technologies and ever-larger scales of assembly. Bioinformatics is, and will continue to be, a core component of the international response to Ebola and other EIDs, and patients, medical staff and those close to them need all the help they can get.

  • 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.