Viruses and pathogens

  • 25 children in California stricken with polio-like illness

    Twenty-five children in California have been exhibiting a “polio-like syndrome,” leading to paralysis in one or more of their limbs. “What’s we’re seeing now is bad. The best-case scenario is complete loss of one limb, the worst is all four limbs, with respiratory insufficiency, as well. It’s like the old polio,” say a a pediatric neurologist. Scientists say that samples from two of the children tested positive for enterovirus 68, a rare virus linked in the past to severe respiratory illness.

  • Visually displayed early warning system for epidemics

    Cholera has been all but eradicated in Europe, but this bacterial, primarily waterborne disease still claims thousands of lives in Africa every year. In an EU-funded project, scientists are examining the effects various environmental factors have on cholera epidemics in Uganda, and have developed a software architecture for early warning systems that compares environmental and health data and presents the results graphically, allowing for the creation of visually displayed early warnings of epidemic breakouts.

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  • Uncovering drug resistance mechanism to help development of antibiotic drug candidates

    The use of antibiotics is often considered among the most important advances in the treatment of human disease. Unfortunately, though, bacteria are finding ways to make a comeback. More than two million people in the United States come down with antibiotic-resistant infections annually, and at least 23,000 die because their treatment cannot stop the infection. A new study has uncovered a mechanism of drug resistance. This knowledge could have a major impact on the development of a pair of highly potent new antibiotic drug candidates.

  • Superbugs presence increases during annual pilgrimage to India’s sacred sites

    The spread of antibiotic-resistance to one of the most pristine locations in Asia is linked to the annual human pilgrimages to the region, new research has shown. The researchers have found that in May and June, when hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to Rishikesh and Haridwar to visit sacred sites, levels of resistance genes that lead to “superbugs” were found to be about sixty times greater than other times of the year. They argue that preventing the spread of resistance genes that promote life-threating bacteria could be achieved by improving waste management at key pilgrimage sites.

  • Solution to drug resistance problem receives U.S. patent

    Before the development of penicillin, people dropped like flies in response to minor infections. Even pimples could grow to boils that killed. One of the main killers prior to the discovery of antibiotics was tuberculosis. The deadly infectious disease that typically affects the lungs has returned – and has developed a resistance to the majority of antibiotics that would otherwise kill the tuberculosis bacteria. A Danish chemistry researcher has taken out a patent for a drug that can make previously multidrug-resistant bacteria once again responsive to antibiotics.

  • Gaining better understanding of tularemia, aka “rabbit fever”

    Tularemia, aka “rabbit fever,” is endemic in the northeastern United States, and is considered to be a significant risk to biosecurity — much like anthrax or smallpox — because it has already been weaponized in various regions of the world. Despite its importance for both public health and biodefense, F. tularensis pathogenesis is not entirely understood, nor is it fully understood how the organism persists in the environment.

  • Resistance shapes the discovery of new insecticides

    Recent news around the world has focused on the dangers of antibiotic resistance. – and the CDC estimates over two-million illnesses and 23,000 deaths occurred in 2013 as a result of antibiotic resistance in bacteria and fungus. But what of another type of resistance which can also have a huge impact on the population: that to insecticides? Livestock, for example, are affected by buffalo flies; farmers and customers are familiar with the total devastation caused by fruit flies; malaria mosquitoes and bed bugs are becoming more resistant to existing chemicals. Even our pets are affected: fleas and ticks are continuing their march, leading to a need for newer, often more expensive synthetic chemistries. The price of insecticide resistance — in the form of R&D costs for new compounds — is passed from chemical companies, to farmers, to consumers.

  • North Carolina brain surgery patients exposed to deadly disease

    Officials at a North Carolina hospital last Tuesday notified eighteen patients that they might have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a degenerative brain disease which is always fatal and which makes those infected exhibit symptoms of dementia before they die. The eighteen patients had brain surgery performed on them since 18 January. A patient operated on that that day was subsequently tested positive for the disease. The hospital said that the surgical instruments used on the patient with CJD were sterilized, but were “not subjected to enhanced sterilization procedures.’

  • HHS to fund development of drug for bioterrorism, antimicrobial-resistant infections

    HHS says that a public-private is partnership will advance the development of Carbavance, a new option to treat bioterrorism threats and antibiotic-resistant infections. The two bioterrorism Carbavance will address are melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s disease, and glanders. Both melioidosis and glanders can become resistant to existing antibiotics. Already, with existing antibiotic treatments, approximately 40 percent of people who become ill from these bacteria die from the illness, and up to 90 percent die if not treated.

  • FDA says voluntary phasing out of antibiotics in livestock is working

    A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council(NRDC) says that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed eighteen animal drugs to remain on the market despite the agency’s discovery that the drugs posed a high risk of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through food supply. The NRDC criticizes the FDA’s voluntary guidelines for antibiotic phase-out, but observers note that beginning in 2001, the FDA began reviewing thirty approved antibiotic-based feed additives, and that only a few – fewer than the eighteen claimed by NRDC – are still in use, and they, too, will soon be relabeled and not allowed for use in livestock.

  • Genes 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.

  • Oregon man infected with the plague leaves ICU

    Paul Gaylord, a welder from Prineville in rural Oregon, who last month contracted bubonic plague from a stray cat, is no longer in critical condition. After admission to the hospital, Gaylord lapsed into a coma for twenty-seven days, until last Friday. While in a coma, his hands and legs swelled and turned black. The doctors told him that tests showed he was infected with the bubonic plague, and that his fingers will have to be amputated.

  • Antibiotic “smart bomb” targets specific strains of bacteria

    Researchers have developed a de facto antibiotic “smart bomb” that can identify specific strains of bacteria and sever their DNA, eliminating the infection. The technique offers a potential approach to treat infections by multi-drug resistant bacteria.

  • Faster way to spot bacteria-tainted food -- and prevent illness

    The regular appearance of food poisoning in the news, including a recent event that led to the recall of more than 33,000 pounds of chicken, drives home the need for better bacterial detection long before meats and produce make it to the dinner table.

  • FDA allows use of antibiotics in livestock despite “high risk” to humans

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently confirmed the link between antibiotic use on industrial farms and the rise of antibiotic resistance, saying there is “strong scientific evidence of a link between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans,” and warns of “potentially catastrophic consequences” if resistance is not slowed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, has quietly allowed thirty potentially harmful antibiotics, including eighteen rated as “high risk,” to remain on the market as additives in farm animal feed and water. The FDA first recognized the risks from the use of antibiotics in animal feed in 1977, when it proposed to withdraw approvals for animal feed containing penicillin and most tetracyclines. The agency has not followed through on its own findings – and has fought court orders to do so — and today 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are sold for use in livestock production — not on humans.