• Old antibiotics, new tools to combat bio agents

    More than 100 antibiotic compounds have been discovered since Alexander Fleming invented penicillin in 1928, but none within the past thirty years. Now a joint venture is exploring a new class of tetracycline that could combat biological threats to our warfighters.

  • Influenza: The search for a universal vaccine

    No one wants to catch the flu, and the best line of defense is the seasonal influenza vaccine. But producing an effective annual flu shot relies on accurately predicting which flu strains are most likely to infect the population in any given season. It requires the coordination of multiple health centers around the globe as the virus travels from region to region. Once epidemiologists settle on target flu strains, vaccine production shifts into high gear; it takes approximately six months to generate the more than 150 million injectible doses necessary for the American population. With current technology, there may never be a “one and done” flu shot. And epidemiological surveillance will always be necessary. However, it is not inconceivable that we can move from a once-per-year model to a once-every-10-years approach, and we may be within just a few years of being there.

  • $1.87 million for biothreat vaccine research

    CUBRC, Inc. two weeks ago announced that CUBRC’s Biological and Medical Sciences team, in collaboration with EpiVax, Inc., has received a four-year grant worth $1.87 million from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) within the Department of Defense (DoD). CUBRC, EpiVax, and scientists at the University of Florida will be investigating immune cells from patients that were previously infected with Burkholderia pseudomallei to understand how this bacterium evades the human immune system and use that information to engineer an effective vaccine.

  • 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.

  • Supercomputer simulations help develop new approach to tackle antibiotic resistance

    Supercomputer simulations at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have played a key role in discovering a new class of drug candidates that hold promise to combat antibiotic resistance. Researchers combined lab experiments with supercomputer modeling to identify molecules that boost antibiotics’ effect on disease-causing bacteria.

  • People with Ebola may not always show symptoms

    A research team determined that 25 percent of individuals in a Sierra Leone village were infected with the Ebola virus but had no symptoms, suggesting broader transmission of the virus than originally thought. These individuals had antibodies to the virus, suggesting they had been infected at one time — yet said they had had no symptoms during the time of active transmission in the village. Theresearch confirms previous suspicions that the Ebola virus does not uniformly cause severe disease, and that people may be infected without showing signs of illness.

  • Ultra-long acting pill releases daily doses of medicine for a month

    Imagine swallowing a pill today that continues releasing the daily dose of a medicine you need for the next week, month, or even longer. Investigators have developed a long-acting drug delivery capsule that may help to do just that in the future. To test the capsule’s real-world applications, the team used both mathematical modeling and animal models to investigate the effects of delivering a sustained therapeutic dose of a drug called ivermectin, which is used to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness. Ivermectin has an added bonus of helping keep malaria-carrying mosquito populations at bay.

  • During 2013-16 epidemic, Ebola adapted to better infect humans

    By the end of the Ebola virus disease epidemic in 2016, more than 28,000 people had been infected with the virus, and more than 11,000 people died from Ebola virus disease. Researchers have identified mutations in Ebola virus that emerged during the 2013-2016 Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa that increased the ability of the virus to infect human cells. “It’s important to understand how these viruses evolve during outbreaks,” says one researcher. “By doing so, we will be better prepared should these viruses spill over to humans in the future.”

  • First cases of drug-resistant Candida auris fungal infection reported in U.S.

    Thirteen cases of Candida auris (C. auris), a serious and sometimes fatal fungal infection that is emerging globally, have been identified in the United States, according to CDC. . C. auris is often resistant to antifungal drugs and tends to occur in hospitalized patients. In June 2016, CDC issued a clinical alert describing the global emergence of C. auris and requesting that laboratories report C. auris cases and send patient samples to state and local health departments and CDC.

  • Chicago would quickly succumb to a zombie invasion: Study

    In the unlikely event of the zombie apocalypse, it would take less than two months for the undead to take control of the city, says a new study. Using a computational model developed to study the spread of less fictional diseases such as MRSA and Ebola, scientists found that it would take only sixty days for two million Chicagoans to be zombified.

  • Bacteria-infected mosquitoes to combat Zika spread in South America

    Mosquitoes infected with naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria will be released in large urban areas in Colombia and Brazil. The new field trials will assess the effectiveness of the method for reducing new cases of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases. Transferring the bacteria into Aedes mosquitoes reduces their capacity to transmit viruses to humans.

  • Combatting antibiotic resistance

    CDC has awarded more than $14 million to fund new approaches to combat antibiotic resistance, including research on how microorganisms naturally present in the human body (referred to as a person’s microbiome) can be used to predict and prevent infections caused by drug-resistant organisms. The initiative, which also provides funding for state health departments and other partners, implements the tracking, prevention, and antibiotic stewardship activities outlined in the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

  • New candidate vaccines against the plague show promise

    The plague of Black Death infamy has had the power to strike fear in people since the Middle Ages — and for good reason. Once someone begins to show symptoms, the disease progresses very quickly and is almost 100 percent fatal without prompt treatment. Antibiotic-resistant Y. pestis strains have been isolated from plague patients and can be engineered for use as a bioweapon. Researchers have developed new potential vaccines that protect animals against the bacteria that causes the deadly plague.

  • How Congress is failing on Zika

    Three times Congress has taken up legislation to fund the continuing response to the Zika outbreak. Three times the bill, which would allocate $1.1 billion to fight the disease, has fallen short of attracting bipartisan support. While Congress delays action on Zika, the number of infected people keeps climbing. As of mid-September, there were over 3,000 reported cases in the fifty states and close to 18,000 when you count in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. One thing the Zika crisis has made clear is that solving emerging disease outbreaks increasingly involves navigating treacherous political waters. Congress’ lack of understanding of the real scope of voucher program – which aims to spur development of new drugs for neglected diseases — compromises efforts to find new ways of encouraging R&D in neglected diseases like Zika. Its inaction when it comes to extending funding for a major outbreak may endanger the health of thousands of Americans.