Viruses and pathogens

  • Contrary to scientific evidence, the media continue to fan fears of airborne Ebola infection

    Despite solid evidence presented by scientists to quell rumors that the deadly Ebola virus could be passed through the air, many American media outlets continue to raise alarm and fuel debates with flimsy sources.These outlets publish articles which revive an earlier scientific debate over whether the Ebola virus can be transmitted through the air — but scientists say this debate has been decided, and that the Ebola virus cannot be transmitted through the air.

  • Ancient plague offers insights on how to improve treatments for infections

    Dangerous new pathogens such as the Ebola virus invoke scary scenarios of deadly epidemics, but even ancient scourges such as the bubonic plague are still providing researchers with new insights on how the body responds to infections. Researchers have detailed how the Yersinia pestis bacteria that cause bubonic plague hitchhike on immune cells in the lymph nodes and eventually ride into the lungs and the blood stream, where the infection is easily transmitted to others. The insight provides a new avenue to develop therapies that block this host immune function rather than target the pathogens themselves — a tactic that often leads to antibiotic resistance.

  • Models of Ebola spread cannot model people’s behavior

    The most effective way to limit the spread of the Ebola virus is by tightly quarantining infected individuals in hospitals, Ebola treatment units (ETUs), or in their homes. The developer of a sophisticated model to predict the pace and scope of the spread of Ebola admits that the most important variable — predicting the most effective way to convince infected individuals to report their cases to health authorities and be admitted to a quarantined facility, or even just stay at home – is beyond the model’s reach. “The trouble is to get people to believe that going to the hospitals is in their best interest,” said CDC’s Dr. Martin Meltzer. “We’ve got to get people to understand that. You can go around to villages and cities and slums all you want and say, ‘If you’re ill, go to the hospital.’ Why should anybody believe? We can’t model that.”

  • Turning mobile phones into detectors of disease-spreading insects

    Insects transmit many of the world’s most infectious diseases, but there has been a decline in the expertise needed to recognize species of insects most likely to transmit illness to people. In a new effort to safeguard human populations, a team of scientists, computer programmers, public health officials, and artists is working to enable mobile phones to link up to computers that automatically identify species of disease-carrying insects.

  • Number of Ebola cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone to reach 1.4 million by mid-January 2015: CDC

    A new study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that a model developed by CDC to estimate the spread of the Ebola virus shows that if current virus proliferation trends continue without additional interventions, the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone will reach 1.4 million by mid-January 2015.

  • Research predicts possible 6,800 new Ebola cases this month

    New research predicts new Ebola cases could reach 6,800 in West Africa by the end of the month if new control measures are not enacted. The researchers also discovered through modeling analysis that the rate of rise in cases significantly increased in August in Liberia and Guinea, around the time that a mass quarantine was put in place, indicating that the mass quarantine efforts may have made the outbreak worse than it would have been otherwise.

  • Old drug may hold key to new antibiotics

    Scientists have found that an anticonvulsant drug may help in developing a new class of antibiotics. Although dozens of antibiotics target what bacteria do, the scientists have looked at how a certain part of bacteria are created, and they found there is a way of stopping it.

  • Botulism’s genetic triggers found

    Clostridium botulinum bacteria produce the most deadly toxin we know of. Botulinum spores are found throughout the environment. If they contaminate food, under certain conditions they can germinate and reproduce in our food, and generate a neurotoxin. Scientists from the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) strategically funded Institute of Food Research have discovered genes that are crucial for its germination, which may present a new way of stopping these deadly bacteria growing in our food.

  • Scientists develop a new way to prevent the spread of deadly diseases

    For decades, researchers have tried to develop broadly effective vaccines to prevent the spread of illnesses such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. While limited progress has been made along these lines, there are still no licensed vaccinations available that can protect most people from these devastating diseases. So what are immunologists to do when vaccines just aren’t working? Whereas vaccines introduce substances such as antigens into the body hoping to illicit an appropriate immune response — the generation of either antibodies that might block an infection or T cells capable of attacking infected cells — Caltech scientists have approached the problem in a different way: Why not provide the body with step-by-step instructions for producing specific antibodies that have been shown to neutralize a particular disease?

  • Ebola outbreak “out of all proportion” and severity cannot be predicted

    A mathematical model that replicates Ebola outbreaks can no longer be used to ascertain the eventual scale of the current epidemic, researchers find. When applying the available data from the ongoing 2014 outbreak to the model, it is “out of all proportion and on an unprecedented scale when compared to previous outbreaks,” says the model developer.

  • Bacteria from bees as possible alternative to antibiotics

    Thirteen lactic acid bacteria found in the honey stomach of bees have shown promising results in a series of studies. The group of bacteria counteracted antibiotic-resistant MRSA in lab experiments. The bacteria, mixed into honey, have healed horses with persistent wounds. The formula has previously been shown to protect against bee colony collapse.

  • Ebola outbreak has “completely outstripped the Liberian government’s capacity to respond”: WHO

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a statement Monday saying problems related to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia are increasingly dire. Transmission of the Ebola virus in Liberia is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially. Experts working for WHO and other organizations all agree that the demands of the Ebola outbreak have completely outstripped the Liberian government’s and partners’ capacity to respond.

  • Bacteria pack secret weapons against antibiotics

    The ability of pathogenic bacteria to evolve resistance to antibiotic drugs poses a growing threat to human health worldwide. Scientists have now discovered that some of these microscopic enemies may be even craftier than we suspected, using hidden genetic changes to promote rapid evolution under stress and developing antibiotic resistance in more ways than previously thought.

  • Johnson & Johnson accelerates Ebola vaccine program

    Johnson & Johnson last week announced it will fast-track the development of a promising new combination vaccine regimen against Ebola and collaborate with its partners to address the current Ebola outbreak. The accelerated vaccine program features a prime-boost regimen, in which one vector is used to prime and the other to boost the immune response. It consists of two vaccine components that are based on AdVac technology from Crucell N.V.(part of the Janssen pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson, based in the Netherlands) and the MVA-BN technology from Bavarian Nordic (a biotech company, based in Denmark).

  • Effective Ebola vaccine may be available sooner rather than later: Scientists

    Scientists have said they were cautiously optimistic that an effective Ebola vaccine may be available sooner rather than later after trials of an experimental jab found that it gave monkeys long-term protection from the disease. U.S. government researchers said that animals which received a first shot of the vaccine and a booster two months later were immune to the infection for ten months. If additional trials show that the vaccine works safely in humans, it could be used to protect health workers and contain future outbreaks by immunizing villagers living next to affected areas.