Viruses and pathogens

  • 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.

  • Ricin toxin vaccine shows promise in a non-human primate study

    Ricin toxin is a plant toxin thought to be a bioterror threat because of its stability and high potency as well as the large worldwide reservoir created as a by-product of castor oil production. As a poison, ricin is so potent that the U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the lethal dose in humans is about the size of a grain of salt. There are currently no effective means to prevent the effects of ricin poisoning. Soligenix, Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing several biodefense vaccines and therapeutics, announced last week promising preliminary results from a preclinical study with its ricin toxin vaccine RiVax, in a non-human primate (NHP) lethal aerosol exposure model.

  • HHS awards $24.9 million contract to accelerate development of Ebola drug

    The development of a medication to treat illness from Ebola will be accelerated under a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). HHS says that this contract supports the government-wide response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The $24.9 million, 18-month contract with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., of San Diego, California, may be extended up to a total of $42.3 million. HHS notes that it is seeking additional proposals for the advanced development of antibody treatments, antiviral drugs, and vaccines against the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

  • Ebola now threatening West Africa’s major cities

    The Ebola virus has begun to spread in Guinea in March, then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and then to Nigeria and Congo. It is now threatening to overwhelm West Africa’s largest cities. The virus is now infecting not only remote rural provinces, but also large cities such as Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, Liberia — places where millions of people live in close quarters, making the situation exponentially more dangerous.

  • NIH launching human safety study of Ebola vaccine candidate

    The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will this week begin initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease. The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults. The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

  • West Africa Ebola cases to rise to 20,000; in Liberia virus uncontainable: WHO

    The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday warned the number of Ebola cases could rise to 20,000, while doctors in Liberia say the virus is now spreading so rapidly that the Ebola epidemic, at least in Liberia, can no longer be contained by the resources available in the country. WHO says the outbreak is accelerating throughout west Africa, where the number of deaths yesterday crossed the 1,500 mark, with 1,552 confirmed deaths. The number of those infected reached 3,069 – but health specialists say the numbers of those infected could be two to four times higher. The health care infrastructure in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leon is so poor, and large parts of each country have no meaningful health care system at all, that reports of those infected with the Ebola virus and those who died from it must be considered as underestimates.

  • Potential therapy for the Sudan strain of Ebola may contain some future outbreaks

    Ebola is a rare but deadly disease that exists as five strains, none of which has approved therapies. One of the most lethal strains is the Sudan Ebolavirus (SUDV). Although not the strain currently devastating West Africa, SUDV has caused widespread illness, even as recently as 2012. In a new study appearing in the journal ACS Chemical Biology, researchers report a possible therapy that could someday help treat patients infected with SUDV.

  • Wellcome Trust announces emergency Ebola research initiative

    The Wellcome Trust announced the emergency Ebola initiative, which includes contributions from partner funders, and which aims to support research that can swiftly begin to investigate new approaches to treating, preventing, and containing the disease during the current epidemic in West Africa. The initiative will also support research into the ethical challenges of testing experimental medicines during epidemics.

  • Poll finds many in U.S. lack knowledge about Ebola and its transmission

    Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports no known cases of Ebola transmission in the United States, a Harvard School of Public Health poll released last week shows that four in ten (39 percent) adults in the United States are concerned that there will be a large outbreak in the United States, and a quarter (26 percent) are concerned that they or someone in their immediate family may get sick with Ebola over the next year.

  • U.S. Army researchers help fight Ebola in the field

    U.S. Army researchers are working on developing vaccines for the deadly Ebola virus, as well as combating the spread of the virus and caring for those who are infected. The virus has now killed more than 1,000 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria. Researchers from the Applied Diagnostics Branch, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), along with researchers from Public Health Canada, helped develop the serum given recently to two U.S. medical workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who contracted the virus while working with patients infected by Ebola in West Africa, Schoepp said.

  • Epidemic ethics: four lessons from the current Ebola outbreak

    The extent of the current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has belatedly focused the attention of non-governmental organizations, local and Western governments, and international media. What we haven’t caught up with though, is the extent to which these outbreaks and their devastating effects are predictable and preventable. The spread of Ebola virus occurs because health infrastructure in the region is fragmented, under-resourced, or non-existent. And the therapeutic response to the illness is constrained by failure of markets to drive drug and vaccine development that would help the world’s poorest people.