Viruses and pathogens

  • Liberia quarantines area the size of Wales in an effort to contain Ebola spread

    In an effort to control the spread of Ebola throughout West Africa, Liberia has quarantined areas at the epicenter of the epidemic. Experts say the quarantine is not likely to be effective because of two reasons: people inside and outside the quarantined areas – called “Unified Sectors” – still lack effective medical services, and the growing shortages of food and clean water inside the Unified Sectors will force people from inside those areas to go outside in search of food. The areas – which, combined, are the size of Wales — are too large to be effectively monitored.

  • Ebola poses no risk in U.S.: Experts

    Ebola has infected nearly 2,000 people in West Africa because the disease is spreading in populated areas with poor public health infrastructure, and where health workers might not be taking proper infection control procedures, such as wearing gloves, experts say. These experts note that Ebola can be contracted only from patients who have the symptoms, not those who are infected, and even then infection occurs only when coming into contact with bodily fluids. They say that SARS and the flu are more contagious than Ebola.

  • Isolation: More countries sever trade, transportation links with Ebola-affected states

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on governments not to impose sweeping bans on trade and travel on Ebola-affected countries. The organization’s urgent call followed the announcement by Kenya that it was joining a growing list of countries severing all trade and transportation links to the three west African countries most affected by Ebola – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Independently of government actions, many airlines have already stopped flying to and from the three countries. The disease has already killed at least 1,145 people in these three countries and in Nigeria.

  • CHIKV Challenge: Forecasting the spread of infectious disease

    Modeling the future spread of infectious diseases is extremely challenging. Many current infectious diseases models tend to be based on historic data. There are numerous sources of potentially useful data that could be incorporated into a forecast, but it is difficult to predict which will be most informative. One goal of DARPA’s Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) challenge is to inspire the creation of teams drawn from multiple disciplines, including not only specialists in public health and infectious disease, but also experts in mathematics, meteorology, entomology, computer science, and bioinformatics, among other fields. The teams will build models that predict the spread of the Chikungunya virus in the Americas. the products could be applied to other diseases and inform responses to emergencies.

  • The CDC contracts Emergent BioSolutions for $18.9 million smallpox treatment

    The CDC has contracted Emergent BioSolutions for the supply of Vaccinia Immune Globulin Intravenous (VIGIV) into the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). VIGIV is a therapeutic licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of complications due to smallpox vaccination. The contract options are valued at $18.9 million over three years.

  • Ebola vaccine to be tested on humans

    Efforts to test an Ebola vaccine on humans have reached a milestone when BioProtection Systems, through its parent company, NewLink Genetics Corporation, confirmed that it is prepared to launch the first human safety trial of a vaccine, which the company licensed after it was developed by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada. Thevaccine replaces the genes from vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a pathogen found in livestock, with a gene from the Ebola virus. The Ebola gene then develops a harmless protein that sits on the virus’s outer coat.

  • Texas Medical Center considering “reverse quarantine” to prevent Ebola infections

    The Texas Medical Center(TMC), home to more than fifty health care institutions (it is considered the world’s largest medical district), is considering using a preventive measure, known as reverse quarantine, to keep potentially at-risk employees and students from spreading Ebola to other medical staff or patients. Concerned that the Ebola outbreak could reach Texas, hospital executives are reviewing their emergency management plans, usually reserved to guide more than 100,000 employees at TMC during hurricanes and tropical storms.

  • Containing the international spread of Ebola

    The West African Ebola virus outbreak is already the largest of its kind, both in terms of numbers and geography. And with the most distant parts of the world less than a day’s flight away, it isn’t too difficult to imagine Ebola virus spreading. During the SARS outbreak, both exit and entry screening strategies failed to detect many cases. The virus spread from Asia to various parts of the world, especially to Canada. But despite the limited detection rate of the airport screening process during the SARS outbreak, it was still thought to be a useful way to educate incoming travelers about what to do and where to go if they became sick.

  • Uncovering how Ebola virus disables immune response

    Understanding exactly how the Ebola virus targets the interferon pathway could help guide drug development moving forward. One of the human body’s first responses to a viral infection is to make and release signaling proteins called interferons, which amplify the immune system response to viruses. Over time, many viruses have evolved to undermine interferon’s immune-boosting signal, and researchers have identified a mechanism unique to the Ebola virus that defeats attempts by interferon to block viral reproduction in infected cells.

  • A 2-year old Guinean boy who died last December is Ebola outbreak’s Patient Zero: Researchers

    A recent reportin the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that a two-year-old boy who died on 6 December 2013 in a village in Guéckédou, Guinea might be the virus’s Patient Zero. Guéckédou borders Sierra Leone and Liberia, where Ebola has infected more than 1,700 people. A week after the boy died, his mother died from the didease, followed by the child’s three-year-old sister and then his grandmother. Mourners at the grandmother’s funeral are suspected to have spread the virus after catching the disease from individuals who prepared the body for burial or interacted with the family.

  • Nigerian authorities scramble to contain Ebola spread

    Nigerian government has mobilized health workers to help spread information on Ebola and last week, Lagos health officials opened an emergency operation center in the city. Ebola has so far claimed two lives in Nigeria, and infected about a dozen. Both the dead and the infected came into contact with Patrick Sawyer, an American citizen working for the Liberian government who died of the disease a week-and-a-half ago in Lagos.

  • FDA authorizes use of unapproved Ebola virus test

    As Ebola continues to spread throughout West Africa, the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) has authorized the use of an unapproved Ebola virus test developed by the Department of Defensefor use in individuals, including U.S. military personnel and responders, who may be at risk of infection because of their work with individuals who might have the virus.The Test-tube diagnostic test is one of the Pentagon’s investment in developing a vaccine or cure for Ebola.

  • Quantities of experimental Ebola drug used in U.S. too small to be shipped to West Africa

    Nigerian health authorities said yesterday that West African patients infected with the Ebola virus will not have access to experimental drugs being used to treat American cases of the disease for several months, if at all. Health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu told a press conference he had asked the U.S. health authorities about the unproven medicines used on two American doctors who became infected while treating patients in Liberia, but was told such small quantities of the drug existed that West Africa would have to wait for months for supplies, even if they were proved safe and effective. The two Americans were given the drug ZMapp after being flown to the United States, and appear to be recovering.

  • Ebola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts

    Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.

  • Luminex’s diagnostics tool used in Africa to help control Ebola outbreak

    Luminex said the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Diagnostics Division is working on rapid diagnostics for the Ebola virus using Luminex xMAP Technology. Luminex’s MAGPIX system was recently deployed to Africa to support research efforts to control the current outbreak.