Viruses and pathogens

  • 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.

  • U.S., European doctors, health worker rush to Africa to fight Ebola outbreak

    Foreign health workers and medical staff are traveling to West Africa to help communities battle the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record. More than sixty local medical staff who treated Ebola patients, roughly 8 percent of the fatalities, have died in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), announced that the United States will send fifty public health officials to West Africa in the next thirty days to help fight the disease.

  • New technology could screen for emerging viral diseases

    Researchers developed a microbe detection array technology which could provide a new rapid method for public health authorities to conduct surveillance for emerging viral diseases. With the use of the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA), combined with a DNA amplification technique developed by researchers from Denmark, the team was able correctly to identify twenty-nine different emerging viruses in both clinical and non-clinical samples.

  • Ebola outbreak is cause for concern but there’s hope yet

    The current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is now the largest recorded since the virus was first described in 1976. That this outbreak is not under control after more than four months is cause for great concern, as are the way the virus is spreading and apparent breaches in infection control. The epidemic was recognized at the outset as being unusual. It started in a region that borders Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, far from where previous outbreaks had been reported. And cases spread early to a number of areas in all three countries. There are also some positive signs. Because the incubation period (the delay between contact and becoming unwell) is up to twenty-one days, current infections represent the state of control measures over that period. So the results of more recent control efforts are yet to be reflected in case numbers. The good news is that it does appear the outbreak is coming under control in some areas, particularly in Guinea where the first cases were reported.

  • 2nd Ebola death in Nigeria; Liberia orders cremation of victims

    Nigerian authorities today (Monday) confirmed a second case of Ebola in Africa’s most populous nation, an alarming setback as officials across the region are desperately trying to contain the spread of a disease. Also Monday, health authorities in Liberia ordered that all those who die from Ebola be cremated after communities opposed having the bodies buried nearby. Over the weekend, health authorities in the West African country encountered resistance while trying to bury twenty-two bodies in Johnsonville, outside the capital Monrovia. Military police helped restore order.

  • Airports scrambling to find effective passenger Ebola screening methods

    Some airports in Africa have begun screening passengers for Ebola. The current methods involves thermal screening of patients, and then subjecting passengers with an elevated temperature, a symptom of Ebola, to a blood testcalled a polymerase chain reaction test. The test can take eight hours or longer to obtain lab results, and is expensive.Aviation experts recommend screening passengers for Ebola the same way aviation security screen passengers for other threats like terrorism, but say the screening methods must be made to yield results more quickly and cheaply.

  • Scientists support research which increases microbes’ virulence, transmissibility, or host range

    Amid new concerns about lab safety lapses and in a counterpoint to recent calls for restrictions on research that may render pathogens more dangerous, thirty-six scientists from several countries have issued a formal statement asserting that research on potentially dangerous pathogens can be done safely, and is necessary for a full understanding of infectious diseases. The statement rejects calls for limiting “gain-of-function” (GOF) research, that is, experiments which involve increasing the virulence, transmissibility, or host range of microbes.

  • West African countries intensify efforts to contain Ebola outbreak

    Togo-based, pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and growing fears of the rapidly spreading Ebola virus have led the Liberian football association to cancel games. Liberia plans to shut down schools and many markets, place all non-essential public servants on leave and quarantine several communities. The rural communities which will be guaranteed will have food supplies and medical support ferried only by approved persons. All public facilities could be chlorinated and disinfected on Friday, and public gatherings have already been banned.