Viruses and pathogens

  • Infection control: why doctors over-prescribe antibiotics

    The modern antibiotic era began with the discovery of penicillin in 1928, which led to dramatic improvements in our ability to treat common infections. This was probably the most important discovery in the history of modern medicine. And for a long time, antibiotics reigned supreme in the battle against previously deadly bacterium. The dramatic improvements of the twentieth century, however, are now being undone by overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Resistant superbugs and poor use of antibiotics are together leading us toward an “antimicrobial perfect storm” in the next few decades. This may sound apocalyptic but it’s simple epidemiology: increasing resistance combined with decreasing antibiotic options will worsen to the point where we will have no capacity to treat previously highly treatable infections.

  • Guinea Ebola outbreak spreading to Liberia, threatening Sierra Leone

    The Ebola outbreak in Guinea – the biggest in Africa in seven years — has spread to neighboring Liberia and is now also threatening Sierra Leone. At least eighty-six cases and fifty-nine deaths have been recorded across Guinea, the West African country’s health ministry said Monday. The UN Children’s Fund said the outbreak had spread to the capital, Conakry, although most of the cases so far have been in the country’s south-east provinces. Health officials have not yet been able to determine the subtype of Ebola infecting people in Guinea. Knowing the subtype would give them a better idea of the fatality rate, which, for Ebola, can range from 25 to -90 percent.

  • University of Florida Clinical Toxicology Online Graduate Course. Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction. Arm yourself with knowledge.
    view counter
  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the rise among U.S. children

    Infections caused by a specific type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise in U.S. children, according to a new study. While still rare, the bacteria are increasingly found in children of all ages, especially those 1-5 years old, raising concerns about dwindling treatment options. The researchers found that the prevalence is increasing in a resistant type of bacteria, which produces a key enzyme, extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL), which thwarts many strong antibiotics, making them ineffective.

  • Microbial detection array detects plague in ancient human remains

    Scientists who study past pandemics, such as the fourteenth century Black Death, which killed an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the European population from 1347 to 1351, might soon be turning to an innovative biological detection technology for some extra help.

  • Killing superbugs dead with “molecular drill bits”

    Tuberculosis (TB) is a well-known, treatable disease, but resistant strains are cropping up. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 170,000 people died from multidrug-resistant TB in 2012. In response to drug-resistant “superbugs” that send millions of people to hospitals around the world, scientists are building tiny “molecular drill bits” which kill bacteria by bursting through their protective cell walls.

  • Faster anthrax detection could speed bioterror response

    The fall 2011 anthrax attacks cost $3.2 million in cleanup and decontamination. At the time, no testing system was in place that officials could use to screen the letters. Currently, first responders have tests that can provide a screen for dangerous materials in about 24-48 hours. Now, researchers have developed a new method for anthrax detection that can identify anthrax in only a few hours.

  • Positive safety results Marburg drug candidate announced

    Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a severe and potentially fatal disease in humans first recognized in 1967. It is caused by an RNA virus of the Filoviridae family and is understood to be endemic to Africa. The Marburg virus is classified as a Category A bioterrorism agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in 2006 was determined by DHS to be a material threat to national security and public health. There are currently no treatments for Marburg virus infection beyond supportive care. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Sarepta Therapeutics, a developer of innovative RNA-based therapeutics, announced positive safety results from a Phase I multiple ascending dose study of AVI-7288 in healthy volunteers. AVI-7288 is the company’s lead drug candidate for the treatment of Marburg virus infection.

  • 25 children in California stricken with polio-like illness

    Twenty-five children in California have been exhibiting a “polio-like syndrome,” leading to paralysis in one or more of their limbs. “What’s we’re seeing now is bad. The best-case scenario is complete loss of one limb, the worst is all four limbs, with respiratory insufficiency, as well. It’s like the old polio,” say a a pediatric neurologist. Scientists say that samples from two of the children tested positive for enterovirus 68, a rare virus linked in the past to severe respiratory illness.

  • Visually displayed early warning system for epidemics

    Cholera has been all but eradicated in Europe, but this bacterial, primarily waterborne disease still claims thousands of lives in Africa every year. In an EU-funded project, scientists are examining the effects various environmental factors have on cholera epidemics in Uganda, and have developed a software architecture for early warning systems that compares environmental and health data and presents the results graphically, allowing for the creation of visually displayed early warnings of epidemic breakouts.

  • Uncovering drug resistance mechanism to help development of antibiotic drug candidates

    The use of antibiotics is often considered among the most important advances in the treatment of human disease. Unfortunately, though, bacteria are finding ways to make a comeback. More than two million people in the United States come down with antibiotic-resistant infections annually, and at least 23,000 die because their treatment cannot stop the infection. A new study has uncovered a mechanism of drug resistance. This knowledge could have a major impact on the development of a pair of highly potent new antibiotic drug candidates.

  • Superbugs presence increases during annual pilgrimage to India’s sacred sites

    The spread of antibiotic-resistance to one of the most pristine locations in Asia is linked to the annual human pilgrimages to the region, new research has shown. The researchers have found that in May and June, when hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to Rishikesh and Haridwar to visit sacred sites, levels of resistance genes that lead to “superbugs” were found to be about sixty times greater than other times of the year. They argue that preventing the spread of resistance genes that promote life-threating bacteria could be achieved by improving waste management at key pilgrimage sites.

  • Solution to drug resistance problem receives U.S. patent

    Before the development of penicillin, people dropped like flies in response to minor infections. Even pimples could grow to boils that killed. One of the main killers prior to the discovery of antibiotics was tuberculosis. The deadly infectious disease that typically affects the lungs has returned – and has developed a resistance to the majority of antibiotics that would otherwise kill the tuberculosis bacteria. A Danish chemistry researcher has taken out a patent for a drug that can make previously multidrug-resistant bacteria once again responsive to antibiotics.

  • Gaining better understanding of tularemia, aka “rabbit fever”

    Tularemia, aka “rabbit fever,” is endemic in the northeastern United States, and is considered to be a significant risk to biosecurity — much like anthrax or smallpox — because it has already been weaponized in various regions of the world. Despite its importance for both public health and biodefense, F. tularensis pathogenesis is not entirely understood, nor is it fully understood how the organism persists in the environment.

  • Resistance shapes the discovery of new insecticides

    Recent news around the world has focused on the dangers of antibiotic resistance. – and the CDC estimates over two-million illnesses and 23,000 deaths occurred in 2013 as a result of antibiotic resistance in bacteria and fungus. But what of another type of resistance which can also have a huge impact on the population: that to insecticides? Livestock, for example, are affected by buffalo flies; farmers and customers are familiar with the total devastation caused by fruit flies; malaria mosquitoes and bed bugs are becoming more resistant to existing chemicals. Even our pets are affected: fleas and ticks are continuing their march, leading to a need for newer, often more expensive synthetic chemistries. The price of insecticide resistance — in the form of R&D costs for new compounds — is passed from chemical companies, to farmers, to consumers.

  • North Carolina brain surgery patients exposed to deadly disease

    Officials at a North Carolina hospital last Tuesday notified eighteen patients that they might have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a degenerative brain disease which is always fatal and which makes those infected exhibit symptoms of dementia before they die. The eighteen patients had brain surgery performed on them since 18 January. A patient operated on that that day was subsequently tested positive for the disease. The hospital said that the surgical instruments used on the patient with CJD were sterilized, but were “not subjected to enhanced sterilization procedures.’