An international team of experts, including Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan from the University of Cape Town (UCT), has discovered a new predatory dinosaur with very long feathers that sheds light on how dinosaurs flew. The animal has a long-feathered tail that is believed to have been useful in decreasing descent speed and assuring safe landings.
Ed Rybicki's insight:
Love dinosaurs - almost as much as zombies. And viruses.
HIV-1 replicates well in humans but not in atypical host species, which has limited the development of animal models for AIDS. This study now shows that HIV-1 adapts to replicate efficiently and cause AIDS in pig-tailed macaques. The animals were inoculated with HIV-1 and treated with a CD8-specific antibody to cause transient CD8+ T cell depletion. Serial animal-to-animal infection resulted in persistently high viraemia and decreased CD4+ T cell counts in the blood and gut-associated lymphoid tissue, as well as immune activation and Pneumocystispneumonia, which is indicative of HIV-1-induced pathogenesis and progression to AIDS. Host adaptation of the virus was conferred by four amino acid deletions in the envelope gene, which is associated with co-receptor switching, and mutations in Vpu, which contribute to the ability of the virus to antagonize the host restriction factor tetherin. Further development of this animal model will facilitate the study of HIV-1 therapies and vaccines.
Influenza A viruses are zoonotic pathogens that infect a variety of host species including wild aquatic birds, domestic poultry, and a limited number of mammals including humans. The error-prone nature of the virus's replication machinery and its ability to transmit among multiple hosts lead to generation of novel virus variants with altered pathogenicity and virulence. Spatial, molecular, and physiological barriers inhibit cross-species infections, particularly in the case of human infection with avian viruses. Pigs are proposed as a mixing vessel that facilitates movement of avian viruses from the wild bird reservoir into humans. However, the past decade has witnessed the emergence of highly pathogenic and virulent avian H5 and H7 viruses that have breached these barriers, bypassed the pig intermediate host, and infected humans with a high mortality rate, but have not established human-to-human transmissible lineages. Because influenza viruses pose a significant risk to both human and animal health, it is becoming increasingly important to attempt to predict their identities and pathogenic potential before their widespread emergence. Surveillance of the wild bird reservoir, molecular characterization and documentation of currently circulating viruses in humans and animals, and a comprehensive risk assessment analysis of individual isolates should remain a high priority. Such efforts are critical to the pursuit of prevention and control strategies, including vaccine development and assessment of antiviral susceptibility, that will have a direct impact on the well-being of humans and animals worldwide.
Parents worried about having their children vaccinated take note: a new study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics has found that (Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine is NOT dangerous (recent publication in Pediatrics)
A new study involving half a million female subjects in Denmark contradicts previous reports of a possibility that HPV vaccine, which is given to prevent genital warts and certain cancers, causes serious blood clots.
Combining two types of polio vaccine, including one that is injected rather than given orally, appears to give better immunity and could speed efforts to eradicate the crippling disease, scientists said on Friday.
British and Indian researchers said the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which is given by injection, could provide better and longer lasting protection if given alongside the more commonly used live oral polio vaccine (OPV).
Serious polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and Europe over the last 10 years have hampered efforts to wipe out the disease, caused by a virus that replicates in the gut and can be passed on through contact with infected faeces.
Polio invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours - and the World Health Organization's repeated warning is that as long as any child remains infected with polio, children everywhere are at risk.
Most vaccination campaigns - including emergency ones that were started last year covering 20 million children in Syria and neighboring countries - use multiple doses of OPV to boost immunity among those at risk.
"Because IPV is injected into the arm, rather than taken orally, it's been assumed it doesn't provide much protection in the gut and so would be less effective at preventing faecal transmission than OPV," said Jacob John, an associate professor at the India's Christian Medical College, who led the study.
But his team's research, which covered 450 children from a densely populated urban area in Vellore, India, found that where they already had a level of immunity due to OPV, the injected vaccine actually boosted their gut immunity.
"It looks as if the strongest immunity can been achieved through a combination of the two," he said.
Newly discovered specimens support a more ancient origin for viruses, perhaps all the way back to the origins of life.
Chantal Abergel and Jean-Michel Claverie were used to finding strange viruses. The married virologists at Aix-Marseille University had made a career of it. But pithovirus, which they discovered in 2013 in a sample of Siberian dirt that had been frozen for more than 30,000 years, was more bizarre than the pair had ever imagined a virus could be.
In the world of microbes, viruses are small — notoriously small. Pithovirus is not. The largest virus ever discovered, pithovirus is more massive than even some bacteria. Most viruses copy themselves by hijacking their host’s molecular machinery. But pithovirus is much more independent, possessing some replication machinery of its own. Pithovirus’s relatively large number of genes also differentiated it from other viruses, which are often genetically simple — the smallest have a mere four genes. Pithovirus has around 500 genes, and some are used for complex tasks such as making proteins and repairing and replicating DNA. “It was so different from what we were taught about viruses,” Abergel said.
The stunning find, first revealed in March, isn’t just expanding scientists’ notions of what a virus can be. It is reframing the debate over the origins of life.
News One Girl Thought To Have Been Cured Of HIV Has Relapse News One A Mississippi girl born with HIV who was thought to be cured by immediate and aggressive drug treatment has relapsed, with new tests showing detectable levels of the AIDS-causing...
On July 1, 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notified the appropriate regulatory agency, the Division of Select Agents and Toxins (DSAT) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that employees discovered vials labeled ”variola,” commonly known as smallpox, in an unused portion of a storage room in a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laboratory located on the NIH Bethesda campus.
The laboratory was among those transferred from NIH to FDA in 1972, along with the responsibility for regulating biologic products. The FDA has operated laboratories located on the NIH campus since that time. Scientists discovered the vials while preparing for the laboratory’s move to the FDA’s main campus.
The vials appear to date from the 1950s. Upon discovery, the vials were immediately secured in a CDC-registered select agent containment laboratory in Bethesda.
Smallpox virus graphic from Russell Kightley Media
Ed Rybicki's insight:
"DSAT, in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is actively investigating the history of how these samples were originally prepared and subsequently stored in the FDA laboratory."
Why?? They're from the 1950s, for firkin' hell's sake! Variola was a pretty common thing to have around at the time - it was still killing millions of people a year!!
Abstract: A novel avian influenza A (H7N9) virus recently emerged in the Yangtze River delta and caused diseases, often severe, in over 130 people. This H7N9 virus appeared to infect humans with greater ease than previous avian influenza virus subtypes such as H5N1 and H9N2. While there are other potential explanations for this large number of human infections with an avian influenza virus, we investigated whether a lack of conserved T-cell epitopes between endemic H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses and the novel H7N9 virus contributes to this observation. Here we demonstrate that a number of T cell epitopes are conserved between endemic H1N1 and H3N2 viruses and H7N9 virus. Most of these conserved epitopes are from viral internal proteins. The extent of conservation between endemic human seasonal influenza and avian influenza H7N9 was comparable to that with the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1. Thus, the ease of inter-species transmission of H7N9 viruses (compared with avian H5N1 viruses) cannot be attributed to the lack of conservation of such T cell epitopes. On the contrary, our fi ndings predict significant T-cell based cross-reactions in the human population to the novel H7N9 virus. Our findings also have implications for H7N9 virus vaccine design. Influenza virus graphic courtesy of Russell Kightley Media
Dramatic advances in mother-to-child transmission and treatment that can safely reduce TB incidence are among recent successes that are helping in the fight against HIV.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, and HIV prevalence continues to rise every year; nevertheless, the health services, supported by researchers, have had some outstanding successes in containing the disease.
Even the annual rise in prevalence, as reported recently by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), hides a good-news story: the enormous success of the antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme means that people with HIV are living longer, which increases the total number of those living with HIV.
The number of people newly infected with HIV is decreasing. We have come a long way since the dark days of HIV denial, when nearly 750 people died from AIDS every day (as recounted by Edwin Cameron in his recent memoir, Justice). Currently, there are just over 2.0 million adults in South Africa on free treatment, according to the HSRC – the biggest ART programme in the world – and UNAIDS reported that there were 100 000 fewer AIDS-related deaths in 2011 than in 2005.
There are 180 currently recognized species of RNA virus that can infect humans, and on average, 2 new species are added every year. RNA viruses are routinely exchanged between humans and other hosts (particularly other mammals and sometimes birds) over both epidemiological and evolutionary time: 89% of human-infective species are considered zoonotic and many of the remainder have zoonotic origins. Some viruses that have crossed the species barrier into humans have persisted and become human-adapted viruses, as exemplified by the emergence of HIV-1. Most, however, have remained as zoonoses, and a substantial number have apparently disappeared again. We still know relatively little about what determines whether a virus is able to infect, transmit from, and cause disease in humans, but there is evidence that factors such as host range, cell receptor usage, tissue tropisms, and transmission route all play a role. Although systematic surveillance for potential new human viruses in nonhuman hosts would be enormously challenging, we can reasonably aspire to much better knowledge of the diversity of mammalian and avian RNA viruses than exists at present.
Rotaviruses (RV) are ubiquitous, highly infectious, segmented double-stranded RNA genome viruses of importance in public health because of the severe acute gastroenteritis they cause in young children and many animal species. They are very well adapted to their host, with symptomatic and asymptomatic reinfections being virtually universal during the first 3 years of life. Antibodies are the major arm of the immune system responsible for protecting infants from RV reinfection. The relationship between the virus and the B cells (Bc) that produce these antibodies is complex and incompletely understood: most blood-circulating Bc that express RV-specific immunoglobulin (Ig) on their surface (RV-Ig) are naive Bc and recognize the intermediate capsid viral protein VP6 with low affinity. When compared to non-antigen-specific Bc, RV-Bc are enriched in CD27+ memory Bc (mBc) that express IgM. The Ig genes used by naive RV-Bc are different than those expressed by RV-mBc, suggesting that the latter do not primarily develop from the former. Although RV predominantly infects mature villus enterocytes, an acute systemic viremia also occurs and RV-Bc can be thought of as belonging to either the intestinal or systemic immune compartments. Serotype-specific or heterotypic RV antibodies appear to mediate protection by multiple mechanisms, including intracellular and extracellular homotypic and heterotypic neutralization. Passive administration of RV-Ig can be used either prophylactically or therapeutically. A better understanding of the Bc response generated against RV will improve our capacity to identify improved correlates of protection for RV vaccines.
It’s official: The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is spreading faster than anyone can deal with it. There are 518 deaths already, with plenty more expected as governments scramble to provide an effective response.
Dennis Gonsalves and I had lunch at Zippys awhile back with Lawrence Kent of the Gates Foundation. Lawrence told us the Gates Foundation is sponsoring GM plant research to help the poorest of the poor. It's a significant project, though just a small percent of the whole Gates Foundation effort.
I asked him about commercial banana research. He said they don't do anything with commercial projects. Oh shucks, I thought.
But Dennis Gonsalves is working with Lawrence on a virus-resistant cassava project for Africa. Can you imagine: Local Kohala boy Dennis Gonsalves working with the Gates Foundation to help save lives of the poorest of the poor in sub-Saharan Africa? Wow.
I wrote about Hillary Clinton talking about the State Department moving from emergency feeding of the poor to GM plants that provide people with solutions they need to sustain themselves. Replacing emergency feeding programs with GM solutions gives farmers biotech tools to enhance their food production and vitamin content and more.
It's kind of like the old saying: Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.
Golden rice is an example of this kind of humanitarian effort. Another is the vitamin A-enhanced banana developed in north Queensland, Australia that was recently announced.
Ed Rybicki's insight:
I've also had lunch with Dennis Gonsalves, as it happens, as well as hearing him announce the first transgenic papaya in Geneva, NY, in 1991. Nice to hear it's still doing well!
Test vaccine for dengue fever seen as promising Raw Story A prototype vaccine for dengue that two years ago yielded lukewarm results has proved more effective after wider trials and is a potential arm against the disease, researchers said Friday.
Concluding its investigation into the unintended anthrax exposure at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the CDC says it has found another more "distressing" problem due to l
ab workers not following protocol.
The CDC held a news conference to discuss the conclusion of its investigation Friday. It determined that while it is “not impossible” that the staff was exposed to viable B. anthracis (anthrax), it is “extremely unlikely” that this happened.
SMALLPOX: FORGOTTEN STOCK DISCOVERED *********************************************** A ProMED-mail post Date: 11 Jul 2014 Source: CNN News source [edited] At least 2 of the vials employees at the National Institutes of Health found in an unused storage room earlier this month [July 2014] contain viable samples of the deadly smallpox virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday [11 Jul 2014]. Employees found 6 forgotten vials when they were preparing to move a lab from the Food and Drug Administration's Bethesda, Maryland campus to a different location. The laboratory had been used by the NIH but was transferred to the FDA in 1972. When the scientists found the vials, they immediately put them in a containment lab, and on 1 Jul 2014 notified the branch of the government that deals with toxic substances, called the Division of Select Agents and Toxins. The CDC said previously there is no evidence that any of the vials was breached, nor were any of the lab workers exposed to the virus. On Monday [7 Jul 2014], law enforcement agencies transferred the vials to the CDC's high-containment facility in Atlanta. The CDC is one of only 2 official World Health Organization designated repositories for smallpox. CDC Director Tom Frieden said his scientists worked through the night on the samples as soon as they got them. Testing confirmed that there was variola DNA in the vials. Additional test results showed "evidence of growth" in samples from 2 of the vials, suggesting that the smallpox virus is alive. Smallpox, known also by its scientific name as variola, was the deadly virus that was the scourge of civilization for centuries. It's been considered an eradicated disease since 1980, following successful worldwide vaccination programs. The last known outbreak in the U.S. was in 1947 in New York. The vials concerned were created on 10 Feb 1954, that is, before the smallpox eradication campaign began. Frieden says that the NIH is currently scouring their buildings to make sure there are no other surprises left in unused storerooms. He says the problem in this case is not in the creation of the vials; the discovery points to a "problem in inventory control." [Byline: Jen Christensen] -- Communicated by: ProMED-mail [The survival of viable lyophilized (freeze-dried) smallpox virus for 60 years is a new record. The Public Health Agency of Canada states in its Pathogen Safety Data Sheet and Risk Assessment for Vaccinia Virus: "The dried virus can survive up to 39 weeks at 6.7 percent moisture and 4 C," . There was never any chance that this find would start an epidemic, and even if a vial had been broken and had infected anyone, the outbreak would have rapidly been eradicated by ring vaccination, just as it had been in 1980. - Mod.JW Smallpox virus graphic from Russell Kightley Media
Ed Rybicki's insight:
Really, really stable virus...I wonder how more there is out there?
Deforestation has decimated West Africa. It's also possibly given rise to Ebola outbreaks.
Like most matters involving an Ebola epidemic, chronicling its first horrifying infection is not an easy endeavor. But even in circumstances in which details are hard to come by, certain similarities have emerged. The first contact often occurs in remote, rural communities where a victim handles an infected animal carcass, and things quickly progress downward from there.
One outbreak in Ivory Coast was sparked when an ethologist touched an infected, dead chimpanzee. In Gabon and the Republic of Congo, scientists linked several outbreaks to extensive deaths of forest chimpanzees and gorillas. And in this most current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa — which has been called “out of control” and has claimed at least 481 lives in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — is also believed to have begun in a remote location in the town of Gueckedou.
The commonality between numerous outbreaks of Ebola, scientists say, is growing human activity and deforestation in previously untouched forests, bringing humans into closer contact with rare disease strains viral enough to precipitate an epidemic.
Ed Rybicki's insight:
I vividly remember the legendary Bob Swanepoel saying, at a conference we organised in Cape Town in 2009, that:
"It was frightening to think that, as I stood in a clearing looking into the rainforest, Ebola was probably looking back at me".
BioProcess International recently took a look at the growing manufacturing demand in developing countries of vaccines. The big four Pharma companies are in control of the majority of the production of vaccines: Sanofi, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. With the world wide market valued at $30 billion a year, vaccines are in demand and widely considered a right and often create a healthier public. As many governments are the only suppliers of healthcare in growing countries, they find the need to be able to produce these products within their borders so that they can reach their citizens. New technologies are expanding the capabilities making vaccines affordable, quick and feasible in many of these countries.