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Virology News
Topical news snippets about viruses that affect people.  And other things. Like zombies B-)
Curated by Ed Rybicki
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Scientists reveal how deadly Ebola virus assembles

Scientists reveal how deadly Ebola virus assembles | Virology News | Scoop.it

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered the molecular mechanism by which the deadly Ebola virus assembles, providing potential new drug targets. Surprisingly, the study showed that the same molecule that assembles and releases new viruses also rearranges itself into different shapes, with each shape controlling a different step of the virus's life cycle.

"Like a 'Transformer', this protein of the Ebola virus adopts different shapes for different functions," said Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbial Science at TSRI. "It revises a central dogma of molecular biology—that a protein molecule has one shape that predestines one biological function."

The research was published today in the peer-reviewed journal Cell.

 

Ebola virus graphic by Russell Kightley Media

Ed Rybicki's insight:

"It revises a central dogma of molecular biology—that a protein molecule has one shape that predestines one biological function."

 

Ummmm...no, it doesn't: anyone that knows anything about molecular biology knows that protein molecules can do a number of different things, and have a number of stable configurations.  Just think "prion"!

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Most people exposed to HPV never develop symptoms

Most people exposed to HPV never develop symptoms | Virology News | Scoop.it
DEAR DOCTOR K: A famous actor recently said he got throat cancer from oral sex. Could this be true?
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Useful article, especially in light of the Henrietta Lacks / HeLa cell story, as it makes it very clear that cancer is an UNlikely consequence of infection with ANY HPV.

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Age-Specific Mortality During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Age-Specific Mortality During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic | Virology News | Scoop.it

The worldwide spread of a novel influenza A (H1N1) virus in 2009 showed that influenza remains a significant health threat, even for individuals in the prime of life. This paper focuses on the unusually high young adult mortality observed during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Using historical records from Canada and the U.S., we report a peak of mortality at the exact age of 28 during the pandemic and argue that this increased mortality resulted from an early life exposure to influenza during the previous Russian flu pandemic of 1889–90. We posit that in specific instances, development of immunological memory to an influenza virus strain in early life may lead to a dysregulated immune response to antigenically novel strains encountered in later life, thereby increasing the risk of death. Exposure during critical periods of development could also create holes in the T cell repertoire and impair fetal maturation in general, thereby increasing mortality from infectious diseases later in life. Knowledge of the age-pattern of susceptibility to mortality from influenza could improve crisis management during future influenza pandemics.

 


Via burkesquires
Ed Rybicki's insight:

This is the second purported explanation I have seen for this phenomenon: the first was that people older than 28 were PROTECTED more, due to prior exposure, and that if this were not the case, the mortality curve would have just kept rising.

Just as happened - at a far lower mortality incidence - for the recent H1N1 pandemic, incidentally.

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Ed Rybicki's comment, August 16, 2013 6:23 AM
Nice one!
Mel Melendrez-Vallard's comment, August 16, 2013 10:34 AM
Right, makes sense. 2 sides of the coin here for sure. This article seems to imply timing of exposure in terms of 'age' as well given the evolution of the virus and how it antigenically changed from the 1889 virus that the 28 yr olds were purportedly exposed to as babies. This same virus from 1889 on an adult, given adult development and immune response could've elicited protection from 1918 flu to an extent while negatively impacting their children/babies which would've been exposed at the same time. Both would've 'survived' to experience the 1918 flu but the babies which are now ~28 would be at a disadvantage because when they got the 1889 virus their bodies were perhaps not developed enough to sustain protective immunity or the virus perhaps? food for thought, it was a nice article.
Patti Hamilton's curator insight, August 18, 2013 9:10 PM

Wow, this is an interesting story.  Check it out.

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Largemouth Bass Virus Found in Northern Snakeheads in Virginia

Largemouth Bass Virus Found in Northern Snakeheads in Virginia | Virology News | Scoop.it

A virus that can cause disease in largemouth bass has now been identified in otherwise apparently healthy northern snakeheads taken from two Potomac River tributaries in Virginia, the U.S. Geological Survey announced today. 

This is the first time that the pathogen, known as largemouth bass virus, has been reported in northern snakeheads.  The virus has been found in bass, sunfish, and other fish species, but largemouth bass are the only species known to develop disease from it.

While the significance of this finding is not yet known, the study's lead author, USGS research biologist Luke Iwanowicz, said it raises the possibility that snakeheads could be reservoirs of this virus and capable of transmitting it to bass populations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The habitat of the two species overlaps, which may favor transmission of the virus.  

 
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Just couldn't resist the title - and discovered by the US Geological survey, no less!

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‘Lego’ viruses stick together to fight disease

‘Lego’ viruses stick together to fight disease | Virology News | Scoop.it

Imagine fitting viruses together like Lego pieces and using them as a vehicle to deliver gene therapy.

Scientists at Rice University are developing a set of rules on how to do just that.

The team used computational and bioengineering methods to combine pieces of very different adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) to create new, benign viruses that can deliver DNA payloads to specific cells.


Ed Rybicki's insight:

Viruses: nature's natural nanoparticles.  Now, new and improved!

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Ottawa researchers use virus particles to blow up leukemia cells ‘like popcorn’ (with video)

Ottawa researchers use virus particles to blow up leukemia cells ‘like popcorn’ (with video) | Virology News | Scoop.it

Cancer researchers around the world are excited about a virus-based treatment developed in Ottawa that blows up leukemia cells “like popcorn.”

Results of the treatment, which boasts a 60 per cent cure rate in mice, are so promising and safe that it could go to clinical trials in humans in as little as two years.

The treatment is an engineered virus micro-particle that attacks leukemia cells. Within a day of an injection, the membranes of the cancer cells are compromised. The cell membranes deteriorate and the cells blow up “like popcorn,” says hematologist Dr. David Conrad, the senior co-author of the study.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

This is the second story I've read on this - with no mention of WHICH virus it is!!

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First direct evidence of HPV-related tonsillar cancer on the rise in Canada

First direct evidence of HPV-related tonsillar cancer on the rise in Canada | Virology News | Scoop.it

American and European research shows an alarming increase in the rate of tonsillar cancer related to the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus. Experts suggest a similar trend has emerged in Canada, but it had yet to be confirmed through scientific analysis. In a new study published in Current Oncology, a group of researchers from Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University have produced evidence confirming this epidemic.

Orophararyngeal cancer impacts part of the throat, including the tonsils and the base of the tongue. Historically, these types of throat cancers were caused by smoking and alcohol use, but recent studies show that HPV is now a major cause. When an individual contracts HPV, the virus's DNA can infiltrate healthy cells and induce cancer years later.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Vaccinate...!

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Scientists Find Cannabis Compound Stops Metastasis In Aggressive Cancers

Scientists Find Cannabis Compound Stops Metastasis In Aggressive Cancers | Virology News | Scoop.it
A pair of scientists at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has found that a compound derived from marijuana could stop metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer, potentially altering the fatality of the disease forever.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

I can just see the Cheech & Chong adaptations: "Hey, man - this weed's a cancer-killer, man...."

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South Africa 'turns corner' on HIV/AIDS, but still has a long way to go

South Africa 'turns corner' on HIV/AIDS, but still has a long way to go | Virology News | Scoop.it
JOHANNESBURG – As more than 2 million South Africans are now taking antiretroviral medications, many are optimistic that the country is on the verge of declaring victory against HIV/AIDS.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Victory?  With 6-odd million people still infected??  I don't think so!

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Polio vaccine campaign goes nationwide - Jerusalem Post

Polio vaccine campaign goes nationwide - Jerusalem Post | Virology News | Scoop.it
Haaretz Polio vaccine campaign goes nationwide Jerusalem Post The Health Ministry decided over the weekend to offer oral polio vaccine to children up to the age of nine-and-a-halfyears starting on August 18 – and not to confine the current...
Ed Rybicki's insight:

This is what happens when religious zealots in OTHER countries - and cynical politicians - stop polio vaccinators from doing their job.

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Virus Hunter: Pandemic Panic! (part 1 of 6)

Virus Hunter: Pandemic Panic! (part 1 of 6) | Virology News | Scoop.it
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Nice little cartoon series on hunting the "CC13" virus.  I enjoyed it, anyway!

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Africa’s green revolution could be championed by Biotechnology

Africa’s green revolution could be championed by Biotechnology | Virology News | Scoop.it

Africa missed the Green Revolution, which helped Asia and Latin America achieve self-sufficiency in food production, missed the Industrial Revolution, but Africa cannot afford to miss another major global ‘technological revolution’, which can help boost our agricultural sector.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Amen!

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Gretel Posadas's curator insight, August 12, 2013 10:25 AM

Recent development in #biotechnology, especially genetic engineering, has made it possible for the inclusion of desired traits in staple foods that are common to the average #Africans. The introduction of #vitamin fortified #Sorghum and #Maruca-Resistant Cowpea are expected to assist farmers to improve on productivity as well as on income and their health conditions.

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Bed Bugs and Infectious Disease

Bed Bugs and Infectious Disease | Virology News | Scoop.it

Bloodfeeding arthropods such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, kissing bugs, biting flies, and lice serve as biological vectors for human pathogens. Thus, it seems natural that bed bugs would also transmit infectious agents. However, more than 100 years of searching has produced little evidence to support this assumption. Comprehensive reviews examining bed bugs' ability to vector a wide range of high-profile human pathogens, such as HIV, MRSA, and hepatitis B, C, and E viruses, among others, have recently been published [1], [3]. Such experiments have so far failed to provide any convincing evidence of bed bugs in the transmission of these agents and thus will not be discussed here. Surprisingly, previous attempts to link bed bugs with disease transmission have largely omitted those viral pathogens known to have transmission cycles involving insect vectors. Thus, the purpose of this review is to refocus the attention of the research community on those pathogens most likely to be vectored by bed bug species given the appropriate ecological circumstances, and away from human pathogens with no previous history of transmission by insect vectors.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

I cannot remember how many times I have been asked, "do bedbugs transmit HIV?", and on me saying no, the question "why not?".

Here, now, are some answers - and some suggestions for what to look for.

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The haplotype-resolved genome and epigenome of the aneuploid HeLa cancer cell line

The haplotype-resolved genome and epigenome of the aneuploid HeLa cancer cell line | Virology News | Scoop.it

The HeLa cell line was established in 1951 from cervical cancer cells taken from a patient, Henrietta Lacks. This was the first successful attempt to immortalize human-derived cells in vitro1. The robust growth and unrestricted distribution of HeLa cells resulted in its broad adoption—both intentionally and through widespread cross-contamination2—and for the past 60 years it has served a role analogous to that of a model organism3. The cumulative impact of the HeLa cell line on research is demonstrated by its occurrence in more than 74,000 PubMed abstracts (approximately 0.3%).

 Haplotype resolution facilitated reconstruction of an amplified, highly rearranged region of chromosome 8q24.21 at which integration of the human papilloma virus type 18 (HPV-18) genome occurred and that is likely to be the event that initiated tumorigenesis. We combined these maps with RNA-seq6and ENCODE Project7 data sets to phase the HeLa epigenome. This revealed strong, haplotype-specific activation of the proto-oncogene MYC by the integrated HPV-18 genome approximately 500 kilobases upstream, and enabled global analyses of the relationship between gene dosage and expression. 


Cervical cancer / HPV graphic from Russell Kightley Media

Ed Rybicki's insight:

We have known for years that HeLa cells contain integrated HPV-18 genome(s) - now we know that they can be very probably causally linked to the cervical cancer that killed Ms Lacks, and led to her immortal cells becoming so much a part of modern molecular biology.

This is a tour de force in modern biology, and shows that, even 62 years later, new findings are coming out of old material.

Even if it is immortal - which poor Ms Lacks was not.

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The fall and rise of [virus-mediated] gene therapy

The fall and rise of [virus-mediated] gene therapy | Virology News | Scoop.it

Wilson was one of the most prominent researchers in the nascent field, which sought to put genes into patients to repair their faulty DNA.

Wilson and his colleagues were adding the final patients to a two-year clinical trial, the ultimate goal of which was to treat a rare but devastating disorder. Called OTCD, or ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, the genetic disorder renders its victims unable to process nitrogen in their blood. Nitrogen is created when protein is broken down, so the blood of OTCD sufferers becomes poisoned when they eat protein-rich foods: One bite of a hot dog can bring on a coma. As a result, just half of children born with OTCD—estimated at roughly one in 80,000 babies in the US, or 50 per year—live to the age of 5. Wilson and his colleagues hoped to treat this disease by giving sufferers a working copy of the defective gene they carry. 

Ed Rybicki's insight:

I used to use the adenovirus story as an object lesson in "the danger of the unexpected" in lectures - and I am so glad to see that things have got more positive in this field!

Thanks to Alan Cann for pointing me to this.

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Canine distemper virus: causes 'zombie tiger' disease

Canine distemper virus: causes 'zombie tiger' disease | Virology News | Scoop.it
Rare Amur tigers in Russia are succumbing to infection with canine distemper virus, a pathogen most commonly found in domestic dogs, according to new research.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Zombies are bad enough - but zombie tigers??  Seriously, though, this is yet more evidence (if we ever needed any) that it is us humans' propensity for flocking together, and domesticating other animals, that has led to so many different outbreaks of virus disease.  In us, as well as in our livestock - and now in wild animals too.

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Identification of new cattle virus will help rule out mad cow disease - UC Davis

Identification of new cattle virus will help rule out mad cow disease - UC Davis | Virology News | Scoop.it
Identification of new cattle virus will help rule out mad cow disease UC Davis “Further testing may also provide information about how often and for how long the animal sheds the virus.” Pesavento's laboratory also recently identified a new virus...
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Defective Virus Plays Major Role in Spread of Disease

Defective Virus Plays Major Role in Spread of Disease | Virology News | Scoop.it
Defective viruses, thought for decades to be essentially garbage unrelated to the transmission of normal viruses, now appear able to play an important role in the spread of disease, new research by UCLA life scientists indicates.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Viruses are extraordinarily adept at exploring sequence space for replicational / transmission advantage - so this is not unexpected necessarily, but is very interesting.

Because now we'll find the same phenomenon everywhere, along with its better known but poor cousin, the defective interfering virus!

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Clinton Foundation | Up Close: Turning the Tide on HIV and AIDS in South Africa

Clinton Foundation | Up Close: Turning the Tide on HIV and AIDS in South Africa | Virology News | Scoop.it
Ten years ago I was working in the National Department of Health (NDOH) HIV and AIDS program, when then-President Mbeki met with President Clinton and asked for the assistance of the Clinton Foundation in combatting the country's HIV and AIDS crisis.
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Scientists develop method that ensures safe research on deadly flu viruses

Scientists develop method that ensures safe research on deadly flu viruses | Virology News | Scoop.it
The strategy will enable healthy molecules in human lung cells to latch on to these viruses and cut the bugs up before they have a chance to infect the human host.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Excellent idea: engineer in sequences that allow naturally-occurring miRNA sequences in the human, but not the ferret lung, to snip the viral DNA so that it cannot cause a problem.

HOWEVER: do you suppose they have considered what happens when the engineered influenza virus, were it to go wild, mutates so as to avoid getting the snip?

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"Stomach flu" [aka viral gastroenteritis]: Everything you need to know

"Stomach flu" [aka viral gastroenteritis]: Everything you need to know | Virology News | Scoop.it
Stomach flu is an extremely common disease, affecting tens of millions of Americans every year. How can you know if you are suffering from one? Read on to learn all the essential information.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

And it obviously affects more than just Americans - but a useful compilation of information for layfolk

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Don't worry about bird flu - well, not yet - Sun-Sentinel

Don't worry about bird flu - well, not yet - Sun-Sentinel | Virology News | Scoop.it

 It's far from comforting to hear that, according to a new study, the new H7N9 strain of bird flu has been passed from person to person for the first time. The finding has sparked some scary headlines. "First study of human transmission of new bird flu raises worries," Reuters reports. "Chinese bird flu may be spreading between people," adds the Guardian. But before you buy surgical masks in bulk and retreat to your sanitized basement evacuation shelter, consider that the authors of the scientific study, published this week in the British Medical Journal, went out of their way to point out that the finding is not cause for too much alarm . . . yet.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Yet...I am still watching, and waiting....

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Jonas Salk - polio vaccine pioneer

Jonas Edward Salk (October 28, 1914 – June 23, 1995) was an American medical researcher and virologist, best known for his discovery and development of the first successful polio vaccine. He was born in New York City to Jewish parents. Although they had little formal education, his parents were determined to see their children succeed. While attending New York University School of Medicine, Salk stood out from his peers not just because of his academic prowess, but because he went into medical research instead of becoming a practicing physician.

Until 1955, when the Salk vaccine was introduced, polio was considered the most frightening public health problem of the post-war United States. Annual epidemics were increasingly devastating. The 1952 epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation's history. Of nearly 58,000 cases reported that year, 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis,[1] with most of its victims being children. The "public reaction was to a plague," said historian Bill O'Neal.[citation needed] "Citizens of urban areas were to be terrified every summer when this frightful visitor returned." According to a 2009 PBS documentary, "Apart from the atomic bomb, America's greatest fear was polio."[2] As a result, scientists were in a frantic race to find a way to prevent or cure the disease. U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt was the world's most recognized victim of the disease and founded the organization, the March of Dimes Foundation, that would fund the development of a vaccine.

In 1947, Salk accepted an appointment to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In 1948, he undertook a project funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to determine the number of different types of polio virus. Salk saw an opportunity to extend this project towards developing a vaccine against polio, and, together with the skilled research team he assembled, devoted himself to this work for the next seven years. The field trial set up to test the Salk vaccine was, according to O'Neill, "the most elaborate program of its kind in history, involving 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers." Over 1,800,000 school children took part in the trial.[3] When news of the vaccine's success was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a "miracle worker," and the day "almost became a national holiday." His sole focus had been to develop a safe and effective vaccine as rapidly as possible, with no interest in personal profit. When he was asked in a televised interview who owned the patent to the vaccine, Salk replied: "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?"[4]

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Nice Wikipedia entry on an important pioneer of the modern vacine era.

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What you need to know about getting vaccinated for shingles

What you need to know about getting vaccinated for shingles | Virology News | Scoop.it
What you need to know about getting vaccinated for shingles Las Vegas Review-Journal Dear Afraid: Older adults who get the shingles vaccine can cut their risk of getting the painful condition in half; those that do get shingles are likely to have a...
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