Virology News
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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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Deadly H5N1 Flu virus could 'spread around the globe' in just days

Deadly H5N1 Flu virus could 'spread around the globe' in just days | Virology News | Scoop.it

Japan has been forced into the 'emergency slaughter' of 112,000 chickens after confirming that the virus, last seen in the country three years ago, is back.

Urgent DNA tests were conducted after 200 birds suddenly died in just hours at a farm in Kumamoto, southwestern Japan.

Officials have now confirmed it IS the deadly H5 strain of the virus and could even be the SAME super-resistant H5N1 strain that spread around the world within days in 2005 and killed more than 600 people.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

OK, OK, I'm just doing this to show you how hard we work to protect you all from the Virus Apocalypse.

And zombies.

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Deadly Virus Surges Through Gulf States

Deadly Virus Surges Through Gulf States | Virology News | Scoop.it

Saudi Arabia says a deadly virus is rippling through the kingdom as additional cases were reported over the weekend in the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, have been seen at two major hospitals in the port city of Jeddah.

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Malaysian man is Asia's first casualty of deadly MERS virus

Malaysian man is Asia's first casualty of deadly MERS virus | Virology News | Scoop.it

A Malaysian man who went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia has become the first death in Asia from Middle East respiratory syndrome...

Malaysia’s health ministry said the man returned to Malaysia on March 29 and developed a high fever and cough and had difficulty breathing more than a week later. The man, a 54-year-old from southern Johor state, neighbouring Singapore, died Sunday in a hospital, it said Wednesday.

  
Ed Rybicki's insight:

And so it begins...NOT, hopefully!

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From 1988 to 2014, watch the battle to eradicate polio unfold

Red means the country still has cases of wild polio, yellow means the country is in a region that still has cases of wild polio, and white means that the disease has been eradicated. 

Thanks to CNN for this great GIF! Check out the whole story here: http://cnn.it/1h0Mu3K ;

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Pandemic Influenza: The Perpetual Challenge

Pandemic Influenza: The Perpetual Challenge | Virology News | Scoop.it

A video lecture by Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID at the NIH.

 

Pandemic flu picture by Russell Kightley Media

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Have Herpes, Will Travel

Have Herpes, Will Travel | Virology News | Scoop.it
Insight into the geographical clustering of a viral genome comes from an unexpected source.
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20% of Americans Believe in a Vaccine Conspiracy

20% of Americans Believe in a Vaccine Conspiracy | Virology News | Scoop.it

A report published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that 20% of the American public believe that doctors and the government know that vaccines cause harm, and yet they continue to inoculate children.  The survey found that, of the 1351 participants, 69% had heard of this conspiracy theory, making it the most widely known medical conspiracy theory mentioned in the survey. Of the 1351 participants 20% agreed with the conspiracy, and 44% disagreed. Whilst it is of course good news that twice the number of participants rejected rather than endorsed the conspiracy, what is troubling is the 36% of the public that are sitting on the fence. 

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Well, I'd say that this would be a self-limiting phenomenon, except that it'd take too long.  Maybe it's better to just educate them?

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How viruses hitch a ride on pollen to infect plants

How viruses hitch a ride on pollen to infect plants | Virology News | Scoop.it

Pollination is an essential step in the reproduction of flowering plants and is also crucial in agriculture in regard to fruit development, seed output, and the creation of new varieties of plants. However, at least 18 viruses can infect the mother plant through the fertilized flower (horizontal transmission by pollen). Horizontal transmission by pollen is epidemiologically important for viruses infecting perennial crops, since pollen grains from infected trees continue to be scattered every year. The mechanism how pollination with virus-infected pollen grains causes systemic viral infection to healthy plants has been unknown since the first report of horizontal transmission by pollen in 1918.

 
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Rabenstein, Frank's curator insight, April 4, 2014 4:14 AM

Would be also interesting to analyze mechanisms of the horizontal transmission by pollen of grass infecting viruses like Ryegrass cryptic virus.

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Hypothesis Overdrive?

Hypothesis Overdrive? | Virology News | Scoop.it

Historically, this blog has focused on “news you can use,” but in the spirit of two-way communication, for this post I thought I would try something that might generate more discussion. I’m sharing my thoughts on an issue I’ve been contemplating a lot: the hazards of overly hypothesis-driven science.

When I was a member of one study section, I often saw grant applications that began, “The overarching hypothesis of this application is….” Frequently, these applications were from junior investigators who, I suspect, had been counseled that what study sections want is hypothesis-driven science. In fact, one can even find this advice in articles about grantsmanship .

Despite these beliefs about “what study sections want,” such applications often received unfavorable reviews because the panel felt that if the “overarching hypothesis” turned out to be wrong, the only thing that would be learned is that the hypothesis was wrong. Knowing how a biological system doesn’t work is certainly useful, but most basic research study sections expect that a grant will tell us more about how biological systems do work, regardless of the outcomes of the proposed experiments. Rather than praising these applications for being hypothesis-driven, the study section often criticized them for being overly hypothesis-driven.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

I love it: "the hazards of overly hypothesis-driven science"! Viva, that man, viva!

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Synthetic chromosome for yeast!

Synthetic chromosome for yeast! | Virology News | Scoop.it

Scientists have created the first synthetic chromosome for yeast in a landmark for biological engineering.

Previously synthetic DNA has been designed and made for simpler organisms such as bacteria.

As a form of life whose cells contain a nucleus, yeast is related to plants and animals and shares 2,000 genes with us.

So the creation of the first of yeast's 16 chromosomes has been hailed as "a massive deal" in the emerging science of synthetic biology.

The genes in the original chromosome were replaced with synthetic versions and the finished manmade chromosome was then successfully integrated into a yeast cell.

The new cell was then observed to reproduce, passing a key test of viability.

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Giant Zombie Killer Virus Rises From Its 30 000 Year Grave To Kill Us All! Or Not?

Giant Zombie Killer Virus Rises From Its 30 000 Year Grave To Kill Us All!  Or Not? | Virology News | Scoop.it

I am not a fan of “Science By Hype”, which I think I have made abundantly clear via Virology News and elsewhere. Thus, I pour scorn on the “We found a structure which will lead to an AIDS vaccine”, and “We found an antibody that will cure AIDS” type of articles, WHILE at the same time, appreciating the ACTUAL science behind the hype. If there is any, of course. Which is why I am torn, on the subject of a giant DNA virus purportedly found in 30 000 year-old Siberian permafrost. I am also a fan of zombies, hence the title. But seriously, now: here we are, with news media and semi- and fully-serious science mags all hailing the description in PNAS, no less, of “Pithovirus sibericum“.  A giant virus, wakened from a 30 000 year sleep in Siberian permafrost, by the kiss of an amoeba. OK, by infecting an amoeba, but you see where I’m going here.

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A New Killer Virus in China?

A New Killer Virus in China? | Virology News | Scoop.it

n June 2012, three men removing slag from a derelict copper mine in southwestern China fell ill with severe pneumonia and died. Six months later, researchers went spelunking in the mine—an artificial cave hewn from a hillside—in search of pathogens. After taking anal swabs from bats, rats, and musk shrews living in the cave, the team has discovered what it says is a new virus that may have felled the workers.

 

The presumed pathogen resembles a genus of viruses known as henipaviruses, two of which are deadly: Hendra virus, discovered 20 years ago in Australia when it started killing horses—since then, four people who came in contact with infected horses have died—and Nipah virus, the cause of periodic outbreaks in people in Southeast Asia since 1998. The third confirmed henipavirus, Cedar virus, was first reported in Australia in 2012; it does not appear to infect humans. For all three species, the animals that harbor the virus in the wild—the natural reservoir—appear to be fruit-eating bats called flying foxes.

 

The new virus, named Mojiang paramyxovirus (MojV) after the county in Yunnan province where it was found, joins a growing list of species that share genetic similarities with henipaviruses and members of the Paramyxoviridae family that includes henipaviruses. The bats and shrews in the Yunnan cave tested negative for the new henipa-like virus; three of nine rats were infected. “It is not totally surprising to find henipa-like sequences in rodents,” as rats are the natural reservoir for some paramyxoviruses, says Lin-Fa Wang of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, who was not involved in the Mojiang study. MojV “could be a ‘bridging’ virus between those in bats and rodents,” says Wang, one of the leaders of the team that discovered Cedar virus.


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The Assembly Pathway of an Icosahedral Single-Stranded RNA Virus Depends on the Strength of Inter-Subunit Attractions

The Assembly Pathway of an Icosahedral Single-Stranded RNA Virus Depends on the Strength of Inter-Subunit Attractions | Virology News | Scoop.it

The strength of attraction between capsid proteins (CPs) of cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) is controlled by the solution pH. Additionally, the strength of attraction between CP and the single-stranded RNA viral genome is controlled by ionic strength. By exploiting these properties, we are able to control and monitor the in vitro co-assembly of CCMV CP and single-stranded RNA as a function of the strength of CP–CP and CP–RNA attractions. Using the techniques of velocity sedimentation and electron microscopy, we find that the successful assembly of nuclease-resistant virus-like particles (VLPs) depends delicately on the strength of CP–CP attraction relative to CP–RNA attraction. If the attractions are too weak, the capsid cannot form; if they are too strong, the assembly suffers from kinetic traps. Separating the process into two steps—by first turning on CP–RNA attraction and then turning on CP–CP attraction—allows for the assembly of well-formed VLPs under a wide range of attraction strengths. These observations establish a protocol for the efficient in vitro assembly of CCMV VLPs and suggest potential strategies that the virus may employ in vivo.

 
Ed Rybicki's insight:

I do love it when a paper is published that could have been done pretty much any time in the last 40 years - and with one of my favourite viruses, that I played with a LOT back there before 1980.

Ultracentrifugation, pH meters, ionic strength determinations, EM...all tried and true, and used 40+ years ago. OK, they also used cloned BMV RNA 1 cDNA, and did 3-D image reconstruction from EMs, but hey, they needn't have done that!  Nice, straightforward physicochemical studies, on a well-characterised virus, with good, simple conclusions. 

Namely, that assembly of the virus is NOT just a simple mix-CP-and-RNA-and-it-will-happen, but that it depends upon both pH, for modulating ionic interactions,and ionic strength for modulating ionic interactions AND the "hydrophobic effect", as we used to know it.

While their conclusions are relevant for assembly of heat- and nuclease-resistant nano particles in vitro, I wonder if they are physiologically relevant: if "correct" assembly depends upon first, turning on CP-RNA attraction (ionic strength shift), and second, turning on CP-CP attraction (pH shift) - where in the cell does that happen?

In their own words, "It is generally accepted that the cytoplasm of plant cells is maintained near neutral pH with ionic strength of approximately 0.1 M. Our in vitro results show that these conditions are insufficient for nucleocapsid formation in the absence of cellular host factors."

Yeeee-ee-eesssss...precisely. What happens in the cell? The answer could lie in the one thing they don't report, but that some of the heroes of my distant youth - people like JB Bancroft and Thom Hohn, both quoted (from 1970 and 1969 respectively) in this paper, DID do. Namely, investigate what happens at different CP and RNA concentrations, at constant pH and ionic strength.

You see, it was shown 30+ years ago - and I have been lecturing on it since then - that CP and RNA for viruses like BMV / CCMV and MS2 form different complexes with their cognate partners at different molecular ratios. That is, at low CP:RNA ratios, a high-affinity complex is formed, which is basically a ribonucleoprotein complex without structure. Increasing the CP:RNA ratio for both MS2 and CCMV, as I recall (maybe Dick Verduin was involved with CCMV), results in further lower-affinity association of CP with both RNA and already-bound CP - which acts as a nucleation complex - to result in full capsid assembly.

I note that the process in both cases was shown to be specific, for low CP:RNA ratios: that is, it was cognate CP and RNA doing the high affinity nucleation complex formation.

And these guys deliberately used a heterologous RNA...albeit one from a related virus, but still: what would have happened if they'd used CCMV RNA?

Still - great paper, taking me back to when I wrote an essay on "Assembly of Spherical Plant Viruses" in my Honours year in 1977, quoting quite a few of the same references these folk did. Ah, simpler times...B-)

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Is Ebola Virus in West Africa Getting Under Control?

Is Ebola Virus in West Africa Getting Under Control? | Virology News | Scoop.it

Health experts report that deaths from the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa are slowing, which is a sign that the latest outbreak of the deadly virus may finally be getting under control. The current outbreak has killed more than 120 people and, unlike previous outbreaks, has spread beyond the forested rural villages into a big city.

Guinea’s health ministry told the media that the number of new cases has fallen dramatically. Once they are sure there are no more new cases, the outbreak will be considered under control.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the death toll from the 2014 Ebola outbreak is now 121 people in Guinea and Liberia. Officials in those two countries and other neighboring countries that may have been affected have reported approximately 200 patients confirmed or suspected to have the virus. However, that figure includes some cases from Mali, which the government there reported today turned out not to be Ebola. The vast majority of victims are in Guinea, where the current outbreak began. Officials have reported 168 cases in Guinea, including 108 deaths. Liberia has reported 13 deaths from the virus.

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Filipino male nurse tests positive for MERS virus in Philippines

Filipino male nurse tests positive for MERS virus in Philippines | Virology News | Scoop.it
A Filipino male nurse has been confirmed to be the first reported case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus in the Philippines, Health Secretary Enrique Ona announced Wednesday. The nurse, a friend of the Filipino paramedic who died from MERS last week in the United Arab Emirates, tested positive and has been quarantined along with nine other people who may have been exposed to the virus, Ona said.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

"Don't do that journey, pilgrim" could be the message here.

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Vials of deadly SARS virus 'go missing' in France

Vials of deadly SARS virus 'go missing' in France | Virology News | Scoop.it
Thousand of vials of the contagious respiratory disease SARS go missing from its high-security laboratory in France
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Must be the perfidious Albion...or plain incompetence?

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Are Bats Spreading Ebola Across Sub-Saharan Africa?

Are Bats Spreading Ebola Across Sub-Saharan Africa? | Virology News | Scoop.it

The first cases went unrecognized. Ebola had never been seen in Guinea before, so when people became ill with fever, muscle pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, health workers initially assumed Lassa fever or yellow fever—both endemic in the region—were to blame. No one put the pieces together until late March. By then, the virus had been spreading for months. Now, health workers are struggling to contain the outbreak, which has already killed more than 100 and has affected at least two neighboring countries. At the same time, scientists are combing the forests, and the genome of the virus itself, looking for clues to how this strain—well known in Central Africa—ended up so far west, and whether its spread suggests people in forested areas all across sub-Saharan Africa are at risk.

 

Ebola is not a complete stranger to West Africa. In the mid-1990s, two outbreaks hit chimpanzees in Taï National Park in the Ivory Coast, and one researcher studying the animals was infected. (She survived.) "We expected to find the Taï strain," says Sylvain Baize, a virologist at the Institut Pasteur in Lyon, France, who with his colleagues sequenced some of the first samples of the virus from Guinea. To their surprise, it turned out to be Ebola Zaire, the deadliest of the five known Ebola species.

 

"We have no idea how it's moved from Central Africa to Guinea," says primatologist Christophe Boesch of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. A leading suspect is fruit bats. In Central African rainforests, several species have shown evidence of infection with Ebola without getting sick. And at least one of the species, the little collared fruit bat, Myonycteris torquata, has a range that stretches as far west as Guinea. "We've always been very suspicious of bats," says William Karesh of EcoHealth Alliance in New York City, who studies the interactions among humans, animals, and infectious diseases.

 

Ebola virus graphic by Russell Kightley Media


Via Torben Barsballe
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Thanks Torben Barsballe!

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Brittany Ortiz's curator insight, November 11, 2014 2:56 PM

Something every country should take inconsideration. Its crazy to hear how many Ebola is sprading to different places in Africa. As in the article you can read how maybe they think it has spread to the expansion as it has spread today. Maybe we should start keeping a closer eye on bats.

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Lab-Grown Vaginas a Success, Years after Patient Implantation

Lab-Grown Vaginas a Success, Years after Patient Implantation | Virology News | Scoop.it
The first human recipients of lab-grown vaginas, after a number of annual followup evaluations, report normal sexual function, including desire and pain-free intercourse.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

I did say "and other things"....

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West Nile virus may have met its match: [antibodies produced in] tobacco

West Nile virus may have met its match: [antibodies produced in] tobacco | Virology News | Scoop.it

Some people think of tobacco as a drug, whereas others think of it as a therapy — or both. But for the most part, it's hard to find people who think of the tobacco plant in terms of its medical applications. Qiang Chen, an infectious disease researcher at Arizona State University, is one such person. His team of scientists conducted an experiment,published today in PLOS ONE, that demonstrates how a drug produced in tobacco plants can be used to prevent death in mice infected with a lethal dose of West Nile virus. The study represents an important first step in the development of a treatment for the mosquito-borne disease that has killed 400 people in the US within the last two years.

 

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Thanks to @Kenzibit.  Now I know Qiang "Shawn" Chen and the ASU crowd, and they're a smart bunch - and they're almost certainly using the same vector system we do.

Strange thing, that: using a plant virus-based vector system in tobacco to make monoclonal antibodies to combat an arbovirus.  Full-on molecular zoo!

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Evidence for subclinical H5N1 avian influenza infections among Nigerian poultry workers.

In recent years Nigeria has experienced sporadic incursions of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza among poultry. In 2008, 316 poultry-exposed agricultural workers, and 54 age-group matched non-poultry exposed adults living in the Enugu or Ebonyi States of Nigeria were enrolled and then contacted monthly for 24 months to identify acute influenza-like-illnesses. Annual follow-up sera and questionnaire data were collected at 12 and 24 months. Participants reporting influenza-like illness completed additional questionnaires, and provided nasal and pharyngeal swabs and acute and convalescent sera. Swab and sera specimens were studied for evidence of influenza A virus infection. Sera were examined for elevated antibodies against 12 avian influenza viruses by microneutralization and 3 human viruses by hemagglutination inhibition.


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Chris Upton + helpers's curator insight, April 2, 2014 6:14 PM

Could be worrisome...

 

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The Facts In The Case Of Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Or: How MMR Does NOT Cause Autism!

The Facts In The Case Of Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Or: How MMR Does NOT Cause Autism! | Virology News | Scoop.it
Ed Rybicki's insight:

EXCELLENT cartoon account of how Wakefield is a charlatan.  Thanks Alma Hromic!!

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Microsoft unveils iPad Office suite

Microsoft unveils iPad Office suite | Virology News | Scoop.it

Microsoft has started offering an iPad edition of its Office software suite.

It was announced at the first launch event hosted by Satya Nadella since he became chief executive of the firm.

Three separate productivity apps are available - Word, Excel and Powerpoint - each of which has been optimised for touch-based controls.

Within hours of the launch, Word became the most downloaded application for iPads in Apple's app store.

The Excel and Powerpoint apps were the third and fourth most popular free app downloads, respectively, in the store

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Oh, good: a new way to crash an iPad!!

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Why it’s worth spending a billion dollars a year to eradicate polio

Why it’s worth spending a billion dollars a year to eradicate polio | Virology News | Scoop.it
Tomorrow, the World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to officially certify that south-east Asia, formerly one of the regions with the worst levels of polio, has eradicated the disease, after India found new no cases in the previous three years. (The WHO counts India as part of south-east Asia.) To understand why that matters, read this heart-breaking profile of Rukhsar Khatoon, the...
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Exploiting bacteriophages for human health

Exploiting bacteriophages for human health | Virology News | Scoop.it
This short review is worth reading because it takes a thoughtful and holistic approach to the idea of phage therapy.

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Chris Upton + helpers's curator insight, March 27, 2014 11:51 AM

Via Alan Cann's excellent MicrobiologyBytes site

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Bat-eating ban to curb Ebola virus

Bat-eating ban to curb Ebola virus | Virology News | Scoop.it

"That'll be a bat and lagerGuinea has banned the sale and consumption of bats to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, its health minister has said.

Bats, a local delicacy, appeared to be the "main agents" for the Ebola outbreak in the south, Rene Lamah said.

Sixty-two people have now been killed by the virus in Guinea, with suspected cases reported in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ebola is spread by close contact. There is no known cure or vaccine.

It kills between 25% and 90% of victims, depending on the strain of the virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Symptoms include internal and external bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting.


People who eat the animals often boil them into a sort of spicy pepper soup, our correspondent says. The soup is sold in village stores where people gather to drink alcohol.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Different foods for different folks...."That'll be a bat soup and lager, please!"

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Michelo Simuyandi's curator insight, March 27, 2014 5:58 AM

An Alternative protein source needs to be found