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Archives Of Infectious Disease Blog From Medicineworld.Org


May 24, 2009, 8:41 PM CT

How superbugs control their lethal weapons

How superbugs control their lethal weapons
It appears that some superbugs have evolved to develop the ability to manipulate the immune system to everyone's advantage.

A team of scientists at The University of Western Ontario, led by Joaquin (Quim) Madrenas of the Robarts Research Institute, has discovered some processes that reduce the lethal effects of toxins from superbugs, allowing humans and microbes to co-evolve. This discovery may lead to novel alternatives to antibiotics that specifically target the toxic effects of these superbugs. The findings are being reported in the journal Nature Medicine and are available online today.

Madrenas holds a Canada Research Chair in Immunobiology and is a Professor of Microbiology & Immunology, and Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western. He also is head of Immunology at Robarts Research Institute and Director of the FOCIS Centre for Clinical Immunology and Immunotherapeutics.

Staphylococcus (staph) aureus is the leading cause of infections in hospitals and the second most common cause of infections in the general population. By itself, it is associated with more than half a million hospital admissions a year in North America with estimated costs of more than $6 billion per year. Among the a number of weapons produced by this superbug, the most potent and lethal ones are known as superantigens. These lethal weapons cause massive and harmful activation of the immune system that leads to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a very serious disease that carries a high mortality, for which we do not have a specific therapy.........

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May 20, 2009, 6:33 PM CT

Masks Effective in Influenza Prevention

Masks Effective in Influenza Prevention
A new article in the journal Risk Analysis assessed various ways in which aerosol transmission of the flu, a central mode of diffusion which involves breathing droplets in the air, can be reduced. Results show that face protection is a key infection control measure for influenza and can thus affect how people should try to protect themselves from the swine flu.

Lawrence M. Wein, Ph.D., and Michael P. Atkinson of Stanford University constructed a mathematical model of aerosol transmission of the flu to explore infection control measures in the home.

Their model predicted that the use of face protection including N95 respirators (these fit tight around the face and are often worn by construction workers) and surgical masks (these fit looser around the face and are often worn by dental hygienists) are effective in preventing the flu. The filters in surgical masks keep out 98 percent of the virus. Also, only 30 percent of the benefits of the respirators and masks are achieved if they are used only after an infected person develops symptoms.

"Our research aids in the understanding of the efficacy of infection control measures for influenza, and provides a framework about the routes of transmission," the authors conclude.

This timely article has the potential to impact current efforts and recommendations to control the so-called swine flu by international, national and local governments in perspective.........

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May 20, 2009, 6:28 PM CT

How influenza virus to evade the body's immune response

How influenza virus to evade the body's immune response
Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) have identified a critical molecular mechanism that allows the influenza virus to evade the body's immune response system.

The study would be reported in the May 21 issue of the journal Cell Host & Microbe

"We have found a mechanism that the influenza virus uses to inhibit the body's immune response that emphasizes the vital role of a certain protein in defending against viruses,"," says Jae Jung, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and the principal investigator of the study. "Along with our prior studies (Nature 2007 and PNAS 2008), this finding could provide scientists with the information needed to create a new drug to enhance immunity and block influenza virus infection and replication".

Several specific intracellular receptors are responsible for detecting the virus and activating the body's defensive mechanisms. When a virus' RNA enters the intracellular fluid, a receptor known as retinoic-acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) detects it and triggers a response that limits virus replication and calls the body's defenses into action. RIG-I acts as the sensor and security force against attacks, Jung explains. Then, a protein known as TRIM25 helps RIG-I transmit an alarm signal, which ultimately floods the cell and surrounding tissue with antiviral interferons.........

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May 20, 2009, 5:14 AM CT

Clues to HIV

Clues to HIV
Rice University's Andrew Barron and his group, working with labs in Italy, Gera number of and Greece, have identified specific molecules that could block the means by which the deadly virus spreads by taking away its ability to bind with other proteins.

Using computer simulations, scientists tested more than 100 carbon fullerene, or C-60, derivatives initially developed at Rice for other purposes to see if they could be used to inhibit a strain of the virus, HIV-1 PR, by attaching themselves to its binding pocket.

"There are a lot of people doing this kind of research, but it tends to be one group or one pharmaceutical company taking a shotgun approach -- make a molecule and try it out, then make another molecule and try it out," said Barron, Rice's Charles W. Duncan Jr.-Welch Professor of Chemistry and professor of materials science. "This is interesting because we're tackling an important problem in a very rational way".

The groups reported their findings in a paper published on the American Chemical Society's Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling Web site last week.

Their method of modeling ways to attack HIV may not be unique, but their collaboration is. Research groups from five institutions -- two in Greece, one in Gera number of, one in Italy and Barron's group at Rice -- came together through e-mail contacts and conversations over a number of months, each working on facets of the problem. "Not all the groups have ever met in person," Barron said. Most remarkable, he said, is that their research to date has been completely unfunded.........

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May 20, 2009, 5:09 AM CT

A new way of treating the flu

A new way of treating the flu
Dr. Robert Linhardt's new compound (green spheres) blocks both the N (pink spikes) and H (blue spikes) portion of the flu virus. The compound prevents the infection of the cell and the spread of the flu to other cell like no other compound before.

Credit: Melissa Kemp/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

What happens if the next big influenza mutation proves resistant to the available anti-viral drugs? This question is presenting itself right now to researchers and health officials this week at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, as they continue to do battle with H1N1, the so-called swine flu, and prepare for the next iteration of the ever-changing flu virus.

Promising new research announced by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute could provide an entirely new tool to combat the flu. The discovery is a one-two punch against the illness that targets the illness on two fronts, going one critical step further than any currently available flu drug.

"We have been fortunate with H1N1 because it has been responding well to available drugs. But if the virus mutates substantially, the currently available drugs might be ineffective because they only target one portion of the virus," said Robert Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. '59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer. "By targeting both portions of the virus, the H and the N, we can interfere with both the initial attachment to the cell that is being infected and the release of the budding virus from the cell that has been affected".

The findings of the team, which have broad implications for future flu drugs, will be featured on the cover of the June edition of European Journal of Organic Chemistry........

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May 13, 2009, 5:06 AM CT

Better vaccines

Better vaccines
A team of Princeton University researchers may have found a better way to make a vaccine against the flu virus.

Though theoretical, the work points to the critical importance of what has been a poorly appreciated aspect of the interaction between a virus and those naturally produced defensive proteins called antibodies that fight infection. By manipulating this multi-stage interactive process -- known as antibody interference -- to advantage, the researchers believe it appears to be possible to design more powerful vaccines than exist today.

The findings are described in the May 11 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We have proposed that antibody interference plays a major role in determining the effectiveness of the antibody response to a viral infection," said Ned Wingreen, a professor of molecular biology and a member of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics. "And we think that in order to get a more powerful vaccine, people are going to want one that minimizes this interference".

Other authors on the paper include Simon Levin, the George M. Moffett Professor of Biology, and Wilfred Ndifon, a graduate student in Levin's lab and first author on the paper.

When a virus like influenza attacks a human, the body mounts a defense, producing antibodies custom-designed to attach themselves to the virus, blocking it from action and effectively neutralizing its harmful effects on the body.........

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May 5, 2009, 8:36 PM CT

Flu pandemic in prison

Flu pandemic in prison
Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC (May 5, 2009) When pandemics occur, correctional facilities are not immune. With more than 9 million people incarcerated across the globe 2.25 million in U.S. jails and prisons alone it is vital that correctional officials and health professionals be prepared for a worst-case scenario that involves pandemic influenza reaching inmates and staff.

With collaborative planning and training, prison and public health officials can help control influenza outbreaks behind bars, as per an article in the recent issue of the Journal of Correctional Health Care (published by SAGE).

A two-day conference on prison pandemic preparedness held in Georgia in 2007 could serve as a model for such training. Administrators, medical doctors, registered nurses, doctor assistants, and pharmacists were among the participants, as well as state and local public health officials.

The objectives were to educate participants about pandemic flu issues in prison settings, provide impetus for initial planning in Georgia's prisons, and elicit ideas about how the prisons could best prepare for and respond to pandemic flu. Topics included nonpharmaceutical interventions, health care surge capacity, and prison-community interfaces.........

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April 30, 2009, 9:33 PM CT

Promise against resistant staph infections

Promise against resistant staph infections
Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have combined their revolutionary new drug-delivery system with a powerful antimicrobial agent to treat potentially deadly drug-resistant staph infections in mice. The study is published this month in the online version of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria cause the majority of superficial and invasive skin infections, resulting in more than 11 million outpatient/emergency room visits and 464,000 hospital admissions annually in the U.S. Staph are also notorious for infecting patients while they're in the hospital for other reasons. Staph infections can be deadly if the bacteria invade the bloodstream, heart, lungs, or urinary tract. As more strains of staph become resistant to common antibiotics, the need for new therapys has become urgent.

The drug-delivery system, developed by Einstein scientists, consists of biocompatible nanoparticles each smaller than a grain of pollen that can carry tiny payloads of various drugs or other medically useful substances and release them in a controlled and sustained manner. In this study, the nanoparticles were designed to transport and slowly release nitric oxide (NO) gas.

The nanoparticle technology was developed by Joel M. Friedman, M.D., Ph.D., professor of physiology & biophysics and of medicine at Einstein, and his son, Adam Friedman, M.D., an incoming chief resident in the division of dermatology at Einstein. The Friedmans were co-senior authors of the study along with Joshua D. Nosanchuck, M.D., associate professor in the departments of medicine and microbiology & immunology at Einstein.........

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April 28, 2009, 5:13 AM CT

A pandemic flu in making?

A pandemic flu in making?
New research published recently (Monday April 27) from the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust warns of a six-month time lag before effective vaccines can be manufactured in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak.

By that time, the first wave of pandemic flu appears to be over before people are vaccinated, says Dr Iain Stephenson, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Leicester.

In his paper published in PNAS- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA- Dr Stephenson makes the first case for a pre-pandemic vaccine to mitigate the worst effects of pandemic flu.

He said: "This study is the first to show an effective pre-pandemic vaccine approach. This means that we could vaccinate people potentially a number of years before a pandemic, to generate memory cells that are long lasting and can be rapidly boosted by a single dose of vaccine when needed".

Dr Stephenson, of the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Leicester, said: "If an influenza pandemic occurs, vaccination will to be the main way to protect the population. The major current threat seems to be from avian influenza H5N1 (bird flu) which has spread rapidly around the world and causes human infections and deaths.........

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April 24, 2009, 4:57 AM CT

New guidance on malaria elimination

New guidance on malaria elimination
Countries and policy leaders gain new guidance today on how and when to eliminate malaria, paving the way for the potential global eradication of the deadly disease. The announcement is being made on behalf of the Malaria Elimination Group, a global body of researchers, policy experts and country program managers, by the Global Health Group of UCSF Global Health Sciences.

"The international community has provided relatively little guidance to countries on elimination to date. The documents published recently are intended to change that," said Sir Richard Feachem, KBE, DSc(Med), PhD, director of the Global Health Group, and chair of the Malaria Elimination Group.

"Much of the world's attention has rightly focused on controlling malaria and reducing deaths caused by the disease," Feachem said. "However, 39 countries around the world have embarked on the next step of elimination in the pursuit of eventual global eradication. They deserve our full support and encouragement".

Feachem will officially announce the release of two publications, Shrinking the Malaria Map: A Prospectus on Malaria Elimination, and its companion, Shrinking the Malaria Map: A Guide on Malaria Elimination for Policy Makers, during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, jointly sponsored with the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership to commemorate World Malaria Day 2009.........

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Did you know?
Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have found a genetic marker that may identify individuals at greater risk for life-threatening infection from the West Nile virus. Results of the study are reported in the Nov. 15 print edition of Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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