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August 21, 2008, 9:31 PM CT

Malaria researchers identify new mosquito virus

Malaria researchers identify new mosquito virus
Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Malaria Research Institute have identified a previously unknown virus that is infectious to Anopheles gambiaethe mosquito primarily responsible for transmitting malaria. As per the researchers, the discovered virus could one day be used to pass on new genetic information to An. gambiae mosquitoes as part of a strategy to control malaria, which kills over one million people worldwide each year. The study was published August 22 online in the peer-evaluated open access journal PLoS Pathogens

The virus, AgDNV, is a densonucleosis virus or "densovirus," which are common to mosquitoes and other insects, but do not infect vertebrate animals such as humans. Eventhough the virus does not appear to harm the mosquitoes, the scientists determined it is highly infectious to mosquito larvae and is easily passed on to the adults.

As per Jason Rasgon, PhD, senior author of the study, the discovery came about serendipitously while the research team was conducting experiments to determine whether Wolbachia bacteria could be used to infect An. gambiae mosquito cells. During the analysis, Xiaoxia Ren, a postdoctoral fellow with Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, noticed an "artifact," that appeared as a prominent band in the gel used to detect the bacteria.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


August 21, 2008, 8:44 PM CT

New vaccine to fight multiple influenza strains

New vaccine to fight multiple influenza strains
A universal vaccine effective against several strains of influenza has passed its first phase of testing, as per Dr. Christine Turley of the University of Texas at Galveston.

Turley, who is director of clinical trials and clinical research at the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development at UTMB and the study's principal investigator, said that VaxInnate's M2e universal vaccine could possibly protect against seasonal and pandemic influenza strains.

"We'd characterize this influenza vaccine candidate as very promising, based upon the immune responses and tolerability we saw in the clinical trial participants," Turley said. "UTMB is committed to further studies of the vaccine candidate, which has the potential to be a safe, highly effective and much-needed option to prevent seasonal and pandemic influenza A."

The results of the study will be presented at the Oct.25-28 joint meeting of the Interscience Conference on Agents and Chemotherapy and the Infectious Disease Society of America (ICAAC/IDSA).

The study was supported by a $9.5 million grant awarded to UTMB by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The trial involved 60 young adults in a double-blind, dose-escalating, first time in human, Phase I study to assess the safety and immunogenicity, or the ability to produce a response in the immune system, of the vaccine.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


August 20, 2008, 8:21 PM CT

Childhood ear infections may predispose to obesity later in life

Childhood ear infections may predispose to obesity later in life
Scientists are reporting new evidence of a possible link between a history of moderate to severe middle ear infections in childhood and a tendency to be overweight during the later part of life. Their study suggests that prompt diagnosis and therapy of middle ear infections one of the most common childhood conditions requiring medical attention may help fight obesity in some people. The findings were presented today at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Study leader Linda M. Bartoshuk, Ph.D., noted that chronic, repeated ear infections can damage the chorda tympani nerve, which passes through the middle ear and controls taste sensations. Damage to this nerve appears to intensify the desire for fatty or high-energy foods, which could result in obesity, she said.

Other research has shown that middle ear infections, or otitis media, are becoming more common in children. Childhood obesity is likewise on the rise and has reached epidemic levels, especially in the United States. Eventhough researchers have known for years that ear infections can lead to hearing loss in children that can result in speech and language impairment, a possible link between ear infections and obesity has been largely unexplored until now, said Bartoshuk, who is with the University of Florida's Center for Smell and Taste in Gainesville.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


August 18, 2008, 8:52 PM CT

Chemical Liberated by Leaky Gut

Chemical Liberated by Leaky Gut
BBB breakdown: The slide at left, above, shows a brain section of a control
(non-HIV-infected) mouse following exposure to LPS. Proteins (stained
yellow) lining the BBB exhibit some breaks but are relatively uncompromised.
Slide at right shows a brain section of a transgenic mouse (systemically
infected with HIV) following exposure to LPS. Here the combination of HIV
infection and LPS exposure has severely fragmented the
proteins lining the BBB.
In up to 20 percent of people infected with HIV, the virus manages to escape from the bloodstream and cross into the brain, resulting in HIV-associated dementia and other cognitive disorders. Now, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found good evidence that a component of the cell walls of intestinal bacteria - a chemical present in high levels in the blood of HIV-infected people - helps HIV to penetrate the usually-impregnable blood brain barrier (BBB). The findings, reported in the recent issue of the Journal of Virology, could lead to strategies for preventing HIV from entering the brain and causing serious complications.

"Prior research has suggested that it's not individual HIV viruses that get into the brain but rather HIV-infected immune cells known as monocytes," says Dr. Harris Goldstein, director of the Einstein-Montefiore Medical Center for AIDS Research and senior author of the study. "Using an animal model, we wanted to find out first of all whether being infected with HIV enables monocytes to do what they don't commonly do - escape from blood vessels and enter brain tissue".

Overcoming HIV's inability to infect mice, Dr. Goldstein and colleagues had previously created a transgenic mouse line, HIV-TG mice, equipped with all the genes needed to make HIV - and that produces HIV in those cells, including monocytes and T cells, in which the virus multiplies in people. The HIV-TG mice were then bred with another transgenic mouse line, GFP-TG mice, containing the gene that codes for green fluorescent protein (GFP). The result: a double transgenic mouse line, HIV/GFP-TG mice, whose HIV-infected monocytes carried the GFP gene. This meant that the monocytes could be detected - either by looking for glowing green cells under the microscope or by using polymerase chain reaction, a sensitive genetic assay capable of detecting the DNA of the GFP gene.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 15, 2008, 9:22 PM CT

Gene signatures for scleroderma

Gene signatures for scleroderma
Distinct genetic profiles can discern different groups of patients with scleroderma, a vexing autoimmune disease in which the body turns against itself, Dartmouth Medical School scientists report. Their discovery of distinguishing molecular subtypes within the disease offers new insight into the complexity of a poorly understood and hard to treat illness and opens a window for better diagnosis and targeted therapies.

Scleroderma is a chronic connective tissue disorder that can cause skin hardening and internal organ dysfunction and affects four times as a number of women as men. It captures a range of related conditions, from mild, localized to the skin, to systemic and life threatening.

Patient complications are variable and hard to predict, explains Dr. Michael Whitfield, assistant professor of genetics at DMS, who headed the research team. "We show that we can divide the patients even more finely than what is currently done clinically, and found a clear association between disease severity and gene expression. " The results were published online, July 16 in PLoS ONE, an open-access journal of the Public Library of Science.

"We show for the first time that we can classify patients with a systemic autoimmune disease into different groups by gene expression patterns alone," says Whitfield "Now that we have discovered new subsets at the molecular level, we can begin to map the genetic pathways to see if we can we use these signatures to predict who will progress to different clinical endpoints." The scientists hope to begin to understand which patients should be treated aggressively, for example, and which drugs benefit which patients.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 15, 2008, 9:20 PM CT

Pinpointing Achilles Heel of HIV

Pinpointing Achilles Heel of HIV
Scientists in UT Houston laboratory of Sudhir Paul, Ph.D., may have uncovered a chink the armor of the deadly HIV virus. Pictured from left to right are: Paul, Yasuhiro Nishiyama, Ph.D., and Stephanie Planque.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) scientists at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston believe they have uncovered the Achilles heel in the armor of the virus that continues to kill millions.

The weak spot is hidden in the HIV envelope protein gp120. This protein is essential for HIV attachment to host cells, which initiate infection and eventually lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS. Normally the body's immune defenses can ward off viruses by making proteins called antibodies that bind the virus. However, HIV is a constantly changing and mutating virus, and the antibodies produced after infection do not control disease progression to AIDS. For the same reason, no HIV preventative vaccine that stimulates production of protective antibodies is available.

The Achilles heel, a tiny stretch of amino acids numbered 421-433 on gp120, is now under study as a target for therapeutic intervention. Sudhir Paul, Ph.D., pathology professor in the UT Medical School, said, "Unlike the changeable regions of its envelope, HIV needs at least one region that must remain constant to attach to cells. If this region changes, HIV cannot infect cells. Equally important, HIV does not want this constant region to provoke the body's defense system. So, HIV uses the same constant cellular attachment site to silence B lymphocytes - the antibody producing cells. The result is that the body is fooled into making abundant antibodies to the changeable regions of HIV but not to its cellular attachment site. Immunologists call such regions superantigens. HIV's cleverness is unmatched. No other virus uses this trick to evade the body's defenses".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 10, 2008, 8:43 PM CT

New discovery could lead to an improved influenza vaccine

New discovery could lead to an improved influenza vaccine
Improving health through medical research.
Findings just reported in the scientific journal Immunity by scientists at the Trudeau Institute shed new light on how a previously-unknown messaging mechanism within the human immune system prompts specific influenza-fighting cells to the lung airways during an infection.

Infections from the influenza virus are responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and as a number of as 40,000 deaths in the United States each year. Eventhough scientists have known for some time that white blood cells congregating in the lung and directly attacking the virus play an important role in defending against influenza, it has never been clear how exactly these white blood cells know when they are mandatory in the lung.

Now new research in the Trudeau Institute laboratory of Dr. David Woodland offers important insights into the navigational aids used by these cells as they maneuver through the human body. Trudeau researchers have shown that lungs which have been infected with the influenza virus produce a series of chemicals, or chemokines, which act as beacons for specific types of white blood cells. While circulating in the bloodstream, these white blood cells recognize the chemical messages signaling the presence of the virus and the need for them to move into lung tissues.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 8, 2008, 8:28 PM CT

How the malaria parasite hijacks human red blood cells

How the malaria parasite hijacks human red blood cells
A new studydone on a scale an order of magnitude greater than anything previously attempted in the field of malariahas uncovered an arsenal of proteins produced by the malaria parasite that allows it to hijack and remodel human red blood cells, leaving the oxygen-carrying cells stiff and sticky. Those effects on the blood cells play a major role in the development of malaria, a disease responsible for millions of deaths every year, the scientists report in the July 11th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication.

" It's a nice piece of biology revealing how the parasite survives in and totally changes red blood cells," said Alan Cowman of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia. Now that those players have been found, "there may be some way of inhibiting these processes by drugs or possibly a live vaccine".

Plasmodium falciparum causes the most severe form of malaria in humans with one to three million deaths annually, the scientists said. Once in the blood, multiplication of the parasite inside red blood cells (also known as erythrocytes) is responsible for its severity and mortality linked to the disease. After the parasite invades, the red cells undergo profound structural and morphological changes, dramatically altering their physical properties and impairing circulation. In contrast to normal red blood cells, parasitized cells are rigid and adhere to the lining of the blood vessels and other cell types.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 3, 2008, 9:09 PM CT

Malaria on the increase in the UK

Malaria on the increase in the UK
Plasmodium (malarial parasite)
A huge rise in the numbers of UK residents travelling to malaria endemic areas, combined with a failure to use prevention measures, has significantly increased cases of imported falciparum malaria in the UK over the past 20 years, as per a research studypublished on BMJ.com.

Between 1987�� there were 5120 reported cases of the potentially fatal faliciparum malaria, increasing to 6753 in 2002��. These findings highlight the urgent need for health messages and services targeted at travellers from migrant groups visiting friends and family abroad, say the authors.

Malaria acquired in one of the 150 countries where it is endemic and then imported into non-endemic countries accounts for a significant proportion of largely preventable disease and death in Europe every year.

Dr Adrian Smith and his colleagues from the Health Protection Agency's Malaria Reference Laboratory, present the latest trends in malaria in the UK between 1987 and 2006, using data from the Malaria Reference Laboratory, involving 39 300 confirmed cases of malaria.

64.5% of 20 488 malaria cases amongst UK travellers had visited friends and relatives in malaria endemic countries. This is reflected by the huge increase in the number of UK residents travelling to malaria endemic areasfrom 593 000 visits in 1987 to 2.6 million visits in 2004.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 2, 2008, 10:24 PM CT

MRSA carrier state increases risk of infection

MRSA carrier state increases risk of infection
Credit University of Iowa
Patients harboring methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) for long periods of time continue to be at increased risk of MRSA infection and death, as per a new study in the July 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, currently available online.

MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacterium that can cause a variety of serious infections. The bacterium most usually colonizes the nostrils, eventhough it can be found in other body sites. Most research has focused on people who are newly colonized by the bacteria and has observed that they are at substantial risk of subsequent infections. The new study shows that the increased risk of infection continues, with almost a quarter of MRSA-colonized patients developing infections after a year or more has passed since the colonization was confirmed. The infections include pneumonia and bloodstream events, and some infections were associated with deaths.

"Since infection risk remains substantial among long-term carriers of MRSA, these patients should be targeted for interventions to reduce subsequent risk of infection along with patients who newly acquire MRSA," said author Susan Huang, MD, MPH.

The scientists built on their prior work in this area, which showed that one-third of new MRSA carriers in a large tertiary care medical center developed infections within the year following the first detection of colonization. But, as, Dr. Huang points out, "risks beyond the first year of carriage were largely unknown".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source



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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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