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August 1, 2007, 8:41 PM CT

Taming the anthrax threat

Taming the anthrax threat
Shown here is an electron micrograph of a Bacillus anthracis spore, magnified 92,000 times.
Credit: University of Michigan/ Journal of Bacteriology
In the American governments biodefense efforts, the potential for terrorists to cause a deadly anthrax outbreak remains a significant concern, six years after the letter attacks that shook the nation shortly after 9/11.

Now, scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School have developed the first complete picture of how anthrax-causing bacteria survive and grow inside unwitting immune cells their supposed attackers during the crucial first moments of anthrax infection. They have also identified gene candidates to pursue as possible anthrax drug targets. They say the methods they used to detect the microbes activities should become important new tools for other researchers.

Ultimately, the goal in this and other related research is to discover more effective, more easily tolerated therapys than those available now if an anthrax attack occurs, says U-M scientist Nicholas H. Bergman, Ph.D., the lead author of the study, which appears in the July edition of Infection and Immunity. Drugs given to people within a day of exposure, before symptoms develop, can prevent illness and death.

In mouse studies using DNA microarray technology, the U-M researchers were able to track which genes and enzymes play key roles in the bacterium that causes anthrax, while it sneaks inside the immune systems first-responder cells in the lungs, called macrophages, and begins to multiply. The work is a significant advance because it will make it much easier to identify precise new targets for better anthrax drugs and vaccines, says Bergman, a research assistant professor of Bioinformatics at the U-M Medical School.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 23, 2007, 3:18 PM CT

New Method To Combat HIV

New Method To Combat HIV
Scientists at the University of Minnesotas Center for Drug Design have developed a new method to combat HIV/AIDS, potentially replacing the traditional cocktail drug approach.

The new approach proven accurate in lab tests merges the features of two antiviral agents into one drug, achieving the same effect as when two or more drugs are taken separately. The cocktail approach most usually prescribed to HIV-infected patients is expensive and high in toxicity because a number of drugs are taken at one time.

The scientists named the new concept Portmanteau Inhibitors, and the results were published in a July 4 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The principal researcher is Robert Vince, Ph.D., director of the center and a professor of medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy.

Its one drug that does the same thing as two independent drugs would do, Vince said. Its a new approach in HIV/AIDS therapy.

Besides remedying cost and toxicity problems, a Portmanteau Inhibitor is less likely to develop resistance from the virus because of its multifaceted approach. Most importantly, research observed that the separate components of the drug did not interfere with each other while attacking HIV.

One drug is not durable. It develops resistance very quickly, said Zhenqiang Wang, Ph.D., a researcher in the Center for Drug Design, and co-investigator of the research. This makes it much more difficult for resistance to develop.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 19, 2007, 10:35 PM CT

Genes Which Battle Hepatitis C

Genes Which Battle Hepatitis C
Joint research by Dr. Leonid Brodsky, of the Institute of Evolution of the University of Haifa, and Dr. Milton Taylor, of Indiana University, led to the discovery of a mathematical method which can identify which genes in our bodies conduct the battle against the various viruses that attack us. In their research, they identified 37 genes out of 22,000 possible genes which fight the hepatitis C virus.

"When we know which genes are responsible for fighting the viruses which attack our liver, we will be able to look for the medications which will activate these genes most favorably," said Dr. Brodsky. The team conducted clinical trials, supported by the Health National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), which included 400 patients at eight different centers in the United States. The results would be reported in the prestigious journal PLOS ONE.

The hepatitis C virus, found mostly among a number of patients who have had a blood transfusion or who share needles, attacks the liver and in extreme cases can cause cancer of the liver. At present, there is one well know medication, interferon, used to treat the virus; however, while some patients respond to the therapy with interferon, others do not. In this research, the clinical study was combined with the mathematical model developed by Dr. Brodsky. The study identified 37 genes which are key for patient response to therapy.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


July 19, 2007, 9:41 PM CT

Probing biology's dark matter

Probing biology's dark matter
Image courtesy of Tenafly Public Schools
A typical human mouth teems with as many as 700 different species of microbes. A handful of these have been specifically implicated in promoting gum disease, dental cavities, and bad breath, but for the most part, the make-up of this complex ecosystem and its impact on human health remain largely unexplored. A new device created by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers, however, may make some of the most reclusive members of this and other microscopic communities much more accessible for laboratory study.

The vast majority of microbes are notoriously resistant to growing in laboratory cultures because they are so intricately linked to their own unique ecosystems. Microbiologists have coaxed less than one percent of the bacterial species that inhabit natural environments into growing in culture. But a microfluidics device created by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Stephen R. Quake and colleagues at Stanford University an intricate system of miniscule valves and chambers -- may help scientists who want to identify and characterize new microbes circumvent the need to culture them at all.

Research on the device published in the July 9, 2007, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has far-reaching implications for the rapidly developing field of microbial ecology, as well as advancing microfluidics technologies, which could do for biology what silicon chips did for electronics. Quake and his colleagues have already used the device to analyze a rare bacteria found in the human mouth, using just a single cell.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 17, 2007, 10:43 PM CT

Vitamin C offers little protection against colds

Vitamin C offers little protection against colds
Vitamin C containg food
Unless you run marathons, you probably wont get much protection from common colds by taking a daily supplemental dose of vitamin C, as per an updated review of 30 studies.

Conducted over several decades and including more than 11,000 people who took daily doses of at least 200 milligrams, the review also shows that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) does little to reduce the length or severity of a cold, as per the scientists at the Australian National University and the University of Helsinki.

However, they observed that people exposed to periods of high stress such as marathon runners, skiers and soldiers on sub-arctic exercises were 50 percent less likely to catch a cold if they took a daily dose of vitamin C.

For most people, the benefit of the popular remedy is so slight when it comes to colds that it is not worth the effort or expense, the authors say. It doesnt make sense to take vitamin C 365 days a year to lessen the chance of catching a cold, said co-author Harri Hemil, a professor in the Department of Public Health at University of Helsinki in Finland.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 17, 2007, 10:29 PM CT

Universal flu vaccine being tested

Universal flu vaccine being tested
Ghent, Belgium -- A universal influenza vaccine that has been pioneered by scientists from VIB and Ghent University is being tested for the first time on humans by the British-American biotech company Acambis. This vaccine is intended to provide protection against all A strains of the virus that causes human influenza, including pandemic strains.

Flu

Influenza is an acute infection of the bronchial tubes and is caused by the influenza virus. Flu is probably one of the most underestimated diseases: it is highly contagious and causes people to feel deathly ill. An average of 5% of the worlds population is annually infected with this virus. This leads to 3 to 5 million hospitalizations and 250,000 to 500,000 deaths per year. In Belgium, an average of 1500 people die of flu each year. A more severe flu year - such as the winter of 1989-1990 - claimed in our country 4500 victims.

Besides the annual flu epidemics, there is the possibility of a pandemic, which occurs every 10 to 30 years and causes more severe disease symptoms and a higher mortality rate. During the pandemic caused by the Spanish flu in 1918-1919, the number of deaths worldwide even rose to over 50 million.

Why an annual vaccine?

Todays flu vaccines need to be adapted every year and, consequently, they must also be administered again every year. The external structure of the flu virus mutates regularly, giving rise to new strains of flu. Due to these frequent mutations, the virus is able to elude the antibodies that have been built up during a prior infection or vaccination. This is why we run the risk of catching the flu each year and also why a new flu vaccine must be developed each year. A universal flu vaccine that provides broad and lifelong protection - like the vaccines we have for polio, hepatitis B or measles - is still not available.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 15, 2007, 9:18 PM CT

Mechanism To Emergence Of Deadly Strep Bacteria

Mechanism To Emergence Of Deadly Strep Bacteria
The occurence rate of serious strep infections has risen dramatically in the last three decades, and this increase is largely attributed to the spread around the globe of a single strain of strep known as the invasive M1T1 clone. Scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine and the University of Wollongong in Australia have discovered that, 30 years ago, a virus infected the strep bacteria creating a deadly strain of flesh-eating bacteria that has evolved to produce serious human infections worldwide.

Just like a computer virus might come in and reprogram your hard drive, this virus reprogrammed the genetic machinery of the M1T1 strep into a more virulent form, said senior author Victor Nizet, M.D., UCSD Professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacy. The consequences of this event on human health are still being felt three decades later.

The research, published in the July 15 advance online publication of the journal Nature Medicine, focuses on the major human pathogen group A Streptococcus (strep.) Among the most important of all human infectious disease agents, strep is responsible for a wide range of diseases, ranging from simple throat and skin infections to life-threatening invasive conditions such as necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and toxic shock syndrome. Strep is estimated to cause over 700 million infections each year; over 650,000 of these are dangerous invasive forms.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 2, 2007, 10:02 PM CT

More Swimmers Means More Pathogens in the Water

More Swimmers Means More Pathogens in the Water
The levels of potentially harmful waterborne microorganisms in rivers, lakes and other recreational waterways may be highest when the water is most crowded with swimmers. Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health completed two studies at the Hammerman beach area along Maryland's Gunpowder River that linked the number of swimmers using the water with the levels of microsporidian spores and the parasites Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia. The studies were made available online in advance of publication in the scientific journals Applied and Environmental Microbiology and Water Research.

Exposure to microorganisms like C. parvum and G. lamblia can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. They can be especially harmful to people with compromised immunity.

"Our research suggests it would be best to test the water when the beach is active to determine if it is safe for recreational use," said Thaddeus K. Graczyk, PhD, co-author of both studies and associate professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of Environmental Health Sciences and Center for Water and Health. As per Graczyk, health officials typically conduct water sampling when there is little human activity.

For both studies, scientists sampled the water at the Hammerman area for 11 weeks during the summer of 2006. Samples were taken on Wednesdays, when beach activity was typically low, and on Saturdays, when activity was commonly high. The scientists also counted the number of swimmers in the water at the time the water was sampled.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 2, 2007, 10:01 AM CT

Interferon Treatment For Hepatitis C

Interferon Treatment For Hepatitis C
A new study on predicting outcomes of standard therapy for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection observed that many factors impacted responses, including the form of the interferon given. However, for some genotypes of the disease, few of these factors play a role.

The results of this study appear in the July 2007 issue of Hepatology, the official journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hepatology is available online via Wiley InterScience at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/hepatology.

Over three million people in the U.S. have chronic HCV infection, which accounts for approximately 40 percent of all chronic liver disease and is the most frequent indication for liver transplants. The current standard of care for HCV is the combination of pegylated interferon alfa (PEG-INF) and ribavarin, but this therapy can be difficult to tolerate. A number of patients have side effects that include fatigue, flu-like symptoms, depression, fever and anemia. These can be severe enough to cause these patients to discontinue therapy.

Led by Lisa I. Backus, of the Center for Quality Management in Public Health located at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in Palo Alto, CA, scientists conducted a large retrospective study to analyze predictors of sustained virologic response (SVR), or undetectable virus in the blood six months after finishing therapy. For this study, the scientists used a time frame of three months or later to determine an SVR, because a prior study showed that 98 percent of relapses occur within three months of stopping therapy. The study included 5,944 predominantly male patients receiving care at VA medical facilities.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


June 19, 2007, 5:04 AM CT

Bacterial pneumonia patients at increased risk of major heart problems

Bacterial pneumonia patients at increased risk of major heart problems
A new study suggests patients hospitalized with pneumonia may be at serious risk of new or worsening heart problems. The study is reported in the July 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, currently available online.

Scientists led by Daniel Musher, MD, studied the records of all 170 patients hospitalized with pneumococcal pneumonia at a Texas Veterans Affairs medical center from 2001 to 2005. They observed that 19.4 percent of them had a heart attack or other major heart problem concurrently at the time of admission, and that the presence of the heart condition significantly increased mortality from pneumonia.

In this study, the authors note, when adult patients were hospitalized with a diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia, the concurrence of pneumonia and a new cardiac event was often unrecognized, particularly in the first 12-24 hours of hospitalization, which led some patients to go without antibiotics for pneumonia and others to have no cardiac monitoring or anticoagulant treatment.

The authors propose that pneumonia increases the risk of heart problems by increasing the hearts demand for oxygen while simultaneously causing a decrease in the lungs ability to transfer oxygen from the air to the blood. Also, pneumonia raises blood levels of a type of a chemical signal called a cytokine that promotes the formation of blood clots and that decreases the efficiency of the heart.........

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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