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June 11, 2008, 9:00 PM CT

Montana still threatened by West Nile

Montana still threatened by West Nile
West Nile virus is apparently here to stay despite Montana's cool, wet spring, says Montana State University entomologist Greg Johnson.

Urging Montanans to protect themselves with repellents, Johnson said the mosquitoes that carry the virus are sure to emerge when temperatures reach the 70s and 80s. Infection rates and deaths may not always be as high as they were in 2003 and 2007, but Montanans should be aware of the threat.

"Regardless of whether it's a wet or dry year, we still need to think about mosquitoes and West Nile virus," Johnson said.

Elton Mosher, disease surveillance specialist with the Montana Department of Public Health, said West Nile virus infected 202 Montanans last year and killed five people. They were from Cascade County, Chouteau County, Dawson County, Sheridan County and Yellowstone County. Last summer was Montana's second highest season on record for the number of people affected by West Nile, Mosher said. First was 2003 when 226 Montanans were infected and four people died.

This summer could be another busy season if the rain continues and temperatures rise as expected, Mosher said.

Johnson, now in his sixth summer of a statewide study of West Nile virus, said the Culex tarsalis mosquito is the primary species that transmits West Nile virus in Montana. The mosquito likes river drainages, extensive wetlands and areas irrigated for agriculture. Hot spots in the state are the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Montana, the Yellowstone River and the Milk River. More infected mosquitoes have been found in eastern Montana than western.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


June 11, 2008, 8:21 PM CT

Efficacy of travelers' diarrhea vaccine

Efficacy of travelers' diarrhea vaccine
Areas of risk for travellers' diarrhea
Scientists at The University of Texas School of Public Health have observed that patients given a travelers' diarrhea vaccine were significantly less likely to suffer from clinically significant diarrhea than those who received placebo, as per a research studypublished in this week's edition of the Lancet The patch-based vaccine is part of the Phase 2 study in conjunction with the Iomai Corporation.

The study, which followed 170 healthy travelers ages 18-64 to Mexico and Guatemala, observed that of the 59 individuals who received the novel vaccine, only three suffered from moderate or severe diarrhea, while roughly two dozen of the 111 who received a placebo suffered from moderate or severe diarrhea. Only one of the 59 volunteers in the vaccine group reported severe diarrhea, compared with 12 in the placebo group.

"These results suggest that the Iomai patch has the potential to fundamentally change the way we approach prevention of this disease, an ailment against which we now have very few weapons," said Herbert L. DuPont, M.D., professor and director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at The University of Texas School of Public Health and the principal investigator of the trial. "If these results are replicated, the Iomai vaccine will have the potential to not only mitigate a disease that sickens millions each year but also keep some patients from going on to develop the chronic symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


June 8, 2008, 8:41 PM CT

New pathogen from pigs' stomach ulcers

New pathogen from pigs' stomach ulcers
Researchers have isolated a new bacterium in pigs' stomachs thanks to a pioneering technique, offering hope of new therapys to people who suffer with stomach ulcers, as per research reported in the recent issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

The bacterium that usually causes stomach ulcers in humans is called Helicobacter pylori. Extensive research has been carried out on this bacterium and the two researchers who discovered it were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 2005. However, in a small percentage of biopsies a similar but previously unidentified bacterium is present. Numerous research papers have described failed attempts to culture this microbe in the laboratory since it was first observed in 1990. Now, researchers from Belgium have succeeded.

"We have developed a new method to cultivate these bacteria and can now study their main characteristics and virulence properties," said Professor Dr Freddy Haesebrouck from Gent University in Belgium. The scientists had to recreate aspects of the bacterium's natural habitat, the stomach. They used acid, which kills other microbes but is needed for these bacteria to grow. Charcoal was used to remove substances that are toxic to the stomach bacterium. Genetic analysis revealed that it is a new species correlation to the common stomach ulcer bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Its name, Helicobacter suis, comes from the Latin for "of the pig".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


June 3, 2008, 10:10 PM CT

Researchers find human virus in chimpanzees

Researchers find human virus in chimpanzees
Jatinder Singh, a member of Taranjit kaur's research team, is engaged in field observations.
After studying chimpanzees in the wilds of Tanzania's Mahale Mountains National Park for the past year as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, Virginia Tech researcher Dr. Taranjit Kaur and her team have produced powerful scientific evidence that chimpanzees are becoming sick from viral infectious diseases they have likely contracted from humans.

In an article would be reported in the August issue (available on-line in June) of the American Journal of Primatology featuring a special section on "Disease Transmission, Ecosystems Health and Great Apes Research," Dr. Kaur, an assistant professor in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at Virginia Tech, will report the results of extensive field studies conducted in the jungles of Africa.

The journal article will present data from molecular, microscopic and epidemiological investigations that demonstrate how the chimpanzees living at Mahale Mountains National Park have been suffering from a respiratory disease that is likely caused by a variant of a human paramyxovirus.

The work complements and validates work published in a recent edition of Current Biology by researchers from European research institutes that describes evidence of human viruses in deceased chimpanzees found in West Africa's Ta Forest.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


May 19, 2008, 6:36 PM CT

Tracking influenza's every movement

Tracking influenza's every movement
Its the case of the missing flu virus. When the flu isnt making people sick, it seems to just vanish. Yet, every year, everywhere on Earth, it reappears in the appropriate season and starts its attack. So where does it go when it disappears? Does it hibernate, lying dormant in a few people and preparing for its next onslaught? Does it bounce around from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern hemisphere and back, following the seasons?.

Neither, it turns out. The viruss breeding grounds are in Asia, a crew of virus-hunters has found, and it then teems out to take over the world anew each year. New varieties almost always evolve in Asia and then hitch a ride with travelers, spreading to Europe, Australia and North America and finally to South America, where they die away.

The work may make the flu vaccine even better than it already is. Because the flu virus is constantly evolving, researchers meet at the World Health Organization twice a year to decide whether to update the vaccine. Their job is made harder because they have to decide on a formulation a year in advance of when the flu will actually hit, to allow time for the vaccine to be manufactured and administered. So they have to predict which of the strains of flu virus are going to be causing the most disease a year down the line.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


May 15, 2008, 8:25 PM CT

Dr. Anthony Fauci reflects on 25 years of HIV

Dr. Anthony Fauci reflects on 25 years of HIV
On the 25th anniversary of the first scientific article linking a retrovirus to AIDS, Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, reflects in an essay in Nature on his experience treating and studying HIV/AIDS for the past quarter century. Outlining the peaks and valleys of the scientific communitys journey so far, Dr. Fauci writes, we must learn from our mis-steps, build on our successes in therapy and prevention, and renew our commitment to developing the truly transforming tools that will one day put this scourge behind us.

From the outset, AIDS was clearly more menacing than any other novel disease Dr. Fauci and colleagues had previously encountered, he writes. The period when clinicians lacked the ability to diagnose and treat AIDS was the bleakest of his career. The discovery that HIV causes AIDS stimulated a burst of progress in both the clinic and the laboratory. But the 1987 debut of the first effective drug against HIV, zidovudine (AZT), generated excessive optimism, Dr. Fauci reflects, as the virus quickly and predictably developed drug resistance.

Eight years and thousands of AIDS deaths later, protease inhibitors launched a renaissance of anti-HIV drug development in 1995. Combination therapies dramatically cut the rate of AIDS deaths in the United Statesbut the developing world has continued to suffer from lack of access to effective therapys for HIV. Even more sobering, Dr. Fauci writes, Treatment alone will never end the AIDS pandemicaround three people are newly infected for every person put on treatment.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


May 11, 2008, 9:08 AM CT

UV lotion lights the way to cleaner facilities

UV lotion lights the way to cleaner facilities
A team of Canadian researchers using a lotion which glows under ultraviolet light have shown that up to a third of patient toilets are not properly cleaned. Their findings, published in BioMed Centrals journal, BMC Infectious Diseases, also show that spores from the nasty bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) linger in the loo even when it has been thoroughly wiped down.

Michelle Alfa and a team of researchers from Manitoba, Canada investigated the spread of so-called superbugs in hospitals. Hospital patients are thought to catch bugs like vancomycin resistant Enterococci (VRE), methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and C. difficile because they are not eradicated from the hospital environment. These bugs may be transferred between patients through cross-contamination in the bathroom.

Various studies have looked at the most effective cleaning agents, but none of these studies considered whether housekeeping staff were actually cleaning the toilets properly, says Alfa. It is impossible to assess the effectiveness of any action against these bacteria unless you can be sure that cleaners comply with protocols.

Alfa's toilet inspectors smeared the UV lotion under the seats of 20 toilets and commodes being used by patients with diarrhoea at a hospital in Winnipeg. Seven of these patients had C. difficile infection, while 13 others did not. The toilets and commodes were tested every weekday for six months and checked using UV light to determine how well they had been cleaned. In addition, samples were taken from toilet surfaces to determine whether C difficile spores were present.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


May 8, 2008, 9:11 PM CT

Major shift in HIV prevention priorities needed

Major shift in HIV prevention priorities needed
As per a new policy analysis led by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of California, Berkeley, the most common HIV prevention strategiescondom promotion, HIV testing, therapy of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), vaccine and microbicide research, and abstinenceare having a limited impact on the predominantly heterosexual epidemics found in Africa. Furthermore, some of the assumptions underlying such strategiessuch as poverty or war being major causes of AIDS in Africaare unsupported by rigorous scientific evidence. The scientists argue that two interventions currently getting less attention and resourcesmale circumcision and reducing multiple sexual partnershipswould have a greater impact on the AIDS pandemic and should become the cornerstone of HIV prevention efforts in the high-HIV-prevalence parts of Africa.

The paper appears in the May 9, 2008 issue of the journal Science.

Despite relatively large investments in AIDS prevention efforts for some years now, including sizeable spending in some of the most heavily affected countries (such as South Africa and Botswana), its clear that we need to do a better job of reducing the rate of new HIV infections. We need a fairly dramatic shift in priorities, not just a minor tweaking, said Daniel Halperin, lecturer on international health in the HSPH Department of Population and International Health and one of the papers lead authors.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 5, 2008, 9:19 PM CT

Immune exhaustion in HIV infection

Immune exhaustion in HIV infection
Its the virus, stupid: immune exhaustion in HIV infection

As HIV disease progresses in a person infected with the HIV virus, a group of cells in the immune system, the CD8+ T lymphocytes, become exhausted, losing a number of of their abilities to kill other cells infected by the virus. For a number of years researchers have debated whether this exhaustion of CD8+ T cells is the cause, or the consequence, of persistence of the HIV virus. As per a research findings published this week in PLoS Medicine, Marcus Altfeld and his colleagues studied the immune response over time amongst 18 individuals who had very recently become infected with HIV.

These scientists observed that the presence of high amounts of HIV in the blood seemed to cause CD8+ T cell exhaustion; when antigen was reduced, either as a result of therapy with antiretroviral drugs, or evolution of viral epitopes to avoid recognition by CD8+ T cells, these epitope-specific CD8+ T cells recovered some of their original functions. These findings suggest that CD8+ T cell exhaustion is the consequence, rather than the cause, of persistent replication of HIV.

In a related article, Sarah Rowland-Jones and Thushan de Silva (from the Medical Research Council in Gambia), who were not involved in the study, discuss approaches to treat HIV efficiently by suppressing the viral load early in infection aimed at preserving HIV-1-specific immune function. They evaluate whether such strategies are likely to be practical.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


April 30, 2008, 5:32 PM CT

How some bacteria survive antibiotics

How some bacteria survive antibiotics
Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered how some bacteria can survive antibiotic therapy by turning on resistance mechanisms when exposed to the drugs. The findings, reported in the April 24 issue of the journal Molecular Cell, could lead to more effective antibiotics to treat a variety of infections.

"When patients are treated with antibiotics some pathogenic microbes can turn on the genes that protect them from the action of the drug," said Alexander Mankin, professor and associate director of the University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and lead investigator of the study. "We studied how bacteria can feel the presence of erythromycin and activate production of the resistance genes".

Erythromycin and newer macrolide antibiotics azithromycin and clarithromycin are often used to treat respiratory tract infections, as well as outbreaks of syphilis, acne and gonorrhea. The drugs can be used by patients allergic to penicillin.

Macrolide antibiotics act upon the ribosomes, the protein-synthesizing factories of the cell. A newly-made protein exits the ribosome through a tunnel that spans the ribosome body. Antibiotics can ward off an infection by attaching to the ribosome and preventing proteins the bacterium needs from moving through the tunnel.........

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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