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Monday, 08 June 2015 11:36

Can Statins Help Treat Ebola?

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When David Fedson, MD, read about Ebola patients last spring, he noted that some clinicians had found the disease to parallel sepsis: Both conditions involve severe dysfunction of endothelial cells lining blood vessels throughout the body; in both, this dysfunction causes major abnormalities in blood coagulation; and both diseases, if not managed, can lead to organ failure and eventually death.
Since May 2013, the U.S. swine industry has been hit hard by diarrhea outbreaks, which have caused significant economic losses including the recorded deaths of at least 8 million piglets. Although two different viruses -- porcine epidemic diarrhea coronavirus and delta coronavirus -- already have been isolated from affected swine, disease has been reported in 32 American states as well as Mexico, Peru, Dominican Republic, Canada, Columbia, Ecuador and Ukraine, with repeated outbreaks in previously affected herds. Despite strict, intensive biosecurity measures adopted by many farms to control the epidemics, disease has continued to spread.
After a long career studying how certain bacteria clean up environmental contamination through bioremediation, Terry Hazen wondered if some of the same bacteria present in the natural environment could also serve as in situ sensors of environmental damage.
Can bacteria that cause food-borne illness be used to fight cancer? Ongoing research suggests this is the case.
The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum contains an organelle called an apicoplast. It’s akin to a chloroplast found in plants, but without the ability to photosynthesize.
Thursday, 26 March 2015 11:00

Cataloguing the microbiology of Merlot terroir

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Microbial ecologist Jack Gilbert says he’s not very scientific when it comes to sampling new wines: “I’m a bit slapdash.”
When infectious diseases specialist Michael David was in medical school at Yale in the 1990s, almost no one on the U.S. East Coast had community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. In fact, he says, if patients presented with a skin infection, he and his colleagues would ask the patient if he or she had been in the hospital. If they hadn’t, “you would not treat them for a MRSA infection because it was almost impossible that they would get one.”
For nearly 10 years, researchers with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) have been collaborating with Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc., to develop an effective therapeutic agent against Ebola virus and other related viruses, called filoviruses.
A group of international researchers has found that environmental factors, like mode of delivery and duration of gestation, may affect how infants’ gut bacteria mature, and that rate is related to later body fat. The work, published in mBio this week, was conducted by epigenetics researchers from the EpiGen Consortium in collaboration with scientists at Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland.
During the course of the current West African outbreak of Ebola virus disease, the US Army has put troops, medical personnel, building and medical supplies on the ground to fight the epidemic. Now, another critical piece of the medical arsenal has been sent—genomic sequencing capabilities and viral geneticist Captain Jeffrey Kugelman to track genetic changes in the virus as they happen in real-time.
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 10:18

Cold Plasma Treatment Cuts Norovirus Germs

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When Günter Klein, head of the Institute of Food Quality and Food Safety at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover in Germany, and colleagues investigated a norovirus outbreak at a German military facility, they noticed something interesting. Although consumption of norovirus-contaminated salad caused the peak of the illnesses, virus also could be detected on several common surfaces tested, including a computer keyboard, a doorknob and a mail collection box.
Klebsiella pneumoniae estimated to be the third most common cause of hospital-acquired infections in the United States in a recent study, can cause a wide range of infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia, wound or surgical site infections and urinary tract infections. What’s more, K. pneumoniae is rapidly becoming resistant to all known antibiotics; resistant forms are considered an urgent threat to public health by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What scientists have known about the organism is that it secretes small molecules called siderophores that enable it to acquire iron from a host and fuel its spread. Siderophores are…
Aindrila Mukhopadhyay uses systems biology to study stress responses in bacteria, but these days phrases like ‘octane number,’ ‘C-5 hydrocarbons,’ and ‘fungible biofuel’ flow quickly and expertly from her mouth. As director of host engineering at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, California, she collaborates with energy experts, chemists, and bioengineers at the forefront of research on renewable biofuels.
Martin Blaser, 66, and Glenn Webb, 72, often discuss aging on their long summer hikes up to the Continental Divide near Fraser, Colorado. Not their own, but rather that of the human population.
Paul Thomas was merely trying to develop a more reliable test for exposure to avian influenza viruses when he made a fairly startling finding: Seasonal flu vaccines may protect individuals not only against the strains of flu they contain but also against many additional types.
As a gastrointestinal surgeon and critical care specialist, John Alverdy has treated many patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) who have had very big operations, such as major organ reconstructions. “There is a race between making the patient better, fixing the bleeding, and how long they will be sick, exposed to dialysis or ventilators. The less time patients spend in there the better off they are.”
Friday, 19 September 2014 16:08

Gut Bacteria Can Prevent Foodborne Disease

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Campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial enteritis in developed countries. But unlike with other enteric pathogens, the mechanisms used by the organism to cause disease are still widely unknown, says bacteriologist Hilpi Rautelin.
Thursday, 11 September 2014 16:05

Finding New Viruses in Snakes

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When Joseph DeRisi and colleagues published a paper in mBio two years ago identifying the first arenavirus in reptiles, it highlighted to him the need to look more broadly across veterinary species when searching for pathogens. Not only was the newly identified virus responsible for the development of a snake illness called inclusion body disease, which leads to severe digestion troubles and neurologic symptoms, but it also was related to Ebola virus.
Howard Shuman directs the Howard T. Ricketts Laboratory—a BSL-3 biocontainment lab operated by the University of Chicago in Lemont, Illinois named after the early 20th century physician researcher who discovered that ticks and lice were the vectors for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and typhus, respectively.
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 15:55

Diagnosing a 700-Year-Old Infection

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Shortly after Mark Pallen, PhD, and colleagues described recovering tuberculosis genomes from the lung tissue of a 215-year-old mummy from Hungary in the New England Journal of Medicine last summer, news of his ability to conduct metagenomic analyses on historical samples spread, and materials started to flow in.