Archive for December, 2013

Debilitating Virus Infects Island Paradise

28 December, 2013

See on Scoop.itVirology News

A painful mosquito-borne disease is spotted in the Western Hemisphere for first time, boosting U.S. risk.

Given a choice between dengue fever or another mosquito-borne disease called chikungunya fever, choose dengue every time. Neither has an available vaccine or treatment, but chikungunya (pronounced chik-un-GUHN-ya) is far more severe – it literally means “that which bends up” because patients are often stooped over from debilitating joint pain.

If you’re a resident of the Caribbean island of St. Martin (or lucky enough to be traveling there for the holidays) you are now at risk of both. The island, roughly the size of Manhattan and located some 300 kilometers east of Puerto Rico, has the first confirmed outbreak of chikungunya in the Western Hemisphere. 

Ed Rybicki‘s insight:

I hate to say it, but why is something only severe when it threatens the US?  As it is, global warming has now brought chikungunya (which comes from near where I grew up) to near the US – and it will almost certainly join West Nile as being endemic fairly soon.

Which means we may get a vaccine….

See on www.scientificamerican.com

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New version of 2009 pandemic flu virus surges; targets healthy middle-aged people and young adults

28 December, 2013

See on Scoop.itVirology News

Sacramento County, state and federal officials urge vaccination, saying a resurgence of a strain of the virus behind the worldwide flu pandemic in 2009 is causing a sharp increase in influenza cases.

Ed Rybicki‘s insight:

…meaning we older folk should be fine…plus, this one is is in Africa, where it’s summer, and not flu season!

See on www.sacbee.com

Vietnam fears stronger virus strains amid bird flu resurgence

28 December, 2013

See on Scoop.itVirology News

The Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu announced bird flu outbreak on a herd of more than 1,500 ducks Wednesday, fueling fears that new strains of the flu virus detected in China could hit Vietnam.

Tests on several samples of the dead ducks were positive for H5N1 virus.

Health authorities have been warning of bird flu pandemics ahead of the country’s biggest holiday Tet, when demand for fowl increases and fuels the smuggling of birds from rural areas to cities.

Ed Rybicki‘s insight:

Sounds like South Africa…there’s a ban on moving animals?  Simple – do it by night, and by back roads!

See on www.thanhniennews.com

HIV: Slipping under the radar

20 December, 2013

See on Scoop.itVirology News

HIV avoids triggering the cell receptors that initiate the host’s innate immune responses. It seems that the virus achieves this evasion by using its protein coat to hide its nucleic acids until they are beyond detection.

Ed Rybicki‘s insight:

You know, HIV’s genome is only 10 kb in size – yet the number of mechanisms the virus has eveolved to go stealthily among the immune responses of the host are quite remarkable.  There is the fact that Env proteins are heavily glycosylated, which hides them from antibodies – and that they are shed very easily, meaning the HIV virion has very few of them.

There is the fact that the virus goes quiescent after infection and genome integration, by downregulating its own expression AND that of CD4 receptors.

And now this: dodging detectors INSIDE the cell in order to safely deliver the DNA version of its genome directly into the nucleus.  Truly, life for viruses is an emergent property making them so much more than the sum of their parts.

See on www.nature.com

Narcolepsy an autoimmune disease – and how it is associated with swine flu

20 December, 2013

See on Scoop.itAquatic Viruses

As the H1N1 swine flu pandemic swept the world in 2009, China saw a spike in cases of narcolepsy — a mysterious disorder that involves sudden, uncontrollable sleepiness. Meanwhile, in Europe, around 1 in 15,000 children who were given Pandemrix — a now-defunct flu vaccine that contained fragments of the pandemic virus — also developed narcolepsy, a chronic disease.

Immunologist Elizabeth Mellins and narcolepsy researcher Emmanuel Mignot at Stanford University School of Medicine in California and their collaborators have now partly solved the mystery behind these events, while also confirming a longstanding hypothesis that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks healthy cells..

Ed Rybicki‘s insight:

It has been an interesting set of observations that have led up to this: I have chronicled some of them here in Virology News, as I picked up on how both the H1N1 2009pdm vaccine and the native virus seemed to be associated with narcolepsy.

And now the mystery is partly solved: some genetically-predisposed individuals produce CD4+ T-cells that recognise enogenous hypocretin, that are triggered by swine flu – and perhaps also by other flu virus.

That is, of course, not the whole story – but at least we are part fo the way to understanding how this puzzling and rather disturbing correlation of particular influenza viruses and narcolepsy occurs.

See on www.nature.com