Immunology

The MERS coronavirus has caused disease outbreaks across the Arabian Peninsula and spread to Europe several times, claiming the lives of several hundred people since its discovery in 2012.

How easily the pathogen spreads from human to human has remained a mystery but recent work shows human transmission is low. Still, a third of infected persons with symptoms die. 


Researchers have developed a potential antibody therapy for Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV), one of the two most lethal strains of Ebola.

 Sudan ebolavirus
was first identified in 1976 and has caused numerous Ebola outbreaks (most recently in 2012) that have killed more than 400 people in total.  
A different strain, the Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV), is now devastating West Africa.


Biofilms are the first line of defense for harmful bacteria and make the treatment of skin infections especially difficult because microorganisms protected in a biofilm have antibiotic resistance and recalcitrance to treatment.

Biofilm-protected bacteria account for some 80 percent of total bacterial infections in humans and are 50 to 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than simpler bacterial infections.

 Biofilms often persist in the periphery of an actual wound, beneath an intact, healthy skin layer and the difficulty of their treatment is largely due to the outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, being a natural barrier for drug delivery.


In the 14th century, Venice was in many ways still a world power in its own right. The days when it could topple kingdoms using commerce were behind it, but it was still an important trade destination. In that period, trade meant ports and ports meant the Bubonic Plague in 1347.

When it hit, some tried prayer, some tried hunting vampires, but then officials quickly began to utilize what we would now call resilience management: rather than trying to target a poorly understood risk, state authorities focused on managing physical movement, social interactions, and data collection for the city as a system.


Researchers at
the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases scientists have found that Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in marmosets closely mimics the severe pneumonia experienced by people infected with MERS-CoV, giving researchers the best animal model yet for testing potential treatments. 

They used marmosets after predicting in computer models that the animals could be infected with MERS-CoV based on the binding properties of the virus.


Thanks to effective vaccination, polio is nearly eradicated and only a few hundred people are stricken worldwide each year.

But researchers in PNAS have reported alarming findings: a mutated virus was able to resist the vaccine protection to a considerable extent in the Congo in 2010. The pathogen could also potentially have infected many people in Germany. 


People allergic to milk often assume they have lactose intolerance, but they are actually different mechanisms that occur in different parts of the body. 

People with lactose intolerance do not digest lactose properly because they lack an enzyme known as lactase - and that results in digestive discomfort.  A cow milk allergy is much more dangerous because the body's immune system attacks milk proteins with its own IgE antibodies. 


Tekmira Pharmaceuticals and collaborators at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, have protected nonhuman primates against Marburg virus, also known as Angola hemorrhagic fever.

There are currently no vaccines or drugs approved for human use and no post-exposure treatment that has completely protected nonhuman primates against MARV-Angola, the most deadly Marburg viral strain, with a mortality rate of up to 90 percent. This virus, which is in the same family as Ebola, has a rapid disease course (seven to nine days) in nonhuman primates. There have been two recent imported cases of MARV HF to Europe and the United States, further increasing concern regarding the public health threat posed by this deadly virus.


Among the popular mythologies built up around native American cultures is that they had no disease before Europeans arrived full of pathogens. It's a common narrative in anthropology, it just was never science.

A new study documents that again, finding isolated Mycobacterium pinnipedii from skeletons found in Peru which are at least 1000 years old. The pathogen is a relative of the TB bacterium that affects seals, so it likely that seals carried the pathogens from Africa to the Peruvian coast.


In a world that is constantly changing, are attempts to eradicate disease realistic?

Over 40 years ago, researchers were happy to have a War on Cancer. President Richard Nixon made it a national priority and it came with a lot of funding, so no one corrected what became an obvious point decades and billions of dollars later; you can't cure cancer.

Efforts at eradicating diseases may be doomed because of a mismatch between the ways humans structure the world and the ways pathogens move through the world, according to a paper in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Polio is the poster child for diseases science has successfully conquered but the deadline for its eradication came and went in 2013 and is now 2018. What is going to change by then?