Immunology

Tick-borne illnesses are on the rise, or at least better reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme disease leads the pack, with some 35,000 cases reported annually but in the Northeast, the black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) also infect people with other maladies, among them anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and now Powassan encephalitis, according to a new paper in Parasites and Vectors.

Powassan encephalitis is caused by Powassan virus and its variant, deer tick virus. The virus is spread to people by infected ticks, and can cause central nervous system disruption, encephalitis, and meningitis. There is a 10-15% fatality rate in reported cases, with many survivors suffering long-term neurological damage.


It was once believed that crazy ladies acquired a lot of cats. Then it was discovered that a lot of cats instead created crazy ladies; cat poop is laden with an infectious parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan that has recently caused toxoplasmosis epidemics in people. At first it was just schizophrenia in older women, but then broadened out to pregnant women and all people with immune deficiencies. 

Once any link is established some will connect it to obsessive-compulsive disorder and kids' trouble in school, so maybe things have gone overboard in blaming, but Toxoplasma gondii can still be a real concern. Each year in the United States, cats deposit about 1.2 million metric tons of feces into the environment.


Birds in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of western Alaska have been discovered having low-pathogenic avian influenza viruses with Eurasian genes, supporting the hypothesis that the area is a potential point of entry for foreign animal diseases such as the more highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists.

The noses of industrial livestock workers in North Carolina contained
drug-resistant bacteria
- livestock-associated Staph
- while the noses of antibiotic-free livestock workers did not, according to a new paper.  Workers were not experiencing Staph infections at the time of the study.

Myotonic dystrophy is an inherited disorder, the most common form of a group of conditions called muscular dystrophies that involve progressive muscle wasting and weakness.

Myotonic dystrophy type 1 is caused a type of RNA defect known as a "triplet repeat," a series of three nucleotides repeated more times than normal in an individual's genetic code. In this case, a cytosine-uracil-guanine (CUG) triplet repeat binds to the protein MBNL1, rendering it inactive and resulting in RNA splicing abnormalities.


Trisomy 21, commonly called Down syndrome, is a genetic condition in which a person has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46 - three of the #21 chromosomes, rather than the usual two.(1) 

Down syndrome  is one of the most common genetic birth defects, affecting approximately one in 800 to 1,000 babies, and includes a combination of mental retardation, characteristic facial features and, often, heart defects, visual and hearing impairment, and other health problems. 
It is very often accompanied by pathologies found in the general population: Alzheimer's disease, leukemia, or cardiac deficiency. 


The largest investigation to-date has found a dramatic increase in the number of hospitalizations for children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) during the past decade in the United States. But does that mean there are actually more cases?


In the fall of 2012, the European Medicines Agency approved the modified adeno-associated virus AAV-LPL S447X as the first ever gene therapy for clinical use in the Western world.

AAV-LPL S447X was developed for the treatment of a rare inherited metabolic disease called lipoprotein lipase deficiency which affects approximately 1-2 out of 1,000,000 people. Though incredibly rare, the disease causes severe, life-threatening inflammations of the pancreas. Afflicted individuals carry a defect in the gene coding for the lipoprotein lipase enzyme which is necessary for breakdown of fatty acids. AAV-LPLS447X shall be used as a viral vector to deliver an intact gene copy to affected cells.


A team of researchers has identified a highly promising new anti-tuberculosis compound that attacks the tuberculosis (TB) bacterium in two different ways.

Although isoniazid and rifampin, two front-line TB drugs, came into use in 1952 and 1967 respectively, new TB infections still occur at the rate of roughly one per second. At any moment about a third of the existing human population is infected. Though it is mostly winactive, latent TB, active TB still kills over one million people each year, with Russia, Africa, China and Southeast Asia especially hard hit.


Gout is a painful rheumatic condition. It occurs when uric acid, a bodily waste product, crystallizes in joints and soft tissues. Gout is often associated with the big toe, but that turns out to be unfair; patients at highest risk of further flare-ups are those whose gout first involved other joints, such as a knee or elbow, according to new research.