Immunology

A new study has found that nearly half of camels in parts of Kenya have been infected by the virus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and calls for further research into the role they might play in the transmission of this emerging disease to humans.

MERS was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment available. To date, it has infected 1,595 people in more than 20 countries and caused 571 deaths. Although the majority of human cases of MERS have been attributed to human-to-human infections, camels are likely to be a major reservoir host for the virus and an animal source of MERS infection in humans.

Plotting on a grid just how a chicken walks may one day give farmers more insight into how best to protect their flock from non-airborne pathogens that can also hurt their profit.

Sepsis is an inflammatory response to infection that's known to develop in hospital settings and can turn deadly when it's not discovered early on.

In a new study, a hospital surveillance program focusing on reducing the risks of sepsis, known as the two-stage Clinical Decision Support (CDS) system, was found to reduce the risk of adverse outcomes, such as death and hospice discharge for sepsis patients, by 30% over the course of one year. 

Vaccines help prevent disease by inducing immunological memory, the ability of immune cells to remember and respond more quickly when re-exposed to the same pathogen. While certain phases of the pathway are well understood, little is known about the role of helper T cells, a "master orchestrator" of the immune response that send signals to activate the immune system.

A study has identified molecular mechanisms that control an immune cell's ability to remember. They found that in helper T (CD4+) cells, the proteins Oct1 and OCA-B work together to put immune response genes on standby so that they are easily activated when the body is re-exposed to a pathogen.

An international research team has shown that epidemics of dengue, which is caused by a mosquito-borne virus across southeast Asia, appear to be linked to the abnormally high temperatures brought by the El Niño weather phenomenon. 

Now, as the most intense El Niño in nearly two decades is emerging in the Pacific, the finding - reported in today's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) - may be a harbinger of a spike in cases of the dangerous hemorrhagic fever throughout southeast Asian countries early next year.

"Large dengue epidemics occur unexpectedly, which can overburden the health care systems," said lead author Willem G. van Panhuis, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health.

Research has found evidence that spending time in nature provides protections against a startling range of diseases, including depression, diabetes, obesity, ADHD, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many more. How this exposure to green space leads to better health has remained a mystery.

After reviewing hundreds of studies examining nature’s effects on health, University of Illinois environment and behavior researcher Ming Kuo believes the answer lies in nature’s ability to enhance the functioning of the body’s immune system.

Over one million people in sub-Saharan Africa will contract malaria this year because they live near a large dam, according to a new study which, for the first time, has correlated the location of large dams with the incidence of malaria and quantified impacts across the region. The study finds that construction of an expected 78 major new dams in sub-Saharan Africa over the next few years will lead to an additional 56,000 malaria cases annually.

Individuals who received the flu vaccine were protected for up to 6 months post-vaccination, the duration of most flu seasons, according to a study presented at the 2015 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Each flu season, researchers work to find out how effective the flu vaccine was in order to measure its value as a health intervention. Factors such as age and health of an individual, as well the level of similarity between the flu virus and the flu vaccine can play a role in how well an influenza vaccine works.

"Few studies have assessed how quickly protection against influenza declines within a year following vaccination, specifically among US populations," said Dr. Jennifer Radin, at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, CA.


We don't actually know whether probiotics have a measurable impact on digestive health - and if it is positive. brownpau/Flickr, CC BY-SA

By Paul Bertrand, RMIT University; Andrew Ball, RMIT University, and Kate Polglaze, RMIT University