Immunology

Collaborating with scientists in the United States and from around the world, Mengshi Lin, assistant professor of food science in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, has successfully used a new approach combining DNA sequencing technique with mid-infrared spectroscopy to rapidly and accurately identify Alicyclobacillus, a common bacterium found in apple, carrot, tomato, orange and pear juices, tropical fruit juices and juice blends. The bacterium won't cause human sickness, but it affects flavor and results in spoilage.

Scientists at CNRS and the Pasteur Institute, collaborating with physicians in Gabon, have just undertaken a study on cerebral malaria in children living in an endemic region. This study, which was published in PLoS ONE, should allow us to better understand this severe form of malaria which affects 20 to 40 percent of people infected by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, and is fatal in 30 to 50 percent of cases. The study also provides a lead on how to perfect a diagnostic test, which should allow for better patient care.

In 1928, Alexander Fleming opened the door to treating bacterial infections when he stumbled upon the first known antibiotic in a Penicillium mold growing in a discarded experiment.

Nearly eight decades later, chemist Helen Blackwell and her research team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have devised a more deliberate method to tackle a newer bacterial conundrum - resistance to commonly used antibiotics. Early tests of their tool, called a "small-molecule macroarray," have already identified four promising new compounds with preliminary antibacterial activity comparable to that of some of the most potent antibiotics currently available.

There are two types of screening programs – proactive and opportunistic. Proactive screening uses population registers to invite people to be screened at regular intervals, while opportunistic screening targets people attending health services for unrelated reasons.

The value of opportunistic chlamydia screening is being called into question.

Current methods used to sniff out dangerous airborne pathogens may wrongly suggest that there is no threat to health when, in reality, there may be.

But researchers have found a better method for collecting and analyzing these germs that could give a more accurate assessment of their actual threat. For example, the findings may make it easier to detect airborne pathogens in low concentrations.

A new study by Christopher Plowe and colleagues (University of Maryland School of Medicine) on a malaria vaccine used at a testing site in Mali calls into question whether the best vaccine was chosen to be tested at this particular site.

The development of an effective malaria vaccine is not easy, in part because there are different strains of the Plasmodium parasite that causes the disease. The different strains carry different variants (alleles) of the genes encoding parasite components (antigens) used in test vaccines, which means that the parasites causing infection in a given location may differ from the ones used for vaccination. If this is the case, the immune response generated by the vaccine might be less effective or even ineffective.


Each year, malaria results in more than a million deaths. Controlling this disease involves understanding its transmission, and understanding its transmission means understanding its basic reproductive number, R0. For all infectious disease, R0 describes the most important aspects of transmission as it is the expected number of hosts that can trace their infection directly back to a single host after one disease generation. For vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, R0 is given by a classic formula. In a new study published in PLoS Biology, David Smith and colleagues demonstrate that estimates of R0 range from around one to over 3,000, providing much higher estimates than previously thought, with serious implications for the control of the disease.

In a study spanning the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, researchers writing in the Feb. 15 New England Journal of Medicine say a nasal spray flu vaccine reduced the influenza "attack rate" in children by 55 percent when compared with a group of children who received the traditional flu shot in the arm or thigh.

"Children get the flu twice as often as adults," said Robert Belshe, M.D., a vaccine researcher at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study. "It's important to vaccinate kids against influenza -- and to identify new and more effective flu vaccine options -- because kids have a higher attack rate for influenza infection than adults.

Malaria kills more than one million people each year, most of them young children living in Africa. Now physicists in the UK have shared their computers with biologists from countries including France and Korea in an effort to combat the disease.

Using an international computing Grid spanning 27 countries, scientists on the WISDOM project analysed an average of 80,000 possible drug compounds against malaria every hour. In total, the challenge processed over 140 million compounds, with a UK physics Grid providing nearly half of the computing hours used.

The computers are all part of EGEE (Enabling Grids for E-sciencE), which brings together computing Grids from different countries and disciplines.

British physicists have shared computer time with biologists around the world in an effort to combat malaria, which kills one million people annually.

Using an international computing grid spanning 27 nations, scientists analyze an average of 80,000 possible drug compounds against malaria every hour. In total, the network has processed more than 140 million compounds, with the United Kingdom's physics grid providing nearly half of the computing hours used.

The international WISDOM project, for World-wide In Silico Docking On Malaria, is designed to speed the search for anti-malarial drugs. The computers calculate the probability that molecules will dock with a target protein.