Immunology

A new study demonstrates that macrophages can effectively substitute for so-called dendritic cells as primers of T-cell-dependent immune responses. They instead stimulate a broader-based response.

The immune response, the process by which the adaptive immune system reacts to, and eliminates foreign substances and cells, depends on a complex interplay between several different cell types. So-called dendritic cells, which recognize and internalize invasive pathogens, play a crucial role in this process.

A systematic review of the genomes of patients with ALK-negative anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a particularly aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, shows that many cases of the disease are driven by alterations in the JAK/STAT3 cell signaling pathway. The study also demonstrates, in mice implanted with human-derived ALCL tumors, that the disease can be inhibited by compounds that target this pathway, raising hopes that more effective treatments might soon be developed. 



Human norovirus can cause an immune response in dogs so it leads to obvious concern over whether or not dogs can transmit it to other people.

Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, is extremely contagious among humans. It infects 19-21 million Americans annually - more than six percent of the US population - according to the CDC. Those infections may result in as many as 71,000 hospitalizations, and 800 deaths.
Papain, found naturally in papaya and ioften referred to as a “plant-based pepsin”, is an important industrial protein-degrading enzyme for the food and cosmetic industries. The cosmetic industry uses papain in exfoliating treatments to remove dead surface skin and there even are enzyme-based shampoos for house pets to clean the fur and make it easier to brush. 

But lots of natural things can trigger allergic reactions. 

Genetic studies in humans, zebrafish and mice have revealed that two different types of genetic variations team up to cause a rare condition called Hirschsprung's disease, flaws in early nerve development that lead to poor colon function which must often be surgically corrected.

About one in every 5,000 babies is born with Hirschsprung's disease, which causes bowel obstruction and can be fatal if not treated. The disease arises early in development when nerves that should control the colon fail to grow properly. Those nerves are part of the enteric nervous system, which is separate from the central nervous system that enables our brains to sense the world.


A new paper provides evidence of a new mastrevirus, tentatively named switchgrass mosaic-associated virus 1 (SgMaV-1). Other members of the mastrevirus genus, a group of DNA viruses, are known to be responsible for decimating yields in staple food crops (including corn, wheat and sugarcane) throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

It has never been reported in North America.

The switchgrass exhibited mosaic symptoms--splotchy, discolored leaves--characteristic of a viral infection, yet tested negative for known infections. Deep sequencing, a new technology, revealed the plants were infected with a new virus in the genus mastrevirus, the first of its kind found in North America.

Take this quick medical pop quiz: which of the following conditions would you prefer to have during your next stay in hospital? A. Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) bloodstream infection; or B. a heart attack?

I am guessing most non-medical readers voted for the Staph option and, if my experience is anything to go by, the majority of medical readers will have also made a microbial choice.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which emerged in humans last year in the Saudi Arabian peninsula, causes severe respiratory disease, with a mortality rate of 35 percent. No specific therapy is currently available. 

Passive immunization, a procedure where you inject a former patient's antibodies into a new patient to fight the disease, has been used in the past, including last year in a small number of cases of Ebola, but in the case of MERS, few former patients are available to donate antibodies. Additionally, their antibody titers are often too low, and many former patients are not healthy enough to donate.
Antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could rise by 67 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. What will that mean for the effectiveness of antimicrobials in humans?

Five countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - will experience a growth of 99 percent in antibiotic consumption, compared with an expected 13 percent growth in their human populations over the same period. In the United States, antibiotic consumption in animals represents is the overwhelming majority of total antimicrobial sales.
Most people would be horrified if they went to a restaurant bathroom and saw the chef not bother to wash his hands after using the toilet. It's a good thing raw milk fad health buyers do not understand cow milking for the same reason.

A new review finds that consumers are nearly 100 times more likely to get foodborne illness from drinking raw milk than they are from drinking pasteurized milk, which is a lower figure than the Centers for Disease Control, which puts that number at 150X. Though a tiny fraction of milk drinkers risk consuming the raw kind, the raw kind accounts for over 50 percent of milk-related foodborne illness.