Immunology

Why were so many middle-aged adults hit especially hard by the H1N1 influenza virus during the 2013-2014 influenza season?

 Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to produce antibody proteins against particles (called antigens) from an infectious agent, such as bacteria or a virus. The immune system saves the cells that produce effective antibodies, which then provide immunity against future attacks by the same or similar infectious agents. Seasonal influenza typically kills 36,000 Americans, alone, and nearly 500,000 individuals around the world each year. 


Some people infected with pathogens spread their germs to others while remaining symptom-free - a new study may answer why.

When researchers in a new study gave oral antibiotics to mice infected with Salmonella typhimurium, a bacterial cause of food poisoning, a small minority — so called "superspreaders" that had been shedding high numbers of salmonella in their feces for weeks — remained healthy; they were unaffected by either the disease or the antibiotic. The rest of the mice got sicker instead of better and, oddly, started shedding like superspreaders.

The findings point to a reason for superspreaders' ability to remain asymptomatic and also pose questions about use of sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics in livestock.


Human parainfluenza virus (hPIV) is highly infectious and the leading cause of upper and lower respiratory tract disease in young children, including Croup, which is responsible for thousands of hospitalizations in the developed world, and hundreds of thousands of deaths each year in developing countries.

Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics
Director Professor Mark von Itzstein said his Group's research findings published in Nature Communications today provide a new direction towards the discovery of anti-viral drugs against hPIV.



Fears of cholera coming shared a lot in common with fear of Ebola. Graetz 1883 © Historical Society of Pennsylvania

By Sally Sheard, University of Liverpool

On October 19 an inspector sent north from London to Sunderland reported a long-awaited arrival: the first British case of cholera.

It was 1831 and as part of a second pandemic cholera had again progressed from its Bengal heartland through Europe, before reaching the Baltic ports. It was only a matter of time.


Credit: Diana Ranslam, CC BY-NC

By Alexandra Kamins, Colorado Hospital Association; Marcus Rowcliffe, Zoological Society of London, and Olivier Restif, University of Cambridge




Lab scientists working with Ebola use respirators, while surgical masks are deemed adequate for nurses at the front line. Credit: EPA/Anne-Marie Sanderson/DOH 

By C Raina MacIntyre

Females are naturally more resistant to respiratory infections than males
and now researchers have linked that increased resistance to bacterial pneumonia in female mice to an enzyme called  enzyme nitric oxide synthase 3 (NOS3), which is activated by the female sex hormone estrogen.



Credit: Institute of Responsible Technology

By Jon Entine, Genetic Literacy Project

It’s perplexing that strident anti-GMO critics who regularly harp on the “danger” of harvesting a “foreign” gene from one species and inserting into another to improve crop performance or nutrition are mostly silent when the exact same process is used to engineer new drugs. The Ebola crisis and the desperate search for viable treatments highlights that oddity.

Elephants are among the most intelligent non-humans, arguably on par with chimpanzees, and both African and Asian elephants are endangered. 

In 1995, 16-month old Kumari, the first Asian elephant born at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, died of a mysterious illness. In 1999, Gary Hayward of Johns Hopkins University and collaborators published their results identifying a novel herpesvirus, EEHV1 as the cause of Kumari's sudden death. They now show that severe cases like this one are caused by viruses that normally infect the species, rather than by viruses that have jumped from African elephants, which was their original hypothesis.