Immunology




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.  


Though numerous experts and policy makers have called for hospitals to screen patients for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections and isolate anyone testing positive to prevent the spread "Superbugs" in healthcare settings, it's too economically burdensome.
 
Several states have enacted laws requiring patients be screened for MRSA upon admission but  two new abstracts, scheduled for presentation on Friday at IDWeek, the annual scientific meeting for infectious disease specialists, found universal MRSA screening and isolation of high-risk patients will help prevent MRSA infections but may be too economically burdensome for an individual hospital to adopt. 


Researchers have created a molecule known as a peptide mimic that displays a functionally critical region of the virus that is universally conserved in all known species of Ebola. This new tool can be used as a drug target in the discovery of anti-Ebola agents that are effective against all known strains and likely future strains. 

Ebola is a lethal virus that causes severe hemorrhagic fever with a 50 percent to 90 percent mortality rate. There are five known species of the virus. Outbreaks have been occurring with increasing frequency in recent years, and an unprecedented and rapidly expanding Ebola outbreak is currently spreading through several countries in West Africa with devastating consequences.


It's an early lesson in genetics: we get half our DNA from Mom, half from Dad.

But that straightforward explanation does not account for a process that sometimes occurs when cells divide. Called gene conversion, the copy of a gene from Mom can replace the one from Dad, or vice versa, making the two copies identical.

In a new study, researchers investigated this process in the context of the evolution of human populations. They found that a bias toward certain types of DNA sequences during gene conversion may be an important factor in why certain heritable diseases persist in populations around the world. 


Though it has been researched for decades, the cause of nodding syndrome, a disabling disease affecting African children, is unknown. A new report suggests that blackflies infected with the parasite Onchocerca volvulus may be capable of passing on a secondary pathogen responsible for the spread of the disease. 

Concentrated in South Sudan, Northern Uganda, and Tanzania, nodding syndrome is a debilitating and deadly disease that affects young children between the ages of 5 and 15. When present, the first indication of the disease is an involuntary nodding of the head, followed by epileptic seizures. The condition can cause cognitive deterioration, stunted growth, and in some cases, death.
To fight leukemia, we have to fight on its terms, and that means understanding the nature of the fight for superiority between mutated genes and normal genes, according to a paper that investigated Acute Myeloid Leukemia to understand why leukemic cells are not able to develop normally into mature blood cells.

Stem cells in the bone marrow generate billions of different blood cells each day. The process resembles a production line with genes acting as regulators to control each step of the blood formation. Leukemia arises when the DNA encoding regulators in the stem cells is changed by a mutation. When a mutation occurs in the relevant regulator genes, the finely balanced order of the production line is disrupted with drastic consequences.