Courtesy SCA Svenska Cellulosa Ak...An unusually high number of cases of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) have been showing up recently in clinics and hospitals in the Midwest. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention says EV-D68 (related to the common cold) is a mild to severe upper respiratory illness that can cause wheezing and coughing and in some cases even more severe symptoms can develop. Some patients can be treated with a nebulizer but others - such as those afflicted with asthma - can develop even more dangerous conditions. In one reported case, an infected child's lungs were disturbed to such a degree, he had to be placed on a blood oxygenator.
The outbreak is affecting mostly school-aged children because they haven't yet built up their immune systems like adults have. And even previously healthy children are getting sick. Between 2009 and 2013 the CDC reported only 79 cases of EV-D68, but already this year there have been more cases confirmed than in any previous year.
The illness can be spread through aerosol transmission via coughing or sneezing or by direct contact with a person or surface containing the virus. The best prevention against the virus is for adults and children to wash their hands regularly.
Courtesy Björn Syse
Scientists have developed a paper made of cellulose nanofibers that can be used to filter out harmful viruses.
The new filter paper is made with cellulose fibers, a natural component of green plants that gives wood its strength. Cellulose is the main component of plant cell walls, and the basic building block for many textiles and for paper. Cellulose works well for filters because it is inexpensive, disposable, inert, and non-toxic; cellulose is also mechanically strong and stable in a wide range of acid and alkaline conditions.
But normal filter paper can't trap viruses. A virus is tiny, about a thousand times smaller than a human hair. Normal filter paper has pores that are too large to remove tiny viruses. The new nano fiber filter paper is made with cellulose fibers with diameters of less than 100 nanometers. Viruses range in size from 30-50 nanometers, and can be trapped in the nano fiber filter paper.
The research has been conducted at two Swedish universities, Uppsala University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences/Swedish National Veterinary Institute.
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Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel of Aix-Marseille University in France and their colleagues cut up pieces of permafrost samples - supplied by scientists from the Russian Academy of Science - and added them to petri dishes of amoebae only to see the one-celled animals ripped apart by unknown viruses. They isolated the attacking, larger-than-usual virus and named it Pithovirus sibericum, because of its resemblance to an earthenware jar. The permafrost samples had been collected from a frozen riverbank in Siberia in 2000.
The discovery brings the total number of known "giant viruses" to three. The extra-large viruses are about 25 percent larger than normal, genetically more complex, and composed of hardier stock.
"Among known viruses, the giant viruses tend to be very tough, almost impossible to break open," said Claverie and Abergel. "Special environments such as deep ocean sediments and permafrost are very good preservers of microbes because they are cold, anoxic and in the dark."
Two other giant viruses Mimivirus and Pandoravirus were also discovered by Claverle and Abergel in the last decade. The latter, in my opinion, is a disturbingly great name for this type of thing. But so far only the pithovirus has been observed in the laboratory infecting contemporary life forms. Luckily, none of them pose a threat to humans, but that's not to say future giant viruses thawed out of frozen environments or released by retreating ice caps won't be.
"I don't see why they wouldn't be able to survive under the same conditions," said Claverie.
Results of the research appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Courtesy Courtesy ksoScientists from the Berkeley Lab have developed a way to generate electricity from viruses! Their method is based on the piezoelectric properties of the virus, M13 bacteriophage. Piezoelectricity is the charge that accumulates in certain solids when a mechanical stress is applied to them (squeezing, pressing, pushing, tapping, etc.) The scientists realized that the M13 virus would be a great candidate for their research because it replicates extremely rapidly (no supply problems here), it’s harmless to humans (always a good thing), and it assembles itself into well-organized films (think chopsticks in a box). It was these films that they layered and sandwiched between gold-plated electrodes to create their nearly paper-thin generator. When this postage stamp-sized generator was tapped, it created enough electricity to flash a “1” on a liquid crystal screen.
The potential here is that someday we could put these super-thin generators in any number of places, and harness electricity by doing normal, everyday tasks like walking or closing doors. I propose putting them in the shoes of marathon runners and then have cell phone charging stations along the route. Nothing is more maddening than waiting all day in the rain to get an action shot of your runner, only to find that your battery has since died by the time your slow-poke reaches the finish line. There’s always next year.
Look what's happening down at the nanoscale! Affordable hydrogen power just got a step closer.
No, I'm not talking about the lousy cold you have, or the H1N1 flu (for which I just got a vaccine), or the seasonal flu. I'm talking about how researchers in Japan and at the University of Texas at Arlington have discovered that eight percent of the genetic make-up of humans and other mammals comes from an outside virus and not from our ancestors. After infecting a body, the viral DNA inserts itself into the body's cell nuclei (endogenization), and some of its genetic material is subsequently passed along to the host's offspring. The scientists plan to investigate whether such infections by bornavirus genes are the cause of some human psychological afflictions such as schizophrenia. The research appeared in the science journal Nature.
This animation shows you how viruses trick healthy cells to join the dark side.
What you see in the video actually happens much, much faster in real life — in a fraction of a fraction of a second. So this is a very slow motion version of cellular activity. NPR.org
The first death in Minnesota of the H1N1 or also known as the Swine Flu. The five year old girl died on June 15, 2009. The very young girl did have multiple medical conditions before becoming ill.
To find more on this go to this link.
The WHO has raised the swine flu pandemic alert to the highest level. (A/H1N1 is the first flu pandemic in 41 years.) This doesn't mean the disease is more dangerous, just that it's in more places and continuing to spread. As of this morning, 28,774 confirmed A/H1N1 cases have been reported in 74 countries, with 144 deaths. (These counts are not precise anymore, however, because many people who catch this flu are recovering at home without being tested.)