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.)
A study in Finland suggests that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects boys as well or better than it does girls. (The vaccine is currently licensed in the US for women ages 9-26. ) HPV causes less cancer in men than it does in women, but vaccinating boys could help protect them and their sexual partners against the virus. But the shot series is very expensive and public-health dollars are always scarce, so a recommendation that boys be vaccinated may be a while in coming.
Courtesy CDC/Jim Gathany
Did you know back in February scientist and medical professionals selected the influenza virus strains for the upcoming flu season? Now that it is July the pharmaceutical companies are well into manufacturing, purification and testing the vaccine. Meanwhile, it is winter and flu season in the southern hemisphere and the virus is busy mutating. The big question on everyone’s mind is will it mutate so much that the northern hemisphere vaccine will be ineffective?
I agree with Dr. Steven Salzberg remarks in his recent Nature commentary…
"The current system, in which most of the world’s vaccine supply is grown in chicken eggs, is an antiquated, inefficient method requiring six months or more to ramp up production, which in turn means that the vaccine strains must be chosen far in advance of each flu season. More crucially it sometimes prevents the use of the optimal strain, as it did in 2007."
Influenza (the flu) is a serious disease
Each year in the United States, on average:
Some vaccine problems in the past
In recent years the match between the vaccine viruses and those identified during the flu season has usually been good. In 16 of the last 20 U.S. influenza seasons, including the 2007-08 season, the viruses in the influenza vaccine have been well matched to the predominant circulating viruses. Since 1988, there has only been one season (1997-98) when there was very low cross-reaction between the viruses in the vaccine and the predominate circulating virus and three seasons (1992-93, 2003-04, and 2007-08) when there was low cross-reaction (CDC). So after last year’s miscalculation the committee picked three new strains for the vaccine this year. One is a current southern hemisphere vaccine virus which they expect will still be present next year. In addition, they predict a second new Type A strain, known as H1N1/Brisbane/59, to also hit, along with a newer Type B/Florida strain.
Dr. Salzberg feels last year’s miscalculation was a failure…
"The harm was thus twofold; people fell ill and their trust in the vaccine system was undermined. This failure could have been predicted, if not prevented, through a more open system of vaccine design, a stronger culture of sharing in the influenza research community and a serious commitment to new technologies for production. The habits of the vaccine community must change for the sake of public health."
He goes on to suggest…
"The process of choosing flu-vaccine strains needs to be much more open. Other scientists, such as those in evolutionary biology with expertise in sequence analysis, could meaningfully contribute to the selection. At present, external scientists cannot review the data that went into the decision, nor can they suggest other types of data that might improve it."
Even with all of these miscalculations, I still feel getting the vaccine is worth the risk. But that doesn’t mean the process shouldn’t be improved. So once again I will be vaccinated and I will make sure my family is too—but what can we do as citizens to improve this process? What will you do?