Stories tagged infectious disease

Listen to this interesting story about TB on National Public Radio.


Researchers at Veredus Laboratories and STMicroelectronics developed VereFlu™, a small and automated diagnostic test that rapidly detects all major influenza types.

Why is this significant?
Current rapid tests can detect:

  • only influenza A viruses
  • both influenza A and B viruses, but doesn't distinguish between the two types
  • both influenza A and B and distinguish between the two

None of the rapid tests provide any information about influenza A subtypes. VereFlu™ is highly sensitive, accurate and it can identify and differentiate human strains of Influenza A and its subtypes and B viruses, including the Avian Flu strain H5N1, in a single test. A test like this currently needs to be done in specialized labs and can take days or weeks for results.

From the company’s press release:

“VereFlu™ will enable healthcare professionals to effectively monitor mutations of flu viruses and quickly identify the main strain of the season,” said Dr Rosemary Tan, Chief Executive Officer of Veredus Laboratories. “This unique capability can significantly increase the effectiveness of flu vaccination and reduce public health risks associated with the emergence of a new flu virus.”

An exciting collaboration
VereFlu™ is the market’s first test which has integrated two powerful molecular biological applications into a new test the size of a fingernail. Combining Veredus Laboratories’ expertise in developing diagnostic tests and STMicroelectornics expertise in ST’s microfluidic lab-on-chip technology has created this new product. The two companies are planning to work together to develop additional diagnostic tests. They have set up a new venture in Singapore called Bio-Application Lab.

This new test sounds really cool and it got me wondering about how it works. I will contact the company and add to the post if I find out!

The World Health Organization today declared Somalia "polio free." (The last case of polio in the country was reported March 25, 2007; there hasn't been a single infection in the last year.) Health workers wiped out the disease by repeatedly vaccinating all 1.8 million Somali children under age 5.

Polio is extremely contagious and hard to eradicate, and Somalia's achievement is even more amazing given the country's challenges: war, poverty, hunger, no central government, and a lack of detailed medical data.

One more thing: the BBC article linked to above contains this quote from Ali Mao Moallim, a volunteer health worker who also happens to be the last person on Earth to have contracted smallpox:

"Somalia was the last country with smallpox. I wanted to help ensure that we would not be the last place with polio, too."


Re-Entering the Dating Scene
Now that you know you have genital herpes, you're out of the dating game, right? Absolutely not. There's no reason to stop looking for love and fun.

Genital herpes doesn't detract from your many desirable qualities, which have drawn people to you in the past and will continue to make you a great catch.

Broaching the Topic of Genital Herpes
The first date after your diagnosis may seem a little strange, however. If you hope to be sexually intimate with your date at some point, you may feel like you're keeping a nasty secret. If you are one to be candid with people, you'll want to blurt it out. Don't. There are some things you should reveal about yourself right away -- for example, that you're married, or that you're just in town for the week -- but some things are better left for the appropriate moment.

It's up to you to decide the right time to tell your date that you have genital herpes. Follow two rules: First, don't wait until after having sex. Second, don't wait until you're just about to have sex -- in which case the attraction may be too strong for either of you to think rationally and act responsibly.

If in the past you tended to start a new relationship with sex, you now might want to change your approach. It might be better to break the news about your herpes to someone who has already grown attached to you. Kissing, cuddling, and fondling are safe, so you don't have to tell before you do that. But use your best judgment as to how physically intimate you want to get before telling. One thing could lead to another, and you might find yourself in an awkward situation.

Dealing With Rejection
Anyone who dates should be prepared for rejection. The person you're seeing may beat a hasty retreat when he or she finds out about your genital herpes. If you get the "I just want to be friends" talk after telling your sweetheart you have herpes, consider this: He or she may have already been looking for a way out, and herpes was as good an excuse as any. What's more, anyone who disdains you or humiliates you for having herpes was never worth your while.

Keep dating, and you will find someone who wants to be with you regardless of your herpes status. There are certainly some who wouldn't mind keeping the intimacy level just short of doing things that could transmit the virus. And of those people, it's likely that at least one will come around, and say, "Hey, I understand there's a risk, but I'm crazy about you, so I'm willing to take it."

Depending on your dating style, you might look for another person who knows he or she has herpes, if only to avoid having to discuss it. If you already use dating services or personal ads, you can also use any of those specifically for people with genital herpes. A search on the Internet for "herpes dating" will turn up several.

  1. Common, but on the decline
    Nationwide, at least 45 million people ages 12 and older -- or one out of five adolescents and adults -- have had genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 or type 2. Over the past decade, the percentage of Americans with genital herpes has decreased, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. It's more common in women (about one out of four women) than men (almost one out of eight).
  2. Symptoms
    Most people who have genital herpes don't know it because they've never had any symptoms or don't recognize them. But often, when a person becomes infected for the first time, symptoms appear in two to 10 days. Early signs include a tingling feeling or itching in the genital area, or pain in the buttocks or down the leg. Blisters typically appear on or around the genitals or rectum. You can still infect a partner if sores aren't visible.
  3. New research
    Some clinical trials are testing drugs aimed at disrupting genes or enzymes that the virus needs to survive. Several vaccines are in various stages of development, as well as gels or creams that a woman could insert into the vagina before sex to prevent infection in herself and her partner.
  4. Pregnancy
    If a woman has her first episode of genital herpes while she's pregnant, she can pass the virus to her unborn child and may deliver a premature baby. Half of the babies infected with herpes either die or suffer nerve damage. If a pregnant woman has an outbreak and it is not the first one, her baby's risk of being infected during delivery is very low.
  5. Donating blood
    People with herpes can donate blood. According to the American Red Cross, individuals taking antiviral medication (acyclovir, valacyclovir, famciclovir) will need to wait 48 hours after their last dose before donating blood. The American Red Cross says those currently experiencing an outbreak of genital herpes should not donate blood.

Nicole Is a STD dating site for people with herpes, HIV, HPV and other STDS.


Sexually Transmitted DiseasesCourtesy NLMAt least one in four teenage girls nationwide has a sexually transmitted disease, or more than 3 million teens. These results were prepared for release today at a CDC conference in Chicago on preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
The study by CDC researcher Dr. Sara Forhan is an analysis of nationally representative data on 838 girls who participated in a government health survey. The percentage of teens testing positive for each of the four infections tested

  • human papillomavirus (HPV) - - 18%
  • chlamydia - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4%
  • trichomoniasis - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2.5%
  • herpes simplex virus - - - - - - - - - 2%

About half of the girls acknowledged ever having sex, where the rate was 40 percent . Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC's division of STD prevention, said the data, from 2003-04, likely reflect current rates of infection.

Chlamydia and trichomoniasis can be treated with antibiotics. The CDC recommends annual chlamydia screening for all sexually active women under age 25. It also recommends the three-dose HPV vaccine for girls aged 11-12 years, and catch-up shots for females aged 13 to 26. CDC

I think STDs in teenage girls need to be talked about. Please comment

Read more about STDs in American teensged girls at ABCnews.


Blissfully ignorant of the chaotic zoo that her head has become: A hairspray user smiles for the camera.
Blissfully ignorant of the chaotic zoo that her head has become: A hairspray user smiles for the camera.Courtesy StarMama
Thanks to the hard work of diligent microbiologists, human beings now have something new to think about.

This would be frustrating for me, because I already spend so much time thinking about America’s Funniest Home Videos, the Hantavirus, water shoes, and body odor, except that this new discovery, for the most part, only applies to people who use hairspray. I don’t even use a comb, so I think I’m in the clear.

Anyway, the new thing you should be thinking, nay, worrying about, is this: Microbacterium hatanonis. It’s a brand new bacteria that lives in your hairspray. Surprise!

Contamination of cosmetic products is rare, but, obviously, not unheard of. And while you may not have realized that you have been spraying your head with Microbacterium hatanonis, you’ve probably had intimate contact with some of its Microbacterium relatives, which are known to live out their greasy little lives “in milk, cheese, beef, eggs…on catheters, and in bone marrow…and even in the blood of patients with leukemia.” And in your hair, of course.

While similar Microbacterium have been found to infect humans, whether or not M. hatanonis is likely to cause any trouble for people remains to be seen. If you have any hope of getting a serious worry on, though, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that it will be found to infect humans. And its effects? I’m sure they’ll include a whole variety of weeping sores, burning sensations, and sour odors. If you don’t like that, I’m sorry—I don’t make the symptoms, I just imagine them. In the mean time, I strongly recommend careful microscopic inspection of all hairspray before applying it to your head, or wherever else you might use it.


Red blood cells infected with Plasmodium falciparum: This thin film Giemsa stained micrograph reveals ring-forms, and gametocytes of Plasmodium falciparum.
Red blood cells infected with Plasmodium falciparum: This thin film Giemsa stained micrograph reveals ring-forms, and gametocytes of Plasmodium falciparum.Courtesy cdc

  • Malaria is both preventable and curable.
  • A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.
  • More than one million people die of malaria every year, mostly infants, young children and pregnant women and most of them in Africa.

A recent article in the NY Times discussed if it is possible to eliminate malaria. They need more money, better health systems and a vaccine. Some experts feel the big push to eradicate malaria is counterproductive or even dangerous. Dr. Arata Kochi, the W.H.O. malaria chief stated in the article that, “… enough money, current tools like nets, medicines and DDT could drive down malaria cases 90 percent. But eliminating the last 10 percent is a tremendous task and very expensive.” He doesn’t want people to have false hope.

A new vaccine
In spite of the debate, research is progressing to reach the goal of eliminating malaria. The Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (SBRI) is home to one of the largest malaria research programs in the United States. SBRI's Malaria Program is focused on vaccine discovery for malaria during pregnancy, severe malaria in children and liver-stage malaria. SBRI scientists are working on a vaccine that uses genetic engineering to render malaria parasites harmless. According to an article in the Seattle Times SBRI is looking for volunteers to be bitten by malaria-infected mosquitoes to aid in the quest for new vaccines and drugs. Scientists will analyze blood from the human volunteers to learn more about the body's immune response to the disease.

What do we do?
Economists believe that malaria is responsible for a ‘growth penalty’ of up to 1.3% per year in some African countries. When compounded over the years, this penalty leads to substantial differences in GDP between countries with and without malaria and severely restrains the economic growth of the entire region. Malaria costs Africa $12 billion every year in lost productivity alone.

What do you think? Where should we be putting our resources?

  • Developing a vaccine (the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation alone has spent $258 million
  • More money to distribute long-lasting insecticidal nets (each net costs $5-7)
  • Mosquito control with indoor residual spraying like DDT (costs nearly $4 per person)
  • Getting effective drug treatments to the infected (effective therapy costs $2.40 for a round of treatment)

Oh my God! She's doing it right now!: Each to their own, but...
Oh my God! She's doing it right now!: Each to their own, but...Courtesy wallyg
According to a new paper in the journal Medical Hypotheses, cannibalism and its associated neurodegenerative diseases may have contributed to the extinction of Neanderthals 30,000 years ago.

The cause of the Neanderthals’ extinction has long been something of a mystery to science. Even the rate at which they disappeared is unclear—some scientists believe that their extinction as a species was gradual, and due to an inability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, or because of interbreeding with Cro-Magnon people over an extended period of time. Others believe that the extinction was relatively rapid, and could have been caused by direct, violent confrontation (or at least competition) with the Cro-Magnon, or by a strong susceptibility to certain diseases.

The new cannibalism theory fits in with this last idea to some extent. Combining fossil evidence of Neanderthal cannibalism with ethnological data on the Fore people of Papua New Guinea, the author of the new paper thinks it’s likely that some form of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (or TSE, brain mushing diseases like Mad Cow Disease) could have greatly reduced the Neanderthal population and contributed to their ultimate extinction.

The Fore people were known to have practiced cannibalism to some extent for some time, but beginning around 1900 anthropologists began to observe a neurodegenerative condition called “Kuru” taking hold among the Fore. By the 1960’s, Kuru had reached “epidemic levels” and killed over 1,100 people. Eventually it was discerned that Kuru was a type of TSE, contracted by eating the brains or nervous tissue of other infected individuals, or even by using reusing the tools employed for this type of butchery (even mdern sterilization techniques don’t always remove the prions that cause TSE’s from surgical implements.)

Some fossil evidence in France seems to suggest that Neanderthals, on occasion at least, consumed the flesh of others of their species, including their brains. If cannibalism were prevalent among Neanderthals and a TSE was introduced into the food chain, as it were, the effects could have been devastating on the population.

Which brings me back to my titular point: the major hole in this theory is that no one in their right mind (although TSE’s probably redefine “right mind”) would want to eat a Neanderthal, even other Neanderthals. I mean, they look so… lumpy. Yuck. Of all the primates, extant and otherwise, Neanderthals are probably the least appetizing to me. Would I eat an orangutan? I certainly would. Java Man? In a heartbeat. And, really, the only thing keeping me from eating bonobos is geography. But a Neanderthal? Bleh. Their brains probably taste like wet towels and fish aspic.

I suppose the author of the paper has a response to this not covered in the article I saw (paprika, maybe?), but, as far as I’m concerned, a recipe can only take you so far. Next theory, please.


Do you have a fever and headache? Is your nose running, with a sore throat and dry cough? Are you tired with muscle aches? You might have influenza or “the flu” as we commonly call it. You may have gotten vaccinated and you still got a bad case of the flu. This is one of those influenza seasons where the experts didn’t quite get it right.

So what happened?
Influenza virus is constantly changing and evolving and each year public health experts get together several months in advance (the FDA will make their recommendation for next year’s vaccine on February 21, 2008) of the flu season to choose three strains of influenza to put in the vaccine, H1N1 strain, H3N2 strain and a B virus strain. It is part science and part art. For more information on this process try your hand at predicting the flu using a program developed as part of the Disease Detective exhibition currently at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

According to Dr. Joe Bresee, the Branch Chief, in the branch of Epidemiology and Prevention of the CDC’s Influenza Division, the H1N1 strain in the vaccine this year is a good match to the circulating strain but the H3N2 type strain and the B strain are not ideal matches. So protection is probably lower than expected in a season when vaccine strains and circulating strains are well matched. Usually, the guesswork is pretty good: Bresee has said, the vaccines have been a good match in 16 of the last 19 flu seasons.

Why are people so sick this year?
It just so happens – and we don’t know why – that H3N2 strains of influenza virus are more severe. For this season the number of people infected with H3N2 influenza is on the rise. The past two years the H1N1 strain predominated and so those infected were not as sick.

What are all these H’s and N’s?
Influenza is categorized as influenza A type viruses and influenza B type viruses. The A viruses are further broken down and characterized by the proteins found on the surface of the virus. These proteins are called hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). The proteins change as the influenza virus evolves so numbers are used to designate the different types of H and N proteins.

Remember vaccination is still your best defense against influenza. The experts have been right 16 of the past 19 seasons and as Dr. Bresee reports…

But even in those years where the vaccine matches less well against the circulating strains, we know that getting vaccinated will tend to make the illnesses milder, lessen the chances a person has a very severe outcome.