Health and Fitness

Blocking Key Protein In Mice Helps Them Resist Viral Infection

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a potential new way to stimulate the immune system to prevent or clear a viral infection. By blocking the action of a key protein in the mouse immune system, they were able to boost immune "memory" in those mice - work that may one day help doctors increase the effectiveness of human vaccines designed to prevent viral infections. Immune memory in humans (or mice) is what allows the body - after an initial exposure to a virus - to quickly recognize, respond to, and eliminate that same virus upon some later exposure. Viral vaccines basically work through this mechanism. Not all vaccines are 100 percent effective, however, and doctors would like to have ways of enhancing the ability of vaccines to induce immune memory. As described in an advance online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on January 26, 2010, the Scripps Research scientists were able to do just that. They significantly boosted immune memory in mice by blocking a protein called interleukin-10 (IL-10).

Walkerton Tragedy: 10 Years Of Research Leads To Breakthrough

Studies of the victims of the Walkerton, Ont. tainted drinking water tragedy have led researchers to discover DNA variations in genes that increase the risk of developing post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (PI-IBS). The sheer scale of infection and the recording of the health of Walkerton's citizens gave a team of researchers a unique opportunity to study the origin of this disorder. "Although the exact cause of PI-IBS remains unknown, we now know for the first time that, in addition to the environmental trigger, genetic factors are also playing a critical role in the development of this disease, " explains McGill PhD Alexandra-ChloГ Villani, who led the team under the direction of principal investigators John K. Marshall (McMaster) and Denis Franchimont (formerly of McGill). Stephen Collins (McMaster) also collaborated. Almost 10 years ago, the municipal water supply of Walkerton was contaminated with E. coli and Campylobacter jejuni, leading to a public health disaster.

Helpful Yeast Battles Food-Contaminating Aflatoxin

Pistachios, almonds and other popular tree nuts might someday be routinely sprayed with a yeast called Pichia anomala. Laboratory and field studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist Sui-Sheng (Sylvia) Hua have shown that the yeast competes successfully for nutrients--and space to grow--that might otherwise be used by an unwanted mold, Aspergillus flavus. A. flavus and some other Aspergillus species can produce troublesome toxins known collectively as aflatoxins. Hua has received a patent for use of the yeast as an eco-friendly way to protect tree nuts, as well as corn, from becoming contaminated with aflatoxins. Standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration help prevent sale of aflatoxin-contaminated food and feed. In tests conducted in a California pistachio orchard, Hua and colleagues found that spraying the trees with the yeast inhibited incidence of A. flavus in pistachios by up to 97 percent, compared to unsprayed trees. The yeast can also be sprayed on the harvested or stored crop instead of on trees before the harvest, according to Hua, based at the ARS Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif.

Bioniche E. Coli O157 Vaccine Recognized In Prestigious Scientific Journal

Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: BNC), a research-based, technology-driven Canadian biopharmaceutical company, announced that Econiche(TM), the world's first vaccine developed to reduce the shedding by cattle of Escherichia coli ( E. coli ) O157, has been cited in the February, 2010 issue of Scientific American (Vol. 302, # 2). The article, "The Art of Bacterial Warfare", was written by Dr. Brett Finlay, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories, the biochemistry and molecular biology department, and the microbiology and immunology department at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Finlay's research led to the development of Econiche. In his article, Dr. Finlay discusses the evolution of research into disease-causing bacteria and the discovery that bacteria have become increasingly adept at penetrating organs and tissues to survive and thrive in the human body. Dr. Finlay describes the E. coli O157 bacterium as having "perhaps the most remarkable method of locking itself onto a host cell", making its own receptor in the host's intestinal cells, anchoring it and allowing the bacterial toxins to enter the body and cause illness.

EVM Contributes To Council Of Europe Hearing On The Handling Of The H1N1 Pandemic: More Transparency Needed?

The European Vaccine Manufacturers group (EVM) welcomed the opportunity to address today's Council of Europe Health Committee hearing on 'The handling of the H1N1 pandemic: more transparency needed?' EVM was pleased to provide information on industry's role in helping combat pandemic influenza, and sought to address many of the misunderstandings that exist regarding the pandemic planning process. The EVM rejected allegations of inappropriate behaviour by vaccine producers during the response to H1N1 influenza, and provided additional clarity in three key areas: 1. Vaccine manufacturers responded to the requirements of public health authorities and national governments; 2. Industry responded quickly and effectively and was able to deliver vaccines ordered by governments; 3. Pandemic vaccines were properly developed and tested, and have been safely used in millions of European citizens. Source European Vaccine Manufacturers

Oxford University Press Enters Publishing Partnership With Infectious Diseases Society Of America

Oxford Journals, a division of Oxford University Press, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), a leading professional society, have announced a new publishing partnership for IDSA's highly cited and internationally prestigious journals: Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) and The Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID). Oxford Journals will assume publication of both journals from 1st of January, 2011. IDSA's twice monthly publications are an excellent fit with Oxford Journals' strong medicine collection, which includes complementary titles in the field of infectious diseases, as well as with OUP's clinical book publishing program. "Oxford University Press's academic orientation and its emphasis on scientific rigor complement the mission of IDSA, " said Richard J. Whitley, MD, FIDSA, president of IDSA. "Our two organizations are committed to the dissemination of scientific knowledge." Clinical Infectious Diseases, one of the most heavily cited journals in the field, publishes articles on infectious diseases, microbiology, hospital infections, public health, and HIV/AIDS.

Antibiotics Might Team Up To Fight Deadly Staph Infections

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Israel's Weizman Institute of Science have found that two antibiotics working together might be more effective in fighting pathogenic bacteria than either drug on its own. Individually, lankacidin and lankamycin, two antibiotics produced naturally by the microbe streptomyces, are marginally effective in warding off pathogens, says Alexander Mankin, professor and associate director of the UIC Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and lead investigator of the portion of the study conducted at UIC. Mankin's team found that when used together, the two antibiotics are much more successful in inhibiting growth of dangerous pathogens such as MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and possibly others. MRSA is a staph infection that is resistant to certain antibiotics. According to a 2007 government report, more than 90, 000 Americans get potentially deadly infections each year. The research results are published in the Jan.

Good Bacteria Keep Immune System Primed To Fight Future Infections, According To Penn Study

Scientists have long pondered the seeming contradiction that taking broad-spectrum antibiotics over a long period of time can lead to severe secondary bacterial infections. Now researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine may have figured out why. The investigators show that "good" bacteria in the gut keep the immune system primed to more effectively fight infection from invading pathogenic bacteria. Altering the intricate dynamic between resident and foreign bacteria - via antibiotics, for example - compromises an animal's immune response, specifically, the function of white blood cells called neutrophils. Senior author Jeffrey Weiser, MD, professor of Microbiology and Pediatrics, likens these findings to starting a car: It's much easier to start moving if a car is idling than if its engine is cold. Similarly, if the immune system is already warmed up, it can better cope with pathogenic invaders. The implication of these initial findings in animals, he says, is that prolonged antibiotic use in humans may effectively throttle down the immune system, such that it is no longer at peak efficiency.

Neglected Tropical Diseases Not Limited To Tropics: Diseases Found In The Indigenous Peoples Of The Arctic

Demonstrating that the burden of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is not just dependent on climate, but mainly related to incidence of poverty, a new paper published in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases details the large number of neglected infections of poverty in the Arctic region and calls for greater research into these devastating, debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases in the region. "One of the most dramatic illustrations of poverty as the single most important determinant of neglected infections among human populations is the observation that these conditions occur among the poorest people in the Arctic region, " states the paper's author, Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Distinguished Research Professor at George Washington University. Hotez notes that there are a dozen neglected infections of poverty in the region, most of which are foodborne. There are seven countries with significant territory in the Arctic, including Canada, Finland, Greenland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States (Alaska).

Stopping Bacterial Infections Without Antibiotics

New research at the A. James Clark School of Engineering could prevent bacterial infections using tiny biochemical machines nanofactories that can confuse bacteria and stop them from spreading, without the use of antibiotics. A paper about the research is featured in the current issue of Nature Nanotechnology. "Engineered biological nanofactories trigger quorum sensing response in targeted bacteria, " was authored by Clark School alumnus Rohan Fernandes (Ph.D. '08, bioengineering), graduate student Varnika Roy (molecular and cell biology), graduate student Hsuan-Chen Wu (bioengineering), and their advisor, William Bentley (professor and chair, Fischell Department of Bioengineering). The group's work is an update on their original nanofactories, first developed in 2007. Those nanofactories made use of tiny magnetic bits to guide them to the infection site. "This is a completely new, all-biological version, " he says. "The new nanofactories are self-guided and targeted. We've demonstrated for the first time that they're capable of finding a specific kind of bacterium and inducing it to communicate, a much finer level of automation and control.

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