Health and Fitness

Extremely Drug Resistant TB Case Uncovered In US

The first known case of a patient with an extremely drug resistant form of tuberculosis in the US came to light recently when the Associated Press (AP) media agency reported the plight of a 21 year old Peruvian man Oswaldo Juarez, who arrived in the US two years ago to study English and then found himself spending most of that time fighting for his life as he underwent treatment after treatment to try and rid him of the highly aggressive form of TB. The case had not been made public until now: AP reporters came across it when they were doing a six month review of the "soaring global challenge of drug resistance", according to an Associated Press article published in the Baltimore Sun at the weekend. Dr David Ashkin, Medical Executive Director at AG Holley State Hospital, part of the Florida Department of Health, and the hospital where Juarez spent over one and a half years in treatment, told AP that Juarez's strain of TB was an extremely drug-resistant (XXDR) form that had never been seen before in the US.

Genomic Toggle Switches Divide Autoimmune Diseases Into Distinct Clusters, Stanford Study Shows

Genomic switches can predispose an individual to one set of autoimmune disorders but protect the same person against another set of them, scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have found. "Maybe we should stop considering all autoimmune diseases in one lumped category, " said Atul Butte, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics and of biomedical informatics and director of the Center for Pediatric Bioinformatics at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. "It looks as if there may be at least two different kinds." Pairs of autoimmune diseases have been linked in clinical practice, Butte said. People with type-1 diabetes are routinely screened for autoimmune thyroid disease, for which they are known to be at heightened risk. But no one has ever known why. A study published online Dec. 24 in PLoS-Genetics provides a genetic basis for this clustering effect, while extending it to show how two such clusters tend to be mutually exclusive. Butte, who is the study's senior author, and his colleagues looked at data from several large genome-wide association studies of single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs: tiny genomic variations that constitute the genetic underpinning for inter-individual human differences from eye color to nose shape to personality quirks.

Biostatistics To Evaluate Vaccine Efficacy, The Study Of The Spread Of Infectious Diseases: M. Elizabeth Halloran Named AAAS Fellow

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientist M. Elizabeth "Betz" Halloran, M.D., M.P.H., D.S.c., has been awarded the distinction of AAAS Fellow. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, by their peers. Halloran is a researcher in the Hutchinson Center's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute and a professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington. She is being honored, according to the AAAS, "for her integration of sophisticated mathematical modeling of infectious-disease dynamics with strong foundations in the design and analysis of field studies." Halloran is among the world's leaders in the field of biostatistics to evaluate vaccine efficacy and to study the spread of infectious diseases. Her expertise is sought widely in the struggle against new and resurgent infectious diseases. During the last few years she and colleagues have consulted with federal and state officials and have been consulted by world health organizations to help develop intervention plans to control potential pandemics, such as avian and swine influenza.

Marseillevirus, A New Member Of The Giant Viruses

After Mimivirus, Mamavirus and the virophage, the group of giant viruses now has a new member called Marseillevirus. Discovered in an amoeba by the team led by Didier Raoult at the Unit de Recherche sur les Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales Emergentes research group (CNRS/Universit Aix-Marseille 2), a description of this new virus was published this week on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). These findings suggest the exchange of genes in amoebae that may lead to the constitution of different gene repertoires that could be a source of new pathogens. Amoebae are single-cell, eukaryote (possessing a nucleus) living organisms, some of which are human or animal parasites and may cause a variety of pathologies. Most amoebae live in water, damp soils or mosses. They are mobile and capable of ingesting a wide variety of different organisms (for example, viruses or bacteria with extraordinarily broadly ranging sizes and lifestyles). Thus amoebae provide a site for numerous exchanges of genetic material arising from the many organisms that "colonize" them.

Immune Attack Sheds Light On The Molecular World

While most American students have an intuitive grasp of popular music, professional sports, and consumer electronics, they lack a basic understanding of cell biology. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) developed the video game Immune Attack to plunge 7th - 12th graders into the microscopic world of immune system proteins and cells. Immune Attack is a three-dimensional video game that provides a place to gain an understanding of cellular biology and molecular science, according to an FAS expert who will be discussing the game evaluation during the 2009 ASCB Annual Meeting, which has been taking place December 5 - 9, 2009 in San Diego, California. The mission in Immune Attack is to save a patient suffering from a bacterial infection. In the game environment, proteins, molecules and cells behave as they do in nature, as well as the actions such as the capture of white blood cells by proteins on blood vessel walls. Melanie Ann Stegman, PhD, a program manager at FAS will discuss the results from the ongoing evaluation of Immune Attack.

Aid Agencies Launch 378M 2010 Aid Request To Improve Health In Zimbabwe

More than 70 agencies, led by the U.N., launched a request on Monday for $378 million in aid, which will be used to improve health and food security, as well as water and sanitation, Reuters reports. Though Zimbabwe's power-sharing government has improved some "social conditions in the country, " the agencies "say more needs to be done" (Banya, 12/7). At the launch of the annual Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), "U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg, said the money asked for is much less than the $719 million requested for [2009], " VOA News writes. Bragg said, "The CAP 2010 already outlines lesser needs than any other CAP launched in Zimbabwe ... At a total of $378 million, almost 50 percent less than the year before." "Despite improvement in food security, an estimated 1.9 million people will need food assistance at the peak of the 2010 hunger season between January and March, " according to Bragg. She said cholera "re-emerged in October and the HIV prevalence rate is one of the highest, still, in the world, despite a recent drop to 13.

Sinovac Files Clinical Trial Application With SFDA For Vaccine Against Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease

Sinovac Biotech Ltd. ( SVA), a leading provider of biopharmaceutical products in China, announced that it has filed the application with China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) to commence a human clinical trial for its vaccine against human enterovirus 71 (EV 71), which causes hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). This is the first clinical trial application for HFMD vaccine submitted in China. No vaccine or antiviral treatment is currently available for HFMD worldwide, though it has become a very serious problem in Asia in recent years. The disease is highly contagious and a growing number of HFMD cases have been reported in parts of Asia, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan. According to China's Center for Disease Control (CDC) between January 1 and November 30 of this year, the disease has caused more than 400 deaths in China, where health authorities reported over 1.1 million HFMD infections, compared to about 200 reported H1N1 deaths.

New Findings Show How Human Movement May Have Brought Chagas Disease To Urban Peru

New research shows how the migration and settlement patterns associated with the rapid urbanization of Peru may link to Chagas disease transmission. The study, published December 15 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, suggests that the practice of shantytown residents from Arequipa making frequent seasonal moves to rural valleys where Chagas vectors are present may have contributed to the growing presence of Chagas disease near urban Arequipa, Peru. Chagas disease causes more morbidity and mortality than any other parasitic disease in the Western Hemisphere. Vector-borne transmission occurs only in the Americas, where 8-10 million people currently have the disease. Despite remarkable successes in vector control, major challenges remain, Among them the increasing urbanization of the disease. Therefore, the researchers held discussions with groups of residents from communities around Arequipa to talk about changes in their communities in the past 40 years, including the communities' evolving demographics and the historical and current presence of triatomine insects, known locally as chirimachas.

PHT Corporation's Market Leading LogPad And StudyWorksTM EPRO Solutions Used In Sanofi Pasteur's Phase II Study Of New Clostridium Difficile Vaccine

PHT Corporation announced that Sanofi Pasteur is using PHT's LogPad® System and StudyWorksTM online portal for a Phase II trial to develop a vaccine against the Clostridium difficile bacterium. PHT is the leading provider of ePRO solutions used in pharmaceutical and biotechnology clinical trials worldwide. Sanofi Pasteur, a world leader in the vaccines industry, is the vaccines division of the sanofi-aventis Group. Sanofi Pasteur is working with PHT Corporation to collect direct capture patient experience data quickly, safely and accurately at medical centers across the United Kingdom and the United States. Sanofi Pasteur's phase IIb trial plans to study over 600 people with an acute infection caused by C. difficile. The bacterium spreads through the human intestinal system causing diarrhea, fever, nausea, abdominal pain, and serious intestinal conditions such as colitis, which can result in death. Vicki Tyler, a Clinical Trial Manager at Sanofi Pasteur's Massachusetts facility, explained that, unlike with a paper diary, sites and sponsors know they are receiving real-time trial data when using the LogPad.

Is The Future Of Genomic Sciences Large-Scale Sequencing?

Scientists can gain insights into new ways to use microorganisms in medicine and manufacturing through a coordinated large-scale effort to sequence the genomes of not just individual microorganisms but entire ecosystems, according to a new report from the American Academy of Microbiology that outlines recommendations for this massive effort. The report, "Large-Scale Sequencing: The Future of Genomic Sciences?" is based on a colloquium convened by the Academy in September 2008. The report outlines recommendations for large-scale microbial sequencing efforts directed toward cultivated isolates and single cells, as well as a community-scale approach to characterize a set of defined ecosystems of varying complexity. Until recently, sequencing entire microbial genomes was laborious and expensive, and the decision to sequence the genome of an organism was made by researchers or funding agencies. This ad hoc approach to gathering sequence data has resulted in an unbalanced and highly biased sampling of microbial diversity.

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