News » Chapter 19 Fecal to Oral Transmission
Hepatitis C (HPVC) is a virus that attacks the liver, and will take up residence for the long term. The body is unable to rid itself of the virus and it will continue to replicate in the liver, potentially leading to cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and potentially death. Recently some powerful new drugs have won approval that treat various parts of the HPVC replication cycle. Jon Cohen reports in Science Magazine of a new treatment combining the most promising of these drugs into a single therapy that in a small clinical trial cured patients of the virus in just 3 weeks. While the trial tested this idea out on the most treatable patients, it clearly demonstrated the power of the new drugs.
There is a downside to the story in that the drugs developed are prohibitively expensive with some of them selling for $1000 a pill. In addition the various drug companies have not tried these therapies sooner because they seem themselves as competitors, not collaborators. However, physicians are free to prescribe the drugs in combination. It’s a great day for science and drug development.
In the article “ Using Gut Bacteria to Fight Diarrhea”, microbiologist Trevor Lawley of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and his colleagues examined Clostridium difficile infection in mice. In humans, C. difficile is a significant pathogen in hostpitals and nursing homes, causing nearly 336,000 infections and 14,000 deaths a year in the United States. Clostridium difficile is an anaerobic, gram-positive bacterium that is the major cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Typhoid fever is a predominantly gastric bacterial disease that is found worldwide and is caused by the bacterium Salmonella entrerica serovar Typhi (S. Typhi). Typhoid is one of the most well documented diseases in history having ravaged populations as old as the Athenians of ancient Greece and as new as the citizens of Chicago less than a century ago. Modern sanitation and hygiene practices have all but eradicated the disease in developed nations but developing nations are still heavily impacted with over 200,000 deaths annually. S. Typhi is very closely related to the more well-known Salmonella strains that cause a usually non-fatal, if uncomfortable, case of gastroenteritis. Up until very recently it was not known why this strain, that is almost identical genetically, causes a systemic and life-threatening disease while its cousins did not.
Norovirus is a nasty little virus that causes tons of misery every winter. It is an RNA virus that infects the gastrointestinal tract causing violent vomiting and diarrhea. About 12 to 48 hours after being infected, rapid symptom onset will lay you flat for about a day. Even better, immunity to this virus fades in a few months and you are susceptible to a new attack. A particularly nasty strain of norovirus has been circulating in my area and my family came down with it just this weekend. The virus is highly contagious, with only 10 virus particles ingested in the mouth being able to cause disease. Much to my surprise, neither my son nor I became ill. This got me wondering why? Follow the link to learn the answer to this story.