According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 8 million people die every year from Cancer in the World. This number translates to about 15% of all deaths in the world annually. It’s no wonder researchers all across the globe are racing for a cure. Two of the primary treatments for Cancer are radiation therapy and chemotherapy (chemo). Unfortunately, although these treatments may kill Cancer, they oftentimes harm areas of the body that are healthy as well, which can be detrimental to the health of the patient. Loss of hair and rapid aging are some of the more visible side effects of these treatments.
According to this article, it seems that a group of viruses known for their circular genome found in a few severe cases in Vietnam and Malawi could be linked to neurological diseases such as brain inflammation. This group of viruses is referred to as cycloviruses. More studies would need to be done to prove the connection between the two.
For the cases in Vietnam, vexed researchers kept coming up short with answers for patients with infected central nervous systems. After considerable diagnostic tests, half of the patients with these types of infections were found with pathogens in them. H. Rogier van Doorn, a clinical virologist, with the help of some fellow workers decided to use next-generation sequencing to hopefully uncover unknown pathogens. After using this latest technique on samples of cerebrospinal fluid from one hundred plus patients, one sample result returned with an interesting clue. A viral sequence from the Circoviridae family, from which cycloviruses are found, was discovered. The researchers went back to the original samples and specifically tested for Circoviridae and uncovered two samples with it. Then, they tested an additional six hundred and forty-two patients with central nervous system infections. The results yielded that about four percent of the patients had this viral sequence in them. Scientists have termed this virus cyclovirus-Vietnam, or CyCV-VN.
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has distressed hospitals for more than forty years and also has been infecting individuals outside of healthcare settings since 1995. MRSA is responsible for 94,000 infections and 18,000 deaths every year in the United States. Because MRSA initially appeared on a US farm, many scientists, such as epidemiologist Tara Smith, have dedicated their research in determining whether farms’ use of antibiotics is contributing to the increased drug-resistant bacterial infections in humans.
In the microbial world, cooperation between multiple species is a novel way to combat the pressures of nutrient limitation, chemical damage, and other struggles that microorganisms constantly face. As such, dynamic and complex communities are frequently formed. An example of this is the biofilm—a thick, highly structured aggregate of microorganisms that often forms in aqueous environments, particularly along surfaces or at water-air interfaces. Biofilms owe their success to the fact that, under the correct conditions, many bacteria can secrete proteins, polysaccharides, and other materials into their immediate environment. When enough organisms accumulate in one location, this effect compounds to produce a dense network of extracellular polymeric substances, often termed EPS. The result is the formation of microscopic labyrinths, containing porous water channels, enzymes to degrade biopolymers into communal nutrients, even reseviors of naked DNA from lysed cells that other bacteria can uptake into their own genome. In this 2010 publication, researchers at the University of Duisburg-Essen performed an in-depth analysis of the structure of biofilm EPS and how they mediate the lives of the organisms within them.
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents play host to an exciting array of marine life. At the base of these ecosystems are intricate communities of microorganisms. These bacteria and achaea survive at an astonishing range of temperatures, from more than 120°C at the mouth of the vents, to less than 10°C farther away. Characteristic to some genera is the assembly of orange and white “mats,” masses of bacteria turned colorful from the oxidation of sulfur. A recent article focuses on the dynamics of these communities, specifically in their relationships with temperature, at the Guaymas Basin hydrothermal vents in the Gulf of California
In a first stage trial an new type of malaria vaccine, made from whole, irradiated sporozoites, has shown itself to be 100% effective. The vaccine, PfSPZ was developed by Sanaria and its lead researcher, Stephen Hoffman, a veteran malaria researcher. This work was encourages by research in the 1970s, showing that long-lived protection could be had by exposure to thousands of bites from irradiated, infectious mosquitoes. Taking this observation and making progress has been slow because it is very difficult to create the weakened sporozoites and make them safe enough to use in a vaccine.
- The mosquitoes have to be raised in sterile conditions and fed blood infected with the sporozoites
- Billions of parasites then had to be harvested from the salivary glands of mosquitoes
- These then have to be carefully handled to pass strict vaccine standards
The initial trial was encouraging, 6 of 6 patients who were given 5 doses of the vaccine were immune to subsequent challenges with the live parasite. In the control group, 5 of 6 not given the vaccine developed malaria, as did 3 of the 9 in a group that only received four doses. Larger trials are now scheduled and the method of delivery of the vaccine may make wide-spread use difficult. The vaccine has to be given intravenously, instead of orally or subcutaneously; the method all modern vaccines use. With more research, maybe these issues can be overcome. In any case, this is a giant step forward in treating a disease that causes the most harm to the most people worldwide.
A team of researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) recently discovered a new method called parallel protein analysis to detect mircoorganismal activity in human bodily fluids. They have designed a test that can identify thousands of different proteins and detect the presence of viruses. The new method is very quick and cost effective. One of the chemists involved in the research, Professor Carsten Sönnichsen, said “ we see possible applications this technique in medicine where it could be used, for example, for the rapid diagnosis of a wide range of diseases” reflecting on likely uses of the test. The analysis is almost as easy as a simple pregnancy test. All that is needed for the test is a tiny drop of blood, saliva, or some other bodily fluid. The accuracy and reliability of the testing makes it possible to determine if the protein came from a harmless microorganism or a dangerous pathogen.
There are many example strains of pathogenic bacteria that have developed resistant to drugs. The reduced effectiveness of antibiotic drugs for treating infections is increasingly a concern for doctors and patients alike. Pneumonia is caused by a microbial infection of the lungs, and if untreated it can be painful and fatal. Traditionally pneumonia is treated by using antibiotic drugs to combat the infecting microbes. However, Klebsiella pneumoniae is one example of a drug resistant bacteria that causes pneumonia when it infects the lungs. Treating such an infection is very difficult if antibiotics are not effective. Researchers are looking for alternatives to antibiotic drugs to combat pathogenic infections.
At a time when there is great concern over the risks of antibiotic resistance, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have found a new way to distinguish between fevers in children caused by either bacteria or viruses. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hu, Yu, Crosby, and Storch measured utilization of genes for the immune response in febrile children, some of which turned out to be infected with bacteria or one of three different viruses, and in children without fevers.
Natural killer cells (NK cells) are an integral part of the innate immune system that serves as the first line of defense against infectious disease causing pathogens. This important role lead to the assumption that the more activated NK cells present during an immune response, the better. However, research done at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) has shown that this principle does not apply to all stages of the immune response.
Natural killer cells (NK cells) are an integral part of the innate immune system that serves as the first line of defense against infectious disease causing pathogens. This profound role lead to the assumption that the more activated NK cells present during an immune response, the better. However, research done at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) has shown that this principle does not apply to all stages of the immune response.
Methicillin-resistance Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that generally causes difficult to treat infections in humans. Beta-lactam antibiotics attack agents that contain the Beta-lactam ring, successfully inhibiting bacterial wall synthesis and eventually killing the bacterium. Bacteria then develop a resistance to the drug by synthesizing Beta-lactamase, an enzyme which attacks the Beta-lactam ring. Beta-lactam antibiotics include penicillins and cephalosporins. Patients that have open wounds or lower immune systems are especially prone to contracting MRSA infections.
Recent evidence is showing us that hundreds or even thousands of microbes in our gut is contributing to human health more than just aiding digestion. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences led by Patrice Cani and her team, who study the relationship between gut bacteria and metabolism, suggested that a specific gut microbe in the human body could help against obesity and metabolic disorders such as diabetes type 2. The specific gut bacterium, Akkermansia muciniphilia, makes up around 3-5% of the microbes in a healthy gut and can fluctuate depending on the diet.
The human body has an amazing protection mechanism called the immune system. It offers protection and defense against agents of infection. There are vast amounts of leukocytes in the human body to protect us from pathogens, but where do they go when they are done and what happens to them?
Researchers at Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC) in Madrid, Spain have discovered the fate of one leukocyte, the neutrophil, after it has come in contact with a pathogen. There is great interest in studying the fate of neutrophils due to their nature of releasing toxic substances after fighting pathogens. Neutrophils cause inflammation to blood vessels and tissue as a response to pathogens; this response can lead to serious injury. Fortunately, our body regulates the migration of neutrophils and prevents this.
Yet again another study showing that sugary drinks are rarely a good idea. This includes fruit juices by the way. They are just as bad as soda pop. Drink your water people!
Since the beginning of the civilization, humans have domesticated not only animals and plants, but also different kinds of microbes to produce beer, wine, cheese, yogurt, soy sauce, and more. Although researchers have studied the plant and animal domestication comprehensively, it is still a mystery on how domestication changes microbial behavior on a genetic scale. In this article, researchers at Vanderbilt University try to compare the genetic profiles between Aspergillus oryzae, the domesticated microbes, with its wild type relative, Aspergillus flavus to unveil the mystery of microbial domestication.
Rhodopsins are a class of protein commonly found in the rod cells of the eye. These proteins are the driving force behind a process called visual phototransduction, which is the translation of a visual picture into an electrical signal that can be processed by the brain. These proteins are also found in bacteria, serving a similar purpose: they create electrical energy for the cell by moving proteins across the cell membrane, creating an electrical gradient.
The structure of rhodopsin is essential in allowing the protein to carry out its function. A picture showing the structure of bacteriorhodopsin can be found here.
Natural killer cells are thought be an important component of innate immune response, which is the immediate response of the body to any infection or any breach of the human body surfaces. Natural killer cells produce messenger substances at the site of infection to recruit other components of the immune system to aid in the removal of the infection. So it has been assumed that having an abundance of natural killer cells will increase the likelihood of the removal of infection. But Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) has recently published that these types of cells can infact have the opposite effect in abundance. They had observed the infection of Listeria monocytogenes, a deadly infection that can get into the blood stream and cause death in mice and immune suppressed individuals, called listeriosis. Until now it has been believed that it is due to the ineffectiveness of the killer cells in fighting the infection causes listeriosis.
HIV research have come a long way since the beginning of the epidemic with newer and newer treatments being discovered and administered. However, a classic drawback on novel medications is the virus's ability to develop newer drug resistance strains against the treatment. This is largely due to the virus's high genetic variability, fast replication cycle, and high rate of mutation.
New hope arises from an unlikely source, the soybean. New evidence from the George Mason University researchers suggests that a compound found in soybean may become an effective treatment in inhibiting HIV infection without creating resistance strains so commonly found in classic HIV treatments. Genistein, a compound found in soybeans and other plants, is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. This compound works by blocking the communication system between the cell's exterior surface with the interior. On the cell's exterior surface are sensors that gather information of the cell's environment. These sensors will then communicate with the cell's interior portion. The cell will then use this information to create proteins or stop creating proteins, depending on the needs of the cell given the state of its environment.
In the late 1800s a search for antibiotics began in accordance with the growing acceptance that bacteria and microbes have a causal effect on the human body leading to a variety of ailments. From this point in time onward there has been a pursuit for drugs to deter or kill this disease causing bacteria. Antibiotics can be seen in use for serious life-threatening illness, such as pneumonia, kidney and heart infections, or after major operations to reduce the chances of infection, but also for non-serious ailments such as sore throat or ear infections. With the wide range that such antibiotics can be utilized for there must be wonder of what exactly the effects, to the human body especially the microbiota in the intestinal tract, are due to the over prescription of antibiotics.
As many know, antibiotics are at the front line of medical treatment when it comes to many deadly bacterial infections such as pneumonia, dysentery, and others. Dr. Miguel Valvan and Omar Halfawy have showed that antibiotic resistance can come from more than just an acquired trait within the cell. They observed that large populations of antibiotic resistant strains share small molecule metabolites with other non-resistant cells.
Ion channels are massively important to all cells as they allow for the production of ion gradients as well as important ion movements into the cell. These enzymes work in very complicated and closely regulated ways which were previously unknown. New research has opened up these ion channels and dissected their processes to allow us to more closely describe their actions.
A new study reveals a key mechanism for viral infection that has been highly preserved in viruses that release their genome into the cell nucleus without disassembling the capsid. The study was conducted by Bauer et al at Carnegie Mellon University on the Herpes Virus (HSV-1), one of the most studied viruses with this kind of an infection mechanism. For the first time, it brings into light the presence of high internal pressure of tens of atmospheres due to an extremely condensed genome in a human eukaryotic virus like HSV-1
Viruses tend to have a negative connotation to them when in a human health context. What many perhaps do not know is that there are viruses that only attack bacteria. These naturally occurring viruses are called bacteriophages. This article denotes a potentially new way of treating bacterial infections that may be used in the near future.
When bacteriophages were first discovered, they were thought to be very beneficial to treating infections as they do not target human eukaryotic cells. This research was interrupted by the discovery of antibiotics. Currently, some antibiotic treatments are becoming less effective, especially against Clostridium dificile, an intestinal pathogen responsible for many hospital infections. Bacteriophages are catching the eyes of researchers because they would be able to fight C. dificile infections without harming human cells or the necessary gut microbiota.
Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is costing farmers millions of dollars each year. Upon infection, farmers need to cull their herds due to slowed growth and reproductive issues. Although there is a vaccine available, it is not an ideal solution for this particular disease. The vaccine will not eradicate the virus, only lesson the impact of the disease on farms. Scientists are trying to determine the transmission of the disease, in order to solve the problem. A transmembrane protein CD169 has been identified as a receptor for PRRSV, and was thought to be a required gene for the virus to propagate. In a study conducted by Kansas State University and University of Missouri this theory was disproved. The scientists removed the CD169 gene, and found that the genetically modified pigs were still susceptible to the disease.
In the past year, scientists came to a shocking discovery when they found a virus larger than any found before: a Pandora virus. Discovered in Chile’s Tunquen River, Pandora viruses average a length of about a micrometer—0.3 micrometers larger than any virus found before—and contain an astonishing 2,500 genes. This is surprising considering an average virus can contain as few as 10 genes. Amoeba are the host for the Pandora viruses
With such a large relative size, one may begin to ask how these relatively enormous viruses went unnoticed for so long. The authors of the study admit that it is entirely possible that they had in fact been discovered before, but were never identified. In addition, other researchers most likely weren’t screening for something that large when looking for viruses. The study authors note that another reason why the Pandora virus had not been found before could be because ocean bacteria are extremely difficult to grow in a laboratory setting; only 10% are able to grow.