A new study suggests that Swedish kids growing up in families that wash their dishes by hand are less likely to develop certain allergies than those families with dishwashers. These findings are the latest support to the “hygiene hypothesis” that proposes a lack of childhood exposure to infectious agents and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing the natural development of the immune system. But there may be more to it…
Read more at NPR.org.
A measles outbreak linked to Disneyland has nearly doubled in size since last week with 45 reported cases in California and seven more illnesses confirmed in at least three other states and Mexico. A contagious disease expert contends that the recent spread of measles is being fueled by a portion of parents who refused to vaccinate their children — an estimated one in 10 people today is perhaps susceptible to the virus.
Measles is very infectious because it spreads through the air, so you can catch it by standing next to someone who is infected. Initial measles symptoms include fever, cough, running nose and red eyes. After a few days, a red rash appears on the face and then spreads downward to the rest of the body. Measles can be serious and even fatal for small children.
Read more at NBCNews.com.
One of the most important medical advances may also be the simplest: hand-washing. It’s the best defense against spreading disease. And its power was discovered long before anyone knew about germs.
Read more about the history of hand-washing at NPR.org.
Ebola viruses (in blue) leaving an infected cell (in yellow). Image by the NIAID.
This PBS article contains detailed information on the Ebola path of transmission from person-to-person. It also describes in depth the mechanisms by which it causes damage to the host.
A drawing of the Ebola virion.
Since the Ebola outbreak spread from Africa to other continents, many people have expressed concerns that it may mutate and gain the ability to go airborne (stay active in the air for long enough to travel and be spread to other people). But how likely is that to happen? This article in the NYT shares the professional opinions of virologists on the virus evolution, properties, and their thoughts on the probability of the occurrence of such a major shift.
The U.S. has now reported the first Ebola case diagnosed in the country. The patient arrived in Dallas from Liberia a few weeks ago. Read more about the case on the NPR website. Authorities are certain they will be able to control the spread of the diseases. Ebola is not airborne which means that the virus cannot survive in a free form in the air so it is not easily spread from person to person. However, this case reminds us of how connected we are and how any deadly infectious disease outbreak no matter how distant from our living place matters now even more than ever since infectious diseases do not recognize international borders.
An electron micrograph of the Ebola virus.
The New England Journal of Medicine has published an interactive graphic to track the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The map contains information on past outbreaks too as well as basic description of the disease, how it spreads, etc. You can view the graphic on the NEJM website.
Smallpox virions (electron microscopy image). Source
Smallpox is the only human infectious disease which was eradicated from planet Earth. The success was the result of a massive worldwide vaccination campaign that finished successfully in the late 1970s of the twentieth century. But USA and Russia kept live samples of the virus. Later this month the WHO will discuss again whether to keep or destroy the samples.
Should We Destroy Our Last Living Samples of the Virus That Causes Smallpox?
An electron microscopic image of the virus causing MERS. Source.
MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) is caused by a virus which appears to have jumped from camels to people and can now spread between people. It was first detected in the Middle East in 2012. Health officials are keeping a close eye on it. Read more in the news link below:
ABC News: CDC Confirms First Case of MERS in US
“A health specialist prepares to work in an isolation ward where patients displaying symptoms of Ebola are held at the Doctors Without Borders facility in Guekedou, Guinea.” Source
A recent outbreak of Ebola in Guinea has experts worried and nearby West African countries watching their borders. Read about why — and what’s being done at Al Jazeera America (International W.H.O. says fight against West Africa Ebola outbreak just beginning) or listen at NPR (The Ebola Outbreak 3 Weeks In: Dire But Not Hopeless).
“The plate on the left contains about equal numbers of colonies of two different bacteria. After the bacteria compete and evolve, the lighter ones have taken the lead in the plate on the right.” Source
Do we ever stop evolving? Twenty five years — and some 50,000 plus generations — of ever-fitter bacteria suggest no. NPR ‘Shots’ has the story of how Bacterial Competition In Lab Shows Evolution Never Stops.
After being hospitalized for 2 months, Kali Hardig, 12, gets to go home after recovering from amebic meningoencephalitis which health officials believe she contracted at a Little Rock, Ark., waterpark in July. She is only the third known survivor of the deadly infection in the last 50 years. Read more at Daily News: Arkansas girl survives brain-eating amoeba
Closeup of new California ‘Vaccine Exemption’ form with the religious exemption option highlighted.
NPR has the story of How A California Law To Encourage Vaccination Could Backfire. A new form intended to require all parents to talk through vaccination risks and benefits with a health care provider before exempting their children includes an unexpected exemption of its own – one that challenges the law itself.
The new coronavirus as seen with an electron microscope. Note the characteristic halo, or ‘corona’, of proteins projecting from its outer surface. Source: NIAID/RML.
NPR has the story of the ongoing hospital outbreak of a novel coronavirus first isolated back in September. Like its cousin SARS, the virus some are calling MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) causes severe, potentially fatal pneumonia in humans. Another troubling aspect of the new virus is that it may disrupt our immune system recognizing the cells it has infected [*]. The World Health Organization has the most recent updates available as part of its Global Alert & Response system.
“Reprogrammed cells (green) fuse with and become skeletal muscles (red), spreading infection as they go. Cell nuclei are shown in blue.” Source: Masaki et al./Cell
Recent research into the mechanisms of leprosy suggests that bacterium Mycobacterium leprae reprograms human Schwann cells to act as stem cell-like vectors for further infection. WIRED Science has the story.
Caption via New York Times: “Tiny magnetic beads force the larger T-cells to divide before they are infused into the patient.” (Photo: University of Pennsylvania)
The HIV virus causes AIDS, one of the top ten causes of death worldwide. It is also the surprising key to a new cancer treatment with revolutionary promise. The New York Times tells the story.