Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Cure for MS?

Via a mailing list: Science Daily reports that multiple sclerosis has been reversed in mice.

The new treatment, appropriately named GIFT15, puts MS into remission by suppressing the immune response. This means it might also be effective against other autoimmune disorders like Crohn's disease, lupus and arthritis, the researchers said, and could theoretically also control immune responses in organ transplant patients. Moreover, unlike earlier immune-supppressing therapies which rely on chemical pharamaceuticals, this approach is a personalized form of cellular therapy which utilizes the body's own cells to suppress immunity in a much more targeted way.
GIFT15 was discovered by a team led by Dr. Jacques Galipeau of the JGH Lady Davis Institute and McGill's Faculty of Medicine. The results were published August 9 in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine.
GIFT15 is composed of two proteins, GSM-CSF and interleukin-15, fused together artificially in the lab. Under normal circumstances, the individual proteins usually act to stimulate the immune system, but in their fused form, the equation reverses itself.

A caveat: this appears to be an early-stage treatment that may not reverse existing damage to the nerves.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Not Your Grandfather's Influenza After All

Via ProMED: News1130 reports that swine flu may not be coming back in a more virulent form in the fall, because the Spanish Flu may not have done so.

Virologist Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger, along with co-author and medical historian Dr. David Morens, argues there is no firm evidence that the 1918 virus ratchetted up in virulence in a fall wave - because there is no solid proof outbreaks of illness in the U.S. in the spring of 1918 were caused by the same virus.
Their commentary, published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggested changes in virulence or transmissibility of the current pandemic virus are not inevitable. In fact, they wrote, there are reasons to hope for "a more indolent pandemic course and fewer deaths" than seen in many previous pandemics.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Superbug Enzyme in Britain

Via an unnamed source: the BBC reports on a new "superbug" in the UK, a shared antibiotic-eating enzyme imported from India.

The enzyme, called New Delhi Metallo-1, has so far been found attached to bacteria that has caused urinary tract infections and respiratory infections.
It is of particular concern because it can jump from one strain of bacteria to another meaning it could attach itself to more dangerous infections that can cause severe illnesses and blood poisoning making them almost impossible to treat.
The NDM-1 enzyme destroys a group of antibiotics called carbapenems which are mainly used in Britain for severe infections and are tightly controlled because they are one of the few groups of antibiotics that remain useful against bacteria that have already developed resistance to the commonly used drugs.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Plague in China

Via an unnamed source: the BBC reported last week on the rising plague death toll in China.

A BBC correspondent in Beijing, Michael Bristow, says that unlike in the past the authorities are being very open about this outbreak.
Local officials in north-western China have told the BBC that the situation is under control, and that schools and offices are open as usual.
But to prevent the plague spreading, the authorities have sealed off Ziketan.

Today the WHO reported on the situation, which seems to be under control:

According to the epidemiological investigation, the source of this outbreak was a wild marmot, which had contact with the dog of the index case. Ziketan is in an area of natural plague bacteria circulation amongst animals and at the present time it is the active season for plague transmission amongst animals. No drug resistance of the bacterium has been found so far and the 3 death cases have been attributed largely to delayed treatment.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Beware the Bitter Lupini

Via ProMED-mail: the Brisbane Times reports on two cases of lupini bean poisoning in Australia.

They suffered blurred vision, light-headedness, lethargy and had difficultly walking.
"Fortunately, neither of the two women who presented to hospital became seriously ill," says Nevada Pingault, an epidemiologist at WA Health's Communicable Disease Control Directorate.
"But lupin poisoning can be fatal."
An investigation revealed a quantity of bitter lupins had been milled into flour to meet a local shortage in supply.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Flu Ship

On the Typhoid Traveller front, via an unnamed source, the BBC reported on Friday that large numbers of crew on a cruise ship in the south of France were suffering from a flu-like illness.

It has now gone on to Marseille. The authorities there say neither passengers nor crew will be allowed to disembark until further tests have been carried out on their health.
"Based on the results, a decision will be made on whether or not passengers can disembark," a statement from the local prefecture, or local government, said.