Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Double Dipping

Via ProMED-mail: the Charleston Daily Mail reports on a pediatrician who came down with swine flu twice.

Parsons says she's spoken with CDC representatives about the results, and they said the double infection isn't all that unbelievable.
"They said this happens every year with seasonal flu, so there's no reason to expect that it wouldn't happen with swine flu," Parsons said. "Every flu strain can change a little bit."
The pediatrician says there may have been a tiny change in the virus that stopped her immune system from recognizing it or her body never built up immunity to it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Iron and MS

Via Twitter: The Globe and Mail reports on a researcher's personal obsession that led to an unexpected treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Fighting for his wife's health, Dr. Zamboni looked for answers in the medical literature. He found repeated references, dating back a century, to excess iron as a possible cause of MS. The heavy metal can cause inflammation and cell death, hallmarks of the disease. The vascular surgeon was intrigued – coincidentally, he had been researching how iron buildup damages blood vessels in the legs, and wondered if there could be a similar problem in the blood vessels of the brain.
Using ultrasound to examine the vessels leading in and out of the brain, Dr. Zamboni made a startling find: In more than 90 per cent of people with multiple sclerosis, including his spouse, the veins draining blood from the brain were malformed or blocked. In people without MS, they were not.
He hypothesized that iron was damaging the blood vessels and allowing the heavy metal, along with other unwelcome cells, to cross the crucial brain-blood barrier. (The barrier keeps blood and cerebrospinal fluid separate. In MS, immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier, where they destroy myelin, a crucial sheathing on nerves.)
More striking still was that, when Dr. Zamboni performed a simple operation to unclog veins and get blood flowing normally again, many of the symptoms of MS disappeared.

Friday, November 13, 2009

BU's Leaky Biolabs

Via ProMED-mail: the Boston Globe reports on another BU researcher who accidentally brought his work home with him.

The genetic tests, conducted at the state laboratory in Jamaica Plain, compared a blood sample from the researcher with bacterial matter recovered from the lab where he was working on BU’s South End campus. “The bottom line,’’ said Dr. Anita Barry, top disease tracker at the Boston Public Health Commission, “is they matched.’’
The analysis erased any doubt about what caused the researcher to become sick last month and intensified investigations into precisely how he was exposed to a germ known as Neisseria meningitidis, which can cause meningitis.
The city’s biological lab safety division will review safety procedures in BU’s medical labs, to ensure that the school is doing everything possible to minimize researchers’ exposure to pathogens, Barry said.

I thought they did that last time.

PlagueBlog recommends moving to the suburbs before the new BU biolab opens downtown. And by "suburbs" I mean Maine.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Accidental Vaccinia

Via ProMED-mail: the CDC reports on a case of vaccinia infection in an immunocompromised woman who handled rabies vaccine bait, in which a genetically modified version of variola's little sister is used. There's much more on the story and the history of vaccinia at ScienceBlogs.