Saturday, December 19, 2009

Marburg Reaches the US

Via ProMED-mail: the CDC reports on an imported case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever in Colorado last year. A bat-cave tourist came home from Uganda in January 2008 and exhibited the less dramatic symptoms of Marburg. Tests for Marburg came back negative, but she was retested six months later at her own request and Marburg was confirmed, both then and in the original sample. (It seems the CDC has a big freezer.)

On January 22, 2009, CDC notified the World Health Organization and Uganda Ministry of Health of the imported MHF case. The Python Cave had already been closed to visitors in July 2008, during the response to the Dutch MHF case. CDPHE and CDC conducted a public health investigation during January--February 2009. Interviews were conducted with the patient and her spouse, the patient's medical records were reviewed, and a retrospective contact investigation was conducted to identify possible secondary transmission. A contact was defined as a person who had physical contact with the patient, her body fluids, or contaminated materials or was in the same room as the patient during her acute illness (January 4--19, 2008). Contacts included health-care workers (including health-care providers, housekeeping staff, and hospital laboratory staff), commercial laboratory staff, and social contacts.

No explanation for the six month delay in reporting to the WHO was provided, nor for the further year it took this information to appear on the CDC site. One imagines that it may be due to the fact that the victim, though now recovered, was quite ill with Marburg, including eleven days of hospitalization in "a community hospital," and no notable precautions were taken. The story has medical thriller written all over it. Or perhaps the bird flu/H1N1 story was considered to be enough for the public to panic about at the time.

PlagueBlog recommends against bat-cave tourism of any sort, locally or in Africa.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tis the Season

It's time again for ProMED-mail's Internet-a-thon. You can make donations at their website.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Non-Plushy Giant Virus

Via twitter: the AFP reports that French scientists have discovered a (non-plushy) giant virus.

With a genome of 368,000 basic pairs, Marseillevirus is the fifth biggest virus ever sequenced and has a diametre of 250 nanometres (around 250 millionth of a millimetre, according the a report by Raoult's for the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).
The DNA of the giant virus contains material from different sources including plant and animal matter, bacteria and other giant viruses such as the Mimivirus, the report said.
"There is a mechanism of permanent creation going on in amoeba producing a new repertoire of viruses and predisposing giant viruses to become pathogens once they specialise", Raoult said.

Some interesting statements about Darwin follow, which one hopes are merely mistranslated.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Microevolutionary Defenses against Kuru

Via Twitter: Razib at ScienceBlogs reports on cannibals, kuru, and microevolution.

127V is extremely efficacious against fatality due to kuru. Looking through the pedigrees in a region of very high kuru exposure the researchers found that of the individuals who carried 127V, only 1 out of 36 in the parent generation died of kuru. By contrast, 33 of 218 parents from those carrying 127G only (the modal allele) had died of kuru (some of these presumably would also have carried the protective variant of 129). When the researchers looked at the 127V haplotype, the nature of the variation around this mutation implied that a common ancestor existed ~10 generations ago, with a 95% confidence interval 7 to 15 generations. That means that all of the copies of 127V extant today in the Fore descend from one particular copy present on the order of 250 years in the past within the population.