About 3.7 billion worldwide are infected with the herpes virus

Approximately two-thirds of all people under age 50 across the globe are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), the virus most commonly associated with cold sores, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report released today in the journal PLOS One.

That’s 3.7 billion people worldwide.

The burden of infection varies in different parts of the world and between men and women, according to the report. In the Americas, about 39% of all women are infected and 49% of men. In the Eastern Mediterranean, 75% of both men and women are infected and 87% of both men and women are infected in Africa.

And that’s just men and women under age 50. Above this age, the burden of infection would probably “trend toward 100%” in many places, says Bryan Cullen, director of the Duke University Center for Virology, although the WHO study doesn’t include these statistics.

HSV-1 is the same virus most commonly responsible for causing skin lesions, or “cold sores,” around the mouth, a disease than can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, such as kissing. But while cold sores are a mostly cosmetic issue, there’s good reason to collect data on the virus, argue some experts.

 

Link to full article on Mashable

The Brain Forgets Things In Order To Conserve Energy, Lund University Study

Our brains not only contain learning mechanisms but also forgetting mechanisms that erase “unnecessary” learning. A research group at Lund University in Sweden has now been able to describe one of these mechanisms at the cellular level.

The group’s results, published in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), explain a theoretical learning phenomenon which has so far been difficult to understand.

The premise is that human or animal subjects can learn to associate a certain tone or light signal with a puff of air to the eye. The air puff makes the subject blink, and eventually they blink as soon as they hear the tone or see the light signal. The strange thing, however, is that if the tone and the light are presented together (and with the air puff), the learning does not improve, but gets worse.

 

Link to BioSpace article

US approval for drug that turns herpes virus against cancer

Imlygic, which bursts melanoma cells open and triggers immune response, can shrink localised tumours but is not proven to extend life, says FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a first-of-a-kind drug that uses the herpes virus to infiltrate deadly skin cancer tumours, reducing their size in some cases.

The FDA is allowing the injectable drug Imlygic, made by Amgen Inc, to be used at first only on melanomas that cannot be removed surgically. The company said a single course would cost about $65,000 depending on the length of the treatment.

 

Link to The Guardian article

Approaching Zero: How West Africa is Crushing the Ebola Epidemic

The West African Ebola outbreak is finally starting to approach manageable levels, after nearly 18 excruciating months and over 11,000 lost lives. Here’s what the current situation on the ground looks like and how the battle against Ebola finally might be won.

This is the largest and longest Ebola outbreak in human history. At its peak, there were 950 confirmed cases each week, prompting fears of a global pandemic. Officials have reported 28,421 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Of these, some 11,300 people have died — a fatality rate of 40%. A total of 881 healthcare workers have been infected; of those, 513 died.

The effects will be felt for years to come. The loss of so many medical personnel is expected to have downstream effects on the health system of affected West African countries, including a sharp rise in maternal mortality to the tune of an additional 4,022 deaths each year for the foreseeable future. Moreover, the ability of healthcare workers to deal with other major diseases, like Malaria and Lassa (another hemorrhagic fever), was severely curtailed during the epidemic.

Link to full article on Gizmodo

Cambridge Biomedical Exhibiting at MassBio CRO/CMO Symposium

We will be exhibiting at the Massachusetts Biotech Council CRO/CMO Symposium on Friday 13th November.

This event will be held at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, 606 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02210  and is now in its fourth year, the MassBio CRO/CMO Symposium shines a spotlight on the strength and success of the CRO and CMO communities in the Commonwealth.

The Symposium draws more than 300 attendees to discuss and evaluate the best alternatives that have evolved in shortening time to market. A series of case studies, interactive panel discussions, and networking sessions provide ample time to explore the various techniques and approaches being used by both virtual and established companies.

Click here to register

Plague traced back to Bronze Age

lague has been a scourge on humanity for far longer than previously thought, ancient DNA shows.

Samples taken from the teeth of seven bodies contained traces of the bacterial infection in the Bronze Age.

They also showed it had, at the time, been unable to cause the bubonic form of plague or spread through fleas – abilities it evolved later.

The researchers, at the University of Copenhagen, say plague may have shaped early human populations.

Human history tells of three plague pandemics:

  • The Plague of Justinian began in AD541 and killed more than 25 million people
  • The Black Death started in China in 1334 and claimed the lives of up to half of Europeans
  • The Modern Plague, in China, emerged in the 1860s and led to 10 million deaths

Link to full article on BBC

Two-Faced Proteins May Tackle HIV Reservoirs

For the millions of people living with HIV worldwide, a life-long commitment to antiretroviral drugs is a must. Without these drugs, reservoirs of HIV hiding within resting T cells throughout the body can easily resurge and cause disease. In a study published yesterday (October 20) in Nature Communications, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland, described a bispecific antibody-like protein that attacks those reservoirs by coaxing HIV out of hiding and targeting infected cells for destruction.

“In order to kill the [infected] cell, the cell has to be activated,” said study coauthor John Mascola, director of NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center. This is because HIV has a way of hiding out inside inactive CD4+ T cells where the virus adopts a dormant-like state known as latency. In this state, the virus is impervious to antiretroviral drugs as well as antibodies that might otherwise alert other immune cells to the virus’ presence inside an infected cell. “By definition, latently-infected cells don’t express virus proteins,” Oliver Schwartz, the head of the virus and immunity laboratory at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, who was not involved in the work, told The Scientist.

 

Link to full article at The Scientist

Cognitive Neuroscience Lurking in Art

What can neuroscientists learn from the masters and other artists?

 

Eric Altschuler has been staring at mirrors. Specifically, those of van Eyck, Caravaggio, Parmigianino, Escher, and other painters. The Temple University professor and his colleague V.S. Ramachandran of the University of California, San Diego, are on the hunt for novel ways that artists have presented reflections, as a means of seeking out potentially new modes of therapy.

Ramachandran and Altschuler have pioneered methods of using a mirror to alleviate phantom limb pain and other conditions. A patient sits at the side of the mirror with, say, his right arm reflected in front of the glass. The patient peeks around the corner to view the reflection as if he were looking at his left arm—a setup Ramachandran and Altschuler call the parasagittal reflection.

 

Link to article on The Scientist

Landmark Huntington’s trial starts

The first drug that can potentially correct the underlying defect that causes Huntington’s disease has been taken by patients in a clinical trial.

Doctors at University College London, which is leading the study, said it was an important moment in tackling the incurable condition.

Current medication treats the symptoms, but cannot slow or prevent the progressive damage to the brain.

The Huntington’s Disease Association said the trial was “very exciting”.

The disease is caused by the brain producing a mutant protein called huntingtin which damages and ultimately kills off brain cells.

As Huntington’s progresses it leads to uncontrolled movements, behaviour changes and poor cognition. Life expectancy after diagnosis can be as short as 10 years.

 

Link to BBC

Ebola RNA Persistence in Semen of Ebola Virus Disease Survivors — Preliminary Report

LONDON — Doctors have found that Ebola can linger in some male survivors for up to nine months but aren’t sure if that means they might still be infectious, according to new research.

In a study of 93 men in Sierra Leone, scientists found the Ebola virus in semen samples from about half of them. The risk seemed to decline over time. Ebola was detected in all nine men tested at two to three months after their illness began but in only 11 of the 43 survivors tested at seven to nine months.

Link to Mashable

 

Link to NE Journal of Medicine Article