Cytomegalovirus—a ‘stealth’ pathogen—gains attention in the drug development realm

Cytomegalovirus—a ‘stealth’ pathogen—gains attention in the drug development realm

Cytomegalovirus is sometimes called ‘the stealth virus’ because many people, including more than 50% of adults in the US, harbor the infection. But few individuals ever feel the effects of CMV unless something else squelches their immune system first—such as the immunosuppressing drugs given before a bone marrow transplant. Wherever the virus gains a foothold, it can create serious problems such as pneumonia, unrelenting diarrhea or inflammation in the eye. It’s also the most common viral infection in newborns and 1 out of every 750 infants born with CMV in the US will suffer permanent harm—hearing loss, brain damage, or even death—from this virus.  Read more

Surprising epigenetic switch for ‘natural killer’ cells eyed for cancer therapy

Surprising epigenetic switch for ‘natural killer’ cells eyed for cancer therapy

Natural killer cells are the instant assassins of the immune system with the ability to destroy foreign invaders and cancer cells at first sight. Although scientists have been studying how to harness the lethal abilities of these cells for more than three decades, little has been known about how these ‘NK’ cells develop from unspecialized immune cells. Now, researchers have discovered an enzyme that uses an epigenetic pathway—a process that modifies the way a cell’s DNA is read without actually changing the genetic blueprint itself—to boost the growth and function of NK cells.  Read more

Experimental leishmaniasis vaccine could overcome challenge of multiple species

Experimental leishmaniasis vaccine could overcome challenge of multiple species

Most of the 12 million people currently infected with leishmaniasis worldwide are also afflicted with poverty. The ‘black fever’ is caused by a single-cell parasite that gets passed from one person to another by the bite of a tiny sand fly and produces disfiguring skin lesions, severe mouth and throat ulcers, or swollen internal organs. In 2005, the ministers of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal committed to a ten-year plan to eliminate infections of Leishmania in their region. Two years later, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a resolution to take control of the disease.  Read more

Researchers less willing to share study details, according to journal’s survey

Researchers are increasingly reluctant to share the background details of their studies with other scientists according to new results from a survey of authors who published papers in the Annals of Internal Medicine in the last five years. This downward trend in researchers’ willingness to disclose such information is, unfortunately, at odds with the current surge in efforts to facilitate access to the types of study specifics that are vital to reproducing results.  Read more

A comprehensive virus survey now could save billions in avoided health care costs later, experts say

A comprehensive virus survey now could save billions in avoided health care costs later, experts say

Imagine if pandemics could be forecast by infectious disease scientists the way that bad weather can be tracked by meteorologists. New viruses would still infect people, but the cost of monitoring the emergence of those novel pathogens would be far less than the expense of dealing with a worldwide outbreak. At least that’s the reasoning behind a new study, published today in mBio, in which researchers propose launching a billion-dollar-plus global surveillance plan to find all the viruses lurking in mammalian wildlife before those same viruses find us.  Read more