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  • richardmitnick 10:15 am on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Johns Hopkins Wilmer Zika Center, , ZIKA   

    From JHU: “Johns Hopkins launches first-known multidisciplinary Zika virus center in the world” 

    Johns Hopkins
    Johns Hopkins University

    8.24.16
    Kim Polyniak

    Center team will provide comprehensive care to patients with mosquito-borne virus, conduct research

    As the number of patients with Zika virus grows worldwide, Johns Hopkins Medicine today announced the opening of the new Johns Hopkins Wilmer Zika Center dedicated primarily to caring for patients with the mosquito-borne and sexually transmitted virus.

    The center is composed of providers and staff from departments and divisions at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, including epidemiology, infectious diseases, maternal-fetal medicine, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, physiotherapy, psychiatry, and social work. Medical experts from Brazil, a country greatly affected by Zika virus, are also members of the center.

    “Patients will no longer be required to travel to multiple centers for care relating to Zika virus,” says William May, associate professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. “Physicians and staff members in various departments at Johns Hopkins will be available to provide comprehensive care to patients within one institution.”

    Infections from Zika virus have reached epidemic proportions in parts of the world in the past year, with Brazil being the epicenter of the outbreak. Several non-travel-related cases have recently been reported in Florida, suggesting local transmission there. According to the World Health Organization, Zika may be responsible for thousands of babies being born with microcephaly, a severe birth defect that affects the brain, and for some adults experiencing neurological symptoms.

    The Wilmer Eye Institute led the development of what is believed to be the first such comprehensive and multidisciplinary Zika center. In addition to microcephaly, Zika is also reported to cause eye abnormalities in up to more than half of babies infected with the illness, according to a recent study in Brazil. The Wilmer Eye Institute is able to diagnose and, in many cases, treat eye concerns associated with Zika virus—including cataracts and other vision issues—with specialized technology.

    Adult and pediatric patients worldwide can be referred to the center by outside physicians or through Johns Hopkins departments and divisions, including emergency medicine and maternal-fetal medicine. Patients can also call the Wilmer Eye Institute to schedule an appointment. A case manager will work with patients to develop a care plan and identify specialists with whom the patient should follow up.

    “When a patient, particularly a pregnant woman, contracts Zika virus, it can be a tremendously alarming experience,” says Jeanne Sheffield, director of maternal-fetal medicine for the Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Our team will be able to coordinate our efforts to determine patients’ needs and provide the best care possible.”

    The Zika center team will also be involved in research to learn more about the virus, about which many unknowns still exist.

    “Our No. 1 priority will be focused on our patients,” May says, “but our hope is that our care will also lead to many new developments in the effort to fight this potentially devastating disease.”

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika
    Zika depiction. Image copyright John Liebler, http://www.ArtoftheCell.com
    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:24 am on August 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Fetal microcephaly, , Sofosbuvir, , ZIKA   

    From Yale: “Yale team discovers how Zika virus causes fetal brain damage” 

    Yale University bloc

    Yale University

    August 24, 2016
    Bill Hathaway
    william.hathaway@yale.edu

    1
    Human neuroepithelial stem cells self-organize into rose-like patterns and express the typical neural stem cell markers nestin (green) and SOX2 (red). They were used to understand how Zika virus infection works and to block its proliferation. No image credit.

    Infection by the Zika virus diverts a key protein necessary for neural cell division in the developing human fetus, thereby causing the birth defect microcephaly, a team of Yale scientists reported Aug. 24 in the journal Cell Reports.

    The findings suggest that Zika virus might be susceptible to existing antiviral drugs that may prevent disruption to the developing nervous system, said the researchers.

    One of the frightening side-effects of Zika virus infection in pregnant women is the risk of fetal microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small brains. The multidisciplinary collaboration of Yale scientists revealed that Zika virus kills stem cells in the brain and disrupts the process of creating brain cells. An analysis shows that the virus diverts a form of the protein TBK1 from its primary job of organizing cell division to the mitochondria, the cell’s power pack, where it helps initiate an immune response. Lacking the protein at the site of cell division, cells die instead of forming new brain cells, resulting in microcephaly. The data suggest this mechanism may also contribute to microcephaly associated with other common congenital viral infections.

    Researchers note that an existing FDA-approved drug, Sofosbuvir, showed promise in preventing Zika virus infection of neural stem cells in laboratory culture and also seems to keep phospho-TBK1 involved in cell division. More study needs to be conducted to prove the efficacy of the drug as a medical therapy for Zika virus, the authors said.

    “There is an urgent need to identify therapeutic approaches to halt Zika infection, especially in pregnant women,” said Marco Onorati, co-first author of the paper and researcher in the lab of senior author Nenad Sestan, professor of neuroscience, comparative medicine, genetics, and psychiatry. “In the interim, we hope these findings can lead to therapies that might minimize the damage caused by this virus.”

    Co-first authors of the paper are Zhen Li, Fuchen Liu, and Andre M.M. Sousa of Yale. Tamas L. Horvath and Brett Lindenbach, also of Yale, are co-senior authors of the work.

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika
    Zika depiction. Image copyright John Liebler, http://www.ArtoftheCell.com
    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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    Yale University Campus

    Yale University comprises three major academic components: Yale College (the undergraduate program), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools. In addition, Yale encompasses a wide array of centers and programs, libraries, museums, and administrative support offices. Approximately 11,250 students attend Yale.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:01 pm on August 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ZIKA   

    From Rockefeller: “Zika infection may affect adult brain cells, suggesting risk may not be limited to pregnant women” 

    Rockefeller U bloc

    Rockefeller University

    August 18, 2016
    No clear writer credit

    1
    Zika in the adult brain: Illumination of the fluorescent biomarker in green revealed that Zika can infect the adult mouse brain in a region full of neural progenitor cells, which play an important role in learning and memory.

    Concerns over the Zika virus have focused on pregnant women due to mounting evidence that it causes brain abnormalities in developing fetuses. However, new research in mice from scientists at The Rockefeller University and La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology suggests that certain adult brain cells may be vulnerable to infection as well. Among these are populations of cells that serve to replace lost or damaged neurons throughout adulthood, and are also thought to be critical to learning and memory.

    “This is the first study looking at the effect of Zika infection on the adult brain,” says Joseph Gleeson, adjunct professor at Rockefeller, head of the Laboratory of Pediatric Brain Disease, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Based on our findings, getting infected with Zika as an adult may not be as innocuous as people think.”

    Although more research is needed to determine if this damage has long-term biological implications or the potential to affect behavior, the findings suggest the possibility that the Zika virus, which has become widespread in Central and South America over the past eight months, may be more harmful than previously believed. The new findings were published in Cell Stem Cell on August 18.

    “Zika can clearly enter the brain of adults and can wreak havoc,” says Sujan Shresta, a professor at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology. “But it’s a complex disease—it’s catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms. Its effect on the adult brain may be more subtle, and now we know what to look for.”

    Neuronal progenitors

    Early in gestation, before our brains have developed into a complex organ with specialized zones, they are comprised entirely of neural progenitor cells. With the capability to replenish the brain’s neurons throughout its lifetime, these are the stem cells of the brain. In healthy individuals, neural progenitor cells eventually become fully formed neurons, and it is thought that at some point along this progression they become resistant to Zika, explaining why adults appear less susceptible to the disease.

    But current evidence suggests that Zika targets neural progenitor cells, leading to loss of these cells and to reduced brain volume. This closely mirrors what is seen in microcephaly, a developmental condition linked to Zika infection in developing fetuses that results in a smaller-than-normal head and a wide variety of developmental disabilities.

    The mature brain retains niches of these neural progenitor cells that appear to be especially impacted by Zika. These niches—in mice they exist primarily in two regions, the subventricular zone of the anterior forebrain and the subgranular zone of the hippocampus—are vital for learning and memory.

    Gleeson and his colleagues suspected that if Zika can infect fetal neural progenitor cells, it wouldn’t be a far stretch for them to also be able to infect these cells in adults. In a mouse model engineered by Shresta and her team to mimic Zika infection in humans, fluorescent biomarkers illuminated to reveal that adult neural progenitor cells could indeed be hijacked by the virus.

    “Our results are pretty dramatic—in the parts of the brain that lit up, it was like a Christmas tree,” says Gleeson. “It was very clear that the virus wasn’t affecting the whole brain evenly, like people are seeing in the fetus. In the adult, it’s only these two populations that are very specific to the stem cells that are affected by virus. These cells are special, and somehow very susceptible to the infection.”

    Beyond fetal brain infection

    The researchers found that infection correlated with evidence of cell death and reduced generation of new neurons in these regions. Integration of new neurons into learning and memory circuits is crucial for neuroplasticity, which allows the brain to change over time. Deficits in this process are associated with cognitive decline and neuropathological conditions, such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

    Gleeson and colleagues recognize that healthy humans may be able to mount an effective immune response and prevent the virus from attacking. However, they suggest that some people, such as those with weakened immune systems, may be vulnerable to the virus in a way that has not yet been recognized.

    “In more subtle cases, the virus could theoretically impact long-term memory or risk of depression,” says Gleeson, “but tools do not exist to test the long-term effects of Zika on adult stem cell populations.”

    In addition to microcephaly, Zika has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition in which the immune system attacks parts of the nervous system, leading to muscle weakness or even paralysis. “The connection has been hard to trace since Guillain-Barré usually develops after the infection has cleared,” says Shresta. “We propose that infection of adult neural progenitor cells could be the mechanism behind this.”

    There are still many unanswered questions, including exactly how translatable findings in this mouse model are to humans. Gleeson’s findings in particular raise questions such as: Does the damage inflicted on progenitor cells by the virus have lasting biological consequences, and can this in turn affect learning and memory? Or, do these cells have the capability to recover? Nonetheless, these findings raise the possibility that Zika is not simply a transient infection in adult humans, and that exposure in the adult brain could have long-term effects.

    “The virus seems to be traveling quite a bit as people move around the world,” says Gleeson. “Given this study, I think the public health enterprise should consider monitoring for Zika infections in all groups, not just pregnant women.”

    Joseph Gleeson also holds appointments at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. This research was supported by NIH grants R01NS041537, R01NS048453, R01NS052455, P01HD070494, and P30NS047101; the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI); the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (to J.G. Gleeson); NIH grant R01 AI116813 (to S. Shresta); and a Druckenmiller Fellowship from New York Stem Cell Foundation (to H. Li).

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika
    Zika depiction. Image copyright John Liebler, http://www.ArtoftheCell.com
    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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    Rockefeller U Campus

    The Rockefeller University is a world-renowned center for research and graduate education in the biomedical sciences, chemistry, bioinformatics and physics. The university’s 76 laboratories conduct both clinical and basic research and study a diverse range of biological and biomedical problems with the mission of improving the understanding of life for the benefit of humanity.

    Founded in 1901 by John D. Rockefeller, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research was the country’s first institution devoted exclusively to biomedical research. The Rockefeller University Hospital was founded in 1910 as the first hospital devoted exclusively to clinical research. In the 1950s, the institute expanded its mission to include graduate education and began training new generations of scientists to become research leaders around the world. In 1965, it was renamed The Rockefeller University.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:19 am on August 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ZIKA   

    From Hopkins: “Four Johns Hopkins research teams win funding to combat Zika virus” 

    Johns Hopkins
    Johns Hopkins University

    8.10.16

    Four teams of researchers from Johns Hopkins University—including three from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and another pursuing an idea that originated at a recent Zika hackathon at JHU—will be awarded grants from U.S. Agency for International Development’s Combating Zika and Future Threats Grand Challenge, the agency announced today.

    In what the agency is calling “potentially game-changing solutions to mitigate the spread and impact of the Zika virus,” 21 grants totaling $15 million will be awarded for groundbreaking ideas from around the world to both address the current Zika outbreak and improve the ability to prevent, detect, and respond to future infectious disease outbreaks. In just nine weeks, USAID received nearly 900 submissions from across the globe in response to the Challenge, which will invest up to $30 million.

    A complete list of grant recipients can be found on the USAID website. No other institution received more than two awards from USAID.

    The research of Conor McMeniman, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute at the Bloomberg School, will focus on what parts of human scent are attractive to Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the Zika virus, as well as other viruses including dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. The goal is to mimic the scent of humans to develop a powerful lure that can be used as bait in mosquito traps in an effort to prevent mosquitoes from spreading diseases.

    “Body odor and breath are made up of about 300 different chemicals, and we want to understand what part of the chemistry of human scent is most attractive to the mosquitoes that carry Zika,” McMeniman says. “The goal is to develop a custom fragrance to bait mosquito traps and improve our ability to fight mosquito-borne illnesses.”

    To accomplish this, McMeniman and his team will use two-photon microscopy to see which of the chemicals of human scent activate the olfactory centers of the mosquito brain. Using mosquitoes that have been genetically engineered to have olfactory centers light up when they are activated, the researchers will literally look inside the brains of these tiny insects to understand how to create the best chemical lure.

    McMeniman says better understanding how the mosquito nervous system detects humans will provide new avenues to control diseases spread by Aedes aegypti and other species, including the mosquitoes that carry malaria, which kills more than 500,000 people worldwide each year, mostly in young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

    The current outbreak of Zika—a virus recently linked to brain-related birth defects in babies born to pregnant mothers who contract it—is most prevalent in Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the Americas. More than 1,800 cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S., though most of those were contracted by people who had traveled outside the U.S. Recently, however, Zika-carrying mosquitoes were found in a small section of Miami, Florida, and health officials say nearly two dozen cases have now been reported in people who were infected domestically.

    Current Zika control strategies are mainly based on the use of insecticides and personal mosquito repellents. But a continuous emergence of mosquito resistance to insecticides and the lack of drugs and vaccines for Zika and other mosquito-transmitted pathogens render the development of novel, cost-effective mosquito control strategies urgent, says George Dimopoulos, a professor at the Malaria Institute.

    Dimopoulos’ team has identified a new bacterium, Chromobacterium Csp_P, which can kill larvae and adults of various species of mosquito that transmit malaria, dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. The bacterium also blocks the pathogens inside the mosquitoes, preventing infectious transmission in the mosquito gut.

    “This can be a highly potent weapon against current and future mosquito-borne diseases,” Dimopoulos says.

    His team aims to develop Chromobacterium Csp_P into a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, and logistically simple mosquito control biopesticide. Chromobacteria are abundant soil bacteria and have already been developed for agricultural pest control by live spraying on fields, but not for mosquito control. The end users of Chromobacterium Csp_P –based products could range from mosquito control organizations to individual households.

    The third award will go to the Bloomberg School’s Center for Communication Programs, or CCP. Researchers there note that changing household and community behaviors around the proper and consistent cleaning of standing water will be key to stopping Zika in its tracks. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.

    Susan Krenn, executive director of CCP, says that rapid change of habits, attitudes, and behaviors is a challenging but critical component of disease containment. CCP will work with consulting firm Catalyst Behavioral Sciences to develop the Rapid SBCC Habit Optimization Tool, or R-SHOT, which will combine local data with evidence-based behavior change and habit formation principles to determine the best way to help people in communities impacted by Zika control the mosquito problem themselves.

    “As we saw during the Ebola crisis, changes in habits and behavior can have substantial impact on the spread of disease,” Krenn says. “To be successful, behavior change strategies for Zika will need to be tailored to local contexts and leverage existing behaviors and habits.”

    The final funded project, known as VectorWEB, would improve upon the existing approach to mosquito population surveillance. Currently, ovitraps—designed to kill adult breeding mosquitos—are placed in the field, then later collected, and the number of mosquitoes in each trap is counted manually in a lab.

    A team led by Soumyadipta Acharya, an assistant professor in JHU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, has proposed a modified trap that would have the ability to provide real-time data to health administrators, community health workers, and others. That data could then be used for outbreak modeling, targeted resource allocation and redirection, and community-driven public health interventions.

    The VectorWEB project is the result of a collaboration between the Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, a center within the Department of Biomedical Engineering shared by the Whiting School of Engineering and the School of Medicine, and Jhpiego, a university-affiliated global health nonprofit.

    Several VectorWEB teammates have been working on the project since a spring hackathon sponsored by CBID and Jhpiego to meet the daunting public health challenges presented by the Zika outbreak. The hackathon drew more than 60 participants for a weekend of problem-solving and development of innovative, creative, low-cost design solutions.

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika
    Zika depiction. Image copyright John Liebler, http://www.ArtoftheCell.com
    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

    Rutgers smaller

    WCGLarge
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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:59 pm on August 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ZIKA   

    From The Atlantic: “There’s Probably Way More Zika in the United States Than Has Been Counted” 

    Atlantic Magazine

    The Atlantic Magazine

    8.3.16
    Adrienne LaFrance

    1
    Mosquito larvae are seen in Guangzhou, China, at the the world’s largest “mosquito factory.”

    New computer modeling suggests the virus has been underestimated by tens of thousands of cases.

    Try as they might, public-health officials can’t really track the Zika virus in real time. There is inevitably a lag between how a disease spreads and when the public finds out about it.

    Even in Miami, where new updates are being issued every weekday, there’s only so much officials know about how quickly and widely Zika is traveling through the population.

    Then there are the unknowns that are harder to pin down: How many cases of Zika are going uncounted? It turns out, that number may be enormous.

    Researchers at Northeastern University say federal-health officials are likely vastly undercounting Zika in the United States. In a paper that’s still under review for journal publication, they describe computer modeling that suggests there were nearly 30,000 cases of travel-related Zika in the country in mid-June, about 25 times more cases than the 1,200 or so reported by the CDC at the time.

    Researchers found the undercounting occurred in at least nine states: Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, and Oregon.

    “CDC is doing a great job, but it is really hard to detect cases,” said Alessandro Vespignani, one of the authors of the paper. The federal agency is faced with an exceedingly difficult task, in part because it is cobbling together data from various monitoring systems in different states and jurisdictions. The nature of the virus presents additional challenges, making it more complicated to track than other epidemics. “You have to ingest much more data and deal with another level of complexity as well as other sources of uncertainties,” Vespignani said.

    Because Zika is transmitted by mosquitoes (as well as spread between humans), researchers trying to model or predict its path have to take into consideration the presence of certain mosquito species, mosquito populations in different areas, that population’s variability with weather conditions, and so on. (Northeastern’s computer model does not take sexual transmission of Zika into consideration, even though it’s one of the ways the virus is transmitted.)

    Vespignani and his colleagues also used their model to predict how Zika will continue to move through the Americas through the end of 2016, based on how it has spread globally since 2013. (They also took into account the rate of transmission of Dengue in various regions, since that virus has much in common with Zika.)

    The modeling suggests that while the Zika epidemic has already peaked in Brazil, the number of cases is still growing rapidly in Puerto Rico, and will continue to climb well into the fall. And while the researchers say their findings should be interpreted cautiously, given the complexity of the modeling, they believe their projections offer important indications of “the magnitude and timing” of the epidemic as it progresses.

    3
    Zhang et al

    There are other computer-modeled predictions that could be useful—the estimated number of cases of Zika-related Microcephaly, a brain defect in which newborns have abnormally small heads, for example. But modeling such outcomes, especially when so much remains unknown about Zika, is difficult if not impossible without more robust clinical data. “Models can be only as good as the data they ingest,” Vespignani said.

    For the CDC, good data may be the central challenge in tracking Zika. Because the agency only counts confirmed cases of the disease, and because people who catch Zika are usually asymptomatic, there are almost certainly a significant number of people who have had the virus without knowing it.

    “Like the [Northeastern University] team, when we work on estimating components of the epidemic, we try to understand the dynamics of infection relative to the available information, always under the assumption that what we ‘see’ through surveillance is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Michael Johansson, a biologist in the CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, in a statement provided to The Atlantic by a spokesman. “Many infections are asymptomatic, some are mild with symptoms that do not cause people to seek care, some cases are mistaken as other diseases, and then we get to the diagnostics which are also challenging.”

    “All of those components contribute to many fewer cases being reported than the number of infections that actually occurs,” Johansson said.

    What does all of this mean for people who just want to protect themselves from the virus? Zika should be taken as the serious threat to public health that officials have said it is. Though many cases of Zika are mild, scientists are just beginning to understand how devastating it can be—including among children and adults sickened by the disease, not just fetuses. In Utah, one man died from the virus. (And officials still don’t understand how a family member who cared for him contracted Zika.)

    The CDC has clear guidelines on how people—particularly pregnant women—can protect themselves from the virus. Until scientists learn more about how Zika spreads and how it might be stopped, it’s important to understand it could be much more widespread than it appears.

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika depiction. Image copyright John Liebler, www.ArtoftheCell.com
    Zika depiction. Image copyright John Liebler, www.ArtoftheCell.com

    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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  • richardmitnick 11:40 am on August 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ZIKA   

    From Chicago Tribune via ANL: “This giant X-ray machine helped decode one of the Zika virus’ secrets “ 

    Argonne Lab

    News from Argonne National Laboratory

    1

    Chicago Tribune

    8.2.16
    Ally Marotti

    2
    Other viruses in the same family as Zika, such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever, also produce the NS1 protein. (Argonne National Laboratory)

    A group of Midwest researchers is one step closer to a Zika vaccine, and they used a giant X-ray machine at the Chicago area’s Argonne National Lab to get there.

    University of Michigan and Purdue University researchers used equipment at Lemont-based Argonne to map the molecular structure of a protein the Zika virus produces.

    That knowledge can lead to more accurate diagnoses of Zika and possibly a vaccine or antiviral drugs, said Janet Smith, professor of biological chemistry in the Life Sciences Institute at Michigan.

    “We don’t have good diagnostic tools to know if a person has been infected with Zika,” said Smith, who led the study. “There are a bunch of antibody tests out there to see if you’ve been exposed to Zika — the problem is they’re not specific enough.”

    Of course no vaccine will come in time for the Olympics, which start next week, Smith said, but these findings are important in the fight against the disease.

    Zika is a growing concern in the U.S., as cases are increasingly reported in countries outside of the tropics. The virus is known to cause devastating birth defects, and the World Health Organization declared an international health emergency over its spread.

    Nearly 1,500 cases have been reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but all were acquired while traveling. However, experts say that will change by the end of the year.

    Although a study out of Yale University found it’s highly unlikely those traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics will contract the disease, fear has amplified as the games approach.

    The protein Smith and her team looked at is called NS1. Other viruses in the same family as Zika, such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever, also produce the protein. When a person gets infected, the virus induces their body to make the protein.

    “It helps the virus to make more copies of itself, infect (the body’s) cells and hide from the immune system in ways that are really not very well understood at all,” Smith said.

    Since Zika is a problem in places where dengue fever is prevalent, inaccurate diagnoses sometimes prevent people from knowing which disease they were exposed to. These new findings will hopefully change that, Smith said.

    The researchers used Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source to conduct the study. The facility is used to conduct X-ray research, and is so large that its diameter measures just a little less than the height of the Willis Tower, said Stephen Streiffer, director of the facility.

    “APS is used to produce hard X-rays — the same type you’d get in the dentist’s office,” Streiffer said. “The difference is that the APS produces X-rays which are about a billion times more intense.”

    Smith and her team made a stable NS1 protein from Zika and put it into a crystal, which scatters the X-ray beam. Smith’s team uses a detector to measure the scattering, and can then figure out the structure of the molecule inside.

    The researchers had already been studying structures of the proteins from West Nile and dengue, so that sped up the process, Smith said. Richard Kuhn, professor and head of Purdue’s Department of Biological Sciences, co-authored the study, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

    The protein they looked at was from the first strain of Zika identified in Uganda in 1947, Smith said. Knowing its structure can help scientists understand how the virus has mutated since it spread to Brazil.

    “Has it gotten worse when it evolved on its way to Brazil, or has it been this bad all along?” Smith said. “Viruses are amazing at sneaking around mutating … It’s like cancer. They produce fast and make a bunch of mistakes, but just one needs to take off.

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika
    Image of the Zika virus, Image copyright John Liebler, http://www.ArtoftheCell.com
    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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    Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more visit http://www.anl.gov.

    The Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory is one of five national synchrotron radiation light sources supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science to carry out applied and basic research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels, provide the foundations for new energy technologies, and support DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security. To learn more about the Office of Science X-ray user facilities, visit http://science.energy.gov/user-facilities/basic-energy-sciences/.

    Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science

    Argonne Lab Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 6:41 am on July 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ZIKA   

    From NYT: “Zika Cases in Puerto Rico Are Skyrocketing” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    JULY 30, 2016
    DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
    Omaya Sosa Pascual contributed reporting.

    1
    Since Danelle, 36, was infected with the Zika virus in late April, danger signs have appeared in her fetus. At 23 weeks, she grappled with the decision of whether to abort. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

    The Zika epidemic that has spread from Brazil to the rest of Latin America is now raging in Puerto Rico — and the island’s response is in chaos.

    The war against the Aedes aegypti mosquito carrying the virus is sputtering out in failure. Infections are skyrocketing: Many residents fail to protect themselves against bites because they believe the threat is exaggerated.

    Federal and local health officials are feuding, and the governor’s special adviser on Zika has quit in disgust.

    There are only about 5,500 confirmed infections on the island, including of 672 pregnant women. But experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they believe that is a radical undercount.

    Just four cases of infection were confirmed last week in Florida. But in Puerto Rico, officials believe thousands of residents — including up to 50 pregnant women — are infected each day.

    2
    The sonogram of a patient of Dr. Alberto De la Vega whose fetus shows clumps of dead cells. “Her fetus does not have microcephaly now,” he said, “but this is what leads to it.” Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

    Most never get tested. Tests on donated blood, the most reliable barometer of the epidemic’s spread, show that almost 2 percent of the donors were infected in the last 10 days.

    “That’s a stunning number and reflects an explosion of cases,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the C.D.C., said in an interview.

    The proportion of pregnant women testing positive for the virus has risen sevenfold since January, the agency said on Friday. Officials warned that hundreds of infants could be born with microcephaly in the coming year.

    But a wave of microcephaly like Brazil’s may yet be averted for two reasons. The pregnancy rate is falling so precipitously that this year, for the first time in history, Puerto Rico will have fewer births than deaths.

    Obstetricians, too, are quietly urging their infected pregnant patients to have regular ultrasounds and to consider abortion if brain damage turns up.

    And damage is turning up.

    In an office at the University of Puerto Rico Hospital, the gentle curves of the graph on Dr. Alberto De la Vega’s computer screen trace a horror story. They are the head circumferences of dozens of fetuses whose mothers have been infected with the Zika virus for at least a month — and almost 75 percent are below the mean; normally, only half should be.

    Only one was clearly microcephalic, with the extreme shrinkage and brain damage that is the worst consequence of the infection, and that curve abruptly ends: The mother chose abortion.

    “What worries me is not 100 kids with microcephaly,” said Dr. De la Vega, chief of ultrasound diagnosis at the university. “What worries me is a lot of kids affected in some way we cannot determine yet.”

    “We may be facing a generation with learning and behavioral disabilities,” he said.

    On the scan of a patient who had fled his office fighting back tears, he pointed out three large white spots — clumps of dead cells.

    “Her fetus does not have microcephaly now,” he said, “but this is what leads to it.”

    A ‘Very Dire’ Situation

    Cases of Zika infection are expected to keep rising through October, and by year’s end, a quarter of the island’s population of 3.5 million will have been exposed, a “very dire” situation, said Dr. Lyle R. Petersen, the C.D.C.’s chief of vector-borne diseases and director of its fight against Zika.

    In a normal year, that would mean about 8,000 infected pregnancies, but the birthrate is dropping rapidly, said Jose A. Lopez, the health department’s demographer. In past years, births normally outnumbered deaths by about 400 per month, but since January, that ratio has reversed itself, and there have been, on average, 135 more deaths than births.

    The drop is partly a result of rising divorce rates and couples emigrating as the economy deteriorates, but also of “mothers delaying giving birth because of the campaign against Zika,” Mr. Lopez said.

    3
    Standing water in a cemetery in Puerto Rico. Removing such water from cemeteries was part of the government’s plan, but rains in many areas have hampered efforts. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

    Federal health officials have accused Congress of stoking the epidemic here by failing to appropriate $1.9 billion requested by the administration to fight the Zika virus. But the story on the ground is far more complex.

    In February, the governor’s office and the health department announced ambitious battle plans. Millions of old tires where mosquitoes breed would be collected. Cemeteries would be drained of standing water.

    Septic tanks and water meters would get screens, as would all schools attended by girls old enough to get pregnant. Teams would visit pregnant women’s houses to spray larvicide and screen windows.

    Some of that was done, sometimes effectively. Humacao, a town on the southeast coast with pharmaceutical and electric plants that provide a steady tax base, moved faster than most municipalities, said José L. Báez, its chief of emergency management.

    Workers collected 200,000 tires, packing them into two abandoned factories. At the local historic cemetery, teams filled empty urns with sand. Spray trucks worked steadily.

    But it was never enough. Discarded tires kept popping up on roadsides. Mosquitoes bred in garbage cans. Teams could not legally enter abandoned properties or even fill depressions in privately owned graves. The town’s permethrin insecticides turned out to be ineffective, and daily rains washed away previous efforts.

    4
    Old tires, picked up from tire shops, were stored in an abandoned factory in San Juan, P.R. In February, the governor’s office and the health department announced plans to collect old tires to aid mosquito control. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

    No cutting-edge plans like releasing genetically modified mosquitoes are ready for deployment yet. The C.D.C. lab here has developed a bucket trap that drastically cuts mosquito populations, but millions of them would be needed to cover the island.

    So, as a last resort, the C.D.C. on July 6 endorsed aerial spraying to eliminate mosquitoes with an insecticide called naled.

    It was a gamble. Naled failed to stop a 1987 dengue outbreak here “and there is no guarantee it will work this time,” Dr. Petersen said. “But it’s the only thing that will alter the course of this epidemic.”

    Modern spray nozzles and GPS-guided planes were more accurate, he argued, and superfine mists with small amounts of naled would drift into houses where mosquitoes hid in closets. Counties in Florida and Louisiana had recently knocked down populations of the yellow-fever mosquito by up to 99 percent with naled, he and others noted.

    But naled is toxic to bees, birds and fish. The insecticide is not used in flea collars because it might be picked up by children stroking pets. It is banned in the European Union.

    Skepticism All Around

    Puerto Rico rebelled. Protest marches drew hundreds wearing gas masks and carrying bee puppets. Top radio personalities, already angry over Congress imposing a control board to run the territory’s finances, accused federal officials of “colonialism” and reminded listeners that the military tested Agent Orange on Puerto Rico’s jungles before deploying it in Vietnam.

    Medical groups joined the opposition, including the largest, the Puerto Rican College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Iván González Cancel, a surgeon famous for performing the island’s first heart transplant, denounced the plan, saying: “I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but I think this is an experiment with the C.D.C. using Puerto Rico as a laboratory.”

    On July 21, a local TV station revealed that the C.D.C. had quietly imported naled. The next day, Gov. Alejandro García Padilla accused the agency of “blackmail” and emphatically killed the idea. The agency apologized, saying it was only trying to be prepared. But it was too late.

    That same week, Dr. Johnny Rullán, a former health secretary advising Governor Padilla on the epidemic, gave up his post, saying the whole atmosphere had become too vicious. Since January, he had held town meetings explaining the mosquito control plans to skeptical audiences. “I felt like a scratched record saying the same things over and over,” he said. When he endorsed aerial spraying, he was falsely accused of plotting to make millions by basing planes at a remote airport he was accused of owning. (It is owned by someone with a similar name.)

    He ultimately decided the spraying would be a public relations disaster. “Any microcephaly cases that occur now will be blamed on the spray, not the virus,” he said.

    He resigned and left for a vacation in Spain. “In October,” he said, “I’ll write something saying, ‘I told you.’ ”

    Skepticism of the danger remains high. Local papers still refer to the “theory” that the Zika virus causes microcephaly, although the World Health Organization considers it a fact.

    Seventy-two apparently healthy babies have been born to infected mothers while only one stillborn fetus has shown evidence of microcephaly, so no disturbing pictures of tiny-headed babies, like those in Brazil, have appeared. Although officials have explained that most of the 72 mothers were infected late in pregnancy, the sense that the danger is remote persists.

    Alba Sanchez, 25, and nearing the end of her fourth pregnancy, attended a hospital Zika-prevention workshop wearing the skimpiest of maternity dresses. Asked if she used repellent, she wrinkled her nose.

    “Never!” she said loudly. “It’s stinky. And I don’t know anyone who’s had Zika.”

    Asked how she protected herself, she mimed slaps to her bare arms and legs. “I smack every one I see.”

    Her husband, Jandy Vasquez, 22, a mountainous man towering over her, rolled his eyes and smiled ruefully. “I’d spray a whole can on her every day,” he said. “But she does what she wants.”

    Indeed, the fight against birth defects is taking place largely in face-to-face meetings between doctors and patients like Ms. Sanchez.

    Agonizing Decisions

    Many obstetricians said they were urging women to put off pregnancy. And through the CDC Foundation, pharmaceutical companies like Bayer, Allergan and Merck have donated or discounted more than 100,000 sets of IUD’s, implants, vaginal rings and other contraceptives.

    “I tell my patients: ‘If you can avoid pregnancy for one year, please do,’ ” said Dr. Carmen D. Zorrilla, founder of the University of Puerto Rico’s Maternal-Infant Studies Center, the territory’s leading maternal H.I.V. unit, which now holds workshops in Zika-related care.

    The doctors also remind patients whose fetuses show signs of brain damage that abortion is available in major hospitals and, for the uninsured, through Profamilias, a reproductive-rights group.

    Some religious women will say, “‘But this is God’s gift,’ ” Dr. Zorrilla said. “But at the same time, they’re afraid to have a baby they know will need assistance 24/7 for life.”

    How many women are terminating pregnancies is unknown. Although the health department tabulates legal abortions, current figures are unavailable, a department spokeswoman said.

    “Anecdotally, they’re on the increase,” Dr. Rullán said. “One doctor told me he did 15 in a period where he normally would have done one or two.”

    Making that choice is excruciating. Danelle, a patient of Dr. De la Vega’s who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that only her middle name be used, wept as she described her predicament.

    Her fetus is 23 weeks along. On sonograms, Danelle, 36, can see a face, even hair: To her, the outlines resemble a small, sleeping child, nestled against the placenta as if it were a pillow.

    Danger signs have appeared since Danelle was infected with the virus in late April. The fetus’s growth abruptly slowed and is now well below normal. An enlarged brain artery indicates that too little nutrition is crossing the placenta.

    Because she herself is a doctor, Danelle knows what that means: Severe mental deficits are possible. Her husband, a train dispatcher who held her hand as she spoke, “is the more positive one of us — and he’s also in denial,” she said.

    “But I’m the G.I. one,” she added, using a local term for hewing strictly to the book.

    She was having ultrasounds every 14 days and must decide very soon whether to abort.

    “The window is closing,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I don’t sleep at night. I don’t want to do this, but I don’t want her to come into this world and then suffer.

    “And when I’m not here, who’s going to take care of her?”

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika
    Image of the Zika virus, Image copyright John Liebler, www.ArtoftheCell.com

    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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  • richardmitnick 4:13 pm on July 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ZIKA   

    From SA: “Zika Goes Local in the United States” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    July 29, 2016
    Dina Fine Maron

    1
    Miami-Dade mosquito control worker Carlos Vargas sprays to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae at a home in Miami, Florida, on June 08, 2016. Of the forty different types of mosquito found in Miami -Dade the Aedes aegypti mosquito or yellow fever mosquito is responsible for transmitting diseases such as the Zika Virus. Credit: RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

    Controlling the Zika virus in the United States just got harder. The mosquito- and sexually-transmitted disease has now likely gone local, according to federal public health officials. In at least four instances patients have apparently contracted the virus via a bite from a mosquito in the continental U.S.

    This first recorded instances of local transmission—reported in Florida—signal a shift in the burden of Zika in the mainland U.S., where more than 1,600 people have been diagnosed with it after traveling elsewhere in the Americas or the Caribbean and returning with the virus in their systems. As of July 27 another 15 had acquired the virus via sexual contact with a person who was infected with the virus outside of the mainland U.S.

    2
    CDC

    The long-anticipated incidences of local transmission are not a surprise. For months Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other top administration officials have said that they expected the virus to crop up in the mainland U.S. in small outbreaks, particularly along the Gulf Coast where mosquito-borne dengue and chikungunya—carried by the same species of mosquitoes that likely carry Zika—have been documented before. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly said to expect dozens or scores of locally-transmitted cases. Most officials believe a large-scale outbreak remains unlikely. Yet whether outbreaks may include one part of the country, a city or part of a city is difficult to predict.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference Friday that three men and one woman in Miami-Dade and Broward counties had likely contracted the virus via local mosquito bites, after officials could not explain the infection in any other way. The patients had not recently traveled to a place where Zika is actively spreading, nor had they been in close contact with someone who had been traveling in such areas.

    “All the evidence we have seen indicates that this is mosquito-borne transmission that occurred several weeks ago in several blocks in Miami,” Frieden said in a CDC news release. “We continue to recommend that everyone in areas where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are present—and especially pregnant women—take steps to avoid mosquito bites. We will continue to support Florida’s efforts to investigate and respond to Zika and will reassess the situation and our recommendations on a daily basis.”

    The two mosquito species typically responsible for spreading the virus are present in more than two-thirds of the U.S. Their range extends from the southern part of the country into parts of the Midwest and the Northeast. But many factors have to align in order for the mosquitoes to pass on the virus. First, a female mosquito (males do not bite) must feed on a human carrying the virus. Next the virus must incubate in the mosquito’s body for about a week, and only then can it be transmitted if the insect bites another human. The adult lifespan of a mosquito is typically only a few weeks, so the virus has a better chance of spreading if its host can feed in a densely packed area—like a city. Conveniently for the virus, these mosquitoes like to live alongside humans and are frequently found in the home or breeding in small pools of standing water in people’s yards.

    Zika symptoms are usually mild and may include rash or fever, although most patients do not even feel sick. The Zika response has instead focused on protecting pregnant women from contracting the virus because it can lead to birth defects including microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with abnormally small heads. (The World Health Organization has also said that there is “scientific consensus” that the virus can cause the sometimes-paralyzing autoimmune disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome in patients of any age.) To help control local Zika spread, public health officials have reiterated calls for people to eliminate standing water from around their homes and to try to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves, long pants and approved bug sprays.

    “We anticipate that there may be additional cases of ‘homegrown’ Zika in the coming weeks,” Lyle Petersen, incident manager for CDC’s Zika virus response, said in the news release. “Our top priority is to protect pregnant women from the potentially devastating harm caused by Zika.”

    The CDC and health officials have already gained some experience by trying to control the spread of Zika in U.S. territories. To date, Puerto Rico has represented the frontlines of the U.S. battle with more than 4,600 cases of the virus locally transmitted by mosquitoes. Public health officials there have ramped up their mosquito control efforts and their messaging urging people to protect themselves against bites. But they have faced myriad obstacles, including mosquitoes’ resistance to certain common insecticides and the fact that many buildings do not have screens in their windows. The heavy burden of controlling Zika prompted the U.S. territory to begin importing all of the blood it might need for medical procedures from the mainland in March, and to freeze prices for bug spray and condoms to stave off Zika-related price gouging. “Nothing about Zika is going to be easy or quick,” Frieden said in April. “The control of this particular mosquito is hard and although we are learning a lot quickly there is still a lot we don’t know.”

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika
    Image of the Zika virus, Image copyright John Liebler, http://www.ArtoftheCell.com

    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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    Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 160 years.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:05 am on July 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ZIKA   

    From Chicago Tribune via ANL: “This giant X-ray machine helped decode one of the Zika virus’ secrets” 

    ANL APS
    News from Argonne National Laboratory
    Advanced Photon Source at ANL

    1

    http://www.chicagotribune.com

    7.26.16
    Ally Marotti

    A group of Midwest researchers is one step closer to a Zika vaccine, and they used a giant X-ray machine at the Chicago area’s Argonne National Lab to get there.

    University of Michigan and Purdue University researchers used equipment at Lemont-based Argonne to map the molecular structure of a protein the Zika virus produces.

    That knowledge can lead to more accurate diagnoses of Zika and possibly a vaccine or antiviral drugs, said Janet Smith, professor of biological chemistry in the Life Sciences Institute at Michigan.

    “We don’t have good diagnostic tools to know if a person has been infected with Zika,” said Smith, who led the study. “There are a bunch of antibody tests out there to see if you’ve been exposed to Zika — the problem is they’re not specific enough.”

    Of course no vaccine will come in time for the Olympics, which start next week, Smith said, but these findings are important in the fight against the disease.

    Zika is a growing concern in the U.S., as cases are increasingly reported in countries outside of the tropics. The virus is known to cause devastating birth defects, and the World Health Organization declared an international health emergency over its spread.

    Nearly 1,500 cases have been reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but all were acquired while traveling. However, experts say that will change by the end of the year.

    Although a study out of Yale University found it’s highly unlikely those traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics will contract the disease, fear has amplified as the games approach.

    The protein Smith and her team looked at is called NS1. Other viruses in the same family as Zika, such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever, also produce the protein. When a person gets infected, the virus induces their body to make the protein.

    “It helps the virus to make more copies of itself, infect (the body’s) cells and hide from the immune system in ways that are really not very well understood at all,” Smith said.

    Since Zika is a problem in places where dengue fever is prevalent, inaccurate diagnoses sometimes prevent people from knowing which disease they were exposed to. These new findings will hopefully change that, Smith said.

    The researchers used Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source to conduct the study. The facility is used to conduct X-ray research, and is so large that its diameter measures just a little less than the height of the Willis Tower, said Stephen Streiffer, director of the facility.

    “APS is used to produce hard X-rays — the same type you’d get in the dentist’s office,” Streiffer said. “The difference is that the APS produces X-rays which are about a billion times more intense.”

    Smith and her team made a stable NS1 protein from Zika and put it into a crystal, which scatters the X-ray beam. Smith’s team uses a detector to measure the scattering, and can then figure out the structure of the molecule inside.

    The researchers had already been studying structures of the proteins from West Nile and dengue, so that sped up the process, Smith said. Richard Kuhn, professor and head of Purdue’s Department of Biological Sciences, co-authored the study, which was published Monday in the journal “Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.”

    The protein they looked at was from the first strain of Zika identified in Uganda in 1947, Smith said. Knowing its structure can help scientists understand how the virus has mutated since it spread to Brazil.

    “Has it gotten worse when it evolved on its way to Brazil, or has it been this bad all along?” Smith said. “Viruses are amazing at sneaking around mutating … It’s like cancer. They produce fast and make a bunch of mistakes, but just one needs to take off.”

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika
    Image of the Zika virus

    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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    Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more visit http://www.anl.gov.

    The Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory is one of five national synchrotron radiation light sources supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science to carry out applied and basic research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels, provide the foundations for new energy technologies, and support DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security. To learn more about the Office of Science X-ray user facilities, visit http://science.energy.gov/user-facilities/basic-energy-sciences/.

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  • richardmitnick 5:08 pm on July 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ZIKA   

    From Nature: “Brazil asks whether Zika acts alone to cause birth defects” 

    Nature Mag
    Nature

    25 July 2016
    Declan Butler

    1
    A health worker sprays insecticide to combat the mosquito that spreads Zika virus, in Paraíba state, Brazil.

    Researchers at Brazil’s ministry of health have launched a study to explore why the country has a peculiar distribution of Zika-linked microcephaly cases — babies born with abnormally small heads.

    Zika virus has spread throughout Brazil, but extremely high rates of microcephaly have been reported only in the country’s northeast. Although evidence suggests that Zika can cause microcephaly, the clustering pattern hints that other environmental, socio-economic or biological factors could be at play.

    “We suspect that something more than Zika virus is causing the high intensity and severity of cases,” says Fatima Marinho, director of information and health analysis at the ministry. If that turns out to be true, it could change researchers’ assessment of the risk that Zika poses to pregnant women and their children.

    The idea has long been on Brazilian researchers’ radar. “This is being discussed in almost every scientific meeting,” says Lavinia Schüler-Faccini, a researcher at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. But the new inquiry marks the first time that scientists at the health ministry have taken up the hypothesis.

    The ministry has asked Oliver Brady, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Simon Hay, director of geospatial science at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, Washington, to assist the collaboration, along with researchers in Brazil. “The aim is to understand why we are only observing elevated rates in the northeast,” says Brady, who flew into Brasília this month to begin work.

    “I think they may be on to something,” says Linda Birnbaum, director of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Zika was discovered in 1947 and hadn’t been implicated in birth defects until now; and current strains of the virus don’t show any significant mutations that might have increased its virulence. “So why now?” she asks.

    Surprising clusters

    The northeast was where the first reported surge in microcephaly cases in Brazil began a year ago. Health officials had expected that they would later see the same high rates in other parts of the country. “We were expecting an explosion of birth defects,” says Marinho.

    But as of 20 July, almost 90% of the 1,709 confirmed cases of congenital microcephaly or birth defects of the central nervous system that have been reported in Brazil since last November are in a relatively small area: in the coastal hinterland of the northeastern tip. The affected area is about the size of the United Kingdom, whereas Brazil is almost as large as the United States.

    What’s particularly surprising, says Marinho, is that just three cases have been confirmed in Brazil’s second-most populous state, Minas Gerais, which borders the most-affected part of the northeast region. Poor data on the scale and timing of Zika outbreaks across Brazil make it difficult to tell whether large increases in microcephaly elsewhere may simply have been delayed — but ministry scientists now think that the northeast represents a marked outlier, she says.

    Other factors at play?

    There are many hypotheses about what might be going on. Marinho says that her team’s data, submitted for publication, hint that socio-economic factors might be involved. The majority of women who have had babies with microcephaly have, for example, been young, single, black, poor and tend to live in small cities or on the outskirts of big ones, she says.

    Another idea is that co-infections of Zika and other viruses, such as dengue and chikungunya, might be interacting to cause the high intensity of birth defects in the area.

    A third possibility was put forward in a paper published last month [1], in which researchers from Brazilian labs noted a correlation between low vaccination rates for yellow fever and the microcephaly clusters. Because yellow fever and Zika are in the same virus family — they are both flaviviruses — the scientists speculated that the vaccine might provide some protection against Zika. “It is a plausible hypothesis,” says Duane Gubler, who studies mosquito-borne diseases at Duke–NUS Medical School in Singapore. Marinho, however, is sceptical — arguing that there are many areas with low yellow fever vaccination rates that haven’t had many confirmed microcephaly cases.

    The Brazilian doctor who was the first to report a firm link between Zika and microcephaly — Adriana Melo at IPESQ, a research institute in Campina Grande — is also among those who have suggested that other factors could be involved. In a preprint posted on the bioRxiv server on 15 July [2], Melo and her colleagues at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro reported that they had found bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) proteins in the brains of three fetuses with microcephaly from Paraíba state. The brains tested positive for Zika RNA, but the researchers found no Zika proteins.

    BVDV causes serious birth defects in cattle but is not known to infect people. Melo’s team suggest that Zika infection might reduce physiological barriers, making it easier for BVDV to cause infections. But they haven’t ruled out the possibility, raised by other researchers, that their findings might be due to contamination (BVDV is a common contaminant of fetal bovine serum and other bovine-derived lab reagents).

    Patchy data

    The Brazilian health ministry’s study will test for BVDV among other hypotheses, says Brady. Researchers will re-analyse raw data on microcephaly cases, and will model connections with possible co-factors such as socio-economic status, water contamination, and mosquito-borne diseases. Most of this information will come from health ministry databases, but the team will also study experimental data, such as how people’s immune response may change after past infection with other viruses such as dengue.

    But researchers say that the information they have may not be enough to pin down whether factors in addition to Zika are involved. Much of the microcephaly raw data comes from routine hospital reports, which are often incomplete. And lab tests to confirm Zika infection are rarely carried out.

    Ultimately, researchers and public-health officials might have to wait for higher-quality data from research programmes such as the Zika in Infants and Pregnancy Study, which launched last month in Puerto Rico and aims to monitor as many as 10,000 pregnant women. The US National Institutes of Health (including Birnbaum’s NIEHS) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil are doing the work, which will also include testing whether nutritional, socio-economic and environmental factors have a role. The study will expand to Brazil, Colombia and other Zika-affected areas.

    Until more is known about Zika and the causes of increased microcephaly rates in Brazil’s northeast, public-health actions and advice must err on the side of precaution, says Ian Lipkin, a virologist and outbreak specialist at Columbia University in New York.

    Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2016.20309

    References:
    1. De Goes Cavalcanti, L. P. et al. J. Infect. Dev. Countries 10, 563–566 (2016).

    2. Nogueira, F. C. S., Velasquez, E., Melo, A. S. O. & Domont, G. B. Preprint at bioRxiv
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/062596 (2016)

    See the full article here .

    YOU CAN HELP FIND A CURE FOR THE ZIKA VIRUS.

    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika
    Image of the Zika virus

    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

     
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