Phage therapy shown to kill drug-resistant superbug

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A team of scientists at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health have developed a form of “phage” therapy that could be a safe and effective alternative to antibiotic therapy for the treatment of patients with chronic cystic fibrosis lung infections.

For my readers who are wondering, “What are phages?” I will go into detail of these remarkable creatures and what their role is with bacteria.  But first, I am pretty sure that everyone at least once in their lifetime or more realistically, once a season, has come down with the flu.  The flu is caused by the influenza virus.

A virus is a parasite that only has one mission in life: self-replication.  Viruses are not technically alive because they need a host cell to replicate.  When a virus infects a cell, its genetic makeup hijacks the cell’s machinery and tells it to make more viruses.  Once the cell is full of viruses, the cell lyses and dies, and releases more viruses into the bloodstream looking for more cells to infect.  A phage (real name = bacteriophage) is a virus that infects bacteria.

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A phage looks like an alien creature from another planet.  The phage is made up of a bulbous head and a tail.  Once the phage lands on a bacterium, it injects its genomic makeup into the host in order for replication. This process is broken up into two major, yet different cycles: the lytic cycle and the lysogenic cycle.  The lytic cycle is highlighted by the hijacking of the bacterium in order to make duplicates of the phages.  Similar to the virus mentioned previously, once the cell is full of phages it explodes (lyses) and the phages look for more bacteria to infect.  The lysogenic cycle is when the phage inserts its own DNA into the bacterial chromosome.  This allows the phage to reproduce without killing the host cell.  The phage (now called a prophage) can be copied and passed on along with the cell’s own DNA.  Each cycle has pros and cons, but for this blog we will omit these and concentrate on the lytic cycle.

Now that we understand how phages work, let’s look closer into the groundbreaking discovery made by the scientists.  Because of the increased ineffectiveness of antibiotics due to over prescribing, chronic lung infections due to Pseudomonas aeruginosa have become more difficult to treat.  The team of scientists has shown that phage therapy is extremely effective in treating established multi-drug resistant P. aeruginosa strains. The study showed that phages are capable of killing the bacteria in infected lungs.  Especially promising was the effectiveness of treating patients who suffer from inherited disease cystic fibrosis.

By comparing the benefits of phage therapy versus antibiotic therapy, we find a clear winner.  Patients who suffer from cystic fibrosis undergo life-long treatment of various antibiotics and often, these antibiotics prove ineffective and have numerous side effects.  Phage therapy, on the other hand, carries no such stigma.  Phages only attack bacterial cells while leaving the host’s human cells intact.  This is promising since these antibiotic resistant “superbugs” are becoming more numerous and certain strains are only treatable with a cocktail (two or more) of antibiotics.

Hopefully, phage therapy will get the funding it needs in order to prove this strategy on a larger scale.  Unfortunately, big pharma is a multi-billion dollar proposition annually and there might be significant hurdles to overcome before this type of phage therapy becomes commonplace.

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff. Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.

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Image source disclaimer:  Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images and Videos

 

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Germs on the NY subway. Scores of mysterious microbes found

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If you live in a large metropolitan city, you probably have ridden on mass transportation at least once in your life.

If you live in New York City, riding on the subway has been entrenched in your life for as long as you can remember.

But have you ever given thought to how much bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses are traveling in those filthy combines of the subway car?  I am sure most of us have given a passing thought to it, but what kind of microbes are inside the subway?

The answers might surprise you.  Read on… if you dare!

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College set out to find out what is hiding on the underground rail system and found some serious surprises, both good and bad.  There are about 5.5 million weekly riders on the N.Y. subway and thankfully, most of the microbes discovered were not as contagious as one would imagine.  Nevertheless, what they found are typically the same microbes we carry on us, and in us, in our lifetime.

There were 637 known species of bacteria, virus, and fungus discovered in the lab cultures.  Most of those discovered do not cause illness.  They did discover enough yeast to open a small microbrewery.  They found a lot of microbes associated with the food that people were eating on the subway, mostly pizza.  Hey… they do say NY pizza is an experience of its own so now we know why.

Only about 12% of the bacteria collected could be implicated in causing disease and about half of the DNA collected could be linked to known pathogens.  However, the most telling statistic of the study was about 48% of the genetic data discovered did not match any known organism.  This just reinforces how vast and unexplored the microbiome is.

Here’s the part where the news gets bad, or more disappointing depending on how you look at it.  The remaining 52% of the known organisms came from distinct parts of the human body.

1.6% of bacteria were associated with the eyes

6.5% of bacteria were associated with the mouth

9.9% of bacteria were associated with breathing (found in airways)

29% of bacteria were associated with the skin

20% of bacteria were associated with the urogenital tract

32.3% of bacteria were associated with the gastrointestinal tract.

Okay, I don’t know about you but the last two percentages made me throw up in my mouth a little.  If you have bacteria from the urogenital and gastrointestinal areas of the human body, that is saying these people are NOT WASHING THEIR HANDS after using the bathroom!!

Hopefully, most of my readers are washing their hands once they are done using the bathroom.  If not, please do.  It’s a gentle reminder to practice good hygiene.  Remember, cleanliness is next to godliness.

After working in a hospital, I developed a habit of washing my hands that I still carry with me today.  After using the restroom, it is advised to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using the hottest water that you can tolerate.  A good guide is to sing the “Happy Birthday” song while you scrub your hands, paying close attention to finger pads and underneath your nails.  Ever since that time, I noticed a drop in the amount of times I have caught the flu or the common cold.  My friends always comment on my “strong” immune system and although I don’t deny that claim due to good diet, I attribute some of it to how many times I wash my hands.  I probably wash my hands about 20 to 30 times daily. It’s a good habit to get into and the benefits outweigh the occasional dry hands.

Leave me a comment if you are a germophobe like me!

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff. Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.

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Image source disclaimer:  Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images and Videos

 

 

 

Herpes Simplex virus Type-2 may play a role in the development of Autism.

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Herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2) may play a role in the development of autism, a new study postulates.  Herpes virus type 1 and type 2 infect over 1 billion people worldwide.  Herpes simplex virus type 1 is known to cause outbreaks of sores around the mouth or lips.  More commonly known as fever blisters or cold sores, once you have this virus it remains in your system for eternity.  Herpes simplex virus type 2 is more commonly associated with sores in your genital area.  Although the virus may remain dormant for many years, most infected with the virus develop sores around the genital area occasionally which signifies an active infection.  HSV-2 infects more women than men and recent tallies suggest the virus is found in one out of every 5 women of child bearing age.

Researchers studying a large Norwegian population discovered that an active infection early in the pregnancy doubled the chance that a male fetus will develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Using bloodwork that was available from the second trimester to the time of birth was tested for 5 microbes that are known to damage fetal development:  Cytomegalovirus, Toxoplasma gondii, rubella, HSV-1, and HSV-2.  Higher than average levels of antibodies of HSV-2 from blood drawn at the second trimester, indicating an active maternal infection in the weeks prior, were associated with a doubled risk that a male newborn would be diagnosed with ASV.

It is believed that antibodies and an inflammatory response cross the blood brain barrier to inflict injury.  The research suggests a subgroup of women is genetically predisposed to develop immune responses to certain disease-causing organisms – like HSV2 – and that inflammatory molecules and antibodies generated by the mother’s vigorous immune response cross the placenta and damage the fetal brain.

Although an infection with HSV-2 is not directly implicated with autism, it is suggesting that having HSV-2 in early fetal development along with other environmental factors increase the possibility of ASV.  ASV is so severely understood that precautionary measures are necessary.  Fetal development models along with accurate testing of the newborn for ASV should be demanded from mothers who have shown active HSV-2 infections in the weeks leading up to birth.

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff. Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.

Source

Image source:  https://pixabay.com/

Image source disclaimer:  Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images and Videos

Seoul Virus outbreak confirmed

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Seoul virus, a form of hantavirus, has been confirmed in the states of Illinois and Wisconsin.  Seoul virus is carried and spread by rats, with the brown or Norway rat most implicated in infections.  Rats are the carriers of the virus, but they show no symptoms of the infection.  However, humans can become infected through exposure to infected blood, urine, or saliva.  Infections are more likely when fresh urine or feces are vacuumed or swept up releasing the particles into the air.  In turn, individuals breathe in the “aerosolized” contaminants and the virus has found a pathway into the human.

The outbreak has infected 8 people in the two states.  Two individuals who operate a rat-breeding facility in Wisconsin became ill and one was hospitalized.  These two individuals confirmed purchasing rats from suppliers in Wisconsin and Illinois.  Further investigations found 6 additional people who tested positive for the virus. All 8 people have since recovered from the infection.

Two CDC epidemiologists are working hand in hand with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in an investigation to determine if the outbreak is larger than originally thought.  The investigations will look closely into the rat-breeding facility, the clients who purchased rats, and the facilities where the rats were purchased.  This will help Public Health officials in deterring the future spread of the virus.

Seoul virus is generally a mild infection; however, approximately 1-2% of cases develop into a HFRS (hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome).  Therefore, it is imperative to take precautions whenever individuals are handling rats.

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff.  Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.

Source:  https://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/outbreaks/seoul-virus/index.html

Image source:  https://pixabay.com/

Image source disclaimer:  Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these images and videos.