Fresh optimism has been injected in HIV/AIDS research

Kudos to Gilead Sciences, Inc.!!

A Durban based scientist has been awarded over two and a half million dollars to fund HIV/AIDS research.

Toxoplasmosis: Truth, Fiction, and Crazy Cat Ladies?

Perhaps a bit lengthy, but a great overview of toxoplasmosis and its misconceptions by Dr. Janet L. Swanson, Director of Shelter Medicine, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine reviews. Well worth the time.

Zika: The Untold Story

Every pathogen has a history. Here is an excellent piece from NOVA on Zika’s origin and evolution.

_________________________________________________________

photo

Timothy Grass Allergy

Timothy grass (Phleum pretense) is a forage and hay crop native to Europe and Asia. It has also been adapted for use in North America. It’s one of the many grasses that produce grass pollen, a very common allergen.

_____________________________

From allergysymptomsx.com

cropped-adobestock_744317062.jpeg

Basic Information About Timothy Grass Allergy

  • Grass description: grass has flat leaves and grows two to four feet tall
  • Allergy type: Non-food allergy, grass pollen allergy
  • Habitat: Timothy grass is normally grown in Europe and Asia. It has also adapted to cool parts of Northern America. Despite its origins, it’s now widely available in the US. It’s commonly used as feeds for horses and grass for lawns.
  • Allergy season: June to July or early summer to fall
  • Allergic reactions: mild to severe, depending on the pollen count and the body’s sensitivity

Timothy Grass Allergy Causes

The main source of Timothy grass allergy is the pollen it gives off. These pollen are airborne and are so small, they could be inhaled without the person realizing it. Although the allergy is usually rampant during summer, there’s also a small chance of getting the allergy during other seasons.

Grass pollen is regional and seasonal, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Grass pollen count is affected by several factors such as time of the day, weather and season.

Timothy Grass Allergy Symptoms

As with other allergies, an individual’s reaction depends on how his immune system will react. Below is the list of common symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Asthma
  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Puffed eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Difficulty in breathing

The flower of Timothy grass starts to grow in the early summer, while the flower pollinates towards the end of summer or fall. The wind carries the pollens away from the flowers and it continues to linger on the environment until fall. This is when the most allergies are triggered. More pollen is carried into the air during hot and windy days, which is why most allergic reactions occur during summer and fall.

Tips For Preventing Timothy Grass Allergy

  • Stay indoors when the pollen count is high. You can get a pollen count report from weather reports and websites.
  • Wear a mask when mowing the lawn. If you could afford it, hire someone else to do the mowing.
  • If you could, choose a grass that doesn’t contain much pollen. Irish moss and dichondra could be good alternatives
  • Keep the grass short by mowing it frequently. Some grasses will eventually adapt to this, so you need to trim it regularly.
  • Stay indoors from 5:00 AM to 10:00 AM, as this is when the pollen count is highest. Leave outdoor activities until 5:00 PM, or after a heavy rain.
  • Always keep your home and car windows closed. This lessens their exposure to pollen. Avoid window and attic fans as they will draw air from outside of your house, which may be contaminated with pollen.
  • Regularly bathe your pets. Pollen could also be attached to them.
  • Use a dryer for your clothes. If you hang them outside, pollen can attach on your clothes. This will expose you and your house to the allergens.
  • Minimize your alcohol intake. A study from the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark last 2008 found a relation between alcohol and the allergy. Women who drank alcohol every week increased their susceptibility to the allergy by 3%. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, which can make the nasal symptoms worse.

Timothy Grass Allergy Treatment

  • Antihistamines
  • Oral Steroids
  • Injectable Steroids
  • Eyedrops
  • Grass Allergen Immunotherapy treatment (AIT) – this method uses sublingual grass pollen tablets. The tablets are now sold in Europe; however it’s not yet approved by the US FDA.

Read article here.

If you have been diagnosed with allergies to Timothy grass, cats, or dust mites, you might be eligible to donate plasma and earn $1200 or more. Visit www.plasmamedpatients.com for more info or call/text 561-962-5065.

Beyond Lyme: New Tick-Borne Diseases On The Rise In U.S.

It all started in the shower. Tucker Lane looked down, and there they were.

“Two ticks, on my right hip, directly next to each other,” he says.

At the time, Lane didn’t think much about it. He grew up on Cape Cod. Ticks are everywhere there in the summer. “Just another tick bite. Not a big deal,” he thought.

That was June. In September, everything changed.

_____________________________

The world is in a new age of infectious diseases.

Over the past 60 years, the number of new diseases cropping up per decade has almost quadrupled. The number of disease outbreaks each year has more than tripled since 1980.

The U.S. is no exception.

The country is a hot spot for tick-borne diseases. In the past 50 years, scientists have detected at least a dozen new diseases transmitted by ticks.

“The more we look, in a sense, the more we find,” says Felicia Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College in upstate New York. “Around here, there’s anaplasmosis, babesiosis and a bacterium related to Lyme, which causes similar symptoms.”

And that’s just in the Northeast.

In the Midwest, you can find Heartland virus, a new Lyme-like disease and Bourbon virus — which is thought to be spread by ticks but hasn’t been proven yet. In the South, there’s Southern tick-associated rash illness. Out west, there’s a new type of spotted fever. And across a big swath of the country, there’s a disease called ehrlichiosis.

Most of these diseases are still rare. But one is especially worrying. “It’s a scary one,” Keesing says.

“Our local tick — this blacklegged tick — occasionally carries a deadly virus that’s called Powassan virus,” says Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.

Powassan is named after a town in Ontario, Canada, where the virus was discovered in 1958. Now it’s here in the U.S. The country records about seven cases each year on the East Coast and in the Upper Midwest.

What makes Powassan so dangerous is that it attacks the brain, making it swell up. In about 10 percent of cases, Powassan is deadly. And if you do recover, you have about a 50 percent chance of permanent neurological damage.

He was gone, just gone

Although doctors didn’t realize it at the time, it was Powassan flooding Lane’s brain.

Just a few days after he came down with his terrible headache, he was on life support in the ICU. His mother was sure she had lost him.

“If you opened his eyelids, he was just gone,” she says. “I have never been so devastated in my whole life.”

Doctors told her there really wasn’t anything else they could do for her son. But she never lost hope. “I did a lot of praying. I’ll tell you that much,” she says.

Then one morning, Cash went to visit Lane. He had been in a coma for a week. When she opened the door, she recalls, “he turned his head and looked at me.”

Then he tried to speak. “The only thing that came out was a ‘Ha,’ ” she says. “But he recognized me.”

From then on, Lane started to get better, quickly. He started to breathe on his own, to recognize people. In a couple of weeks he was out of the hospital.

As he woke up, Lane says, he was never scared or worried, because he was always surrounded by his family.

“My family and I are really close,” he says. “So when I woke up, they were all around me. My cousins were just joking with me and making me laugh and stuff like that. So it was all good.”

And it was all good. Lane’s recovery stunned doctors. “His recovery was truly remarkable,” says Lyons, his doctor.

But not everyone is as lucky as Lane.

Back in 2013, Lyn Snow of Rockland, Maine, also was bitten by a tick. She was 73, a well-known watercolor artist. Less than a week later, she was in the ICU, just like Lane.

“She subsequently went downhill, so unbelievably quickly,” says her daughter, Susan Whittington. “She became incoherent and delusional. She was talking to paintings.”

Within a few weeks, she was on a ventilator and completely unresponsive. Weeks went by. Eventually, Whittington got a diagnosis: Powassan.

That’s when we knew it was unrecoverable,” Whittington says. “That’s when we knew that we would have to let her go. And that’s what we did.”

It was all horrific,” she adds. “Just before my mom was bitten by the tick, she would walk 3 miles every day, ride horses with her grandchildren. She was an amazing grandma.”

Fighting back

There are many ways to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases. Wear long sleeves, spray on DEET and check yourself every night in the mirror — just to name a few.

But protecting whole towns, or even just a neighborhood, has been difficult.

“So far there have been no success stories of treating people’s individual properties in reducing cases of tick-borne diseases,” says Keesing.

But she and Ostfeld, her collaborator and husband, are trying to change that. They think they’ve come up with a way that may finally cut down on the cases of Lyme, Powassan and other tick-borne illnesses in the Northeast.

Their secret weapon is an unlikely critter.

“I can already feel that it’s a pretty fat mouse,” Ostfeld says, as he pulls out a white-footed mouse from a trap that’s been set up in a forest near his laboratory.

The traps are metal boxes, about the size of wine bottles, hidden underneath leaves. “Mice love to enter them,” Ostfeld says. “They love to enter dark tunnels.”

Ostfeld has been trapping and studying these little mice for more than 25 years. And he has found something critical to understanding tick-borne diseases: The mice are covered in ticks.

For some reason, ticks flock to mice. Other animals groom the bloodsuckers off and kill them. But mice don’t. They let the critters attach and feed on their face and ears.

Ostfeld says he has seen mice with 50, 60, even 100 ticks on their face and ears. “When I first noticed this, it really grabbed my attention.”

Most of these ticks are carrying Lyme disease, Ostfeld has found. Others are carrying anaplasmosis, babesiosis or Powassan. Some ticks harbor two, three or even four pathogens at once.

Theses observations gave him an idea: Use the mice to kill the ticks. Turn the mice into a little assassins, who run around the forest executing ticks.

This idea is surprisingly simple to carry out. Remember those boxes Ostfeld uses to trap mice? What if you put a tick-killing chemical inside the boxes?

A mouse walks into the box and is swiped with a little brush that applies a drop of the insecticide on its back.

“The chemical is the same that people put on their dogs and cats,” Ostfeld says. “But it’s an even tinier drop, much tinier. So a little bit goes a long way.”

And it lasts a long time. For weeks after the mouse leaves the box, it kills ticks that land on it.

But will it work in the real world?

This spring Ostfeld and Keesing have launched an experiment with 1,200 families in upstate New York to find out. Some families will get these tick boxes in their yards. Some will get a fungus sprayed on their shrubbery, which is known to kill ticks. And some will get neither.

Over the next five years, Ostfeld and Keesing will check to see whether the boxes and fungus keep people from getting tick-borne diseases.

Keesing is hopeful.

If anything is going to work to reduce the number of tick-borne disease cases in neighborhoods, this is going to be it,” she says.

Because here’s the thing about ticks: It’s not enough for just one or two families in a neighborhood to protect their yards, Keesing says. The whole community has to come together, in a concerted effort, to fight the onslaught of tick-borne diseases.

Read article here.

If you have been diagnosed with a tick-borne disease, you might be eligible to donate plasma and earn $1200 or more. Visit www.plasmamedpatients.com for more info or call/text 561-962-5065.

Early intervention with new treatment enables durable control of HIV-like virus in monkeys

There are more than 25 drugs to control HIV, yet the virus remains one of the world’s biggest health problems. One of the many challenges with existing therapies is that a dormant version of the virus is always lurking in the background, ready to attack the immune system as soon as treatment is interrupted.

_______________________________________

From Rockefeller University:

Now, new research from The Rockefeller University and the National Institutes of Health suggests that treatment with two anti-HIV antibodies immediately after infection enables the immune system to effectively control the virus, preventing its return for an extended period.

“This form of therapy can induce potent immunity to HIV, allowing the host to control the infection,” says Michel Nussenzweig, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology and an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “It works by taking advantage of the immune system’s natural defenses, similar to what happens in some forms of cancer immunotherapy.”

The research was conducted in macaque monkeys, using a model of HIV infection called simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV). Although this model does not precisely mimic human HIV infection, the findings suggest that immunotherapy should be explored as a way of controlling the virus and boosting an immune response that might be capable of controlling the infection in people. The study publishes on March 13 in Nature.

HIV_research_plasma

Viral suppression: Working in a monkey model of HIV, scientists discovered that a dual-antibody therapy can boost the immune system to control the infection and prevent the virus from returning.
Credit: Image courtesy of Rockefeller University

Long-term control

The two drugs used in the study, 3BNC117 and 10-1074, belong to a class of molecules called broadly neutralizing antibodies. They were discovered by the Nussenzweig laboratory in studies of “elite controllers,” people whose immune systems have a rare ability to fight off the virus. Each antibody binds to a different site of the virus, preventing its damaging effects from different angles.

13 monkeys were inoculated with the SHIV virus, and then given three intravenous infusions of the two antibodies over a two-week period. The treatment suppressed the virus to levels near or below the limit of detection, and its effect lasted for as long as six months. After the antibodies had cleared out of the monkeys’ bodies, the virus rebounded in all but one animal.

But then, 5 to 22 months later, something remarkable happened: six of the monkeys spontaneously regained control of the virus. Their virus levels once again plummeted to undetectable levels and remained suppressed for another 5 to 13 months.

These six monkeys were also able to maintain healthy levels of key immune cells after receiving the antibody infusions.

In addition, four other monkeys that did not regain complete control of the virus nevertheless showed promising responses to the treatment: they maintained extremely low viral loads and healthy levels of key immune cells for two to three years after infection. In total, 10 of the 13 monkeys benefitted from antibody immunotherapy.

Feasibility in humans

Nussenzweig and colleagues also investigated what aspect of the immune system was helping the monkeys ward off the virus’s return. They gave the six controller monkeys an antibody that targets and depletes a type of immune cell called cytotoxic T cells. Infusion of this antibody immediately increased the amount of SHIV in the monkeys’ blood and decreased cytotoxic T cell levels, indicating that these cells play a key role in preventing SHIV replication after therapeutic antibody infusion.

The researchers are now repeating this experiment after a longer exposure to the virus, waiting two to six weeks after SHIV infection before administering the therapeutic antibody infusions. This is how long it usually takes for an HIV-infected person to be diagnosed and able to receive treatment.

Clinical trials testing the antibody combination in humans are also underway at The Rockefeller University Hospital.

Read article here.

If you have been diagnosed with HIV Group O, HIV Subtype C,D,F,G,H,J,K, or HIV-2, you might be eligible to donate plasma and earn $1200 or more. Visit www.plasmamedpatients.com for more info or call/text 561-962-5065.

Human antibody for Zika virus promising for treatment, prevention

Researchers have determined the structure of a human antibody bound to the Zika virus, revealing details about how the antibody interferes with the infection mechanism — findings that could aid in development of antiviral medications.

_____________________________________

From Purdue University:

The new findings also suggest the antibody might be especially effective because a lower concentration than expected is needed to inhibit a key mechanism of infection, making it more potent than previous antibodies studied. The research was performed by a team from Purdue University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Washington University School of Medicine.

The human antibody was isolated by the Vanderbilt and Washington University researchers, who reported their findings earlier this year. Those findings showed that the antibody, which was isolated from a person previously infected with Zika virus, neutralizes Zika strains that belong to African, Asian and American lineages and is able to reduce fetal infection and death in mice.

“However, until now what remained unknown was the mechanism of neutralization of Zika infection by the antibody and the structural basis for neutralization,” said Michael Rossmann, Purdue’s Hanley Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences.

The findings are being reported today (March 16) in the journal Nature Communications.

zika_research_plasma

This color-coded image depicts the surface view of the Zika virus bound to fragments of a human antibody, shown as red knobs. Researchers have determined the structure of the antibody bound to the virus, findings that could aid in development of antiviral medications.
Credit: Purdue University image/S. Saif Hasan

The research team was led by Rossmann and Richard Kuhn, both professors in Purdue’s Department of Biological Sciences, and senior postdoctoral scientist S. Saif Hasan. Research to isolate the antibody was led by James E. Crowe Jr., a professor of pediatrics, pathology, microbiology and immunology at Vanderbilt, and Michael S. Diamond, the Herbert S. Gasser Professor at Washington University.

Zika belongs to a family of viruses called flaviviruses, which includes dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitic viruses.

In the new findings, researchers determined the combined three-dimensional structure of the Zika virus while attached to a key binding site on the antibody known as the antigen binding fragment, or a Fab molecule.

“It has potential to be a therapeutic neutralizing human antibody” said Kuhn, director of the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease (PI4D).

The genome of the Zika virus is housed inside a protective shell that includes 60 repeating units, each containing three envelope proteins, or E proteins. As the virus attaches to a host cell’s outer membrane a difference in pH, or acidity, in the membrane causes these “trimers” to expose “fusion peptides,” leading to the transfer of the viral RNA genome, a step critical to infection. The new findings show the antibody’s binding to Zika inhibits this pH-triggering mechanism, neutralizing the virus by “cross-linking” the E proteins, tying them up and preventing their reorganization into “fusogenic” trimers.

“This hypothesis is supported by pre- and post-neutralization assays of Zika infection, showing the antibody is able to significantly inhibit infection,” Rossmann said. “This approach should provide broad-range protection against virtually all strains of Zika.”

Moreover, considering that the surface of Zika is made of 60 copies of three E proteins, it would be expected that 180 copies of the antibody’s Fab molecules would be needed for neutralization.

“However, one antibody binds for six E proteins, so only 30 are needed,” Hasan said. “Therefore, you don’t need a high concentration of antibodies to achieve neutralization.”

The findings primarily will aid in the development of antiviral drugs but also will help researchers identify important sites on the virus for human antibodies to hook onto, which could be useful in developing vaccines down the road, Kuhn said.

The researchers determined the structure at a resolution of 6.2 Ångstroms using a technique called cryo-electron microscopy.

The Zika virus has been associated with a birth defect called microcephaly that causes brain damage and an abnormally small head in babies born to mothers infected during pregnancy. The virus also has been associated with the autoimmune disease Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can lead to temporary paralysis.

“Given the severity of the symptoms caused by Zika infection in humans, it is crucial to understand the immune response elicited by the infection to develop neutralizing anti-Zika therapies,” Rossmann said. “In contrast to other flaviviruses that are spread mainly by insects, recent evidence suggests that Zika can be transmitted sexually and from mother to child in addition to transmission by mosquitoes.”

The first major outbreak of the Zika virus was recorded in 2007 in Micronesia and then in 2013-14 in Oceania. The latest outbreak, which started in Brazil in 2014-15, has spread to other countries in South America, North America and the Caribbean. Four cases of fetal deformities were reported in December 2016 in New York City.

Read article here.

 

If you have been diagnosed with Zika, you might be eligible to donate a blood specimen and earn money. Visit www.plasmamedpatients.com for more info.