An article by Sayer Ji, Activist Post, provides some thought-provocation and a lateral approach to a science, vaccination, that is currently in the news for its controversial issues concerning adverse reactions.
A groundbreaking study published this month in Nature challenges a century-old assumption about the innate pathogenicity of these extremely small, self-replicating particles known as viruses.
Titled, “An enteric virus can replace the beneficial function of commensal bacteria,” researchers found that an “enteric RNA virus can replace the beneficial function of commensal bacteria in the intestine.” Known as murine (mouse) noravirus (MNV), researchers found that infecting germ-free or antibiotic-treated mice infection with MNV “restored intestinal morphology and lymphocyte function without inducing overt inflammation and disease.”
The researchers found:
Importantly, MNV infection offset the deleterious effect of treatment with antibiotics in models of intestinal injury and pathogenic bacterial infection. These data indicate that eukaryotic viruses have the capacity to support intestinal homeostasis and shape mucosal immunity, similarly to commensal bacteria. Despite the commonly held belief that viruses are vectors of morbidity and mortality that must be vaccinated against in order to save us from inevitable harm and death, the new study dovetails with a growing body of research showing that our own genome is 80% viral in origin.
Find the full article here.
Designer viruses could be the new antibiotics | Ars Technica.by Oct 16 2014, 11:30am EDT
From the news article
Bacterial infections remain a major threat to human and animal health. Worse still, the catalog of useful antibiotics is shrinking as pathogens build up resistance to these drugs. There are few promising new drugs in the pipeline, but they may not prove to be enough. Multi-resistant organisms—also called “superbugs”—are on the rise, and many predict a gloomy future if nothing is done to fight back.
The answer, some believe, may lie in using engineered bacteriophages, a type of virus that infects bacteria. Two recent studies, both published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, show a promising alternative to small-molecule drugs that are the mainstay of antibacterial treatments today.
From basic to synthetic biology
Nearly every living organism seems to have evolved simple mechanisms to protect itself from harmful pathogens. These innate immune systems can be a passive barrier, blocking anything above a certain size, or an active response that recognizes and destroys foreign molecules such as proteins and DNA.
An important component of the bacterial immune system is composed of a family of proteins that are tasked specifically with breaking down foreign DNA. Each bug produces a set of these proteins that chew the genetic material of viruses and other micro-organism into pieces while leaving the bacterial genome intact.
In vertebrates, a more advanced system—called the adaptive immune system—creates a molecular memory of previous attacks and prepares the organism for the next wave of infection. This is the principle on which vaccines are built. Upon introduction of harmless pathogen fragments, the adaptive immunity will train specialist killer cells that later allow a faster and more specific response if the virulent agent is encountered again.
Until recently, people thought bacteria were too simple to possess any sort of adaptive immunity. But in 2007, a group of scientists from the dairy industry showed that bacteria commonly used for the production of cheese and yogurts could be “vaccinated” by exposure to a virus. Two years earlier, others noticed similarities between repetitive sections in bacterial genomes and the DNA of viruses. These repetitive sequences—called CRISPR for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”—had been known for 20 years, but no one could ever explain their function.
From the 3 March 2012 article at Science News Daily
Depression is common enough — afflicting one in ten adults in the United States — that it seems the possibility of depression must be “hard-wired” into our brains. This has led biologists to propose several theories to account for how depression, or behaviors linked to it, can somehow offer an evolutionary advantage
Some previous proposals for the role of depression in evolution have focused on how it affects behavior in a social context. A pair of psychiatrists addresses this puzzle in a different way, tying together depression and resistance to infection. They propose that genetic variations that promote depression arose during evolution because they helped our ancestors fight infection….
“The basic idea is that depression and the genes that promote it were very adaptive for helping people — especially young children — not die of infection in the ancestral environment, even if those same behaviors are not helpful in our relationships with other people,” Raison says.
Infection was the major cause of death in humans’ early history, so surviving infection was a key determinant in whether someone was able to pass on his or her genes. The authors propose that evolution and genetics have bound together depressive symptoms and physiological responses that were selected on the basis of reducing mortality from infection. Fever, fatigue/inactivity, social avoidance and anorexia can all be seen as adaptive behaviors in light of the need to contain infection, they write.
The theory provides a new explanation for why stress is a risk factor for depression. The link between stress and depression can be seen as the byproduct of a process that preactivates the immune system in anticipation of a wound, they write….
- Is Depression a ‘Natural’ Condition? (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Essay: Depression Defies Rush to Find Evolutionary Upside (nytimes.com)
- Does Depression Have an Upside? (psychcentral.com)
- Depression could be evolutionary byproduct of immune system (eurekalert.org)
From the press release
The number of bloodstream infections in intensive care unit patients with central lines decreased by 58 percent in 2009 compared to 2001, according to a new CDC Vital Signs report. During these nine years, the decrease represented up to 27,000 lives saved and $1.8 billion in excess health care costs. Bloodstream infections in patients with central lines can be deadly, killing as many as 1 in 4 patients who gets one….
“Preventing bloodstream infections is not only possible, it should be expected. Meticulous insertion and care of the central line by all members of the clinical care team including doctors, nurses and others at the bedside is essential. The next step is to apply what we’ve learned from this to other health care settings and other health care-associated conditions, so that all patients are protected,” said Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., CDC director.
In addition to the ICU findings, the report found that about 60,000 bloodstream infections in patients with central lines occurred in non-ICU health care settings such as hospital wards and kidney dialysis clinics. About 23,000 of these occurred in non-ICU patients (2009) and about 37,000 infections occurred in dialysis clinics patients (2008).
“This reduction is the result of hospital, local, state and national medical and public health efforts focused on tracking infection rates and then using that information to tailor and evaluate prevention programs,” said Denise Cardo, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “The report findings point to a clear need for action beyond ICUs. Fortunately, we have a prevention model focused on full collaboration that can be applied broadly to maximize prevention efforts.”
Infections are one of the leading causes of hospitalization and death for hemodialysis patients. At any given time, about 350,000 people are receiving hemodialysis treatment for kidney failure. Seven in 10 patients who receive dialysis begin that treatment through a central line….
- Patient Safety Awareness Week 3: Positive News on Infections, More Work Needed (hcfama.org)
- Rates of Pneumonia Dramatically Reduced in Patients on Ventilators in Michigan Intensive Care Units (nlm.nih.gov)
- Challenges In Stemming The Spread Of Resistant Bacteria In Intensive Care
- Simple Cotton Swab Slashes Reduce Post-Op Infection (Medical News today, June 2011)
- Infection Risk Lurks in Hospital ICUs (webmd.com)