Cold vaccine tests show promise

The bad news: there's no cure for the common cold, because there's no such thing as a common cold. Many different kinds of viruses cause colds, and to date no one has come up with a cure-all.

The good news: A number of researchers have had promising results giving mice a cold vaccine.

The sobering news (from The Guardian):  "about 80% of drugs that make it into clinical trials because they worked in mice do not go on to work in humans."

Scientists today identify seven virus families that cause the majority of colds: rhinovirus, coronavirus, influenza and parainfluenza virus, adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and, finally, metapneumovirus, which was first isolated in 2001. Each has a branch of sub-viruses, known as serotypes, of which there are about 200. Rhinovirus, the smallest cold pathogen by size, is by far the most prevalent, causing up to three-quarters of colds in adults. To vanquish the cold we will need to tackle all of these different families of virus at some stage. But, for now, rhinovirus is the biggest player.

Scientists first attempted to make a rhinovirus vaccine in the 1950s. They used a reliable method, pioneered by French biologist Louis Pasteur in the 1880s, in which a small amount of virus is introduced to a host in order to provoke a defensive immunological reaction that then protects the body from subsequent infection. Even so, those who had been vaccinated caught colds just as easily as those who had not.

Image: CHAjAMP/Shutterstock Read the rest

Aid workers use computer model to help stop cholera in Yemen dead in its tracks

Last year in Yemen, cholera ran rampant. In a single week, the United Nations reported 50,000 new cases of the diarrhea and vomit-inducing illness. In 2018, thanks to computer modeling, the number of individuals that have succumb to the virus have dropped to an average of 2,500 cases over a seven-day period.

From The BBC:

The Met Office [the UK government's meteorological authority,] produces a rainfall forecast for Yemen. Using its supercomputers, it is to determine the specific amount of rain that will fall and pinpoint the areas it will hit within a 10km (six-mile) radius.

These are important because downpours overwhelm the sewerage system and spread the infection.

The forecasts are used in conjunction with a computer model developed by Prof Rita Colwell, at the University of Maryland, and Dr Antar Jutla, at West Virginia University.

Once in the numbers pulled from the Met forecast and the computer model are available, the information is cross-referenced with factors such as the suspected outbvreak area's population density, what access to clean water there may be in the area (cholera is spread, rapidly by ingesting contaminated water,) and the seasonal temperature in the region as the virus LOVES it when it's warm... like, warm for Yemen warm.

According to The BBC, by referring to all of the available data, scientists have been able to accurately predict large scale cholera outbreaks up to four weeks in advance. This provides aid workers, hospitals and what health authorities are able to operate in the war-torn country to vaccinate locals in the target area. Read the rest

Animator Cyriak has indigestion

Someone give Cyriak a chalk pill: "Some animation experiments that congealed into a video." Read the rest

Inspiring ad for a Toronto children's hospital

"Sick isn't weak." Toronto's Hospital for Sick Kids has a perceptual challenge with "sick" in their name, so they created a great new ad called VS. that presents their patients and employees as heroes. Read the rest

The new flu

After stumping her doctors, a sick Taiwanese woman turned out to be infected with a strain of bird flu never before seen in humans. She survived, and nobody else appears to be infected, but you might want to get used to thinking about H6N1. Read the rest

Tidbits for hypochondriacs

If you would like to avoid catching somebody's cold, you should attempt to remain at least six feet away from them. That is the distance respiratory droplets can travel through air. Read the rest

Corporate executives indicted for willfully endangering public health

Officials from the Peanut Corporation of America are being indicted for their roles in a 2009 salmonella outbreak that killed at least nine people. It's rare for this kind of prosecution to actually happen, writes Maryn McKenna at her Superbug blog. But, in this case, there's mounds of evidence that executives circumvented safety testing, ignored positive salmonella results, and pressured their employees to send out product even though it might be tainted. Here's the money quote, from PCA's former president, revealed in an email recovered by the prosecution: "Shit, just ship it." Read the rest

Vaccine-resistant whooping cough found in Philadelphia

When we talk about the resurgence of childhood illnesses, we tend to focus on vaccine-resistant people as the primary cause. And it's true that a large population of un-vaccinated kids can give a disease like whooping cough a foothold in a community, and allow it to spread to kids who haven't been vaccinated yet or who can't be vaccinated for various medical reasons. But there's another facet to this story, as well. Some of the strains of bacteria that cause whooping cough are also resistant to the vaccine. Those strains have been found in Japan, France, and Finland. Last week, The New England Journal of Medicine reported on 12 cases of vaccine-resistant whooping cough in Philadelphia. Read the rest

Another danger for astronauts: Super bacteria

Bacteria living zero-gravity environments become more virulent. People living in zero-gravity environments have less-than-fully-functional immune systems. The result is a danger for space travelers that few of us on Earth ever think about — even though a lot of early astronauts, right up through the Apollo program, suffered severe infections in flight, or shortly after landing. Ed Yong's article for Wired UK from 2011 is a reminder that there's a lot of details that need to be worked out before humanity can become a space-faring species. We've got more worry about up there than just radiation. Read the rest

Meet Vomiting Larry

Vomiting Larry is a humanoid robot designed to projectile vomit all over a lab at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, England. He's helping scientists learn about how diseases spread. Warning: If you read this Reuters story by Kate Kelland you will be forced to acknowledge the existence of "aerosolized vomit". (Via Microbe World) Read the rest