Category: Infectious Disease (Page 2 of 4)

The MIDAS touch: NIGMS Propels Infectious Disease Research To Golden Age via Computational Modeling

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), was established in 1962 via an Act of Congress for the “conduct and support of research and research training in the general or basic medical sciences and related natural or behavioral sciences”, especially in areas which are interdisciplinary for other institutes under the Act, or alternatively, which fall under no institute’s purview. In these 52 years, the NIGMS has acquitted itself laudably as one of premier funding agencies that support basic research into understanding biological processes, disease diagnostics, treatment and prevention. At any given time, NIGMS supports close to 5000 research grants, accounting for more than 1 in every 10 grants funded by NIH as a whole, and has the distinction of funding the Nobel Prize-winning research of 75 scientists.

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No, Drinking Your Own Urine Will Not Cure Ebola (Or Anything Else)

Fear does strange things to people. The fear du jour currently permeating the US is, of course, the Ebola virus disease. Despite the august efforts to reassure and educate from CDC and the WHO, there has spread a modicum of panic (often with tragic results); we have seen Ebola response become a political issue, and as pointed out recently by that redoubtable scienceblogger, Orac, a ghastly profusion of conspiracy theories and quackery has crawled out of nooks and crannies, feeding into the overall noise that is smothering rational discourse on the topic. But even before Orac wrote on it, my attention was drawn on Twitter to the latest volley of insane quackery to emerge, a supposedly “Ayurvedic approach” to curing Ebola – the Ayurveda nowadays being a catch-all term to refer to everything pre-scientific mumbo-jumbo allegedly written in the ancient Hindu holy texts, the Vedas. Because culture.

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Addressing TB disease, a global burden

Bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoan parasites; we share our world with countless agents of infectious, disease-causing bugs. Globally, infectious (or ‘communicable’) diseases of various stripes – respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, and meningitis among them – together remain the fourth leading cause of death, with people from lower-income countries being disproportionately more affected. Children form an especially vulnerable group; according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 6.6 million children under 5 years died worldwide in 2012, and over two-thirds of these deaths were attributable to infectious causes.

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Tuberculosis, the global scourge, and a new drug-design strategy

Every year on March 24, World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed to commemorate the discovery of the etiological agent of this disease, the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis by noted German physician and microbiologist and Nobel Laureate, Robert Koch (1843-1910). The infection occurs via inhalation of the air-borne bug; therefore, the disease primarily affects the lungs, but it can spread to other parts of body as well, such as the central nervous system (brain and spinal chord), bone, and internal organs. If adequate treatment is not instituted (and sometimes despite therapy), a person with active TB disease will likely die. In the United States, in 2010 (the latest year for which statistics are currently available), of the nearly nine hundred deaths in which TB was suspected, TB was confirmed in roughly 4 out of 10 cases, and a total of 569 people died from TB. Globally, in 2012, an estimated 8.6 million people contracted TB, of which 1.3 million died.

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Lies, misrepresentation, cherry picking quotes: PeTA’s tactics to garner support against animal research

I work with immunology of infectious disease and study host-pathogen response. My work has naturally involved a good amount of animal experimentation, especially mouse models of various infections. These mouse models are incredibly useful, because they offer a valuable window into the process of infection, pathogenesis (‘disease production’), and the kind of immune response a vertebrate mammal generates to the infection. The same broad reasoning applies to rodent models of various metabolic and endocrine diseases, as well as cancer. These models are attractive because most often these research animals are genetically homogeneous, and therefore, provide a less complex (and more manageable) environment to study the genesis, as well as treatments, of a disease – while mimicking much of the same physiological responses seen in larger and more complex animals.

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Bugging city communities with impunity: this is the Staph of legend

Whether we know it or not, the human skin is a veritable garden of micro-organisms. The outermost layer (‘epidermis’) of the skin, the shafts of hair follicles, as well as the soft surface inside the nose (‘nasal mucosa’), making up for approximately 1.8 square meter of surfaces, is home to about 1000 species of bacteria among other things. Most of these don’t ordinarily cause disease; some are there for the ride, and some even offer benefits by warding off other nasty bugs from latching on.

“Faith Healing”, medical neglect by another name

In Scientio Veritas is my blog for talking about professional matters, related to science in health and disease, and so forth; and long-time readers (if any!) may know that I don’t like to bring in discussions on the controversial (and – I think – personal to many) issue of religion or religious faith, unless the specific issue impinges upon scientific and/or public health matters. Today, two of my scientist-blogger friends highlighted via social media a particular case of the latter kind, which screams to be commented upon because of its serious public health implications. So I shall endeavor to do so as best as I can.

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Plight of Fungal Genetics Stock Center: NSF-funding declined

Last fall, I wrote with a great deal of concern about the deleterious effect of the sequestration on Federally-funded Biomedical Research in the United States, including real-life examples of scientists in jeopardy highlighted in the Huffington Post. In another post, I pointed out how sequestration-mandated cuts to funding from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), coupled with the ill-conceived government shutdown, were seriously imperiling invaluable and irreplaceable scientific research. Although the shutdown was rescinded by the third week of October 2013, it left behind grave concerns about long-term fallouts, especially in less visible areas associated with scientific research in this country.

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PLOS One paper on Anthelmintic Efficacy of Gold Nanoparticles: My Questions to Authors

Every so often, some paper happens to grab my attention for various reasons. As I read the paper, often I have questions. Not all of those questions, unfortunately, can be easily submitted for answers. In recent times, one such paper was published earlier this month in PLOS One. The great benefit of the Open-Access model of PLOS is that it allows a reader to ask questions directly of the authors. This level of engagement is very laudable, especially to someone like me who has an interest in the communication of scientific facts.

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