The Pandora Report

Highlights include NCov’s mechanism of action, Dengue in Key West (Spring Breakbone?)(sorry, very sorry), the ongoing debate around stocking up on vaccines we may never use, will Assad use biological weapons?, Zithromax and irregular heartbeats, and using bacteria to deliver vaccines for us. Happy Friday!

Novel Virus Entry Portal Found

On the heels of the WHO confirming the 15th case of NCov, it’s now known that the virus utilizes the DPP4 host cell protein for entry.

The Scientist – “Dutch researchers have identified the host cell protein that allows a recently discovered coronavirus to enter its target cells, according to a study published today (March 13) in Nature. The structure of the protein, called DPP4, appears to be conserved between bats and humans, suggesting that the new findings will help shed light on zoonotic transmission of the virus, as well as provide a target for potential vaccines.”

Mosquito-borne dengue virus lands in Key West

Dengue, also known as “breakbone fever”, continues to be one of the most significant “neglected” tropical diseases, with its occurence  seeing a 30-fold increase over the last five decades. It’s re-emergence in the US, therefore, is disturbing but unfortunately not especially surprising.

LA Times – Although the mosquito-borne dengue virus was thought to be fully eradicated in the continental United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday that the tropical disease had indeed returned…after reviewing 93 dengue cases diagnosed in Florida in 2009 and 2010, study authors identified a specific strain of the virus in patients who had not recently traveled outside the country. The strain differed from those cases in which the patient had recently traveled.”

Wary of Attack With Smallpox, U.S. Buys Up a Costly Drug

This debate strikes at the heart of preparedness – do we invest in the smallpox vaccine now, in the off chance a bioterrorist attack with the pathogen occurs, or spend the money elsewhere and risk catastrophic casualties? While those of you born before 1980 (the year we stopped vaccinating) may be shrugging internally, there is some debate about the potency of the vaccine 20 years on. There’s not an easy answer.

New York Times -“The United States government is buying enough of a new smallpox medicine to treat two million people in the event of a bioterrorism attack, and took delivery of the first shipment of it last week. But the purchase has set off a debate about the lucrative contract, with some experts saying the government is buying too much of the drug at too high a price.”

Syria might be prepared to use chemical and biological weapons – US national intelligence director

Meanwhile, in Syria, (unverfiable) reports continue that Assad has already begun using chemical weapons on the rebels. Once again, it’s a poorly-kept secret that Syria had (has?) a clandestine BW program.

Radio Free Russia – “The erosion of the Syrian regime’s authority is accelerating and the ‘increasingly beleaguered’ government, which has been unable to defeat insurgents with conventional weapons, might be prepared to use chemical weapons, according to James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence.”

FDA says Zithromax can cause fatal irregular heart rhythm

Zithromax, an anti-biotic used to treat everything from respiratory infections to STDs, is now known to cause “potentially fatal” tachycardia.

Reuters – “Last May, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the risk of cardiovascular death in patients who took Zithromax with those who took several other antibiotics, including amoxicillin. It found that patients who took Zithromax, made by Pfizer Inc, had higher rates of fatal heart rhythms.”

Researchers trick bacteria to deliver a safer vaccine

Ha! Stupid bacteria. No, we’re kidding – any step towards development of elderly-, child-, and immunocompromised-friendly vaccines is good news.

R&D Magazine – “Vaccines that employ weakened but live pathogens to trigger immune responses have inherent safety issues, but Yale University researchers have developed a new trick to circumvent the problem—using bacteria’s own cellular mistakes to deliver a safe vaccine. The findings, published online in Nature Communications, suggest new ways to create novel vaccines that effectively combat disease but can be tolerated by children, the elderly, and the immune-compromised who might be harmed by live vaccines.”

2 thoughts on “The Pandora Report

  1. Just as a minor point of correction on the smallpox article lead-in. The country has already invested in the smallpox vaccine and has some 300m doses stockpiled, which can be given I think up to three days after infection. The drug of contention in the article is for 2m doses of a smallpox antiviral if the event patients miss the primary vaccine window. Cheers!~


    1. Hi Stephanie – I should have been more explicit about the drug discussed – thank you for the clarifying comment!


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