Pandora Report 06.01.14

Highlights include Ebola research at UVA, No person-to-person MERS transmission in the U.S., Syria’s inability to meet deadlines, and the continuing negative impact of Anxi-Vaxxers.  Have a great Sunday!


Ebola’s Fist: UVA Unlocks How Deadly Virus Smashes into Human Cells

Further proving the superiority of public universities in Virginia, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered how the Ebola virus enters the cytoplasm of human cells. This discovery comes at a critical time when Ebola is still raging in West Africa.

Augusta Free Press—“UVA’s new discovery offers important insight into how the virus works its way into cells. After the virus is engulfed by the cell, it is contained within a vesicle where it can do no harm. But Ebola quickly escapes the vesicle, and now scientists understand how. UVA researcher Lukas Tamm, PhD, of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, and his team discovered that the pH level inside the vesicle triggers the surface glycoprotein on the virus to form a “fist” that lets the virus punch its way into the cell’s cytoplasm, where it can effectively turn the cell into a factory for virus production.”


Nevermind! It Turns Out the Guy Who Tested Positive for MERS Doesn’t Have it

Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief! It turns out that the Illinois man who tested positive for MERS after shaking hands with an infected man never really had it. The tests used for diagnostics registered a false positive. This means that the only cases of MERS in the United States have been imported and have not passed through person-to-person transmission.

ABC News—“‘There is good news here,” ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said. “It was concerning that this man supposedly got infected through minimal contact – a couple of meetings and a handshake. Now that it’s clear that he was not infected, we’re back to a situation where those who have been infected have either been health care workers caring for MERS patients or close contacts, often family members.’”


Syria Set to Miss Deadline for Chemical Weapons Destruction

During the past week not only was a chemical weapons inspection team ambushed and held captive in Syria, but reports are coming out that the Syrian government will not meet the June 30, 2014, deadline for removal and destruction of their chemical weapons arsenal.  UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, also voiced concerned about allegations that chlorine gas has been used in recent fighting in Syria.

The Moscow Times—“The Syrian government has missed several deadlines, most recently its own promise to hand over the remaining chemicals by April 27. It has also failed to destroy a dozen facilities that were part of the chemical weapons program. The government has blamed those failures on security problems and rebel activities, but Western officials have voiced skepticism about those explanations.”


The New Measles Outbreak: Blame the Anti-Vaxxers

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that new measles cases in the United States are at a 20 year high for the first five months of 2014.  The CDC reports that 97% of measles cases have been imported by people who have travelled to other countries and brought the disease back with them and that 90% of the infections have occurred among unvaccinated individuals. In his scathing Time piece, Jeffrey Kluger highlights the worldwide struggle to eradicate polio and the capriciousness of those in the U.S. choosing to not be vaccinated against preventable, and long-dormant, diseases.

Time—“Make no mistake, the measles outbreak in the U.S. is an act of choice, of election, of a decision to get sick—or a decision by parents to put their children at risk. Fully 90% of the new cases are among people who are unvaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown. And nearly all of those people are unvaccinated for personal, philosophical or religious reasons—as opposed to any medical condition that requires them to avoid vaccines. This is true too of recent outbreaks of mumps and whooping cough, and of the dangerously declining rate of vaccination in the U.S. overall. Nearly all of that folly can be blamed on the rumors and outright lies that continue to be spread about various conditions vaccines are said to cause—autism, ADHD, vaguely defined immune system disorders and on and on depending on which celebrity or health faddist is telling the tale.” 


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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