Tag Archives: virology

Universal Flu Shot in Sight?

Influenza virus places a large burden on our society. It is estimated that the costs of everything related to influenza virus infection comes to about $87.1 billion US dollars in the United States. With the existing vaccination program against influenza virus, you may ask why there isn’t a “one size fits all” that can make us completely immune from influenza virus infection with a single vaccine. My parents have asked me that question a few weeks ago. The way how I explain it is through the use of umbrellas. Let’s say the virus carries a bright red umbrella. The immune system recognizes the red cloth on the umbrella and then mount an immune response against the red cloth. But next year, the virus mutates due to selective pressure. The virus now carries a blue umbrella. The immune system now has to go through all the processes from sensing the infection to getting rid of the infection, instead of recognizing the virus at the beginning of the infection. The current strategy that the scientists are trying to develop is the use of broadly neutralizing antibody. The broadly neutralizing antibody recognizes not the cloth of the umbrella, but the stalk of the umbrella which is common among all subtypes of influenza.

A  recent review article by Dr. Krammer and Dr. Palese from Mount Sinai has covered the challenge of this antibody in an elegant way. The real challenge behind the application of a broadly neutralizing antibody against influenza virus is that different age groups tend to have totally different exposure history to the subtypes of influenza virus. Children tend to be naive for influenza virus infection when adult are exposed to it multiple times. Furthermore, the elderly appears to mount a less effective response after a flu shot. Thus, the application of the broadly neutralizing antibody needs to be tested extensively in different age groups before rolling out.

“The initial cost of conducting these trials might seem high, but investment in universal influenza virus vaccine approaches might make it possible to overcome the threat of seasonal and pandemic influenza.”

Mosquito Saliva Enhances Dengue Virus Infection

12222013_1Dengue fever is a tropical infectious disease caused by dengue virus infection. In the January 2014 paper published in the Journal of Virology, researchers from Yale University has discovered that a particular component in the mosquito saliva can enhance virus infection.

On the right, it is a diagram depicting the effect of mosquito extract on virus replication: the black curve is after treating with extract, and the grey curve is with no treatment. The researchers have also gone on to investigate the effect of the mosquito extract in animal. The study further identifies a particular enzyme, called serine protease, in the saliva that helps enhancing the infection.

It is interesting to see how dengue virus is evolved to use the natural components of saliva to sense where it is and to maximize its productivity once it enters the mosquito.


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Perception of safety and class of a city by photos

windwThe Broken Window Theory (a legit theory) has suggested that there is a direct correlation between what you see in the environment, like a broken window or graffiti all over the neighborhood, with other disorders, such as crimes and social classes.

manhattanAbout 8000 people were shown pictures pulled from Google map showing neighborhoods of American cities (New York City and Boston) and European cities (Linz and Salburg).

Other articles: Damselfish and its fake eyes

Researchers found that there is a larger range of “good” and “bad” neighborhoods in American cities compared to European cities. They also found a direct correlation between the urban perception of the neighborhood to violent crimes.

Now what else can Google Map do?

Other articles: Is it possible to design viruses to attack pathogenic viruses?

Reference: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0068400#s2