Posts tagged with "influenza"

Art by Mina Tocalini for use by 360 Magazine

Scientists Mapping Next Pandemic

An international team of scientists has created a powerful new resource to speed the development of vaccines and treatments to battle the next pandemic.

University of Virginia School of Medicine researcher Wladek Minor, PhD, and collaborators in China and Poland have developed an Internet information system, called virusMED, that lays out all we know about the atomic structure and potential vulnerabilities of more than 800 virus strains from 75 different virus families, including SARS-CoV-2, influenza, Ebola and HIV‑1. Several of the collaborators, including the lead investigator, Heping Zheng, are former students and members of Minor’s lab at UVA. 

This new panorama of the proteins of potential threats will help scientists respond quickly and effectively against the next pathogen poised to wreak havoc on humanity. Minor and his collaborators compare the resource to Google Maps, in that it organizes and annotates major points of interest on a virus that scientists can use as a roadmap in drug and vaccine development.

“The battle with COVID-19 is not over yet, but we cannot wait to start preparing for the next pandemic. VirusMED is a step towards an advanced information system that brings together researchers with diverse expertise to tackle complex biomedical challenges,” said Minor, the Harrison Distinguished Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics at UVA. “The information contained in virusMED will help viral researchers from many disciplines, especially those working on drug design or anti-viral therapies. We provide novel structural analysis and integrate pertinent information from various resources to provide a comprehensive picture of the proteins’ most important and vulnerable regions.”

Virus Hotspots

By quickly unlocking the SARS-CoV-2 virus mechanism of action, scientists were able to develop safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19. Minor’s new database aims to put that type of critical information at scientists’ fingertips in one convenient location.

VirusMED contains extensive information on virus species and strains, hosts, viral proteins and antibodies, as well as drugs that have already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, among other important scientific data. The researchers call the points of interest on a virus its “hotspots,” and these hotspots make for strong starting points for drug and vaccine development.

“One of the most promising strain-indifferent antibody therapies developed for the treatment of COVID-19 used this type of information to improve upon a unique antibody isolated from a survivor who was infected by the SARS virus back in 2003,” said David Cooper, PhD, research faculty in Minor’s lab. “People who are surprised by rapid drug and vaccine design don’t realize that researchers today are building upon decades of previous research.”

One of virusMED’s major advantages is that it brings together the extant knowledge about viruses in one location, Minor said. Previously, that data was spread across multiple resources and often “siloed” so that it was not easily accessible. With virusMED, researchers can browse the information by virus or by their hotspot of interest.

The free and accessible database can be found HERE.

“One of the goals of my lab is to make tools that other scientists can use. We look at the forest and find ways to help others focus on the trees,” Minor said. “Resource generation is not glamorous, but the ultimate goal of science is to make life better. One of the anonymous peer-reviewers of the paper claimed they instantly became an enthusiastic user of the system. We expect virusMED to really make a difference.”

Findings Published

The researchers have published their findings in the scientific IUCr Journal. The work will be featured on the journal’s cover. The research team consisted of HuiHui Zhang, Pei Chen, Haojie Ma, Magdalena Woinska, Dejian Liu, Cooper, Guo Peng, Yousong Peng, Lei Deng, Minor and Zheng. .

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog.

Kaelen Felix Illustrates a COVID-19 Article for 360 MAGAZINE

Alex de Waal x New Pandemics, Old Politics

We know how a pandemic is supposed to end: we make sacrifices in our daily lives to support a ‘war’ on the pathogen, until medical science deploys a magic bullet to vanquish the invisible enemy. This is a comforting story, but it hasn’t ever happened yet.

New Pandemics, Old Politics explores how the modern world adopted a martial script to deal with epidemic disease threats, and how this has failed—repeatedly.  Europe first declared ‘war’ on cholera in the 19th century. It didn’t defeat the disease but it served purposes of state and empire. In 1918, influenza emerged from a real war and swept the world unchecked by either policy or medicine. The biggest pandemic of the century defied the script and was scrubbed from history. Forty years ago, AIDS challenged the confidence of medical science. AIDS is still with us, but we have learned to live with it—chiefly because of community activism and emancipatory politics.

Today, public health experts and political leaders who failed to listen to them agree on one thing: that we must ‘fight’ Covid-19. There’s a consensus that we must target individual pathogens and suppress them—and not address the reasons why our societies are so vulnerable.  Arguing that this consensus is mistaken, Alex de Waal makes the case for a new democratic public health for the Anthropocene.

Alex de Waal is Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation, a Research Professor at The Fletcher School at Tuft’s University, and a professorial fellow at the London School of Economics. Over more than 30 years of research, publication, and advocacy, he has pioneered new ways of thinking about famine and humanitarianism, armed conflict and peacemaking, and epidemic disease.

Sun by Mina Tocalini for 360 Magazine

Urban Sun Cleans Coronavirus 

Inspired by the light of the sun, and scientific research which proves that a new specific light can safely clean up to 99.9% of the coronavirus, Studio Roosegaarde launches the world’s first Urban Sun.

Daan Roosegaarde and his team of designers, external experts, and scientists challenged themselves to discover how the power of light can be used to combat viruses and therefore, enhance our well-being. Research shows that though traditional 254nm UV light is harmful, the new far-UVC light with a wavelength of 222 nanometers can actually sanitize viruses safely.

Urban Sun, a project in development by Studio Roosegaarde, shines a large circle of this far-UVC light into public spaces, cleaning those spaces of the coronavirus. It acts as an additional layer of protection to current government rules. Urban Sun aims to inspire hope. It combats the negative impact of social isolation by aiming to improve cultural gatherings, sporting events, public squares, and schoolyards.

Urban Sun debuts at Studio Roosegaarde, with the potential for future exhibits. The project is supported by the Dutch Council of the Public Health & Society Board. Urban Sun is created by Roosegaarde’s team, together with external experts and scientists from the Netherlands, the US, Japan, and Italy. The Urban Sun’s far-UVC light source is measured and calibrated by the Dutch National Metrology Institute VSL. Urban Sun meets the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) safety standards.

Professor Karl Linden, award winning innovator in UV technologies and founding board member of the International Ultraviolet Association: “Urban Sun is inspiring. It will make enjoying public spaces safer and I look forward to visiting locations where this far-UVC sun is shining.”

Designer Daan Roosegaarde: “Suddenly our world is filled with plastic barriers, our family reduced to pixels on a computer screen. Let’s be architects of our new normal and create better places to meet.”

The science behind Urban Sun is based on multiple peer-reviewed articles authored by scientists from Columbia University and Hiroshima University. Research shows that 222nm far-UVC light can reduce the presence of viruses, including various strains of coronavirus and influenza, up to 99.9%.

For more information, please visit Studio Roosegaarde’s website.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

How States Can Combat COVID While Fighting The Flu

United States of Care Offers Suggestions to States on How To Deal With the Seasonal Flu Amid a Pandemic

(Washington, DC) Today, United States of Care (USofCare) issued a “Preparing for COVID-19 and the Flu,” recommendations to states for dealing with the seasonal flu amid a global public health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus.

“States have a long history of successfully dealing with the flu virus, encouraging vaccines and stopping a widespread flu outbreak,” said Emily Barson, Executive Director of United States of Care. “This year is different, as the nation’s already taxed health care system faces the unprecedented double whammy of influenza and COVID-19. As an organization engaging in one-on-one conversations with people, policymakers, and various health care leaders throughout the pandemic, United States of Care offers a unique view on what people need to know and what states can do to combat COVID-19 while fighting the flu.”

United States of Care’s “Preparing for COVID-19 and the Flu” breaks down how states can prepare for dealing with the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously. It includes the following suggestions:

  1. Communicate Clearly: State leaders need to be clear in their communications about why protective measures, such as mask requirements and closures, are necessary to keep people safe from the flu and COVID-19. States can play a vital role in providing people with clarity about what to do if they are infected with either the flu or COVID-19, as they have similar symptoms
  2. Prepare for Increased Health Care Demand: States need to have contingency plans in place so that health care system resources can be efficiently allocated.
  3. Address the Needs of High-Risk People: States will need to continually rely on the latest COVID-19 metrics and data on the flu’s trajectory, especially for high-risk populations to take additional measures.
  4. Develop Plans to Increase Influenza Vaccination Rates: In a typical flu season, less than 50% of people get vaccinated, and the rate is even lower among people of color. Increasing this rate is essential to minimizing the strain on our health care system. Clear communications are also vital due to people’s ongoing concerns about receiving medical care during the pandemic. States will need to develop plans to distribute flu shots in safe-settings, including at home for vulnerable populations.
Vaughn Lowery, 360 MAGAZINE

CDC × COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday that it appears inevitable that COVID-19 will spread in United States communities. Officials said it’s no longer a matter of if, but when.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a conference call that the spread of the new coronavirus in countries other than China has officials concerned about outbreaks in the U.S.

“Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Messonier. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”

The CDC says the agency is preparing to address the potential spread of the virus in the U.S. and it’s encouraging Americans to begin planning as well.

“We will maintain, for as long as practical, a dual approach where we continue measures to contain this disease, but also employ strategies to minimize the impact on our communities,” said Messonier.

Messonier said that officials don’t know whether the spread of the disease in the U.S. would be mild or severe, but Americans should be ready for “significant disruptions” to their daily lives.

“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” Messonnier said.

If the virus begins to spread amongst Americans, the CDC says it will becomes increasingly important to implement basic precautions to prevent more infections. That includes staying home when ill and practicing respiratory and hand hygiene.

Additionally, the CDC says community level intervention might include school dismissals and social distancing in other settings, like postponing or canceling large gatherings. Officials said it may become necessary for students and the workforce to meet over the internet, instead of in person.

“For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options,” said Messonier.

The virus is believed to have originated from Wuhan, China, where early patients had some link to a large seafood and live animal markets.

The CDC says more than 2,400 people have died from COVID-19 worldwide, with a majority of the deaths in mainland China. However, other countries are now battling sizable outbreaks as well.

Europe’s biggest outbreak is in Italy, where more than 280 people have reportedly been infected. Iran has reported at least 95 cases. And, South Korea has more than 970 cases.

As of Tuesday, the CDC had confirmed 14 cases in the U.S., 12 being travel-related and two from person-to-person spread. A total of 43 cases have been confirmed in the group of people repatriated to the U.S. from either Wuhan or the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan, the CDC says. That’s a total of 57 cases.

At this time, there’s no vaccine or medicine to help stop the spread of the virus.

“In the absence of a vaccine or therapy, community mitigation measures are the primary method to respond to widespread transmission and supportive care is the current medical treatment,” wrote the CDC.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of influenza (fever, cough, and shortness of breath) and the current outbreak is occurring during a time of year when respiratory illness are highly prevalent. The CDC is hoping COVID-19 is a seasonal disease like the flu, but officials are preparing in case it’s not.

Click here for CDC updates and to learn more about COVID-19.