There are new reports of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This news comes just two years after international control efforts eventually contained an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, though before control was achieved, more than 11,000 people died—the largest known Ebola outbreak in human history . While considerable progress continues to be made in understanding the infection and preparing for new outbreaks, many questions remain about why some people die from Ebola and others survive.
Now, some answers are beginning to emerge thanks to a new detailed analysis of the immune responses of a unique Ebola survivor, a 34-year-old American health-care worker who was critically ill and cared for at the NIH Special Clinical Studies Unit in 2015 . The NIH-led team used the patient’s blood samples, which were drawn every day, to measure the number of viral particles and monitor how his immune system reacted over the course of his Ebola infection, from early symptoms through multiple organ failures and, ultimately, his recovery.
The researchers identified unexpectedly large shifts in immune responses that preceded observable improvements in the patient’s symptoms. The researchers say that, through further study and close monitoring of such shifts, health care workers may be able to develop more effective ways to care for Ebola patients.
Tags: adaptive immune system, Africa, blood, Congo, critical care, Ebola, Ebola epidemic, Ebola treatment, Ebola Virus Disease, global health, hemorrhagic fever, immunity, immunology, infectious disease, innate immunity, NIH Clinical Center, organ failure, pandemic, Sierra Leone, virology, West Africa
A new year has arrived, and it’s going to be an amazing one for biomedical research. But before diving into our first “new science” post of 2016, let’s take a quick look back at 2015 and some of its remarkable accomplishments. A great place to reflect on “the year that was” is the journal Science’s annual Top 10 list of advances in all of scientific research worldwide. Four of 2015’s Top 10 featured developments directly benefited from NIH support—including Science’s “Breakthrough of the Year,” the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique. Here’s a little more on the NIH-assisted breakthroughs:
CRISPR Makes the Cut: I’ve highlighted CRISPR/Cas9 in several posts. This gene-editing system consists of a short segment of RNA that is attached to an enzyme. The RNA is preprogrammed to find a distinct short sequence of DNA and deliver the enzyme, which acts like a scalpel to slice the sequence out of the genome. It’s fast and pretty precise. Although CRISPR/Cas9 isn’t brand-new—it’s been under development as a gene-editing tool for a few years—Science considered 2015 to be “the year that it broke away from the pack.”
Tags: baker's yeast, biotechnology, brain, CRISPR, CRISPR/Cas9, drug development, Ebola, Ebola vaccine, gene drive, global health, hydrocodone, immune system, immunology, infectious diseases, lymphatic system, neuroscience, opiates, opioid, PMI, Precision Medicine Initiative, rVSV-ZEBOV, Science Breakthrough of the Year, Science's Top 10 Science Advances, thebaine, Top 25 Science Stories of 2015, yeast, ZMapp
Many lessons were learned during last year’s devastating outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa. A big one is that field clinics operating in remote settings desperately need a simple, rapid, and accurate test that can tell doctors on the spot—with just a drop of blood—whether or not a person has an active Ebola infection.
A number of point-of-care tests are under development, and it’s exciting to see them moving in the right direction to fill this critical need . As a recent example, a paper published in Nature Scientific Reports by a team of NIH-supported researchers and colleagues shows early success in rapid Ebola detection with an automated lab on a chip . The hybrid system, which combines microfluidics for sample preparation with optofluidics for viral detection, identifies Ebola at concentrations that are typically seen in the bloodstream of an infected person. It also distinguishes between Ebola and the related Marburg and Sudan viruses, suggesting it could be used to detect other infectious diseases.
Tags: Africa, diagnostics, Ebola, Ebola epidemic, Ebola lab on a chip, Ebola virus, global health, lab on a chip, Marburg virus, microfluidics, optofluidics, point-of-care diagnostics, point-of-care tests, Sudan virus
After watching this music video, you might wonder what on earth it has to do with biomedical science, let alone Ebola research. The answer is everything.
This powerful song, entitled “One Truth,” is dedicated to all of the brave researchers, healthcare workers, and others who have put their lives on the line to save people during the recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease. What’s more, it was written and performed by seven amazing scientists—one from the United States and six from West Africa.