A few years ago, Elaine Hill was a doctoral student in applied economics at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, studying maize markets in Uganda  and dairy supply chains in the northeastern U.S . But when fracking—a controversial, hydraulic fracturing technique used to produce oil and natural gas—became a hot topic in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, Hill was motivated to shift gears.
After watching a documentary about fracking, Hill decided to search for scientific evidence on its possible health effects, but found relatively little high-quality data. So, she embarked on a new project—one that eventually earned her a Ph.D.—to evaluate what, if any, impact fracking has on infant and child health. Now, supported by a 2015 NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, Hill is pursuing this line of research further as an assistant professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY.
Tags: 2015 NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, child health, drilling, environmental health, epidemiology, fracking, fracking leases, gas, groundwater, high-pressure hydraulic fracturing, hydraulic fracturing, infant health, International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, oil, pediatrics, reproductive health, respiratory diseases, shale, shale gas well
Without doubt, antibiotic drugs have saved hundreds of millions of lives from bacterial infections that would have otherwise been fatal. But their inappropriate use has led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which now infect at least 2 million Americans every year and are responsible for thousands of deaths . I’ve just come from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where concerns about antibiotic resistance and overuse was a topic of conversation. In fact, some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies issued a joint declaration at the forum, calling on governments and industry to work together to combat this growing public health threat .
Many people who go to the doctor suffering from respiratory symptoms expect to be given a prescription for antibiotics. Not only do such antibiotics often fail to help, they serve to fuel the development of antibiotic-resistant superbugs . That’s because antibiotics are only useful in treating respiratory illnesses caused by bacteria, and have no impact on those caused by viruses (which are frequent in the wintertime). So, I’m pleased to report that a research team, partially supported by NIH, recently made progress toward a simple blood test that analyzes patterns of gene expression to determine if a patient’s respiratory symptoms likely stem from a bacterial infection, viral infection, or no infection at all.
In contrast to standard tests that look for signs of a specific infectious agent—respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or the influenza virus, for instance—the new strategy casts a wide net that takes into account changes in the patterns of gene expression in the bloodstream, which differ depending on whether a person is fighting off a bacterial or a viral infection. As reported in Science Translational Medicine , Geoffrey Ginsburg, Christopher Woods, and Ephraim Tsalik of Duke University’s Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine, Durham, NC, and their colleagues collected blood samples from 273 people who came to the emergency room (ER) with signs of acute respiratory illness. Standard diagnostic tests showed that 70 patients arrived in the ER with bacterial infections and 115 were battling viruses. Another 88 patients had no signs of infection, with symptoms traced instead to other health conditions.
Tags: acute respiratory illness, Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group, antibiotic overuse, antibiotic resistance, antibiotic-resistant infections, antibiotics, applied genomics, bacteria, bacterial infections, blood test, diagnostics, gene expression signature, gene signature, genomics, immunology, infectious disease, noninfectious respiratory problems, precision medicine, procalcitonin, respiratory bacteria, respiratory diseases, respiratory viruses, superbugs, Task Force for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, virology, viruses
It’s been more than a quarter-century since my colleagues and I were able to identify the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis (CF), a life-shortening inherited disease that mainly affects the lungs and pancreas . And, at a recent event in New York, I had an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come since then in treating CF, as well as to honor a major force behind that progress, Dr. Bob Beall, who has just retired as president and chief executive officer of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Bob and many others in the public and private sectors to support basic, translational, and clinical research, we today have two therapies from Vertex Pharmaceuticals that are targeted specifically at CF’s underlying molecular cause: ivacaftor (Kalydeco™), approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012 for people with an uncommon mutation in the CF gene; and the combination ivacaftor-lumacaftor (Orkambi™), approved by the FDA in July for the roughly 50 percent of CF patients with two copies of the most common mutation. Yet more remains to be done before we can truly declare victory. Not only are new therapies needed for people with other CF mutations, but also for those with the common mutation who don’t respond well to Orkambi™. So, the work needs to go on, and I’m encouraged by new findings that suggest a different strategy for helping folks with the most common CF mutation.
Tags: Bob Beall, CF, CFTR, chronic infections, cystic fibrosis, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene, Doris Tulcin, F508del, genetic disorder, interactome, interactome remodelling, ion channel, ivacaftor, John Riordan, Kalydeco, Lap-Chee Tsui, lumacaftor, lung infections, lungs, misfolded proteins, Orkambi, pancreas, protein networks, proteomics, respiratory diseases, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Vaccines are one of biomedicine’s most powerful and successful tools for protecting against infectious diseases. While we currently have safe and effective vaccines to prevent measles, mumps, and a great many other common childhood diseases, we still lack a vaccine to guard against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—a leading cause of pneumonia among infants and young children.
Each year, more than 2 million U.S. children under the age of 5 require medical care for pneumonia and other potentially life-threatening lower respiratory infections caused by RSV [1,2]. Worldwide, the situation is even worse, with more than 30 million infections estimated to occur annually, most among kids in developing countries, where as many as 200,000 deaths may result . So, I’m pleased to report some significant progress in biomedical research’s long battle against RSV: encouraging early results from a clinical trial of an experimental vaccine specifically designed to outwit the virus.
Tags: childhood disease, childhood infectious diseases, childhood vaccine, clinical trial, CRADA, genetic engineering, global health, immunity, live vaccine, M2-2 gene, neutralizing antibodies, pneumonia, respiratory diseases, respiratory syncytial virus, RSV, RSV MEDI ΔM2-2, RSV vaccine, translational medicine, vaccine, virology
After college, Perry Hystad took a trip to India and, while touring several large cities, noticed the vast clouds of exhaust from vehicles, smoke from factories, and soot from biomass-burning cook stoves. As he watched the rapid urban expansion all around him, Hystad remembers thinking: What effect does breathing such pollution day in and day out have upon these people’s health?
This question stuck with Hystad, and he soon developed a profound interest in environmental health. In 2013, Hystad completed his Ph.D. in his native Canada, studying the environmental risk factors for lung cancer [1, 2, 3]. Now, with the support of an NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, Hystad has launched his own lab at Oregon State University, Corvallis, to investigate further the health impacts of air pollution, which one recent analysis indicates may contribute to as many as several million deaths worldwide each year .
Tags: air pollution, air quality, asthma, Bangladesh, biomass, Canada, cardiopulmonary health, clean air, cookstove, environmental health, fine particulate matter, fossil fuels, global health, India, lungs, NIH Director's Early Independence Award, PURE, PURE-AIR, respiratory diseases, satellite technology, South Africa, wearable sensors