Recently in Infectious Diseases Category

U of M and Brazilian researchers partner to fight infectious disease

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It's difficult to treat a disease caused by something you don't know is there.

That's why Marna Ericson, Ph.D. in the Department of Dermatology and Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota's Medical School and Paulo Velho, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Campinas, Brazil are combining experience and expertise internationally to learn more about the hard-to-detect bacteria Bartonella.

Ericson and Velho are part of a joint U.S.-Brazil March government initiative encouraging science and technology collaboration between the U.S. and Brazil.

Not only did the pair recently participate in a round table discussion at the U.S. Department of State on recruiting, retaining and advancing women in science, but they also just received a three-year grant to study Bartonella from Brazilian government program Science Without Borders, alongside U of M Department of Medicine Professor Kalpna Gupta and two UNICAMP researchers.

"Bartonella may be causing sickness and we don't know it, because there's no good way to test for it," said Ericson. "Even the best state-of-the-art tests are inadequate."

Bartonella lives inside red blood cells and is responsible for cat scratch disease; an infection transmitted by--you guessed it--cats (although ticks, flies, fleas and other blood-transmitters can carry it, too). This stealthy bacterium is also responsible for an unknown number of other health problems including skin lesions, liver infections and brain dysfunction.

International collaboration between Brazil and U of M researchers is vital to successful research on Bartonella. Velho's yearlong appointment at the U allows both U of M researchers and Velho to share their unique experiences and research with the bacteria originally discovered in South America.

"We are a good example of collaborative work," Velho said, adding that Ericson and himself are hoping to make it easier for others to participate in a university exchange like their own.

If Ericson and Velho succeed in developing a better way to detect Bartonella, their international collaboration will result in cost savings stemming from improper disease diagnoses and will set the scene for developing treatments that have the potential to improve lives and help cure Bartonella-related disease.

(Photo credit: Tissue staining of Bartonella in skin by Marna Ericson.)

Case of Mad Cow Disease Is Found in U.S.

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Image: New York Times LogoThe Department of Agriculture announced that it had identified a case of mad cow disease, the first in six years, in a dairy cow in central California. Will Hueston, College of Veterinary Medicine, discusses how this case is different from many of the cases of the past.

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US Regulators Call for Limits on Antibiotic Use in Livestock

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Image: AHC LogoU.S. regulators are taking steps to check the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections from animals to humans. James Johnson, Medical School, talks about the new, proactive FDA guidenlines that have been put in place.

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Now revised, controversial bird-flu research gets publication go-ahead from U.S. govt. panel

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The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) has reversed course and now supports publication of controversial research studies showing how scientists in the Netherlands and Wisconsin created new, easy-to-spread forms of bird flu in the lab.

The move comes as researchers partially revise their research to exclude details that could be used by bioterrorists to potentially create a pandemic. The NSABB had originally said publishing full details of the research would be too risky.

University of Minnesota professor Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., serves on the NSABB and had been directly involved with the original recommendation for redaction.

According to Osterholm, the H5N1 strains that were created in the lab could lead to research that improves pandemic preparedness, but he and others were concerned that releasing details of the research created a very real risk of a human pandemic -- by accident or intentional release of the virus.

"These papers really represent a seminal moment in life sciences," Osterholm said before a Feb. 2 New York Academy of Sciences debate about the issue. Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. "We now have really been confronted with examples of where the science itself -- which is very important in moving forward for the public's health -- also poses potential risk for nefarious actions or even situations where this virus might escape from the laboratory."

Read the full story from the U of M's Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy.

Controversial Bird Flu Research Safe To Publish

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Image: RedOrbit LogoA panel of US science research experts reversed its decision on banning the publication of the research that created the deadly H5N1 virus. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains he is worried about a "garage scientist" trying to replicate the research.

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