Archive for the ‘Immunology’ Category

COVID-19: some data

March 27, 2020

There is much being written about COVID-19 and while I don’t plan to add to it, I have come across some excellent data sources on the spread and effects of this virus.

Johns Hopkins 27 March Data.png

The most well known is – Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) (here is an interview with the people creating this data too.)

Our World in Data is an astoundingly good website with enormous amounts of information and their Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Statistics and Research page is no different (see also their testing data page).

Finally, being Australian, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Australia site is also of interest.

Hope the above are of interest.

Why You Are Still Alive – The Immune System Explained

July 10, 2014

Why are we alive when our bodies are constantly under attack from bacteria, viruses and more? As this video explains, it is thanks to our immune systems that we have an army of cells fighting for our cause.

Why We Sunburn

January 15, 2013

For the first time, science has illuminated why our skin reddens and stings when we get too much sunshine.

Though sunburn is a common experience for human beings, there’s surprisingly little information on how energy in sunlight is detected in the body as a source of danger.

Now scientists have identified the chemical culprit that triggers our skin’s warning signs. A type of RNA, they found, breaks into pieces within a dead cell done in by ultraviolet sunlight.

Next, so-called receptor molecules in neighboring cells detects the damaged RNA and “tell” the body to inflame the healthy skin around the dead cell—and voilà: sunburn. Learn more here.

Parents (teachers?) less likely to catch colds and flu

December 8, 2012

Children bring many things to their parents’ lives: happiness, sleepless nights… and viruses. But although parents do catch infections from their kids, it seems parents are also more resistant to colds and flu.

Scientists reviewed three studies in which researchers put either a flu virus or a rhinovirus, which causes colds, into people’s noses, then tracked who fell ill. They found that parents were only 48 per cent as likely to develop an infection as people with no kids.

The more children there were in the family, the more parents were protected against illness. Learn more here.

Early exposure to germs has lasting benefits

April 14, 2012

Exposure to germs in childhood is thought to help strengthen the immune system and protect children from developing allergies and asthma, but the pathways by which this occurs have been unclear. Now, researchers have identified a mechanism in mice that may explain the role of exposure to microbes in the development of asthma and ulcerative colitis, a common form of inflammatory bowel disease.

In a study, the researchers show that in mice, exposure to microbes in early life can reduce the body’s inventory of invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells, which help to fight infection but can also turn on the body, causing a range of disorders such as asthma or inflammatory bowel disease.

The study supports the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which contends that such auto-immune diseases are more common in the developed world where the prevalence of antibiotics and antibacterials reduce children’s exposure to microbes. Learn more here.

A cure for cancer?

September 17, 2011

A team of doctors and medical researchers at the University of Pennsylvania tried a bold new experiment on three leukemia patients who seemed to have no hope left. One of them was 65-year-old William Ludwig.

Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells — a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors — and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig’s veins.

At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.

A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.

Another patient had a complete remission, and the third had a partial remission. What is surprising about the experimental treatment is that it uses diabled HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, to carry the new cancer-fighting genes to the patient’s T-cells.

The University of Pennsylvania team seems to have hit all the targets at once. Inside the patients, the T-cells modified by the researchers multiplied to 1,000 to 10,000 times the number infused, wiped out the cancer and then gradually diminished, leaving a population of “memory” cells that can quickly proliferate again if needed.

The researchers remain cautious, because so few patients have been given the treatment, and because the therapy itself can be dangerous.

CRIKEY!!! Learn more here.

New drug could defeat any virus

August 16, 2011

Viruses might soon meet their kryptonite: an experimental drug that can, in theory, obliterate cells infected by any type of virus without harming healthy neighbours.

For 50 years, scientists have been fighting viruses in two ways: drugs for existing infections and vaccines to prevent infection in the first place. However, most drugs or vaccines are specific to one virus, viral strain or family of related viruses. When a virus mutates – as they so often do – researchers must retool our medicines.

The new drug targets a molecule common to all virus-infected cells. Nearly every virus generates strings of double-stranded RNA longer than 30 base pairs during replication, in an attempt to duplicate itself and commandeer its host cell’s machinery. Healthy mammalian cells do not produce double-stranded RNA longer than 23 base pairs.

Basically the new drug initiates a cell’s self destruct mechanism as soon as any lengthy molecules of double-stranded RNA arrive in an infected cell. Learn more here or here.

Giant roundworm of humans

July 31, 2011


Ascaris lumbricoides is the giant roundworm of humans. It is the largest and most common parasitic worm in humans. One-sixth of the human population is estimated to be infected by this parasite. Ascariasis is prevalent worldwide and more so in tropical and subtropical countries.

This is what it looks like in a human’s colon:

The Man cold is real!

July 8, 2011

Science has confirmed what men around the world have always known to be true: the man cold is real.

When the dreaded bug strikes, women have a much stronger immune response to the virus than men, according to researchers.

The research team established that gender was a factor in how the immune system reacts to rhinoviruses, the viruses that usually cause the common cold.

Significantly, these differences disappear after women reach menopause – indicating they are probably regulated by sex hormones.

The way nature has put us together has been done to keep the female of the species alive as a survival thing. Women bear the children, where as men are dispensable. Read more here or here.

A decrease in biodiversity causes an increases in disease

December 14, 2010

Biodiversity protects ecosystems against infectious diseases, researchers have concluded. The finding suggests that loss of species from an environment could have dangerous consequences for the spread and incidence of infections, including those that affect humans.

A pattern is emerging which shows that biodiversity loss increases disease transmission. Read more here or here.

It’s a bit of a shame that the diversity of life, from sea grass to mammals, has worsened overall since 1970. Meanwhile pressures that erode diversity, from overfishing to alien species invasions, have increased.