New flu cases and new flu research – the week in infectious diseases

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Flu

As ‘Aussie flu’ takes its toll on the UK, which reported this week the worst flu season for 7 years, the past few days have also seen some new research on this virus. First, in a study from McMaster University (Ontario, Canada) and the Université de Montréal  (Canada) it was suggested that individuals born during the 1957 H2N2 Asian flu pandemic may have had a higher mortality risk during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic as well as the resurgent H1N1 outbreak (2013–2014) – posing the question, can previous influenza virus exposure enhance susceptibility to subsequent infection?

In addition, researchers have utilized genomics to identify and eliminate the influenza virus’ pathogenic mechanisms, providing a new vaccine candidate that induced strong immune responses in animal models.

Finally, a study led by the University of Maryland (MD, USA) highlighted that the spread of influenza virus may be easier than previously thought, as we may be able to pass flu to others simply by breathing.

MRSA

In new research, MRSA infections in the soft tissue or skin – such as cellulitis – have been understood to permanently compromise the lymphatic system. A team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MA, USA) has revealed this week that MRSA infections compromise lymphatic function by impairing the ability of lymphatic vessels to pump fluid to lymph nodes in mice, which may contribute to the frequent recurrences of MRSA infection observed in patients.

Zika and West Nile

A new study has discovered abnormalities and decreased oxygen levels in the placenta of Zika-infected rhesus monkeys. These findings contribute to our understanding of Zika infections in mother and child, which is necessary for future prevention efforts such as vaccines.

Looking at another Flavivirus, this week a team of researchers from Washington University (WA, USA) reported that neurological deficits in West Nile virus may be a result of inflammation. Moreover, using mouse models, the group demonstrated that when inflammation was reduced by an arthritis drug, the animal’s cognitive abilities remained sharp after West Nile infection, possibly paving the way to future treatments.

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