Links to go viral – 1st March 2015

This week’s infectious dose:

“Six challenges to stamping out Ebola – Nature”

This article has been pretty popular online this past week. As Ebola lingers on towards the West African rainy season starting in April, we’re running out of time to aggressively end the outbreak once and for all. This article covers some important points, most notably:

  • Aggressive contact tracing can now be pursued in areas with few cases. This tactic is very expensive in terms of money and people power, but is the best way to halt further disease spread. However…
  • …a large proportion of cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone occur in people with no known contact with the sick. In other words, our current surveillance is failing to catch all known cases.
  • Small individual outbreaks are becoming isolated in different geographical regions, requiring aid work to be mobile rather than relying on bringing the sick to centralised centres. However…
  • …it’s going to rain soon. A LOT. This is going to hinder all transport in the region.

The virus isn’t gone yet, and if we let it, it’ll probably come back with a vengeance. I’ve not exhausted the important stuff in this piece. Check it out.

“Measles virus circulating in Ontario is a variant previously unknown to WHO – The Globe and Mail”

The beginnings of an interesting epidemiological detective story here. Recent Measles outbreaks in Quebec can easily be linked to the Disneyland outbreak in the states, but a small cluster of cases in Ontario have come from somewhere else entirely. But where? Measles was eliminated from Canada in the 1990’s, so the virus was likely imported from abroad.

Just goes to show, virus diseases may be extremely rare in your neck of the woods, but in today’s global society, I’d recommend you carry on vaccinating yourself and your family.

“Mail-Order Viruses Are The New Antibiotics – Buzzfeed”

Bacteriophage are extremely cool. Every living thing on the planet has its own viruses, and bacteria are no exception. Despite the advent of antibiotics, doctors in the Soviet Union experimented and developed virus preparations to kill common bacterial diseases. Now with the shadow of antibiotic resistance hanging over the globe, people in the West are turning to these plucky ‘bacteria-eaters’ as our future saviours.

It’s not quite as a simple as that though. Bacteriophage (or phage) therapy requires knowing exactly what bug you’re trying to kill. Why? Because bacterial species are incredibly diverse and bacteriophage are highly species-specific. Think about mice and men – both are mammals, but whilst you could send a cat in to remove your mouse problem, sending in a cat to solve your human problem is going to result in more humans and lots of pictures on the internet.

This article gives a great introduction into the successes and failures of individual Western forays into the exciting world of bacteria-exploding viruses.

The phage are coming! Or are they?

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