USING GENOMICS TO FOLLOW THE PATH OF EBOLA
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton
NIH Posted on September 2, 2014 by Dr. Francis Collins
National Institutes of Health
Caption: Colorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles (blue) budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell (yellow-green).Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH
Long before the current outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) began in West Africa, NIH-funded scientists had begun collaborating with labs in Sierra Leone and Nigeria to analyze the genomes and develop diagnostic tests for the virus that caused Lassa fever, a deadly hemorrhagic disease related to EVD. But when the outbreak struck in February 2014, an international team led by NIH Director’s New Innovator Awardee Pardis Sabeti quickly switched gears to focus on Ebola.
In a study just out in the journal Science , this fast-acting team reported that it has sequenced the complete genetic blueprints, or genomes, of 99 Ebola virus samples obtained from 78 patients in Sierra Leone. This new genomic data has revealed clues about the origin and evolution of the Ebola virus, as well as provided insights that may aid in the development of better diagnostics and inform efforts to devise effective therapies and vaccines.
To help advance such research, Sabeti’s team deposited its Ebola genome sequences, even prior to publication, in a database run by NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information’s (NCBI), which means the data is immediately and freely available to researchers around the world. Access to this genomic data should accelerate international efforts to figure out ways of detecting, treating, and, ultimately, preventing infection by this deadly virus.
Sophisticated genomic analyses by Sabeti and her colleagues show that the current Ebola Virus Disease outbreak most likely originated less than a year ago with a single person, starting at the funeral of a traditional healer in Guinea and eventually spreading to Sierra Leone and other nations.
In contrast, previous EVD outbreaks appear to have been fueled primarily by humans being directly exposed to infected fruit bats or other animals harboring the virus. These findings underscore the need to take proper precautions, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to prevent the spread of the virus from human to human.
As for possible implications of this work for diagnosis and treatment, Sabeti’s team found that the Ebola virus strain (EBOV) responsible for the 2014 outbreak in West Africa appears to have evolved from a strain that caused an outbreak in Central Africa in 2004, with changes occurring in nearly 400 regions of the genome.
These findings are important, because some of the tests currently used to diagnose EBOV might fail to work in the presence of these genetic changes—meaning they could give false negative test results in some people who are actually infected with the virus.
Now, thanks to Sabeti’s genomic profiling of EBOV, it should be possible to enhance diagnostic tests to pick up nearly all forms of the virus. Continued genomic sequencing will be critical to keep the diagnostics up-to-date, because the Ebola virus will continue to evolve over the course of the outbreak.
Sabeti, who is a computational geneticist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Cambridge, MA, says among the urgent questions still to be answered is whether these genetic changes might influence the speed at which the virus spreads or the severity of the disease it causes.
In Memory of Sheik Humarr Khan, who was part of the research team that sequenced the Ebola Virus genome. Dr. Khan died from Ebola Virus Disease while overseeing patient care at Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone. Credit: Pardis C. Sabeti
As of August 28, the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has infected at least 3,069 people and killed 1,552 , making it the largest outbreak on record since the disease was first identified in 1976. Sadly, among its victims were five members of Sabeti’s team who died before their paper was published, including Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, a leading virologist in Sierra Leone.
So, let me close by paying tribute to these brave researchers—and all of the other dedicated scientists and healthcare workers on the front lines of the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic and other public health emergencies around the globe. You bring both comfort and hope to those who need it the most. From all of us here at NIH, let me convey our gratitude for your dedication.
 Genomic surveillance elucidates Ebola virus origin and transmission during the 2014 outbreak. Gire SK, Sabeti PC, et al. Science (published online August 28, 2014)  Ebola virus disease update—West Africa (WHO).Links: Sabeti Lab, Emerging Disease or Emerging Diagnosis? (NIH Common Fund Video Competition), Understanding Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers (NIAID). Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, Prevention (CDC), CDC: Stopping the Ebola Outbreak, NIH support: Common Fund, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Those brave researchers who have paid the ultimate price, should be recognised by all of us for their selfless dedication. May they Rest In Peace. The huge loss of life with this awful disease is shocking, but how has this happened when we know so much and have so much in this age of technology. J.
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PROFESSORS PROVIDE MOST UPDATED INFORMATION ON ASPIRIN IN THE PREVENTION OF A FIRST HEART ATTACK
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 2-Sep-2014
Source: Florida Atlantic University Citations Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine
Newswise — The first researcher in the world to discover that aspirin prevents a first attack, Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., Dr.P.H., the first Sir Richard Doll professor and senior academic advisor to the dean in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, has published a comprehensive review in the current issue of the journal Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine.
Hennekens and his co-author James E. Dalen, M.D., M.P.H., executive director of the Weil Foundation and dean emeritus, University of Arizona College of Medicine, provide the most updated information on aspirin in the prevention of a first heart attack.
Hennekens also presented these findings from the article titled “Aspirin in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: Current Knowledge and Future Research Needs,” on Saturday, Aug. 30 at a “Meet the Experts” lecture at the European Society of Cardiology meetings in Barcelona, Spain.
Serving as chair of a symposium on Sunday, Aug. 31, he also delivered a lecture on “Evolving Concepts in Cardiovascular Prevention: Aspirin Then and Now.”
In the article, Hennekens and Dalen emphasize that the evidence in treatment indicates that all patients having a heart attack or who have survived a prior event should be given aspirin. In healthy individuals, however, they state that any decision to prescribe aspirin should be an individual clinical judgment by the healthcare provider that weighs the absolute benefit in reducing the risk of a first heart against the absolute risk of major bleeding.
“The crucial role of therapeutic lifestyle changes and other drugs of life saving benefit such as statins should be considered with aspirin as an adjunct, not alternative,” said Hennekens.
“The benefits of statins and aspirin are, at the very least, additive. The more widespread and appropriate use of aspirin in primary prevention is particularly attractive, especially in developing countries where cardiovascular disease is emerging as the leading cause of death.”
Hennekens also notes that aspirin is generally widely available over the counter and is extremely inexpensive. He cautions, however, that more evidence is necessary in intermediate risk subjects before general guidelines should be made.
Among the numerous honors and recognition Hennekens has received include the 2013 Fries Prize for Improving Health for his seminal contributions to the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease, the 2013 Presidential Award from his alma mater, Queens College for his distinguished contributions to society, the 2013 honoree as part of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine from the American Heart Association for reducing deaths from heart attacks and strokes, and the 2014 honoree from the Ochsner Foundation for his seminal research on smoking and disease.
From 1995 to 2005, Science Watch ranked Hennekens as the third most widely cited medical researcher in the world and five of the top 20 were his former trainees and/or fellows. In 2012, Science Heroes ranked Hennekens No. 81 in the history of the world for having saved more than 1.1 million lives.
About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida.
FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.
FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship.
DRINKING TOO MUCH WATER CAN BE FATAL TO ATHLETES
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 2-Sep-2014
Source: Loyola University Health System Citations British Journal of Sports Medicine
Newswise — MAYWOOD, Ill. (Sept. 2, 2014) – The recent deaths of two high school football players illustrate the dangers of drinking too much water and sports drinks, according to Loyola University Medical Center sports medicine physician Dr. James Winger.
Over-hydration by athletes is called exercise-associated hyponatremia. It occurs when athletes drink even when they are not thirsty. Drinking too much during exercise can overwhelm the body’s ability to remove water. The sodium content of blood is diluted to abnormally low levels. Cells absorb excess water, which can cause swelling — most dangerously in the brain.
Hyponatremia can cause muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, seizures, unconsciousness, and, in rare cases, death.
Georgia football player Zyrees Oliver reportedly drank 2 gallons of water and 2 gallons of a sports drink. He collapsed at home after football practice, and died later at a hospital. In Mississippi, Walker Wilbank was taken to the hospital during the second half of a game after vomiting and complaining of a leg cramp. He had a seizure in the emergency room and later died. A doctor confirmed he had exercise-associated hyponatremia.
And in recent years, there have been more than a dozen documented and suspected runners’ deaths from hyponatremia.
Winger said it is common for coaches to encourage athletes to drink profusely, before they get thirsty. But he noted that expert guidelines recommend athletes drink only when thirsty. Winger said athletes should not drink a predetermined amount, or try to get ahead of their thirst.
Drinking only when thirsty can cause mild dehydration. “However, the risks associated with dehydration are small,” Winger said. “No one has died on sports fields from dehydration, and the adverse effects of mild dehydration are questionable. But athletes, on rare occasions, have died from over-hydration.”
Winger is co-author of a 2011 study that found that nearly half of Chicago-area recreational runners surveyed may be drinking too much fluid during races. Winger and colleagues found that, contrary to expert guidelines, 36.5 percent of runners drink according to a present schedule or to maintain a certain body weight and 8.9 percent drink as much as possible.
“Many athletes hold unscientific views regarding the benefits of different hydration practices,” Winger and colleagues concluded. Their study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Winger is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.