Tag Archives: Ebola

‘Good virus’ believed to help increase survival chances in Ebola and HIV infections

All viruses may not be harmful, says a study hinting at beneficial effect of some.

All viruses may not be harmful, says a study hinting at beneficial effect of some.

A common virus that infects billions at some point of their lives is believed to deliver some protection against other deadlier viruses like HIV and Ebola.

David O’Connor, a pathology professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, found the genetic fingerprints of the virus GBV-C in the records of 13 samples of blood plasma from Ebola patients.

While six of the 13 people who were co-infected with Ebola and GBV-C died, seven survived.

Combined with earlier studies that have hinted persistent infection with the virus slowed disease progression in some HIV patients, researchers think the virus could be beneficial.

The results could also simply mean that people aged 20 to 40 are more likely to be infected with GBV-C and more likely to survive Ebola.

“We’re very cautious about over-interpreting these results,” O’Connor told NPR. He is now waiting to get a bigger sample, to see if there really is a strong connection between GBV-C infection and survival.

The GB Virus-C came from a small monkey — a marmoset — that had been used in an experiment to diagnose a surgeon with hepatitis.

The virus infects a type of white blood cell and dampens part of the immune system. With HIV, the virus helps reduce inflammation, and that in turn helps slow the onset of Aids.

Cancer link

Similarly, it might also reduce inflammation in some people fighting off an Ebola infection.
However, the virus is not entirely harmless.

A National Institutes of Health study last year suggests a cancer link to the virus. People with a cancer of the lymphatic system, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, were seen to be more likely to be infected with GBV-C.

HIV mostly targets CD4 T lymphocytes, a cell involved in initiating an immune response. The virus hijacks the cell’s reproductive process to produce more copies of itself which infect and kill other cells.

Filoviruses like Ebola get all their genetic material from RNA, instead of DNA and most of the genetic information stored in the RNA codes for a handful of proteins as compared to about 20,000 in humans.

One of these proteins, glycoprotein, is suspected to play a big role in Ebola. A version of this protein is believed to bind to host cells, enter and replicate inside while another version is suspected to work by suppressing the immune system.

There is still much not known about the working of these two deadly viruses, which have also seen to mutate rapidly and deter drug treatments.

via IBM Times

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Ebola, polio, HIV: it’s dangerous to mix healthcare and foreign policy

A polio worker brings vaccine drops to children in Peshawar, Pakistan. Using health initiatives as a cover for foreign policy can create suspicion of aid workers. Photograph: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

A polio worker brings vaccine drops to children in Peshawar, Pakistan. Using health initiatives as a cover for foreign policy can create suspicion of aid workers. Photograph: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

There are reasons to be fearful of the Ebola crisis gripping parts of west Africa: death; the risk of contagion; overburdened health infrastructure; and concern as neighbouring countries worry about what the WHO now admits is an international health emergency.

These difficulties are exacerbated by the population’s fear not just of the virus itself, but also of the health workers there to help.

While this fear is primarily related to contagion, there are other, more deeply rooted factors at play. Mistrust of outsiders, particularly western health workers, is bound up in the history of Africa and colonial medicine. When much of the continent was under colonial rule, great powers used these outposts of their empires as laboratories, and Africans as their test subjects.

Much work has been done through the years to counter this negative legacy: decentralised health systems, collaborations with local partners, training for African health workers, and partnerships between government, civil society and international donors.

The Ebola outbreak underlines how quickly such progress can unravel in times of crisis, and how the legacy of past mistakes by western powers can resurface to speed up that unravelling, to the detriment of health and security locally and globally. Frequently, particularly in the developing world, past failures re-emerge, complicating efforts at crisis management.

In this context, recent revelations from Cuba – where it was revealed that the US Agency for International Development (USAid) had used HIV prevention work as a smokescreen for fomenting political opposition – should ignite a debate about the necessity of keeping the work of public health agencies, security services and foreign policy separate. Where they converge, trust is squandered. And, as we are witnessing in west Africa, mistrust in times of emergency hampers the necessary work and efforts of foreign aid workers hugely.

The so-called “securitisation” of healthcare is not new. The outbreak of HIV set a precedent as the first health issue to be recognised by the UN security council as an explicit threat to international security. While HIV was a genuine global crisis, there have been recent examples in which foreign policy objectives have been cloaked by apparently innocuous public health activities.

In Pakistan, CIA operatives masqueraded as polio vaccinators to gain greater access to Osama bin Laden’s compound. Though the charade fulfilled its security intent, it later resulted in very damaging reversals in local efforts to eradicate the disease. The motive was disguised and trust was spent. Ultimately, the populace – and healthcare workers – suffered.

The ability of western governments and agencies to act as emergency providers of healthcare, and as honest brokers, will be increasingly reduced unless we agree that the provision of healthcare should be sacrosanct and protected from motives best realised by other means.

The “blue water” between global health and international security continues to narrow, as the UK foreign and commonwealth office encroaches further on the Department for International Development. Meanwhile, the US state department continues to treat USAid as an extension of its operations. Health has traditionally been housed in the international development agencies of western governments. However, as with the role and function of aid and international development, global health is increasingly seen as a part of wider international security strategies for protecting populations from threats such as bioterrorism and infectious diseases such as drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Tactical security objectives – however “successful” – should remain separate from international efforts to improve and protect public health. The Ebola crisis has posed incredible difficulties for health workers in west Africa – imagine how difficult it would be to deal with an outbreak where trust was absent at the outset. We are drifting towards a dangerous convergence of health and security policy, one that makes populations less secure and crisis management immeasurably more difficult.

Story via The Guardian

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