Sunday, 11 April 2021

On Viruses


Geetika Joshi writes:


Viruses have evolved natural mechanisms to efficiently transport their own genetic materials into host cells while also commandeering host cell machinery for replication. Therefore, the use of viruses for the introduction of therapeutic genes and stimulation of the immune system has become an attractive and promising method for the treatment of a variety of diseases, including cancer.



The genomes of a wide array of viruses can be modified and used as a tool for the efficient transfer of exogenous genes into living cells or organisms. In broad terms, two types of virus vectors exist: replication-competent and replication-defective.


Replication-competent vectors are exemplified by live-attenuated strains of many common viruses.


Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Blood-based TB diagnosis tool

New work at Los Alamos National Laboratory provides valuable new insights into the diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) using blood tests. A paper in the journal PLOS ONE today demonstrates the role that host-pathogen interactions play in detecting key biomarkers in blood, facilitating the diagnosis of disseminated or sub-clinical TB disease. 
paper in the journal PLOS ONE today demonstrates the role that host-pathogen interactions play in detecting key biomarkers in blood, facilitating the diagnosis of disseminated or sub-clinical TB disease.

“We described two tailored assay strategies for the direct detection of a particular biomarker by taking advantage of its association with fat-carrying lipoproteins in our body,” said Harshini Mukundan, lead scientist on the project. “Our findings highlight the role that host-pathogen interactions play during TB disease and the need to account for these interactions in the design of diagnostic assays. Our findings also raise the intriguing possibility that measurement of the biomarker lipoarabinomannan (LAM) in serum might allow for the diagnosis of disseminated or subclinical TB, which are especially challenging to identify today.” 

TB is the leading cause of global mortality associated with a single infectious disease, and is estimated to afflict 10 million people worldwide, with approximately 1.3 million deaths each year. The World Health Organization has identified the need for a non-sputum diagnostic test for TB, particularly for extrapulmonary TB and pulmonary TB associated with low bacterial presence in airways, as can occur in young children and in individuals with HIV co-infection, the researchers note. 

For this study, the researchers used existing stored specimens that previously had been obtained from participants in Uganda. That diagnostic accuracy study enrolled HIV-positive adults suspected of having active TB based on the presence of cough, fever, night sweats, or weight loss.

The LAM biomarker the team explored is an amphiphilic lipoglycan component of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) cell wall that has been shown to modulate innate immunity. 

The team used two tailored amphiphile detection assays – membrane insertion and lipoprotein capture – on a waveguide-based biosensor platform developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We have consistently shown that the use of the waveguide platform offers at least 10 times greater sensitivity than conventional plate-based ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay),” said Mukundan, “which provides an advantage when it comes to sensitive detection of pathogen antigens in complex clinical samples.”

The paper: “Interaction of amphiphilic lipoarabinomannan with host carrier lipoproteins in tuberculosis patients: Implications for blood-based diagnostics,” PLOS ONE, April 2021.

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Why an equitable pandemic recovery in the Americas is needed

On World Health Day, observed today, Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa F. Etienne said that COVID-19 has exposed inequalities that are barriers to health for far too many people in the Americas and called on leaders to make equity the “force guiding recovery from the pandemic.” 
The pandemic is estimated to have driven between 119 and 124 million more people globally into extreme poverty last year. It is also estimated that 14 years of gains in the fight against poverty have been lost due to the pandemic. And there is convincing evidence that the pandemic has widened gender gaps in employment, with women exiting the labor force in greater numbers than men over the past 12 months.
“The unprecedented pandemic has brought existing social and economic inequalities to the fore, regrettably exacerbating them,” Dr. Etienne said during a virtual event hosted by PAHO for World Health Day, celebrated to bring attention to vital global health concerns.

“Action to control and treat COVID-19 during the pandemic, as well as during the economic recovery, must be centered on reducing inequalities,” she continued. “We must act decisively now to ensure the right of all members of the population to the highest attainable standard of health.”
During the event, Argentine Minister of Health Carla Vizzotti said, “Without a doubt, the pandemic has put the world and our region to the test – and not only the health sector but also the economic and social sectors."
The panelists included members of academia and civil society, including the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Domestic Workers and the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. The panelists drew attention to the exclusion of domestic workers from social security, expanding the reach of health services, the need to catalyze justice, and the need to not only generate data and better knowledge about health inequities affecting marginalized communities but also to take action to reduce inequalities and racial and ethnic inequities.
Unequal pandemic suffering and exposure
Pointing out that people in situations of vulnerability have disproportionately suffered from the pandemic, Dr. Etienne drew attention to those living in crowded, substandard housing with limited access to water and urban informal settlements; essential workers and workers in the informal economy.
These people often already lacked access to quality health care and had the poorest health status. Long histories of structural discrimination often underlie the lack of access and poor social conditions of the groups most at risk. These social determinants of health must be addressed to reduce inequity.
Many of the people most affected by the pandemic – female heads of households and Afro-descendent and indigenous women; people earning minimum wage; those with limited or no access to social protection; and people, most often women, performing unpaid caring work – are also employed in work that exposes them to the virus.  
Reducing inequities post-pandemic
“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrived amid the inequalities in our societies and the gaps in our health systems,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General for the World Health Organization (WHO). “It is vital for governments to invest in strengthening their health services and to remove the barriers that prevent so many people from using them, so more people have the chance to live healthy lives.”
To defeat COVID-19 and recover with a more equitable world, Dr. Etienne called for:
  • access to vaccines for all people;
  • increased investment in resilient, responsive and adaptive health systems and primary health care (PHC) using the lens of equity and inclusion;
  • expansion of social protection systems;
  • fair income, decent work, inclusive and strong education systems, and decent housing.
  • strengthened national health information systems to target populations being left behind and monitor equity impacts.
“We have the opportunity to transform our societies after this devastating pandemic, Dr. Etienne said. “Starting an equitable and sustainable recovery requires that we prioritize investment in health and social sectors but must also work together with one common goal and shared purpose, recognizing that we must all do our part,” she added. “Equity should be the force guiding recovery from COVID-19 in the Americas.”
Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

Monday, 5 April 2021

Virulence profiles of Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates and their association with polymicrobial infections

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that can cause a variety of diseases especially in the hospital environment. However, this pathogen also exhibits antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive bacteria and fungi. This study aimed to characterize different virulence factors, secreted metabolites and to study their role in the suppression of Candida growth. Fifteen P. aeruginosa isolates were tested for their anticandidal activity against 3 different Candida spp. by the cross-streak method. The effect on hyphae production was tested microscopically using light and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Polymerase chain reaction was used in the detection of some virulence genes. Lipopolysaccharide profile was performed using SDS-polyacrylamide gel stained with silver. Fatty acids were analyzed by GC-MS as methyl ester derivatives. It was found that 5 P. aeruginosa isolates inhibited all tested Candida spp. (50–100% inhibition), one isolate inhibited C. glabrata only and 3 isolates showed no activity against the tested Candida spp.

The P. aeruginosa isolates inhibiting all Candida spp. were positive for all virulence genes. GC-Ms analysis revealed that isolates with high anticandidal activity showed spectra for several compounds, each known for their antifungal activity in comparison to those with low or no anticandidal activity. Hence, clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa showed Candida species-specific interactions by different means, giving rise to the importance of studying microbial interaction in polymicrobial infections and their contribution to causing disease.


Abd El-Baky RM, Mandour SA, Ahmed EF, Hashem ZS, Sandle T., Safwat, D. (2020) Virulence profiles of some Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates and their association with the suppression of Candida growth in polymicrobial infections, PLOS ONE 15(12): e0243418.

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

Saturday, 3 April 2021

WHO EPI-WIN: An essential tool during Infodemic

WHO says ‘The right message at the right time from the right messenger through the right medium can save lives - misinformation or mixed messages can cost lives.’ 

A guest post by Aparna Rane

EPI-WIN is WHO’s Information Network for Epidemics. It was established following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and is a part of WHO’s Health Emergency Programme’s risk communication. It provides regular updates about the pandemic that includes accurate information debunking the myths from social media and avoiding misinformation for the public. 

But what caused a need for such an information network? The reason is with the Corona pandemic, another sector emerged simultaneously and has caused havoc around the world and it is called ‘Infodemics’. The term Infodemic first emerged during the SARS outbreak in 2003, which was termed as an outcome of the Information Epidemic i.e., Infodemic.

According to WHO, ‘Infodemics is an excessive amount of information about a problem, such as the new coronavirus COVID-19 that makes it difficult to identify a solution. Infodemics can spread of mis and disinformation and rumors during a health emergency, which can hamper an effective response and create confusion and distrust among people.’

EPI-WIN provides information pertaining to healthcare, travel and tourism, business, food, and agriculture sectors. With emerging information, the audience group will also keep on expanding with time.

EPI-WIN formation enabled to gather correct and timely information from trusted sources and put them together to reach people. WHO identifies these trusted sources which may be individuals, organizations, representatives, and employers, and disseminate EPI-WIN information to their networks.


The various sectors of EPI-WIN are as follows

1 Infodemic management

Infodemic management uses many skillsets to prioritize and problem solves the issue of too much and inaccurate information about the current COVID-19 infodemic. WHO has published ‘Public health research agenda for managing Infodemic’.

1st WHO infodemic manager training was conducted in Nov 2020 for awareness and training. Various events were also conducted which included the ‘WHO infodemic management conference’ and many others.

All these will definitely help every sector at every level to create awareness and the importance of information. The details of the previous and upcoming podcasts, events, training are available on here

2 EPI-WIN update
The first update of 22nd Jan 2020 started the process of EPI-WIN updates and which is still going on with the Latest update no 51(as on 09th March 2021). These updates have covered almost all aspects of the epidemics from the introduction of the virus and the epidemic to precautions, infodemic, vaccines, medication, social life, diagnosis, testing, the transmission of disease, long term effects of COVID-19, etc. Each article tries to give an insight related to the pandemic.

All details of the previous and upcoming updates can be read here

3 The Collective service

Initiated in June 2020, the collective service is a partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Collective Service will support the delivery of the Global Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Strategy, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019nCoV) Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, and the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. The main four key approaches for RCCE are

1. Strengthen common and coordinated RCCE approaches

2. Generate real-time data on community perspectives

3. Improve the quality and consistency of community engagement approaches,

4. Strengthen the capacity of national governments, institutions and organisations, and reinforce local solutions.

The collective service will enable awareness at all levels in order to ensure safety for mankind. More information is available through webinars and weekly newsletters. Also, interested individuals for collective service can contact on the given link

4 EPI-WIN webinars

Various webinars are conducted by WHO for information and awareness of pandemic. These pandemic webinars have played an essential role in communicating information effectively at every level and all sectors of the industries. The series of the webinars include ‘SARS-CoV-2 virus mutations and variants’, ‘Overview of the COVID-19 pandemic ‘etc. Also, the webinar recordings are available here

5 Youth Engagement

Today’s youth have a very important role to play to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic at all levels in their respective countries. Their contribution will help in overcoming the hurdles during these times. So, WHO is partnering with youth networks and youth-led initiatives representatives to spread WHO’s recommendations and awareness programs. In order to receive notification for involvement and collaboration, connect here

More information can be found here

6 COVID-19 Transmission package

It gives various information through quiz, animation, and videos which includes topics such as protective measures, how is the COVID-19 virus transmitted? Contact tracing and breaking the chain of transmission, COVID-19 symptoms,and flu. More information is here

In order to have protection from corona infections, various informative videos and documents are made available which include publications, Q&A, MythBusters, events etc on its an EPI-WIN page, here . Also, there is EPI-WIN mailing list at the end of the page, subscription to this will provide us with all updates of EPI-WIN.

This kind of initiative will surely help in the present and also in future emergency situation around the world.


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