The Handoff: Your Week in Infectious Disease News – 4/28/17

As infectious diseases evolve, it can be challenging to stay current with the latest research. The Handoff is a weekly roundup of the most important news and updates covering the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. Keep your finger on the pulse of infectious diseases with The Handoff.

— Malaria treatment costs in the US totaled $555 million, according to a study published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Researchers found that about 22,000 people were hospitalized from 2000 to 2014 due to complications from malaria. Findings show it is possible that malaria could resurface in the continental US if the number of returning travelers with malaria continues to rise.  

— A new method to creating new antibiotics using fungi has been discovered. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology scanned the genomes of 24 different fungi to find genes that produce bioactive compounds. The study, published in Nature Microbiology, states that the team discovered over 1000 pathways, showing the potential to produce natural bioactive chemicals that could be used as pharmaceuticals.

— Patients who have drug-resistant bacteria in their urine or stool samples have an increase risk of developing a bloodstream infection also resistant to certain antibiotics. Research presented at the 27th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases shows that the risk of drug-resistant sepsis, even resistance to last-resort treatment of carbapenems, is highest after detection of drug-resistant bacteria in urine and stool samples.   

— A new drug developed to combat 2 of WHO’s top 10 priority pathogens (Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Neisseria gonorrhoeae) has received a provisional patent. Scientist at St Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and the University of Manitoba have developed PEG-2S, a drug that prevents the proliferation of harmful bacteria that supplies energy vital to the bacteria’s survival without harming healthy cells.                                                  

— Scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health are reporting elevated levels of the tick-borne pathogen for babesiosis in Long Island. A new DNA testing method was used that included a polymerase chain reaction to test for Babesia microti along with 4 other pathogens in adult and nymph ticks in Suffolk County, according to the study published in mSphere.  

— Researchers are turning to frogs as a source for new anti-microbial drugs. In a study published in Cell Press, scientists are investigating the frog species Hydrophylax bahuvistara from southern India for its mucus that is secreted through the skin which has defense peptides that can destroy different strains of human flu. The peptides were able to protect mice against flu infection.

Despite being on the brink of total eradication, further polio research serves as a useful model system, according to a Research Matters article published in PLOS Pathogens. Microbiologist Julie K. Pfeiffer’s research in poliovirus has allowed her to study other RNA viruses to understand their inner workings such as “sloppy replication strategy” in chikungunya.

— Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Duke University, University of Vermont, and University of Nicaragua-Leon were awarded a $3.2 million to develop improved serological tests for the Zika virus. The tests are expected to provide accurate results despite the range of time from initial exposure to testing.  

— Innovative approaches are needed to tackle hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in persons with substance use disorders. In this video, Andrew H. Talal, MD, professor at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo in New York, discusses ways to solve HCV in this population group with little access to conventional health care.

Video Credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo