Marburg in bats: has the elusive reservoir species been found?

As I mentioned in the introductory post, we know incredibly little about the very basics of Marburg virus ecology and epidemiology. The sporadic nature of outbreaks of illness, their occurrence in remote areas of Africa lacking established medical research capabilities, and often in countries experiencing governmental strife and instability, compound the difficulty of determining the ecology of this particular virus. Often, the primary case (the first person in an outbreak known to be infected, and who likely acquired the virus from its wild reservoir) died before questions could be answered regarding his previous whereabouts, diet, and other activities; thus, it was difficult to determine where the case could have contracted the disease. Seasonality may also play a role; if a search for the virus is conducted during the dry season (as many ecological surveys have been), they may miss key pieces of the puzzle of Marburg virus ecology.

Nevertheless, scientists have attempted to make the most of outbreaks when they occur, and have undertaken studies between outbreaks in order to determine where the virus “hides” when it’s not infecting humans, and to find out how the virus moves from wherever it is maintained in nature into human populations. Is it simply airborne? Is it transmitted from butchering infected animals? Is it transmitted by an intermediate, such as an insect vector? The answer to these questions remains, despite years of investigation, a disappointing “we don’t know,” but some answers are slowly emerging. More after the jump…

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Swine flu in Ohio fairgoers?

Those familiar with the history of influenza probably know about the 1918 outbreak of swine influenza in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the fall of that year, the National Swine Show and Exposition in Cedar Rapids opened, bringing people and their hogs from miles around. Soon after it opened its doors, people noticed their swine were becoming sick–and the symptoms looked suspisciously like those of human influenza. When the virus was characterized years later, it was indeed found to be the influenza virus–and it was very similar to ones that were isolated from humans.

This characterization of the 1918 pandemic virus (serotype H1N1) as “swine flu” came back to haunt us in 1976, when H1N1 caused the death of a solider at Fort Dix, New Jersey and triggered a mass vaccination campaign here in the U.S. (with its subsequent fallout). Since then, sporadic human cases of swine influenza have been reported, either clincally (such as this one in Iowa earlier this year, or subclinically, as described in this research. Now in Ohio, they’re looking to see whether swine flu has again jumped into humans. More after the jump…
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Introduction to Marburg virus: history of outbreaks

As I’ve noted before, filoviruses are some of my favorite pathogens. I don’t work on them myself–though in the pre-children era I certainly thought about it–but I find them absolutely fascinating to read about and follow the literature. Mostly, I think, this is because after knowing about them for so many years (Marburg was discovered in 1967), and so much research (over 1500 papers in Pubmed, or roughly a paper for every person these viruses have killed), we still know relatively little about the most basic questions–such as where there viruses are maintained in nature, and how they enter the human (or non-human primate) population, and why they’re so deadly.

Anyway, after a long time in Ebola’s shadow, Marburg virus has been in the news recently. As such, this is part one in a mini-series on Marburg virus, with an introduction to the virus and its history after the jump.

[See also Marburg in bats: has the elusive reservoir species been found?]
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When it rains, it pours

…and that’s not just a comment on the weather here. The past few days have been packed. In addition to the work stuff, I’ve been gearing up for classes next week and getting my kids off to their new school year (and my son in kindergarten). It’s always nice when hard work pays off, but it would be even nicer if it didn’t all pay off in the same week. But of course, when it rains, it pours. In addition to the publicity for the HIV article, a Reuters story on my Streptococcus suis talk in Wisconsin came out earlier this week, and was mentioned in the ProMed email alerts yesterday: Emerging Streptococcus Suis Threat Mainly Related to Occupational Exposure. More after the jump…
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My hometown…

…is underwater.

FINDLAY, Ohio – Hundreds of Ohio residents remained flooded out of their homes Thursday as some rivers continued to rise, while forecasters had bad news for the state and other parts of the Midwest: expect more storms and even a taste of the heat wave baking the South.


In Findlay, Ohio, firefighters and a volunteer armada navigated boats and canoes through streets waist-deep in water on Wednesday, plucking neighbors and their pets from porches. Every downtown street and many neighborhoods were under water as the Blanchard River topped 7 feet above flood stage, its highest level since a 1913 flood.

Though northwest Ohio has been the focus of many of these stories, cities around the midwest are flooded, including a few here in Iowa. Luckily we’re just soggy here in my neck of the woods, although if we go much longer without a rainless day, my poor dogs are going to be lost in the tall grass in my yard that I’ve been unable to mow with the rain and travel…

Phew, I’m tired

I mentioned August would be a hellish travel month. Beginning August 2nd, I drove to Chicago for YearlyKos, back to Iowa and grabbed the kids and dogs, headed to Ohio to visit family (including an almost-9-months-pregnant sister and her 18-month old son), headed out to Maryland/DC/Delaware for an impromptu road trip, back to Ohio, back to Iowa, to Wisconsin for a science conference, back to Iowa for the evening, then flew back to DC to pick up a friend, and then drove up to New York to meet up with many other Sciencebloggers for the weekend. Then back to DC, and back to Iowa this morning.

Or, I think I’m in Iowa. Everything is starting to look alike at this point.

Anyway, the conference in Wisconsin was great, and had a good amount of interest in the talk I gave there on Streptococcus suis (always a bonus). The weekend in New York was great fun as well. I’d met several other Sciencebloggers before, but never en masse quite like this. Friday they opened up Seed magazine’s office and let us poke around there, then followed up with a reception at Seed founder Adam Bly’s apartment. On Saturday, we were stuffed full of brunch and conversation, and followed that up with a trip to the Natural History museum, after which many of us gathered for dinner. I then headed up to the Washington Heights neighborhood on Sunday to visit yet another friend, before driving back down south to the DC area that afternoon (well, late evening by the time we arrived, thanks to a rainy day and many accidents along the way. None involving me, though).

I don’t have my pictures rounded up yet, but you can see photos others have shared: Bora’s roundup; a few from PZ; Mo’s photos; and a few from Zuska (including one of me blending into a chair…interesting…) I’ll try to get my own up tonight…

YearlyKos videos are up!

I’ve not mentioned this yet because I hadn’t had a chance to see it myself, but C-SPAN did broadcast this year’s YearlyKos Science Panel. You can see Chris’s talk on hurricanes and global warming here; Ed’s talk on fighting creationism by running for school board here, and Sean’s talk on dark energy and dark matter over yonder. I have the videos of the final parts–the Q&A session–after the jump.
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