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Concept: Infectious disease


Fatality rates of infectious diseases are often higher in men than women. Although this difference is often attributed to a stronger immune response in women, we show that differences in the transmission routes that the sexes provide can result in evolution favouring pathogens with sex-specific virulence. Because women can transmit pathogens during pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding, pathogens adapt, evolving lower virulence in women. This can resolve the long-standing puzzle on progression from Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 (HTLV-1) infection to lethal Adult T-cell Leukaemia (ATL); a progression that is more likely in Japanese men than women, while it is equally likely in Caribbean women and men. We argue that breastfeeding, being more prolonged in Japan than in the Caribbean, may have driven the difference in virulence between the two populations. Our finding signifies the importance of investigating the differences in genetic expression profile of pathogens in males and females.

Concepts: Immune system, Infectious disease, Bacteria, Evolution, Infection, Gender, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Sex


Background In a randomized trial, the early introduction of peanuts in infants at high risk for allergy was shown to prevent peanut allergy. In this follow-up study, we investigated whether the rate of peanut allergy remained low after 12 months of peanut avoidance among participants who had consumed peanuts during the primary trial (peanut-consumption group), as compared with those who had avoided peanuts (peanut-avoidance group). Methods At the end of the primary trial, we instructed all the participants to avoid peanuts for 12 months. The primary outcome was the percentage of participants with peanut allergy at the end of the 12-month period, when the participants were 72 months of age. Results We enrolled 556 of 628 eligible participants (88.5%) from the primary trial; 550 participants (98.9%) had complete primary-outcome data. The rate of adherence to avoidance in the follow-up study was high (90.4% in the peanut-avoidance group and 69.3% in the peanut-consumption group). Peanut allergy at 72 months was significantly more prevalent among participants in the peanut-avoidance group than among those in the peanut-consumption group (18.6% [52 of 280 participants] vs. 4.8% [13 of 270], P<0.001). Three new cases of allergy developed in each group, but after 12 months of avoidance there was no significant increase in the prevalence of allergy among participants in the consumption group (3.6% [10 of 274 participants] at 60 months and 4.8% [13 of 270] at 72 months, P=0.25). Fewer participants in the peanut-consumption group than in the peanut-avoidance group had high levels of Ara h2 (a component of peanut protein)-specific IgE and peanut-specific IgE; in addition, participants in the peanut-consumption group continued to have a higher level of peanut-specific IgG4 and a higher peanut-specific IgG4:IgE ratio. Conclusions Among children at high risk for allergy in whom peanuts had been introduced in the first year of life and continued until 5 years of age, a 12-month period of peanut avoidance was not associated with an increase in the prevalence of peanut allergy. Longer-term effects are not known. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and others; LEAP-On number, NCT01366846 .).

Concepts: Immune system, Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Hypersensitivity, Allergy, Peanut, Peanuts


Peter Hotez reflects on declining vaccination rates in Texas and the potential for future measles epidemics.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Vaccine, Measles


Could some vaccines drive the evolution of more virulent pathogens? Conventional wisdom is that natural selection will remove highly lethal pathogens if host death greatly reduces transmission. Vaccines that keep hosts alive but still allow transmission could thus allow very virulent strains to circulate in a population. Here we show experimentally that immunization of chickens against Marek’s disease virus enhances the fitness of more virulent strains, making it possible for hyperpathogenic strains to transmit. Immunity elicited by direct vaccination or by maternal vaccination prolongs host survival but does not prevent infection, viral replication or transmission, thus extending the infectious periods of strains otherwise too lethal to persist. Our data show that anti-disease vaccines that do not prevent transmission can create conditions that promote the emergence of pathogen strains that cause more severe disease in unvaccinated hosts.

Concepts: Immune system, Infectious disease, Natural selection, Microbiology, Malaria, Vaccination, Smallpox, Marek's disease


Background Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging mosquito-borne flavivirus that has been linked to adverse birth outcomes. Previous reports have shown that person-to-person transmission can occur by means of sexual contact. Methods We conducted a prospective study involving men with symptomatic ZIKV infection to determine the frequency and duration of ZIKV shedding in semen and urine and to identify risk factors for prolonged shedding in these fluids. Specimens were obtained twice per month for 6 months after illness onset and were tested by real-time reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) assay for ZIKV RNA and by Vero cell culture and plaque assay for infectious ZIKV. Results A total of 1327 semen samples from 184 men and 1038 urine samples from 183 men were obtained 14 to 304 days after illness onset. ZIKV RNA was detected in the urine of 7 men (4%) and in the semen of 60 (33%), including in semen samples from 22 of 36 men (61%) who were tested within 30 days after illness onset. ZIKV RNA shedding in semen decreased substantially during the 3 months after illness onset but continued for 281 days in 1 man (1%). Factors that were independently associated with prolonged RNA shedding included older age, less frequent ejaculation, and the presence of certain symptoms at the time of initial illness. Infectious ZIKV was isolated from 3 of 78 semen samples with detectable ZIKV RNA, all obtained within 30 days after illness onset and all with at least 7.0 log10 ZIKV RNA copies per milliliter of semen. Conclusions ZIKV RNA was commonly present in the semen of men with symptomatic ZIKV infection and persisted in some men for more than 6 months. In contrast, shedding of infectious ZIKV appeared to be much less common and was limited to the first few weeks after illness onset. (Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.).

Concepts: DNA, Infectious disease, Virus, Infection, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Rabies, Vero cell, Viral shedding


Food pricing strategies have been proposed to encourage healthy eating habits, which may in turn help stem global increases in non-communicable diseases. This systematic review of simulation studies investigates the estimated association between food pricing strategies and changes in food purchases or intakes (consumption) (objective 1); Health and disease outcomes (objective 2), and whether there are any differences in these outcomes by socio-economic group (objective 3).

Concepts: Medicine, Health, Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Nutrition, Demography


The Black Death, originating in Asia, arrived in the Mediterranean harbors of Europe in 1347 CE, via the land and sea trade routes of the ancient Silk Road system. This epidemic marked the start of the second plague pandemic, which lasted in Europe until the early 19th century. This pandemic is generally understood as the consequence of a singular introduction of Yersinia pestis, after which the disease established itself in European rodents over four centuries. To locate these putative plague reservoirs, we studied the climate fluctuations that preceded regional plague epidemics, based on a dataset of 7,711 georeferenced historical plague outbreaks and 15 annually resolved tree-ring records from Europe and Asia. We provide evidence for repeated climate-driven reintroductions of the bacterium into European harbors from reservoirs in Asia, with a delay of 15 ± 1 y. Our analysis finds no support for the existence of permanent plague reservoirs in medieval Europe.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Middle Ages, Europe, Pandemic, Italy, Yersinia pestis, Black Death, Silk Road


Bacterial and viral infections are often clinically indistinguishable, leading to inappropriate patient management and antibiotic misuse. Bacterial-induced host proteins such as procalcitonin, C-reactive protein (CRP), and Interleukin-6, are routinely used to support diagnosis of infection. However, their performance is negatively affected by inter-patient variability, including time from symptom onset, clinical syndrome, and pathogens. Our aim was to identify novel viral-induced host proteins that can complement bacterial-induced proteins to increase diagnostic accuracy. Initially, we conducted a bioinformatic screen to identify putative circulating host immune response proteins. The resulting 600 candidates were then quantitatively screened for diagnostic potential using blood samples from 1002 prospectively recruited patients with suspected acute infectious disease and controls with no apparent infection. For each patient, three independent physicians assigned a diagnosis based on comprehensive clinical and laboratory investigation including PCR for 21 pathogens yielding 319 bacterial, 334 viral, 112 control and 98 indeterminate diagnoses; 139 patients were excluded based on predetermined criteria. The best performing host-protein was TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) (area under the curve [AUC] of 0.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.86 to 0.91), which was consistently up-regulated in viral infected patients. We further developed a multi-protein signature using logistic-regression on half of the patients and validated it on the remaining half. The signature with the highest precision included both viral- and bacterial-induced proteins: TRAIL, Interferon gamma-induced protein-10, and CRP (AUC of 0.94; 95% CI, 0.92 to 0.96). The signature was superior to any of the individual proteins (P<0.001), as well as routinely used clinical parameters and their combinations (P<0.001). It remained robust across different physiological systems, times from symptom onset, and pathogens (AUCs 0.87-1.0). The accurate differential diagnosis provided by this novel combination of viral- and bacterial-induced proteins has the potential to improve management of patients with acute infections and reduce antibiotic misuse.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Disease, Infectious disease, Bacteria, Medical terms, Virus, Infection


Multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO) infections are associated with high mortality and readmission rates. Infectious diseases (ID) consultation improves clinical outcomes for drug-resistantStaphylococcus aureusbloodstream infections. Our goal was to determine the association between ID consultation and mortality following various MDRO infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Medicine, Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Death, Infection, The Association


The most cost-effective intervention for certain infectious diseases is to eliminate them entirely. This article reviews the characteristics of potentially eradicable diseases and surveys current eradication methods.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Malaria, Infection