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Journal: Pathogens and global health


Free-living amoebae (FLA) are potential reservoirs of Legionella in aquatic environments. However, the parasitic relationship between various Legionella and amoebae remains unclear. In this study, surface water samples were gathered from two rivers for evaluating parasitic Legionella. Warmer water temperature is critical to the existence of Legionella. This result suggests that amoebae may be helpful in maintaining Legionella in natural environments because warmer temperatures could enhance parasitisation of Legionella in amoebae. We next used immunomagnetic separation (IMS) to identify extracellular Legionella and remove most free Legionella before detecting the parasitic ones in selectively enriched amoebae. Legionella pneumophila was detected in all the approaches, confirming that the pathogen is a facultative amoebae parasite. By contrast, two obligate amoebae parasites, Legionella-like amoebal pathogens (LLAPs) 8 and 9, were detected only in enriched amoebae. However, several uncultured Legionella were detected only in the extracellular samples. Because the presence of potential hosts, namely Vermamoeba vermiformis, Acanthamoeba spp. and Naegleria gruberi, was confirmed in the samples that contained intracellular Legionella, uncultured Legionella may survive independently of amoebae. Immunomagnetic separation and amoebae enrichment may have referential value for detecting parasitic Legionella in surface waters.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Water, Symbiosis, Parasitism, Acanthamoeba, Surface water, Percolozoa


Policy prescriptions for combating dengue fever tend to focus on addressing environmental and social conditions of poverty. However, while poverty has long been considered a determinant of dengue, the research evidence for such a relationship is not well established. Results of a systematic review of the research literature designed to identify and assess the current state of the empirical evidence for the dengue-poverty link reveal a mixed story. Of 260 peer-reviewed articles referencing dengue-poverty relationships, only 12 English-language studies empirically assessed these relationships. Our analysis covering various social and economic conditions of poverty showed no clear associations with dengue rates. While nine of the 12 studies demonstrated some positive associations between measures of dengue and poverty (measured inconsistently through income, education, structural housing condition, overcrowding, and socioeconomic status), nine also presented null results and five with negative results. Of the five studies relating to access to water and sanitation, four reported null associations. Income and physical housing conditions were more consistently correlated with dengue outcomes than other poverty indicators. The small size of this sample, and the heterogeneity of measures and scales used to capture conditions of poverty, make it difficult to assess the strength and consistency of associations between various poverty indicators and dengue outcomes. At present, the global body of eligible English-language peer-reviewed literature investigating dengue-poverty relationships is too small to support a definitive relationship. We conclude that more research, particularly using standardized measures of both outcomes and indicators, is needed to support evidence-informed policies and approaches.

Concepts: Scientific method, Economics, Academic publishing, Empiricism, Empirical, Peer review, Fever, Empirical research


In zones of violent conflict in the tropics, social disruption leads to elevated child mortality, of which malaria is the leading cause. Understanding the social determinants of malaria transmission may be helpful to optimize malaria control efforts. We conducted a cross-sectional study of healthy children aged 2 months to 5 years attending well-child and/or immunization visits in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Six hundred and forty-seven children were tested for malaria antigenemia by rapid diagnostic test and the accompanying parent or legal guardian simultaneously completed a survey questionnaire related to demographics, socioeconomic status, maternal education, as well as bednet use and recent febrile illness. We examined the associations between variables using multivariable logistic regression analysis, chi-squared statistic, Fisher’s exact test, and Spearman’s rank correlation, as appropriate. One hundred and twenty-three out of the 647 (19%) children in the study tested positive for malaria. Higher levels of maternal education were associated with a lower risk of malaria in their children. The prevalence of malaria in children of mothers with no education, primary school, and beyond primary was 41/138 (30%), 41/241 (17%), and 39/262 (15%), respectively (p = 0.001). In a multivariable logistic regression model adjusting for the effect of a child’s age and study site, the following remained significant predictors of malaria antigenemia: maternal education, number of children under five per household, and HIV serostatus. Higher maternal education, through several putative causal pathways, was associated with lower malaria prevalence among children in the DRC. Our findings suggest that maternal education might be an effective ‘social vaccine’ against malaria in the DRC and globally.

Concepts: Logistic regression, Statistical tests, Statistics, Malaria, Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, Non-parametric statistics, Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Nations


Lassa fever (LF) is increasingly recognized by global health institutions as an important rodent-borne disease with severe impacts on some of West Africa’s poorest communities. However, our knowledge of LF ecology, epidemiology and distribution is limited, which presents barriers to both short-term disease forecasting and prediction of long-term impacts of environmental change on Lassa virus (LASV) zoonotic transmission dynamics. Here, we synthesize current knowledge to show that extrapolations from past research have produced an incomplete picture of the incidence and distribution of LF, with negative consequences for policy planning, medical treatment and management interventions. Although the recent increase in LF case reports is likely due to improved surveillance, recent studies suggest that future socio-ecological changes in West Africa may drive increases in LF burden. Future research should focus on the geographical distribution and disease burden of LF, in order to improve its integration into public policy and disease control strategies.

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Africa, Future, Forecasting, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Zoonosis, Lassa fever


Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging Flavivirus that have recently caused an outbreak in Brazil and rapid spread in several countries. In this study, the consequences of ZIKV evolution on protein recognition by the host immune system have been analyzed. Evolutionary analysis was combined with homology modeling and T-B cells epitope predictions. Two separate clades, the African one with the Uganda sequence, as the most probable ancestor, and the second one containing all the most recent sequences from the equatorial belt were identified. Brazilian strains clustered all together and closely related to the French Polynesia isolates. A strong presence of a negatively selected site in the envelope gene (Env) protein was evidenced, suggesting a probable purging of deleterious polymorphisms in functionally important genes. Our results show relative conservancy of ZIKV sequences when envelope and other non-structural proteins (NS3 and NS5) are analyzed by homology modeling. However, some regions within the consensus sequence of NS5 protein and to a lesser extent in the envelope protein, show localized high mutation frequency corresponding to a considerable alteration in protein stability. In terms of viral immune escape, envelope protein is under a higher selective pressure than NS5 and NS3 proteins for HLA class I and II molecules. Moreover, envelope mutations that are not strictly related to T-cell immune responses are mostly located on the surface of the protein in putative B-cell epitopes, suggesting an important contribution of B cells in the immune response as well.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, DNA, Protein, Evolution, Adaptive immune system, Antigen, Epitope


As the most recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa continues to grow since its initial recognition as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, an unanswered question is what is the cost of a case of Ebola? Understanding this cost will help decision makers better understand the impact of each case of EVD, benchmark this against that of other diseases, prioritize which cases may require response, and begin to estimate the cost of Ebola outbreaks. To date, the scientific literature has not characterized this cost per case. Therefore, we developed a mathematical model to estimate the cost of an EVD case from the provider and societal perspectives in the three most affected countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Our model estimates the total societal cost of an EVD case with full recovery ranges from $480 to $912, while that of an EVD case not surviving ranges from $5929 to $18 929, varying by age and country. Therefore, as of 10 December 2014, the estimated total societal costs of all reported EVD cases in these three countries range from $82 to potentially over $356 million.

Concepts: Mathematics, Nigeria, West Africa, Ebola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Economic Community of West African States, Guinea


It is hypothesized that animals living in polluted environments possess antimicrobials to counter pathogenic microbes. The fact that snakes feed on germ-infested rodents suggests that they encounter pathogenic microbes and likely possess antimicrobials. The venom is used only to paralyze the rodent, but the ability of snakes to counter potential infections in the gut due to disease-ridden rodents requires robust action of the immune system against a broad range of pathogens. To test this hypothesis, crude lysates of different organs of Naja naja karachiensis (black cobra) were tested for antimicrobial properties. The antimicrobial activities of extracts were tested against selected bacterial pathogens (neuropathogenic Escherichia coli K1, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Streptococcus pneumonia), protist (Acanthamoeba castellanii), and filamentous fungus (Fusarium solani). The findings revealed that plasma and various organ extracts of N. n. karachiensis exhibited antimicrobial activity against E. coli K1, MRSA, P. aeruginosa, S. pneumoniae, A. castellanii, and F. solani in a concentration-dependent manner. The results of this study are promising for the development of new antimicrobials.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Gut flora, Microbiology, Pneumonia, Staphylococcus aureus, Antibiotic resistance, Pseudomonas aeruginosa


Waterborne protozoa (WBP) are important cause of several outbreaks all over the world. The report system of WBP in Africa is weak. More than one third of African countries (21/54) reported WBP with absent reports in the remaining countries (33/54). The top reported WBP were Cryptosporidium, Giardia, FLA and Entamoeba contaminating different African water resources. Other protozoa were less documented even though it is abundant and robust. More than one protozoa were detected in contaminated African water including drinking sources, a prediction index to popular epidemics and real presence of undocumented WBP outbreaks. Risk factors in Africa were observed to be abundant and multi-factorial ‘socioeconomic, governmental, pathogen in water and climate change. Climate change is an important factor impacting Africa. Increasing droughts in Africa with other extreme weather events will lead to water crises. Incidence and transmission of WBP will change, with new manifested strains/species. Recognizing future consequences of water crises in Africa are important. Governments and population unity will be needed to protect against expected raise and spread of WBP diseases and water shortages.


Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease in human and animals, is caused by Toxoplasma gondii. Our previous study has led to the discovery of a novel RAP domain binding protein antigen (TgRA15), an apparent in-vivo induced antigen recognised by antibodies in acutely infected individuals. This study is aimed to evaluate the humoral response and cytokine release elicited by recombinant TgRA15 protein in C57BL/6 mice, demonstrating its potential as a candidate vaccine for Toxoplasma gondii infection. In this study, the recombinant TgRA15 protein was expressed in Escherichia coli, purified and refolded into soluble form. C57BL/6 mice were immunised intradermally with the antigen and CASAC (Combined Adjuvant for Synergistic Activation of Cellular immunity). Antigen-specific humoral and cell-mediated responses were evaluated using Western blot and ELISA. The total IgG, IgG1 and IgG2a antibodies specific to the antigen were significantly increased in treatment group compare to control group. A higher level of interferon gamma (IFN-γ) secretion was demonstrated in the mice group receiving booster doses of rTgRA15 protein, suggesting a potential Th1-mediated response. In conclusion, the rTgRA15 protein has the potential to generate specific antibody response and elicit cellular response, thus potentially serve as a vaccine candidate against T. gondii infection.


This study aimed to evaluate vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and pentraxin 3 (PTX-3) as predictive and diagnostic markers in differentiating severe dengue from non-severe dengue. The study was conducted in Ampang Health Clinic, Ampang Hospital and Serdang Hospital. The plasma levels of VEGF and PTX-3 were compared between severe dengue and non-severe dengue by ELISA from the day of presentation until discharged. Multiple logistic regression was used to develop predictive and diagnostic models by incorporating other clinical parameters. The receiver operating characteristics (ROC) analysis was used to assess the accuracy of the biomarkers and the developed models. Eighty-two patients were recruited, 29 with severe dengue and four died. The Area Under the Curve (AUC) was statistically significant in VEGF as diagnostic marker at Day 2 and 3 of illness with sensitivity of 80.00%-100.00% and specificity of 76.47%-80.00%. The predictive model with AUC of 0.84 (p < 0.01) has a sensitivity of 100.00% and specificity of 79.25% for predicting severe dengue. The diagnostic model with AUC of 0.71 (p < 0.01) has a sensitivity of 76.19% and specificity of 73.58% for diagnosing severe dengue. The AUC for PTX-3 was not statistically significant. VEGF may be used in combination with other clinical parameters to predict the severity of the disease. As a single biomarker, it may be used as an adjunct investigation to support the diagnosis of severe dengue. PTX-3 was not able to differentiate severe dengue from non-severe dengue.