Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: PLoS currents


A novel coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causing severe, life-threatening respiratory disease has emerged in the Middle East at a time when two international mass gatherings in Saudi Arabia are imminent. While MERS-CoV has already spread to and within other countries, these mass gatherings could further amplify and/or accelerate its international dissemination, especially since the origins and geographic source of the virus remain poorly understood.

Concepts: Saudi Arabia, Arabian Peninsula, Riyadh, United Arab Emirates, Middle East, Qatar, Jordan, Arabic language


Stem cell-based treatment for Huntington’s disease (HD) is an expanding field of research. Although various stem cells have been shown to be beneficial in vivo, no long standing clinical effect has been demonstrated. To address this issue, we are developing a stem cell-based therapy designed to improve the microenvironment of the diseased tissue via delivery of neurotrophic factors (NTFs). Previously, we established that bone marrow derived human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be differentiated using medium based cues into NTF-secreting cells (NTF+ cells) that express astrocytic markers. NTF+ cells were shown to alleviate neurodegeneration symptoms in several disease models in vitro and in vivo, including the model for excitotoxicity. In the present study, we explored if the timing of intrastriatal transplantation of hNTF+ cells into the R6/2 transgenic mouse model for HD influences motor function and survival. One hundred thousand cells were transplanted bilaterally into the striatum of immune-suppressed mice at 4.5, 5.5 and 6.5 weeks of age. Contrary to our expectations, early transplantation of NTF+ cells did not improve motor function or overall survival. However, late (6.5 weeks) transplantation resulted in a temporary improvement in motor function and an extension of life span relative to that observed for PBS treated mice. We conclude that late transplantation of NTF+ cells induces a beneficial effect in this transgenic model for HD. Since no transplanted NTF+ cells could be detected in vivo, we suspect that the temporary nature of the beneficial effect is due to poor survival of transplanted cells. In general, we submit that NTF+ cells should be further evaluated for the therapy of HD.

Concepts: Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Stem cells, Cellular differentiation, In vivo, Huntington's disease, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor


The 2010 Haitian earthquake and consequent Cholera epidemic taxed the already fragile health system. A large number of humanitarian organizations participated in the disaster response and the health communication response was analysed. Health Cluster updates from both periods were analysed for contents with a World Health Organization draft check list for monitoring and evaluating the quality of epidemiological data contained in WHO and Health Cluster emergency reports. The Pan-American Health Organization Emergency Operations Centre reports from the Earthquake had the lowest score with an average score of 2.54/17 and the Health Cluster - Cholera reports had the highest average score of 11/17. There is a wide variety and quality of information published in terms of epidemiological information in emergency reports with a distinct difference found between the earthquake reporting and the cholera event. A comprehensive and modifiable template for emergency reporting could alleviate these differences and allow for improved reporting. Citation: Dhillon P, Annunziata G. The Haitian Health Cluster Experience: A comparative evaluation of the professional communication response to the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent cholera outbreak. PLOS Currents Disasters. 2012 Sep 5. doi: 10.1371/5014b1b407653.

Concepts: Public health, Epidemiology, Evaluation, Pandemic, World Health Organization, Cholera, 2010 Haiti earthquake, John Snow


In July 2010, Pakistan suffered nationwide floods after unprecedented monsoon rains overwhelmed the Indus basin. The ensuing floods claimed 1985 lives, injured 2946 people and affected over 20.2 million people. Seventy-eight out of 121 districts were affected and at one stage one-fifth of the country’s land was inundated with water. Indiscriminate damage was caused to housing, educational and health facilities, communication networks, power plants and grids, irrigation channels, agricultural land and livestock. Over 37 million medical consultations were reported within one year of the floods with acute respiratory infection, skin diseases, acute diarrhoea and suspected malaria forming the most common presentations. Rescue and relief operations were organised through the National Disaster Management Authority and a UN Cluster Approach was adopted for providing humanitarian assistance. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) played a pivotal role in coordinating relief efforts between cluster groups and providing communication platforms for identifying gaps and sharing information. This paper attempts to collate information available in the public domain into a summary report based on key principles described by Kulling et al. (2010) on health crisis reporting.

Concepts: Medicine, Report, India, Irrigation, Monsoon, Humanitarian aid, Indus River, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs


Disease spreading through human travel networks has been a topic of great interest in recent years, as witnessed during outbreaks of influenza A (H1N1) or SARS pandemics. One way to stop spreading over the airline network are travel restrictions for major airports or network hubs based on the total number of passengers of an airport. Here, we test alternative strategies using edge removal, cancelling targeted flight connections rather than restricting traffic for network hubs, for controlling spreading over the airline network. We employ a SEIR metapopulation model that takes into account the population of cities, simulates infection within cities and across the network of the top 500 airports, and tests different flight cancellation methods for limiting the course of infection. The time required to spread an infection globally, as simulated by a stochastic global spreading model was used to rank the candidate control strategies. The model includes both local spreading dynamics at the level of populations and long-range connectivity obtained from real global airline travel data. Simulated spreading in this network showed that spreading infected 37% less individuals after cancelling a quarter of flight connections between cities, as selected by betweenness centrality. The alternative strategy of closing down whole airports causing the same number of cancelled connections only reduced infections by 18%. In conclusion, selecting highly ranked single connections between cities for cancellation was more effective, resulting in fewer individuals infected with influenza, compared to shutting down whole airports. It is also a more efficient strategy, affecting fewer passengers while producing the same reduction in infections.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Infection, Influenza, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Pandemic, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Airport


An EVD outbreak may reduce life expectancy directly (due to high mortality among EVD cases) and indirectly (e.g., due to lower utilization of healthcare and subsequent increases in non-EVD mortality). In this paper, we investigated the direct effects of EVD on life expectancy in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea (LSLG thereafter).

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


Immediately following the Boston Marathon attacks, individuals near the scene posted a deluge of data to social media sites. Previous work has shown that these data can be leveraged to provide rapid insight during natural disasters, disease outbreaks and ongoing conflicts that can assist in the public health and medical response. Here, we examine and discuss the social media messages posted immediately after and around the Boston Marathon bombings, and find that specific keywords appear frequently prior to official public safety and news media reports. Individuals immediately adjacent to the explosions posted messages within minutes via Twitter which identify the location and specifics of events, demonstrating a role for social media in the early recognition and characterization of emergency events. *Christopher Cassa and Rumi Chunara contributed equally to this work.

Concepts: Marathon, Boston, Social media, Boston Marathon, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, World Marathon Majors, Bobbi Gibb, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


The 2010 Pakistan flood affected 20 million people. The impact of the event and recovery is measured at 6 months.

Concepts: Population, Flood


Malaria still is a public health problem in the Americas. In 2015, Brazil accounted for 37% of all cases in the Americas, and of these cases, 99.5% were located in the Brazilian Amazon. Despite the mobilization of resources from the Brazilian National Plan for Malaria Control, too many municipalities have high transmission levels. The objective of this study is to evaluate the local epidemiological profile of malaria and its trend between 2010 and 2015 in the Brazilian Amazon. This study also aims to recognize the epidemiological differences in the local temporo-spatial dynamics of malaria.

Concepts: Health, Epidemiology, Malaria, Brazil, South America, Latin America, Portuguese language, Peru


This paper presents the initial data analysis for a survey to identify the attitudes towards systematic reviews and research of those involved in the humanitarian response to natural disasters and other crises; their priorities for evidence, and their preferences for accessing this information.

Concepts: Scientific method, Data, Crisis, Humanitarian aid, Humanitarianism