Field of Science

A Jedi and vaccination

Last week was World Immunisation Week, celebrating and raising awareness for one of the greatest medical interventions known to mankind: the vaccine. But vaccination has a lot of problems, one being the cold chain.

The cold chain refers to the physical supply of refrigerated vaccines from the manufacturer to the person being immunised. This constant controlled temperature is required to limit any damage done to the vaccine components, which themselves are biological samples. 

For example, the live-attenuated measles vaccine used across the world will rapidly lose it's ability to protect you if it is stored at 37 degree celsius; it can be stored for much longer at 4 degrees. This makes the cold chain essentially one of the most important components of global health strategies. For another take on the cold chain and developments to make it better, read Vincent Racaniello's post over at Virology Blog last year. 

The cost of getting the flu

I've come across this neat infographic that explores the cost of influenza infection to the individual and to the country as a whole (here's the WHO factsheet on flu for more info). It really sends home the message of necessity of preventative and therapeutic options for treating these respiratory viruses.

 Of course this can also be extended worldwide and to the other viruses that cause the same roughly the same symptoms as influenza, like Respiratory Syncytial Virus. There's a couple of differences when you extend this to other countries, namely the UK, thanks to our National Health Service where Doctor's visits and prescriptions are free. 

Also in some countries it is good to remember that in some countries the fu season extends throughout the whole year. Despite some questions arising on the effectiveness of the seasonal flu vaccines, they are better and safer than nothing so remember to get protected if you're at risk!

Cost of the Flu Infographic

So how does Respiratory Syncytial Virus infect your lungs?

This post is hopefully the beginning of a new series of stories on this blog covering the thinking behind the papers I cover from the point of view of those scientists doing the work. 

ResearchBlogging.orgThe first up is from Remi Villenave, a post-doc in my department at Queen's University, Belfast Centre for Infection & Immunity. Remi is currently working on understanding how Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infects and causes disease in humans. He studies this by using an in vitro culture of primary differentiated bronchial epithelial cells taken from children. This work is reported in a PNAS paper published a couple of weeks ago. 

In vitro modeling of respiratory syncytial virus infection of pediatric bronchial epithelium, the primary target of infection in vivo

Here is some answers he gave to a couple of questions I put to him last week:

Single mumps vaccine jab (versus MMR) in the UK - back again?

The "Children's Immunisation Centre" has recently announced that it plans to start administering the single mumps vaccine sometime in the 2nd quarter of this year in the UKWhen I rang them up asked at the helpdesk, the very helpful receptionist told me they were scheduling vaccinations for July. Their website details:
"Currently Mumps single vaccine is not available due to Merck stopping the manufacture of it about 3 years ago. However we are working with our suppliers (who have an MHRA -Medicines and  Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - Wholesale license and who are regularly inspected) to source a Jeryl Lynn Strain (the safest strain) of Mumps vaccine." 
They continue,
"M-M-R single vaccines are manufactured by, France, India, and in some European countries and also China, Russia and in future the  UK. Our suppliers in the UK are working with UK manufacturers and are looking to produce the single mumps vaccine  for our patients."
The internet has picked up on this as well, here.

The curious case of Wipfelkrankheit "disease"

Baculovirus particles
I am sure you have heard of Wipfelkrankheit disease. If you haven't heard of this name at least you must have heard what it's symptoms are. Wipfelkrankheit - or in English, tree-top disease, is a fatal viral infection of caterpillars, an infection that causes them to climb up high, hang upside down and liquify themselves raining down millions upon millions of viral particles to the forest floor below. 

Here they are easily ingested by unsuspecting and uninfected insects. The question of how they do so has been consuming researchers for 100 years. But we may now have the full story. 

Your top 10 questions in virology? Here's some of mine:

Do you want to help organise a virology meeting? Paul Duprex, the chair of the Society for General Microbiology's Virology Division (and also my current PhD supervisor) is asking you guys to help him and the committee set-up the virology symposium in 2014. 

This event will be: "Top 10 questions in Virology". The aim of this is for ordinary people (scientists and non-scientists alike) to put forward a question that they really would like answered. Something which has been niggling at them for sometime now. Something they think is important and needs to be answered soon.