Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Investigational Antiviral Drug approved for use on US Ebola patient

The FDA approved the use of an investigational drug, CMX001 (brincidofovir),  to attempt to treat Ebola Virus Disease in the sole US case so far.  The drug has been in clinical trials for Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, a common complication in bone-marrow transplants and other immunosupressed populations.  The drug has also been used for Adenovirus infections in pediatric cancer patients.  Based on its activity against poxviruses it was selected for investigation as a possible treatment for Smallpox (Variola) infection for bioterrorism defense.

Brincidofovir is an orally active prodrug of cidofovir (Vistide), an injectable antiviral drug used to treat CMV retinitis in AIDS patients.  Brincidofovir is converted to the active drug in the body and its lipid conjugation allows lower plasma levels (less toxicity) and higher levels inside cells, where it can act on the virus.

Link to Publication of CMX001 efficacy in Herpes Virus Infections -Note: CMV is in the Herpes Virus family.  Paper give some background on the mechanism of action in Brincidofovir.

Chimerix Press Release

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Ebola and Melatonin: Could a Common Sleep Aid help fight Ebola?

The growing outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa has focused the world's attention on one of the most deadly infectious diseases known. Rapid depletion of experimental drugs including those used to successfully treat several American patients have clinicians scrambling for something other than supportive care.  

A recent paper describes the possible use of melatonin, a natural hormone that controls the wake-sleep cycle and widely available sleep aid, to counter some of EVD's severe effects on the body.  Because of Melatonin's wide availability and excellent safety profile, a positive effect could be an important weapon in the fight against the outbreak in Africa and a potential addition to the treatment of EVD.  Because Melatonin is classified as a food additive in the US,  it can be purchased over the counter and is relatively inexpensive. Obviously more work needs to be done in clinical trials, which could begin immediately since the human safety phases of a clinical trial can be skipped, because of its widespread use. 

Ebola kills in a particular way that turns the body's immune system on itself.  Ebola virus infection causes a cascade of immuno-inflamatory reactions including the production of reactive molecules that damage the lining of blood vessels and trigger the clotting cascade in the blood. This reaction has similarities to bacterial sepsis.  Several studies have shown a positive effect from Melatonin in preventing both endothelial damage and intravascular coagulation.  The author's of this paper have suggested that because similar mechanisms are at work in Ebola virus infection, Melatonin may be beneficial in treating EVD.

Link to article: 

Ebola virus disease: Potential use of melatonin as a treatment
Dun-Xian Tan, Russel J. Reiter and Lucien C. Manchester
Accepted manuscript online: 27 SEP 2014 01:25AM EST

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Leidenfrost Effect

I've observed this many times but haven't really thought about what is happening.  When you drop water on a stove burner that is at the right temperature, they form little beads that skitter around on the burner and only slowly get smaller.  What is happening is referred to as the Leidenfrost effect.  When a liquid comes in contact with a mass significantly higher than its boiling point, a layer of vapor insulates the liquid and prevents it from boiling, at least for a little while.

I came across this interesting video demonstrating the effect when dropping a red hot metal (Nickel) ball into water.  For a while you can see a thin layer of vapor surrounding the ball.  Eventually, the insulating effect is overwhelmed as the ball cools and the water is not vaporizing instantaneously. After this the water boils furiously.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4

While looking at the UK National Trust site about Stowe Gardens I came across a National Trust website that encourages kids to get outside and experience nature.  Its called 50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4 and it uses badges and a list of activities to motivate kids and their parents to experience the outdoors.  The British always seem to be ahead of us when it comes to natural history, more walkers, birdwatchers and amateur naturalists per capita...at least it seems so to me.  Maybe there is more of an appreciation of the natural world because there is less wilderness.  In America, we have so much that it is sometimes taken for granted.

Kids are naturally curious.  The infinite variety and potential for discovery in the outdoors is the perfect place to satisfy that curiosity.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Temple of British Worthies

I checked a book out of the Library called A Global History of Architecture by Ching et al. I am reading about Stowe Gardens in England and am interested in a structure called Temple of the British Worthies - a shrine to Great Britons. There are 16 individuals depicted on the shrine among them Shakespeare, John Milton and Alexander Pope. Others like the Architect Inigo Jones I had never heard of before. When I have a bit of time I'll look them all up and see what they did . Since this was built in the 18th Century it reflects the ideals of the Age. I wonder who would make it to a 21st Century Temple of British Worthies or a Global list?

Page on the Temple and links to the other sights at Stowe

Temple of British Worthies - geograph.org.uk - 643854

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meet the Lobster Moth

I came across a picture of this unusual moth caterpillar called the Lobster Moth or Lobster Prominent (Stauropis fagi).  I've never seen anything like it.  Its front legs are huge and it really looks like some alien creature.  The adult moth is a nondescript Notodontid found throughout the Palearctic that looks like many species I find outside my house.  Some of the local species have pretty unusual looking caterpillars with weird humps and tentacles, but nothing like this species.

 Wildlife of Chernobyl

Interesting video on the reappearance of wildlife in the evacuation zone of Chernobyl.  Tweny Six years ago 300,000 people were evacuated from the area around the nuclear reactor. The re-wilding of the area is an interesting subject.  The animals in the zone have very high levels of radiation, however there have been few malformations observed.  Over time perhaps more radiation-resistant animals will flourish as those more sensitive will die at a differentially higher rate.  Alternatively, a tremendous amount of unobserved damage may be occuring.  I wonder how the radiation affects things like the bacterial and fungal communities in the soil.  An interesting anecdote was that radioactive mushrooms collected in the evacuation area occasionally make it to markets in populated areas.

I'm wondering about the parallels to Fukashima.

Hopefully, EarthFirst or some other radical environmentalist group never gets a nuke or radiological weapon.  One could imagine a future scenario, where in order to exclude people from some area, they paradoxically contaminate it to (partially) save it.

Here's my movie script idea - Radical group seeks to "save" large swaths of the planet from human habitat destruction by radiological contamination.  Crowdsource the script.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wingless Moth

Here's a photo from a few weeks ago of a wingless female Fall Cankerworm Moth. Only the males fly in this species. They must find the females via pheromones.