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Past Weekly News Roundups

Weekly News Roundup 3-1-13

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have built a synthetic gene circuit that allows for the tuning of a gene’s expression within human cells.  The research tool allows researchers to turn a gene completely off or completely on, and any variation in between.  This is particularly useful for cancer research because it supports testing of boundaries of genes known to confer drug resistance to cancer cells as well as slowing for personalized gene therapy.  Nature Communications

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver have identified a set of experimental drugs that fight off flu in mice as well as currently available antiviral drugs.  Both compounds, members of a class called 2,3-difluorosialic acids (DFSAs) interferes with the binding to certain acids needed for the flu to spread from cell to cell.  Science

The Eurpoean Centre for Disease Control announced it is examining current evidence for the possible environmental origin of drug resistance in a group of lung diseases known as Aspergillus infection.  Almost 2.5 million patients rely on an antifungal therapy based on triazole fungicides, without which the expected mortality for their conditions is 88%. Results from published studies suggest that triazole resistance has evolved in the environment and could be driven by the selective pressure of triazole fungicides routines sprayed on crops. ECDC

A new documentary film takes aim at drug resistance, making the point that more people in the U.S. die of antibiotic infections than die from HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, emphysema, Parkinson’s disease and homicides combined.  The group is looking to raise money on the growd-funding site “Kickstarter” and has a pitch video that can be viewed Kickstarter

A multinational research group has determined that a the release of a compound of human sweat – dermicidin – is an effective defense against fungi and bacteria seeking entry into the human body through the skin.  The chemical has been shown to be effective against tuberculosis and Staphyloccocus aureus on the dermal surface.  The study unravels the comprehensive mechanism for the membrane-disruptive action of this peptide at atomistic level.  The results may form a foundation for the structure-based design of peptide antibiotics.  PNAS

According to the Wall Street Journal, India’s new treatment program is one of the bigger causes of the spread of multi-drug resistant TB.  In the face of few accredited labs to test for drug resistance TB strains, the Indian government is dispensing a drug cocktail that includes drugs that almost two-thirds of patients are resistant to.  This gives rise to further drug resistance.   WSJ

 

Weekly News Roundup 2-1-13

In a study funded by Novartis, researchers investigated the causes and consequences of  vemurafenib resistance using two human melanoma xenograft models in which drug resistance is selected by continuous use of vemurafenib.  The models showed that the drug resistant tumors became dependent upon the drug for their continued growth, such that cessation of the drug resulted in a shrinking of the tumors.  These data highlight the concept that drug-resistant cells may also display drug dependency, such that altered dosing may prevent the emergence of lethal drug resistance.  Nature

Researchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) and IBM Research today unveiled the first-ever antimicrobial hydrogel that can break apart biofilms and destroy multidrug-resistant superbugs upon contact. Tests have demonstrated the effectiveness of this novel synthetic material in eliminating various types of bacteria and fungi that are leading causes of microbial infections, and preventing them from developing antibiotic resistance. This discovery may be used in wound healing, medical device and contact lens coating, skin infection treatment and dental fillings. IBN

A team of researchers have documented an experiment in which they induced sexual reproduction in P. chrysogenum. Having a sexual fungus would allow them to cross promising strains to create potentially new derivatives of penicillin in the war on antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The researchers have already produced new genetic traits in the offspring of the now-sexual mold. These are traits they say could help in the quest for new medicines.  PNAS

In the search for alternatives to conventional antibiotics, researchers have identified an enzyme that kills the bacteria that causes strep throat.  The enzyme, PlyC, operates by locking onto the surface of a bacteria cell and chewing a hole in the cell wall large enough for the bacteria’s inner membrane to protrude from the cell, ultimately causing the cell to burst and die

While investigating how bacteria develop drug resistance, Vanderbilt University biochemists Brian Bachmann and John McLean discovered that strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria express hundreds of compounds not produced by their progenitors, many of which are potential secondary metabolites. Bacteria have traditionally been the source of important drugs such as antibiotics and anticancer agents. Researchers looking for new bacterially synthesized drugs have long known that bacterial genomes contain a large number of “silent genes” that contain the instructions for making drug-like compounds.  Futurity

 

Weekly News Roundup 12-10-12

Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK, have published a paper detailing the effects of copper on the spread of drug resistance. According to researchers copper is capable of inhibiting horizontal transmission of genes. The paper goes on to point out that many of the most common horizontal transmission locations in hospitals, are places routinely touch by hands, such as door handles and medical tables, which are currently steel. If the tables, handles and other steel medical equipment were converted to copper, the spread of resistance might be slowed. mBIO

Health officials in the European Union have announced their concerns about the conditions of Greek hospitals. The Greek economy is overburdened with debt; as such the government is making cutbacks across the board, including hospitals. Increasing staff cuts and supply budgets being slashed means that doctors are scrambling just to deal with the most minor patients. There is a growing fear that the Greek healthcare system will allow an outbreak of multi-drug resistant TB. Chicago tribune

Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute have published a study showing that biomarker MED12 on cancer cells is a prediction of how they will react to cancer drugs. The biomarker has been linked to a wide range of cancer drug resistance. The study found that by inhibiting MED12, which is commonly mutated in resistant cancer cells, they were able to create resistance in the cancer cells. Furthermore, the researchers found that when inhibiting MED12, the cancer cell activated a receptor called TGF-betaR, and when the researchers suppressed TGF-betaR, the cancer drugs worked again. CELL

A FDA advisory panel recently approved a new TB drug created by Johnson and Johnson. The drug, bedaquiline has been shown in clinical trial to combat drug-resistant TB in adult patients when used in combination with other TB medication.  The panel’s approval is not binding for the FDA but it is common for the FDA to approve what its advisory panel approves. Vaccine

Researchers at the North Ontario School of Medicine have published a study in the journal of Ovarian Research, suggesting that the mechanism for dual-agent chemotherapy resistance is created from multiple novel changes in the cell instead of a combination of the individual agent-resistance mutations. They did this by examining the mechanisms of resistance to two cancer drugs, first carboplatin alone, and then docetaxel alone, and then examined the mechanism of resistance to both carboplatin and docetaxel together. The dual agent resistance was not simply a combination of single agent mutations. Science codex

Johnson and Johnson has announced that they will not enforce their patent on Prezista, their new HIV/AIDs drugs, in Africa. J&J has said that this patent move is conditional on the quality of the generic drugs produced for Africa. Many generic drugs sold in Africa are produced by Indian Drug companies and can be sold at a drastically reduced price. This move comes in the face of increasing international pressure for pharmaceutical companies to provide cheaper drugs to regions where patients can’t afford the current prices. Yahoo

 

Weekly News Roundup 12-3-12

EU health officials stated that doctors are being forced to use last-ditch drugs to combat the growing number of anti-biotic resistant infections in Europe. In several countries in the EU, 25-60% of bloodstream infections are caused by pneumonia bacteria with multidrug resistance. Chicago Tribune

Researchers from Washington State University have published a study suggesting that Antibiotic resistant bacteria are developing in farm soil. Antibiotic laced Cow urine kills the E. coli in animal dung, but leaves resistant E. coli with less completion. Thus resistance is developing outside the animals themselves. PLOS one

Researchers at Harvard University recently published a study demonstrating the use of their new Xpert test for TB. The test, approved by the WHO, uses a DNA test to identify multi-drug-resistant TB in 2 hours.  The test is also considered to be cost effective enough for implementation in Africa. PLOS medicine

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have published a study showing that the avermectin family of drugs are effective against multi-drug resistant TB. The avermectin family has been used for the last 40 years to treat parasitic worms; however the study shows that avermectin drugs can kill TB bacteria in addition to worms.  AAC

Researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute have discovered a new mechanism for developing drug resistance in cancer. Their study shows a gene called MED12 can become deactivated in response to anti-cancer drugs. By deactivating MED12 the TGF-beta signaling pathway is activated which causes the cancer to continue to divide even in the presence of anti-cancer drugs which inhibit cell division. Cell

Consumer reports, a nonprofit watchdog organization, have announced that its testing of US pork has revealed the presence of yersinia enterocolitica in 69 percent of pork chops and ground pork samples. Yesinia is a bacteria which causes food poisoning and is estimated to cause 100,000 cases of food poisoning a year. Much of the Yersinia found in the pork samples were shown to be resistant to first line antibiotics. Consumer report

Researchers at Galapagos, a Belgian biotech company, claim to have discovered a new class of antibiotics that are effective against multi-drug-resistant infections. They claim that these new antibiotics are capable of treating 100% drug resistant MRSA. These antibiotics are supposed to work by attacking DNA pol llla- an enzyme found in bacteria but not humans. Examiner

 

Weekly News Roundup 11-19-12

In a recent interview, Congressman Randy Hultgren (R-IL) reaffirmed his support for government funded science research and laid out his plan for science funding. He emphasized the importance of the national labs and the interconnectedness of different scientific disciplines. Congressman Hultgren is a proponent of 5 year science budgets to better provide consistency in long-term research. He also argues for government to use its money more wisely, funding areas of science such as theoretical and basic research which the private sector won’t fund but are integral to a balanced scientific front. Sciencemag

In a post-election speech, recently reelected president Obama announced his administrations reemphasis on scientific research. This suggests that the president will attempt to avert the large federal science budget cuts scheduled for January 2nd. One of the possible ways for the Obama Administration to avoid the science cutbacks and stick to his election promises for clean energy is a carbon tax. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has projected that the US government could raise 1.5 trillion dollars over 10 years by instituting a 20$ per ton of carbon with a 4% annual increase. Nature

According to CBC Marketplace, antibiotic resistant bacteria can be found in the common hotel room. Marketplace tested 54 hotels rooms across 6 major hotel chains in Canada. They found that in every hotel they tested, antibiotic resistant bacteria were found including the extremely dangerous MRSA. Marketplace attributed this hazardous condition to unsanitary cleaning methods observed during housekeeping. CBC

Australian Biotech Company EnGenelC has announced that it has entered human trials for its Minicell treatment of chemotherapy resistant cancers. Minicells are bubbles of cell membranes taken from the bacteria, coated in anticancer drugs and antibiotics which are attached to tumor receptors. The tumor absorbs the bacteria as part of an antibacterial defense mechanism and thus brings the anti-cancer drugs into the cell. medicalxpress

A recent poll conducted by the CDC shows that many Americans are still uneducated on the subjects of antibiotic resistance and proper antibiotic use. The study shows that almost a third of people believe that antibiotics can be used to treat viral infections such as the common cold. Only 25% of the polled subjects had heard a great deal about antibiotic resistance, while 41% claimed to have heard very little or nothing on the subject. Less than half of respondents knew that their misuse of antibiotics could harm other people’s health. Medicalxpress

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have identified the structure of a protein thought to be integral to the development of drug resistance in TB. Using x-ray crystallography, they were able to identify a protein called Ldt Mt2. This protein is believed to create linkages between cells which are not capable of being broken by normal antibiotics and inhibit antibiotics from reaching cell membranes. The hope is that the structure of the protein will provide a basis for new anti-TB drugs to be built around. Johns Hopkins

   

Weekly News Roundup 11-12-12

The government of Australia has announced a pledge of 100 million dollars to the fight against malaria in the Asia-Pacific. The government has marked $14.5 million for treatment of drug resistance malaria in the Greater Mekong Region. Another $20 million will be spend on treatment in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. $10 million more has been pledged for Australian research programs. The Australian

Researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical Center have announced that they are a Grand Challenges winner, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Researchers received three research grants totaling $1.5 million for research in using nanotechnology to understand the mechanisms of resistance found in HIV, and to support research in Mtb including an effort to identify a biochemical blueprint to new drug targets again non-replicating  Mtb. Azonano

Researchers at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health have published a study stating that wastewater treatment plants are acting as reservoirs for MRSA, Medellin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The study results identified MRSA being in 50% of samples entering the plant, and 8% of samples leaving the plant. This poses serious questions about the safety of using reclaimed waste water. Environmental Health Perspectives

Veredus Laboratories has announced the launching of a multiplex molecular diagnosis chip capable of fast and accurate detection of resistant TB. The chip, VereMTBTM, is capable of  quickly reading and diagnosing patients with Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Complex and its mutations.. The chip can read what type of TB the patient has and its mutations in less than three hours in comparison with the conventional methods which can take up to 8 weeks for complete diagnosis. Reuters

According to Durata Therapeutics, The FDA has classified the drug Dalbavancin as a qualified infectious disease product. This means that Dalbavancin will have a priority review from the FDA, the possibility of a fast-track approval plan, and possibility of extension of statutory exclusivity periods for an additional five years. The drug, dalbavancin, will be used to treat acute bacterial skin infections, and has been shown to be effective against MRSA skin infections. Daily Finance

Basilea Pharmaceuticia has announced that their new oncology drug, BAL 101553 has a dual mechanism of action against cancer cells. The drug works by attacking drug-resistant tumor cells directly by targeting their microtubules, and by killing off tumor blood vessels. The drug can be  injected intravenously or taken orally. BAL 101553 is still far from human trials, but this new information shows great promise. Reuters

   

Weekly News Roundup 11-5-2012

Vertex Pharmaceuticals has announced collaboration with Janssen to begin a Phase 2 proof-of concept study of VX-135, vertex’s polymerase inhibitor and Simeprevir, janssen’s protease inhibitor, for the treatment of drug-resistant Hepititus C. The combination of Simeprevir, which has shown to be highly effective against Hepititus C and VX-135, which is believed to have a very high barrier to resistance, is hoped to be a future treatment method which will last against drug resistance. Financial Post

Researchers at the University of Montreal have announced the discovery of a protein, RSK, in human skin which helps melanoma be resistant to chemotherapy. It is believed that if RSK is targeted properly, it would be possible to overcome drug resistance in melanoma. Oncogene

Researchers published findings  that drugs Danusertib and Bosutinib when taken together are capable of overcoming resistance to Imatinib in Chronic myelogenous leukemia. Imatinib (gleevec) in produced by Novartis and inhibits the growth of CML in 65-75% of patients. Nature Chemical Biology

The Food and Drug Administration announced today that they had approved omacetaxine mepesuccinate and  Synribo, for treatment of Chronic myelogenous leukemia in patients who are resistant to other treatments. Synribo will be a third-line of defense drug, which will only be proscribed after the patient has taken and failed to react to two tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Cancer Network

A recent study in the The Lancet, have shown that prevalence of resistance to second round treatments for tuberculosis in very high. The study tested 1278 patients from 8 countries to determine the number with resistance to second round treatments, 43 % showed resistance to at least one second round treatment, 20% showed resistance to at least one second line injectable drug. The lancet

   

Weekly News Roundup 10-29-12

Researchers from the University of New Haven have shown that the agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) has the ability to hide and demonstrate resistance to harsh environmental conditions and antibiotics through the formation of a biofilm.  PLOS

According to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, a combination of GlaxoSmithKline’s drugs dabrafenib, a BRAF inhibitor and trametinib, a MEK inhibitor have shown positive results in phase II clinical trials for treatment of melanoma. The theory is that the BRAF inhibitor blocks the cell growth pathway MAPK. The MEK inhibitor is to stop the cell from developing resistance by blocking the MEK protein which I part of the resistance pathway. Oncology

Researchers at North Carolina University have announced that they have increase the potency of a 2-aminoimidazole compound which is capable of reactivating antibiotic against resistant MRSA. The compound works by making the bacteria incapable of identifying the antibiotic when it binds to the bacteria. Phys

Researchers that Duke University and the University of North Carolina have announced the successful use of short-wave ultraviolet light to reduce the number of bacterial colony-forming units. Of the 712 colonies, only 15 remained after exposed to a device which emits ultraviolet light for fixed periods of time. Medpage

Researchers at the University of Iowa have discovered Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) in wildlife around the university of Iowa. They found that 6.1% of tested animals carried S. Aureus that was sensitive to treatment. 2.6% had MRSA; this is comparable to the 1.5% of Americans who carry MRSA in their noses. Journal of Wildlife Diseases

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have figured out the three dimensional shape of the protein which is responsible for the bonds in the cells walls of tuberculosis which cause the bacteria to become drug-resistant. The shape of the protein is an important step in the creation of drugs to counter TBs drug resistance. Structure

Researchers at the Imperial College London have announced their discovery of a so-called ‘Achilles heel’ of malaria. Their research shows that small molecule histone methyltransferase is capable reducing parasite viability by 40%. The methyltransferase attacks the parasite’s ability to carry out transcription, a process necessary for replication. PNAS

   

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