IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

Reasons to Believe: New Hope for Leprosy


Leprosy clinic in the Philippines.

Over the course of a year, IDRI welcomes hundreds of visitors to tour our labs and learn more about our infectious disease research and product development. Invariably, one thing takes our guests by surprise: leprosy, a disease that many associate with biblical times, still exists.

While global elimination (which is defined as a prevalence rate of less than 1 case per 10,000 people) of leprosy was officially announced in 2000, the fact is a quarter of a million new cases are reported worldwide each year. Although distributed in more than 100 countries, nearly 3 out of every 5 cases are found in India, where the disease was declared eliminated as a public health problem in 2005. Leprosy remains a very real issue in today’s world.

Nearly 15 years after the declaration of elimination on a global scale, media headlines are filled with news about the disease, as World Leprosy Day comes up Sunday, Jan. 25. The declarations of elimination have had far-reaching consequences, ranging from decreases in funding for specialized leprosy research, treatment and rehabilitation programs to the swaying of public and political opinion that the disease is no longer an issue. (more…)

Simple, Elegant Solution Holds Promise for Drug Resistance

bbcA lot of interest has been generated by a recent paper in Nature. Researchers have identified a new antibiotic that works against a wide range of bacterial species that cause infection, and resistance did not develop in the laboratory.

The need for new antibiotics is great; many infections are now resistant to the drugs we have, and there has been a lack of effort in developing new ones. Much has been said about the reasons why, but one reason is because antibiotics don’t make enough money to cover the cost of developing them. However, it remains the case we urgently need new antibiotics for many infections, including the ones we work on at IDRI, like tuberculosis.

Antibiotics are compounds produced by one living organism that kill another and in many cases they are produced by bacteria found in the environment, for example in water, soil, etc. In this research, the authors found a completely new antibiotic produced by a soil bacterium. (more…)

The Legacy and Lessons of Ebola

ebola-virusNOTE: The following was published in the Pacific Standard Magazine on Dec. 29, 2014.

Contrary to what many in the global health community seem to believe, 2014 will not go down as The Year of Ebola. It will, however, be remembered as the year that the world was faced with responding to an emerging pathogen in a rapid and efficient way. Not that this is the first time, of course, with SARS and bird flu being recent history, but it is a particularly memorable one nonetheless.

We know that a devastating disease will have varying degrees of impact on health systems, which cannot be predicted or fully anticipated. But this deadly disease, which quickly jumped country and continent borders, highlighted both how unprepared we are technologically and the fragility of many health systems. To be fair, to decry the fact that we are unprepared for a multi-continent outbreak of Ebola would have been greeted with a chuckle just a year ago—but now the question is: Which highly infectious disease is next?

But today, as we look toward 2015, it’s clear just how real, and just how deadly, threats like Ebola actually can be—it’s also clear that being prepared, and then moving fast, is critical when it comes to saving lives. This will require developing available technologies and a strengthening of health systems, both of which are needed to ensure the capabilities for the rapid response to emerging, deadly pathogens. (more…)

IDRI’s 2nd Annual Geek Gift Guide: Happy Holidays!

TB microbes

These TB microbe plush toys are a favorite of Tanya Parish, who keeps them on her desk at all times!

You know there’s one in your family or among your circle of friends. They go by a variety of names – the geek, the nerd, the technologist, the scientist, the researcher – but share a common enthusiasm for an intellectual pursuit or hobby.

With the holiday gift pressure on, what do you get the geek in your life?

IDRI employees weighed in with their suggestions – it’s quite the list! published its best gifts of 2014 for “science geeks.” Tanya Parish loves this list – particularly #9: the Carson HookUpz Universal Smart Phone Optics Adapter.

The ever-popular microbe plush toys (several of us at IDRI have these adorning our desks!) now come in (wait for it …) a holiday tree ornament set!

Looking to shop locally? Check out the Pacific Science Center’s gift store (small selection available online), which is a great way to support science education and outreach. Or there’s Ada’s Technical Books and Café, with a good selection of science/technical books as well as science-related gifts (plus you can have a cup of coffee while your browse!)

For the reader on your list, Mark Orr suggests The End of Plagues: The Global Battle Against Infectious Disease by John Rhodes. “It’s a history of vaccination; so far, it’s a pretty good, light read,” he said. Jill Ashman added that Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen — dubbed as a mixture of science writing and detective story — is is well-written and very topical. Though he hasn’t read it himself, Zack Sagawa said he’s heard What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is good book, both funny and nerdy. (more…)

The HIV Cure Initiative: Building Partnerships Towards a Cure

NOTE: Today, Dec. 1, is observed as World AIDS Day, and this year’s theme is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.” IDRI is partnering on a number of fronts to develop new solutions for HIV/AIDS – from providing our adjuvants for vaccine development to playing a key role in an exciting new alliance, the HIV Cure Initiative. We invited Ellen LaPointe, Director of the HIV Cure Initiative, to share more about the goals of the group.

Since AIDS was first clinically observed in 1981, more than 75 million people have contracted HIV and over 36 million have diedworld_logo2 of HIV-related causes. While significant advances have been made in the development of effective antiretroviral treatments to slow disease progression, they are still not a panacea. No treatment is completely effective in all people, and treatments must be taken for life, have significant associated costs and require strong health care systems to retain people in life long care.

Evidence from both high- and low-income countries demonstrates that retention of HIV-infected people in care is poor and that in many countries, including the U.S., the significant majority of people living with HIV are not receiving adequate care or controlling their viral load adequately.  As such, the HIV/AIDS epidemic remains a critical global health crisis. It is imperative that a globally available sterilizing or functional HIV cure remain one of the world’s foremost global health priorities.

There is a growing consensus in the scientific community that a safe, effective and scalable cure for HIV infection is achievable.  However, curing HIV/AIDS will require an extraordinary global effort, backed by strong and sustained scientific, governmental, private sector and philanthropic leadership, undergirded by an unprecedented commitment to collaboration, and achieved by the establishment of innovative alliances guided by an aligned vision and common goals. (more…)

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