IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

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…)

What Do Comic Books and Antibiotics Have in Common?

comicIn 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced their now iconic superhero, Superman in Action Comics #1, ushering in the golden age of comic books. Around the same time, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain began their work in developing pure penicillin, the first natural antibiotic which was discovered by Alexander Fleming a decade before, for use as a therapeutic agent.

Similar to what the Man of Steel did for comic books, the clinical use of penicillin ushered in the golden age of antibiotics, eventually saving many lives.

After Superman, other superheroes, such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain America, were introduced, as comic books were becoming a mainstream artform. Similarly, after penicillin, the development and clinical use of streptomycin, tetracycline and other antibiotics emerged. Unfortunately, not all golden ages last a thousand years.

After World War II, the popularity of comic books and their once cherished characters began to lose their luster. By the 1960’s, the emergence of drug resistance along with other factors marked the end of the golden age of antibiotics. (more…)

Ebola Ban at ASTMH: Focus on Ultimate Goal of Meeting

Bill Gates addresses the opening session of the ASTMH meeting.

Bill Gates addresses the opening session of the ASTMH meeting.

As world leaders in the field of infectious disease research – including scientists from IDRI – gather today in New Orleans for the 63rd annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), the topic of Ebola is taking main stage, for a variety of reasons. Last week, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals sent a letter to ASTMH members warning them that “in an abundance of caution,” it is banning any attendees who have been in West Africa in the last 21 days from traveling to Louisiana – even if they have no symptoms of Ebola.

This has raised questions and provoked  another round of controversy, with the ASTMH stating in a memo to members: While the state of Louisiana’s policies are outside of the scientific understanding of Ebola transmission – and acknowledged by the state health officials’ own admission – we recognize that the state has determined its policy in this matter. ASTMH does not agree with the policy as outlined by the Louisiana DHH.

IDRI’s Aarthy Vallur, Ph.D., who is attending the meeting, weighed in, “The ASTMH put together a last minute Ebola program, and this sort of behavior (the ban) deprived those who need it most from getting the knowledge and help to tackle the disease,” she said. (more…)

More TB Than Before?

tb14_cover200x283pxSobering news just reported by the World Health Organization (WHO): the estimated numbers of cases of tuberculosis (TB) has gone up by half a million, and now stands at 9 million people with TB in 2013 (up from 8.6 million in 2012). And worse than that, ~1.5 million people died.

In the Global Tuberculosis Report 2014, WHO states “This year’s report shows higher global totals for new TB cases and deaths in 2013 than previously.” These data may reflect better reporting of TB cases, rather than a real increase in cases, but still the number of people infected is staggering and represents a great deal of suffering.

There is some good news, as the mortality rate is falling. However, WHO reckon that there may be as many as 3 million undiagnosed cases of TB every year. That’s a huge group of people who are not receiving the antibiotics and care they need. In addition, there were nearly half a million cases of drug resistant TB. (more…)

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