Diseases Current Affairs

Scientists discover new therapy to prevent sepsis in new born babies

A team of scientists from US have discovered an inexpensive prevention technique (therapy) against sepsis in new born babies. The team was led by US-based Indian doctor Dr Pinaki Panigrahi.

The therapy has been found to reduce the risk of sepsis infection by 40% in trials and it can be inexpensive – less than one dollar for a course.

Need

Each year globally, more than 600,000 infants die of sepsis most of them in developing countries. In India, more than a quarter of neonatal deaths are due to sepsis. In a significant number of these cases, the infection probably begins in the gut.

New prevention technique

In the new oral prevention technique, infants are fed with good bacteria (probiotic bacteria) that populates in his/her gut and block (kill) harmful bacteria. The probiotic bacterial strain is also aided with a non-absorbable sugar to enhance its ability to effectively colonize the gut.

Researchers call it as probiotic-sugar combination, a symbiotic. The oral therapy starts during day 2-4 of life, as a preventive measure, much like a vaccine. The technique is also found beneficial in reducing lower respiratory tract and other infections and also improving immunity status.

Sepsis

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness primarily caused by bacterial infections that spreads fast through the blood leading to organ failure. It is caused by an immune response triggered by an infection i.e. body’s response to infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs. Sepsis infections are also more common in elderly people and those with a weak immune system.

Common signs and symptoms include fever, increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and confusion. There also may be symptoms related to a specific infection, such as pneumonia, kidney infection blood infection and abdominal infection. Currently, no efficient means of prevention is available.

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Scientists develop world’s first plant-based Zika vaccine

Scientists from US have developed the world’s first plant-based Zika vaccine that may be more effective, safer and cheaper than other vaccines against the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

The vaccine was developed using proteins derived from Tobacco plant. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines or therapeutics available to combat Zika.

 Key Facts

The plant-based Zika vaccine works against DIII, a part of a Zika viral protein that plays a key role for the virus to infect people. All flaviviruses have the envelope protein on the outside part of the virus. It has three domains. The domain III has a unique stretch of DNA for the Zika virus.

Researchers exploited domain III to generate a robust and protective immune response that is unique for Zika. First they had grown the envelope protein in bacteria then prepared the DIII protein domain in tobacco plants. The multiple immunisation experiments of the vaccine performed on mice shows 100% protection against multiple Zika virus strains in mice.

Significance: The plant protein-based vaccine uses smallest and most unique part of the Zika virus that can still elicit a potent and robust immune response. It produces a potent protective immune response against Zika Virus and also not produce antibodies that may be cross reactive for West Nile fever, Dengue, Yellow fever or others.

About Zika virus

Zika virus is vector borne disease transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the same mosquito that transmits dengue, West Nile fever, Yellow fever. The virus has been named after Zika forest in Uganda where it was first isolated in 1947.

The virus is capable of causing serious birth defects i.e. neurological disorders and foetal deformation known as Microcephaly in which infants are born with abnormally smaller heads. Besides a possible link between the virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system) is also suspected. It is also found that, sexual transmission of Zika virus disease is possible.

The worldwide Zika threat first emerged in 2015, infecting millions in South America. The World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the disease as epidemic and global health emergency but later revoked it after the outbreak was brought under control.

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