China Races Towards Swine Fever Vaccine (Abstract Science: June 22-28)
Also: possible new tests for coma patients may help predict who recovers and who doesn't, and inching closer to eradicating cervical cancer
(Katarina Zimmer, The Scientist, 6/24/19)
After the devastating African swine fever virus (ASFV) outbreak in China that began last August, the Chinese government has pledged the equivalent of $15 million dollars to research a vaccine. However, the virus has proven resistant to vaccines due to its complexity – the ASFV genome can code for up to 170 proteins, while other viruses get by with only seven. Previous versions of a vaccine have also caused debilitating chronic versions of ASF, though they did manage to keep the pigs alive. Researchers are continuing to look into the problem with the help of funding from China.
(Luisa Torres, NPR, 6/27/19)
Scientists from Columbia University's neurological intensive care unit used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain activity in patients with severe brain injuries. The patients were played recordings of verbal commands to open or close their hands while being monitored with EEG machines. Of the 104 patients tested, 15% registered brain activity on the EEG. Of those 15%, 44% were measurably improved one year after their injury. Of the remaining 85% that showed no response on the EEG, only 14% had improved to the same degree. The findings may help doctors to more easily predict which patients may eventually recover from comas, offering more information for doctors and families when considering quality of life for coma patients.
A recent report has indicated that cases of human papilloma virus (HPV) infection have dropped significantly since the widespread distribution of HPV vaccines about ten years ago. HPV is known to be the cause of most types of cervical cancers. The report indicated that there was a marked drop in cases of genital warts related to HPV in populations that had not been vaccinated, such as boys ages 15-19. Based on this report, scientists are hopeful that cervical cancer could be all but eradicated in a few decades with the wider distribution of the HPV vaccine.
—Stories compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Mary Parker