Paul Has Measles is a children's book about viruses and vaccines available in English (download pdf) Spanish (download pdf) French (download pdf) German (download link) Portuguese (download pdf) Romanian (download pdf), Italian (download pdf), Croatian (download pdf) Mixtec (download pdf) Hindi (download pdf) Russian (download pdf) Japanese (download pdf) Nahuatl (download pdf) Arabic (download pdf) Chinese (download pdf) and Mayan (download pdf). Kindle and paperback versions also available at Amazon in English, Spanish, French.

GuliyaThe year 2019 was the second-hottest year on record, closing out the warmest decade. As the temperature rises, ice melts, and out come novel viruses. And there are many viruses frozen in ice, ready to spill out.

We know that viruses are frozen in ice: multiple giant viruses have been isolated from the 30,000 year old Siberian permafrost. The results prompted one of the authors, Jean-Michel Claverie, to write that the presence of such ancient viruses

…suggests that the thawing of permafrost either from global warming or industrial exploitation of circumpolar regions might not be exempt from future threats to human or animal health.

A new study of viruses in glacier cores drilled in 1992 from the plateau of the Guliya ice cap (pictured) reveals more new viruses. The ice samples, approximately 520 and 15,000 years old, were subjected to high-throughput DNA sequencing. The results revealed 33 different viral populations. Only four could be assigned to known taxa: three belong to genera within the Siphoviridae (tailed bacteriophages with isosahedral heads, like phage lambda) and one belongs to the Myoviridae (tailed bacteriophages with isosahedral heads, like phage T4). The two ice samples contained both shared and unique viruses.

It was possible to predict the potential bacterial hosts of 18 of the 33 different virus populations. Some of these were present in the ice cores: Methylobacterium, Sphingomonas, and Janthinobacterium. The implication of the finding is that these viruses were actively infecting their hosts in aqueous environments until frozen into a glacier many years ago.

The authors do not report identifying viruses that can infect eukaryotes, but I am sure they are present. Perhaps they are among the viral sequences that could not be classified.

There are only two previous reports of viruses in glacier ice. Nevertheless, more exploration is warranted. As the anthropogenic-enhanced warming of Earth continues, thawing of glaciers (and other ice structures) will release microbes that have been preserved for hundreds of thousands of years. As the authors point out, these specimens will no longer be available for studying past climates on Earth.

It is possible that the ice melt could release viruses that are pathogenic for humans or other animals. I think that it is unlikely that viruses released from ice will infect animals, unless these areas were inhabited with large numbers of hosts. Nevertheless, a study of these frozen viruses could provide insight into virus populations that were circulating tens to hundreds of thousands of years ago. Such information could supply a better understanding of the evolution of contemporary viruses.

By David Tuller, DrPH

Since 2008, the National Health Service (NHS) in England has been rolling out a program known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT). Initially focused on patients with mental health issues like depression and anxiety disorders, IAPT was then expanded to include those who are also simultaneously suffering from “long-term conditions” and so-called “medically unexplained symptoms” (MUS). IAPT has cited 50% “recovery” rates from its interventions, but these claims are not especially credible, as Liverpool consultant psychologist Michael Scott has documented on his informative blog, CBT Watch.

[continue reading…]

In the UK, leading researchers are preparing to submit an application for a large genetic study to two major funding agencies. The project is being led by Professor Chris Ponting of the University of Edinburgh, who is also vice chair of the CFS/ME Research Collaborative, and the UK ME/CFS Biobank at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. I have a lot of respect for both Professor Ponting and Dr Luis Nacul, a clinical associate professor of epidemiology and public health at LSHTM and the co-principal investigator of CureME, the research unit at the university that hosts the biobank.

[continue reading…]

By David Tuller, DrPH

It has been almost two years since BMC Psychology published a key reanalysis of raw data from the PACE trial. Given the significance of this paper (of which I was the least important of seven co-authors), I figured it wouldn’t hurt to highlight it again.

The heroic Alem Matthees, a patient in Perth, Australia, succeeded in liberating the relevant data through a Freedom of Information request, but only after Queen Mary University of London spent £250,000 in legal fees in its efforts to prevent access. The reanalysis documented that the benefits for CBT and GET reported in multiple PACE papers were either exaggerated or illusory when the data were assessed per the methods detailed in the trial’s published protocol.

[continue reading…]

TWiV provides updates on the new coronavirus causing respiratory disease in China, the current influenza season, and the epidemic of African swine fever, including determination of the three-dimensional structure of the virus particle.

Click arrow to play
Download TWiV 582 (71 MB .mp3, 118 min)
Subscribe (free): iTunesGoogle PodcastsRSSemail

Become a patron of TWiV!

Show notes at microbe.tv/twiv

coronavirusA new coronavirus appears to be causing a pneumonia-like illness in China. It is certainly a zoonotic infection – jumping from non-human animals to humans – as exemplified by previous outbreaks of SARS and MERS coronaviruses.

[continue reading…]

[continue reading…]

By David Tuller, DrPH

The Danish ME Association has sent and posted the following open letter to “Danish health politicians,” with a very impressive list of international signatories. It seemed important to give this letter wide circulation. (Note that footnotes 4 and 5 are linked to the names of two of the signatories, as in the original letter.)

**********

Open Letter to Danish Health Politicians

On March 14th 2019, a unified Danish Parliament voted to acknowledge WHO’s diagnostic classification of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME – G93.3) as a biological illness and to separate ME from Functional Disorders.

[continue reading…]

By David Tuller, DrPH

Last week I wrote a post on some of the signs used to diagnose people with “functional neurological disorder” (FND)—the phrase that has largely supplanted “conversion disorder” to describe neurological symptoms with no identified organic cause. In that post, I should have been clearer that I do not question whether people experience these symptoms. There is obviously a large group of patients with extremely disabling conditions that remain undiagnosed and in many cases likely cannot be diagnosed through current medical technologies.

[continue reading…]

Phikzlikevirus_virionby Gertrud U. Rey

Bacteria use at least a couple of pathways for protecting themselves against viral infection. In return, multiple viral strategies for inhibiting or evading these pathways have evolved.

[continue reading…]