Long COVID Symptoms May Be Caused by Epstein-Barr Virus Reactivation; Further Evidence May Lead to Considering Therapeutic Value of Anti-Herpesvirus Agents

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) reactivation resulting from the inflammatory response to coronavirus infection may be the cause of previously unexplained long COVID symptoms–such as fatigue, brain fog, and rashes–that occur in approximately 30% of patients after recovery from initial COVID-19 infection. The first evidence linking EBV reactivation to long COVID, as well as an analysis of long COVID prevalence, is outlined in a new long COVID study published online on June 17, 2021 in Pathogens. The open-access article is titled “Investigation of Long COVID Prevalence and Its Relationship to Epstein-Barr Virus Reactivation.” “We ran EBV antibody tests on recovered COVID-19 patients, comparing EBV reactivation rates of those with long COVID symptoms to those without long COVID symptoms,” said lead study author Jeffrey E. Gold of World Organization. “The majority of those with long COVID symptoms were positive for EBV reactivation, yet only 10% of controls indicated reactivation.”

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Painted Lady Butterflies Cross Sahara in Longest-Known Insect Migration

A species of butterfly found in Sub-Saharan Africa is able to migrate thousands of miles to Europe, crossing the Saharan Desert, in years when weather conditions are favorable, scientists have found. The striking Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly has been shown for the first time to be capable of making the 12,000-14,000 km (7,456-8,700 mile) round trip–the longest insect migration known so far–in greater numbers, when wetter conditions in the desert help the plants on which it lays eggs. The international research team’s findings increase understanding of how insects, including pollinators, pests, and the diseases they carry could spread between continents in future as climate change alters seasonal conditions. Professor Tom Oliver, PhD, an ecologist at the University of Reading (UK) and co-author of the study, said: “We know that the number of Painted Lady butterflies in Europe varies wildly, sometimes with 100 times more from one year to the next. However, the conditions that caused this were unknown, and the suggestion the butterflies could cross the Sahara desert and oceans to reach Europe was not proven.”

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Rockefeller’s Robert Roeder Named a 2021 Kyoto Prize Laureate in Basic Sciences

A pioneer in the field of gene regulation and expression, Robert G. Roeder, PhD, has been named a 2021 recipient of the Kyoto Prize in basic sciences. Considered Japan’s most prestigious award in the fields of science and technology, as well as arts and philosophy, Roeder receives the honor for his discoveries of principles of gene transcription mechanisms in eukaryotes. Head of The Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Roeder’s initial scientific discoveries took place during his time in graduate school when he discovered that three enzymes, called RNA polymerases, play a role in gene transcription in animal cells. In the late 1970s, using purified polymerases and synthetic copies of genes, he was successful in developing the first cell-free systems to study transcription, a scientific breakthrough that allowed scientists to recreate transcription and study the complex processes by which cells turn genes on and off. Over the course of his research, Dr. Roeder and his colleagues have extended these studies to living cells, and have described a critical new regulator that helps re-start a stalled RNA polymerase—work which could help elucidate how cancer therapeutics act in the cell and contribute to future drug development.

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Toward First Drug to Treat a Rare, Lethal Liver Cancer

Treatment options for a deadly liver cancer, fibrolamellar carcinoma, are severely lacking. Drugs that work on other liver cancers are not effective, and although progress has been made in identifying the specific genes involved in driving the growth of fibrolamellar tumors, these findings have yet to translate into any treatment. For now, surgery is the only option for those affected—mostly children and young adults with no prior liver conditions. Sanford M. Simon, PhD, and his group at The Rockefeller University understood that patients dying of fibrolamellar could not afford to wait. “There are people who need therapy now,” he says. So, his group threw the kitchen sink at the problem and tested over 5,000 compounds, either already approved for other clinical uses or in clinical trials, to see whether any of the compounds could be repurposed to treat fibrolamellar. The team ultimately discovered a few classes of therapeutics that destroy fibrolamellar tumor cells growing in mice. Their findings were published online on June 14, 2021 in Cancer Discovery. The open-access article is titled “Identification of Novel Therapeutic Targets for Fibrolamellar Carcinoma Using Patient Derived Xenografts and Direct from Patient Screening.”

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“Mozart Effect” Shown to Reduce Epileptic Brain Activity, New Research Reveals

Music by Mozart has been shown to have an anti-epileptic effect on the brain and may be a possible treatment to prevent epileptic seizures, according to new research presented June 19, 2021 at the virtual 7th Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) (June 19-22). Researchers believe that the acoustic (physical) properties within the music are responsible for this effect. Listening to the famous 18th century composer’s Sonata for Two Pianos K448 led to a 32% reduction in epileptiform discharges (EDs). These are electrical brain waves associated with epilepsy and can cause seizures or bursts of electrical activity that temporarily affect how the brain works. A team led by Professor Ivan Rektor, from the Epilepsy Centre at the Hospital St. Anne and CEITEC Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic, compared the effects of listening to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos K448 with Haydn’s Symphony No 94. The effects on brain activity were measured by intracerebral electrodes that had been implanted in the brains of epilepsy patients prior to surgery.

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Novel Interactions Between Two Proteins (Hevin & Calcyon) May Help in Recovering from Brain Injury

Patients with brain injury (caused by stroke or trauma) rely primarily on rehabilitation therapy for recovery, as there are no other known effective treatment methods. The rate of recovery from brain injury observed in adults is significantly slower (or the recovery is impossible) than that observed in young children. The consensus among researchers is that the number of excess neural stem cells capable of restoring brain functions is lower in a mature brain than that in the brain of young children. A Korean research team has now reported a novel mechanism to describe the brain injury recovery process. The researchers reported that when the animal model experiment was conducted, the time taken to recover from a brain injury could be controlled by regulating certain proteins. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has released an announcement that a team led by Dr. Eun Mi Hwang (photo) of the Brain Science Institute, KIST, collaborated with another team led by Prof. Kyoungho Suk of the School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, and reported the presence of a novel interaction between two proteins (hevin and calcyon); this interaction plays a critical role in the brain injury recovery process in adults. The researchers also revealed that this interaction plays an important role in the early stages of recovery. The results were published online on March 22, 2021 in Cell Death and Differentiation. The article is titled “Hevin–Calcyon Interaction Promotes Synaptic Reorganization After Brain Injury.”

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Team Describes Science-Based Hiccups Intervention; Users Reported Relief in 92% of Cases, with High Degrees of Effectiveness and Ease of Use

Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and colleagues worldwide describe a new, science-based intervention for hiccups in a research letter published online on June 18, 2021 in the journal JAMA Network Open. In the publication, the scientists coined a new term for the intervention: the “forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool,” or FISST. The team also reported the results of a survey of 249 users who were asked whether it is superior to hiccup home remedies such as breathing into a paper bag. “Hiccups are occasionally annoying for some people, but for others they significantly impact quality of life,” said Ali Seifi, MD, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery in UT Health San Antonio’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. “This includes many patients with brain and stroke injury, and cancer patients. We had a couple of cancer patients in this study. Some chemotherapies cause hiccups.” The article is titled “Evaluation of the Forced Inspiratory Suction and Swallow Tool to Stop Hiccups.”

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Common Antibiotic (Doxycycline) Found Useful In Accelerating Recovery In Tuberculosis Patients

Globally, an estimated 10 million people develop tuberculosis (TB) each year and the disease remains a leading cause of death from a single infectious agent. Standard short-course anti-TB treatment still requires a regimen of at least six months of antimicrobial drugs, and drug-resistant TB is an increasing public health threat. Even after the traces of TB disease are quashed, patients often suffer from significant sequelae, such as lung scarring. TB survivors have approximately three to four times greater mortality than their local population. In pulmonary TB, the most common form of active TB disease, the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria causes the formation of sites of high bacterial load, known as cavities. These cavities are poorly penetrated by TB drugs. After TB treatment is complete, there is likely to be tissue damage within the lungs that can lead to further lung problems such as permanent respiratory dysfunction leading to difficulty in breathing, stiffness in the lungs and bronchiectasis, which can make people cough up blood. Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine’s Infectious Diseases Translational Research Programme have discovered that the use of a common antibiotic, doxycycline, in combination with TB drug treatment, reduces the size of lung cavities and accelerates markers of lung recovery.

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Deep-Ocean Fish (Coelacanth) May Live Nearly a Century, Five Times Longer Than Researchers Expected

Once thought to be extinct, lobe-finned coelacanths are enormous fish that live deep in the ocean. Now, researchers reporting in an online article in Current Biology on June 17, 2021 have evidence that, in addition to their impressive size, coelacanths also can live for an impressively long time–perhaps nearly a century. The researchers found that their oldest specimen was 84 years old. They also report that coelacanths live life extremely slowly in other ways, reaching maturity around the age of 55 and gestating their offspring for five years. “Our most important finding is that the coelacanth’s age was underestimated by a factor of five,” says Kélig Mahé, PhD, of the IFREMER Channel and North Sea Fisheries Research Unit in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France. “Our new age estimation allowed us to re-appraise the coelacanth’s body growth, which happens to be one of the slowest among marine fish of similar size, as well as other life-history traits, showing that the coelacanth’s life history is actually one of the slowest of all fish.”

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Study Reveals New Target for Treating C. difficile Infection

A new study paves the way for the development of next-generation therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI), the most frequent cause of healthcare-acquired gastrointestinal infections and death in developed countries. Published online on June 18, 2021 in Nature Communications, the study reveals the first 3D structure of the Clostridioides difficile toxin B (TcdB) in complex with chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan 4 (CSPG4), a human receptor. The open-access article is titled “Structural Basis for CSPG4 As a Receptor for TcdB and a Therapeutic Target in Clostridioides difficile Infection.” The study was co-led by senior author Rongsheng Jin, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Physiology & Biophysics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, and Min Dong, PhD, an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School.

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