Can an Ancient Scourge Provide Modern Therapy Insights?

Could the key to fighting modern illnesses lie in a disease that was an epidemic centuries ago?

Could the key to fighting modern illnesses lie in a disease that was an epidemic centuries ago?

Researchers at Duke University studied the bubonic plague for insights into modern illnesses, including Ebola, HIV, and other illnesses. They hope to find new therapy avenues involving immune function, rather than targeting pathogens exclusively.

“It may be possible to target the trafficking of host immune cells and not the pathogens themselves to effectively treat infection, and reduce mortality,” Ashley L. St. John, PhD, the study’s lead author, said. “In the view of the growing emergency of multi-resistant bacteria, this strategy could become very attractive.”

According to a study published online September 18, 2014 in the journal Immunity, the method of infection appears similar to that of modern pathogens, such as the HIV virus, researchers said. Plague bacteria use the dendritic cells and monocytes to travel from lymph node to lymph node through out the body. Once the infection reaches the blood and lungs, it can be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids and fleabites.

“The bacteria actually turn the immune cells against the body,” Soman Abraham, PhD, professor of pathology at Duke University and the study’s senior author, said in a press release. “The bacteria enter the draining lymph node an actually hide undetected in immune cells, notably dendritic calls and monocytes, where they multiply. Meanwhile, the immune cells send signals to bring in even more recruits, causing the lymph nodes to grown massively and providing a safe haven for microbial multiplication.”

The swollen lymph nodes that are a hallmark of the disease result from both the pathogen and the body’s immune response, according to the study.

Several potential drug candidates already target the immune trafficking pathways the researchers examined. Researchers also used the therapies to prevent bacteria from reaching systemic infection in animal models.

“This work demonstrates that it may be possible to target the trafficking of host immune cells and not the pathogens themselves to effectively treat infection and reduce mortality,” St. John said. “In the view of the growing emergency of multi-resistant bacteria, this strategy could become very attractive.”

Ebola Battlers Can Learn from Venice’s Response to the Black Death

http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/09/20/349271621/ebola-battlers-can-learn-from-venices-response-to-black-death

Researchers say Venice’s response to the Black Death in 1300 can serve as a model for modern day health crises.

The Black Death and Early Public Health Measures

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/publichealth/blackdeath.aspx

Sham cures for the plague included strapping live chickens to swollen lymph nodes, but more useful responses evolved into modern day quarantines.

Black Death May Have Improved European Health

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryP2GcFEhKI

The bubonic plague is regarded as one of the worst epidemics in human history, but research suggests that quality of life improved for those who survived it.