Arboviruses and Sandwiches: April’s Lunch & Learn with Dr LaBeaud

Kathleen Luschek, PLOS staff member, shares April’s Lunch & Learn with Dr Desiree LaBeaud, as part of an ongoing program to further dialogue between PLOS and the broader open community.

Dr. Desiree LaBeaud, CHORI

Dr. Desiree LaBeaud, CHORI

On April 11, 2014, the PLOS head office in San Francisco hosted our fourth Lunch & Learn of the year. This month’s speaker was Dr. Desiree LaBeaud, a research scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, who also serves as Deputy Editor for PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Dr. LaBeaud spoke about her research on arboviruses, specifically Rift Valley fever virus, chikungunya, and dengue. While most of Dr. LaBeaud’s work takes place in Kenya, she spoke about the recent (within the last 20 years) resurgence of outbreaks around the world; she described the dramatic increase not only in geographic distribution, but also in scale and types, with one cause being globalization and increased air travel. She explained that despite the spread of these mosquito-borne viruses into the developed world, they are still very much Neglected Tropical Diseases. As with other NTDs, both socioeconomic status and lasting effects are important, and while there are mosquito vectors here in the U.S., the largest outbreaks continue to occur in developing nations, particularly across Africa. (For more on Dr. LaBeaud’s views on why arboviruses belong on the list of NTDs, see her Viewpoint here.)
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Category: Dengue, Neglected Diseases | Comments Off

Launch of the PLOS Pediatric Medicine Collection

PLOS Medicine Editors Rhona MacDonald and Amy Ross on the launch of the new PLOS Pediatric Medicine Collection and the upcoming Pediatric Academic Societies and Asian Society for Pediatric Research Meeting, where PLOS will be in attendance.

pediatric_medicine

Image credits (clockwise from top left): Matt Erasmus, Flickr.com; D.C. Atty, Flickr.com; Frank Douwes, Flickr.com; U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt Eric T. Sheler, Wikimedia Commons

To coincide with PLOS Medicine’s participation in the Pediatric Academic Societies and Asian Society for Pediatric Research joint meeting (PAS/ASPR 14) in Vancouver on May 3-6, PLOS is delighted to announce the launch of a new collection on pediatric medicine. This collection collates key research and commentary relating to the health of children that has been published across the PLOS journals over the past year.

The Pediatric Medicine Collection covers children of all ages, includes those living in high, middle, and low-income countries, and covers the main conditions affecting children world-wide.
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Category: Collections, Conference news, General, Maternal Newborn and Child Health | Comments Off

Chikun—what?

Kristy Murray urges preventative action in the United States against Chikungunya, a dangerous virus spread by mosquitoes which has already reached the Caribbean.

It’s best to start learning how to pronounce the word “Chikungunya” (chik-en-gūn-ya): this crippling virus that is spread by mosquitoes could soon be making landfall to a city near you.

Chikungunya Vector Aedes Aegypti Image Credit: James Gathany (PHIL, CDC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chikungunya Vector Aedes aegypti
Image Credit: James Gathany (PHIL, CDC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chikungunya virus can cause a very severe disease in people, with fevers, headaches, and painfully debilitating joint pain that can last for months to years.  The word “chikungunya” is African (Makonde) in origin and translates to “that which bends up.”  People infected with this virus are literally bent up from the extreme joint pain they experience.  The virus is spread from person to person through Aedes species mosquitoes -  very aggressive day feeders that are widespread throughout the Americas.

This virus was originally identified in Africa more than 50 years ago.  During the first decade of the millennium, the virus began to spread rapidly to India, islands throughout the Indian Ocean, and other parts of Asia.  In 2007, it took only one infected person to travel from India to Italy to create a major outbreak, sickening more than 200 people.
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Category: General | 1 Comment

Advances in HIV Mucosal Immunology: Challenges and Opportunities

Florian Hladik from the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, USA, explains why recent research on how to study the rectal and genital mucosa – featured in the new PLOS Collection Advances in HIV Mucosal Immunology: Challenges and Opportunities will be key to developing an effective HIV vaccine.

Image Credit: Artistic rendition of immune cells and potential HIV targets in the rectal mucosal. Yang, Ochoa, Preza & Anton, 2014

Image Credit: Artistic rendition of immune cells and potential HIV targets in the rectal mucosal. Yang, Ochoa, Preza & Anton, 2014

People most often become infected with HIV through sexual transmission; accordingly, their initial exposure to the virus is in their genital or rectal mucosa. Consequently, the best opportunity to prevent HIV transmission is through interventions that affect the mucosa. For example, new HIV infections could be prevented by reducing the amount of virus in the genital fluids of infected people or by stopping HIV from establishing productive infections in the genital or rectal mucosa of uninfected people. In order to design HIV interventions that work this way, we must first understand how best to study the mucosa so that we can determine whether test interventions are effective.
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Category: Collections, HIV | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Malaria Control in Emergencies: Time for Action

Estrella Lasry, Tropical Advisor to MSF, on measures taken by the organisation to predict and prevent malaria outbreaks in emergency situations.

Credit: Anna Surinyach/MSF

Credit: Anna Surinyach/MSF

A lunar landscape, cracked earth and scorching heat. 4,000 rudimentary tents made from wooden poles and plastic sheeting. And people everywhere, 95% of them women and children, according to camp authorities, and a few men, hoping at least to find safety and security, and perhaps even to make a first step towards  a new life. It’s another day at one of the refugee camps where Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) is working in Ethiopia, and “home” to thousands of South Sudanese people fleeing the latest wave of violence in their country. Any day now the rainy season will begin, bringing floods and creating endless breeding sites for mosquitoes, and with them a new spike in malaria.
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Greater Clarity and Recognition of Who Did What in the Publication of Research

Jo Scott and Liz Allen, from the Wellcome Trust’s Evaluation team, discuss the potential of a new “taxonomy” for classifying contributions to research papers.

Image Credit: Kate Arkless Gray

Image Credit: Kate Arkless Gray

Original research papers with one author – particularly in the life sciences – are increasingly rare. We know that there are many contributors to research and associated published outputs, but it’s not easy to tell who did what, and author position is an imperfect representation of contribution. Inflation of author numbers on papers, partly driven by a combination of national research assessment exercises and the emergence of big, collaborative and ‘team’ science, has also contributed to this ambiguity. Greater clarity around the different and varied contributions to research outputs could have benefits for all the stakeholders in research.

The recent San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment emphasised a commitment to move away from Journal Impact Factor as a measure of research quality. Initiatives that would bring greater clarity to authorship would provide a new basis upon which to recognise researcher contribution and research use and re-use.
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Category: General | 2 Comments

Acid violence – a most horrific form of denigration of women

Jocalyn Clark urges the global health community to press for high level change in legislation regarding acid violence.

At a recent social function benefiting the Acid Survivors Foundation, I learned about an insidious worldwide problem that barely figures on the global health radar, but should.

Acid violence, sometimes called acid throwing or an acid attack, involves throwing or pouring acid onto a person with the intent of killing or maiming them. The effects are heinous: the corrosive acid, usually sulfuric or nitric acid but sometimes bleach or petrol, melts skin, the eyes, ears, and bone, disfiguring the victim and often destroying their ability to speak, eat, see, and hear. The mental health consequences are as bad as the physical, it is reported, especially if the perpetrator is someone known to the victim, like a boyfriend, husband, or father. Fear, anxiety, depression, the inability to work or go to school, and the social isolation and stigma associated with disfigurement are wide ranging effects that greatly impact victims. They are often abandoned by their families and communities, and physical disfigurement is often permanent. Meeting several acid violence survivors at the charity event, and reading the Foundation’s materials that included photographs of others – mostly young girls; I found this heartbreaking.

That acid violence almost entirely affects women, and that the acid is thrown at the face to destroy what is seen by many as a woman’s most important asset, her beauty, makes it a particularly horrific form of gender-based violence. Acid violence is often retaliation for women exercising rights such as spurning sexual advances or rejecting a marriage proposal, or to do with family land or dowry demands. In other words, it’s a true denigration of a woman’s rights and identity.
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Category: General | 1 Comment

Lessons that Last: 200 Pearls and Counting

PLOS Pathogens Pearls Editor Joseph Heitman reflects on the success of Pearls, an Open Access compendium of the “lessons that last”, and introduces the new Flipboard collection.

In the face of this inevitable ebb and flow of focus and attention, how are we to teach students the “lessons that last” or “the facts of a field” while keeping current? 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000499

“In the face of this inevitable ebb and flow of focus and attention, how are we to teach students the ‘lessons that last’ or ‘the facts of a field’ while keeping current?” Madhani et al. (2009) 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000499

The PLOS Pathogens Pearls mini-review series publishes concise reviews (less than 1500 words and a limited number of references), which take stock of recent exciting advances in the field of microbial pathogenesis.  Pearls are not meant to be comprehensive treatises on a subject, but to condense information in a field broadly into units that advance understanding and education, encouraging further inquiry and reading.  They span all areas of interest to the journal and to its readership, including bacteriology, virology, parasitology, studies on prions, human and plant fungal pathogens and interactions, and host-pathogen interactions spanning innate and adaptive immunity.

The founding editor for the Pearls series was Hiten Madhani, and the series was launched in June 2009.  The initial years for the series were formative ones, forged by a single editor and publishing on average approximately one Pearl per month. Today 1-2 Pearls are published every week, and a team of 8 editors head the Pearls editorial effort: Vincent Racaniello (viruses), Joe Heitman (fungi), Rich Condit (viruses), Katherine Spindler (viruses), Bill Goldman (fungi and bacteria), Virginia Miller (bacteria), Laura Knoll (parasites), and Heather True (prions).
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Learning from the South: influenza immunization in pregnancy

Writing from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Jocalyn Clark celebrates the impact of a paper by Bangladeshi researchers on Western medical provision.

When two worlds collide in global health it can be a marvelous thing. Take for example the fact that although countries like the US and UK have recommended influenza immunization during pregnancy for many years, there was no evidence from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to support the importance of that policy for birth outcomes until now. And the RCT to provide the needed evidence was not done in North America or Europe, but in Bangladesh by an international team, providing critical insights to help guide clinical practice, immunization policy, and women’s informed decision-making.

Image Credit: Steven Depolo, Flickr

Image Credit: Steven Depolo, Flickr

The Bangladesh evidence, drawn from secondary analyses of an RCT involving 340 pregnant women, shows that a flu shot given in the third trimester increased the mean birth weight of infants by 200 grams. These data are valuable for evidence-based health policy and care: women who get flu during pregnancy (especially late pregnancy) may risk complications for themselves or their babies, and yet there is low uptake of vaccination – in Canada, for example, less than one in five pregnant women has had a recent flu shot.

The low uptake may be because previous findings on influenza immunization in pregnancy and birth outcomes have been mixed: North American studies conducted during the 2009 pandemic suggested that vaccination reduced the risk of preterm birth, but most studies done during ordinary flu seasons have not found a link between vaccination and lower risk of prematurity.


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Category: General | 1 Comment

Promoting Scientific Publications from Authors Overseas

PLOS NTDs Deputy Editor Daniel Bausch reflects on a Manuscript Writing Workshop recently conducted in Lima, Peru.

On February 19, 2014, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases and the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene held a manuscript writing workshop in Lima, Peru, as part of the annual Peru satellite meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH).  Amy Morrison and I, both PLOS NTDs Deputy Editors living and working in Peru, discussed our approach to writing, reviewing, and editing scientific manuscripts with a group of about 200 young Peruvian scientists.

Audience of the NTDs and ASTMH Writing Workshop. Image Credit Roxana Lescano

Audience of the NTDs and ASTMH Writing Workshop. Image Credit Roxana Lescano

Some of the obstacles to publication from authors overseas are obvious, such as the language barrier in a scientific world presently dominated by English. Others are more subtle, and perhaps more universal. How do you get started? What journal do you choose? What happens if you get rejected? The intimidation of young writers (naively thinking that peer-review is a perfect system!) was palpable. Amy and I did our best to go through the various steps of writing, submission and review. I think it helped for the young scientists to see that people who write and review and edit manuscripts are just “real people.” No intimidation necessary. Amy and I probably learned as much as the attendees; going through each step (how do you write the Abstract? the Intro? the Methods?), we often discovered that we had slightly different approaches and pointers to offer.


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Category: General | 2 Comments