Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) present significant new discoveries on West Nile virus, monkeypox, and yellow fever in four papers in the September issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The articles are summarized below, and can be found on the EID web site at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/index.htm.
• In “Year-Round West Nile Virus Activity, Gulf Coast Region, Texas and Louisiana,” West Nile authority Dr. Robert Tesh and colleagues from UTMB and the Harris County and Galveston County mosquito control offices present the first hard evidence that West Nile virus continues to circulate during winter along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts. This finding is important to understanding how the virus spreads when mosquito populations increase in the spring, both on the Gulf Coast and farther north where migrating birds can carry West Nile great distances.
• Tesh and his colleagues describe a possible new model for studying infections by monkeypox, a relative of the deadly smallpox virus, in “Experimental Infection of Ground Squirrels (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) with Monkeypox Virus.” Although smallpox has been eradicated from the wild and under treaty is preserved only at a high-security CDC lab in Atlanta and a similar center in Russia, biodefense experts fear other samples of the virus may exist that could pose a grave threat to world health if they fell into the wrong hands, especially since smallpox vaccination is no longer common. Monkeypox affects monkeys in much the same way that smallpox affects humans; it can be used as a substitute for smallpox virus in studies that could lead to treatments for its much more dangerous relative. The discovery that it produces a similar disease in ground squirrels and that these rodents can be employed in experiments instead of monkeys should make such work substantially easier.
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