Archive for reassortment

H5Nx Marks Big Poultry’s Spot

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2016 by rgwallace

h5n8-japan-2The causes of the horrible fire that swept through an illegally squatted warehouse in Oakland last week, killing 36 concertgoers, are, as with other disasters, a political football.

Clearly, as city officials were quick to point out, the “Ghost Ship” warehouse floated on illegal construction: no sprinklers and a “boarded-up upstairs exit, a cobbled-together stairway made partly of wooden pallets, propane tanks used to heat water, and piles of flammable debris.”

The community outrage and hurt require a sacrifice, and attention has been thrown on the checkered history of Ghost Ship founder Derick Almena, who “paid $4,500 a month to rent the warehouse, and would then charge tenants $500 to $1,500 for rent — as many as 20 people at a time.” The district attorney reportedly is drawing up a murder warrant.

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Broiler Explosion

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2013 by rgwallace

Broiler explosion8As early as the 1820s, high-pressure engines [on the Mississippi River] were technologically residual; they were dirtier and more dangerous than the low-pressure engines that were employed on steamboats elsewhere. They could, however, generate more power than low-pressure engines; they made it possible to run boats faster and harder–over sandbars, against the current, past the competition, and so on. They were also cheaper…That high-pressure engines were more likely to explode and faster boats more likely to sink when snagged were known risks, deliberately taken. Competition in the steamboat business spurred technological degradation rather than technological innovation. Danger was built into the boats. –Walter Johnson (2013)

A new influenza has spilled over from poultry in and around Shanghai. As of April 15, Chinese authorities have reported 60 human cases of H7N9 and 13 deaths. The most serious cases have suffered fulminant pneumonia, respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock, multiorgan failure, rhabdomyolysis, and encephalopathy.

Virologist Richard Webby reports molecular adaptations suggesting the new variant is evolving toward human specificity. “This thing doesn’t any longer look like a poultry virus,” Webby said, “It really looks to me like it’s adapted in a mammalian host somewhere.”

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Alien vs. Predator

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Farming Human Pathogens book, Influenza, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2010 by rgwallace

Dallas: [looks at a pen being dissolved by alien’s body fluid] I haven’t seen anything like that except, uh, molecular acid.
Brett: It must be using it for blood.
Parker: It’s got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don’t dare kill it.
Alien (1979)

NASA announced earlier this month one of its research teams discovered an ‘alien’ bacterium at the bottom of California’s Mono Lake. Call off the men in black, it’s strictly still a matter for the nerds in white.

The bacterium isn’t really from another planet, even as we all are a kind of astronaut wherever and whenever we find ourselves spinning through space and time. Rather, this earthly bug showed under the kinds of stringent conditions found on other planets it could assimilate arsenic into its very cellular fabric in place of what was until now thought mission-critical phosphorous.

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Pigs Do Fly! Implications for Influenza

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , on December 3, 2009 by rgwallace

The influenza genome is segmented. Eight pieces of single-stranded RNA encode for 11 proteins: PB2, PB1, PB1-F2, PA, HA, NP, NA, M1, M2, NS1, and NS2. The segmentation allows influenza of different subtypes infecting the same host to trade segments like card players on a Friday night. Most of the resulting viruses will express phenotypes for the worse, but a small subset may be transformed into strains more infectious in their usual hosts or to a new host species.

This reassortment accounts in part for the origins of this year’s pandemic. Livestock pigs have long hosted their own version of seasonal H1N1, evolutionarily related to our own. From 1930-1998 the pig version evolved only slightly. But starting in 1998, the virus was subjected to a series of reassortment events. In North America, an aggressive swine H1N1 emerged with internal genes of a human H3N2 virus and an avian influenza. That virus subsequently spread across pig populations, with limited transfer to humans, usually to farm workers, who routinely offer the influenza virus human test subjects every step in its evolution.

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