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Antimicrobials are becoming increasingly ineffective against infections – and, as you all know, the rise of drug-resistant pathogens poses a serious risk to public health. Lab professionals are at the heart of the fight, with diagnostics crucial to testing for drug resistance and informing treatment response for the best possible patient outcomes.

I recently had the pleasure of hosting an expert roundtable on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), in which experts discuss how the problem has developed over the years, the role the lab plays in combating it, the value of public education about AMR – and more.

If you work in AMR – or perhaps you’re just interested in where the field is heading – you can watch the event here. And, as always, my inbox is always open if you want to talk about all things infectious disease!

Until next week,

Liv Gaskill, The Curator

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Essential Reading

Grandiose genomes. A large-scale analysis of 10,228 Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates has uncovered novel genes associated with resistance to 13 tested antimicrobials. At least 6,814 samples were resistant to at least one drug, including 4,685 samples that showed resistance to multiple drugs or to rifampicin. The authors of the two papers urge other researchers to analyze the isolates to further the tuberculosis (TB) community’s understanding of drug resistance.

Test of time. The Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine for TB is one of the most widely used vaccines worldwide. New research shows that it effectively protects against TB in children under five years old, but protection wanes in adolescents and adults. Protection from death persisted in participants up to 14 years old. The findings suggest that people over 10 years old should be boosted to extend TB immunity.

Unintended benefit. In related news, the neonatal BCG vaccine is associated with an epigenetic signature in white blood cells that lasts more than 12 months post-vaccination. Genes associated with the DNA methylation signature were involved in viral response pathways – a finding that is consistent with the vaccine’s off-target protective benefits.

Do the loci-motion. The COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative has released the results of its large-scale meta-analysis, which analyzed 125,584 cases across 60 studies from 25 countries. The research has identified 23 genome-wide significant loci in the human genetic architecture of COVID-19 susceptibility and severity. The discovery of the new loci – including SFTPD, MUC5B, and ACE2 – demonstrates that increasing sample size to a worldwide cohort is a fruitful avenue for greater COVID-19 genomic understanding.

Worth Your Time...

Infectious Disease

Fall at the last hurdle. Injectable antiviral cabotegravir yields stronger protection against HIV than oral counterpart, but access may be limited due to high cost [LINK]

On the attack. Teixobactin demonstrates unique mode of action by launching two-pronged attack; solves antibiotic toxicity problem by only damaging membranes containing lipid II, which excludes eukaryotes [LINK]

Under the weather. 58 percent of human pathogenic diseases have been aggravated by climate change; 1,006 unique pathways of climatic hazards leading to infectious diseases revealed [LINK]

Gut feeling. High carriage of blaCTX-M-15, blaOXA-48-like genes and blaNDM  found in rectal microbiota of mothers and neonates with suspected or confirmed sepsis in low- and middle-income countries [LINK]

Overcoming difficil-ties. Engineered probiotics found to inhibit Clostridioides difficile by restoring bile salt mechanism in gastrointestinal tract [LINK]

COVID-19
Contributed by George Lee, The Pathologist


Antibody all-rounder. Study isolates panel of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies from spike protein-immunized mice; SW186 antibody yields significant neutralization across variants and in SARS-CoV-1 [LINK]

Eyes on the compromised. Immunocompromised patient carries highly divergent Alpha variant for 42 weeks despite treatment and absence of most clinical symptoms; monitoring long-term infected patients recommended to combat variants of concern [LINK]

The bat signal. Risk assessment of human–bat contact estimates median 66,280 people infected with SARS-CoV diseases annually in Southeast Asia; data could support surveillance of future bat-induced coronaviruses [LINK]

Clever exploit. Coronaviruses use cysteine-aspartic protease 6 for efficient replication; provides insight into how coronaviruses use component of host apoptosis cascade to promote viral replication [LINK]

Cheap as chips. Inexpensive lab-on-a-chip capable of detecting SARS-CoV-2 RNA in saliva and identifying anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulins in saliva spiked with blood plasma [LINK]

Of macaques and men. Macaque immune system demonstrates better antibody response toward SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern than human; B cell differences between species thought to influence vaccine response [LINK]
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