Can bacteria-slaying viruses defeat antibiotic-resistant infections? A new U.S. clinical center aims to find out

One piece of good news can make all the difference. In the fight against antibiotic-resistant infections, a decades-old approach based on bacteria-slaying viruses called phages has been sidelined by technical hurdles, dogged by regulatory confusion, and largely ignored by drug developers in the West. But 2 years ago, researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), used phages to knock out an infection that nearly killed a colleague. Propelled by that success and a handful of others since, UCSD is now launching a clinical center to refine phage treatments and help companies bring them to market. Read more.

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10 million lives could be lost to superbugs – so how far have we got in the race to beat them?

British scientists claim they have beaten more than a dozen rival teams around the world in the race towards a new synthetic antibiotic. They hope that the agent – an improved version of a natural antibiotic called teioxobactin, discovered in soil by American scientists in 2015 – will provide a new treatment for resistant hospital superbugs and a range of other infections that are becoming impervious to our battered medicine cupboard of 20th century antibiotics. Read more.

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How the virus behind ‘kissing disease’ may increase your risk for autoimmune diseases like lupus

When John Harley lost a friend to lupus while in medical school, he vowed to get to the bottom of the disease, a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and sometimes death. Now, some 40 years later, Harley says he’s found a “smoking gun.” The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which infects some 90% of Americans, may cause changes in gene expression that dramatically increase a person’s chance of getting lupus and six other autoimmune disorders, a new study by Harley and colleagues shows.

“The work is paradigm-shifting in the way we think about genetic susceptibility and the interaction between genetic risk and the environment,” says Amr Sawalha, a geneticist and rheumatologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who was not involved in the study. Read more.

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Malaria infection creates a ‘human perfume’ that makes us more attractive to mosquitoes

The parasite that causes malaria can change the way you smell, making you more attractive to mosquitoes, according to a new study. The work may help explain why the disease is able to spread so effectively.

The new study adds important details about how human odor is influenced by malaria, says Audrey Odom John, a parasitologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri who was not involved in the study. “This is very cool, and it’s been needed for some time.”

Earlier studies have found that infection with Plasmodium parasites, which cause malaria, can influence how animals smell and people’s attractiveness to mosquitoes. The new research, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, expands on them by testing a larger number of people outside a lab, and by dissecting body odors to see which chemicals matter to mosquitoes. Read more.

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A new dengue vaccine should only be used in people who were previously infected, WHO says

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, put the brakes on implementation of the world’s first dengue vaccine today when it recommended it only be used in people who have previously been infected with the disease—a move that will shrink the potential market for the vaccine’s producer, Sanofi Pasteur. Read more.

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