||6 december 2013.
A second case of H7N9 flu in Hong Kong.
A 80 years old patient coming from Shenzhen has
to carry the avian flu H7N9 virus.
||3 december 2013.
The H7N9 avian flu virus reaches Hong Kong, where
the "serious" alert response level has been
A patient coming back from Shenzhen has brought
the H7N9 virus to Hong Kong, where the Health
Authorities have decided to quarantine 17 persons
who have been in contact with the patient. 200
more persons are monitored for flu signs as well.
||12 november 2013.
The MERS coronavirus is for the first time
discovered in a camel.
As we remarked for a mysterious
outbreak in camels in Pakistan as suggesting
a possible origin for the MERS coronavirus. An origin
in camels is now probable.
||1 novembrer 2013.
Visceral leishmaniosis (kala-azar) is becoming
drug-resistant in India.
Kala-azar is a severe parasitosis, transmitted by
phlebotome midges, which left untreated kills
infected persons within a year. It is cured using
drugs based on antimony. Unfortunately, because
ground water is heavily contaminated by arsenic in
India, the parasites have become resistant to
antimony, as there is a considerable
cross-resistance built up against arsenic and
antimony in the parasites.
||25 october 2013.
A second case of H7N9 flu is identified in
In another domain an outbreak of coronavirus gut
infection is reported in pig farms in the USA.
||15 october 2013.
A man from Zhejiang province is hospitalized with
severe H7N9 influenza.This
is the second case reported in Zhejiang since
late April. The patient is in critical
||20 september 2013.
Confusion around the
genome sequence of the MERS-CoV.While
a first sequence was published by the Erasmus
Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Sanger Centre in
Hinxton just published a second one. The two
sequences differ by 98 nucleotides, suggesting
that they belong to two substantially different
viruses. Yet they are supposed to come from the
same patient! This increases the feeling of
mismanagement of the epidemic, while we still do
not know where the virus came from.
||8 september 2013. While
new infections and deaths are reported due to
MERS-CoV in the Middle East the source of
contagion is still unknown.
The WHO issued an alert about the outbreak of MERS
but would not recommend travel restrictions. At
the same time Asia is preparing for a resurgence
of H7N9 flu in the fall or next winter.
||9 august 2013. Camels
might be at the origin of MERS-CoV infections.
On the 18th
of november, 2010 we noticed a severe flu like
outbreak in camels in Pakistan: could this
be the origin of the MERS-CoV?
||25 july 2013. An
outbreak caused by a coronavirus is causing mass
pig killing in the USA. A
new coronavirus, the porcine epidemic diarrhoea
virus (PEDV) is causing lethal diarrhoea and
vomiting in pigs in 14 US states. This is highly
reminiscent of a disease that caused havoc in the
'80s, with a shift from gut to lung, in
a way that predated the SARS episode. A new
coronavirus found in the feces of a South African
bat is more closely related to MERS-CoV than any
other known virus. In parallel a new influenza
H7N9 case has been discovered in the Hubei
province in China.
||13 july 2013. An
Emirati man is infected by the MERS-CoV. With
the beginning of pilgrimage in Mecca, health
authorities in Saudi Arabia strongly suggest
pilgrims to wear masks. Turkey denies to have
registered cases of the infection. One may relate
the present situation with a
die off of camels in Pakistan, with symptoms
similar to those of flu, back in november 2010 and
caused by an unknown pathogen.
||12 july 2013. Considerable
shrimp die off in Thailand. Breeding
shrimps has been common for many years, with
concomitant increase in a variety of diseases, in
particular caused by Microsopiridia parasites.
Thailand is now affected by a huge epidemic of a
lethal Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a
seafood-borne pathogenic bacterium that is a major
cause of gastroenteritis worldwide.
||27 june 2013. The
outbreak is not finished: 77 cases of MERS-CoV
infection and the death toll has reached 40.
Beside rumors such
as what happened three weeks ago in Italy, reality
is sobering, with a continuous spread of the
disease. Curiously, the imbalance between the
excess of male cases and that of female cases may
be explained by the fact that women wear burquas
in Saudi Arabia...
||4 june 2013. Ten
cases of asymptomatic infection by MERS-CoV in
true, the identification of asymptomatic
infection of contacts of the patients in Italy are
both reassuring and very worrying, as this means
that the virus would propagate unseen, causing
sporadic lethal cases.
||2 june 2013. Three
new cases of MERS-CoV infection in Italy. The
first French patient infected by MERS-CoV passed
away, and the Italian Health Ministry reported
their first cases of MERS-CoV in a citizen who
recently traveled to Jordan and stayed there for
40 days and in two persons connected to him. The
incubation time of the disease seems to be longer
than suspected, probably up to 12 days, so that
hidden cases might have been travelling far from
the original place where they got infected. The
source of contamination remains unknown.
||25 may 2013. New
cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
coronavirus recently emerged in the Middle East
(MERS-CoV) has infected at least 44 persons
worldwide, 33 in Saudi Arabia. The personnel of
the Central Hospital in Buraidah, Saudi Arabia,
appears to be reluctant to come back to work.
||19 may 2013. The
new SARS-Like coronavirus is suspected to have
infected patients now in intensive care in New
coronavirus recently emerged in the Middle East
has infected 41 persons worldwide and caused 20
to the Wall Street Journal, nurses
working at a St. Luke's hospital in New York have
claimed that there are several cases of the new
SARS-like virus in the hospital's ICU, which have
gone misdiagnosed and that are in fact the new
||8 may 2013. The
new coronavirus is detected in France in a person
coming back from Middle East. In
the mean time questions are raised about the real
number of cases in Saudi Arabia. It seems that
clusters of infection are hospital contaminations,
as happened during the SARS outbreak in 2003. The
new virus causes rapid kidney failure in addition
to respiratory impairment.
||6 may 2013. 129
cases and 31 fatalities caused by H7N9 flu in
||5 may 2013. Multiple
questions about viral infections: reassortment of
genes in the influenza virus, and a new
the H7N9 flu epidemic appears to be slowing down
(128 cases, 27 fatalities), viral infections of
this type remain of considerable concern. Genome
analysis of the H7N9 virus shows that it probably
comes from a reassortment of four different
viruses, H9N2, H7N3, H4N9, H11N9 avian influenza,
viruses we discussed repeatedly since the
beginning of these notes. This indicates a series
of events that have progressively developed time.
It is therefore very likely that the genesis of
dangerous viruses can take many paths. The idea of
conducting experiments in the laboratory to
understand this highly variable process, far from
being justified, seems very dangerous, since it
will only increase the natural propensity of the
virus to generate novel and dangerous forms. In
this regard, the experiences that have just been
published in the journal Science,
describing a reassortment between the H5N1 virus
and the current pandemic virus H1N1 that can
spread between mammals, seems particularly
unwelcome. The quest for fame, and the desire to
learn at any cost, coupled with the ubris that
makes us believe that this is possible, is a
natural tendency, unfortunately. But not
every truth is good to say! Finally, the coronavirus
present in the Middle East has made new victims
(27 cases, 16 deaths): we still do not know
its origin or the source of the contamination,
which is also very worrying. However the
corresponding infections can be more easily
controlled than flu because, unlike the latter, it
appears that only feverish patients are
contagious, which allows the establishment of an
||20 april 2013. The
toll of the H7N9 outbreak increases linearly.
101 cases, 20
fatalities, with a bias for elderly men (but the
statistics is not significant). And the origin of
the disease still remains mysterious, with some
hints of a possible person to person transmission.
The earthquake in Sichuan might trigger population
movements that might spread the disease. It may be
important to remember that in many cases of H7
flu, contamination was via the eyes.
||17 april 2013. The
source of H7N9 contamination is still unknown.
83 cases, 17
fatalities, suggesting a small increase in the
rate of infection. With warmer days, it seems
likely that the disease will disappear, but it may
reappear in autumn at new places, having been
moved away from the present centers by migrating
birds (which are apparently only mildly affected).
A significant proportion of the infected patients
did not have identified contacts with birds, which
makes the origin of the disease quite puzzling.
The economic consequences for the poultry market
||14 april 2013. H7N9,
new cases Updated
cases, 13 fatalities, Henan is now affected.
||13 april 2013. The
first case of avian flu H7N9 has been identified
in Beijing. The
7 years old daughter of a poultry trading
professional has been hospitalized in Beijing with
flu symptoms, identified as due to the virus H7N9.
This brings to 44 the number of identified cases,
with 11 deaths. As the increase in the number of
cases remains linear we will no longer report
them. The mainstream media and reference sites
listed at the beginning of this page are
sufficient to provide relevant information. The
last case in Shahghai is the husband of and
earlier case. Health authorities are investigating
whetehre this might be a H2H transmission. At 9pm
the summary of cases provided by the Hong Kong
health authorities is 49 persons infected,
||11 april 2013. The
outbreak continues its steady fairly linear
is now possible to have a picture of the situation
of identified foci of infection (click
on the map to
go to Google Maps). A major problem with the
present outbreak is overreaction, in particular
with wrong information progagated via Twitter. In
particular the number of serious cases is probably
not reflecting the true number of cases, which
might be more if the disease is mild in most
persons. The Xinhua
agency reports 38 cases with 10 fatalities.
The Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology
the H7N9 avian influenza to a genetic
reassortment of wild birds from east Asia and
chickens from east China. The researchers
found that no genes in H7N9 were traceable to
pigs, thus excluding pigs as intermediate hosts
for the deadly new strain of bird flu, despite
the fact that apparently the first two
had only had contact with pigs.
||10 april 2013. Emerging
Microbes and Infections publishes the history of
the H7N9 outbreak. With
its strong base at Fudan University the journal
a first detailed account of the H7N9 outbreak.
The total number of cases in China is 33, with 9
||9 april 2013.
Linear increase in the number of avian flu H7N9
number of contaminated persons is now reaching 28,
with 8 fatalities. A conspirationist rumor is
spreading in China, attributing this outbreak to
an American bioterrorism action! This reminds us
of the situation during SARS, when I had to fight
against this idea within my own laboratory in Hong
||7 april 2013. Many
types of the flu virus exist in the world.
We reported the
fatal infection of groups of seals
by a yet unknow disease last year. The cause of
the disease is a flu virus, of the H3N8
type (which infects dogs). The H7N7 virus is
present in poultry everywhere, but for the moment
it causes relatively mild infections in humans.
Recently, an H4N8
virus was found in a pig farm in Guangdong,
virus in ducks in Jiangsu Province, and a H4N2
strain in ducks in Shanghai. There are many other
types, and within the same type there are many
variants. The most common triad leading to human
infection is the sequence duck -> pig ->
There are now 21
cases in China, with 6 deaths. Luckily, it
seems that the N9 neuraminidase type (the enzyme
that plays an essential role in release and
spread of progeny viral particles, following the
intracellular viral replication cycle) is sensitive
to the inhibitor peramivir (shown in
||6 april 2013.
Mind contamination of your eyes. The
live poultry market of Nanjing are closed in the
wake of further contaminated birds. More should be
learnt about H7 flu viruses. They have long been
known to contaminate the personnel of aviaries, in
causing conjunctivitis. It is therefore
important to remember not to touch one's eyes in a
||5 april 2013.
poultry markets are closed due to H7H9 bird
number of persons infected has
increased and a pigeon has been found to be
carrying the virus, despite the fact that it
appeared apparently healthy. Animals suspected to
carry the virus are slaughtered. Butchers,
breeders and sellers of poultry, and those in the
meat processing industry are particularly
Hong Kong has raised its alert level. We are at
the WHO phase 0 level 2 of the WHO: Phases of
pandemic response (Human infection confirmed in
two or more cases) but no human to human (P2P)
transmission. Background flu is a disease of
Anatidae (ducks, geese and the like); the reason
why it used to spread to humans is a route
centred on the standard living custom of Chinese
farmers who keep together ducks and pigs for
their living (the Chinese ideogram for "family"
is a pig under a roof). It goes from ducks, to
pigs, to humans. Usually the disease is fairly
innocuous to ducks. From time to time the virus
spreads to other birds, with more severe
symptoms (as it is less adapted there). This is
the case of the recent H5N1 chicken flu, which
probably started from a complex reassortment
from several bird strains in 1997. New forms of
the virus always tend to explore new hosts. The
H7N7 virus is widely spread in poultry, world
wide, and it is expected that the new H7N9 came
from reassortment of that virus with another
virus containing the N9 marker, after
co-infection. New viruses are either killed
rapidly by the various levels of the immune
system - and nothing is visible - or they cause
havoc, often being extremely dangerous. In such
cases, because they are less adapted, they do
not propagate easily in the community of the new
hosts. This appears to be the situation of the
present avian flu outbreak, with no P2P
The danger will come when virus mutants will
begin to adapt to their new human hosts. While
they will be less (but still) lethal, they will
begin to propagate from humans to humans. This
is the situation monitored by all health
authorities in the world. A consequence of these
observations is that the viruses which might
become the most dangerous are either those which
will take a route from Anatidae to a mammal and
then to humans, or viruses infecting another
type of birds and attenuated directly in humans
(this may be the route followed at the moment by
the virus). It is important to be aware that the
virus which will create the epidemic will be
present in the environment well before the
epidemic starts. It is therefore of the utmost
importance to monitor the molecular changes
(analyse the virus genome) in a systematic way.
The situation in China is not well understood,
and under investigation.
This virus strain has only rarely been identified
previously, in particular in a mallard in
Spain in 2010.
||3 april 2013.
China is stepping up monitoring of H7H9 bird flu.
patients have been discovered infected by the
H7N9 virus. There is as yet no indication of
person to person contamination. However the origin
of the new strain of the virus is unknown. Until
recently this strain of the flu virus had only
been found to cause mild infections in humans.
H7N9 virus could replicate in the upper and
lower respiratory track of ferrets, a good
model for the study of the human disease.
||31 march 2013.
of 2002-2003 is repeating itself with novel
lethal flu virus
While the Middle
East coronavirus keeps making victims a new
avian flu virus, of the H7N9 type (similar
to the widely spread N7H7 avian virus) killed
two persons in Shanghai.
||5 march 2013.
Genetics of behaviour: SNPs that predict social
variant polymorphism in the serotonin receptor
genes appears to be strongly
correlated with social success in young males.
It is likely that this type of observation will
become more and more common as we get more human
genome sequenced. The traditional reluctance that
meets genetic studies will have to cope with these
results and come about a socially acceptable
answer to inevitable genetic variations.
||13 february 2013.
coronavirus still lingers in the Middle East.
A man who returned
recently from the Middle East and Pakistan is
under intensive care in a Manchester hospital
where he has been confirmed to be infected by a
coronavirus of a type similar to that which infected
several persons recently.
||21 december 2012.
An outbreak of avian influenza in ducks in
Indonesia raises concern. Hundreds
of thousands of ducks died in Indonesia as a
result of an infection with the H5N1 virus, a
class (clade 2.3) known to have infected a man in
province of Guangdong in 2011. It is
important to know whether the corresponding
mutations are among those that have recently been
identified as particularly dangerous.
||14 december 2012. May
come back? A
virus causing lethal pneumonia
has appeared recently in
the Middle East. We know that it may infect
mammals close to Primates, as did his cousin that
was at the origin of SARS
(Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) back in 2003.
||4 december 2012. Invasive
weeds have a considerable ability to adapt to
novel environments. In
a context when misleading studies tend to focus on
GMOs invasive species cause havock everywhere.
This wrong focus is diverting our efforts from the
truly dangerous species, natural organisms that
tend to invade alien environments. The Asian
short-day flowering annual grass Microstegium
vimineum (Nepalese browntop) rapidly
evolves novel phenotypes that allow it to
survive in environments very different from its
original place of development, allowing the
selection of novel adaptive mutations that will
make it difficult to eradicate.
||24 november 2012. The
high pathogenicity of last years's outbreak of E.
coli O104:H4 infection explained. A
serious epidemic of a lethal infection by a strain
of Escherichia coli affected Germany and
other European countries in 2011. Virulence
factors were found in the genome, but the
particularly high pathogenicity was not explained
readily. Scientists in the USA now discovered that
a particular bacteriophage (virus) imbedded in the
genome of the bacteria carried with it a gene
coding for multiple
tagging (by methylation) of the genome with
concomitant alteration of the overall expression
of virulence genes.
||3 november 2012. A
new tick-borne disease has emerged in Switzerland.
Ticks transmit many
bacterial and viral diseases, such as the agent of
Lyme disease (borreliosis) or the Crimea-Congo
virus. A new pathogen, discovered only in 1999 and
still without a recognized official name (Candidatus
Neoehrlichia mikurensis) causes relapsing
fever. Patients have been discovered in the region
of Zürich, where about 10% of the local tick are
infected by the pathogen. Nothing is known yet
about the efficiency of contagion, but the disease
needs to be carefully monitored.
september 2012. A
new coronavirus with SARS-like symptoms and a new
haemorrhagic fever. A
new bat coronavirus has caused concerned at the
WHO after patients were found in the Middle East
with SARS-like symptoms. Fortunately the
disease did not spread easily , but it
shows that coronaviruses remain a matter of
concern. As in the preceding cases (including an
early outbreak in pigs in the '80s), the
virus seems to be able to change its tropism from
the gut to the lung. A novel
rhabdovirus (family of the rabies virus),
has now been identified as the cause of a local
outbreak of haemorrhagic fever in the Democratic
Republic of Congo in 2009. Nothing is known about
its reservoir and contamination route, making it a
possible candidate for a novel emerging disease.
august 2012. Last
year's lethal disease that affected seals in North
America is a flu variant that may infect humans.
lethal disease, caused by an unknown virus affected
seals last year. Analysis of DNA in seal
corpses has now revealed the
presence of an influenza type A virus,
previously known to infect waterfowls in the
region. This virus is a variant of the H3N8
strain, apparently highly lethal for mammals. The
situation should therefore be monitored seriously
as it may be expected that the virus could
propagate much more easily from a mammal to humans
than from birds to humans.
||4 august 2012. The
western arctic passage to Asia is open to
year will establish a new record low for the ice
cover at the North Pole in july.
august 2012. The
danger of making an imperfect vaccine against a
highly versatile pathogen. The
holy grail of vaccination is to find a vaccine
against the malaria parasite or the AIDS virus.
This has been a very challenging task (and some do
not believe that it will ever succeed) because
both pathogens evolve so rapidly that they
circumvent the host defences triggered by the
situation is even worse, as discovered by a team
of american scientist working on a model of
malaria in mice. Indeed the vaccine may
trigger the selection of variants of the parasite
more virulent than the original parasite ...
||1 august 2012. Barn
swallows nestlings take care of their kins.
in MIlano, Italy, showed that the barn swallows
youngs while in their nest, when
sufficientlly fed by their parents, reduced their
competitiveness to the advantage of their
nestmates when their were deprived of food.
Moderation of selfishness can be adaptive in the
presence of a needier kin, because the indirect
fitness benefits of promoting its condition can
outweigh the costs of forgoing being fed, and
because it limits the cost of competitive begging
||27 july 2012. At
least three populations of the out-of Africa
humans make the present human build-up with no
sign of positive selection. Recent
genome analyses show that two major human
populations are resulting from admixture with
archaic hominins. Some 1%–3% of the genome of all
Eurasians and native Amerindians is of Neanderthal
origin, and Melanesians from Papua New Guinea and
Australia have another 3.5% of their genome of
While this renews the debate on the existence
of human races, there does not seem to have been
any strong adaptation to novel environments,
with related hominins was the rule rather than
the exception. Indeed, some sub-saharan
african populations may have signs of admixture
with still other hominins, differing from
Neanderthal or Denisovans. The most remarkable
observation at this point is that human
polymorphism can essentially be explain by
space-related admixture, and not by any
significant positive selection event.
||29 june 2012. Circadian
production of melatonin is better understood.
led by Peter McCormick of the University of
Barcelona reports that adrenergic receptors
form complexes with D4 dopamine receptors to block
melatonin production during the day.These findings
elucidate the previously unknown role of D4
receptors in the pineal gland, and provide
evidence for a novel molecular mechanism for
controlling melatonin production in mammals.
||26 april 2012. Hong
Kong has suspended the import of poultry products
from Liaoning province of the Chinese Mainland for
A confirmed case of avian influenza H5N1 in
Dalian, Liaoning has been diagnosed. The Center
for Food Safety of the Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region has implemented a
specific response to ban import from regions
affected by human cases of the H5N1 virus.
april 2012. A lethal
skin disease, previously detected in 2011, is
killing children in Vietnam.
A previously unknown disease, first observed last
affected 161 young people and killed 19 children
in a poor Vietnam district. The cause of the
disease, which appears to be contagious by
contact, is unknown. As in the case of foot and
mouth disease it affects hands and feet, causing
rashes and blisters. In another domain, it remains
important to monitor the development of H9N2 avian
flu: a Korean
study shows how the virus develops in
april 2012. The
mysterious disease that kills seals in Alaska is
now affecting polar bears.
Polar bears living south of Beaufort Sea in Alaska
are losing their fur and have skin lesions. This
is similar to the disease that killed many seals
last year. The cause of the disease has not yet
been identified. A similar disease appeared in
||12 march 2012. An
outbreak of E. coli infection back in
2006 might be related to that of 2011 in Germany.
virulent strain of Escherichia coli
affected Norway in 2006. This strain, dubbed
O103:H25, appears to be related to the O104:H4
that created an epidemy in Germany last year. Both
the 2006 and the 2011 strains carry a similar
toxinogenic bacteriphage (virus) and have similar
genome organisation. This opens again the question
of the origin of the strains that caused the
february 2012. An
emerging virus disease affects cattle in Europe.
virus of Schmallenberg was discovered last
november. It infects domestic ruminants. The
contamination route is not yet entirely
understood, but it is suspected that the virus is
transmitted by insect vectors. It is a bunya
virus. This family comprises a great many
negative-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses that
infect animals, insects, and plants. For the time
being nothing is known about wild animals. The
virus does not appear to cause human diseases. Up
to a quarter of new born lambs, when their mother
is affected have malformations.
||29 january 2012. Several
fatalities caused by the Nipah virus in
Bangladesh; diagnostic confirmed as an infection
by Escherichia coli O104:H4 in French
tourists back from Turkey last autumn. In another
domain, volcanic activity might be waking up south
of the island of Santorini (Greece). The
virus is endemic in Bangladesh, where it
lingers in fruit-eating bats. Five
persons just died from the infectionthat
causes fatal encephalitis. Contagion is usually
indirect, often caused by poorly cleaned fresh
dates. The O104:H4 E. coli strain that
epidemic of diarrhoea in French tourists back
from Turkey is related, but distinct from
the strain that caused the German outbreak last
spring. In Greece, likely volcanic activity south
of Santorini (Thira)
spurs a debate about its immediate developments.
||22 january 2012. The
government informs the population about a case of
avian flu in Guizhou province. A
39 years old man has been infected by the H5N1
virus on january 6th. This case must be
carefully monitored as the
patient did not appear to have had contact with
poultry. However it must be remembered that
similar situations were observed several times
during the past decade.
||19 january 2012. Vietnam
and Cambodia report the death of patients infected
by the avian flu virus. While
countries had not been affected by human cases
for several months (two years for Vietnam)
two deaths are unfortunately reported. In Hong
Kong the H5N1 virus has been identified in a
||6 january 2012. Credit
card payment was used to identify the source of
contamination for the Escherichia coli
O104:H4 outbreak in Germany. Risk
factors for the large E. coli outbreak
that started in Germany last year have been identified
using credit card payments in cafeterias.
This type of information has been recently used
and led to important epidemiological data,
pointing to the source of contamination (in that
particular case, fenugreek sprouts). It is likely
to become an important data source in the future.
||3 january 2012. The
brand new complex for government offices is
contaminated by Legionella in Hong Kong.
water by amoeba containing Legionella species is
fairly frequent. It may lead to serious pulmonary
infections if the legionella density is more than
one colony forming unit per mililiter. The level
found after a government official has been
hospitalized with the disease raised 14 times that
level. Investigation continues. In the mean time
headed seagulls were found to have died from
the H5N1 flu virus.
||1 january 2012. The
SAR Hong Kong health authorities maintained the
avian flu alert to the "serious" level. Hong
Kong SAR suspends poultry import from around the
residence of the patient who died from avian flu