« Back

News - 2009

Training the nation to fight infectious diseases
The Daily News — Galveston, Dec. 26, 2009
It’s Galveston’s world-renowned reputation for infectious disease research and state-of-the-art facilities that brought me to the University of Texas Medical Branch to join the best and brightest minds engaged in the fight to improve global health.


Prostate cancer virus
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Dec. 19, 2009
Evidence is building that some forms of prostate cancer result from a viral infection, report Norbert Herzog and David Niesel in this week’s installment of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News. All men may be susceptible to the leukemia-related virus XMRV for short. Twenty-five percent of tissue samples from 300 patients tested positive for the virus.


Science Spotlight
Ingenuity Systems, Dec. 21, 2009
"Our work is focused on developing new drug therapies for biodefense-related and emerging viral pathogens. IPA was the bridge between our high throughput siRNA screen and identification of effective drugs that blocked infection in culture and are showing great promise in our animal work. We expect that IPA will also be an important tool when analyzing results of our latest high throughput drug screens." — Robert Davey, PhD


Brilliant but disabled — the savant
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Dec. 12, 2009
The long held assumption about a savant’s amazing talents was that using them seemingly took no effort. However, research indicating that savants develop their skills after much obsessive practice suggests anyone may be capable of developing similar skills, said Norbert Herzog and David Niesel in this week’s installment of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News. The program airs locally at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KUHF.


Stanley M. Lemon, MD, was given the John F. Enders Distinguished Lecture
Stanley M. Lemon, MD, Professor in the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology and Internal Medicine and Director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, was given the John F. Enders Distinguished Lecture in Medical Virology at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) held October 29-November 1, 2009 in Philadelphia. Dr. Lemon was selected by his peers for this singular honor. His topic was “Sounding the Alarm: Early Innate Immune Responses to Hepatitis Viruses.”


Rhinovirus family tree
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Dec. 5, 2009
Mom was right about many things, but chicken soup will not cure the common cold. However, researchers have made progress in the battle against human rhinoviruses that cause colds, according to Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News. Now that the viruses’ common elements have been identified, the challenge is to target groups of the most problematic types. The program airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KUHF and more than 90 other stations.


Experimental drug is combating hepatic C in chimps, researchers say
Los Angeles Times, Dec. 4, 2009
Researchers at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio found that an experimental antiviral drug called SPC3649 suppresses hepatitis C in chimpanzees. UTMB microbiologist Stanley M. Lemon, who was not involved in the research, said, "The thing that makes [the new drug] quite special compared to other direct-acting antiviral agents is that there does not seem to be any resistance developing." A similar article appears in the online component of Science Magazine.


The white coats
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Nov. 28, 2009
White coats, the traditional garb of physicians, have a nasty tendency to harbor bacteria. A number of recent studies suggest that 25 percent of white coats worn by doctors in general hospitals carry disease-causing bacterial, noted Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News. The program airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KUHF.


I flu robots
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Nov. 21, 2009
There are robots that assist surgeons in precise operations, robots that "pick" and dispense medicines in hospitals, and now there is a robot to help us in the surveillance of infectious diseases. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News discuss the T5000 Universal Biosensor system. Within weeks of the swine flu outbreak, the Galveston National Laboratory received 1,500 swine flu samples. The T5000 can process 12 samples at one time and identify the pathogen in each sample in just hours. That’s almost 200 samples in each 24 hour period — giving us critical lead time to respond to a viral outbreak.


Milestone Biodefense Publication by Elsevier Journal Vaccine
Elsevier, Nov. 19, 2009
Last week during the ‘Vaccines for Biothreats and Emerging and Neglected Diseases Symposium’ in Galveston TX, USA, the Elsevier journal Vaccine released a supplement dedicated to vaccines for biodefense. This publication provides a comprehensive, state-of-the-art overview on vaccines that have been developed against a diverse group of human and veterinary pathogens, including Bacillus anthracis, smallpox, and blue tongue.

Biodefense has traditionally been associated with defense against biological warfare agents with an emphasis on military applications. However, the events of October 2001 involving envelopes containing anthrax spores sent through the US Postal Service radically changed our thinking about biodefense. We now recognize the need for biodefense to protect both civilian and military populations against biothreat agents. As research continues to develop biodefense countermeasures, it is clear that vaccines are a critical component of the portfolio to control biothreats.


H1N1 flu questions
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Nov. 14, 2009
Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News responded to listeners questions about swine flu. "Projections are that one to two million people will die worldwide and 70,000 in the U.S. But put in perspective, consider the seasonal flu kills about 40,000 in the U.S. every year," they said.


Vitiligo and the King of Pop
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Nov. 7, 2009
Michael Jackson wasn’t the only person affected by vitiligo, a condition in which skin cells called melanocytes no longer make the pigment melanin. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News outline a number of treatment options, including the harvesting of melanocytes from healthy skin, growing them in the lab and then transplanting them into the effected areas.


Galileo’s eyes
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Oct. 31, 2009
Scientists suspect that Galileo Galilei suffered from an eye disease that led to blindness in his last two years of life. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News report that scientists are seeking permission to exhume the great astronomer for DNA testing to identify the disease that blinded him.


2-pronged protein attack could be source of SARS virulence
First Science, Oct. 29, 2009
UTMB researchers have uncovered what they believe could be the major factor contributing to the SARS virus’ virulence: The pathogen’s use of a single viral protein to weaken host cell defenses by launching a “two-pronged” attack on cellular protein-synthesis machinery. Shinji Makino is senior author of a paper on the discovery appearing in Nature Structure and Molecular Biology. An article on the findings also appears in Infection Control Today.


Dreams, if only I could remember them
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Oct. 24, 2009
Some people have vivid memories of dreams and others don’t. Scientists at Caltech may have discovered why dreams are hard to remember, report Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News. Memories are formed in the hippocampus and stored in the neocortex. Using rats, the researchers mapped the firing of neurons between these two regions of the brain. When the rats entered rapid eye movement or REM sleep, which is when most dreams occur, the neurons were firing but they were not coordinated. "e;That could explain why some of us can’t remember our dreams … they weren’t being stored in the neocortex."e;


Neglected diseases
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Oct. 17, 2009
A new study examines the research and development of neglected infectious diseases, report Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News. The study defined 30 neglected diseases that received research and development funding of $2.5 billion, compared to $10 billion for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The study authors believe that research funders focus on diseases where the research and development will lead to a quick payoff. Political pressures also play a major role.


Japanese company makes a $600 men's suit said to ward off H1N1
New York Daily News, Oct. 14, 2009
Joan Nichols, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at UTMB, is quoted in this article about an antimicrobial suit. "If someone with H1N1 coughed and had the virus on their hands and touched the suit, and you didn’t touch the suit, some virus would die off. But it takes awhile for the antimicrobial properties of titanium dioxide to work," she said.


How about regrowing teeth?
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Oct. 10, 2009
The average American adult is missing four teeth because of gum disease, trauma or congenital defects. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News say that scientists have isolated a single gene called osr2 that prevents growth of extra teeth in humans and mice. The researchers eliminated the gene in mice and found that they developed extra teeth.


Health expo open to all BAHEP members
Bay Area Citizen, Oct. 5, 2009
UTMB’s Joan E. Nichols, an assistant professor in the departments of internal medicine and microbiology and immunology, will present information on how to stay healthy in the workplace during a Power Breakfast Expo on Thursday, Oct. 15, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Webster.


Mitochondrial Dysfunction Increases Allergic Airway Inflammation1
The Journal of Immunology, Sept. 28, 2009
The authors of this paper, Leopoldo Aguilera-Aguirre (lead author), Attila Bacsi,,Alexander Kurosky, Sanjiv Sur and Istvan Boldogh (senior author), concluded, "… we provide evidence for the first time that oxidative damage to specific proteins in the mitochondria prior to the Ag exposure intensifies airway eosinophilia, increases mucin production, and enhances bronchial hyperresponsiveness. Our data also imply that prevention or reduction of oxidative mitochondrial damage in the airways may have a beneficial role in therapy of these diseases."


CDC — antibiotics, when and when not to use them
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Oct. 3, 2009
Antibiotics won’t cure viral upper respiratory infections say Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News. "Misusing antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance — not just here but globally — and it’s among the most pressing public health problems. Almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotics."


A new study brings new hope — an HIV microbicide
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Sept. 26, 2009
Researchers are studying the use of microbicides to prevent HIV infection during sex. According to Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News, research using glycerol monolaurate or GML in laboratory studies using monkeys is promising. The compound is already in use to prevent other sexually transmitted diseases.


New flu vaccine
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Sept. 19, 2009
According to Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News, new research using monoclonal antibodies could take the guess work out of vaccine development, leading to a "universal vaccine" that recognizes all influenza viruses. MDN airs at 10 a.m. every Saturday on KUHF.


Biosynthetic bone
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Sept. 12, 2009
According to Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News, a new biomaterial is being tested that could eliminated the use of bone grafts to repair injuries. If it proves efficacious in the later stages of bone healing, the next step will be human trials. MDN airs at 10 a.m. every Saturday on KUHF.


Spit proteome
KUHF-FM, Sept. 5, 2009
Researchers have identified all the proteins found in saliva. That’s more than 1,000 different proteins, according to Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News. Benefits include simplifying lab tests, and screening of saliva for proteins associated with various cancers, diabetes and other diseases.


High blood pressure revisited
KUHF-FM, Aug. 29, 2009
High blood pressure is not a given as people age, according to Norbert Herzog and David Niesel of UTMB’s Medical Discovery News. Hypertension can affect children as well as adults. "Most of us can do a lot to prevent high blood pressure. Make an effort to live a healthy lifestyle. Become physically active; follow a healthy eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods; eat less salt," they said.


Making sure cancer deaths decline
KUHF-FM, Aug. 22, 2009
Genetic testing, innovations in biomedical imaging and genetic engineering show promise in combating cancer. Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the United States and Mexico, including at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHF, 88.7 FM.


ELADS, the latest in artificial livers
Medical Discovery News, Aug. 15, 2009
This installment focused on efforts to develop an artificial liver. Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the United States and Mexico, including at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHF, 88.7 FM.


Meningitis vaccine from the CDC
Medical Discovery News, Aug. 1, 2009
This week’s installment focused on developments in stem cell research to treat a variety of medical conditions. Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the United States and Mexico, including at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHF, 88.7 FM.


Meningitis vaccine from the CDC
Medical Discovery News, July 25, 2009
This week’s episode was about what is believed to be the first incidence of chemical warfare when Roman and Persian soldiers were battling in 256 A.D., in what is now Syria. The opposing forces each dug tunnels in order to surprise their enemies. "Archeologists now have evidence this battle was one of the earliest examples of chemical warfare. They found bitumen and sulfur crystals in the tunnels. Bitumen, which you know as tar or asphalt, is a black and oily byproduct of decomposed organic materials. When burned with sulfur, these two compounds would have set fire to the tunnels and produced a highly toxic mixture of gases including sulfur dioxide. "Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the U.S. and Mexico, including at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHF, 88.7 FM.


Meningitis vaccine from the CDC
Medical Discovery News, July 18, 2009
This week’s radio broadcast focused on a vaccine, MCV4, that is effective against four of the most common bacteria that can cause meningitis. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends use of MCV4 in persons aged 11 to 55, including routine vaccination of persons aged 11 to 18, ideally during the check-up at 11 to 12 years old. The vaccine is also recommended for college freshmen and for U.S. military recruits. Side effects from MCV4 are usually mild and serious side effects are rare. Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the U.S. and Mexico. Locally, you can hear the program at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHT, 88.7 FM and KTSU, 90.9 FM.


History of anesthesia
Medical Discovery News, July 11, 2009
This week’s radio broadcast focused on the history of anesthesia. "There were crude forms of anesthesia as early as 70 A.D. An early Roman physician used opium and mandrake. In China there was and still is acupuncture. And around the world alcohol was used but vomiting was an unworkable side effect. Serious early work with anesthesia began with nitrous oxide and ether. An English chemist discovered that nitrous oxide relieved his headache and dental pain, but his report went unnoticed. Then an American dentist extracted his own teeth under nitrous oxide." Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the U.S. and Mexico. Locally, you can hear the program at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHT, 88.7 FM and KTSU, 90.9 FM.


Latisse for the ladies
Medical Discovery News, July 4, 2009
This week’s radio broadcast focused on the positive side effects of a drug called Lumigan. While in clinical trials for treatment of glaucoma, researchers noticed the drug caused some patients to develop longer and fuller eyelashes. The company recognized a new opportunity to sell Lumigan under another name, Latisse, as the first product approved by the FDA to enhance eyelashes. Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the U.S. and Mexico. Locally, you can hear the program at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHT, 88.7 FM and KTSU, 90.9 FM.


Collaboration key to keeping new diseases in check
Science Centric, July 3, 2009
Collaboration across a diverse range of scientific disciplines is among the most important factors in efforts to detect and control outbreaks of new infectious diseases like Influenza A (H1N1), according to one of the world's leading virologists, UTMB’s Thomas Ksiazek. Ksiazek said the concept of ‘one biology’ — the integration of multiple scientific disciplines — was playing an increasingly important role in identifying where zoonotic diseases — those affecting humans and animals — originate.


Whole genome analysis and you
Medical Discovery News, June 27, 2009
This week’s radio broadcast focused on genome testing. A number of commercial companies can test your DNA to determine whether you carry any of the million genetic variations in the DNA sequence called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs. Certain SNPs are associated with particular traits, syndromes or diseases. Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the U.S. and Mexico. Locally, you can hear the program at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHT, 88.7 FM and KTSU, 90.9 FM.


Scientists investigate Mexican town’s flu mystery
Fosters Daily Democrat (New Hampshire), June 29, 2009
MEXICO CITY — UTMB’s Alfredo Torres and Tom Ksiazek are quoted in this Associated Press article about how scientists are still trying to determine the genesis of the swine flu outbreak. From the article: Finding answers won’t be easy: Time has passed and if people or pigs have been infected by similar flu strains in the past, their antibodies could lead to false positives, said Alfredo Torres, an assistant professor at UTMB. "There may not be any footprints to look at," said Ksiazek, director of the university’s National Biodefense Training Center, who with Torres is serving as a consultant to the Veracruz state government. Ksiazek, who has investigated outbreaks of Ebola virus and SARS, suspects villagers were getting infected from each other, not pigs.


Key pathways in Ebola infection identified
Daily India, June 24, 2009
UTMB researchers say that they have discovered two biochemical pathways that the Ebola virus relies on to infect cells. Using substances that block the activation of those pathways, they’ve prevented Ebola infection in cell-culture experiments. The experiments might be an early step in developing a therapy for the deadly virus. Reports about the study appear worldwide, including in Thaindian News and the Galveston County Daily News. Robert Davey was the lead author of the paper appearing in Drug Discovery Research. The research team includes Andrey A. Kolokoltsov, Mohammad F. Saeed, Alexander N. Freiberg and Michael R. Holbrook.


The circadian rhythm of teenagers
Medical Discovery News, June 13, 2009
So you know how you feel when you get jet lagged – when your circadian rhythm is disrupted? Well, when we wake up teenagers too early, that’s what it’s like for them. Because when children hit puberty they experience a shift in their natural sleep-wake cycles. This shift means that adolescents have trouble going to sleep early, will stay up late and would get up late if we let them. Plus, studies also show this shift makes them excessively sleepy in the morning. Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the U.S. and Mexico. Locally, you can hear the program at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHT, 88.7 FM and KTSU, 90.9 FM.


Show must go on for UTMB professors
Friendswood Journal, June 10, 2009
UTMB’s David Niesel, Norbert Herzog and Chris Packard are quoted in this article about the genesis and growing popularity of the radio show Medical Discovery News. From the article: The facilities they used for those first shows were, according to Niesel, "like a 1960s isolation chamber." No air conditioning, and the lights couldn’t be on during taping because the bulbs created feedback into the electrical system. "So we’re recording in the dark by book light, and with his (Niesel’s) hot air, it was impossible," said Herzog, laughing. Remembering those early efforts make the two men wince. "We had no radio experience, no communication experience at all," Niesel said. Chris Packard, UTMB Associate Vice President of Marketing, who has been instrumental in growing the show, disagreed with that comment. "You had communication experience, you were teaching," Packard said. “Some of our students might argue with that,” Niesel replied.


Cancer death rates
Medical Discovery News, June 6, 2009
Cancer is on its way to becoming the No. 1 killer in the world. "Cancer used to be ‘the disease’ of highly industrialized countries. Today, that’s no longer true. An astounding fact is that, globally, more people die from cancer than infectious diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined." Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, is broadcast by nearly 100 stations in the U.S. and Mexico. Locally, you can hear the program at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KUHT, 88.7 FM and KTSU, 90.9 FM.


Biofilms and Cystic Fibrosis
Medical Discovery News, May 30, 2009
This week’s episode was about heart attacks and women. "Studies show women are less likely to receive essential procedures and medicines and it takes longer to get them. That’s because health professionals were not trained to recognize the different symptoms between men and women before and during a heart attack." The program is broadcast by dozens of radio stations across the nation and in Mexico and is heard locally on KUHF-FM, 88.7 and KTSU-FM, 90.9.


Biofilms and Cystic Fibrosis
Medical Discovery News, May 23, 2009
Saturday’s edition of Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, was about Cystic Fibrosis, an inherited disease that affects the lungs and digestive tract. Medical Discovery News airs at 10 a.m. Saturday on KUHF-FM in Houston. The program also airs on numerous radio stations across the country and in Mexico.


Eiland proposed revised biolab bill
Galveston County Daily News, May 23, 2009
State Rep. Craig Eiland has revised a bill pertaining to information about select agents. Heber Taylor, editor of the Galveston paper, wrote a column, Reasons to fight a bad bill for Texas, opposing the bill.


New York students struggling with flu viruses
China View, May 23, 2009
UTMB’s Joan Nichols is quoted in this article about the increasing number of primary and middle school students in New York City suffering from flu-like symptoms. Are all the school children suffering from flu-like symptoms already infected by H1N1 flu virus? Experts do not think so. "Right now as New York moves from winter into spring, we always see increases in respiratory infections," Nichols said. “Not all of these infections are H1N1 and as we survey the population, most have been shown to be flu A (seasonal) or flu B (seasonal) and not H1N1.” China View is the Web site of the Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China.


Conference committee OKs UTMB funding bill
Galveston County Daily News, May 22, 2009
A conference committee of the Texas House and Senate this week unanimously approved a bill key to a plan to rebuild UTMB hospitals on the island. Senate Bill 1 increases general revenue funding for the medical branch by $97 million. The legislation now goes back to each chamber of the Legislature for formal approval.


Germ-lab bill would stop al-Qaida
Galveston County Daily News, May 21, 2009
In a guest column, UTMB’s Freddy A. Paniagua writes that a state proposal regarding information about select agents will enhance security at the Galveston National Laboratory and protect individuals who work there. "It would be completely absurd to assume that keeping these four areas outside the public domain means secrecy or the intention to avoid reporting an accident at the GNL. These additional amendments to SB 2556 are proposed to further enhance the overall security of the lab."


Scientists investigate Mexican town’s flu mystery
The Associated Press, May 20, 2009
UTMB’s Alfredo Torres and Tom Ksiazek are quoted in this article about scientists trying to find ground zero of the swine flu outbreak. From the article: "Finding answers won’t be easy: Time has passed and if people or pigs have been infected by similar flu strains in the past, their antibodies could lead to false positives," said Alfredo Torres, an assistant professor at UTMB. "There may not be any footprints to look at," said Tom Ksiazek, director of the university’s National Biodefense Training Center, who with Torres is serving as a consultant to the Veracruz state government. Ksiazek, who has investigated outbreaks of Ebola virus and SARS, suspects villagers were getting infected from each other, not pigs.


UTMB works on trust issue
Houston Chronicle, May 19, 2009
Columnist Lisa Falkenberg follows up on her column from last week about Senate Bill 2556, and raises several issues about the proposed legislation. UTMB’s Marsha Canright is quoted.


Expert: Only time can tell how wide A/H1N1 virus will spread in U.S.
China View, May 19, 2009
UTMB’s Joan Nichols is quoted in this article about the swine flu. "The current virus is transmitted easily from person to person. We are seeing a rise in the number of cases in the United States. Only time will tell how far, wide the virus will spread or how long it will spread in the United States," Nichols said. Nichols is one of a few global researchers who are engaged in research to determine the genetic makeup of the H1N1 virus and the biological response to it. China View is the Web site of the Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China.


After 40 it’s all downhill
Medical Discovery News, May 16, 2009
Saturday’s edition of Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, was about the deterioration of neurons and myelin as we age. "After age 40, even healthy people begin to lose some myelin in a part of the brain responsible for motor control. … We can help to slow this process by staying mentally and physically active." Medical Discovery News airs at 10 a.m. Saturday on KUHF-FM in Houston. The program also airs on numerous radio stations across the country and in Mexico.


Medical Discovery News finds PHAME
Galveston County Daily News, May 18, 2009
The radio program hosted by UTMB Drs. David Niesel and Norbert Herzog recently won the Public Health Award for Media Excellence presented by the Texas Public Health Association. (No link available.)


UTMB offers another draft of biolab bill
Galveston County Daily News, May 16, 2009
This article is about Friday’s public meeting that addressed proposed changes to the state’s Public Information Act. Michael Smith, associate editor of the Galveston paper, wrote a column, UTMB bill compromise needs more give, and The Houston Chronicle also had an article about the bill, Residents fear bill restricts lab information. Heber Taylor, editor of the Galveston paper, also wrote column, How to fix a bad bill, in today’s paper.


City opposes biolab secrecy bill
Galveston County Daily News, May 15, 2009
UTMB president Dr. David L. Callender is quoted in this article about the Galveston City Council approving a resolution opposing a bill that critics say would not allow information about what is being studied at the Galveston National Laboratory to be made public. The resolution also contained wording urging state lawmakers to change the bill to address the concerns of UTMB officials regarding laboratory security and the privacy of people working there. "This allows the legislature to look at this again and come up with something more specific," Callender said. Michael Smith, associate editor of the Galveston paper, wrote a column against the bill.


Biolab bill leaves much in the dark
Houston Chronicle, May 14, 2009
UTMB’s Jim LeDuc is quoted in this column about a proposal to change the Texas Open Records Act. From the column: “LeDuc seems to understand the need to balance security and transparency, and he is proud of UTMB’s record of keeping the public informed through community boards and its Web site. ‘You simply can’t do this work if the community doesn’t trust you,’ he said. ‘And so it’s very important for us to maintain that trust.” In the Galveston County Daily News, publisher Dolph Tillotson wrote a column opposing changes to the Texas Open Records Act.


Meeting called for information on biolab bill
Galveston County Daily News, May 13, 2009
The UTMB Community Advisory Board will meet Friday, May 15, to discuss Senate Bill 2556, a proposal to make changes to the Texas Open Records Act.


Alfredo Torres on Mexican TV network
UTMB’s Alfredo Torres was interviewed about his recent trip to Vera Cruz, Mexico, to consult with Mexican officials about the swine flu outbreak. Two reports have been broadcast by Televisa in Mexico and are archived on YouTube. Report No. 2


Huffman: We’re not trying to hide anything
Galveston County Daily News, May 12, 2009
UTMB’s Jim LeDuc is quoted in this article about a proposal in the Legislature to amend the Texas Open Records Act. "The message is that we are ensuring our ability to maintain transparency we worked so hard to establish," he said.


Huffman: We’re not trying to hide anything
Galveston County Daily News, May 9, 2009
UTMB’s Stanley Lemon is quoted in this article about a bill supported by UTMB to bring Texas in compliance with federal open records law. "Our best legal counsel tell us that this bill will not limit our ability to let you and other members of the public know which select agents are being studied within the Galveston National Laboratory, the name of the responsible principal investigator or the research being undertaken," Lemon said in an e-mail to (community) board members. The editor of the Galveston paper, Heber Taylor, wrote a column on May 10 and another one today opposing the pending state legislation as did associate editor Michael Smith.


Preparing for the Worst
The Economist, May 9, 2009
UTMB’s Alan Barrett is quoted in this article about the swine flu. "(Barrett says) travel by carriers of influenza, be they people in aeroplanes or birds on the wing, means regional mutations quickly spread around the world. Hence, even when flu subsides at the end of the northern hemisphere’s winter, the disease merely shifts to the southern hemisphere (which is now entering its winter). Six months later, it moves back. When the mutations are gradual, as with seasonal flu, it is known as drift; when they are abrupt, as with the new strain of H1N1, you have a shift on your hands."


Inside the new flu virus
NPR’s Morning Edition, May 7, 2009
UTMB’s Joan Nichols is quoted in this segment that examines where the swine flu virus came from. From the broadcast: The three separate viruses got together in a pig somewhere. When all three ancestor viruses infected the same pig cell, that enabled them to swap genes, a trick flu viruses specialize in. "Pigs are special because they are easily infected with swine viruses, avian viruses and human viruses," says Joan Nichols of the University of Texas in Galveston. "That makes pigs a mixing pot." The pot keeps boiling, genetically speaking, because flu viruses are notoriously mistake-prone as they replicate within a bird or mammalian "host."


Disease experts say flu threat in Mexico diminished
Voice of America, May 7, 2009
The worst appears to be over regarding the H1N1 virus, Mexico authorities suggest. Thus far, 44 deaths from the virus have been confirmed. "They erred on the side of caution, initially, until they could take a look at what the situation appeared to be," said Thomas Ksiazek, director of the National Biodefense Training Center at UTMB.


Groups fight biolab secrecy bill
Galveston County Daily News, May 8, 2009
Open government advocates are opposing a bill they say would cripple the public’s right to information about deadly germs like those studied at the Galveston National Laboratory. UTMB officials asked for and support a bill they say is narrowly focused to protect the security of the lab and the privacy of researchers. The article quotes Dr. James LeDuc, deputy director of the GNL. The Associated Press version of the story aired this morning on KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston) and appears in the Houston Chronicle and on the KPRC-TV (Ch.2, Houston) Web site.


Bill would bar information on deadly agents
Houston Chronicle, May 6, 2009
The Texas Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would keep state laboratories’ information on "select agents" such as the Ebola virus and anthrax off limits to the public. UTMB’s Galveston National Lab researches such substances. The legislation now goes to the House.


UTMB Gets Swine Flu Samples
KPRC-TV, (Ch. 2) Houston, May 5, 2009
UTMB’s Dr. Tom Ksiazek was interviewed for this report about the research that is occurring here on samples of the swine flu virus flown in Tuesday from Mexico. The Galveston County Daily News also has a report about the samples and quotes Ksiazek and Joan Nichols.


The swine flu-related visit to Mexico by UTMB’s Alfredo Torres and Tom Ksiazek continues to draw media attention in Mexico. This latest article in El Dictamen is in addition to the numerous ones listed in yesterday’s In the News.


UTMB scientists collecting swine flu samples for testing
Dallas Morning News, May 5, 2009
UTMB researchers are preparing to test samples of the swine flu virus. UTMB’s Joan Nichols is quoted. From the article: Identifying how the virus has changed can reveal how easily it transmits and how severely it infects people, Nichols said. They may find answers to the biggest puzzle facing scientists so far: why the virus has been deadlier in Mexico than in other areas. One possible reason they will study, Nichols said, is if the strain was more virulent when it first went from pigs to humans and then changed as it spread from person to person.


UTMB’s Tom Ksiazek and Alfredo Torres were in Mexico over the weekend, conferring with Mexican officials about the swine flu outbreak. Their visit received considerable coverage and both Torres and Ksiazek were featured in several publications, including El Golfo, El Mexicano, Diario Noticias, Notiver, El Sol de San Luis, El Sol de Cuautla, El Sol de Hidalgo and El Occidental.


Got swine flu? Don't blame vegetarians, or the pigs
U.S. News and World, April 29 2009
UTMB’s Joan Nichols is quoted in this article about swine flu. "Scientists are still struggling to determine how the virus was first passed from pigs to people. Pigs have receptors in their respiratory tracts that make them susceptible to strains of bird and human flu, which can then mutate to create a new virus, as they apparently have in this case," she said Nichols is an infectious-disease expert and associate director of the Galveston National Laboratory at UTMB. "We consider them the mixing pot… They're a great source to generate something new. People who work with the pigs can also catch it."


Deadly effect of flu in Mexico puzzles experts
San Diego Union, April 29, 2009
UTMB’s Joan Nichols is quoted in this article assessing the current state of knowledge about the swine flu outbreak. "Right now, we're in a state of imperfect knowledge," Nichols said.


Mexico struggling to find source of killer flu
Tuscolatoday.com, (Michigan) April 29, 2009
UTMB’s Joan Nichols is quoted in this Reuters report that also is in Reuters UK about the spread of the swine flu. Experts say the illness likely emerged in a pig infected with avian and human flu strains. From the article: "At some point someone in a rural area came into contact with a pig that was infected, or as it was transported, or at a slaughterhouse," Nichols said.


Worry grows about swine flu
Galveston County Daily News, April 29, 2009
UTMB’s James LeDuc and Joan Nichols are quoted in this article about the swine flu outbreak. From the article: "Flu outbreaks are difficult to predict … But government and health agencies should be ready,' he said. "I think we should be prepared for it,' LeDuc said. 'But I certainly wouldn’t want to predict it; the situation is such that we should be concerned.' While there are similarities between this swine flu outbreak and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, there’s no reason to panic, Nichols said. And most people infected in the United States are showing only mild symptoms, Nichols said. 'Confirmed cases outside of Mexico have not caused serious disease,' Nichols said."


Why is outbreak hitting Mexico harder?
USA Today, April 27, 2009
The swine flu pandemic is receiving heavy international coverage, with several news outlets quoting UTMB’s Joan Nichols. So far, only Mexico has reported deaths of people with laboratory-confirmed swine flu, but the disease isn’t necessarily more severe in that country than elsewhere, U.S. scientists said Monday. "There’s so much unknown at this point," said Nichols. In the report that aired on national public radio’s Marketplace, Nichols said, "I’d rather make decisions based on having too stringent a shutdown that we didn’t need, rather than having been too lax, and it was necessary." The story in the Galveston County Daily News quotes UTMB’s Marsha Canright.


Triple negative breast cancers
Medical Discovery News, April 25, 2009
Saturday’s edition of Medical Discovery News, hosted by UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, was about a rare form of breast cancer that affects approximately 15 percent of women. It’s called the triple negative form of breast cancer, and it gets its name because the cancer cells lack three surface receptors that usually drive the growth of other breast cancers. That means drugs like Tamoxifen won’t work because they depend on these receptors to recognize the cancer cells and attack. Without them, the drugs are rendered useless. Medical Discovery News airs at 10 a.m. Saturday on KUHF-FM in Houston. The program also airs on numerous radio stations across the country and in Mexico.


Changeable virus allows for nurse's plea deal
El Paso Times, April 12, 2009
UTMB’s Miriam J. Alter is quoted as an expert in this article about federal prosecutors agreeing to allow a nurse anesthetist charged with infecting 16 patients to plead to one count of spreading hepatitis C because the virus can be hard to track. "The hepatitis C virus is one of those that reproduces rapidly. It can reproduce many thousands of times within a day within an infected person."


Texas laboratory tracks deadly diseases worldwide
Voice of America, April 10, 2009
UTMB’s Dr. James LeDuc is quoted in this article about the Galveston National Laboratory. "Our faculty [members] are experts in a number of different diseases — plague and anthrax, virus diseases, common ones like influenza and less common ones that you see around the world like dengue and some of the viral hemorrhagic fevers."


Islanders help beat deadly viruses
Galveston County Daily News, April 8, 2009
UTMB’s Thomas G. Ksiazek writes in this guest column how UTMB researchers helped a scientist in Germany who had accidently pricked a finger with the deadly ebola virus. "The medical branch’s expertise, gained from outbreak investigations in Africa and experimentally in our BSL-4 labs, was a part of the solution. The director for biodefense at UTMB’s center for biodefense and emerging infectious diseases, Dr. C. J. Peters, the director of UTMB’s Robert E. Shope laboratory, Mike Holbrook, and I, as director of Galveston National Lab, were among the small group of scientists from around the world who were engaged in this case. Research saves lives. Even in laboratories of the highest biosafety levels with careful research practices, accidents can happen. The Hamburg incident may have occurred on foreign soil but local expertise helped select a course of treatment and, perhaps collectively with the world community, moved us further along the path toward a cure for one of the world’s deadliest diseases."


County lines: Book on vaccines features UTMB staff
Medical News Today, March 10, 2009
UTMB’s Alfredo Torres contributed to this study about a newly-discovered receptor in a strain of Escherichia coli that might help explain why people often get sicker when they're stressed.


County lines: Book on vaccines features UTMB staff
Galveston County Daily News, March 11, 2009
A newly-published 1,488-page textbook co-edited by Drs. Alan Barrett and Lawrence Stanberry is the definitive work on vaccines for biodefense and emerging infectious diseases. Nineteen of the book’s 69 chapters were written by UTMB researchers.


Mechanisms Of Infection Probed By UT Southwestern Researchers
Medical News Today, March 10, 2009
A newly discovered receptor in a strain of Escherichia coli might help explain why people often get sicker when they're stressed.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center are the first to identify the receptor, known as QseE, which resides in a diarrhea-causing strain of E coli. The receptor senses stress cues from the bacterium's host and helps the pathogen make the host ill. A receptor is a molecule on the surface of a cell that docks with other molecules, often signaling the cell to carry out a specific function.


UTMB departments rank near top in survey of NIH grants
UTMB Newsroon, March 4, 2009
GALVESTON, Texas —A survey of National Institutes of Health grant funding received by medical school departments in 2008 ranked seven University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston departments in the top 20 in their respective fields, and placed UTMB’s microbiology and immunology department second in the nation.


Rep’s plan promises renewal of UTMB site
The Daily Texan, Feb. 27, 2009
UTMB’s Dr. Judy Aronson is quoted in this article about State Rep. Craig Eiland’s plan to rebuild UTMB and, specifically, John Sealy Hospital to pre-Ike conditions. "We helped thousands of patients each year that otherwise would not have access to medical care and treatment. UTMB Galveston was a vital part of the health care system in Texas, and the need for it is even clearer now than it was before [Hurricane] Ike," Aronson said.


Tropical virus strains heading for warmer Europe
Fair Home, Feb. 10, 2009
Changes in the Earth’s climate are worrying scientists about an increase in arboviruses. These worries are expressed in a paper co-written by UTMB’s Stephen Higgs in the February edition of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Higgs warns that infection further away can occur if global warming continues as some scientists argue it will, and that readiness for this spread is needed.


Changing strains fueling dengue outbreaks
Emerging Health Threats Forums, England, Feb. 6, 2009
New sub-strains of the dengue virus are appearing in Sri Lanka, affecting more people and causing more severe cases of disease, say epidemiologists online this month in Emerging Infectious Diseases. UTMB’s Scott Weaver is quoted: "There is no reason to suggest things won't get worse until a vaccine against dengue becomes available."


UTMB’s Medical Discovery News wins excellence award
Houston Chronicle, Feb. 6, 2009
Medical Discovery News, a weekly radio program on biomedical science topics produced by UTMB and broadcast by more than 90 stations, has received a 2009 Award of Excellence from the Association of American Colleges.


One health wonders
JAVMA, Feb. 15, 2009 (cover date)
UTMB’s Thomas G. Ksiazek of the Galveston National Laboratory is featured in this Q&A about his veterinary education and its importance in public health in the publication of the American Veterinary Medical Association.


A new Down syndrome diagnostic
Medical Discovery News, Jan. 17, 2009
UTMB professors Norbert Herzog and David Niesel devoted Saturday’s installment to two new tests under development to help determine if a baby will have Down syndrome. "They’re not only much safer, they’re accurate and cheaper. A simple drop of Mom’s blood is used to examine the small amount of fetal DNA present. … The new tests will let expecting moms know their baby is healthy or allow them to better prepare for what’s ahead."


Drink your milk
Medical Discovery News, Jan. 17, 2009
This week’s episode, broadcast by numerous radio stations, including KUHT-FM 88.7, Public Radio in Houston, is about the importance of Vitamin D. A recent report says that insufficient amounts of the vitamin are linked to some cancers. Another report by the American Academy of Pediatrics says that every child in America should be taking a daily vitamin D supplement. The recommendation used to be 200 international units per day. Now the recommendation is twice that at 400IUs per day.


Repair funds coming to UTMB
Houston Chronicle, Jan. 2, 2009
FEMA announced the first $73 million of funding that will be given to UTMB for reimbursement of money it has spent to repair damage caused by Hurricane Ike. A FEMA official said the money, targeted for UTMB's most urgent post-Ike recovery needs, is the first of a series of outlays that the agency will make in coming months. A version of this article also was published by the Galveston County Daily News here.