infectious diseases

BAYLOR SCOTT & WHITE RESEARCH INSTITUTE

According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis now kills more people worldwide than HIV/AIDS, and cases of the disease have increased in Texas. In 2015, there were more than 1,300 cases of tuberculosis reported in the state.

As public health officials struggle to contain the Zika virus, science writer Sonia Shah tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that epidemiologists are bracing themselves for what has been called the next "Big One" — a disease that could kill tens of millions of people in the coming years.

With STDs On The Rise, Google Wants To Help Researchers Track Outbreaks

Dec 16, 2015
Amy Johnson, a PhD candidate in public health at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is working on a model to use Google searches to track the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in real time.
Mary Chris Jaklevic / KHN

With sexually transmitted diseases on the rise, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago think they might have a powerful new weapon to fight their spread: Google searches.

The nation’s leading search engine has quietly begun giving researchers access to its data troves to develop analytical models for tracking infectious diseases in real time or close to it. UIC is one of at least four academic institutions that have received access so far, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If there's anything that this outbreak has taught me, it's that I'm often wrong," says Dr. Daniel Bausch.

He's talking about Ebola. He's one of the world's leading experts on the virus — an infectious disease specialist at Tulane University and a senior consultant to the World Health Organization.

And as he makes clear, he's still got a lot to learn.

Infectious bacteria have a way of outsmarting us. So maybe it's time, scientists say, that we stopped trying to kill them and instead pit them against each other in a sort of bacterial Hunger Games. 

“Bacteria, even though they are technically unicellular organisms, congregate and live in very tightly-packed communities, which we call biofilms,” explains Gürol Süel, an author on the study and an associate professor of molecular biology at the University of California, San Diego.

The bacterial outbreak at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center highlights shortcomings in the federal government's efforts to avert the most lethal hospital infections, which are becoming increasingly impervious to treatment.

Teresa Romero Ramos, the Spanish nursing assistant who was diagnosed with Ebola, is now cured and has left a hospital in Madrid.

Just before her departure, her husband, Javier Limón, reportedly said Romero would sue Madrid's government for intimating that she had lied and for "executing" her dog Excálibur, while she was being treated for the deadly virus.

Ebola has rightly gripped the world's attention, but its death toll pales in comparison to other infectious diseases like tuberculosis. TB is the world's second leading infectious killer, after HIV/AIDS, and it's claiming more victims than previously thought — 1.5 million last year alone — according to a report released today by the World Health Organization.