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An Epstein Barr virus infection is so common that about 95% of us have had it at some point in life, usually childhood. Sometimes it leads to mononucleosis. New research strengthens the case that the Epstein Barr virus (EBV) also plays a part in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS).

The study found that getting an EBV infection (mononucleosis) in early adulthood acts as a trigger for later development of multiple sclerosis - about 10 years later. MS usually develops between the ages of 20 to 40 in adulthood. The results are so compelling because the Harvard Univ. researchers looked at data from 10 million young adults on active duty in the US military. They found that risk of MS increased 32-fold after infection with EBV, but not other viruses.

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease in which the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, stripping away protective insulation (myelin) around the nerve cells. The Epstein Barr virus is a herpes virus that attacks a type of immune cell called B cells. After the initial EBV infection the virus remains dormant in a person's cells for the rest of the person's life. A number of studies have found EBV-infected B cells in the brains and demyelinated lesions of MS patients.

The hope now is to develop an EBV vaccine or stop the virus with antiviral drugs targeting EBV, and that this could ultimately prevent or cure MS. Keep in mind that EBV is considered a multifactorial disease by many, with several factors increasing the risk - such as having certain genes, not getting enough vitamin D, and also an Epstein Barr virus infection

From Science Daily: Epstein-Barr virus may be leading cause of multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive disease that affects 2.8 million people worldwide and for which there is no definitive cure, is likely caused by infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), according to a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers.  ...continue reading "Epstein Barr Virus May Be A Trigger For Developing Multiple Sclerosis"

Sperm quality and sperm count is diminished for months after an unvaccinated man is infected with COVID-19. Yikes!

A study conducted by a team of Belgian researchers analyzed samples of sperm from 120 unvaccinated men (average age 35 years) in the first two months after they had recovered from COVID-19 infection. They found that in the first month after infection 37% of the men had reduced sperm counts and 60% had reduced sperm motility (how sperm moves). Over time there was improvement, but even after 2 months sperm count was lower in 6% and reduced sperm motility in 28%.

The only good news was that there was no evidence of the virus in the semen - which means that the semen isn't infectious after recovery. By the way, severity of the infection (with symptoms, including fever) did not correlate with the effects on sperm.

The researchers felt that by 3 months the sperm should be back to normal, but they are also doing a follow-up study to confirm this.

Bottom line: The first 2 months after COVID-19 infection is not the time to try to conceive a baby (due to suboptimal sperm). The study results are also a good argument for getting vaccinated!

From Medscape: Sperm Count, Motility May Be Low for Months After COVID-19

Sperm quality is impaired for months in some men after recovery from COVID-19, researchers have found. ...continue reading "COVID-19 Has An Effect On Sperm Quality"

When we eat food, we eat all the microbes that live on and in the food. But how many microbes do we eat daily? An interesting study was published a few years ago that tried to answer this question. The researchers found that the average American adult ingests between 1 million to over 1 billion microbes every day!

The University of California researchers conducted the study in 2014 by analyzing meals representing three typical dietary patterns: 1) the average American diet (lots of convenience foods) (2) the USDA recommended diet (emphasis on fruits and vegetables, lean meat, dairy, and whole grains), and 3) vegan diet (excludes all animal and dairy products).

They found that Americans likely consume between one million to about 1.3 billion live microbes daily from foods and beverages.  The highest numbers (3-fold higher) were in the USDA recommended meal plan, because it involved 2 meals with fermented foods (that had not been heat-treated or pasteurized, which kill many bacteria). Fresh produce also has high numbers of bacteria (e.g., an apple has 100 million bacteria!).

Fermented foods (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, traditional pickles, kombucha, natto, tempeh, miso) are loaded with microbial species. Recent research shows that eating a serving or 2 of fermented foods daily is a quick way to improve health (by lowering inflammation) and increasing the diversity of bacterial species in the gut microbiome.

Ingesting higher numbers of microbes from foods is desirable  - because having more species in the gut is considered a sign of health. Some of the microbes we ingest join our existing gut microbes, but others just pass through our gut and leave (the "transient microbiome"). Research finds that microbes can have beneficial effects even as they pass through.

Excerpts from the Lang, Eisen, Zivkovic study (2014) study, from Peer Journal: The microbes we eat: abundance and taxonomy of microbes consumed in a day's worth of meals for three diet types.

...Little is known about the effects of ingested microbial communities that are present in typical American diets, and even the basic questions of which microbes, how many of them, and how much they vary from diet to diet and meal to meal, have not been answered.   ...continue reading "We Eat Millions Of Microbes Each Day"

When COVID-19 vaccines first became available to the general public in 2021, women were concerned over whether it was safe to get vaccinated during pregnancy. The answer (from medical studies) is yes, the vaccines are safe and beneficial for both the mother and baby. This is great news!

Also, a recent study found that when women get a mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer or Moderna) during pregnancy, they pass high levels of antibodies to their babies. This means 100% of the babies had protective antibodies to COVID-19 when they were born. The New York University researchers found the highest level of antibodies in the infants when the mothers received the vaccine in the second half of pregnancy.

Current CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women get the COVID-19 vaccine. This is because getting COVID-19 during pregnancy can result in more severe disease, higher risk of preterm birth and  pregnancy outcomes.

BOTTOM LINE: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy protects both the mother and baby. (By the way, studies also find that nursing transfers antibodies to the baby in the breast milk, but it is still unclear if the levels are high enough to fully protect the baby from COVID-19).

From Science Daily: Pregnant women who receive COVID-19 vaccination pass protection from the virus to their newborns

Women who receive the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy pass high levels of antibodies to their babies, a new study finds.  ...continue reading "The COVID-19 Vaccine During Pregnancy Protects Both Mother and Baby"

Many people somehow think that COVID-19 is just another flu virus and not that bad. Wrong! The deadly flu epidemic of 1918 killed an estimated 675,000 persons in the United States. But COVID-19 has already killed more than 690,000 persons - and these are the confirmed cases! It is now officially the deadliest disease event or pandemic in American history.

Currently more than 1900 persons are still dying daily in the United States - so the numbers are increasing rapidly.

It is thought that actual numbers of deaths are at least 10% higher (e.g., a person dies at home from the virus, but had never taken COVID-19 test when alive). Johns Hopkins University updates case and death numbers daily (see COVID-19 Dashboard), for both the US and the rest of the world.

Very soon the official number of deaths from COVID-19 will surpass 700,000! In just two short years! Some comparisons of events causing large numbers of deaths are: the death toll for Americans in the War Between the States (Civil War) was about 650,000, and about 405,000 for World War II. The HIV/AIDS virus has killed at least 700,000 people since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1960s - but this is over the course of 60 years.

Excerpts from Stat News: Covid-19 overtakes 1918 Spanish flu as deadliest disease in American history

The Covid-19 pandemic has become the deadliest disease event in American history, with a death toll surpassing that of the 1918 Spanish flu. ...continue reading "COVID-19 Is Now the Deadliest Pandemic in American History"

We've known for a while that exposure to microbes during the baby's first year is important (and good) for the developing immune system. In addition, recent research suggests that during the second trimester of pregnancy the developing fetus already has microbes in its body which help "educate" the developing immune system.

An international team of researchers found that bacterial species are present in the fetus during the second trimester. They examined and found bacteria in the  gut, lungs, skin, and placenta of the fetuses. Gardnerella, Lactobacillus, and Staphylococcus species were found in most of the fetal organs. Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and Prevotella species were also frequently found, as well as other species. The view is that the microbes came from the mother ("vertical transmission of microbes").

What the researchers found exciting was not just that there were microbes living already in the fetus in the second trimester, but that these microbes "educate" the developing immune system, especially memory T cells. This prepares the newborn with all sorts of exposures (including harmful microbes) once it is born.

The researchers used genetic sequencing (16S ribosomal RNA sequencing) on fetal and placental tissues, which were obtained from second trimester (starting with week 13) abortions.

Excerpts from The Scientist: Microbes in Human Fetuses Spur immune Development

Over the last decade, scientists have shown that the fetal immune system comes online much sooner than was initially thought, but what type of antigens train nascent immune cells and how this affects subsequent development remain open questions. In a study published June 1 in Cell, researchers determined that second-trimester human fetuses harbor live bacteria in tissues all over their bodies that can activate fetal T cells.  ...continue reading "Bacteria Are In the Developing Baby By the Second Trimester"

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Oral microbes Credit: Wikipedia

We all have millions of microbes living in our sinuses – bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This is normal.

An amazing fact is that living together are beneficial, benign, and what we normally consider harmful microbes. And this is normal. This rich and diverse community of microbes living in the sinuses is called the sinus microbiome or microbiota.

OUR SINUSES: We have 4 pairs of sinuses in our heads, which are air-filled and lined with a mucus membrane with cilia. The cilia steadily beat (700 to 800 times a minute!) in order to move mucous into the nasal cavity. Microbes live in the mucous lining.

For years it was thought that the sinuses were sterile, and a sinus infection meant that a harmful microbe (pathogen) had invaded. In the 1990s a popular view was that fungi were the cause of chronic sinusitis. But with the development of new technologies (genetic sequencing) in the last 2 decades, it was discovered that millions of all sorts of microbes live in the sinuses in both healthy and sick persons. And yes, that it was normal to have fungi in the sinuses (so that theory was dropped).

THE CURRENT VIEW: Millions of microbes live in complex communities, interact with one another, and with us (we’re their host!). In healthy persons all the microbial species are in equilibrium, and potentially harmful species are kept in check. But sometimes the communities can become disrupted and imbalanced – this is called dysbiosis.

When there is disruption (e.g., from an infection, allergies), then there can be an overgrowth or a big increase in the potentially harmful microbes living in the sinuses. This can make you more susceptible to an infection or it can result in sinusitis symptoms. (In chronic sinusitis there is an imbalanced sinus microbiome and also inflammation of the sinus mucous lining.)

Staphylococcus Credit: Wikipedia

A HEALTHY SINUS MICROBIOME: It turns out that what is a healthy sinus microbiome varies from person to person. Yes, there is a “core” sinus microbiome of species that are shared throughout the world. (For example: Corynebacterium and Staphylococcus species) ...continue reading "Microbes Live In Our Sinuses"

Well, the following findings make total sense. A recent study found that organic meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) is less likely to be contaminated by harmful bacteria, including multidrug resistant bacteria. These findings hold even if it is processed in a place that also processes non-organic (conventional) meat. But the best results are if organic meat is processed at a processing facility that only handles organic meat.

One interesting finding was that the type of meat processing facility also mattered. Conventional meat that is processed by a "split-processing" facility (processes both organic and conventional meat) had lower rates of multidrug resistant bacteria contamination than processing facilities that only handle conventional meat. This could be because disinfection has to take place in-between processing of organic and conventional meat batches.

This antibiotic use and resistant bacteria association has been known for years for both humans and animals. If antibiotics and other antimicrobials are avoided whenever possible, then bacteria are less likely to mutate, and there is a lower incidence of multidrug resistant microbes.

Bottom line: try to eat organically grown meat whenever possible. It's better environmentally and better for health.

From Science Daily: Organic meat less likely to be contaminated with multidrug-resistant bacteria

Meat that is certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is less likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can sicken people, including dangerous, multidrug-resistant organisms, compared to conventionally produced meat, according to a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  ...continue reading "Organic Meat Less Likely To Be Contaminated By Harmful Bacteria"

Everyone has millions of microbes living in complex communities in their sinuses. All these hundreds of species of bacteria, fungi, and viruses are the sinus microbiome or sinus microbiota. In addition, some (many?) people also have tiny organisms called archaea living in their sinuses.

What are archaea? Archaea are single-celled organisms that lack cell nuclei, and have a unique cell wall membrane. Very little is known about them, what their role is in the sinuses (that is, what are they doing there?), how do they interact with the host (the person), and whether their presence is beneficial or not.

There are only a few studies looking at archaea in humans, and while very little is known, the current view is that there are no known harmful archaea ("archaeal pathogens or parasites").

In a 2019 study, French researchers found archaea in the sinuses of 9 of their patients with chronic sinusitis - and therefore thought they were linked to disease. But unfortunately they didn't look to see if archaea are also found in the sinuses of healthy persons, thus there wasn't a comparison group. They found methanogenic archaea (the only microorganisms able to produce methane) in these nine patients, and they thought that the archaea were contributing to or causing the chronic sinusitis.

The Methanobrevibacter species they found were  M. smithii, M. oralis, and M. massiliense, of which 2 have been found in dental plaque and periodontitis lesions, and one is a gut methanogen. [Note: This means it is found in the gut and is methane producing - but that doesn't mean it is harmful.]

Finally, a more recent and comprehensive study looked at archaea and bacteria in the sinuses of both healthy persons and those with chronic sinusitis. University of Auckland researchers found that only 6 out of 70 persons (both healthy and with sinusitis) had archaea in the sinuses, and they were very low in numbers and in diversity. In those with archaea, there was a lot of variation between people. They did not see any archaea associated with chronic sinusitis.

Archaea found were from Euryarchaeota, Thaumarchaeota, and Methanobrevibacteriaceae phyla.

One can only wonder what the archaea are doing in the sinuses in those with them. Especially, as the researchers point out that archaea are characterized by a unique cell wall membrane that "assists survival in extreme conditions such as hydrothermal vents, salt lakes, anoxic and highly acidic or alkaline environments". Also, that recent studies suggest that the human immune system recognizes and can be "activated" by archaea.

Archaea. Credit: Wikipedia

Finally, studies also mention that archaea are resistant to many antibiotics (because of lack of peptidoglycan in their cell wall). It is unknown how this influences their role (if any) in human health and disease.

As you can see, much is unknown right now. Even how many people have archaea in their sinuses, and what kinds of archaea. Stay tuned.

Article by B.W. Mackenzie et al in Frontiers in Cellular Infection and Microbiology: A Novel Description of the Human Sinus Archaeome During Health and Chronic Rhinosinusitis

Human lungs Credit: Wikipedia

We have millions of all sorts of microbes living throughout our respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, mouth, lungs, etc.). A recent study looked at the microbes in the lungs and found that fungi normally live in healthy lungs, including fungi that are usually thought of as harmful. Surprisingly, the fungi found in lungs of people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are basically similar to those in healthy people.

The fungi living in different parts of the body is the mycobiome. The lung (pulmonary) microbiome is unique, meaning it is different than in other parts of the respiratory tract, such as the mouth. It used to be thought that the lungs were sterile (unless there was an infection). But now we know that is not true - we normally have fungi, bacteria, and viruses living in our lungs.

University of Bergen researchers analyzed both the oral (mouth) mycobiome and lung mycobiome of 93 persons with COPD and 100 healthy persons (the control group). Surprisingly, both the oral and lung mycobiomes of both healthy and COPD groups were dominated by Candida fungi, with more Candida in the mouth, than in the lungs for both groups. Finding that Candida resides in the lungs of heathy individuals was surprising because it can be a "fungal pathogen" (thus harmful and invasive) in different parts of the body.

One piece of good news - using inhaled steroids didn't seem to affect the lung mycobiome.

Keep in mind that fungi are all around us, both indoors and outdoors, and we are constantly breathing in fungal spores. Our bodies have evolved to handle normal amounts just fine. As the researchers wrote: "Healthy airways possess effective removal of such spores". It's when a person is immunocompromised or has COPD that problems can develop.

From Medical Xpress: Fungi are present in your lungs

The lungs were for a long time considered to be sterile in health, while in diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) failure in immune mechanisms were thought to allow microorganisms to proliferate and persist. New sequencing techniques have shown that several microorganisms reside in the lungs of healthy individuals, as well. Few studies have examined the fungal community in COPD and compared it to healthy controls using such techniques. ...continue reading "Fungi Are Living In Your Lungs"