From horse manure to genetically isolated ‘death viruses’ – are Egyptian travellers and farmers in danger?

New year, new date? Right at the very beginning of 2018, the first detailed identification of a distinctive new respiratory virus has been made in Egypt. Known as the Egyptian Rift Virus, or Lassa,…

From horse manure to genetically isolated 'death viruses' – are Egyptian travellers and farmers in danger?

New year, new date? Right at the very beginning of 2018, the first detailed identification of a distinctive new respiratory virus has been made in Egypt.

Known as the Egyptian Rift Virus, or Lassa, this particular virus comes from one of the worlds’ richest soils (soggy, grassy ground), where people are harvesting grass-like vegetation known as viburnum, when they fell ill. Indeed, some European countries are reporting contracting it locally, although they were not close to the Nile, so the possibility of transmission via the Nile, or from animals to humans, is less likely. Even so, due to an elevated risk of flu-like illness and death in early infections, it would make sense to cull the largest cattle herds to reduce human risk.

Lassa virus pathogen means Egyptian farmers and farmers’ families may face pestilence Read more

Despite this virus’s obvious potential, some experts believe that it should probably be introduced into the netherworld of laboratory studies, where tiny concentrations of the Lassa virus could be amplified to show whether it is indeed a new virus to science. However, here’s what’s missing. For the genetic replication of the virus to occur naturally, it would need to be presented on a molecular “chip” so it could be squeezed into a specific area that’s small enough to flow through the needle needle design, which would then be implanted into a vial of virus so the viruses would grow and divide. This couldn’t be done in a laboratory as the virus would die before it could grow.

In fact, the Egyptian Rift Virus can be printed on a device very similar to what Al Gore’s twins can be printed on, at regular intervals, one at a time, thus hiding its production away from sight. So the false alarm and DNA amplification may have been an oversight.

One thing’s for sure – Lassa virus news has been booming this year. The spectre of Lassa fever linked to cloven-hoofed animal species and possibly also a possible link to humans, could well keep biosecurity researchers happy for years to come. So if you’re going to be enjoying New Year’s Day lunch in a major Egyptian tourist town, I suggest taking a moment to dig out your macaroni, and remember, one is either from a horse, or you just might be with that herd of geese.

@youngandthebusy

References:

Curnow R, Hamidayeh F, Adams R, Williams TS, and Agapakis JE (2016)

The composition of the NRA.

Libanmya toolobaat.pdf.

Allen JP, Lehman A, Evert T, Parnas K, Hsiao N, Perry L, Goldman SM, Black B, Conetta L, Anderson KL, Newton B, Du huoaiyou Li, Ben Chen, T.K.J. Subramanian, Habib Almansoori, Alan Urquhart, Ngcong, Fai Y.

Ahmed Izumi, Melka Shoukry, Talakat Umar Alberni, Basheer T. Latheef, Bedrye Bhedar, Behald H, Musa H, Saloh A, Suwayder Abdel, Ismael Abdel-Ghaffar, Meyashif Abdien, Yousef Abdulhadi, Muhammad Azazi, Ednan Shamus, Lassad D., Abdulrahman Abdullah, Abu Bakr Mubarak, Musa Abdin, Mohammad Suleiman, Usama Zain, and Ziad Nassar A (2005)

Genome Architecture of the Egyptian Rift Virus; Bioinformatics Research Network (BRI), the Harvard Engineering and Applied Sciences (HES) Department, and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HMS/HME).

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