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Dealing with the Disease Outbreak

Introduction

A disease is a condition of the body in which some abnormality occurs which may, in turn, cause pain, distress, or discomfort. Diseases may be spread through various micro-organisms, which include bacteria and viruses among other microbes. Infectious diseases are spread through pathogenic microbes, which enter the bodies of humans and attack the defense system, which resultantly causes illness. Infectious diseases are normally communicable; they can be transferred from one person to another, transmitting the disease. These are termed contagious diseases. However, not all diseases are easily spread, depending on the infectivity of the organisms.

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A lot of chaos has been created due to a new illness scene, raising fear in people’s minds, and anyone member falling sick in the family leads to the apprehension that he or she may die in the near future. Some of the victims have flu; some are generally weak, while others have flu followed by acute bone pain and lethargy, which consequently leads at least half of them to death. In a span of 4-6 weeks, half of the patients were seen recovered back to their normal conditions, whereas the other half was just losing weight, and suffering from recurrent fevers. We have provided a hypothesis and will try to look into the details of this disease, with an aim to state the pathology, diagnosis, and treatment of this new menace.

Hypothesis

A new disease has been discovered, which has given rise to much thought about the possible causes and treatment that can be rendered for its cure. The symptoms of the patients indicate that there is an immune deficiency prevalent in the bodies of these individuals, which causes death sooner than expected, and no medicine seems to prove beneficial for the victims. The symptoms of the disease include flu, fever, lethargy, general weakness, and within a short time span, death. It can be seen that flu is normally caused by bacterial or viral infections. Out of the numerous infections with flu-like symptoms, leukemia is one that seems to best fit the indications given in these patients. The flu, fever, weakness, and low blood cell and platelet count account for anemia and fatigue in the affected individual.

The hypothesis presented here is that a retrovirus is causing this disease, and the elevated white blood cells suggest that it may be due to leukemia and lymphoma. There is a strong correlation between these two ailments. The presence of the highly metastatic lymphoma of T cell origin is prevalent in people suffering from T cell lymphoma. The following figure shows how retroviruses infect cells in the body.

Retroviruses infect cells in the body

Testing the Hypothesis

The current study envisions pervasion of an endemic virus that is transmitted via exchange of fluid. The main target of this virus is the region located around the T- helper cells, that offer conducive environments for the replication of the virus. Since the lymph nodes are targeted, the immune system tends to become severely weakened, ultimately causing a drastic deterioration in the patient, resulting in sudden death.

Several strategies can be applied to confirm the presence of the virus, some of which include the antigen-antibody ELISA test, or a more qualitative approach of using PCR with site specific primers will be employed. Simultaneously, blood samples will be drawn from patients, and analyzed adopting a series of comprehensive bioassays to determine presence of the viral pathogen.

Diagnostic Methods for the Disease

Initially, an assay was conducted in which the interaction between an antigen and its homologous antibody was inhibited by the previous exposure of the antigen to a different antibody as the first one but did not have the same biological function. This is known as the ‘blocking test’; In another situation, a hapten was used to prevent the reaction of an antibody with its intended antigen- the hapten inhibition test- to determine prevalence of the viral pathogen.

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In the second and more commonly used approach, PCR, was employed– in which a small segment of the viral DNA was amplified. The segment of double stranded DNA was placed between two specific oligonucleotide primers through many cycles of amplification, which took place in a programmed thermocycler, with one step occurring at a high temperature in the presence of DNA polymerase that is able to withstand the high temperature. Within a few hours, the original DNA segment is transformed into millions of copies. The PCR has got a 99.99% efficiency, and the DNA segments are analyzed by separating the different fragment of amplified DNA by elecrophoresis—agarose based, and matched with a site specific ladder.

Simultaneously, an immuno based assay, ELISA was also conducted to verify the presence of the virus. An enzyme was employed to link either an anti immunoglobulin or antibody specific for the antigen and thus detest either the antibody or the antigen.

This method was based on the sandwich or double layer technique, in which an enzyme was used as the label. The antibody was attached to a plastic tube or well, to which the antigen containing test sample was added. Following antigen antibody interaction, the enzyme antiimunoglobulin conjugate was added. The ELISA test was read by incubating the reactants with an appropriate substrate to yield a colored product that was measured in a spectrophotometer. Alkaline phosphatase was employed. The presence/ intensity of color indicated the presence of the viral pathogen. To date, ELISA has replaced many radio immunoassays because of the lower cost and safety, speed and simplicity to perform the assay.

The Protein Chip Array technology may be employed to diagnose for the disease that is prevalent, and can also provide options for treatment of the disease. This technology can be used to detect for the small molecule drugs in the bodies of patients (Reddy & Delmasso, 2003). The surface-enhanced lasers desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF-MS) of this technology may assist in diagnosis and prognosis. This method employs Protein Chip Arrays, a Protein Chip Reader, and software related to these components. The symptoms of the patients are giving us thought to employ the Protein Chip Arrays in figuring out what is wrong in the body, and for detecting the disease.

Chromatography surfaces are used along with any biological surfaces, to confine the proteins from complex biological combinations. They are gathered in accordance with the physicochemical properties they possess. The surfaces consist of hydrophobic, hydrophilic, ion exchange, immobilized metal, and other such combinations (Reddy & Delmasso, 2003).

The protein-protein and protein-DNA contact may be seen through this approach, and no previous knowledge regarding any specific proteins is necessary; the activated surfaces put the required molecules such as antibodies and other receptors, to a halt. Each patient’s tissue samples may be extracted, and spotted on a ProteinChip Array. The proteins bind to the surface according to the properties they withhold.

If they are the proteins that we wish to detect for the diagnostic test, they will stay on the array surface and the rest of them will be washed away. The ProteinChip Reader may examine the proteins for their status, and for the disease they are carrying. This is done by comparing the MS profiles from the ProteinChip Reader, which will indicate specific molecular weights further compared by statistical methods (Fung, 2002). This is a purely protein-based technology that may be executed to diagnose human diseases or discrepancies.

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Molecular diagnostics are also becoming worthwhile in detecting infectious diseases, as well as genetic ones. Thus the current new disease is a viral infection, which can be diagnosed through genomics and proteomics for protein expression. CGH arrays may also be employed to find out about the disease conditions in the body. This is the Comparative Genomic Hybridization method. The whole human genome can be examined through this technique. It is a faster and more effective technique, and can examine many protein markers at one time, which is beneficial for the diagnosis of this disease.

DNA-based testing can also be employed to find out about human disease now, even before symptoms are seen

DNA Tests

Some underlying examples pertaining to diseases affecting the socio-economic welfare of mankind still pose many questions that are left un-answered. (Casper and Klug, 1962). The most severe of which is the HIV that causes the deadly AIDS (Badger, et al. 2001).

Treatment of the disease

Other than launching mass awareness campaigns, and educating the masses about ways to prevent the disease, clinical trials were employed using stem cell therapy. Stem cells are housed in hematopoietic tissues such as the bone marrow. They are part of the colony forming unit pool, which indicates that individual cells are able to differentiated and proliferate under favorable conditions as they are pluripotent and are capable of differentiating into committed precursor cells of the granulocytes and monocyte lineage of erythropoietic lineage and of megakaryocytic lineage. Stem cells are precursor cells that are multipotential with the capacity to yield differentiated cell types with different functions and phenotypes.

In this approach, stem cells taken from the patients bone marrow, were cultured in specific media in vitro, and ultimately subjected to differentiate into specialized lymph nodal tissues that would replace and replenish the infected tissues of the patients.

Biotech research has led to the development of promising and exciting new therapeutic approaches to cure human diseases. Gene therapy is a new approach which involves inserting a normal copy of the defective gene into the genome so that it can start to produce whatever viral protein the patients body lacks. The gene is introduced into target cells (such as the patient’s liver of lung cells) using a viral vector that has been genetically altered to carry the normal human DNA.

The vector unloads the genetic material containing the therapeutic human gene, thus restoring the diseased cell to a normal functioning state. (Woldawer, W, et al, 1993). Retroviruses are commonly used for gene therapy due to their simple structure. Scientists first remove the viral genes and replace them with therapeutic genes. The altered virus will still be able to transfer the added genes to the host chromosomes, but is not able to replicate itself.

Genetic transformation and transfection have proven to be of great success. (Walker, R. et al, 1993) Genes pertaining to virus resistance can be introduced into vectors/ plasmids by means of electroporation (i.e. use of high voltage) or by the gene gun- where the gene of interest is projected into the vector, or by means of tumour causing bacteria know as Agrobacterium tumefecians. (Lee, et al, 1991). Thus, the vector produces the gene of interest on a large scale, which can be commercialized. Common examples exploiting this biotechnology approach are the large scale production of Human insulin, and Hepatitis virus.

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Curative therapy for the disease includes employing drugs which work against the mechanism of action of the virus (Bruce, W, 1992). For example, nucleoside inhibitors of the reverse transcriptase will act as chain terminators when incorporated into the DNA copies of the viral RNA, which will in turn bind to the reverse transcriptase and inhibit its action. Likewise, protease inhibitors block the ability of the viral protease to cut the long polyprotein into the small proteins that normally function in the viral core. This will envisage to drastically reducing the viral replication thus preventing subsequent damage to the immune system.

However, modern day research is still struggling to root out the viral DNA that remains hidden in the chromosomes of CD 4 and T cells, which have the ability to persist for years in a latently infected state and reactivate to produce virus

The first big success story in the commercial production of drugs by immune therapy was interferon, a naturally occurring compound associated with the immune system. Interferon is produced by cells in the human body in response to viral attack. It promotes production of a protein that stimulates the immune system, thus interfering with the spread of infection. By means of genetic engineering, a gene for interferon was introduced into bacteria, which were in turn cloned, thus yielding in millions of copies of the interferon gene, and producing a previously rare protein in millions of copies. This is now used to combat viral infections in transplant patients, and also to fight hepatitis C, and other viral diseases.

Thus, in conclusion, it has been manifested that an endemic that has greatly affected mankind, in terms of rapid invasion of the virus, has been combated employing and exploiting biotechnology tools. Modern day researches envision studying the mechanism of virus particles up to the nanoscale levels, in order to create effective remedies to combat diseases. New skills developed simultaneously by hi- tech machinery has opened doors to studying the molecular basis of a disease, which was previously not possible.

The research reported in the current paper could not be cured by antibiotics—since it was caused by a virus which was observed to evolve rapidly. Thus the development of vaccines and curative agents has been particularly challenging. Nevertheless, an intense research effort has led to antiviral agents that keep the virus in check, at least till until the mutants grow out or side-effects of the drugs force the therapy to stop.

Moreover, there is lack of insertion specificity: viral intergration can occur at many sites in target cell chromosomes, and insertion at some of those sites could cause potential harm—which needs more attention by researchers. Likewise, the immuno deficiency associated with the infection was seen to have profound effects as the patients themselves were observed to serve as incubators for the evolution of mutant strains, that were resistant to the drugs or strategies employed, thus exhibiting a profound effect of the virus which could become endemic if left unanswered.

There is no doubt that research studies conducted by biotechnologists have vastly increased our understanding of the human body and how it works at basis molecular level. By the small number of success biotechnology has displayed, there is now enormous quest to quench cures for almost all known diseases to mankind. The triumphs of biotechnology are saving some individuals from some diseases. They give us exciting and finely detailed molecular description of what we are.

References

Badger, J., et al., 1988. Structural analysis of a series of antiviral agents complexed with human rhinovirus 14. Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science USA. 85: 3304-3308.

Casper, D., and Klug, A., 1962. Physical properties in the construction of regular viruses. Cold Spring Habour Symposia in Qunatitative Biology 27: 1-24.

Fraenkel-Conrat, H., and Kimball, P., 1982. Virology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hogle, J., Chow, M., and Filman, D., 1985. Three Dimensional structure of poliovirus at 2.9 A resolution. Nature 229:1358-1365.

Lee, Thomas F. , 1991, The Human Genome Project: Cracking the Genetic code of life. New York: Plenum Press.

Rossman, M., et al., 1985. Structure of a human common cold virus and functional relationship to other picornaviruses. Nature 317:145-153.

Rossman, M., et al., 1987. Common cold viruses. Trends in Biochemical Sciences 12:313-318.

Walker, R., and Sheetz M., 1993. Cytoplamic microtubule-associated motors. Annual Review of Biochemistry 62: 429-451.

Wallace, Bruce, 1992. The Search for the Gene. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Weis, W., et al., 1988. Structure of the influenza virus hemagglutinin complexed with its receptor, sialic acid. Nature 333: 426-431.

Wlodawer, A., and Erickson, L., 1993. Stucture-based inhibitors of HIV-1 protease. Annual Review of Biochemistry 62:543-585.

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