The 9 Deadliest Viruses on Earth

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The 9 Deadliest Viruses on Earth

By Anne Harding – Contributing Writer October 27, 2016


This digitally-colorized image shows the H1N1 influenza virus under a transmission electron microscope. In 2009, this virus (then called the swine flu) caused a pandemic, and is thought to have killed 200,00 people worldwide.

(Image credit: National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID))

Humans have been battling viruses since before our species had even evolved into its modern form. For some viral diseases, vaccines and antiviral drugs have allowed us to keep infections from spreading widely, and have helped sick people recover. For one disease — smallpox — we’ve been able to eradicate it, ridding the world of new cases.

But as the Ebola outbreak now devastating West Africa demonstrates, we’re a long way from winning the fight against viruses.

The strain that is driving the current epidemic, Ebola Zaire, kills up to 90 percent of the people it infects, making it the most lethal member of the Ebola family. “It couldn’t be worse,” said Elke Muhlberger, an Ebola virus expert and associate professor of microbiology at Boston University.

But there are other viruses out there that are equally deadly, and some that are even deadlier. Here are the nine worst killers, based on the likelihood that a person will die if they are infected with one of them, the sheer numbers of people they have killed, and whether they represent a growing threat.

Marburg virus

This colorized image shows a number of Marburg virus virions, as seen through a transmission electron microscope. Ebola viruses and Marburg virus both belong to the same family of viruses, called the filovirus family.

(Image credit: Frederick Murphy)

Scientists identified Marburg virus in 1967, when small outbreaks occurred among lab workers in Germany who were exposed to infected monkeys imported from Uganda. Marburg virus is similar to Ebola in that both can cause hemorrhagic fever, meaning that infected people develop high fevers and bleeding throughout the body that can lead to shock, organ failure and death.

The mortality rate in the first outbreak was 25 percent, but it was more than 80 percent in the 1998-2000 outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as in the 2005 outbreak in Angola, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ebola virus

Ebola Virus Image

(Image credit: Cynthia Goldsmith | CDC)

The first known Ebola outbreaks in humans struck simultaneously in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. Ebola is spread through contact with blood or other body fluids, or tissue from infected people or animals. The known strains vary dramatically in their deadliness, Muhlberger said.

One strain, Ebola Reston, doesn’t even make people sick. But for the Bundibugyo strain, the fatality rate is up to 50 percent, and it is up to 71 percent percent for the Sudan strain, according to WHO.

The outbreak underway in West Africa began in early 2014, and is the largest and most complex outbreak of the disease to date, according to WHO.


This image of the rabies virus, taken through an electron microscope, shows particles of the virus itself, as well as the round structures called Negri bodies, which contain viral proteins.

(Image credit: CDC/ Dr. Fred Murphy)

Although rabies vaccines for pets, which were introduced in the 1920s, have helped make the disease exceedingly rare in the developed world, this condition remains a serious problem in India and parts of Africa.

“It destroys the brain, it’s a really, really bad disease,” Muhlberger said. “We have a vaccine against rabies, and we have antibodies that work against rabies, so if someone gets bitten by a rabid animal we can treat this person,” she said.

However, she said, “if you don’t get treatment, there’s a 100 percent possibility you will die.”


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, in green), infecting a cell. Image taken with an electron scanning microscope.

(Image credit: Cynthia Goldsmith, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

In the modern world, the deadliest virus of all may be HIV. “It is still the one that is the biggest killer,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and spokesman for the Infectious Disease Society of America.

An estimated 36 million people have died from HIV since the disease was first recognized in the early 1980s. “The infectious disease that takes the biggest toll on mankind right now is HIV,” Adalja said.

Powerful antiviral drugs have made it possible for people to live for years with HIV. But the disease continues to devastate many low- and middle-income countries, where 95 percent of new HIV infections occur. Nearly 1 in every 20 adults in Sub-Saharan Africa is HIV-positive, according to WHO.


A smallpox virus

(Image credit: CDC/ J. Nakano)

In 1980, the World Health Assembly declared the world free of smallpox. But before that, humans battled smallpox for thousands of years, and the disease killed about 1 in 3 of those it infected. It left survivors with deep, permanent scars and, often, blindness.

Mortality rates were far higher in populations outside of Europe, where people had little contact with the virus before visitors brought it to their regions.  For example, historians estimate 90 percent of the native population of the Americas died from smallpox introduced by European explorers. In the 20th century alone, smallpox killed 300 million people.

“It was something that had a huge burden on the planet, not just death but also blindness, and that’s what spurred the campaign to eradicate from the Earth,” Adalja said.


This image shows the hantavirus known as the Sin Nombre virus (SNV), under a transmission electron microscope. This virus caused an outbreak in November 1993, in the Four Corners region of the U.S.

(Image credit: Cynthia Goldsmith. Provided by CDC/ Brian W.J. Mahy, PhD; Luanne H. Elliott, M.S.)

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) first gained wide attention in the U.S. in 1993, when a healthy, young Navajo man and his fiancée living in the Four Corners area of the United States died within days of developing shortness of breath. A few months later, health authorities isolated hantavirus from a deer mouse living in the home of one of the infected people. More than 600 people in the U.S. have now contracted HPS, and 36 percent have died from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus is not transmitted from one person to another, rather, people contract the disease from exposure to the droppings of infected mice.

Previously, a different hantavirus caused an outbreak in the early 1950s, during the Korean War, according to a 2010 paper in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews. More than 3,000 troops became infected, and about 12 percent of them died.

While the virus was new to Western medicine when it was discovered in the U.S., researchers realized later that Navajo medical traditions describe a similar illness, and linked the disease to mice.


This digitally-colorized image shows the H1N1 influenza virus under a transmission electron microscope. In 2009, this virus (then called the swine flu) caused a pandemic, and is thought to have killed 200,00 people worldwide.

(Image credit: National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID))

During a typical flu season, up to 500,000 people worldwide will die from the illness, according to WHO. But occasionally, when a new flu strain emerges, a pandemic results with a faster spread of disease and, often, higher mortality rates.

The most deadly flu pandemic, sometimes called the Spanish flu, began in 1918 and sickened up to 40 percent of the world’s population, killing an estimated 50 million people.

“I think that it is possible that something like the 1918 flu outbreak could occur again,” Muhlberger said. “If a new influenza strain found its way in the human population,and could be transmitted easily between humans, and caused severe illness, we would have a big problem.”


This image shows round, Dengue virus particles as they look under a transmission electron microscope. Dengue viruses are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

(Image credit: Frederick Murphy. Provided by CDC/ Frederick Murphy, Cynthia Goldsmith)

Dengue virus first appeared in the 1950s in the Philippines and Thailand, and has since spread throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the globe. Up to 40 percent of the world’s population now lives in areas where dengue is endemic, and the disease — with the mosquitoes that carry it — is likely to spread farther as the world warms.

Dengue sickens 50 to 100 million people a year, according to WHO. Although the mortality rate for dengue fever is lower than some other viruses, at 2.5 percent, the virus can cause an Ebola-like disease called dengue hemorrhagic fever, and that condition has a mortality rate of 20 percent if left untreated.

“We really need to think more about dengue virus because it is a real threat to us,” Muhlberger said. There is no current vaccine against dengue, but large clinical trials of an experimental vaccine developed by French drug maker Sanofi have had promising results.


Rotaviruses particles are shown here under a very high magnification of 455,882X.

(Image credit: CDC/ Dr. Erskine L. Palmer)

Two vaccines are now available to protect children from rotavirus, the leading cause of severe diarrheal illness among babies and young children. The virus can spread rapidly, through what researchers call the fecal-oral route (meaning that small particles of feces end up being consumed).

Although children in the developed world rarely die from rotavirus infection, the disease is a killer in the developing world, where rehydration treatments are not widely available.

The WHO estimates that worldwide, 453,000 children younger than age 5 died from rotavirus infection in 2008. But countries that have introduced the vaccine have reported sharp declines in rotavirus hospitalizations and deaths.

Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

New coronavirus from China: Everything you need to know

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New coronavirus from China: Everything you need to know

By Yasemin Saplakoglu – Staff Writer, Jeanna Bryner – Live Science Editor-in-Chief 3 hours ago
Here’s a look at what you need to know about the new virus.

People wear face masks as they wait at Hankou Railway Station on Jan. 22, 2020, in Wuhan, China, where the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV originated.

People wear face masks as they wait at Hankou Railway Station on Jan. 22, 2020, in Wuhan, China, where the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV originated.
(Image: © Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images)

A newly identified coronavirus has been spreading in China, and has now reached several other countries. As the number of confirmed cases and deaths continue to rise, health officials are working on all fronts to learn more about the virus and put measure into place to curtail its spread. Here’s a look at what you need to know about the virus, now called 2019-nCoV.

What is a coronavirus?

illustration of a coronavirus

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people get infected with coronaviruses at one point in their lives, but symptoms are typically mild to moderate. In some cases, the viruses can cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

These viruses are common amongst animals worldwide, but only a handful of them are known to affect humans. Rarely, coronaviruses can evolve and spread from animals to humans. This is what happened with the coronaviruses known as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-Cov), both of which are known to cause more severe symptoms.

How many people have the new virus?

A representation of a doctor looking for symptoms of the new Wuhan coronovirus in a patient.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As of Jan. 24, there are more than 830 confirmed cases and 26 deaths linked to the 2019-nCoV virus in China, according to The Washington Post.

How far has the virus spread?

Map that depicts the spread of the new coronavirus.

(Image credit: CDC)

The first cases of the pneumonia-like virus were reported in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31, 2019. Since then, the virus has spread to various other countries, including Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States.

The first U.S. case was confirmed on Jan. 21 in a man in Washington state who had recently traveled to Wuhan. On Jan. 24, officials confirmed a second case in a woman from Chicago who had also recently traveled to the Chinese city. Both cases were hospitalized, but doing well, officials said.

The CDC is also investigating more than 60 people in 22 states for a possible infection with the new virus, officials said Friday (Jan. 24). Eleven of those people have so far tested negative for the virus.

Where did the virus come from?

A new study suggests snakes may be the source of the new coronavirus causing an outbreak in China. Above, an image of Naja atra, a type of snake common in Southeastern China.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Since the virus first popped up in Wuhan in people who had visited a local seafood and animal market, officials could only say it likely hopped from an animal to humans. In a new study, however, researchers sequenced the genes of 2019-nCoV (as the virus is now called), and then they compared it with the genetic sequences of more than 200 coronaviruses that infect various animals around the world. Their results, detailed in the Journal of Medical Virology, suggested that 2019-nCoV likely originated in snakes.

As for what kind of snake, the scientists noted there are two snakes that are common to southeastern China where the outbreak originated: the many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus) and the Chinese cobra (Naja atra).

However, some experts have criticized the study, saying it’s unclear if coronaviruses can indeed infect snakes.

How did the virus hop from animals to humans?

A woman walks in front of a closed seafood market in Wuhan, China. Officials believe the market is linked with an outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new virus.

A woman walks in front of a closed seafood market in Wuhan, China. Officials believe the market is linked with an outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new virus.  (Image credit: NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Some viruses are known to become capable of transmitting to humans, and this coronavirus is one of those. But how? The study published in the Journal of Medical Virology, revealing the likely snake host, also found that a change to one of the viral proteins in 2019-nCoV allows the virus to recognize and bind to receptors on certain host cells. This ability is a critical step to entering cells, and the researchers said that the change in this particular protein may have helped the virus hop to humans.

Can the virus spread between people?

coronavirus diagram, showing the virus infecting lungs.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Yes, in limited cases, according to the CDC, but the primary mode of transmission seems to be from animal to human. In terms of how one would catch the virus, the CDC says that human coronaviruses are most commonly spread between an infected person and others via:

—the air (from viral particles from a cough or sneeze);

—close personal contact (touching or shaking hands);

—an object or surface with viral particles on it (then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands);

—and rarely from fecal contamination.

How would this virus cause a pandemic?

Woman sneezing at an airport, virus spread.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In order for this virus, or any, to lead to a pandemic in humans, it needs to do three things: efficiently infect humans, replicate in humans and then spread easily among humans, Live Science previously reported. Right now, the CDC is saying this virus passes between humans in a limited manner, but they are still investigating.

How does the virus compare to SARS and MERS?

A highly magnified picture of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

(Image credit: CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith, Azaibi Tamin)

MERS and SARS have both been known to cause severe symptoms in people. It’s unclear how the new coronavirus will compare in severity, as it has caused severe symptoms and death in some patients while causing only mild illness in others, according to the CDC. All three of the coronaviruses can be transmitted between humans through close contact.

MERS, which was transmitted from touching infected camels or consuming their meat or milk, was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and has mostly been contained in the Arabian Peninsula, according to NPR. SARS was first reported in 2002 in southern China (no new cases have been reported since 2004) and is thought to have spread from bats that infected civets. The new coronavirus was likely transmitted from touching or eating an infected animal in Wuhan.

During the SARS outbreak, the virus killed about 1 in 10 people who were infected. The death rate from 2019-nCoV isn’t yet known, although most of the patients who have died from the infection have been older than 60 and have had preexisting conditions. However, more recently, a young healthy man died in Wuhan, raising concern that the virus might be more dangerous than thought, according to The Washington Post.

What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus and how do you treat it?

A thermometer.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. These symptoms are similar to those caused by SARS, according to a recent study published in the journal The Lancet.

Despite sharing some symptoms that were similar to SARS, there “are some important differences,” such as the absence of upper respiratory tract symptoms like runny nose, sneezing and sore throat and intestinal symptoms like diarrhea, which affected 20% to 25% of SARS patients, lead author Bin Cao, from the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and the Capital Medical University, both in Beijing, said in a statement.

There are no specific treatments for coronavirus infections and most people will recover on their own, according to the CDC. So treatment involves rest and medication to relieve symptoms. A humidifier or hot shower can help to relieve a sore throat and cough. If you are mildly sick, you should drink a lot of fluids and rest but if you are worried about your symptoms, you should see a healthcare provider, they wrote. (This is advice for all coronaviruses, not specifically aimed toward the new virus).

There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus but researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health confirmed they were in preliminary stages of developing one. In addition, the drug company Regeneron announced that it is in the early stages of developing a treatment for this virus, according to NBC News.

What is being done to stop the spread of the coronavirus?

Health officers screen arriving passengers from China with thermal scanners at Changi International airport in Singapore on Jan. 22, 2020, as authorities increased measures against the spread of the newfound coronavirus.

Health officers screen arriving passengers from China with thermal scanners at Changi International airport in Singapore on Jan. 22, 2020, as authorities increased measures against the spread of the newfound coronavirus. (Image credit: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chinese government has stopped most of the travel to and from Wuhan as well as 12 other nearby cities, according to The New York Times. This “lockdown” affects about 35 million people, the Times reported.

Major airports in the U.S. are conducting screenings to make sure incoming passengers aren’t infected. However, U.S. officials said on Friday (Jan. 24) that they are currently reevaluating the effectiveness of this screening.

The CDC also recommends avoiding nonessential travel to Wuhan.

What do we expect in the coming days?

A handshake.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Looking at what happened with MERS and SARS, it’s likely that some spread of the virus from close contact between humans will continue to occur, according to CDC. More cases — possibly including some in the U.S. — will likely be identified in the coming days.

How can people protect themselves and others?

A woman wearing a face mask on a flight.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If traveling to Wuhan, you should avoid contact with sick people, avoid dead or alive animals, animal markets or products that come from animals such as uncooked meat, according to the CDC. You should often wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, they wrote. If you are infected by the virus you can take steps to help avoid transmitting it to others such as isolating yourself at home, separating yourself from other people in the house, wearing a face mask, covering your coughs and sneezes and washing your hands, according to the CDC.

People who traveled to Wuhan and became sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing within the following two weeks should seek medical care right away, and call ahead to inform medical staff about their recent travel.

Rachael Rettner contributed reporting.


5-Inch-Long ‘Dragon’s Horn’ Grows from Man’s Back

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5-Inch-Long ‘Dragon’s Horn’ Grows from Man’s Back

By Mindy Weisberger – Senior Writer 4 days ago

The enormous growth began as a lesion that steadily expanded over several years.

A hardened skin growth on a man's back

After doctors removed the horny growth, they found that it was cancerous.
(Image: © BMJ Case Reports 2019)

A brownish-yellow, hardened skin growth on a man’s back grew to such massive proportions that it resembled a giant dragon’s horn by the time surgeons finally removed it.
The so-called horn started out humbly as a rough, scaly lesion that first appeared in the middle of a 50-year-old man’s back years ago, according to findings published online in the December 2019 issue of the journal BMJ Case Reports.

Over the next three years, the patch of toughened skin grew progressively bigger. Eventually, it formed a thick, curved, horn-like structure that extended nearly to the man’s waist; at the time of its removal, the growth measured 5.5 inches (140 millimeters) long and over 2 inches (60 mm) wide, reaching just over 2 inches (55 mm) thick.

Conical “horns” such as these, also known as cutaneous horns, consist of compacted keratin and are most commonly found in patients from the ages of 60 to 70 years old, according to the dermatology website DermNet NZ. While cutaneous horns can form anywhere on the body, they typically appear in places that are exposed to the sun, such as the head and ears, the backs of hands, and the forearms.
Cutaneous horns are generally small, but some — such as the recently excised back horn — can reach astonishing proportions. One famous example, preserved and exhibited in The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, measures approximately 8 inches (20 centimeters) long and was removed from a 70-year-old woman and donated to the museum in the 1940s.
Another human horn in The Mütter Museum’s collection is displayed on a wax figure that was sculpted from a living model. This horn belonged to a 19th-century French woman known as Madame Dimanche, and the structure measured nearly 10 inches (25 cm) long.

Cancer link
Horn-like growths are often associated with skin cancer, and in nearly 16% of those cases, the cancer is malignant, according to the case report. In the current case, after surgeons removed the growth, they closed the wound with a skin graft from the man’s thigh. When they examined the mass, they identified squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer caused by the runaway growth of cells that make up the epidermis, the skin’s outermost layer.
While the patient didn’t have a family history of skin cancer or a personal history of excessive sun exposure, he had fair skin and was a smoker, placing him in a higher-risk group for developing a malignant growth, according to the report.
The horn likely grew to be as big as it did only because its owner neglected to treat it for several years, even though he lived “in a developed country with access to free health care,” the authors remarked. The surgery to remove the man’s horn took place in the United Kingdom.
“This highlights that, despite current public skin-cancer awareness and rigorous health care measures, cases like this can still arise and slip through the net,” the authors wrote.


A Man Developed an ‘Eggshell’ in His Testicle Due to Parasitic Worms

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A Man Developed an ‘Eggshell’ in His Testicle Due to Parasitic Worms

By Yasemin Saplakoglu – Staff Writer a day ago

A CT scan showed that the man had calcification in his right scrotum.

A CT scan showed that the man had calcification in his right scrotum.
(Image: © BMJ Case Reports 2020)

An 80-year-old man in India developed a bizarre, eggshell-like material around his testicle — the result of a rare reaction to a chronic infection, according to a new report of the case.
The man first went to the doctor because he was experiencing symptoms of a urinary tract infection, including blood in his urine, according to the report, which was published Jan. 6 in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

That’s when doctors discovered that he had an enlarged and “stony hard” right testicle. CT scans then revealed that the man had a fluid-filled sac around his testicle that had begun to calcify, or harden with deposits of calcium.

The fluid-filled sac, called a hydrocele, isn’t part of the typical anatomy of the scrotum, but it can develop in response to an infection. The development of a hydrocele is common, especially in newborns, and it typically disappears without treatment within a year. But it can also occur in older men in response to inflammation or injury.
The most common cause of this fluid-filled sac is lymphatic filariasis, an infection caused by certain species of parasitic worms. The larvae of these parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquito bites, and they usually develop into adults in human lymphatic vessels. The worms are typically found in tropical regions, including India, where 40% of the world’s cases of lymphatic filariasis occur.
Globally, 25 million men who were affected by lymphatic filariasis had hydroceles, and 15 million men affected by lymphatic filariasis had lymphedema, or swelling in the arms or legs, according to a 2019 update from the World Health Organization.
But it’s very uncommon for the sac to start to harden like an eggshell — a complication of the sac that was first described in a case report published in 1935. This “eggshell calcification” of the scrotum indicates that there’s some sort of chronic infection within the hydrocele, according to the report.
The infection usually can be treated with anti-filarial drugs, but sometimes, it may require surgery or other measures, such as specialized skin care and exercises, according to the report. The authors did not elaborate on the specific treatment their patient received. They recommended that people living in areas with a high risk of these infections be treated annually with anti-filarial drugs.

Originally published on Live Science.



Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

By Cari Nierenberg August 31, 2018

Biodigital human nervous system

Shown here is the nervous system, containing the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.
(Image: © The BioDigital HumanTM developed by NYU School of Medicine and BioDigital Systems LLC)

Named for the two French physicians who first detected it, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare neurological disorder in which a person’s own immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system, the network of nerves found outside of the brain and spinal cord. (The disorder is pronounced ghee-yan bah-ray.)
Specifically, GBS damages the myelin sheath, a protective covering that surrounds the axons (or core) of nerve cells. This damage interferes with the transmission of nerve signals to the brain and the muscles may lose their ability to respond to the brain’s commands and function properly, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The nerve damage may cause rapidly progressive muscle weakness, numbness and tingling, a loss of reflexes, and sometimes paralysis. Classically, the symptoms of GBS begin in the legs and feet, and then the weakness and tingling ascends the body, spreading to the arms and fingers and affecting all four limbs simultaneously, said Dr. Ken Gorson, a professor of neurology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and the chair of the Global Medicine Advisory Board of GBS/CIDP Foundation International, a patient education and advocacy group for the disorder. Symptoms can also first start in the arms and work their way down the body to the legs and feet, he said.
Sometimes GBS symptoms spread to the face, where they may affect the muscles involved in breathing, swallowing and speaking. GBS is estimated to affect about one or two in every 100,000 people each year, Gorson told Live Science.

Causes and risk factors
GBS can affect people at any age, but it tends to peak in people in their 40s and 50s, and men are slightly more likely to get the disorder than women, Gorson said.
Although the exact cause of GBS is unknown, about two-thirds of people affected by it have a preceding infection or immune stimulus, such as the flu or a stomach bug, in their medical history, Gorson said. GBS symptoms usually first appear within a few days or weeks after the infection occurs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following infections may trigger GBS:
Influenza virus
Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterial infection linked with undercooked chicken
Epstein-Barr virus
Zika virus
Hepatitis A, B, C and E
Mycoplasma pneumonia
Symptoms of GBS can range from mild to severe.
The muscle weakness seen in GBS usually comes on quickly and is symmetric, meaning it tends to be equal on both sides of the body, Gorson said. About two to four weeks after the first symptoms occur, people typically reach a point of greatest weakness, and then their symptoms may plateau, where they don’t continue to get worse for a period of weeks or months, he said. The plateau period is followed by a slow recovery phase.
Because nerves control a person’s ability to move as well as many other body functions, the symptoms of GBS can have widespread effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of GBS may include:
Weakness in the legs that may lead to an inability to walk or climb stairs and possibly to paralysis
Tingling, numbness, pins-and-needles sensation in the feet and hands
Nerve pain, which can be severe, especially at night
Breathing difficulties may occur if muscle weakness or paralysis spread to breathing muscles. Some people may temporarily need a ventilator, or breathing machine, during this stage of the illness.
Other facial muscles, including those involved in speaking, chewing or swallowing could be affected, and vision problems may occur.
Problems with bladder or bowel control
Abnormal heart rate or blood pressure

Diagnosis & tests

To make a diagnosis of GBS, a neurologist will consider whether the person has symptoms on both sides of the body as well as how quickly symptoms have first appeared and whether there is a reduction or loss of deep tendon reflexes in the legs or arms, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
In addition, two diagnostic tests may be performed. These tests include:
Lumbar puncture: Also known as a spinal tap, a needle is inserted into the lower back to withdraw a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid, a liquid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain. The fluid from this procedure is then sent to a lab for analysis. People with GBS have a high concentration of protein in their cerebrospinal fluid, but a normal white blood cell count.
Electromyogram (EMG): Thin electrodes are inserted into weak muscles to measure nerve activity and muscle function. The test can show whether nerve impulses are blocked from activating muscles.


A person with GBS is typically hospitalized because symptoms tend to come on suddenly and can worsen quickly during the early stage of the illness, creating the need to monitor a patient closely.
There are currently two options used to treat GBS. One of them is plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) and the other is intravenous immunoglobulin therapy, referred to as IVIg. Both treatments are considered equally effective, but only one of the two treatments is needed.

Treatment is effective in speeding up the recovery from GBS and shortening its severity, Gorson told Live Science.

Plasma exchange is a more invasive treatment, and it requires specialized equipment and nursing care, Gorson said. It had been the standard treatment method for GBS in the 1980s and ’90s, but immunoglobulin has become the preferred treatment because it is easier to administer to patients and is more widely available in hospitals, he explained.

Immunoglobulin therapy. A person receives high doses of immunoglobulin, a blood product that helps to decrease the immune system’s attack on the nervous system. It does this by giving the patient healthy antibodies from blood donors intravenously to replace the harmful antibodies that have been damaging the nervous system.

Plasma exchange is a blood-cleansing procedure that removes harmful antibodies from the bloodstream that may be damaging myelin. The procedure involves removing the patient’s plasma, or the liquid portion of blood, and then using a machine to separate it from the other blood components. The removed plasma, which contains the antibodies that have been damaging nerves, is discarded and is replaced with a plasma substitute, which is returned to the patient’s bloodstream along with the other blood components.

In addition, physical therapy is an important part of the recovery process from GBS, and can help a person regain muscle strength and function as damaged nerves begin to heal.
Depending on the severity of the illness, recovery of nerve and muscle function can be a lengthy process lasting anywhere from months to a few years. Some people may experience lingering pain, weakness and fatigue.
The vast majority of people with GBS recover to walk and live independently after having it, Gorson said. And the disorder is very unlikely to recur in people, he noted.

1st Color X-Rays of Human Body Are Bloody Amazing

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1st Color X-Rays of Human Body Are Bloody Amazing

Stunning new color X-ray images, from a company called Mars Bioimaging, in New Zealand, seem to make flesh and bone translucent and hyperreal.

A scan of an ankle rotates in this GIF.

A scan of an ankle rotates in this GIF.

Credit: Mars Bioimaging

The gif above shows one of the company’s strange and fascinating images: a slice of human ankle, with off-white, rugged bones, bloody-looking muscle tissue and a pad of fat smeared protectively under the heel with a whipped-cream texture.

This image shows a wrist with more muscle, less visible bone, almost no fat and a clearly-articulated watch:

It’s important to note that these aren’t “true-color” X-ray scans as most people would commonly understand the term. As the inventors of the sensor that was used to make these images described in a 2015 paper in the journal IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging and on the company’s website, the colors in these images are applied based on the computer’s detection of different wavelengths of X-rays passing through different substances. There are, however, no “true” red X-rays or “true” white X-rays; the device’s programmers assign different colors to different detected body parts. (What human brains interpret as color comes from different wavelengths of light in the visual spectrum bouncing off objects. Visible light is also a form of electromagnetic radiation but is lower-energy than X-ray light.)

To successfully distinguish muscle, fat and bone, Mars Bioimaging developed sensors that could fit inside computed tomography (CT) scanners (circular X-ray devices that produce three-dimensional X-ray images) and produce very detailed information about the wavelengths of individual X-ray photons that pass through and bounce off human tissue. By sensing the wavelengths that disappear after passing through a particular bit of tissue, the device makes a judgement about what chemicals make up that tissue and uses that information to figure out what sort of tissue it was. The photon-counting technology, the company says in its marketing materials, was originally developed as part of its founders’ work with CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which operates the world’s largest atom smasher.

By matching those scans with details about how different chemical compounds interact with X-ray light, they were able to distinguish different compounds in X-ray scans, the researchers wrote in the 2015 study. To produce these new grody, gorgeous color images of living tissue, they simply tasked the computer with painting the different compounds of fat, bone and muscle different colors.

The benefit for researchers, the company claims in its marketing materials, isn’t so much the fascinating visuals (though that’s a plus) as it is the wealth of precise chemical data on objects in the scanner. The careful, multilayered tissue scans, they write, will enable new precision in medical research.

Originally published on Live Science.

A Woman Had Strange Feelings in Her Legs. Doctors Found Parasites in Her Spine

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A Woman Had Strange Feelings in Her Legs. Doctors Found Parasites in Her Spine

A Woman Had Strange Feelings in Her Legs. Doctors Found Parasites in Her Spine

An MRI revealed tapeworm larval cysts in the woman’s spine, indicated by the arrow in the image on the left. The image on the right shows a close-up.

Credit: The New England Journal of Medicine ©2018

This article was updated on July 12.

When the 35-year-old woman arrived at a hospital in France, she told doctors it felt like electric shocks were running down her legs. What’s more, she felt weak and had experienced a number of falls recently.

The woman’s unusual symptoms turned out to have a surprising cause: Tapeworm larvae lurking in her spine, according to a new report of the case, published today (July 11) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The woman lived in France and told doctors that she hadn’t been out of the country recently. But she said she did ride horses and have contact with cattle. In addition to her other symptoms, the woman said that over the last three months, she’d had difficulty riding her horse, according to the report.

An MRI revealed a lesion on her spine, at her ninth thoracic vertebra, which is located in the middle of the back, the report said. [8 Awful Parasite Infections That Will Make Your Skin Crawl]

The woman needed surgery to remove the lesion, and tests revealed that it was caused by an infection with Echinococcus granulosus, a small tapeworm that’s found in dogs and some farm animals, including sheep, cattle, goats and pigs.

This tapeworm can cause a disease called cystic echinococcosis, also known as hydatidosis, in which the larvae form cysts that grow slowly in a person’s body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

These cysts typically grow in the liver or the lungs, but they can also appear in other parts of the body, including the bones and the central nervous system. However, infections of the bones, including the spinal column, are rare, making up just 0.5 to 4 percent of cases of this disease, according to a 2013 paper on cystic echinococcosis.

The life cycle of Echinococcus granulosus is somewhat complex: The “adult” form of the worm lives in the intestines of dogs and can grow to be 6 millimeters (0.2 inches) long, according to the CDC. Tapeworm eggs are passed in the dogs’ stool, and other farm animals become infected when they ingest food or water that’s contaminated with the tapeworm eggs. Once ingested by farm animals, the eggs develop into larvae, but they cannot develop into adult worms until they are again ingested by dogs (which can happen if dogs are fed slaughtered livestock, according to the CDC.)

Humans become infected with Echinococcus granulosus when they ingest the tapeworm eggs, which can happen if people consume food or water that’s contaminated with stool from infected dogs, according to the CDC. For example, a person might become infected if they consumed plants or berries gathered from fields where infected dogs have been. Humans are considered “accidental” hosts, because they aren’t involved in transmitting the disease back to dogs, according to the World Health Organization. (The worms can’t grow into adults in humans.)

Dr. Lionel Piroth, an infectious-disease specialist at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Dijon, who treated the woman, said that cystic echinococcosis “is very rare in France,” and it wasn’t clear how the woman got the infection. She did not report having any contact with dogs, he said.

One possibility is that the woman could’ve gotten sick by eating vegetables that were contaminated with the parasite, Piroth told Live Science. (If this were the case, the vegetables would’ve been contaminated by an “unknown” dog, he noted.) Adding to the mystery, the woman was the only one in her family to be infected.

In addition to surgery, the woman was treated with an anti-parasitic medication. Nine months later, she had no lingering symptoms of her infection or signs that it was coming back, the report said.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on July 12 to add comments from Dr. Piroth.

Original article on Live Science.