The most feared viruses are those for which medical science has not yet developed a treatment, cure or preventive vaccine. Often, such viral agents have only been recently discovered and emerged as an outbreak in a particular region of the world. This is the case for the Nipah virus (NiV), which has claimed the lives of at least nine people in India this year.
Nipah virus was first discovered in Malaysia in the late 1990s when an outbreak of the virus struck approximately 265 people. People became sick after physically interacting with pigs in the area, with symptoms manifesting as brain inflammation.
In a new video, science educator Bill Nye expressed his frustration over “science illiteracy” and the mistrust of science in the United States, particularly with our nation’s leadership. He contrasted the frantic response to Ebola epidemic to the shrugged shoulders that climate change so often receives.
“People aren’t afraid of dying as much as they’re afraid of how they’re going to die,” he said, “and the ebola death looks horrible… and what’s making it worse––in Africa in particular––is scientific illiteracy, people not realizing that these microorganisms can pass from one to another… By having a population of people who don’t understand germs and how serious they are, a germ gets spread really readily.”
Researchers at IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore have created a macromolecule––one giant molecule made of smaller subunits––that might treat multiple types of viruses and prevent infection.
According to a paper published in Macromolecules, the macromolecule warded off viruses such as influenza, dengue and Ebola successfully in a lab environment. Importantly, the macromolecule remained effective even after the viruses mutated. Researchers plan to test the Zika virus next, and they believe its similarities to a form of dengue already tested will result in yet another successful trial.