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From the College of Natural Sciences
Cracking the Code: Why Flu Pandemics Come At the End of Flu Season

Cracking the Code: Why Flu Pandemics Come At the End of Flu Season

Hypothetical seasonal flu epidemic spread (not based on real or simulated data) is depicted here with the colors indicating regions currently infected with seasonal flu (red), refractory and immune to pandemics (purple), and recovered and currently susceptible to a novel pandemic (blue). White lines depict the global flight network. Image Credit: Spencer J. Fox

You might expect that the risk of a new flu pandemic — or worldwide disease outbreak — is greatest at the peak of the flu season in winter, when viruses are most abundant and most likely to spread. Instead, all six flu pandemics that have occurred since 1889 emerged in spring and summer months. And that got some University of Texas at Austin scientists wondering, why is that?

Scientist Battling Invincible Microbes Takes Fight to the Silver Screen

Scientist Battling Invincible Microbes Takes Fight to the Silver Screen

Will and his partner Angel Gonzalez after the succesful transplantation. Photo courtesy of Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Bryan Davies is an assistant professor in molecular biosciences and biotechnologist at the University of Texas at Austin, leading research into how to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and develop new antimicrobials to fight infection.

Biofilm Discovery Suggests New Way to Prevent Dangerous Infections

Biofilm Discovery Suggests New Way to Prevent Dangerous Infections

Pseudomonas bacteria forming a biofilm. Credit: Vernita Gordon/U. of Texas at Austin.

Microbial biofilms—dense, sticky mats of bacteria that are hard to treat and can lead to dangerous infections—often form in medical equipment, such as flexible plastic tubing used in catheters or in tubes used to help patients breathe. By some estimates, more than 1 million people contract infections from medical devices in U.S. hospitals each year, many of which are due to biofilms. A study from The University of Texas at Austin suggests a possible new way to prevent such biofilms from forming, which would sharply reduce incidents of related hospital-borne infection.

Computer Model Developed to Assess Risk of a Zika Epidemic in Real-time

Computer Model Developed to Assess Risk of a Zika Epidemic in Real-time

The probability that two cases of Zika in a Texas county will snowball into an epidemic. White and gray counties have no or almost no chance of spawning an epidemic; dark red counties have more than a 75% chance of spawning an epidemic.

A new model for assessing real-time risk of a Zika virus epidemic in the United States is described in research published in the open access journal BMC Infectious Diseases. The computer simulation, based on data from Texas including population dynamics, historical infection rates, socioeconomics, and mosquito density, is designed to help policymakers gauge the underlying epidemic threat as cases first appear in US cities.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

People with cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease often develop serious and even life-threatening bacterial infections that are hard to treat, in large part because the bacteria form dense clusters called biofilms. Biofilms are resistant to the host's immune cells and to antibiotics.

Flu Vaccine’s Effectiveness Can Be Improved, New Findings Suggest

Flu Vaccine’s Effectiveness Can Be Improved, New Findings Suggest

Via CDC/ Judy Schmidt. Credit: James Gathany.

A team of engineers and scientists at The University of Texas at Austin is reporting new findings on how the influenza vaccine produces antibodies that protect against disease, research that suggests that the conventional flu vaccine can be improved. The findings were reported in the journal Nature Medicine on Nov. 7.

A Trio of Flu Studies Point the Way to Better Treatment and Prevention

A Trio of Flu Studies Point the Way to Better Treatment and Prevention

As we head into flu season, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are announcing the results of three flu studies: One suggests a possible new target for drugs to combat the flu; another study forecasts how effective this year's flu vaccine might be; and a third looks at ways to improve the process of identifying flu strains in the wild and thus improve how strains are selected for inclusion in each year's vaccine.

Evolution Inspires Anthrax Cure (Audio)

Evolution Inspires Anthrax Cure (Audio)

This fall marks the 15th anniversary of the U.S. anthrax letter attacks that sickened dozens of people and killed five. At the time, there was no effective treatment for a late stage infection. The attacks accelerated work already underway at the University of Texas at Austin. Brent Iverson, George Georgiou and Jennifer Maynard borrowed a page from Mother Nature's playbook to develop the world's first treatment for late stage inhalation anthrax.

Cross-respiration Between Oral Bacteria Leads to Worse Infections

Cross-respiration Between Oral Bacteria Leads to Worse Infections

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have determined that two bacterial species commonly found in the human mouth and in abscesses, cooperate to make the pathogenic bacterium, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, more infectious. Key to the cooperation is that the harmless partner provides the pathogen with an oxygen-rich environment that helps it flourish.

Making Virus Sensors Cheap and Simple: New Method Detects Single Viruses

Making Virus Sensors Cheap and Simple: New Method Detects Single Viruses

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new method to rapidly detect a single virus in urine, as reported this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.