Category: Featured

NEIDL Researchers Create Tool to Study New Virus

September 5th, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

In recent years, traces of new zoonotic viruses—pathogens that live in animals and could potentially cause infectious diseases in humans—have been discovered in bats, fish, and other species around the world. But scientists have been stumped in their search for the complete genome for these viruses, the critical data that is needed to study their biology, and their potential dangers for humans.

But now, researchers at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) have created a tool that they say will unlock many of the mysteries of one of these new pathogens—a filovirus closely related to the Ebola and Marburg viruses—and help them determine whether it could cause disease in humans. Ebola and Marburg are among the most virulent and lethal viruses known to infect humans.

Called Lloviu virus (LLOV), the new filovirus was first discovered in 2002 in dead bats in a cave in Spain; it was found again in 2014, in dead bats in Hungary. It is not known whether LLOV sickened and killed the European bats (known as Schreiber’s long-fingered bats, they are not found in North or South America) or if it causes disease in any animal. As with so many other new viruses, the complete genome has not been found.

The NEIDL team was led by Elke Mühlberger, a School of Medicine associate professor of microbiology, who is one of the world’s leading filovirus researchers. Filoviruses are made up of single-stranded RNA instead of DNA.

Click to read full article on BU Today

Measles Touch Down in Bay State

September 4th, 2018 in Featured, In The News

Citing measles as “probably the most infectious human virus on the planet,” a Boston University professor of microbiology stressed the importance of vaccinations as state health officials confirmed a case of measles and warned others who may have been exposed.

The infected individual was at a number of locations in the Boston area, including Logan International Airport on Aug. 15. Other locations of concern include Lexington High School Library on Aug. 16, Lahey Hospital and Medical Center on Aug. 20 and 21, and the Irving H. Mabee Town Pool complex on Aug. 19.

Paul Duprex, a professor of microbiology at Boston University, has been studying measles for 20 years. According to Duprex, measles is highly contagious and — to the unvaccinated — a serious threat.

“It’s probably the most infectious human virus on the planet,” Duprex said, adding that the solution to ending these exposures is to vaccinate. He said the measles vaccine is “phenomenally good,” and “it’s more dangerous to get the disease than it is to get the vaccine.”

 

Click to read full article in Boston Herald

As Ebola Research Comes to Boston, Scientists Weigh Risks

September 4th, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

When it comes to biomedical research, Boston, Massachusetts, is the place to be.

“This is truly the biomedical mecca of the United States,” said Ronald B. Corley, PhD, director of Boston University’s (BU) National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories (NEIDL).

Although that may sound like something written by the chamber of commerce, it’s hard to dispute that the metropolitan area that is home to BU, Tufts, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has an uncommonly high concentration of the world’s leading medical and scientific experts.

Perhaps it was no surprise then, that when the National Institutes of Health sought grant applications from facilities hoping to study emerging infectious diseases like Ebola, a Boston lab was one of the winners.

Dr. Corley said NEIDL’s success in the grant application has everything to do with location.

“They were looking for a couple of things in the application; one was compelling support for emerging infectious disease research,” he told Contagion®. “The second was the opportunity to build these facilities and have research activities on medical campuses.”

BU checked off both of those items and was awarded a grant equal to 75% of the total cost of building the facility, which Corley said will be about $197 million.

Click to read full article on Contagion Live

BU’s Infectious Disease Lab Begins Ebola Research

August 22nd, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Eight months after receiving final approval from the Boston Public Health Commission to conduct research at Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4), Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) has begun work with its first Level-4 pathogen, the Ebola virus.

“This is clearly an important step for the NEIDL,” says Ronald Corley, NEIDL director and a BU School of Medicine professor of microbiology. “This will permit us to fulfill our mission of studying emerging pathogens and developing diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for these pathogens, even those that require BSL-4 containment. It has taken a very long time to get to this point, but the time that has passed has not dampened our enthusiasm — and excitement — to be able to start BSL-4 work.”

NEIDL microbiologist Elke Mühlberger says the lab’s first Level 4 projects will examine how the Ebola virus damages cells in the liver, and why it triggers such a powerful inflammatory response. Answers to those questions, she says, could speed the development of a therapy for Ebola virus disease, which sickened tens of thousands of people and led to more than 11,000 deaths in West Africa in a 2014–2016 outbreak, and sickened 59 people and killed 29 in an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo this past May. The country’s health ministry reported a new outbreak Aug. 1, which has killed at least 20 people.

Click to read full article on WBUR

After a Decade of Squabbles, BU’s Biolab is in Business

August 20th, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

The package that Elke Mühlberger had been waiting a decade to receive — a gray hard-plastic case a little bigger than a microwave oven — arrived in Boston earlier this month, after traveling nearly 2,000 miles from Montana. The cargo was so prized it required two carefully vetted drivers and GPS tracking on both the truck and the box.

Dressed in spacesuit-like protective garb in her laboratory, Mühlberger, a microbiologist, dug through several layers of packing materials and dry ice until she found a small, shatterproof plastic box, in which several tiny tubes nestled among paper towels.

Those tubes contained frozen samples of the deadly Ebola virus and its cousin, Marburg virus. And their arrival launched, at long last, the research program within the Biosafety Level 4 laboratory at Boston University. Level 4 labs are authorized to do research on disease-causing microbes for which there is no treatment or vaccine.

“It was a great day for us,” Mühlberger said. “It sounds weird — it’s a package full of deadly viruses — but it was like Christmas.”

 

Click to read full article in Boston Globe

Researchers at BU begin Experimenting with Ebola

August 6th, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates, Video

A lab in Boston was approved to study one of the world’s deadliest viruses.

On Thursday, Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) announced in a press release that they have started experimenting with the Ebola virus.

NEIDL microbiologist Elke Mühlberger said the lab’s first project will examine how the Ebola virus damages cells in the liver and why it triggers such a powerful inflammatory response.

Mühlberger said the answers to those questions could speed the development of how to treat the Ebola virus disease. In a 2014-2016 outbreak, the virus led to more than 11,000 deaths in West Africa. And a few months ago in May, an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed 29 people.

The researchers at NEIDL are also experimenting with the Marbug virus. Like Ebola, Marburg is deadly and causes convulsions and bleeding of mucous membranes, skin and organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mühlberger said their plans include at least three projects involving both the Ebola and Marburg viruses. But the first step of their work will be growing the rare Level-4 pathogens to produce enough materials for their experiments.

Click to read full article & watch video on Boston 25 News

Neighbors Concerned by Presence of Ebola at BU Research Lab

August 6th, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates, Video

A high security lab in Boston just received a sample of a deadly virus that has killed thousands — Ebola.

The pathogen arrived at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases this week, along with the related Marburg virus. They are the first of their kind to arrive at the facility, which is allowed for labs classified as Level 4. The designation has only been given to 10 labs in the country.

“If you can’t stop them when the outbreak happens, then you’re out in the position to try to play catch-up,” the lab’s director, Ron Corley, said of the research.

Utilizing a variety of scientists who work in Boston’s academic community, Corley said they expect to make significant strides in better understanding the Ebola virus and its characteristics.

“This is exactly the place to have a facility like this,” said Corley. “That allows us to get people who would not normally think about trying to solve these problems to get interested.”

Click to read full article & watch video on NBC Boston

High-Security Boston Lab Begins Growing Ebola Virus for Experiments

August 3rd, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

One of the most secure facilities in Boston is beginning to experiment with one of the world’s deadliest viruses.

Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories announced Thursday that it had received samples of the Ebola virus and the related Marburg virus. Researchers said the first step of their research will be propagating the rare but life-threatening viruses to produce enough material for their planned experiments.

Tens of thousands of people were infected and more than 11,000 died in West Africa in a 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak, the NEIDL said. The outbreak also traveled to Europe and the United States, prompting the lab to call the virus a “global public health threat.”

“Microbiologist Elke Mühlberger says the lab’s first Level-4 projects will examine how the Ebola virus damages cells in the liver, and why it triggers such a powerful inflammatory response. Answers to those questions, she says, could speed the development of a therapy for Ebola virus disease,” the NEIDL wrote in a statement.

Mühlberger’s research projects are funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the lab said.

The NEIDL was granted permission to work with the most dangerous pathogens on Earth about eight months ago. Ebola can only be experimented on in a lab with Bio Safety Level-4 containment, the highest classification from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Click for full article on WCVB

Boston University Lab gets shipment of Ebola, Marburg Viruses

August 3rd, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Researchers at Boston University’s infectious disease lab received the first pathogens it’s gotten under its new heightened designation: the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories received clearance from the Boston Public Health Commission in December to be upgraded to a Biosafety Level 4 facility – the 10th in the country. The designation was years in the making, and came after intense scrutiny by state, city and federal officials, including approval in December from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, research on pathogens such as Ebola and Marburg viruses — both deadly hemorrhagic fevers — can begin, with both pathogens making their way to Boston this week from a Montana facility run by the National Institutes of Health.

“This will permit us to fulfill our mission of studying emerging pathogens and developing diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines for these pathogens, even those that require BSL-4 containment,” said Ronald B. Corley, NEIDL director and a School of Medicine professor of microbiology, according to a report on BU Today. “It has taken a very long time to get to this point, but the time that has passed has not dampened our enthusiasm — and excitement — to be able to start BSL-4 work.”

Given their deadly potential, researchers had to take exceptional care to transport the viruses to Boston. Kevin Tuohey, executive director of research compliance at Boston University and Boston Medical Center, said the US Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the International Air Transportation Authority, and the Boston Public Health Commission all monitored the transport of the viruses. Delivery was coordinated with Boston Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Services, and Boston Fire and Police Departments, as well as the Massachusetts State Police.

 

Click to read full article in Boston Business Journal

Neighbors fear BU’s Infectious Disease Lab is ‘Gambling with our Safety

August 3rd, 2018 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Researchers at a controversial Boston University lab are experimenting with Ebola in the heart of the city and neighbors are sounding the alarm about the threat of a potentially life-threatening slip up.

The first project in Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories will examine how the Ebola virus damages cells in the liver and why it triggers such a powerful inflammatory response, according to NEIDL microbiologist Elke Muhlberger.

Researchers are also experimenting with the Marburg virus, which, like Ebola, can cause convulsions and bleeding of mucous membranes, skin and organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These people are gambling with our safety and we don’t have a say,” said James Allen Fox, president of the Union Park neighborhood association and a criminologist at Northeastern University. Fox, 66, lives just a few blocks away from the lab and said he toured the facility on Albany Street in the South End.

“The design is quite elaborate but there’s always individuals who may — whether it’s because of carelessness or various reasons — compromise safety,” Fox said.

Longtime neighborhood activist Mel King said, “We’ve been opposed to the development of that lab from the beginning. Having that hazardous place in the middle of the city is a huge mistake.”

King, 89, lives a short walk away and said his neighbors, many of them elderly, share his concerns and opposition to the lab.

 

Click to read full article in Boston Herald