Study links IBS to Vitamin D deficiencyDec232015

A study published in the British Medical Journal has shown a link between Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and lack of vitamin D.

There is no single known cause and no single known cure for IBS, although food and stress have been identified as aggravating factors.

In the study by the University of Sheffield’s Molecular Gastroenterology Research Group, 82 per cent of the 52 IBS sufferers tested had insufficient levels of vitamin D.


Bandage that signals infectionDec212015

Researchers in the United Kingdom recently unveiled a prototype “intelligent” dressing that turns fluorescent green to signal the onset of an infection. The color-changing bandage contains a gel-like material infused with tiny capsules that release nontoxic fluorescent dye in response to contact with populations of bacteria that commonly cause wound infections.

Led by Toby Jenkins, a professor of biophysical chemistry at the University of Bath, the inventors of the new bandage, which has not yet been tested in humans, say it could be used to alert health-care professionals to an infection early enough to prevent the patient from getting sick. In some cases it may even be able help avoid the need for antibiotics, says Jenkins.

Read the full article and watch the video segment.


CRISPR named ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ by Science magazineDec212015

A gene-editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9 was voted by the editors of the American journal Science as the most important research breakthrough of 2015. A day earlier, Nature named the Chinese researcher Junjiu Huang one of the 10 people who mattered in 2015 for being the first to use the CRISPR system to edit the DNA of (non-viable) human embryos.

Last month, researchers from UC Irvine and UC San Diego showed how mosquitoes genetically modified using the CRISPR system can be programmed to fight malaria in their bodies and pass that trait to 97% of their offspring. And just a few weeks ago, hundreds of geneticists, biologists, ethicists and scientific policymakers convened in Washington for a three-day conference to address the ethics of using this powerful — and controversial — technology.

Read more about CRISPR-Cas9 

Watch a video created by researchers at MIT to help explain the CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing..



Update: Bayer has just announced a partnership with CRISPR technologies.


Avian Influenza Bulletin – ‘tis the Season ReminderDec162015


H7N9 15798_cropWe are sending this pre-holiday bulletin as a reminder that the first three importations from China to North America of human infections with avian influenza (H5N1 and H7N9) were reported by Canada in early January 2014 (n=1) and 2015 (n=2), following the Christmas holiday period.

This includes a young adult from Alberta who acquired avian influenza A(H5N1) infection while in Beijing, China between December 6 and 27, 2013. Upon return to Canada, this patient was hospitalized with pneumonia, gastroenteritis and encephalitis and died in early January 2014.  No poultry contact was identified while abroad. See:

In addition, a married couple from British Columbia acquired avian influenza A(H7N9) while traveling abroad in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Fujian province between December 29, 2014 and January 11, 2015. They recalled seeing live poultry and copious droppings while visiting Fujian on January 8, 2015 but recollected no other poultry contact. Both experienced typical influenza-like illness upon their return to Canada, and were managed as outpatients. Their avian influenza H7N9 infections were fortuitously recognized because of travel history and detection of non-subtypeable influenza A in respiratory specimens submitted to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) Public Health Laboratory.  See: 

Recent Trends – H5N1 and H7N9

H7N9 19669_loresSince its emergence in February 2013, H7N9 has followed a winter seasonal pattern, typical of both human and avian influenza viruses, with most cases occurring between October and May each year and generally peaking in January. A fourth wave of H7N9 activity appears to have recently begun in China, notably involving the eastern provinces of China as previously highlighted. Since October 2015, a total of 10 cases of H7N9 have been reported, including six new cases in the past week. These recent cases were reported in Zhejiang (5), Guangdong (1), Anhui (1), and Hunan (3) provinces, all of which have reported cases during the three previous seasonal waves.  Overall, the epidemiological pattern of avian influenza H7N9 cases is unchanged from previous updates with older adults most affected (generally older than observed with H5N1). Exposure to poultry remains the major risk factor with only limited instances of human-to-human transmission in close contact settings. As of November 13, 2015, a total of 681 human cases of H7N9 and at least 275 deaths (case fatality: 40%) have been reported to the World Health Organization since first emergence in the human population in early 2013. This total does not include the six most recently reported cases (bringing the unofficial tally to 687 cases), but does include four cases reported from Taipei, 13 cases reported from Hong Kong, one case reported from Malaysia, and the two cases reported from Canada in January 2015 described above.

Most H5N1 cases globally since 2010 (256/376; 68%) have been reported from Egypt, rather than China where

Action and Advice

Clinicians should remain vigilant for importation of suspect human cases of avian influenza to Canada, querying patients with acute respiratory illness, particularly if accompanied by severe or unusual features, about possible travel in the two weeks prior to illness onset. Where the index of suspicion is raised, clinicians should notify their local health authority/Medical Health Officer without delay and consult a virologist or microbiologist at the BC Centre for Disease Control Public Health Laboratory for advice related to diagnostic testing, clearly indicating relevant travel or exposure history.  Follow strict infection prevention and control guidelines when collecting respiratory specimens.

Cases should be managed in respiratory isolation with contact and droplet precautions. Airborne precautions are warranted in the event of aerosol-generating procedures or conditions. Facilities should be mindful of the protection of other patients and visitors, in addition to healthcare workers, to minimize nosocomial transmission and risk.

Additional Resources

H5N1 Case Reports by Country and Year: 

H7N9 Case Definition –

ERV/SARI Case Report Form –

Case Management Guidelines –

Interim Antiviral Treatment Guidelines –