The Smithsonian National Museum of History exhibit “Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World” has come to the Bitterroot and is on display at the Ravalli County Museum in Hamilton thanks to Jerimiah Matson, a graduate student working at Rocky Mountain Laboratory as a predoctoral fellow at RML working on his Ph.D.
The exhibit opened in May 2018 at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., to mark the 100th anniversary of the devastating 1918 pandemic flu and to highlight the critical threat posed by global infectious disease. The display, which runs at the Smithsonian through May 2021, includes several images from RML microscopes.
The exhibition invites you to join epidemiologists, veterinarians, public health workers, and citizens as they rush to identify and respond to infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola virus, influenza, Zika virus, Nipah virus and others and work cooperatively to contain the outbreaks before they can spread further around the world.
Matson contacted the project partners sponsoring the exhibit, including the Smithsonian Institution and the American Society for Microbiology and succeeded in getting a travelling version of the exhibit to come to Hamilton.
He and RML colleagues have enhanced the exhibit with several new visual features and added a community lecture series. Children’s activities that highlight different aspects of the displays also are planned on two Saturday mornings –June 29, and July 27. Activities will range from learning about animal field research to how pathogens are studied in a microbiology lab. The travelling exhibit is on display at the Ravalli County Museum, located at 205 Bedford Street, Hamilton through July 27.
Last Thursday, May 30, RML’s Byron Caughey, Ph.D., delivered the first lecture in the community lecture series, about his group’s research on prions; the title of his talk was: “Corrupted Proteins as Pathogens: From Chronic Wasting Disease, Mad Cows, and Cannibals to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.”
On Thursday, June 27, at 6 p.m., Dan Lucey, M.D., MPH, from Georgetown University and the Smithsonian, will share how he developed the exhibit idea while on his way to West Africa in 2014 to help with the Ebola outbreak. His talk is titled: “Smithsonian Exhibit on Epidemics: From Proposal to Synergy of Strengths.”
Then, on Thursday, July 25, at 6 p.m., RML’s Tom Schwan, Ph.D., will share his vast knowledge on some of the nearly 950 different species of ticks. His talk is titled: “The Biology of Ticks and Their Public Health Significance.
RML often makes headlines in its ongoing research into many of the most contagious diseases in the world. One of NIAID’s latest announcements, for instance, features the work led by Dr. Emmie de Wit and her group at RML in conjunction with the CDC and Gilead Sciences, Inc. which led to the development of an experimental drug that is completely effective against the Nipah virus infection in monkeys.
First identified in 1999 in Malaysia, Nipah virus is an emerging pathogen found primarily in Bangladesh and India. The virus is spread to humans by fruit bats; person-to-person transmission also occurs. Nipah virus can cause neurological and respiratory disease; the mortality rate is about 70%. Delayed relapse, manifesting as brain inflammation or encephalitis, can occur. An outbreak in May 2018 in India resulted in 23 cases and 21 deaths.
Gilead Sciences, Inc., is developing remdesivir and, in collaboration with scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), performed initial laboratory studies evaluating the drug against Nipah virus. Researchers from CDC and NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) collaborated on the concept for the monkey study. NIAID then conducted the monkey studies with laboratory serology and pathology support from CDC. Animals infected with a lethal dose of Nipah virus received a first dose of intravenous remdesivir 24 hours after infection and then a daily intravenous dose for a total of 12 consecutive days. The NIAID team observed the animals for 92 days after infection, taking clinical samples 14 times during that span. The long period of observation allowed scientists adequate time to monitor the central nervous system for disease, which can be slow to develop when caused by Nipah virus. Two treated animals developed mild respiratory signs that resolved within three weeks; the other two treated animals showed no signs of illness. All four remained apparently healthy for the remainder of the study. Four untreated animals also received a lethal dose of Nipah virus. They began showing signs of illness within four days of infection and rapidly developed fatal disease within eight days.
Scientists next plan to evaluate delayed drug administration to determine how long after infection the animals can be treated successfully. Remdesivir is the second experimental treatment, after monoclonal antibody m102.4, shown to prevent severe Nipah virus disease in a monkey model when administered after the animals are infected.
[M. Lo et al. Remdesivir (GS-5734) protects African green monkeys from Nipah virus challenge (link is external). Science Translational Medicine DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aau9242 (2019).]