Some 100 trillion beneficial microorganisms—bacteria, fungi, and viruses—populate your body inside and out. Many species keep us healthy by helping with digestion, producing nutrients, and strengthening the immune system. But what would happen if we didn’t have this assortment of beneficial, or commensal, microbiota living within us? To find out, NIH scientists are studying germ-free mice that have not been naturally colonized by microorganisms.
In a small room tucked away on the first floor of the Clinical Center (CC), NIH scientists are building robots. But don’t expect to see armies of cyborg clinicians marching through the hallways any time soon. These robots are mechanical devices that provide physical therapy assessment and training to patients whose muscles have been weakened by cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or other neurological disorders.
The NIH Library has undergone a transformation over the past 20 years in both its spirit and its physical appearance. Gone are most of the stacks, not to mention the dark rugs. Brilliant light now fills its first floor, which is best described as an information commons where users can relax and even, dare we say, eat and talk.
In June, the NIH Animal Care and Use Program was evaluated by a team of 12 outside experts as part of our triennial Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) site visit. This review, like other rigorous reviews—such as the upcoming Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs’ (AAHRPP) evaluation of our human subjects research program; the Joint Commission’s evaluation of the Clinical Center’s patient-care services; and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME) review of the Clinical Center’s medical residency programs—is an important component of the oversight that ensures the high quality of our programs.
FIC: Mexican Flu Pandemic Study Supports Social Distancing
Would closing schools, movie theaters, and restaurants help improve health? Yes, at least in terms of mitigating unusual infectious disease outbreaks. According to NIH researchers, these social distancing interventions proved effective during the 2009 influenza pandemic in Mexico. Mexican health authorities implemented a nationwide mandatory school closure policy, effectively reducing disease transmission by more than one-third. The research team provided the first comprehensive epidemiological description of the age, geographical, and severity patterns of the 2009 pandemic in Mexico. Eighteen-day periods of mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures were associated with a 29 to 37 percent reduction in influenza transmission rates in Mexico during the 2009 pandemic. The authors applied mathematical modeling to influenza surveillance data compiled by a large private health system, the Mexican Institute for Social Security, which covers 40 percent of the population. (NIH authors: G. Chowell, C. Viboud, L. Simonsen, J. Tamerius, M.A. Miller; PLoS Med8:e1000436, 2011)