Sometimes diseases emerge from scratch: a virus mutates, a bacterium appears in a region where people do not develop a defense against it, a pathogen jumps from a host animal that has not been in contact with humans to humans or leads to an unknown gene variant to a disturbance. Other diseases are ancient, but have so far not been recognized or confused with other complaints.
"What we are seeing now looks more and more like a dramatic increase in the threat of new and emerging infectious diseases," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan at the 69th World Health Assembly. And she added: "The world is not prepared enough to cope with it."
Still others are not sure whether it is really a disease or just an extremely rare mutation. For example, doctors at the university hospital in Ulm noticed a child who was never satisfied. The wolverine weighed over 40 kilos at 3 years old.
The doctors gave him an artificially produced hormone leptin. After that, she ate less and lost weight.
The university clinic in Ulm called the phenomenon a "new illness". But the experts from the "German Society for Internal Medicine" avoided this term. Instead, they spoke of an “absolute rarity” and considered it unlikely that they could help other obese people with the hormone dose.
How dangerous are new diseases?
When scientists discover a new condition, the first thing they do is assess how dangerous it is. You therefore classify the pathogen in a biological safety level from BL1 to BL4. BL4 are the most dangerous, including Ebola.
The researchers next decipher the structure of the proteins. The pathogen can be assigned to a group of diseases and antidotes can be developed.
How often do scientists discover new diseases?
Professor Jörg Hacker from Würzburg says: "On average, there is a new infectious disease every year." On the one hand, this is due to better diagnostics, especially genetic engineering.
Another reason, however, is population growth, the number of people has quadrupled in a century. They moved closer and closer together, huge slums without sewerage promoted epidemics and huge slaughterhouses spread animal diseases.
People push into almost every corner of the earth and come into contact with almost all animals and plants, and thus with their pathogens, says Prof. Reinhard Kurth from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. In Central Africa, for example, the monkey pox only appeared where the forest was cleared.
The Viking gene
Some patients with intestinal problems also suffer from the fact that their heart muscle is not working. No conventional method has so far been able to alleviate her symptoms.
Canadian researchers have found a genetic defect that triggers cardiovascular disease. The Quebec scientists realized that certain gastrointestinal complaints only happened to resemble known diseases. The cause, however, was a genetic disorder that no one had previously known.
They called the disease Broken Heart Syndrome. The cause is a mutation of the SGOL1 gene. This mutation causes nerve and muscle cells in the intestinal and heart tissues to age and die faster. Therefore the organs no longer work as before.
The researchers demonstrated that this genetic modification causes heart and bowel diseases and that it is a separate syndrome. The official name is: "Chronic Atrial and Intestinal Dysrhythmia Syndrome (CAID)".
Symptoms of "broken heart syndrome"
The heart beats very slowly in those affected. These heart contractions are necessary to move the intestines. He is now at a standstill and the sufferers are in severe pain. Those affected need pacemakers and have to undergo serious operations.
In the footsteps of the northern men
The gene mutation probably goes back to the Vikings. The genetic analysis of the sick indicated traces that lead to northern Europe in the 12th century. The Vikings probably brought this changed genetic material with them when they swarmed out to Europe and produced offspring.
A new form of polio has been rampant in the United States for four years, affecting hundreds of people.
At first, the doctors were in the dark. But Charles Chiu and his team from the University of California found a main suspect: the enterovirus EV-D68 triggers respiratory diseases - but probably also polio.
The doctors found this virus in the secretions and in the blood of affected children.
Ev-D68 has been known since 1960. So far, however, it has rarely led to serious illnesses. However, the virus struck in 2014 - it was probably mutated.
The virus found in those affected by polio also belongs to the mutated form EV-D68-B1. He has only been known for four years. Its structure resembles the poliovirus and the EV-D70 virus. It damages the nerves. B1 occurred when the enterovirus broke out in 2014 and is believed to be responsible for the cases of polio.
However, only some of the patients contracted polio. Obviously, a stable immune system protects those affected from paralysis.
The virus has not yet been combated, and there is still no vaccination.
AIDS, the "aquired immune defiency syndrome", an acquired immunodeficiency, leads to the fact that invading pathogens get less and less under control.
Medical doctor Sarah Browne and her team examined 203 patients in Thailand and Taiwan who appeared to have AIDS. Then came the surprise: None of those affected were HIV positive. The T helper cells, defense cells that AIDS destroys, remained undamaged.
However, 88 out of 100 patients had autoantibodies in their blood. These are antibodies that the immune system directs against its own body cells. The cause is a genetic misregistration. So it was an autoimmune disease that was congenital and not acquired.
Like AIDS, the newly discovered immunodeficiency is a chronic disease.
These auto-antibodies blocked the interferon gamma protein. It is formed by the T helper cells and is necessary to ward off pathogens. If it is missing, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites penetrate unhindered.
The disease has been known since 2004, the victims are mostly Asians, but some of those affected also come from the United States
Patients often suffer from tuberculosis bacteria, which cause lung diseases. That is why Sarah Browne thinks that the autoimmune weakness has existed for a long time, but would be mistaken for tuberculosis. The doctor believes that there is a genetic disposition that infections would then lead to the onset of the disease.
Despite the suspected genetic makeup, there are no known families in which the disease occurs more often. The immune deficiency is also not transmitted from person to person.
Old age of the sick
None of the patients were under 50 years of age. This suggests that the disease "slumbers" for years until it breaks out - just like AIDS. An infection, whether by a virus, by fungi or bacteria, triggers the disease process, but it takes years until the immune system is really weakened.
Like AIDS, the weakened immune system leads to permanent death. Some of those examined by Browne have since died.
As with AIDS, only the effects of immunodeficiency can be alleviated. Antibiotics help against the corresponding infections.
Cancer medicine gives hope: Certain cancer drugs slow down the production of antibodies.
American scientists discovered a new species of Borrelia. These bacteria cause Lyme disease in humans; the symptoms differ significantly from other Lyme pathogens.
In addition to Borrelia burgdorferi, there is now a second species that transmits this special form of Lyme disease, and the researchers named it after their hospital, the Mayo Clinic, Borrelia mayonii.
The new species is closely related to burgdorferi, but the number of copies of the oppA1 gene is 180 times higher.
Six patients suffered from the newly discovered pathogen. Like the well-known Lyme disease, fever, headache and neck pain were among the symptoms. The rash was not in the form of a red circle as is usual with Lyme disease, but without a fixed border; there were also significantly more pathogens in the blood than usual.
The scientists suspect that the bacterium only lives in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.
Borrelia mayonii can be detected with common Lyme disease tests and treated with Lyme drugs.
Super pathogens are immune to therapies. Such a nightmare for doctors has now been found in the USA. A 49 year old suffered from a urinary tract infection; The culprit was an E-Coli bacterium that was immune to all antibiotics. The pathogen has a gene that protects it from antibiotics, the Mcr-1 gene.
The WHO has long warned that antibiotics are less and less protective against the constantly changing pathogens. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)