CARTA Glossary

Displaying 1 - 100 of 166 defined words for "Impact of Infectious Disease on Humans & Our Origins". To see all CARTA defined words, please view the complete glossary.

Word Definition Related Vocabulary
Actin

A protein that forms the internal skeleton of animal cells, including red blood cells (RBCs).

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

A serious type of respiratory failure characterized by rapid onset of widespread fluid buildup in the lungs, which limits oxygen uptake and causes shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and bluish skin coloration.

Adhesin: Proteins produced by bacteria and protozoa that mediate binding to molecules on host cells.

Malarial adhesins can be transferred to the surface of red blood cells (RBCs) causing them to become sticky and adhere to other RBCs and vessel walls, resulting in microvascular inflammation.

Adjuvant

A pharmacological or immunological agent that modifies the effect of other agents. Adjuvants may be added to a vaccine to boost the immune response to produce more antibodies and longer-lasting immunity, thus minimizing the dose of antigen needed.

Aedes Mosquitos

A genus of mosquito found on all continents except Antarctica. Species in this genus are vectors for numerous viral infections, including Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, West Nile Fever, Chikungunya, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and Zika virus.

Allele

Alternative DNA sequence at the same locus (location on the chromosome).

Allosomes

Chromosomes that determine sex (XY, with Y-Chromosome inherited paternally).

Alphavirus

A genus of RNA viruses that affect humans, rodents, fish, birds, and larger animals such as horses, and invertebrates. Transmission occurs via mosquitos. Diseases caused by Alphaviruses are numerous and include Eastern Equine Encephalitis and Chikungunya.

Amino Acid

Organic compounds that are the building blocks of proteins and participate in a number of processes such as neurotransmitter transport and biosynthesis. Amino acids are encoded by the genome as different three letter codes.

Anopheles Mosquitos

A genus of mosquito with ~460 species, ~100 of which can transmit malaria to humans.

Anthroponosis

A disease spread from humans to non-human animals.

Antibody

A Y-shaped glycoprotein produced by B-cells and used by the immune system to neutralize pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The tips of the “Y” can recognize specific antigens and lead to a successful immune response, while the bottom of the “y” regulates immune cell responses. Also known as immunoglobulin.

Antigen

A molecule or molecular structure that can trigger an immune response and can be specifically recognized by an antibody.

Autoimmunity

An organism’s aberrant immune response against its own healthy cells and tissues. Low-level autoimmunity is usually harmless and potentially beneficial, high-level autoimmunity can cause a broad range of deleterious illnesses known as autoimmune diseases (e.g. lupus).

B-cell (B lymphocyte)

A type of white blood cell whose function in the adaptive immune system is to secrete antibodies. Additionally, B-cells present antigens and secrete cytokines. In mammals, B-cells mature in the bone marrow. B-cells express B-cell receptors (BCRs) on their cell membrane, which allow the B-cell to bind to a specific antigen, against which it will initiate an antibody response. These cells can create and almost infinite repertoire through recombination and shuffling.

B-cell receptors (BCRs)

Immunoglobulin molecules that form a receptor protein on the outer surface of B-cells. BCRs allow the B-cell to bind to a specific antigen, against which it will initiate an antibody response. BCRs also control B-cell activation by biochemical signaling and by physical acquisition of antigens from immune synapses with antigen-presenting cells.

Bacteremia

The presence of bacteria in the blood, a normally sterile environment.

Bacteria

A type of prokaryotic microorganism. Unlike eukaryotes, bacterial cells do not contain a nucleus and rarely harbour membrane-bound organelles. Bacteria were among the first life forms to evolve on Earth, and can be found in most every habitat, including soil, water, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, the deep biosphere of the earth’s crust, and in and on other living organisms as symbionts and parasites. Bacteria can be beneficial, such as those comprising the gut flora, or pathogenic and cause infectious disease. However, the vast majority of the bacteria in the body are rendered harmless by the protective effects of the immune system.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

A type of vaginal inflammation characterized by the presence of exfoliated epithelial cells with attached bacteria, abnormally thin mucus secretions, a sharp amine odor, vaginal pH, and overgrowth of the coccobacillus, Gardnerella vaginalis. BV seems to be part of the spectrum of normal for many women, and evidence from non-human primates seems to suggest that a diverse vaginal microbiome is the ancestral state. The condition is nevertheless associated with a wide range of reproductive health complications that endanger fertility and limit reproductive success.

Catarrh

A build-up of mucus in an airway or body cavity caused by inflammation such as that associated with respiratory illnesses.

Chikungunya

An infection caused by the Chikungunya virus, which is spread between people by Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti mosquitos. Symptoms include fever and joint pain. Chikungunya typically occurs in Africa and Asia, but recent outbreaks have been reported in Europe and the Americas.

Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV)

A RNA virus that belongs to the genus Alphavirus that is primarily transmitted by two species of Aedes mosquitoes, although the virus can also be transmitted from mother to child during delivery. Before 2013, the virus was found only in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific islands. In late 2013, outbreaks occurred for the first time in the Americas in the Caribbean Islands. Chikungunya (pronounced “chik-en-gun-ye”) comes from the Kimadonde verb meaning “bent over in pain” or “contorted.”

Chromatin

A complex of DNA and proteins (histone and adaptor proteins) forming chromosomes.

Chromosomes

Discrete strands of tightly packaged chromatin.

Clotting (Blood)

The process by which blood changes from liquid to a gel, forming a clot. Also known as coagulation.

Coccobacillus

A type of short rod-shaped Gram-negative bacteria. Some species of coccobacillus cause disease in humans.

Communicable (Disease)

An illnesses that is transmittable from an infected person or animal to another person or animal through direct contact or indirectly via contaminated food, water, or a vector.

Contagious (Disease)

Infectious diseases that can be spread from organism to organism by direct or indirect contact. Contagious disease is a subset of communicable, infectious, and transmissible.

Control Group

A group of individuals in a medical study who receive either no treatment or the standard treatment, which is compared against a group who receive the treatment being studied.

Coronavirus

A member of the large, single-stranded RNA virus family (Coronaviridae) named for their ring, or corona, shape. They are also characterized by a fatty outer lining that is covered with club-shaped spike proteins. Coronaviruses are known to infect many mammals (including us humans) and birds. Different coronaviruses are responsible for causing MERS, SARS, and COVID-19.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

An infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and then spread globally, resulting in a pandemic. Common symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, sputum production, and muscle and joint pains, and loss of smell and taste. Severe cases may progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), multi-organ failure, septic shock, and blood clots. Spread of the virus occurs between people during close contact, most often via small droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, and talking. Less commonly, people may become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their face.

Cytidine monophospho-N-acetylneuraminic acid hydroxylase (Cmah)

An enzyme that is encoded by the CMAH gene. In most mammals, this enzyme modifies sialic acids [it modifies N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) into N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc)]. The human lineage lost the function of the CMAH gene over 2 million years ago causing human cells to lack Neu5Gc and be coated with an excess of Neu5Ac.

Cytokine “Storm”

A severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly. Signs and symptoms include high fever, inflammation, severe fatigue, and nausea. This may be severe or even life- threatening, leading to multiple organ failure.
 

Cytokines

A broad and loose category of small proteins secreted by certain cells of the immune system and are important in cell signaling and have an effect on other cells.

de Novo

A Latin adverb meaning “from the new.” A new genetic variant that is the result of a mutation in a germ cell (egg or sperm) of one of the parents, or a variant that arises in the fertilized egg during embryogenesis. (See Novel)

Dengue Fever

A tropical disease caused by the Dengue virus and spread several species of female Aedes mosquitos, especially A. aegypti. Symptoms may include a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash. Severe infections may develop into Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever or Dengue Shock Syndrome.

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever

A severe form of Dengue Fever, which includes bleeding and blood platelet and blood plasma leakage.

Dengue Shock Syndrome

A severe form of Dengue Fever in which dangerously low blood pressure occurs.

Dengue Virus

The cause of Dengue Fever. It is a mosquito- borne, single positive-stranded RNA virus of the genus, Flavivirus. Origin: Africa and Asia.

Diploid

Organisms with two sets of each chromosome except for XY sex chromosomes in male mammals.

DNA

Deoxyribonucleic acid. The molecule of inheritance, which consists of sequences of the four nucleotide bases: Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine.

DNA Sequence

The specific order of the nucleotide bases Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)

A rare but serious and often fatal infection of Togavirus that causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The virus is maintained via a bird- to-mosquito cycle, primarily by mosquitos that feed on the blood of birds. Transmission of EEE to mammals (including horses and humans) occurs via “bridge vectors,” mosquito (including those from the Aedes genus) that feed on the blood of both birds and mammals and transfer the virus. Origin: Americas.

Endemic

In epidemiology, an infection that is constantly maintained at a baseline level in a population in a geographic area without external inputs.

Epidemic

The rapid spread of a disease to a significant percent of a given population.

Epidemiology

The branch of medicine that studies and analyzes the incidence, distribution, patterns, determinants, and possible control of diseases and other health factors.

Eukaryotes

Organisms whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes. (see Prokaryotes)

Falciparum Malaria

Human-specific (malignant) malaria caused by the protozoan parasite, Plasmodium falciparum.

Fomite

Inanimate objects (clothes, furniture, door handles, etc.) that when contaminated can transfer disease.

Gardnerella

A genus of Gram-variable-staining facultative anaerobic bacteria of which Gardnerella vaginalis is the only species.

Gardnerella vaginalis

A facultatively anaerobic Gram-variable rod that is involved, together with many other bacteria, in bacterial vaginosis in some women as a result of a disruption in the normal vaginal microflora.

Gastroenteritis

Inflammation of the stomach and small intestine typically caused by a virus, but can also be caused by bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Gene

DNA sequence which encodes a specific function.

Gene Flow

Movement of alleles between populations as is achieved by mating.

Gene-Culture Co-Evolution Theory

A branch of theoretical population genetics that models the transmission of genes and cultural traits from one generation to the next, exploring how they interact. Also known as “biocultural evolution” or “biological enculturation” (feedback between culture and biology).

Genetic Drift

Change in allele frequencies, including fixation and loss, by chance.

Genome

All DNA in a cell. Also refers to the DNA sequence that typifies an individual or species.

Genomics

The study of genome structure/function.

Genotype

The two alleles at one or more diploid loci.

Genus

A taxonomic rank used in biological classification of living and fossil organisms to group closely related species. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name plus species name forms the binomial species name (e.g. Homo sapiens).

Glycans

One of the four classes of major biomolecules. Glycans consist of varying numbers of sugars (monosaccharides) attached to proteins or lipids or secreted as free glycans. Glycans are essential biomolecules whose functions can be divided into three broad categories: structural and modulatory properties (including nutrient storage and sequestration), specific recognition by other molecules, and molecular mimicry of host glycans.

Glycolipids

A type of a lipid (fat) with an attached glycan that functions to maintain the stability of the cell membrane and to facilitate cellular recognition. Glycolipids are crucial in immune response and tissue formation.

Glycoprotein

A class of proteins with covalently attached glycans. Glycoproteins play a part in important cellular functions like embryonic development, cell-to-cell recognition, cell adhesion, and immune functions.

Gram-Negative and Gram-Positive Staining

A characterization of bacteria based on how they differentially react with a chemical stain (crystal violet) based on their cell wall constituents.

Guillain–Barré Syndrome (GBS)

A rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by an autoimmune response in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the peripheral nervous system. Initial symptoms typically begin in the feet and hands with changes in sensation, pain, and muscle weakness, which then spreads to the arms and upper body of both sides. Sometimes this immune dysfunction is triggered by an infection or, less commonly by surgery, and rarely by vaccination.

Haplogroup

A set of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor.

Haplotype

A set of alleles along neighboring positions on a chromosome that are inherited together.

Hemoglobin

A protein complex within red blood cells (RBCs) that binds to oxygen molecules in the lungs for delivery to tissues throughout the body. The same complex also binds carbon dioxide (CO2) and carries it back to the lungs.

Hemoglobin S

The abnormal hemoglobin protein in red blood cells (RBCs) that causes RBCs to assume a sickle, or crescent shape.

Hemoglobin Subunit Beta Gene (HBB)

A gene that provides instructions for making beta-globin, a protein component of hemoglobin. Sickle Cell Anemia is a disorder caused by a mutation in the HBB gene.

Herd Immunity

Sometimes also called “herd protection” or “indirect immunity,” this is when most of a population is immune to a specific contagious disease, which slows its spread to others that are not immune. However, because the level needed to reach this kind of immunity is so high (about 80-90% of the population), it invariably means that a lot of individuals must be infected (and often can die) before herd immunity can be achieved.

Host

A living organism on or in which a parasite, pathogen, commensal or symbiont lives (see Parasitism).

Hybridization

Breeding among recognized species.

Immune Cells

Cells that are part of the immune system. Most develop from stem cells in the bone marrow and become different types of white blood cells (the microglia of the brain originate in the yolk sack during embryonic development). Immune cells are broadly classified into innate and adaptive immune cells. Innate immune cells include neutrophils, basophils, mast cells, monocytes and eosinophils, dendritic cells, and macrophages. Adaptive immune cells include B-cells and T-cells. T-Cells and Natural Killer T-cells mediate important dialogues between innate (rapid) and adaptive (slower) immune responses. B-cells and T-cells can form long- term immunological memory.

Immune System

The biological defense system of an organism that protects against disease.

Immunity

The capability of multicellular organisms to resist harmful microorganisms from entering it and compromising its biological systems. The balanced state of adequate biological defenses to fight infection, disease, or other unwanted biological invasion, while having adequate tolerance to avoid allergy, and autoimmune diseases. It critically relies on recognition of both self and non-self.

Immunoglobulin

A class of glycoproteins present in the serum and on cells of the immune system. (see Antibody)

Immunology

The branch of biology and biomedicine concerned with the study of immune systems.

Infection

The invasion of an organism’s organs or tissues by pathogens, their multiplication, and the reaction of the host tissues to the pathogens.

Infectious (Disease)

The capability of producing infection or spreading disease to others. Synonymous with communicable and transmissible.

Inflammation

An often-painful localized redness, swelling, and heat that is the body’s response to an injury or infection. While uncomfortable, it indicates that your body is working hard to repair itself or to defend against infection.

Influenza

Often referred to as “flu,” this is a highly contagious viral respiratory illness. Symptoms include fever, severe body aches, and catarrh. Because it is so contagious, influenza often produces epidemics. There are several influenza viruses that affect humans (A, B, C).

Introgression

Transfer of alleles between species.

Japanese Encephalitis

An infection of the central nervous system caused by the Japanese Encephalitis Virus. Most infections are benign but occasionally can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), headaches, vomiting, fever, confusion and seizures.

Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV)

A RNA virus of the genus Flavivirus that causes Japanese Encephalitis and is generally spread by mosquitoes, such as Aedes mosquitos. JEV is prevalent in much of Asia and the Western Pacific. Pigs and wild birds serve as a reservoir for the virus.

Jaundice

A yellowing of the eyes and skin due to rapid breakdown of red blood cells (RBCs) and release of degraded hemoglobin.

Lactobacillus

A genus of Gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria that convert sugars to lactic acid. In humans, they are a significant component of the microbiome and can survive in the harsh pH conditions of the digestive and genital systems. Lactobacillus species are normally a major part of the vaginal microbiota. While receiving nutrients from their human host, Lactobacilli protect the host against certain pathogens, even helping to treat diarrhea, vaginal infections, and skin disorders such as eczema. Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic, perhaps most notable for its use in yogurt.

Lactobacillus crispatus

A common genus of beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria that produces hydrogen peroxide (H202) and is found in the vagina and gastrointestinal system.

Lactobacillus iners

A common genus of beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria that normally inhabits the lower reproductive system and vagina of healthy women.

Lipid

One of the four classes of major biomolecules. A fatty or waxy organic compound involved in important cellular activities like storing energy, as a component of the cell membrane, and signaling within and between other cells.

Malaria

An infectious disease that affects humans and other animals and caused by single-celled organisms belonging to genus Plasmodium and transmitted by mosquitos (commonly female Anopheles mosquitos). Initial symptoms are flu-
like and may include headache, fever, shivering, joint pain, vomiting, anemia, jaundice, hemoglobin in the urine, retinal damage, and convulsions. The classic symptom of malaria is a cyclical occurrence of sudden coldness and shivering and then fever and sweating. The disease is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions of the equator. In 2018, there were 228 million cases of malaria worldwide resulting in an estimated 405,000 deaths. The high levels of mortality caused by malaria has repeatedly placed selective pressure on the human genome, resulting in several genetic factors (including Sickle Cell Trait) that mediate its effect to some degree.

Microbiome

The totality of all organisms (microbes) that live on and in the body.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS

A contagious and sometimes fatal viral respiratory sickness that can produce severe symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and in some cases death. The MERS virus originated in bats and was first reported affecting other species, camels and humans, in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then, it has been identified in many other countries, including the United States.
 

Mitochondrial DNA

Maternally inherited DNA found only in the mitochondria, the energy producing organelles of eukaryotic cells. Mitochondria are thought to descend from symbiotic bacteria that have become part of eukaryotic cells.

Molecular Mimicry

The phenomenon whereby one organism produces molecules that are identical or very similar to those of another organism (such as its host). Parasites and pathogens repeatedly evolve molecular mimicry for host manipulation and immune evasion.

Morbidity

The rate of disease in a population (as opposed to mortality, which is death rate).

Morphology (Biology)

Shape or form (outward appearance) of an organism. The branch of biology interested in the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features.

Mucus

A slimy or gooey substance (hydrated bio-gel) produced by mucous membranes and glands for to lubricate or protect the body. The substance we refer to as “snot” or “boogers” are the mucus inside your nose that traps dirt and germs before they can enter further into your body and do you harm. Sneezing expels these invaders from your body but also propels them out towards other unsuspecting victims.

Mutation

Change in a DNA or RNA sequence.

Nervous System

The network of nerve cells and fibers that transmits nerve impulses between parts of the body.

Novel (Disease)

A new strain of a disease that has not been previously identified in a species. (See de Novo)

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