There are no vaccines or cures for dengue, known as “break-bone fever,” or chikungunya, so painful it causes contortions. While U.S. cases remain rare for now, they have been rapidly spread throughout the Caribbean and Central America. But Aedes aegypti, whose biting females spread these diseases, have evolved to resist four of the six insecticides used to kill them.
Enter Oxitec, a British biotech firm that patented a method of breeding Aedes aegypti with fragments of genes from the herpes simplex virus and E. coli bacteria as well as coral and cabbage. This synthetic DNA is commonly used in laboratory science and is thought to pose no significant risks to other animals, but it kills mosquito larvae.
Oxitec’s lab workers manually remove modified females, aiming to release only males, which don’t bite for blood like females do. The modified males then mate with wild females whose offspring die, reducing the population. Oxitec has built a breeding lab in Marathon and hopes to release its mosquitoes in a Key West neighborhood this spring
via Millions of GMO insects could be released in Florida Keys.
In the old days, learning about the components of the human body meant poring over a copy of Grey’s Anatomy. Or, if you were studying medicine, you could take a scalpel to a real cadavre of course.
Now, thanks to a fabulous web site at www.biodigitalhuman.com, you can learn about the makings of the human body without having to resort to boring textbooks or a lab.
With nothing more than a web browser and a decent internet connection you can browse the virtual skeleton. You can choose between male and female, zoom and rotate the skeleton, and turn on/off the display of specific bodily systems such as reproductive, cardiovascular and so on. You can also view the location and symptoms of hundreds of common diseases.
via Explore A Virtual Human Body With Stunning Graphics.
First there was swine flu. Now, while everyone’s attention is on another Ebola outbreak there may be seal flu.
In the wake of a pneumonia outbreak that killed 162 harbor seals in New England last year, researchers are blaming the deaths on an avian flu virus.
The virus is similar to one circulating in North American birds since 2002 but shows signs of having recently adapted to mammals, according to according to Ian Lipkin, MD, of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City and colleagues.
The outbreak is “particularly significant,” they wrote, because the virus has naturally acquired mutations that may make it a candidate to cause disease in humans.
via Medical News: Bird Flu Blamed for Seal Deaths – in Infectious Disease, Flu & URI from MedPage Today.
17-year-old student in Anhui Province sold one of his kidneys for 20,000 yuan only to buy an iPad 2. Now, with his health getting worse, the boy is feeling regret but it is too late, the Global Times reported today.
“I wanted to buy an iPad 2 but could not afford it,” said the boy surnamed Zheng in Huaishan City. “A broker contacted me on the Internet and said he could help me sell one kidney for 20,000 yuan.” Continue reading “Boy regrets selling his kidney to buy iPad”
The incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association says this country’s health-care system is sick and doctors need to develop a plan to cure it.
“We all agree that the system is imploding, we all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize,” Doing said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
The pitch for change at the conference is to start with a presentation from Dr. Robert Ouellet, the current president of the CMA, who has said there’s a critical need to make Canada’s health-care system patient-centred. He will present details from his fact-finding trip to Europe in January, where he met with health groups in England, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands and France.
His thoughts on the issue are already clear. Ouellet has been saying since his return that “a health-care revolution has passed us by,” that it’s possible to make wait lists disappear while maintaining universal coverage and “that competition should be welcomed, not feared.”
In other words, Ouellet believes there could be a role for private health-care delivery within the public system.
He has also said the Canadian system could be restructured to focus on patients if hospitals and other health-care institutions received funding based on the patients they treat, instead of an annual, lump-sum budget. This “activity-based funding” would be an incentive to provide more efficient care, he has said.
via The Canadian Press: Overhauling health-care system tops agenda at annual meeting of Canada’s doctors.
The global pandemics we see today tend to originate and spread from impoverished slums that push humans into close proximity with animals and food sources, thus providing an incubator for viruses that would otherwise die out or go dormant. Pandemics are thus closely linked to the emergence of “hot zones” in what I call “the planet of slums.”
In Kinshasa, Congo, the only way people have been able to survive the collapse of the state and the economy is by bringing agriculture into the city. There are chickens and other animals roaming everywhere. These kinds of conditions transform the whole ecology of disease, speeding up transmission among animals and enabling the leap to humans. They create linkages and causal chains that weren’t there before.
One example: Urbanization in West Africa has increased demand for protein in diets. At the same time, European companies have driven West African fishermen out of their traditional fishing zones, which provided most of their protein. Without fish for protein, people turned to the bush meat trade in the big logging countries such as Gabon. That demand for bush meat, for example from monkeys or chimps, has broken down all the biological species barriers for disease. People are eating wild mammals that carry exotic diseases like the Ebola virus or HIV.
They asked 14 subjects to lie in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, which allowed the researchers to track more brain regions for longer than Libet had. They instructed the subjects to decide spontaneously whether to press a button on the right or one on the left. The volunteers could decide at their own pace, but they had to report the moment of the conscious choice based on a clocklike device in the scanner.
The researchers scoured the brain for changes that correlated with the final decision. The earliest brain pattern that coded for a left or right choice was in the frontopolar cortex, right behind the forehead. The pattern predicted a left or right decision with about 60% accuracy and occurred about 10 seconds before the conscious choice, the team reports online this week in Nature Neuroscience. “We weren’t expecting this kind of lead time,” Haynes says. Even though the predictions weren’t perfect, “there’s not very much space for operation of free will,” Haynes says. “The outcome of a decision is shaped very strongly by brain activity much earlier than the point in time when you feel to be making a decision.” Haynes says the group hopes to extend the work to more realistic choices such as what to drink or what game to watch
via Case Closed for Free Will? — Youngsteadt 2008 (414): 3 — ScienceNOW.
many people gobble down megadoses of vitamins believing that they boost the body’s ability to mop up damaging free radicals that lead to cancer and heart disease. In addition to the more recent research, several reports in recent years have challenged the notion that vitamins are good for you.
via News Keeps Getting Worse for Vitamins – Well Blog – NYTimes.com
At 17 percent of gross domestic product, health care is the biggest single sector of the economy, and it's consuming a larger and larger proportion every year. According to CBO projections, health care will account for 25 percent of GDP by 2025 and 49 percent by 2082. That's simply unsustainable. Any plan that reforms health care has to do more than simply cover the uninsured. The nation's health and wealth depend on it.
via 5 Myths on Our Sick Health Care System – washingtonpost.com
Study shows Black Death did not kill indiscriminately | Top News | Reuters
“A lot of people have assumed that the Black Death killed indiscriminately, just because it had such massive mortality,” anthropologist Sharon DeWitte of the University at Albany in New York, said in a telephone interview.
People already in poor health often are more vulnerable in epidemics. “But there’s been a tradition of thinking that the Black Death was this unique case where no one was safe and if you were exposed to the disease that was it. You had three to five days, and then you were dead,” DeWitte said. The plague epidemic of 1347 to 1351 was one of the deadliest recorded in human history, killing about 75 million people, according to some estimates, including more than a third of Europe’s population.
DeWitte analyzed skeletons unearthed from the East Smithfield cemetery in London, dug especially for plague victims and excavated in the 1980s, for bone and teeth abnormalities that would show that people had health problems before they died of plague. She found such abnormalities in many skeletons, suggesting these people had experienced malnutrition, iron deficiencies and infections well before succumbing to the Black Death.