Scientists warn thawing soil could suddenly unleash deadly pathogens unseen in centuries

May 8, 2017 by  
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Humans have fought viruses for centuries. We struck a temporary winning blow with the discovery of penicillin, but now we’re watching bacteria develop antibiotic resistance . But what if we were exposed to viruses that have been dormant for millennia? As climate change melts permafrost , the frozen soil could suddenly release ancient, deadly bacteria and viruses that humanity hasn’t had to deal with for thousands of years. 2016 saw a case of an illness trapped inside ice being released to harm people . A 12-year-old boy died and around 20 people were hospitalized with anthrax in August 2016 in the Siberian tundra. Researchers think the anthrax came from a reindeer that died more than 75 years ago and was trapped under permafrost, but when that permafrost thawed in a 2016 heat wave, the anthrax was released. And researchers fear this may not be the last time such an event occurs. Related: Dramatic disintegration of Canada permafrost threatens huge carbon release Jean-Michel Claverie, an evolutionary biologist at France’s Aix-Marseille University, told the BBC, “Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark. Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past.” Over a million reindeer perished due to anthrax in the early 20th century. Most of their carcasses rest near the surface in 7,000 burial grounds in Russia. But even more than the anthrax, researchers fear other diseases that might be lurking in the permafrost. Scientists found pieces of RNA from the Spanish flu in bodies buried in the Alaskan tundra in mass graves. They think the bubonic plague and smallpox could hide in Siberian permafrost. But some bacteria won’t come back to life. So some people argue we should be more concerned about threats we know for sure climate change will unleash. Claverie says there’s a non-zero probability dormant microbes could come back to life and harm us. He told the BBC, “How likely that is is not known, but it’s a possibility. It could be bacteria that are curable with antibiotics, or resistant bacteria, or a virus. If the pathogen hasn’t been in contact with humans for a long time, then our immune system would not be prepared.” Via the BBC Images via NPS Climate Change Response on Flickr and Pixabay

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Scientists warn thawing soil could suddenly unleash deadly pathogens unseen in centuries

Alarming new study suggests Zika virus could cause infertility in men

November 1, 2016 by  
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It seems every time we think we know all the terrifying health effects of the Zika virus , new research shows it’s even worse than previously believed. A new study from the University of Washington, published in the journal Nature , has found that mice infected with Zika experience shrunken testicles, low testosterone, and low sperm counts — and so far, no one is sure if it could have the same effect in humans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSGPi-vB768 Dr. Michael Diamond, co-author of the study, told The Telegraph , “While our study was in mice, and with the caveat that we don’t yet know whether Zika has the same effect in men, it does suggest that men might face low testosterone levels and low sperm counts after Zika infection, affecting their fertility. We don’t know for certain if the damage is irreversible, but I expect so, because the cells that hold the internal structure in place have been infected and destroyed.” The most worrying implication of this new study is the fact that many affected men may not realize the disease has left them infertile until years later. There have already been reports of men with the disease experiencing pelvic pain and bloody urine – symptoms Zika shares in common with other sexually transmitted infections. While doctors have been aware the virus can pass through the reproductive organs , this is the first time researchers have suggested that process might be damaging. Related: Experimental Zika vaccine to be tested on humans for the first time This is the first study of its kind linking Zika to male infertility. In the past, it was believed to be mostly dangerous to pregnant women , whose children were at risk of severe birth defects like microcephaly. In rare cases, the mosquito-transmitted infection could also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition which can lead to paralysis and death. Men potentially exposed to the disease are currently being told to use condoms for six months, and women in Zika-affected areas are being told to delay pregnancy if possible. + Nature Via The Telegraph Images via Wikimedia Commons and University of Washington

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Brazil unleashes millions of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika

October 31, 2016 by  
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Mosquitoes are an annoyance to nearly everyone who encounters them, and the little buzzers are responsible for spreading diseases like malaria, yellow fever and, of more recent note, Zika virus . Now scientists in Brazil are fighting back by releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes that, ideally, will mate with their wild counterparts and produce offspring with very short lifespans, thus causing disease-carrying family lines to die out within a few generations. Since mosquitoes only live a short time, this could greatly reduce the population of mosquitoes spreading infectious diseases in just a few weeks. British biotech firm Oxitec is the company leading the charge on the development of genetically modified male mosquitoes belonging to the Aedes aegypti species, which are responsible for the spread of a slew of diseases. The company launched the Friendly Aedes aegypti project in April 2015 in the town of Piracicaba, where some 60,000 people live under daily threat of diseases like dengue fever and Zika virus . Oxitec has been releasing its “self-limiting” mosquitoes across the city, and reporting huge reductions in cases of diseases those mosquitoes spread. After being released into the wild, the male mosquitoes breed with disease-carrying females and produce offspring that die quickly. The company reports that this technique can bring mosquito populations down by 90 percent, according to the results of five field tests conducted between 2011 and 2014. Related: Zika virus found in US mosquitoes for the first time Despite that good news, there were early concerns that releasing genetically modified mosquitoes may somehow contribute to the spread of viruses like Zika, rather than combat it. Many people blamed Oxitec for the recent Zika epidemic in Brazil, claiming that the aforementioned field tests actually caused the problem. However, experts at the World Health Organization have dismissed that notion in part because the field tests were not conducted in the same region as the Zika hotspot and, while the strategy is controversial, many epidemiologists believe this is the fastest and most effective way to reduce the spread of mosquito-born diseases. Oxitec is still waiting for approval from the Brazilian government to release their next batch of genetically modified mosquitoes, which would number in the millions. The company contracted with the town of Piracicaba in a $1.1 million deal, and erected what it claims is the “first and biggest factory” for genetically modified mosquitoes there, producing 60 million GM mosquitoes per week. (That’s three times the output of China’s largest mosquito factory, which is working on a similar project.) While Piracicaba is Oxitec’s only customer in Brazil, the company has worked in other parts of the world, doing exactly the same thing in an effort to stamp out mosquito-born diseases that are difficult to treat and, sometimes, deadly. Earlier this year, millions of the company’s little buzzers were released in the Cayman Islands and in Florida as well, two other places where Zika has spread. Via Gizmodo Images via Shutterstock and Oxitec

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Brazil unleashes millions of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika

Zika may have claimed its first victim in the continental US

July 13, 2016 by  
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Last Friday, health officials announced that the first death related to Zika has occurred in the continental US. An elderly patient in Utah had tested positive for Zika virus after traveling to an affected region, but because of the person’s underlying health conditions, it’s not known if the virus was the sole cause of death, or if it merely contributed. Doctors were unable to confirm the presence of the virus until after the patient had already died. At this time, the Salt Lake County Department of Health is not revealing any further information about the patient, so their identity, and even the location where they contracted Zika, are both currently unknown. While this case is alarming, it shouldn’t be a reason to panic. There are been 1,132 cases of Zika in the US diagnosed so far , but all of the affected patients are believed to have contracted the virus while traveling. So far, there have been no cases of the disease transmitted within US borders . Related: Experimental Zika vaccine to be tested on humans for the first time This death follows that of a Puerto Rican man back in February. Unlike the continental US, there is evidence that the infection has been transmitted by local mosquitos within the territory. The CDC is advising that pregnant women avoid traveling to Puerto Rico, and that all travelers take measures to avoid exposure to mosquitos while there. Via CNN Images via  Shutterstock  and Pixabay

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Zika may have claimed its first victim in the continental US

6 cycling accessories every bike commuter needs

July 13, 2016 by  
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Bike commuters enjoy plenty of advantages with their chosen mode of transportation: less impact on the environment, great cardiovascular health, and being able to zip through traffic. But cyclists also run into a variety of dilemmas on the road. Luckily, a variety of companies are creating products and technologies that make bike commutes more comfortable and hassle-free. We’ve lined up six cool cycling accessories that are especially useful for commuters – check them out. 1. Fontus self-filling water bottle Running out of water on a hot and humid ride can be a nightmare for cyclists, but Fontus has taken care of that problem. The solution is a self-filling water bottle . Water droplets are harvested straight out of the air with the system’s two-chambered cooler, which turns condensation into drinkable hydration. The Ryde model can be affixed to bicycles, collecting as much as a half liter of H2O during an hour-long commute. 2. EVELO electric-converting Omni Wheel Unlike cars, you don’t have to trade in your traditional bike for an electric one. EVELO ’s Omni Wheel transforms your ride into an e-bike in just 30 minutes. The wheel contains the battery, electronics, and motor needed to power your cycle electrically and fits to replace most standard cycles’ front wheels. An adjustable pedal assist feature helps to customize your commute and links your travel data to a wireless display. The system is priced at about half the going rate for an entirely new electric bike, and you get to convert your cycle back to its human-powered glory whenever you want. 3. Buca Boot weatherproof bicycle trunk Any rider who has ever wished for spacious and secure storage during their commute would love a Buca Boot . Modeled after car trunks, the versatile storage system attaches to your bicycle and can only be locked or detached with a key. It features expandable side pannier bags and a wooden lid that can open on its hinges to accommodate larger items, like bags of groceries. The weatherproof design is perfect for all climates and riders can choose between three different colors to fit their style. 4. Self-inflating PumpTire tube Say goodbye to the days of over-inflating your bike tires before you hit the road. PumpTire ’s puncture-resistant bike tube uses the rhythmic compression of riding to fill your cycle’s tire during your commute. Once the preset tire pressure level is reached, the mechanism shuts off, completely behind the scenes, so you can enjoy your journey without the worry of going flat. Kits fit any standard, third-party 700c and 26-inch bicycle tires . 5. Bike Lift&Carry shoulder strap Carrying a bike up and down stairs is the bane of cyclists  everywhere, but this shoulder strap helps you transport your ride with ease, all while leaving one hand free to navigate doors or elevators. The Bike Lift&Carry system affixes below the seat, out of sight, until you need it. The strap extends to the handlebars, where a carabine keeps it securely in place for transport. A press of a button rolls the strap back into place until you need it again. The revolutionary product also comes in a variety of colors to match your ride. 6. DIY bamboo Mandy Fenders In less than 30 minutes, Bamboobee ’s innovative Mandy Fender can be installed without mechanical expertise. A special memory film in the design allows users to contour the fender to their desired shape and attach it to the frame. Riders can also switch out the interchangeable fender for each bike they own. The veneers’ bamboo material is not only environmentally sustainable, lightweight, and weather-resistant, but also an attractive addition to any bike. Images via Fontus , EVELO , Buca Boot , PumpTire , Bike Lift&Carry , Bamboobee

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We’re running out of chocolate and it’s our own fault

October 11, 2015 by  
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Forget the great recession. According to the world’s largest chocolatiers, we’re about to enter a great chocolate depression, and it’s our own fault. The Washington Post reports that Mars Inc. and Barry Callebaut have unveiled statistics that show consumption of chocolate worldwide is outpacing cocoa production and creating a chocolate deficit. Read the rest of We’re running out of chocolate and it’s our own fault

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We’re Running Out of Chocolate and It’s Our Own Fault

November 17, 2014 by  
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Forget the great recession. According to the world’s largest chocolatiers, we’re about to enter a great chocolate depression, and it’s our own fault. The Washington Post reports that Mars Inc. and Barry Callebaut have unveiled statistics that show consumption of chocolate worldwide is outpacing cocoa production and creating a chocolate deficit. Read the rest of We’re Running Out of Chocolate and It’s Our Own Fault Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Africa , callebaut , chocolate , chocolate depression , chocolate shortage , Climate Change , Consumption , deficit , disease , Drought , farming , mars , Mars chocolate bars , west , West Africa chocolate

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Roundup Bread: The Real Reason Americans are Intolerant to Wheat

November 17, 2014 by  
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The influx of wheat allergies in the United States may not be gluten-related as many have thought, but instead could be attributed to Monsanto’s toxic weed killer known as Roundup . Used as a drying agent, Roundup contains glyphosate , a deadly herbicide that not only kills weeds, but binds to the soil it is sprayed on. It turns out that spraying Roundup on wheat crops at harvest time boosts production, as a result of which farmers are using it more liberally, and Americans are consuming trace amounts of the toxic chemical every time they eat wheat-based products. Read the rest of Roundup Bread: The Real Reason Americans are Intolerant to Wheat Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: celiac disease , eco design , gluten allergy , Glyphosate , green design , roundup , Roundup Bread , sustainable design , wheat allergy , wheat in America

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Massive Ancient Mushroom Could Hold the Cure for Many Diseases

October 21, 2014 by  
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The agarikon is one of the largest, oldest-living mushrooms in the world, and at least one scientist believes it holds the key for a cure to tuberculosis – along with many other illnesses. Paul Stamets, founder of Fungi Perfecti and an advisor at the Program of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Medical School has been hunting for the elusive and endangered agarikon in the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest – one of only a few places in the world along with Europe where these massive fungi grow. Why, you ask? Both in ancient spiritual traditions and modern medicine, agarikon are believed to be one of the most potent medicines known to humanity. Indigenous peoples in both North America and Europe used agarikon to treat a host of illnesses and infectious diseases – ranging from coughs to asthma, and arthritis to infections. Even the ancient Greeks knew of agarikon and called it an “elixir for long life” because it was used to treat tuberculosis. Read the rest of Massive Ancient Mushroom Could Hold the Cure for Many Diseases Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: agarikon , arthristis , bird flu , disease , fungi , fungus , mushroom , old growth forest , stamets , swine ful , treatment , tuberculosis

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Horrifying Disease Causes Thousands of Starfish to Pull Themselves Apart

February 4, 2014 by  
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Scientists have discovered that millions of starfish have been dying along the Western Coast of the United States in recent months due to a mysterious disease that causes them to tear themselves apart. The creatures’ arms begin to twist and then literally crawl away from their body, often causing their insides to spill out as well. According to a report by  PBS News , most starfish die within 24 hours of contracting the disease, and scientists are unsure of how to help. Read the rest of Horrifying Disease Causes Thousands of Starfish to Pull Themselves Apart Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: mysterious starfish disease , Pisaster ochraceus , plague decimates starfish populations along the West Coast , Pycnopodia helianthoides , sea star wasting syndrome , starfish disembowel themselves , starfish tear off their own arms , sunflower sea star disease        

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