We could avoid 3.3 million cases of dengue fever each year if we limit global warming

May 29, 2018 by  
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Climate change: it’s not just about rising oceans. According to new research from the  University of East Anglia (UEA), action on climate change could help avoid millions of cases of dengue fever . If we limited global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — a Paris Agreement target — we might be able to avoid around 3.3 million cases annually of the tropical disease  in the Caribbean and Latin America alone. There are around 54 million cases of dengue fever, caused by a mosquito -spread virus, in the Caribbean and Latin America every year, and approximately 390 million people are infected worldwide. But by around 2050, in a 3.7 degrees Celsius warming scenario, this number could increase by 7.5 million additional cases a year. While dengue fever is only fatal in rare cases, a specific treatment does not exist, and symptoms include headaches, muscle and joint pain, and fever. Related: Climate change could reverse all reductions in child mortality over the last 25 years But if we take action against global warming , we might be able to prevent millions of cases, according to UEA’s research, which drew on computer models and clinical and laboratory-confirmed reports of dengue fever in Latin America. Keeping warming to two degrees Celsius could lower cases by as many as 2.8 million per year by 2100, and keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could see an extra drop of half a million cases a year. Lead researcher Felipe Colón-González of UEA said, “While it is recognized that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would have benefits for human health , the magnitude of these benefits remains mostly unquantified. This is the first study to show that reductions in warming from two degrees Celsius to 1.5 degrees Celsius could have important health benefits.” Co-author Carlos Peres of UEA said, “Our economic projections of the regional health costs of climate change show that developing nations will bear the brunt of expanding arbovirus infections, so a preventative strategy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions sooner rather than later is the most cost-effective policy.” The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the research this week; researchers from Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso in Brazil contributed. + University of East Anglia Image via Depositphotos

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We could avoid 3.3 million cases of dengue fever each year if we limit global warming

New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo

May 9, 2018 by  
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The deadly virus Ebola has returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A new outbreak of Ebola stuck the northwest town of Bikoro with 21 suspected cases of the virus. Out of five samples sent to the DRC’s National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) , only two were positive for Ebola. In 1976, the first case of Ebola was documented in the DRC, and there has been nine outbreaks of the virus since then. The unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 infected 28,000, killed 11,000 and shocked the world. However, the virus ‘s latest reemergence in the DRC is no reason to panic. Previous outbreaks in the DRC have been contained thanks in part to the country’s vast, largely inaccessible land area, which inhibits travel and trade between towns. The DRC’s last Ebola outbreak occurred in the village of Likati in 2017, however the virus was contained within forty-two days. Related: Ebola mutated to become even deadlier during recent outbreak Led by Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, the first scientist to document Ebola, the INRB is experienced in responding to Ebola outbreaks. “We’re advanced in public health ,” an epidemiologist at the INRB told the Atlantic . “If you compare us with Europe or the U.S., eh, but here in Africa, we are high. We have experience.” Early monitoring and reporting is key to success. “We have a surveillance system that works,” Kinshasa School of Public Health leader Emile Okitolonda said. “Here, nurses know that if they see a suspected case, they report it.” The INRB will also receive expert assistance from the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières in responding to Ebola. The primary challenge in the DRC is a lack of resources – a problem that may be exacerbated by President Trump ‘s recent request to cut $252 million in funding for international Ebola relief. Congress must decide within 45 days whether to act on Trump’s request. If they do nothing, as they are wont to do, the funding will remain in place. + INRB Via The Atlantic Images via Wikimedia Commons and Depositphotos

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Scientists are launching human trials for a cancer ‘vaccine’ that cured 97% of tumors in mice

March 29, 2018 by  
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Scientists at Stanford University are currently preparing the first human test of a cancer “vaccine,” a treatment that eliminated up to 97 percent of tumors during trials with mice. Appropriately 35 people with lymphoma will begin the trials before the end of 2018. Not technically a vaccine, the new cancer treatment is a kind of immunotherapy that involves an injection of two agents directly into a tumor. These agents stimulate the production of T cells, which then fight the cancer. As promising as the treatment may be, it is still a long way from being ready for and available to the public. In mice trials, the cancer vaccine eliminated tumors in 87 out of 90 mice, all of which suffered from various kinds of cancer, including lymphoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer. The vaccine proved effective even in instances when cancer had spread to other parts of the body. As exciting as this development may be, it is too early to properly evaluate. “We’ve been able to cure a lot of cancers in mice for a long time,” Dr. Alice Police, the regional director of breast surgery at Northwell Health Cancer Institute, told Live Science . Related: Scientists discover a huge new human organ hiding in plain sight Police also pointed out that since the human test only includes lymphoma patients, it will take more time and research before it can be determined whether or not the cancer vaccine is effective against other kinds of cancer in humans. Nonetheless, the cancer vaccine is a promising alternative to existing immunotherapies. “When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” said Stanford oncology professor Ronald Levy, MD  in a statement. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.” Via Live Science Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Breast cancer spread connected to amino acid in asparagus

February 16, 2018 by  
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Scientists have linked the spread of the disease breast cancer in mice to a compound that’s in asparagus and several other foods, The Guardian reported . Studies with mice revealed asparagine drives the advance of the cancer , and when researchers reduced asparagine, the amount of “secondary tumors in other tissues” dropped. Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute director Greg Hannon told The Guardian, “This is a very promising lead and one of the very few instances where there is a scientific rationale for a dietary modification influencing cancer.” Research with mice showed the amino acid asparagine is important for breast cancer to spread, and scientists think the process could be similar in humans. Researchers found that blocking the amino acid hampered the spread of the cancer. Hannon said in a statement , “It could be that manipulating levels of asparagine in the body might be used as a way to boost a patients’ cancer treatment.” Related: Many anti-aging products contain ingredients that can cause breast cancer The researchers blocked asparagine in mice tested, which had an aggressive type of breast cancer, to reduce the cancer’s ability to spread with the drug L-asparaginase. Giving the mice a low-asparagine diet worked to a lesser extent, according to The Guardian. There’s still a lot work to be done. The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute cautioned research is in the early stages and “doesn’t form the basis for DIY diets at home.” This work also doesn’t seem to offer a cure for cancer; per the press release, “So far the story suggests that lowering asparagine levels blunts the ability of cancer cells to spread in mice, but doesn’t affect the original tumor.” Lowering asparagine didn’t prevent breast tumors from forming, the researchers found. Hannon said, “The difficulty is finding ways to study this in the lab that are relevant to patients. It’s a challenge, but I think it’s worth pursuing.” The journal Nature published the research online this week . 21 scientists at institutions in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States contributed. + Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute + Nature Via The Guardian Images via Stephanie Studer on Unsplash and Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr

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Fatal cat plague is back after 40 years of remission

February 6, 2018 by  
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Decades ago, feline parvovirus (also known as cat plague and panleukopenia) ravaged cat populations, causing awful symptoms and killing at least half of those it infected, even with the best treatment. Then along came a vaccine, and the disease largely disappeared in pet populations. Now it is cropping up again in Australia. Here’s what you need to know. Feline Parvo is nasty stuff. It wipes out bone marrow and causes bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, and death in at least half of all cases. Treatment is expensive and intense and involves fluids, medication, anti-virals, opioids and antibiotics. It can even require blood transfusions. Still, many animals die despite treatment. Related: Architects create extraordinary homes for Los Angeles’ feral cats Cats can catch the virus from fecal contact – in litter boxes, from cat-to-cat contact and even on a human’s shoes after being outside. Animal shelters in Melbourne and Sydney recently reported an outbreak of the cat plague in unvaccinated animals. Researchers suspect that wild cats have spread the disease to pet animals. The best way to keep the disease at bay is widespread vaccination – current vaccines have an effective rate of 99%. In Australia, non-profit groups work to help low-income individuals vaccinate their pets and to catch and vaccinate wild felines. Even still, it is important that as many pets as possible are vaccinated to protect herd immunity. When herd immunity falls below 70%, diseases like feline parvo can gain a foothold. Via phys.org Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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Fatal cat plague is back after 40 years of remission

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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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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