I’ll try to get the third installment on normal flora “basics” up tomorrow, before I spend Wednesday at Darwin Day events here in Iowa City and then the next few days at AAAS in San Francisco. In the meantime, in case you’ve not come across it yet, John Wilkins has been keeping an updated list of “Basics” posts here; new and notable for readers here include Shelley’s post on prions and Jeremy’s on ecology.
Something is wiping out honey bees across North America and a team of researchers is rushing to find out what it is.
What’s being called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has now been seen in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and way out in California. Some bee keepers have lost up to 80 percent of their colonies to the mysterious disorder.
So, I left off on Tuesday noting two things about our normal flora: 1) that in the big picture, we know hardly anything about them; and 2) that one reason we know so little about them is because we’ve never grown many of them in a laboratory setting–that is, we’ve never cultured them using our typical tools of the trade.
What’s one way to remedy this? Eliminate the need for culture, and take some cues from the microbial ecologists. More on this below.
Continue reading “The Basics: you and your normal flora, Part II”
In yesterday’s post regarding the current outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in Kenya, I noted:
…while there’s little people in the area can do about periodic flooding, scientists are actively examining the relationship between weather and RVF outbreaks. This hopefully will prove useful to predict–and potentially ward off–future disease outbreaks via animal vaccination.
When it comes to hemorrhagic fevers, Ebola and Marburg tend to get the lions’ share of the press. Both are highly fatal, both can cause people to die in excruciating ways, and both have come to represent somewhat our fear of and fascination with emerging exotic diseases. However, as I’ve pointed out previously, as far as actual fatalities–or even illnesses go–both viruses are small potatoes. Other viruses that can also have hemorrhagic manifestations–including dengue and yellow fever–are much more common. One of these other viruses that frequently causes hemorrhagic fever is Rift Valley fever (RVF), an arbovirus (arthropod-borne) found primarily in Africa.
The RVF virus can be spread by mosquitoes, and more commonly infects domestic animals (such as cattle and sheep) than it does humans. Indeed, a clue that an outbreak of RVF is in progress in animals is the sudden onset of spontaneous abortions in livestock: the abortion rate among infected, pregnant ewes is close to 100% for this virus, for example. Additionally, these livestock outbreaks can put humans in more frequent contact with the virus, leading to a “spillover” of disease from the animal population into the human one. Humans can contract the virus either via direct contact with infected animals (including blood, animal organs, other body fluids) or due to bites from mosquitoes carrying the virus. A prime example of this spillover is an epidemic in Kenya during the mid-20th century that occurred in sheep (100,000 died), and subsequently led to human cases of the disease. Now, Kenya is facing a new outbreak of the virus in humans:
Continue reading “Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses #24: Rift Valley Fever outbreak in Kenya”
Revere over at Effect Measure has an excellent post linking together the current bird flu situation with John Snow’s investigations of 19th century cholera outbreaks. It’s an interesting take on the situation–check it out.
I’ve mentioned frequently how my kids are fascinated with bugs and things creepy-crawly, whether it’s spiders, giant moths, or butterflies. On that topic, via Bitch PhD comes this article from yesterday’s New York Times on monarchs, their endangered habitat, and what just about anyone can do to help out.
(More after the jump…)
Continue reading “The puzzling migratory monarch–and using it to teach science”
That’s certainly the claim in a new New York Times editorial (via The Frontal Cortex). The author, Nina Planck (author of Real Foods: What to Eat and Why), claims that it’s as easy as just feeding cattle grass, and poof!–E. coli O157 will vanish.
More on this and why organic farming won’t necessarily stop such outbreaks after the jump.
Continue reading “Is stopping E. coli O157 contamination as easy as changing cattle diet?”