The 1918 Flu Pandemic

The influenza pandemic of 1918-19 killed more people than the Great War. Its cause was unknown at the time, but we now know it to be an H1N1 strain of the virus.

Here’s a brief history: The Flu Pandemic.

Llama antibodies may lead to new treatments for HIV

Antibodies found in llamas are smaller and denser than ours and may be better at getting at receptor sites that the HIV binds to. Five antibodies against HIV, which work in vitro, have been identified. There’s still the problem that our antibodies may react against the llama antibodies. Read about the newly discovered llama antibodies.

The image below compares a human antibody to a llama antibody.


I’m surprised that this is controversial

Recent findings that two-thirds of all cancers are likely due to random chance have brought some surprising pushback. There’s an emotional reason for hoping that it’s all controllable, but that’s simply not likely. Cells mutate at random; the body’s defence systems clear out most of them; but by a second chance, some are missed. Get used to it. Eating your veggies won’t prevent all cancers. Read “On the importance of luck.”

What would you eat if you were hungry?

Probably anything you could catch, such as that uncivilized “bushmeat,” such as deer or rabbit or possum.

Read “Granny’s mean pot of bushmeat stew,” by Tara C. Smith of Aetiology.

Penicillin breeding experiments!

Scientists used their understanding of the MAT (mating) genes to induce penicillin mold to reproduce sexually, producing spores with new gene combinations. They hope to breed new strains that will kill antibiotic-resistant disease germs. And now that they have induced penicillin to breed, instead of merely producing identical spores, for the first time in a hundred years, they’ll try the same with other important fungi, such as those that produce other antibiotics.

Science news, October 2012

There are two items of news: an outbreak of meningitis has hit the U.S.; Hurricane Sandy wreaks havoc on the northeast U.S. coast.

Taxon of the week: Aeromonas

Aeromonas colonies on blood agar (image from Janda & Abbott)

I’ve found a new website: Catalogue of Organisms. Their post, “Taxon of the week: Aeromonas” describes a genus of aquatic bacteria that are responsible for some ugly infections in fish, humans, and other animals: The Genus Aeromonas: Taxonomy, Pathogenicity, and Infection by J. Michael Janda and Sharon L. Abbott.

The bacterial colonies to the left are illuminated by transmitted light.

The evolution of cholera

Puff the Mutant Dragon explains the history of epidemic cholera, which originated when religious pilgrims spread a relatively harmless germ to new populations, and its evolution into a killer disease: The Making of a Serial Killer.

%d bloggers like this: