March 14, 2018
[science] The Brighter Side of Rabies … A brief look at how scientists are using the rabies virus for research into the brain. ‘Ian Wickersham, a research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who helped Callaway engineer the modified rabies virus eight years ago, is now at work on another version. The original, Wickersham told me, “kills infected cells quite quickly: by about two weeks after infection, they’re all either dead or in dire shape.” This meant that the scientists had a limited time to observe the virus’s movement in the brain. His goal, he said, is to make the rabies virus “innocuous, so infected neurons are completely healthy,” which might enable scientists not only to see how individual neurons are connected but also to watch the connections form. In other labs, different modified viruses are being used to target cancer, enhance food safety, and cure certain forms of color blindness. A modified strain of H.I.V., Callaway noted, is often used in labs to transfer genes between organisms.’
February 23, 2018
[food] How the sushi boom is fuelling tapeworm infections … Oh, Dear God, Tapeworms! ‘The patient had complained of abdominal pain. During a bout of bloody diarrhoea, reports Bahn, “he says: ‘I look down and I look like there’s a piece of intestine hanging out of me.’ What’s racing through his mind is he thinks he’s dying … He grabs it and he pulls on it and it keeps coming out. ‘What is this long piece of entrail?’ And he picks it up and looks at it and what does it do?” There is a dramatic pause to enhance the horror. “It starts moving.” Bahn said that the tapeworm had probably come from the patient’s daily intake of salmon sashimi. “He told me he was freaked out, but I guess when you think you’re dying because your entrails are shooting out your bottom and you find out it’s not you, but something else, that’s probably a good thing.” The story has attracted attention all over the world, as these things tend to do…’
July 11, 2014
[disa] Nature’s Most Perfect Killing Machine… a profile of the Ebola virus… ‘I first read Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone when I was 11 years old or so, and have since been in the habit of weighing every potential catastrophe against “death by Ebola virus disease.” The book is lurid and dramatic; the iconography of a dying patient crying blood and shitting out their intestines is, I admit, compelling. Terror-inducing as it may be, though, it’s perhaps not the most accurate portrait of the threat this particular monster poses…’