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Tue, 17 Jan 2017
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Plagues


Syringe

Convenient excuse? Race to make vaccine for the plague amid fears 'terrorists could be turning it into a weapon' to wipe out millions

Scientists are racing to create a vaccine for the plague - before terrorists develop the deadly disease into a weapon. The illness is largely seen as a thing of the past, best known for wiping out a third of Europe's population during the Black Death of the 1300s. But experts warn it is one of the most likely candidates for a bioweapon - especially given the increasing rate of antibiotic resistance.

Lead researcher Dr Ashok Chopra, whose research is being backed by the Department of Defense, warns the scenario is a more realistic prospect than we think. 'Terrorists can easily grow the bacteria and make the strains resistant to antibiotics,' Dr Chopra, a microbiologist and immunologist at the University of Texas microbiologist, told Daily Mail Online.

'The pneumonic plague is very contagious and very hard to treat. It could kill millions. 'Think of the Black Death of the 14th century. It is not unrealistic that we would experience the same number of mass casualties. It could be quite devastating.'

There are three strains of the plague - pneumonic, bubonic, and septicemic - all caused by bacteria called Yersinia pestis. The most common type is the bubonic plague, typically found on animals and transmitted to humans via fleas.

It was the bubonic plague that caused the Black Death, as well as America's first outbreak in 1900 when infected animals were imported from Asia to San Francisco. However, the pneumonic plague, which is airborne, is fatal almost 100 percent of the time.


Comment: Although a horrible disease, Bubonic plague is not the infamous Black Death that killed half of Europe's population in the Middle Ages, according to recent research. The latter was likely to be caused in part by pathogens brought to Earth by comets. See this book review for more information:

New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection


Comment: For an even more in-depth study of cosmic forces at work, read Pierre Lescaudron with Laura Knight-Jadczyk's Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection


Bug

Unknown virus causing migratory pain, black urine reported in Bahia, Brazil

© 24 Horas News
Nine people have been affected by an unknown virus which has caused people to develop muscle pain and discharge a black urine.

This was confirmed by Dr. Gubbio Soares, a researcher at the virology laboratory at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA). He stated that his research team have been able to determine that the ailment was caused by a virus, but haven't been able to identify what virus it is.

The team will require at least 15 days to figure out the origin of the virus. "We already know that it is a virus that causes the disease, but we have not yet determined which type. "We need about 10 to 15 days to make this identification."

As at the time of this report, only the transmission mode has been identified according to Soares who believes this is done orally. Another symptom of the virus is an increment in the body's CPK enzyme.

Addressing the effect of the enzyme on a patient who had the virus, Soares thinks such a person should admitted at the hospital until the urine returns to normal. "He had a patient with CPK index of 100 thousand units per liter of blood, while the normal one is 200 units per liter,"

"Because of the risk of kidney failure, patients should be hospitalized until the urine returns to normal."

Comment: The latest from Pravda.ru reports the following:
The first cases were reported between December 2 and December 10 in the northern coastal área of the State of Bahia in central Brazil - sudden intense pain in the cervical region, then in the limbs and torso, back, moving down to the legs, and passing black urine. In all cases CPK muscular enzymes suffer significant alterations. Renal deficiency was detected in at least one patient and the first medical reports suggested a vírus which was contracted through contact with droplets of saliva or physical contact...

...The local newspaper Correio24horas reports no less than 18 cases, 16 in the capital, Salvador de Bahia. The other cases were registered in the city of Valença, in the Southern part of the State of Bahia. The cases in Salvador are all linked to the same source - the victims came from three families who ate a moqueca, or stew, made with a Bull's Eye (Olho de Bói, or Arabaiana) bought from fishermen on the beach of Genipabu, in Guarajuba. The fact that there are other cases registered elsewhere may point towards the existence of a vírus.



Attention

Over 2,000 deer reported dead in South Dakota disease outbreak


South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department issued more deer licenses this year than it did last year. Due to an outbreak fear of deer numbers being down this year
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, a viral disease that killed more than 3,700 deer in 2012, has impacted the population this year, with more than 2,000 deer found dead in 23 counties, The Mitchell Daily Republic reported. The heaviest losses have been in Brule, Aurora and Beadle Counties. In Beadle County, 209 deer were found dead and in Brule County, 206 deer were found dead.

Hughes and Sully Counties were not spared. A total of 140 deer were found dead in Hughes County, while 85 were found in Sully County, said Andy Lindbloom, senior big game biologist.

"We definitely got closer to 2012 than we would have liked," Lindbloom said.

The state issued about 29,000 resident licenses this year. It also issued about 42,000 individual tags, a 33 percent increase from last year.

Lindbloom said that about 1,500 licenses were returned as of Monday afternoon. Hunters with licenses for the muzzleloader deer season have until the end of this week to send their tags in for a refund.

Chalkboard

Mathematician claims one in 500 chance of extinction next year

© NASA
The calculation is based on the Doomsday Argument.
The human race faces a one in 500 chance of extinction in the next year, an expert mathematician has claimed.

Dr Fergus Simpson, a mathematician at the University of Barcelona's Institute of Cosmos Sciences, said there was a 0.2 per cent chance of a "global catastrophe" occurring in any given year over the course of the 21st Century.

The calculation is based on the Doomsday Argument, which it is claimed can predict the number of future members of the human species given an estimate of the total number of humans born so far.

"Our key conclusion is that the annual risk of global catastrophe currently exceeds 0.2 per cent," Dr Simpson wrote in an academic paper called Apocalypse Now? Reviving the Doomsday Argument, accessed through Cornell University's online library.

"In a year when Leicester City FC were crowned Premier League champions, we are reminded that events of this rarity can prove challenging to anticipate, yet they should not be ignored," he added.

According to Dr Simpson's calculations, around 100 billion people have already been born and a similar number will be born in the future before the human race expires.

He estimated there was a 13 per cent chance humanity would fail to see out the 21st Century.

This is a more optimistic conclusion than previous studies, with British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees suggesting there was a 50 per cent probability of human extinction by the year 2100 in his 2003 book Our Final Hour.

Fish

Tens of thousands of dead fish clog Long Island canal

© David Kozatch/Facebook
A Long Islander shares a photo of thousands of dead bunker fish stranded in the Shinnecock Canal on Long Island.
Long Islanders thought winter had arrived early when they walked near the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays, New York, on Monday.

The water looked like it was covered in a thick sheet of ice, but upon closer examination, residents could see it was actually thousands of silver bunker fish wiggling on top of each other, struggling to survive.

Dozens of people posted pictures and videos of the unusual sight on Facebook.

"Strange phenomenon. Cause of man or nature?" local resident Gustavo Zuluaga Buritica asked.

"Wow never seen anything like it!" Long Islander Eric Reilly commented.

As videos of the rare sight go viral, people are now looking for answers.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation told CBS News on Tuesday that they are monitoring the incident.

"No additional fish kills have been reported overnight or today," said Erica Ringewald, the department's media relations director. "Some dead bunker are floating in the Shinnecock Bay but most are believed to have sunk to the bottom."

Info

Bible fairy tales - A look at yesterday

© Born Again Pagan
British historian, F. W. Maitland wrote:
We study the day before yesterday in order that yesterday may not paralyze today, and that today may not paralyze tomorrow.
Which is a fancy way of saying, what really happened does matter.[1] In a similar vein, John Dominic Crossan said something like, if we get yesterday right, we have a chance of getting today better. So, let's look at yesterday.

Back in 1956, David Ben-Gurion, possibly struggling with his conscience, confessed:
If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural, we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We came from Israel, it's true, but that was two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? [2]
"God promised it to us"?

Not so fast. More and more scholars, Jewish and humanist, are questioning the exodus story and that "promise". Rabbi David Wolpe raised just that provocative question before his congregation of 2,200 at Sinai Temple in Westwood, California back in 2001, saying:
After a century of excavations trying to prove the ancient accounts true, archeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua's leadership.[3]
Teresa Watanbe continues:
The modern archeological consensus over the Exodus is just beginning to reach the public. In 1999, an Israeli archeologist, Ze'ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University set off a furor in Israel by writing in a popular magazine that stories of the patriarchs were myths and that neither the Exodus nor Joshua's conquest ever occurred.[4]

Fish

Mass fish die-offs in Canadian river has scientists puzzled

© Twitter
Tens of thousands of fish are dead in the Yamaska River.
Wildlife officials in Quebec don't have a good answer for why tens of thousands of fish in the Yamaska River, near Saint-Hyacinthe, are dead. The fish kill was first noticed on Thursday, but many of the fish had been dead for several days.

The fish kill has not been selective, as wildlife officials say the dead fish include minnows to large fish, up to 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 inches) in length.

Christian Blanchette, the regional coordinator for Urgence Environment told CTV News that biologists and scientists came to the river on Thursday and Friday, trying to discover the cause of the fish kill. He said they were looking into several possible causes, including spills, sewage and construction waste.

According to Blanchette, some fish were found at the bottom of the river in an advanced state of decay, indicating the die-off had been going on for a number of days. Two wildlife officials collected a number of the fish on Friday morning for further study.

Bizarro Earth

Mussels shells getting thinner researchers say

© Gizmodo
Do you enjoy eating mussels? Cool, same. Something, however, is happening to mussels as we know them. And it's changing them in a pretty horrifying way.

A team of researchers from the University of Chicago has been comparing the shells of live mussels pulled from the Pacific coast today with historical shells, some of them thousands of years old. They've come to an alarming realization: Mussel shells are getting thinner and thinner.

Shells collected that are over 1,000 years old are on average 27 percent thicker than today's shells, the researchers note in new paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Thick shells were the norm until about the 1970s, when shells were 32 percent thicker than they are today. Then, things suddenly started to get thin fast.

The unsettling cause for the thinning shells is the rapidly acidifying waters of the Pacific Ocean. Essentially, the mussels are in the process of a slow dissolve in the acid bath they now spend their lives stewing in.

If the thought of being slowly consumed from all around as you swim isn't quite horrifying enough, the researchers project that this is only the beginning of the bad news for yummy shellfish. With an ocean that's only growing more and more acidic, we could easily see mussels—with their new brittle bodies—die out.

Reference - Royal Society B

Health

Chinese scientists uncover first direct connection between microcephaly and the Zika virus

© Nacho Doce / Reuters
Five-month-old Laura born with microcephaly undergoes a medical test.
The first ever direct evidence of a long-suspected link between the Zika virus and the presence of microcephaly in newborns has been uncovered by Chinese scientists. Microcephaly is a condition that results in abnormal brain and skull development.

Suspicions have been held for a while, especially after a rise in cases in Brazil and elsewhere, in which the mother of a newborn infected with microcephaly was often found to have been bitten by a Zika mosquito. Now scientists with the Institute of Genetics and Development Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology under the Academy of Military Medical Sciences say they have found a direct connection, CCTV reports.

They did this by studying the effect of the virus on fetal mouse brains, after pulling a sample from a Chinese patient. Xu Zhizheng of the Academy of Sciences says the virus felt right at home, quickly spreading and infecting neural stem cells. This led to an abnormal proliferation and differentiation of the cells, leading to neural death. As soon as the mouse embryos were carried to term, all of the symptoms associated with microcephaly manifested themselves as suspected, along with genetic abnormalities.

"We hope the model can be used in drug and vaccine tests, helping with the prevention and treatment of Zika infection," said Qin of the Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology.

The findings were published in the Cell Stem Cell journal.

Comment: The Health & Wellness Show: The Zika Virus: Hype vs. Reality


Bizarro Earth

Saharan dust storms linked to pathogenic Vibrio blooms

© Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC
The moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer on NASA's Terra satellite acquired this natural-color image of dust sweeping off the coast of Western Sahara and Morocco on Aug. 7, 2015.
Iron, a critical element for living organisms, can be hard to hard to come by in open marine waters—except each summer, when atmospherically transported dust from north Africa's Sahara Desert provides pulses of biologically important nutrients, including iron, to the tropical marine waters of the Caribbean and southeastern U.S.

In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Georgia found that Vibrio bacteria respond rapidly to this influx of iron-rich Saharan dust, leading to large blooms of the potentially harmful bacteria in ocean surface water.

Vibrio bacteria, common to ocean waters worldwide, are probably best known for their ability to cause serious illness in humans and other marine organisms. These bacteria are also characterized by their ability to reproduce rapidly and respond to newly available resources.

"Part of what makes these normal marine bacteria also potentially pathogenic is their ability to grow quickly when conditions are favorable, whether in a host or in the environment," said study co-author Erin Lipp, a professor of environmental health science in the UGA College of Public Health.

"While we are interested in how the population dynamics of Vibrio might cause disease, for this study we wanted to use Vibrio's opportunistic behavior as a model for how bacteria could exploit the availability of new nutrients and, in particular, iron delivered in dust."

In the laboratory, the researchers were able to show that iron in dust could cause test cultures of Vibrio to grow. To confirm these findings, the team traveled to sites in the Florida Keys and Barbados to measure the Vibrio growth during natural Saharan dust events. Not only did they observe that dissolved iron increases in ocean surface water as the dust arrived, but Vibrio grew from a background level of just 1 percent to almost 20 percent of the total microbial community within 24 hours of exposure.

Comment: Warmer sea temperatures from May to October cause the Vibrio bacterium to grow faster. People with open wounds can be exposed to the pathogen through direct contact with seawater or when they eat raw shellfish. Shellfish, including oysters, clams, and mussels, should be cooked thoroughly before eating, and raw shellfish should be avoided.