Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rock Snot in New England

Via Universal Hub: The Huffington Post reports on the dangerous advance of Didymosphenia geminata, or rock snot, into New England.

"We're starting to realize it's all over the place," said Karl Hermann, a regional waste monitoring and assessment coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver.
What started out in Vancouver Island in British Columbia "has suddenly just skyrocketed," he said.
The algae has the potential to bloom into thick masses with long stalks, blanketing the bottoms of some streams, threatening aquatic insect and fish populations by smothering food sources.
In New England, it has turned up in the White River, Connecticut River and the Batten Kill, a trout fishing mecca in southern Vermont that's famed for its hard-to-catch fish. Quebec is grappling with it in Matapedia River in the lower St. Lawrence.
There's no easy way to get rid of it. Experts say the only hope is to keep it from spreading. But that's a lofty challenge, since a single cell carried on absorbent fishing gear or clothing can be transferred _ unknowingly _ into other waters.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dopamine Agonies

Google Alerts brought me a very odd story from the Kenilworth Weekly News, in which a masked Parkinson's sufferer accosted a British schoolgirl in her home. But it became somewhat less odd when USA Today reported on the weird obsessions of patients taking too much dopamine agonist:

They still don't have hard-and-fast proof, but as the evidence accumulates, many scientists now say the drugs can kick off compulsive urges in certain people.
And they say the side effect is anything but rare.
At a meeting in Toronto last month, Stacy and other experts reviewed the cases reported so far and concluded that the drugs appear to trigger a syndrome of bad behavior that includes compulsive gambling, shopping, binge eating and an unstoppable urge for sex.
"Fifteen percent of all Parkinson's patients might have this syndrome," Stacy says. If he's right, that could mean as many as 150,000 people in the USA are struggling with out-of-control behavior. Even those numbers may underestimate the problem.

The judge refused to jail the unfortunate patient, and the defense attorney gave a rare but unsurprising glimpse into the NHS:

"He finds everyday life very difficult. He can speak but with an almost uncontrollable stammer at times. Even a month in prison in his condition would be inhumane."
Mr Ward added that Guest, who has the support of his family, needs help, and has an appointment with a doctor at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham later in the year.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Good Filoviruses Make Good Neighbors

Via Universal Hub: the Boston Globe reports on the NIH's Draft Supplementary Risk Assessments And Site Suitability Analyses for the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory Boston University. In short, there's no reason Boston University shouldn't build a new lab in the South End to play with Ebola:

Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo compared what would happen if germs migrated from the lab into its South End neighborhood with what might happen if the lab had instead been built on more secluded property owned by BU in Tyngsborough or Peterborough, N.H.
The report concludes that even if an accident happened in the lab "under realistic conditions, infectious diseases would not occur in the communities as a result." The study also concludes that "there was no difference in simulated disease transmission among the urban, suburban, or rural communities."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

TB at the OCME

Via an unnamed source: The Boston Herald reports that state health officials will give a press conference later today about a tuberculosis outbreak at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The sources differed on whether the testing was routine or the result of a recent positive case within the troubled office.
Regardless, the two sources confirmed that at least three employees of the OCME tested positive. At least one employee has been prescribed a nine-month regimen of medication to treat the symptoms and will also undergo monthly liver testing.
“They are trying to test as many people as possible,” said one source. “People are back working. As far as I know they are not walking around wearing face masks. I dont know where they got it. They probably got it from the building.”
Another source, who is familiar with law enforcement issues, said that one or two medical examiners and at least three clerical workers were affected to some degree by the TB outbreak. The office employs about 60 people.
Dr. Joseph Prahlow, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, said TB was known to affect medical examiners’ offices. “It’s a recognized potential hazard of the work that we do,” he said.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Nature Finds a Way

Eye on DNA reports on a mule who gave birth to a...mulette?

If a horse breeds with a donkey, they end up with sterile offspring that have 63 chrosomes - 32 chromsomes from the horse parent and 31 from from the donkey parent. Horse-donkey offspring aka mules are sterile because their odd number of chromosomes makes it technically difficult for chromosomes to pair up properly during the process of meiosis (cell divison of sperm and eggs). This should mean that mules cannot reproduce.
A female mule in Colorado has beaten insurmountable odds and given birth to a foal.