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  • Published
    March 1, 2012

    Rachel, we hardly knew ye, or even bothered to read your book

    DDT once promised unparalleled benefits to humanity and especially to inhabitants of the developing world. Its insecticidal properties had the potential to eliminate the scourge of insect-borne disease and, by boosting agricultural production, to alleviate poverty and starvation. Sadly unable to foresee limitations to this seemingly miraculous compound, we used DDT in a way that prevented us from garnering all …

  • Published
    February 23, 2012

    Bird Flu, Mad Cow, Monkey malaria: What’s next?

    Many emerging diseases of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are caused by pathogens that originally infected only animals. We usually explain this transfer of disease from animals to humans as the result of environmental changes, the invasion and destruction of animal habitats by humans that brings us into closer contact with the pathogen-carrying animals. To further understand this exchange of diseases, let …

  • Published
    February 2, 2012

    eBay as indicator of public interest in scientists

    I studied at Yale University for four years and during that time I met a number people who were to become famous, at least in the scientific world. We were young and our conversations turned to sports or to the opposite sex as often as they did to science. You can imagine my surprise when years later I saw the autograph of one of my friends from those years for sale on eBay. He had won the Nobel Prize in Medicine …

  • Published
    January 26, 2012

    CWD: Mad Cow Disease in deer?

    If you’ve ever heard the word “prion,” it was probably in reports about Mad Cow Disease during the 1990s. Mad Cow Disease was caused by a type of prion. Prions are single proteins, far smaller than viruses or bacteria. They are passed from one creature to another and start a chain reaction of events that, in Mad Cow Disease, leads inevitably to death. A different but related prion causes Chronic Wasting Disease …

  • Published
    January 19, 2012

    Bioterrorism: One flu over the New York Times

    I’ve suffered through many catastrophes in my life. Only a few of them actually happened. — Mark Twain There have been numerous reports in news recently about halting the publication of scientific data that, if commandeered by our enemies, could be used to create a bioterrorist weapon. The data in question describes a procedure that makes the avian flu virus (H5N1) transmissible through the air and therefore …

  • Published
    January 12, 2012

    Keys to successful biotechnology: Good science isn’t enough

    The world-renowned Jackson Laboratories In Bar Harbor, should, by all rights, have failed within its first few years. Although it had the financial backing of some very wealthy individuals, it broke ground shortly before the great stock market crash of 1929. Furthermore, its scientific direction was based on a single idea that had no solid basis in science: that cancers were transmitted from one generation to the …

  • Published
    December 29, 2011

    The need to produce more pneumonia vaccine

    Could a deadly pandemic like the Spanish flu of 1918 catch us unprepared? The 1918 flu killed tens of millions of people in less than a year, and nearly everyone who did survive lost loved ones. We may take some comfort from the fact that rapid and decisive action by both the Mexican and Chinese governments recently succeeded in preventing possible outbreaks of H1N5 and H1N1 in their countries. There is now a …

  • Published
    December 15, 2011

    Where does the flu come from and why won’t it go away?

    Over 60 percent of the infectious diseases that affect mankind were transmitted to humans from nonhumans. We constantly come into contact with animal viruses and bacteria in our daily lives. Most of the time they do not bother us at all, but occasionally they do. Animal “germs” become a real danger to humanity not so much when they pass from an animal to a human, but when they are able to take an additional step: …

  • Published
    December 2, 2011

    Herd immunity

    I just got my flu shot. I know the official flu season started two months ago and that it will be, at best, three weeks before the vaccination starts to protect me, if it actually works. Recently, there has been increasing skepticism regarding benefits of this vaccine. I am a scientist who has worked with infectious diseases for more than 30 years, and being skeptical was a big part of the job. Having considered …

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