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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] The other butterfly effect

English: Photograph of a Monarch Butterfly.

English: Photograph of a Monarch Butterfly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 10 February eScience commons article

Humans have come up with many ways to protect ourselves from infectious diseases.

“We used to think we were alone with this, but now we know we’re not. Now we know there’s a lot of animals out there that can do it, too,” says Emory biologistJaap de Roode in a TED talk. (TED is currently featuring de Roode’s talk from last November on its national Web site.)

In recent decades, scientists have learned that chimpanzees can use plants to treat their intestinal parasites, as can elephants, sheep, goats and porcupines. “And even more interesting than that is the fact that recent discoveries are telling us that insects and other little animals with smaller brains can use medication, too,” says de Roode.

For the past 10 years, de Roode has studied monarch butterflies and how they get sick from parasites. He discovered that female monarch butterflies are able to use medicinal milkweed plants to reduce the harmful effects of the parasites on the butterflies’ offspring.

“This is an important discovery, I think, not just because it tells us something cool about nature, but also because it may tell us something more about how we should find drugs,” de Roode says. “Most of our drugs derive from natural products, often from plants. In indigenous cultures, traditional healers often look at animals to find new drugs. In this way, elephants have told people how to treat stomach upset and porcupines have told people how to treat bloody diarrhea. Maybe one day we will be treating people with drugs that were first discovered by butterflies. And I think that is an amazing opportunity worth pursuing.”

De Roode is one of the featured speakers for the 2015 Darwin Day Dinner in Atlanta on Sunday, February 15. The title of his talk is “How Darwin laid the groundwork for understanding infectious disease.” Tickets for the event, sponsored by Atlanta Science Tavern, sold out within days after they came available a few weeks ago.

February 11, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Awesome Infographic: The Secret Life of Water

The leakage rates in “the developing world” (such a misnomer, we are all developing) is a real shocker

Teagan Kuruna

Infographic describing clean water and water sanitation problems worldwide Produced by Mairi Mackay and George Webster for CNN. Designed by Matt Barringer. Source. Sources used in infographic: World Health Organization, UNHabitat, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, UNEP, World Water Assessment Programme

This great infographic put together by Mairi McKay, George Webster, and Matt Baringer of CNN uses data from UNWater to illustrate important facts about drinking water around the world. Some of the stats:

  • 80% of illnesses in the developing world are related to water.
  • 1 in 4 urban residents worldwide do not have access to clean water–only 11% of city dwellers in Uganda can safely consume the water.
  • While nowhere near comparable to what’s happening in the developing world, it’s surprising to see that 3% of Americans living in cities do not have access to safe water.

As water shortages continue and inevitably worsen, these problems will only be exacerbated. Learn more about the issues and…

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February 11, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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