The condoms, developed by UK biotech company Futura Medical, are lined with a gel that increases blood flow. The gel’s active ingredient, glyceryl nitrate, has been used for as a vasodilator for over a century. The tricky part was getting the gel to stay in the condom without degrading the latex, but the company found a way (and quickly patented it).
Climate change might have one teensy good effect, at least in the United States: changes to weather patterns may make it harder for the bubonic plague to survive in rodent burrows.
Bubonic plague is spread by rodents, like the chubby little prairie dog over there on the right, and their fleas to house-dwelling rats, mice, and squirrels, which can spread the deadly bacteria to humans.
Though it might work for The DaVinci Code, apparently citing the bible doesn’t fly in a scientific journal. Virology Journal apologized yesterday for publishing a paper titled “Influenza or not influenza: Analysis of a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time,” which attempts to diagnosis “a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yesterday, journal editor Robert F. Garry apologized for the paper’s publication and announced that Virology will retract the piece. The blog Retraction Watch, where we found this story, posted a response from the paper’s lead author, Ellis Hon:
“As an article for debate, there was no absolute right or wrong answer, and the article was only meant for thought provocation. Neither was it meant to be a debate on the concept of miracles. My only focus at the time of writing was ‘what had caused the fever and debilitation’ that was cured by Jesus.”
In the near future, every American will have a digital avatar made with real life census data, to help predict the spread of infectious diseases. But what about when we’re traveling? Jared Diamond holds that air travel can hastened the spread of pandemics all over the world. Enter a Belgian company called Biorics , which has developed a device that can reportedly enable airport security to tell whether someone is carrying a pandemic virus by the sound of their cough.
The company’s plan is to place multiple microphones in the waiting areas of airports, and then process the sound to get rid of background noise. By singling out cough sounds from regular cell phone conversations and airport chatter, the device can supposedly tell if a person is just clearing their throat, or if they have a cough that indicates they are infected with a virus. The loudness of the cough would help authorities locate the sick person.
The idea has some merit: It’s quick and simple, and could potentially prevent substantial harms. Of course, if the detector makes a mistake, you might find yourself quarantined at JFK after choking on a bottle of water.
Soon, every single American will have a digital avatar—and we’re not talking about Second Life characters. Researchers at Virginia Tech are building a nationwide computer simulation that will include 300 million synthetic individuals with true-to-life characteristics taken from U.S. Census data. The researchers say there are many uses for the simulation, from predicting the spread of infectious diseases to tracking fads and modeling traffic flow.
The program, known as EpiSimdemics, already has 100 million simulated residents. Each resident is endowed with as many as 163 variables, including age, education, occupation, family size, and general health. Although each synthetic resident isn’t meant to represent a specific real-life person, the information is taken from publicly available demographics data. The residents are mapped to real houses and real neighborhoods and assigned local schools, grocery stores, and shopping centers. The researchers hope to add more variables, including air travel using real-life flight data.
Centrifuges are a pain to carry around. They also cost hundreds of dollars and need to be plugged in. All of which means that medical facilities in poor rural areas often go without this essential piece of diagnostic equipment that’s used to separate blood plasma for detecting infectious diseases.
Now, Harvard scientists have developed a portable, manually-operated centrifuge that does the job, and it only costs $2.50. To top it all off, it’s even dishwasher safe.
The scientists purchased an ordinary eggbeater from a local grocery store, removed one of the rotor blades, and taped a thin plastic tube containing blood to the remaining blade. Spinning the handle of the eggbeater at a comfortably brisk pace can fling the tube of blood round and round at a rotational speed of 1200RPM. That’s enough to separate blood cells from blood plasma, the clear liquid part of blood used to run cholesterol assays or to screen for diseases such as Hepatitis B and cysticercosis. Right now, infectious diseases cause up to half of all deaths in developing countries.
Smokers are more likely to die or become seriously ill from a flu or other viral infection than non-smokers are. According to researchers at the Yale School of Medicine, that might be because smokers’ immune systems don’t understand the value of proportional response.
Most scientists believed that viral infections hit smokers harder because smoking suppresses the immune system, making it less able to respond to the threat. But while working with mice exposed to cigarette smoke, the Yale scientists found the opposite—the rodents’ immune systems overreacted.
Scientists have been rushing to find new ways to kill mosquitoes, hoping to stem the tide of infectious diseases that the pesky insects carry. But Yoshiro Nagao of Japan’s Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine thinks having fewer mosquitoes around might cause an unexpected kind of harm.
Southeast Asia is riddled with dengue fever and its deadlier relative, called DHF. While studying towns in Thailand, Nagao found that in neighborhoods where fewer houses showed traces of Aedes mosquitoes, the incidence of DHF actually went up.
For years, police have been using breath to tell when people have had a little too much to drink, by taking Breathalyzer readings to determine their blood alcohol levels. Now, some scientists are hoping that your breath could say a lot more about you than how much you’ve had to drink or what you ate for lunch.
Science News reported recently on Joachim D. Pleil, a scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency who is developing technology to learn more about a person’s health by analyzing their breath. An average breath, Pleil says, contains 200 different chemicals. In total, scientists have identified more than 3,000 different compounds coming out of our mouths. If researchers figure out what the makeup of a person’s breath says about their health, Pleil says, the benefits to medicine could be great.
Last month, British microbiologist Peter Wilson released his revolting finding that a person’s keyboard could harbor five times as many bacteria as a toilet seat. That’s a recipe for sickness in any office, but it could be downright deadly in a hospital, with doctors and nurses passing germs as they type data into the computer. So Wilson is trying to change that, along with other researchers at University College London Hospital and American company Advanced Power Components. Specifically, they have designed a keyboard for the U.K.’s hospitals that notifies you when it’s dirty.