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Showing posts from January, 2022

Tropical diseases — A field test for malaria resistance

It will help to save lives, and may slow resistance’s spread. An arms race between pharmacologists and malaria parasites has been going on since the mid-19th century, when widespread use of quinine began. Few better illustrations of natural selection exist than the repeated emergence of resistance to such drugs. Even artemisinin, the most recent addition to the arsenal, has already provoked an evolutionary pushback. At the moment, working out which drugs, if any, a particular case of malaria is resistant to means sending a sample to a laboratory for a pcr test. But malaria is most often a problem in poor countries, where such laboratories are scarce, and so is money to pay for tests and to maintain the machines needed to conduct them. A better way for doctors and paramedics in the field to be able to tell, for a particular patient, which drugs the infection is resistant to would thus be welcome. And that may soon be possible, thanks to work by Ron Dzikowski and Eylon Yavin of the Hebre

Nutrition — Why kids should not eat added sugar before they turn two?

I remember a decade ago sitting in front of my 9-month-old daughter, who was in her high chair, and trying to spoon-feed her a pureed green vegetable. It didn’t matter if it was peas, green beans or something else, because the outcome was the same: I spooned it into her mouth, and it came right back out. Compare this with feeding her applesauce, for which she would open her mouth after each bite and almost bounce in her chair with pleasure. I nearly danced along with her. This was easier! Let’s just keep doing this! But as a nutritional epidemiologist, I knew that solely satisfying her desire for sweetness would not benefit her health in the long run. At the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, I study the consequences of poor nutrition on the health of mothers and children. I recently served on a National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine committee that summarized guidelines on feeding infants and children up to age 2. As part of the committee, I h

Halal — The science behind the first successful pig-to-human heart transplant

It may lead to a new approach to organ transplantation. On january 7th, David Bennett became the first person to have a heart transplanted successfully into him from a pig. In press material issued three days after the operation, the University of Maryland confirmed Mr Bennett was doing well, and was capable of breathing on his own. While he continues to rely on artificial support to pump blood around his body, the team behind the surgery, led by Bartley Griffith, plan gradually to reduce its use. This operation is a milestone for xenotransplantation—the transfer of organs from other species to human patients. It comes hot on the heels of another, in October, when a pig’s kidney was successfully attached for three days to a brain-dead patient in a hospital in New York. On that occasion, mere surgical success was the goal. But Dr Griffith’s team hope to save a life. The operation itself received exceptional authorisation from America’s Food and Drug Administration under a provision whic