NEED-TO-KNOW INFORMATION ON EBOLA AND MORE
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Embargo expired: 14-Aug-2014 9:30 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: University of Alabama at Birmingham
Newswise — BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Disease outbreaks can come on suddenly or slowly over time, and one University of Alabama at Birmingham global health expert says the heightened sense of awareness they cause is warranted.
Currently making headlines is the Ebola virus, which causes a severe, often fatal illness in humans that arises primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa in areas where fruit bats are eaten, according to the World Health Organization.
“Ebola outbreaks are scary, and rightfully so,” said Craig Wilson, M.D., professor in the UAB Department of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health and director of the Sparkman Center for Global Health.
“Ebola outbreaks are so dramatic because the case fatality rates, or the percentage of people with a certain disease who die from it, can be up to 90 percent,” Wilson said, noting that this current outbreak is at about 60 percent. “It causes many affected to die, and they die in a dramatic and rapid manner in areas where there is little medical support.”
The concern with this recent outbreak, Wilson says, is that it has moved into more populated areas compared to prior, more geographically remote rural areas.
“The areas of Africa getting hit hardest by Ebola right now need resources to combat the disease, but that is expensive as those items do not exist in that country,” Wilson said.
“Many of the basic items needed relate to infrastructure and include running water, intravenous fluids, gloves, masks and established good infection control practices.”
Wilson says the current situation is compounded by local burial practices and even beliefs around what causes disease.
“There are now attempts to scale up to meet the infrastructure needs, including the more elaborate protective gear used when handling large numbers of cases and bodies,” Wilson said.
“The issue has been two-sided as the recognition of the severity and extent of the outbreak was underestimated for months, and this outbreak is occurring in areas that had not seen prior outbreaks.”
Wilson says having resources available is what will keep the United States shielded from the dangers of Ebola.
“Yes, there is potential for someone travelling in Africa to be exposed to Ebola and then bring it back to the U.S., which is why we need to remain alert,” Wilson said.
“But generally we do not have to worry about it here in the United States on a population basis, because as soon as a case is identified, even standard infection control practices that exist in all health care facilities would substantially contain the disease.”
Ebola is harder to contract than many viruses.
“The difference with Ebola compared to something like influenza is that Ebola transmission requires direct contact with an infected person or their bodily fluids, and it is not transmitted via aerosol,” Wilson said.
“So there is little to no concern about someone with Ebola travelling on a plane and infecting a planeload of people.”
As far as outbreaks go, Wilson says influenza can cause some of the worst.
“Influenza epidemics are scarier because of just how easily flu can be spread from human to human, and the death rate can change on a yearly basis,” Wilson said.
“Recall that as recently as 2009, over 550,000 deaths occurred worldwide in 75 countries from the H1N1 strain. Here we are approaching 1,000 deaths, which is how many people die of HIV every hour globally.”
Wilson says, when comparing Ebola to other disease outbreaks, it is far worse than chikungunya, a more regional emerging epidemic, as chikungunya — although debilitating — is rarely fatal. Another disease emerging regionally as well as globally is dengue fever, where a first infection is rarely fatal and a second exposure is generally the more severe form of the disease.
“These two diseases have remained more contained given they are transmitted only via mosquitoes,” Wilson said.
To stay safe, Wilson suggests the following tips:
1. If you are traveling out of the country, first visit a travellers’ health clinic to learn more about travel medical needs.
2. If a vaccine exists for a specific disease and you have not received it — for example the yearly flu vaccination — ask your doctor if you should get it.
3. If you show symptoms of infection from a disease following international travel, see a doctor immediately.
“There has been a lot learned over the years as disease outbreaks have occurred, so thankfully we have been able to put an infrastructure into place to best approach infection control,” Wilson said.
“We have very solid standard approaches for many of these challenges.”
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees and an economic impact exceeding $5 billion annually on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission deliver knowledge that will change your world: the education of students, who are exposed to multidisciplinary learning and a new world of diversity; research, the creation of new knowledge; patient care, the outcome of ‘bench-to-bedside’ translational knowledge; service to the community at home and around the globe, from free clinics in local neighborhoods to the transformational experience of the arts; and the economic development of Birmingham and Alabama.The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa.
BEYOND PO-TA-TO AND PO-TAH-TO
From FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 14-Aug-2014
Source Newsroom: University of Kentucky
Newswise — LEXINGTON, Ky. — When University of Kentucky student Erica Mattingly enrolled in one of Andrew M. Byrd’s linguistics courses, she had no idea she would be rewriting history — or at least re-speaking it.
Byrd, assistant professor of linguistics in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, and his students have drawn national attention for their groundbreaking work to reconstruct and understand prehistoric languages.
Byrd has devoted much of his research time translating the language known as Proto-Indo-European (PIE). The language is thought to have been first used over 7,000 years ago, with some suspecting it was spoken even earlier. Byrd’s work focuses on the sounds and structure of the PIE language, aiming to understand what it sounded like when spoken a millennia ago.
“To figure out what PIE sounded like, we must compare it to the most ancient Indo-European languages, like Latin, Ancient Greek and Sanskrit,” Byrd said.
While the nuts and bolts behind reconstructing stories in PIE is quite complicated, Byrd describes the translation process as fairly straightforward. The difficulty, he says, comes from knowing which words the PIE speakers used, which requires study and knowledge of the culture.
“For each sentence you want to write, you must consider the words the PIE speakers used to convey concepts as well as the word order. Once you have those, you have got yourself a reconstructed sentence,” said Byrd.
Mattingly, a linguistics and Spanish senior, took Byrd’s Indo-European course last year. She says her experience in the class played no small part in her decision to pursue a career in linguistics. After a study of the culture of the PIE speakers and the makeup of their language, Byrd issued a unique challenge to his class: To translate the third-ever fable into PIE.
When Byrd told his class that they would be reconstructing a fable into the PIE language, no one knew what an undertaking it would become. Mattingly recounts the pressure to reconstruct the language accurately.
“It was so, so difficult at first, because we wanted so badly to do it correctly,” she said. “These are words our linguistic ancestors spoke. So to bridge that gap in class was very meaningful to me.”
Byrd keeps his dynamic classroom environment full of challenge and opportunity, offering up research studies to his students interested in translating other works written in PIE and other ancient languages. These independent studies are flexible, chosen based on consideration of student interest and Byrd’s work.
“The work that comes out of these studies is stellar,” Byrd said.
To read the translated fables and other student work, visit the linguistics blog at http://blog.as.uky.edu/thebhlog/.
UPDATED: KEEPING FILLER INGREDIENTS OUT OF YOUR CUP OF COFFEE
From FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 14-Aug-2014
Source Newsroom: American Chemical Society (ACS) Citations 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society
Clarification: The research discussed in this press release focused only on ground, roasted coffee available in Brazil. The use of commercial coffee from Brazil allowed the researchers to develop and perfect chromatographic methodologies for detecting several filler ingredients common to tested coffee. The resulting methodologies will allow for testing of coffee from any market. Until such testing is done, the results of this research cannot be extrapolated to the U.S. or any other country. The National Coffee Association, USA has issued a statement regarding its efforts to ensure that coffee is not adulterated.
Newswise — SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 11, 2014 — Coffee drinkers beware: Surprise ingredients that are neither sweet nor flavorful may be hiding in your coffee, and growing coffee shortages may increase the chance of having these fillers in your cup of joe in the future. The good news is that a highly accurate test is in the works to quickly find coffee containing unwanted fillers before the beverage reaches stores and restaurants.
These extra ingredients, though not harmful, make ground coffee go farther and increase profits for producers, according to researchers. Their report will be part of the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. The meeting features nearly 12,000 reports and is being held here in San Francisco until Thursday.
A test to detect counterfeit coffees is becoming more important in light of growing shortages in regions, such as Brazil, where droughts and plant diseases have dramatically cut back coffee supplies.
“With a lower supply of coffee in the market, prices rise, and that favors fraud because of the economic gain,” says research team leader Suzana Lucy Nixdorf, Ph.D.
In 2012, a study from the U.K.’s Royal Botanic Gardens and the Environment stated that 70 percent of the world’s coffee supply might disappear by 2080 because of conditions caused by climate change. But shortages due to more immediate issues already are occurring. The coffee-rich country of Brazil typically produces 55 million bags of coffee each year. But according to some reports, the projected amount for 2014 will likely only reach 45 million bags after this January’s extensive drought. That is about 42 billion fewer cups of coffee for this year.
Now, however, Nixdorf and her team at State University of Londrina in Brazil have developed a way to nip coffee counterfeiting in the bud.
“With our test, it is now possible to know with 95 percent accuracy if coffee is pure or has been tampered with, either with corn, barley, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, acai seed, brown sugar or starch syrup,” she says.
The problem, she explains, is that “after roasting and grinding the raw material, it becomes impossible to see any difference between grains of lower cost incorporated into the coffee, especially because of the dark color and oily texture of coffee.”
In new research, the team is now analyzing several fillers that are considered impurities rather than adulterants. These impurities can even be parts of the coffee plants, introduced at harvest, that are not really supposed to be in the final product.
Wood, twigs, sticks, parchment, husks, whole coffee berries or even clumps of earth that are almost the same color as coffee have been found. Identifying them is essential because if there is a large amount of impurities, they were probably added purposefully — not by accident, as some producers claim, says Nixdorf.
Currently, tests to detect these unwanted additives require scientists to check the coffee, and those tests are subjective –– not quantitative, she says. With these tests, the scientists look at the coffee under a microscope or identify various additives by simply tasting the coffee.
In contrast, the new test uses liquid chromatography and statistical tools. This gives her team a much closer look at the ingredients in an unbiased way, according to Nixdorf. Chromatography is a powerful analytical technique that is very sensitive and highly selective.
Because much of the coffee is composed of carbohydrates, researchers could develop a “characteristic fingerprint” when using chromatography that separates out the real coffee compounds, says Nixdorf. The added, unwanted grain fillers generate different levels of sugars than the natural ingredients, so they are easy to identify, she explains.
Nixdorf acknowledges funding from the Government of Brazil’s Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos and Fundação Araucária- Apoio ao Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico do Paraná Productivity Scholarship.
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
Good work – well done. But I think I will stick to tea until they find something wrong with that. Back tomorow. Jeanne