The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

Is free will just the illusion that we can decide which tapeworm to obey? Daniel Cressey at Nature on how “When two parasites want different things, only one can triumph.”

“In October, a woman in Guinea died of Ebola, leaving behind two daughters, one of them two years old, the other five. A relative named Aminata Gueye Tamboura  took the orphaned children back to her home in northwest Mali–a 700-mile journey. Tamboura didn’t know it then, but the younger girl, named Fanta Conde, was infected with Ebola as well. For three days, they traveled on buses and in taxis as Fanta grew ill, developing a scorching fever and a perpetual nosebleed. Soon after arriving in Mali, she died.Yet Tamboura never became infected with Ebola. Nor did Fanta’s sister or her uncle, who also made the trip.” Carl Zimmer at the Loom on what makes measles so much more infectious than Ebola.

As Woody Allen said “only god can make a tree- probably because it’s so hard to figure out how to get the bark on”. eLife interviews Peter Hohenstein who is trying to understand how to make a kidney instead: “Kidney development can be surprisingly well explained with the help of fish and chips.”

This piece by Azeen Ghorayahi at Buzzfeed has definitely fed a lot of buzz. Before the advent of antibiotics, bacterial virus research (that is, research on viruses that prey on bacteria) was a hope in the fight against infection. Is it making a comeback? By mail order from Eastern Europe? “Ten or fifteen years ago, nobody believed the phages would be so popular. They thought we were crazy,” Alavidze said. “Now, it’s not too easy to come to Georgia, but we try to help somehow because sometimes nothing else works.”

How unique is the current US measles outbreak? Rick Noack at The Washington Post reports that “the German measles surge was about 10 times worse than the one in the United States in January“.

Don’t ask me why, I just love owls. Apparently so does Jerry Coyne, who features some gorgeous owl photos by Brad Wilson on his blog, Why Evolution is True.

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