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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dengue Fever, Glass Ceilings, and Starting Over "Up on the Roof"

     I was heading toward a fun, frolicky look at this cool Christmas tree "pushing through the roof" in Boise, Idaho, for the last PEOTS post of the year (both similar to and different from the banana plant pushing through the Lyman conservatory roof at Smith College):

         But, then my incredible daughter and I got together yesterday. She shared some of the important research going on in Dengue Fever, a mosquito-borne illness.

      Zoë's semester in Costa Rica is pointing her to a career in immunology. Here's her list of classes this upcoming senior semester: 1) Infectious Diseases, 2) Virology, 3) Biological Anthropology, 4) Psychological Anthropology, and 5) her Capstone course on her experience learning about Dengue Fever.

      This December, 2014, research describes the promise of a new Dengue Fever vaccine based on a certain antibody found in the blood of some people with Dengue: 

       "The researchers spotted the new group of antibodies while they were studying blood drawn from patients who picked up dengue infections in south-east Asia. They found that about a third of the immune reaction launched by each patient came from a new class of antibodies. Instead of latching on to a single protein on the virus surface – as usually happens – the new group of antibodies latches on to a molecular bridge that joins two virus proteins together. When antibodies bind to viruses, they make them targets for attack from the wider immune system.

       In tests described in the journal Nature Immunology, the researchers found that the newly identified antibodies were highly effective at fighting the dengue virus in mosquitoes and in patients. But more surprising, and useful for a vaccine, they also neutralised all of the different forms of the germ."

      Dengue symptoms are illustrated here in the febrile, critical and recovery phases:

          Dengue Fever kills upwards of 22,000 people a year so developing a vaccine is critical.


         One of the most important parts of preventing the spread of Dengue is to spray potential mosquito breeding grounds. 

          This brand new mosquito reporting ap (December 28, 2014) allows Costa Ricans to report areas of potential mosquito-breeding grounds. Prevention of mosquito growth is a huge part of containing the disease and reducing epidemics. 

          Dengue Fever outbreak areas, as we've discussed here before, are expanding from equatorial areas, including some cases in the south and midwest United States.   

         To bring things full circle, sometimes you break through the glass ceiling. . .

and sometimes you just start again on the top of the ceiling/roof. Zoë will figure out a way. Watch out, Dengue Fever

        Happy New Year, Zoë, and PEOTSians All!  

All the best for 2015!


        My friends know me well; this arrived  Saturday (with a mazarine pashmina):

      Truly TEAR-able; take one for the road:


  1. It's one thing (and a very good thing, at that) to develop a vaccine (for Dengue or anything else). It's another to convince people to take it. I am amazed at the number of excuses my patients can find for not getting a flu shot. In spite of the overwhelming evidence of safety, efficacy, the moral arguments in favor of bolstering herd immunity to protect the immune-compromised, I would guess that half the people I urge to get an annual shot just flat out refuse. "Oh, I once got a flu shot and I got so sick right after that." "I never get the flu." "I don't interact with people much, so I'm not at risk." "I don't believe in putting things into my body." "I don't trust the government."

    I wonder what John Cleese might have to say about them?

    1. Great clip from Cleese.

      You do have a point, jan, about getting people to take the vaccine.

      Maybe more focus on stopping breeding grounds for mosquitos is in order. I'm all for that, in any case!

    2. Yup. You could segue into a whole new future PEOTS topic in just 2 letters: Bt. Useful little bug!

    3. You Bt, jan! ;-)

      I'm still hoping for no mosquitos in heaven.

    4. New Year's wish: not hearing much about chikungunya in the US.

  2. jan,
    Hey. John Cleese was talking about me in that clip.... Oh wait, I am not smart enough to know that he was talking about me.... Never mind.

    Steph, If anyone can contribute to eradicating Dengue Fever (and other scourges that afflict (probably disproportionately economically disadvantaged) people, Zoe can. Go get 'em, Zoe.

    Happy New Year, all. Have a good auld lang time, but don't overdo.


    1. Thanks, Lego. She will be in it, for sure.

      Enjoy the evening. Think I might take a look for Comet Lovejoy tonight. . .

  3. > Take two New Years wishes for PEOTSers. Put them together to name something you might see in the night sky over the next few weeks.

    Hope it's clear enough to see Comet Lovejoy some night soon.

    Happy New Year to all!

    1. I did not know our eyes are fairly insensitive to violet. I sure have many friends who have it as their favorite color. One with heliotrope, one with masala (the 'in' color for 2015, I'm told), and me with mazarine ;-).

    2. If I see it, I see it; if I don't, I don't.

    3. My brothers and I all have a red-green deficiency. Not bad enough to keep me from passing the FAA physical, which requires being able to discriminate between them. My father always held it against my mother, after he learned about the X-linkage. My one brother doesn't acknowledge a disability. He says, "I defy anyone to tell me there's a difference between blue and purple." The other brother blames my parents for never buying us the 64-color box of Crayolas; he says we just never learned the names right.

    4. jan, your brother must go nuts about indigo. . .

      I'd like to lobby for mazarine to be one of the 64 colors in the Crayola box of crayons.

    5. Here are the current 133 Crayola Crayon colors.

      Sir Isaac Newton's naming of the 7 colors of ROY G BIV was pretty arbitrary in the green-blue-purple range. There is a move afoot to get rid of indigo and add cyan (blue-green) instead. This makes indigo = current blue. Probably not going to happen: ROY G CBV won't likely play in Peoria.

  4. Replies
    1. Fascinating, long article about New Zealand. I recall reading about the lack of mammals (except for a few bats) in a biogeography class. Birds rule!

      Favorite quote: "Isolation is the flywheel of evolution."

      However, I would leave reading about stoat trapping to after breakfast.

  5. Replies
    1. So, do adult planthoppers not hop? Or, if they do, do they spiral? Or do they have some other, non-cog-nitive way to synchronize their legs? Here's a video of a planthopper (adult, presumably?) walking on a plant. He's apparently able to move his legs independently, which seems useful in walking. Do planthopper nymphs only hop, i.e., do those gears make them unable to walk normally, alternating leg movements?

      Now, froghoppers are able to hop just as fast as planthoppers, without gears. And, it seems, without spiralling. So, you can get just as good performance out of a conventional insect nervous system as you can with those gears, without risking it all if you break a tooth.

      And, how many plants could a planthopper hop if a froghopper could hop frogs?

    2. And, since when is spiralling so bad for in-flight stability? Someone should tell gunsmiths and quarterbacks to grow a pair (of gears).

    3. Except for the unrelenting glare, the planthopper was pretty unremarkable. Wonder if people often saw the nymphs more than the adults, hence the hopper name.

      Agree about spiraling. But, it has to be a fast spiral, not one of those wobbly football passes. (Peyton Manning is a good fast spiraler, most of the time).

      Have a hoppy morning!

  6. TEARABLE PUNS are newly added at the end of this week's post.

    You're welcome. :-)

    1. The one on the far left got cut off by cropping, but that's OK.

      Regarding those subordinate clauses...

    2. For completeness, there is the left pun, in all its TEARable glory (above).

      So, I am guessing the economist Wolitzky is a relative, jan?

    3. Cool.

      Wonder if he and you and all of you here have thoughts on this. My econ/math major son and I have been talking about this and oil prices. . .

    4. Given their higher labor and extraction costs, it's hard to see how North American frackers and shale oil producers can survive a price war with OPEC for long.