The Month In Plagues: Chagas In The US, Polio Eradication In Nigeria, And More

Graffiti of the kissing bug, which spreads the parasite that causes Chagas disease

The kissing bug, the main vector for Chagas disease

Daniel Neal/Flickr

Your monthly roundup of infestations, contagions, and controls from around the web:

In outbreak news

Meanwhile, there are other pathogenic threats that are getting ignored thanks to Ebola panic, from Chikungunya to Dengue to measles to Chagas disease, the latter of which is working its way further into the US (speaking of Chagas, recent reports suggested that bed bugs may spread it, but don't worry quite yet.)

One bit of good news, though: Nigeria has nearly eradicated polio, thanks to extensive vaccination programs.

In other microbe news

Researchers are turning to antibodies in attempts to combat antibiotic resistance.

Bird flu has been discovered on farms in Europe, although don't worry quite yet: it is not a strain that is known to infect humans.

And Willy Burgdorfer, the medical entomologist who discovered the cause of Lyme disease in the early 1980s, has died. The New York Times has a fascinating obituary that includes the story of his discovery.

In vaccine news

We may have the world's first Dengue vaccine by next year.

An exchange between a doctor and a patient, recalled on Twitter and posted at the NYT Dot Earth blog, shows how we fear the wrong things (for example, fearing Ebola rather than seasonal flu, which is more likely to kill you in the US).

Speaking of an Ebola vaccine, researchers are working on it and trials are scheduled to start soon, although there may be complications on the ground.

And speaking of the flu shot, if you've ever wondered what's inside it, look no further than this Wired explainer.

In agriculture and plant news

The largest meta-analysis on GMOs to date suggests that the technology has had widespread benefits.

The USDA approved a genetically-modified potato, engineered to produce lower levels of acrylamide, a possible carcinogen (although the jury is still out on that.

And Toshiba is using high-tech clean rooms to grow vegetables, which forgo pesticides and aren't exposed to disease or pests (still, I wonder about the energy costs).

In invasive species news

The invasive—and beautiful!—spotted lanternfly has prompted a quarantine in Pennsylvania fruit growers. The invasive pest threatens fruit trees, grape vines, and forests.

Homeowners who can't tame Japanese knotweed in their yards may face fines and "an anti-social behavior order," a penalty I personally haven't heard of before with respect to invasive species control.

Check out this video of a crazy-big swarm of lion fish off the coast of Florida.

And new research suggests that electrically-charged prods may help control invasive fish.

In creepy crawly news

The Conservation tackles the question: Which is the world's deadliest spider, really?

Wired explains how you make anti-venom using snake venom.

And finally, it's an old New York legend that there are as many pathogen-carrying-rats in the city as there are people. New statistical analysis suggests the number is much smaller (2 million rats as opposed to 8 million).

But still. That’s a lot of rats, right?

Until next time!