Your monthly roundup of infestations, contagions, and controls from around the web.
In outbreak news:
Speaking of Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of possible transmissions via semen, and a doctor who previous survived an infection found out the virus was lurking in one of his eyeballs. Sarah Fecht at Popular Science explains why the virus can hide in these parts of the body.
A canine flu has been working its way across the United States, mainly in the Midwest. The virus doesn’t infect humans, but this Washington Post piece explains how this and other animal flus fit into the broader picture of pandemics.
And the World Health Organization proposed a new naming system for diseases, which rules out naming them after people, animals, or places. The goal is to prevent linking individuals, countries, and more with the stigma of an infections illness.
In other microbe news:
Several outlets reported that men’s beards are full of feces, but don’t dunk your face in bleach quite yet. The stories are overblown. Here’s a good explanation from the Guardian.
A nasty antibiotic-resistant strain of typhoid is cropping up worldwide.
In vaccine news:
Tests in Kenya showed that an experimental malaria vaccine was 67 percent effective, although more research is needed to show how well it will work in regions with higher rates of malaria transmission.
Vaccines officially wiped out rubella in the Americas.
And research proposing that the Hib vaccine prevents leukemia turned out to be untrue. Tara Haelle has the story at the NPR Shots blog.
In agriculture news:
The drought in California isn’t just harming crops water-wise; it’s also encouraging the spread of certain agricultural pests.
National Geographic has an interesting profile on plant geneticist Pamela Ronald.
New research from the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru showed that sweet potatoes went through a “natural” genetic modification thousands of years ago, when genes from bacteria inserted themselves into the plant’s genome.
And a bacterial outbreak continues to threaten olive trees in Italy.
In invasive species news:
Researchers in Florida are tracking invasive pythons using GPS.
These hauntingly lovely (I think, anyway) vinegar flies are invading parts of California.
And I wish this weren’t behind a paywall, but I really liked this narrative piece on Japanese knotweed in this month’s issue of Harpers.
In creepy crawly news:
The European Space Agency is helping a GPS project in Scotland that aims to track ticks.
Some researchers are uneasy at the thought of using the gene-editing technology CRISPR to manipulate wild populations of insects and other critters.
And here are three things you may not have known about pubic lice. You’re welcome.