Category Archives: BIOLOGICAL

Bat killing fungus identified, but deaths continue

Bat killer identified, but deaths continue – life – 26 October 2011 – New Scientist.Movie Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

A fungus long suspected of killing more than a million batsMovie Camera in the US since 2006 has been pronounced guilty after a series of experiments on captive animals. The tests confirm that “white nose syndrome”, so called because it leaves fuzzy white smudges on the muzzles of its victims, is caused by the Geomyces destructans fungus.

When researchers infected 29 captive little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) with lab-grown samples of the fungus, they all developed the disease, showing the tell-tale signs and symptoms about three months after infection. None of the 34 controls, which were not infected with the fungus, developed the condition.

Through complementary experiments in which the researchers housed 25 infected bats together with 18 healthy bats, they demonstrated that bats catch the syndrome from each other through physical contact. It cannot spread through the air: healthy bats did not pick up the infection when housed near to, but physically isolated from, diseased bats.

The experiments confirm what many experts had suspected, and rule out the possibility that the fungus preys on sick animals but does not actually cause the disease.

“The discovery allows us to focus our research efforts to develop management and control strategies,” says David Blehert of the National Wildlife Health Center, part of the US Geological Survey in Madison, Wisconsin, who led the research team. “Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet to kill the fungus.”

Hard to prevent

Most potential solutions have drawbacks, explains Blehert. Applying fungicides in caves might harm plants and other animals living there, and this would have to be done year after year to keep the fungus at bay. Even culling bats in infected caves wouldn’t work, because some infected bats would escape and return, or spread the fungus elsewhere.

Of all the possible solutions, vaccination might provide the best hope, says Blehert, because it would potentially give bats lifelong immunity. He points out that wild foxes, skunks and racoons have been successfully vaccinated against rabies by dropping vaccine-baited food into their habitats from planes.

Earlier this year, a study found that the Geomyces destructans fungus found in US bats is almost identical to one in Europe to which most native bats seem to be resistant. Finding out what makes the European bats resist the fungus could help find ways to protect their US cousins.

The earlier study also raised the possibility that the US fungus originated in Europe and was inadvertently brought to the US by humans. The US Fish and Wildlife Service says that existing precautions issued by the US Geological Survey to stop humans spreading the fungus any further remain essential.

The wildlife service has called for proposals to follow specific research objectives designed to help the US bats. These include identifying the times of the year when the fungus spreads most easily, the factors that affect bat survival, the features of bat-cave environments that might potentially be altered to obstruct spread, and screening for other microbes that may kill the fungus or hamper transmission without harming bats.

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature10590

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Malaria deaths fall 20% worldwide in last decade

BBC News – Malaria deaths fall over 20% worldwide in last decade.

There has been a fall of just over 20% in the number of deaths from malaria worldwide in the past decade, the World Health Organization says.

A new report said that one-third of the 108 countries where malaria was endemic were on course to eradicate the disease within 10 years.

Experts said if targets continued to be met, a further three million lives could be saved by 2015.

Malaria is one of the deadliest global diseases, particularly in Africa.

In 2009, 781,000 people died from malaria. The mosquito-borne disease is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where 85% of deaths occurred, most of them children under five.

An earlier report here incorrectly referred to a 40% drop in deaths.

It has been eradicated from three countries since 2007 – Morocco, Turkmenistan and Armenia.

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership aims to eliminate malaria in another eight to 10 countries by the end of 2015, including the entire WHO European Region.

Malaria Factfile

  • 2000: 233 million cases, 985,000 deaths
  • 2009: 225 million cases, 781,000 deaths
  • Malaria present in 108 countries and territories
  • 1.3% GDP reduction in heavily-infected countries

Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said “remarkable progress” had been made.

“Better diagnostic testing and surveillance has provided a clearer picture of where we are on the ground – and has shown that there are countries eliminating malaria in all endemic regions of the world,” he told an international Malaria Forum conference in Seattle.

“We know that we can save lives with today’s tools.”

Global eradication

Graphic: Global Malaria deaths 2000-09

A global malaria eradication campaign, launched by WHO in 1955, succeeded in eliminating the disease in 16 countries and territories.

But after less than two decades, the WHO decided to concentrate instead on the less ambitious goal of malaria control.

However, another eight nations were declared malaria-free up until 1987, when certification was abandoned for 20 years.

In recent years, interest in malaria eradication as a long-term goal has re-emerged.

The WHO estimates that malaria causes significant economic losses, and can decrease gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 1.3% in countries with high levels of transmission.

In the worst-affected countries, the disease accounts for: Up to 40% of public health expenditures; 30% to 50% of inpatient hospital admissions; and up to 60% of outpatient health clinic visits.

More on This Story

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Chronicling the Ecological Impact of C. Columbus

Chronicling the Ecological Impact of Columbus’ Journey | Magazine.

Columbus’ discovery of the New World unleashed centuries of geopolitical turmoil. But humans weren’t the only creatures whose fortunes were forever altered. Entire species of plants and animals either thrived or suffered as well. In the book 1493, author (and Wired contributor) Charles C. Mann traces the far-reaching biological consequences of Columbus’ journey across the ocean blue. “There is a Rube Goldberg aspect to this,” Mann says. “Things are connected in ways that you would never expect.” And just as with human societies, some organisms came out on top, while others were radically subjugated. Here are a few key flora and fauna and how they weathered the storm.

  1. PLANTAINS ENABLE FIRE ANTS. The African plantain is plagued by insects called scale. Back in Africa, however, predators help combat these scavengers. But when the fruit was brought to Hispaniola, it received no such aid. So the bugs proliferated—along with fire ants, which fed on the other insects’ sugary excrement. Both pests thrived until their unchecked appetites destroyed the local plantain crop.
  2. RUBBER CONQUERS ORCHIDS. For centuries, orchids thrived in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The damp terrain and omnipresent mist provided the perfect environment for the moisture-loving epiphytes. But when rubber trees from the Amazon rain forest were imported to southern China, their thirst for water dried out the soil. The once-plentiful morning fog began to disappear. Soon the orchids started to as well.
  3. EARTHWORMS STARVE TREES AND POWER UP MAIZE. Before being brought to the US, the common earthworm aided farmers in England by humbly tilling their soil. But once transplanted, the wrigglers’ tu nneling disrupted the nutrient-absorbing fungi on the roots of sugar maples, causing the trees’ decline. And by aerating the newly cleared land, the worm allowed crops like maize to grow year-round.
  4. POTATOES BATTLE NEW FOE. In its Andean motherland, the resilient potato grew in all shapes and sizes. But as the mighty tuber spread across the globe, its varieties dwindled to a monoculture—an easy target for opponents in adopted lands. None was quite so vicious as the Colorado potato beetle. Carried to North America in the manes of traveling horses, the bug became a permanent scourge to the plant in regions around the world.

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The risk of an influenza pandemic is a fact

The risk of an influenza pandemic is fact, not fiction – health – 26 September 2011 – New Scientist.

SOME people don’t seem to believe anything they’re told about flu. You’ll often hear that the swine flu pandemic of 2009, along with the spectre of H5N1 bird flu, were “scares” backed by some conspiracy or other.

Of course, the 2009 pandemic was real, it just wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Bird flu is about as bad as flu can get, and the only thing that has kept it at bay has been its inability to spread easily between people.

That may have been a temporary situation. Work reported last week suggests that just a few mutations could make H5N1 highly contagious in humans without losing its ability to kill 60 per cent of those it infects (see “Five easy mutations to make bird flu a lethal pandemic”).

Now more than ever, the world needs its flu defences to be in order. The 2009 pandemic showed they aren’t, with vaccine arriving late, in relatively few countries. And because the pandemic was limited, investment to improve vaccines is far from booming.

It should be. If vaccines are not ready fast enough after the next pandemic hits, there will still be conspiracy theories, but the “scare” will be all too real.

Read more (also below): Five easy mutations to make bird flu a lethal pandemic

H5N1 bird flu can kill humans, but has not gone pandemic because it cannot spread easily among us. That might change: five mutations in just two genes have allowed the virus to spread between mammals in the lab. What’s more, the virus is just as lethal despite the mutations.

“The virus is transmitted as efficiently as seasonal flu,” says Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who reported the work at a scientific meeting on flu last week in Malta.

“This shows clearly that H5 can change in a way that allows transmission and still cause severe disease in humans. It’s scary,” says Peter Doherty, a 1996 Nobel prizewinner for work in viral immunology.

H5N1 evolved in poultry in east Asia and has spread across Eurasia since 2004. In that time 565 people are known to have caught it; 331 died. No strain that spreads readily among mammals has emerged in that time, despite millions of infected birds, and infections in people, cats and pigs. Efforts to create such a virus in the lab have failed, and some virologists think H5N1 simply cannot do it.

The work by Fouchier’s team suggests otherwise. They first gave H5N1 three mutations known to adapt bird flu to mammals. This version of the virus killed ferrets, which react to flu viruses in a similar way to humans. The virus did not transmit between them, though.

Then the researchers gave the virus from the sick ferrets to more ferrets – a standard technique for making pathogens adapt to an animal. They repeated this 10 times, using stringent containment. The tenth round of ferrets shed an H5N1 strain that spread to ferrets in separate cages – and killed them.

The process yielded viruses with many new mutations, but two were in all of them. Those plus the three added deliberately “suggest that as few as five are required to make the virus airborne”, says Fouchier. He will now test H5N1 made with only those five.

All the mutations have been seen separately in H5N1 from birds. “If they occur separately, they can occur together,” says Fouchier. Malik Peiris of the University of Hong Kong, a flu virologist, says this means H5N1 transmissible between humans can evolve in birds, where it is circulating already, without needing to spend time in mammals such as pigs.

Peter Palese, a flu specialist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City who has expressed doubts that H5N1 can adapt to mammals, is not convinced.

“Ferrets are not humans,” he says. “H5N1 has been around for a long time” and failed to mutate into a form that can jump between people.

“That it has not adapted doesn’t mean it cannot,” replies Jeffery Taubenberger of the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, who studies how a bird flu became the deadly pandemic of 1918.

“It simply means that so far it has not – luckily for us.”

The Terrible Naivete Of Scientists

Mon Sep 26 16:18:14 BST 2011 by Jeff Corkern
http://www.theninepointfivetheses.blogspot.com

If this virus could infect humans, it would make one helluva biological weapon. A FIFTY per cent kill rate.

This possibility is not even mentioned. It hasn’t even crossed their tiny little naive academic minds, has it. All they’re thinking of is accidental release. The idea of deliberate release does not even seem possible, because of the terrible killing power of this thing.

What kind of security do you guys have around your viral stocks? How many levels of locked doors? Can your stocks be destroyed in seconds in case of attempted theft? Have you considered what action you would take if a terrorist showed up, pointed a gun at a secretary’s head and said, “Give me your viral stocks or I will blow her brains out all over your nice clean lab coat?”

You guys think this can’t happen?

You guys don’t think evil exists in the world?

Jeff Corkern

———————————————————————

Consider the following as a statement of logic, and rank it as “True” or “False”:

“If people possess immortal souls, it should be possible to logically deduce this by objective analysis of their actions.”

http://www.theninepointfivetheses.blogspot.com

The Terrible Naivete Of Scientists

Tue Sep 27 00:46:33 BST 2011 by Random Dude

Weaponisation and defence against said weapson is probably on the fore front of the funding body’s mind. Scientist can only work on a project if SOMBEBODY funds them.

Do you remember who funded the resurrection of the 1918 H1N1 virus?

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Governments are interested in what makes these super flu work.

The Terrible Naivete Of Scientists

Tue Sep 27 02:28:16 BST 2011 by Jeff Corkern
http://www.theninepointfivetheses.blogspot.com

Precisely my point. My objection is not so much to what they’re doing as they don’t seem to understand the implications of it.

You can use what they’re doing to fight viruses.

You can also use it for biological terrorism.

There’s not the slightest hint they understand the danger.

There was an NS article recently where a scientist who worked on emotion drugs was shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, that the bad guys were taking his research and using it to make better emotion drugs.

Scientists want to be famous.

If some terrorist takes their these guys’ work and uses it to create a flu that kills millions, well, they’ll be famous.

Jeff Corkern

——————————————————————

Consider the following as a statement of logic, and rank it as “True” or “False”:

“If people possess immortal souls, it should be possible to logically deduce this by objective analysis of their actions.”

http://www.theninepointfivetheses.blogspot.com

The Terrible Naivete Of Scientists

Sun Oct 02 16:13:56 BST 2011 by Andrew Thompson
http://www.athompson.info/

Just because they don’t blurt it out in public, does not mean they are unaware of the possibilities.

Federal officials expand efforts as cantaloupe warnings continue

Federal officials expand efforts as cantaloupe warnings continue – CNN.com.

Jensen Farms is recalling Rocky Ford whole cantaloupes that were shipped between July 29 and September 10.
Jensen Farms is recalling Rocky Ford whole cantaloupes that were shipped between July 29 and September 10.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Listeria can take three weeks or longer to make a person sick
  • Tainted cantaloupes are linked to 13 deaths; 72 illnesses have been reported in 18 states
  • It is the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food-borne illness in more than a decade

(CNN) — Federal health officials are expanding efforts to ensure no additional bacteria-tainted cantaloupes get to consumers in what has become the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food-borne illness in more than a decade.

The Food and Drug Administration said it has teamed up with state officials in the effort.

“FDA and its state partners are conducting checks at retail stores, wholesalers and distributors to make sure they have received notification about the Jensen Farms’ whole cantaloupe recall and that they have taken appropriate action to notify their customers and remove the recalled whole cantaloupes from the shelves,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday.

Thirteen people have died in what has become the deadliest U.S. outbreak of a food-borne illness since 1998, according to records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outbreak — blamed on the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes — was first reported September 12. It was traced to consumption of Rocky Ford cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms’ fields in Granada, Colorado.

What you need to know about Listeria

As of Monday, it had grown to 18 states, 72 illnesses and 13 deaths, according to the CDC’s latest statistics.

13 dead after eating cantaloupe

13 cantaloupe related deaths

“Because some of the wholesalers and distributors may have further distributed the recalled cantaloupes to food processors, it is possible that additional products that contain cantaloupe from Jensen Farms could be recalled,” the FDA said. “There is no indication of foreign distribution at this time.”

New E. coli contamination scare

In 1998, 21 people died from consuming tainted hot dogs, according to a CDC database.

Food poisoning 101

In the current outbreak, four people who ate contaminated cantaloupes died in New Mexico, two each in Colorado and Texas, and one each in Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

Public health officials also have reported illnesses in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Listeria can grow even at low temperatures and can also can take three weeks or longer to make a person sick, so more cases may emerge in the coming weeks, officials said.

Listeriosis causes fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. It is rarely a serious concern for healthy children and adults, according to the CDC, but it is particularly dangerous for older adults, people with weakened immune systems. In pregnant women, it can cause miscarriages, stillbirth and premature delivery.

Pregnant women may experience only mild flu-like symptoms, said Dr. David Acheson, a former chief medical officer for the FDA who is now the managing director for food and import safety practice at Leavitt Partners, a firm which advises clients on health care and food safety. Listeria can be devastating to a fetus, he said, particularly in the second or third trimesters, so pregnant women who may have been exposed and have any flu-like symptoms should see a doctor. Symptoms can be more pronounced in the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, he said.

About 1,600 people become seriously ill because of the bacteria each year, the CDC reports, and about 260 die.

Cancer cost 'crisis' warning from oncologists

BBC News – Cancer cost ‘crisis’ warning from oncologists.

Related Stories

The cost of treating cancer in the developed world is spiralling and is “heading towards a crisis”, an international team of researchers says.

Their Lancet Oncology report says there is a “culture of excess” with insufficient evidence about the “value” of new treatments and technologies.

It says the number of cancer patients and the cost of treating each one is increasing.

It argues for reducing the use and analysing the cost of cancer services.

About 12 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer each year. That figure is expected to reach 27 million by 2030.

The cost of new cancer cases is already estimated to be about £185bn ($286bn) a year.

Rising costs

A group of 37 leading experts from around the world say the burden of cancer is growing and becoming a major financial issue.

Start Quote

We’re on an unaffordable trajectory”

Prof Richard Sullivan Lead author

Their report says most developed countries dedicate between 4% and 7% of their healthcare budgets to dealing with cancer.

“The issue that concerns economists and policymakers is not just the amount of money spent on healthcare, but also the rate of increase in healthcare spending or what has become known as the cost curve.”

It says the UK’s total spend on breast cancer has increased by about 10% in each of the past four years.

“In general, increases in the cost of healthcare are driven by innovation. We spend more because we can do more to help patients.”

For example, the number of cancer drugs available in the UK has risen from 35 in the 1970s to nearly 100, but the report warns they can be “exceedingly expensive”.

It adds: “Few treatments or tests are clear clinical winners, with many falling into the category of substantial cost for limited benefit.”

The cost of drugs is not the only target for criticism.

Lead author Prof Richard Sullivan told the BBC: “It’s not just pharmaceuticals. Biomarkers, imaging and surgery are all getting through with very low levels of evidence – the hurdles are set too low.”

The report calls for a proper evaluation of the relative merits of conventional surgery and less invasive robotic surgery.

Too much

Another criticism is “overusing” treatments and technologies.

Personalised Medicine

All cancers are not the same, even all breast or lung cancers are not the same.

It is hoped that better testing will bring about an era of “personalised medicine”, meaning drugs can be tailored to specific cancers.

In Japan, testing for the KRAS gene in colorectal cancer patients before deciding whether to use a cancer drug saves £32m per year.

However, the report says that on the whole “the science has not lived up to the promise”.

“It is often easier to order a scan than to reassure the patient or physician on the basis of a careful history and a physical examination,” the report claims.

There is also criticism of “futile care” – providing expensive chemotherapy which gives no medical benefit in the last few weeks of a patient’s life.

Prof Sullivan said: “We’re on an unaffordable trajectory. We either need to manage and reduce the costs or the cost will increase and then inequality rises between rich and poor.”

He said failure to manage costs could result in a “train crash”.

The report says solutions fall into two categories: reducing the cost of services or reducing the number of people using them.

The wrong message on vaccines?

The wrong message on vaccines : Nature : Nature Publishing Group.

Nature
477,
369
(22 September 2011)
doi:10.1038/477369a
Published online
21 September 2011

Unfounded fears about vaccines are already reaching worrisome proportions. No public figure should stoke them — as US presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann has done.

In 2009 and 2010, fewer than half of all US states reported that the proportion of children aged five to six who were properly vaccinated against measles before they entered school had reached the desired 95%. In parts of the country, the rate of refusal of mandatory childhood vaccinations for non-medical reasons stands at 25%. And as-yet-unpublished data show that this rate in continuing to increase.

The results of vaccine refusal are already evident in Europe. France reported 4,937 cases of measles in the first three months of this year — nearly as many as in all of 2010. In total, 30 countries in the World Health Organization’s European region reported a marked increase in measles cases early this year. At some point, the herd immunity that protects the unvaccinated and the immunosuppressed could be lost.

Against this backdrop, it is vital that public debates on vaccination stick to the facts — and that politicians who make science-supported decisions be applauded. Unfortunately, it was Michele Bachmann who received the applause at the Republican presidential candidates’ debate earlier this month. The Minnesota congresswoman had attacked rival candidate Rick Perry for his failed attempt in 2007, as Texas governor, to mandate vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) for 11- and 12-year-old schoolgirls, as recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.

Perhaps Perry did the right thing for the wrong reasons: he has close ties to pharmaceutical company Merck, a generous donor to his campaigns and the only maker of an HPV vaccine at the time of his attempt. But his goal was laudable: HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country and the major cause of cervical cancer, which kills 4,000 US women each year. The Food and Drug Administration has also approved the HPV jab for the prevention of vulvar and vaginal cancers, and of anal cancer in both males and females.

That did not stop Bachmann from making the astonishingly irresponsible claim, on national television, that the vaccine is a “potentially dangerous drug”. She later suggested that it is linked to “mental retardation”. Yet the CDC says that the vaccine is safe. Some 35 million doses have been delivered in the United States since its approval, but just 0.05% of recipients have reported side effects, mostly minor. Nor is there scientific support for the belief that presumably drives Bachmann’s misstatements — that vaccinating prepubescent girls will somehow encourage them to become sexually active.

If Bachmann wants to do right by the millions of girls she claims to care about, she ought to retract her words and urge HPV vaccination. That might do more than anything else to combat an increasingly common parental mindset that takes for granted the past century of gains against infectious disease, and in so doing threatens to reverse them.

Comments

  1. 2011-09-21 02:26 AM

    Report this comment #26876

    Dario Antonio said:
    Worries about the effectiveness and dangers of vaccines ARE scientifically supported. A serious debate is appropriate. What I believe is reaching worrisome proportions is the amount of editorials and articles in Nature about this topic. These articles are not always very scientific, resorting to emotions (mainly fear) and always biased towards the praise of vaccines and against the dangerous individuals that question them.

  2. 2011-09-21 04:19 AM

    Report this comment #26881

    Geoffrey Vargish said:
    The declining rates of vaccination in both the US and abroad ARE cause for serious concern. What’s more pressing is that the most salient messages regarding vaccine efficacy and safety often come from non-scientific sources, such as anti-vaccine advocates (most commonly founded by parents and/or celebrities not trained in scientific disciplines) and politicians more interested in garnering votes than disseminating accurate information. Unbeknownst to many, the US has a very effective system for monitoring the safety of vaccines in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (cosponsored by the CDC and DHHS). Adverse events occur in less than 1% of individuals receiving vaccination.
    As Art Caplan and a variety of other bioethicists have pointed out, the history of vaccine policy in the US is littered with fear mongering and non-scientific claims, threatening the safety of our population by deterring individuals from vaccinating. What’s lacking in the vaccine debate is a true ethos, disseminating information backed by science and devoid of emotional, unsupported anecdotes. Vaccines are arguably the most important discovery in the history of public health, let’s not disregard their value in protecting us from disease both as individuals and as a population.

  3. 2011-09-21 04:25 AM

    Report this comment #26882

    Clark Hinderleider said:
    “Worries” are not scientific data. “Always biased” is a pejorative phrase, There are “dangerous individuals” who, using false information, dispense misinformation which directly results in morbidity and mortality.
    Please read the September 2011 Institute of Medicine report which addresses these “worries.”

    Clark D. Hinderleider, M.D., Ph.D.
    Principal Consulting Clinician-Scientist in Cardiothoracic Surgery and Physiology,
    DOCS
    Chair, Health Care Legislation and Comparative Effectiveness Research Task Force,
    Health Council of Marin
    Treasurer, Marin Immunization Coalition
    Member, Personal Belief Exemptions (PBE) Task Force, California Immunization
    Coalition
    Coalition Leader Panel, Immunization Action Coalition
    Contributing Editor, Science Advisory Board
    Member; Center on Science, Technology, and Space; Health Policy
    Center; Roosevelt Institution at Stanford University
    Member, Integrity in Science Program; Union of Concerned Scientists
    Member; Congressional Liaison Committee; Coalition for the Life Sciences
    Member, New York Academy of Sciences
    Member, Reuters Insight Community of Experts

    email: CLARKMDPH@aol.com
    (415) 244,6203

  4. 2011-09-21 04:35 AM

    Report this comment #26883

    Christopher Lee said:
    I agree with Dario Antonio. This editorial, in the the thunderous style, could lead to suspicions that this commercial journal has been infiltrated. It is a serious mistake to connect the healthcare debate to the American partisan political scene, which has a long-standing worldwide reputation for irrationality and similar manifestations of madness.

    Irrationality is, of course, a worldwide phenomenon. A result of of adverse public comments (sometimes related to connections between politicians and the pharmaceutical industry) is that the WHO is considered by many ordinary people to be discredited by the fact that the last predicted flu epidemic caused many fewer deaths than the 1918 one, which was due to a similar virus. Nasty forms of flu will be back, quite soon apparantly. Well, the biggest human problem at the moment is overpopulation, though that won’t affect my own rational decision to pay my 8 euros (I’m not quite old enough to qualify for a free jab).

    There is, however, a need more more public information, and more clear information. The statistics of very rare adverse events are not obvious, even to statisticians. Scare stories sometimes turn around cases of babies who fall seriously ill shortly after a vaccination, and they always neglect the unfortunate fact that babies babies fall seriously ill every day. Do experts intervene in the common debate, for example by providing traceable and readable data on the incidence of such events in the absence of vaccination? Do they give the number of children dead or committed to mental institutions each year as a result of measles? Perhaps it’s beneath their dignity to post on all those quack websites, but they could at least try to find some other medium that is not a sponsored journal or visibly tied to institutions that are either plugging expensive treatments or attempting to ration public health services.

  5. 2011-09-22 03:54 AM

    Report this comment #26895

    Bart Penders said:
    The vaccination problem is not a problem of who is right or wrong. It is about the public credibility of governments and scientists. While science focuses on universally valid claims, public debate is guided by particulars: single cases and stories of inexplicable deaths or diseases following inoculation. A well calibrated display of particulars enables many people to relate to such stories. Solely sticking to facts and arguments is destructive for public credibility as it does not satisfy the need for narratives. If our aim is to raise vaccination numbers, it is wise to take the people who oppose, or who are in doubt, seriously. The question here is where the doubts and worries of the US and EU populations come from.

    We need to realize that better science and improved dissemination does not solve the vaccinationists? credibility crisis. ?Antivaccinationists? play the game according to different rules – occasionally quite effectively. Thus, we need to study the strategies used by antivaccinationists to engineer credit for themselves and their claims, and take them seriously as competitors in the public credibility marketplace. Engineering credibility implies demonstrating the ability to take doubts seriously, not to reject them as ignorant. Beyond the boundaries of the lab, emotions and narratives contribute as much as data.

    Bachmann stating that the HPV vaccine is a ?potentially dangerous drug?, is in high contrast to the dominant scientific position towards the safety of the vaccine. It is, however, not coming from nowhere. Bachmann is aligning herself with a large part of the (US) population, who is worried about the status of this and other vaccines. This is an understandable and probably worthwhile path for someone who wants to be elected to office.

  6. 2011-09-22 05:20 AM

    Report this comment #26900

    A J said:
    Excellent Editorial on vaccines.

    The city Hyderabad (India) has witnessed a major measles outbreak January to March 2011, pushing the total number of cases to an alarming 345 as against 279 last year. What’s more, several children who were vaccinated against the infection figure in this measle headcount. Surprisingly, that the itchy rash did not spare even the 40 and 50-year-olds.

  7. 2011-09-22 10:18 AM

    Report this comment #26907

    apostate scientist said:
    Bart Penders makes the only point worth making at the present stage in the debacle that the mass vaccination movement is developing into. That we now have entrenched ?pro-vaccination? and ?anti-vaccination? camps is evidence enough of the failure of communication that lies at the heart of all this. Use of language is always a good clue as to what is going on and the implications of unquestioning use of the word ?herd? by pro-vaccinationists says it all.

    The word ?herd? carries more baggage than even the recent London Fashion Week could probably handle. So, whilst pro-vaccinationists can talk assuredly about herd-immunity and less than one percent adverse reaction rates to a measles vaccine, members of that ?herd? are going to be thinking ?One percent ? that?s one-in-a-hundred ? that could be my child?. And whilst pro-vaccinationists can talk incontrovertible, herd-based evidences for herd benefit from HPV vaccination, female members of that ?herd? are going to be marching in on their parents demanding to know “What the hell are these people thinking of wanting to inject me on the assumption that I?m going to be screwing around?”. And whilst pro-vaccinationists can justifiably assert that giving three vaccines at once will significantly augment the herd?s antibody response, members of that ?herd? are going to be thinking, ?Three at once ? doesn?t that increase the chances of an adverse reaction and, anyway, why should my boy be immunised against rubella when he?s never going to get pregnant?.

    The pro-vaccinationists’ response to their herd failing to respond to the cattle prods has been strictly analogous to the caricature Englishman abroad who, when the ?natives? fail to understand his English simply shouts more loudly. Sorry doctors and scientists ? where vaccination is concerned ? and possibly not a few other preventive measures ? you?re going to have to learn a new language ? the language of individual experience rather than that of statistically tractable mass averages.

  8. 2011-09-25 12:55 PM

    Report this comment #27088

    Jms rndll said:
    The problem here I think more lies in the fact that science has lost a lot of credibility over the past years, in the fact that most science seems to be geared towards making a product that can be sold for profit. Sure this is fine and dandy, but the less popular more radical theories are never given any head wind because of the less economic value of the research. As for vaccinations themselves, I wonder about the evolutionary implications of preventing a mechanism that is supposed to control animal population numbers from doing its job? Are we really constantly on this teetar toter of ‘hopefully polio won’t come back’, as we see with recent TB in Africa. Wouldn’t it be innovative if scientists took a scientific approach when dealing with human populations as well as animal populations? Do you not see that the whole ‘save every child possible born’ is only serving to weaken us as a species? Where is the sound science in this? Is the goal of modern science to live as far out of balance with the natural world as possible? Or is there some crossover there? What are we going to do when we are on the brink of the next mass extinction, try and stop it? What then, will the planet be able to take a cycle without being ‘refreshed’? I am anti vaccination simply because I do not trust the science behind it.

  9. 2011-09-26 01:18 AM

    Report this comment #27106

    David McRae said:
    Chistopher, Dario,

    There is a debate. Presentation of evidence in a peer-reviewed journal is scientific debate.

    Who can yell the loudest, charm the best or sound the most convincing is not a scientific debate and contributes nothing to science – however entertaining, and these debates can be.

    Please advance scientific knowledge and publish your data.