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Five skeletal remains from the East Smithfield site (Photo: Museum of London)

It's hard to comprehend the impact of the Black Death. The "Great Pestilence" is believed to have originated somewhere in Northern Asia in the 1330s before hitting Europe in 1347. It killed an estimated 75 million people worldwide - that's around 25 per cent of all humans in existence at the time. Now in an effort to better understand modern infectious diseases, scientist have sequenced the entire genome of the Black Death.  Read More

Dr Iain White analyzes the constituents of medical student Tom Geliot's breath in the DDU

While Star Trek-style multifunctional medical "tricorders" are still in the realm of sci-fi, scientists at the University of Leicester and Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) in the UK may be making the first tentative steps toward making them a reality. The researchers are developing a holistic high-tech diagnostic unit designed to quickly detect the "sight, smell and feel" of disease in real time without the need for invasive and time-consuming procedures. Much of the technology being used was originally developed for space research, atmospheric chemistry and emergency medicine.  Read More

The pseudoceratinapurpurea sea sponge has a naturally-occurring chemical that blocks compo...

Psammaplin A is a naturally occurring chemical found in the sea sponge that has been found to block several components that are involved in the growth and division of cancer cells. Dr Matthew Fucher and his team at Imperial College London have developed a new, and inexpensive way of manufacturing psammaplin A, and is using synthetic variations of the chemical to better understand its anti-cancer properties, which will help them in future efforts to create anti-cancer drugs.  Read More

Immune cells, tagged with green fluorescent protein, are surrounded by nanoparticles (red)...

Vaccines work by exposing the body to an infectious agent in order to prime the immune system to respond quickly when it encounters the pathogen again. Some vaccines, such as the diphtheria vaccine, consist of a synthetic version of a protein or other molecule normally made by the pathogen, while others, such as the polio and smallpox vaccines, use a dead or disabled form of the virus. However, such an approach cannot be used with HIV because it's difficult to render the virus harmless. MIT engineers have now developed a new type of nanoparticle that could safely and effectively deliver vaccines for infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria, and could even help scientists develop vaccines against cancer.  Read More

Satellite image using what is known as the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) to show plant c...

Directly tracking disease-carrying mice from space would seem to be a tall order – and even without knowing the full capabilities of military satellites, I suspect the ability to do so is still a couple of years off yet. But researchers at the University of Utah have come up with an indirect way of tracking rodents by using satellite images to monitor surges in vegetation that boost mouse populations. Such a method could help forecast outbreaks of rodent-borne illnesses worldwide by allowing the creation of risk maps that show when and where outbreaks are likely to occur.  Read More

Dr. Dawn Wesson, with the traps that attract egg-carrying female mosquitoes (Image: Tulane...

After malaria, dengue fever is the most serious mosquito-borne disease in the world. In an effort to curb its spread, researchers from New Orleans’ Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine have developed mosquito traps that attract and kill egg-bearing females. Using a US$4.6 million grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the scientists plan to distribute 10,000 of the traps in Peru’s Iquitos region, an area known for dengue fever.  Read More

In a world first, scientists from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have creat...

In a world first, scientists from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have created functioning fetal intestinal tissue from pluripotent stem cells. It is now hoped that such lab-grown tissue could be used to research treatments for gastro-intestinal diseases, or for transplantation.  Read More

The UC Davis device, which is pierced through a patient's throat, allowing them to swallow...

You may never have heard of oropharyngeal dysphagia, but it’s a fairly common and quite serious condition that can lead to aspiration, dehydration, pneumonia, malnutrition, depression and death. The term is used to describe difficulty in swallowing, which can be the result of strokes, head and neck cancer, head injuries, old age, and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Around 16.5 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from it, with invasive surgical techniques that may or may not work being one of the main treatments. Now, however, surgeons from the University of California, Davis, have pioneered a new approach – a simple device that is pierced through the patient’s throat, then moved with their hand when they want to swallow.  Read More

Scientists have for the first time created "super twisted" light which can be used for more effective disease and virus identification. The process involves polarizing a light beam to create a kind of light corkscrew, then reflecting it off a gold surface to twist the vortex even tighter. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are two conditions now being examined using this new technique.  Read More

Human virus cloning first, new vaccines could result

The cloning of human viruses may sound like the stuff of biological warfare, but breakthroughs in the area are helping in the development of antivirals and vaccines for life-threatening diseases. Now Welsh scientists have made the first complete copy of the virus Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) – a common infectious disease that is responsible for congenital malformations and potentially deadly to transplant patients or HIV/AIDS carriers.  Read More

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