A city itself influences the contours of its flu season – whether flu cases rise to a wintertime peak or plateau from fall to spring, new research suggests.
Flu cases generally peak in winter in certain areas of the United States because the air is drier. That dryness helps the flu virus survive longer once sneezed out of a sick person, for example, allowing the virus to potentially...
In the past year, the flu killed an estimated 80,000 Americans — the country’s highest death toll from flu and related complications in more than a decade, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 2017–2018 flu season has been classified as one of “high severity” (SN: 7/7/18, p. 16), with some 900,000 people hospitalized with flu symptoms — the highest...
Emily Balskus, 38Chemistry and microbiologyHarvard University09/26/2018 - 08:34 Microbiology, Chemistry, Health
Chemist Emily Balskus of Harvard University is out to expose the crimes and misdemeanors of microbes living in the human gut. She’s shown, for example, how a common gut bacterium interferes with a heart failure treatment: The microbe breaks down the medication before the drug can do its job.
Balskus, 38, originally...
Jenny Tung, 36Genetics and evolutionary anthropologyDuke University09/26/2018 - 08:26 Animals, Genetics, Health
Jenny Tung is skeptical when she hears that her older sister, Wenny, compares Jenny’s science to their father’s golf.
He played so much because he found it “a big, fat, hairy challenge,” Wenny said, proposing that Jenny, too, is drawn to challenges by their difficulty.
Jenny Tung protests. Yet she doesn’t deny...
A new tuberculosis vaccine shows promise in preventing the bacteria from causing disease in people who are infected, but aren’t sick. If approved, it could help control the spread of a disease considered one of the world’s top killers, responsible for 1.6 million deaths in 2017, according to the World Health Organization.
In a clinical trial, the new vaccine halved the number of people...
Girding against a new strain
Flu comes in many kinds, and the current vaccine … has little effect against a newcomer that has afflicted at least 400,000 persons in Hong Kong. The Asian city was the source of the 1957 epidemic in the United States. Fears that it may provide a springboard for another one have caused the Public Health Service to ask eight pharmaceutical companies to...
News in Brief
It took a close look at crystal formation in Yellowstone’s hot springs to understand stones much closer to home. Growth and dissolution patterns found in rocks there mirror what’s going on with stones in our kidneys, says Bruce Fouke, a geobiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, contradicting the medical dogma that kidney stones don’t dissolve.
Fouke, who usually...
Even as the country’s attention is focused on the ongoing opioid epidemic, a new study shows that the United States has had a wide-ranging drug overdose problem for decades, and it’s growing ever worse.
Analyzing nearly 600,000 accidental drug poisoning deaths from 1979 to 2016 shows that the country has seen an exponential rise in these cases, with the number of deaths doubling...
A daily dose of aspirin? Not a good idea if you’re a healthy elderly adult.
A trio of papers based on a large-scale clinical trial finds that the drug doesn’t help to stave off heart attacks, strokes, dementia or physical disability. In fact, those in their golden years who took a low dose of aspirin daily were more likely to suffer serious internal bleeding than those who took a placebo...
Letters to the Editor
Fighting fake news09/19/2018 - 07:15 Science & Society, Health, Particle Physics
Computer programmers are building deception-detecting algorithms to fight the onslaught of fake news, Maria Temming reported in “People are bad at spotting fake news. Can computer programs do better?"(SN: 8/4/18, p. 22).
Reader Lou Floyd found the story compelling and troubling. “It points [to] a major problem facing us all today that affects the very foundation of...