Monday, February 09, 2009

Science is the Answer

I stumbled across a news item that I would have thought would have garnered a bit more attention from the fear-mongering corporate media. In December of 2007 a woman from Colorado was diagnosed with Marburg hemorrhagic fever. It's called a Filovirus, like Ebola, and can be spread by contact with the bodily fluids of infected people. It's so bad it's considered a potential bio-weapon. It's icky; I'm glad no-one else caught it.

For some reason she had to go to Uganda.  She was probably one of those wacky missionaries sent there to tell the natives how praying works better than condoms. Either that or she's the trophy wife* of an overpaid Bankster who only went there as a status symbol. She was probably a blonde, too, because she had to go in the python cave where the bats that are the most likely vector of Marburg live. Now I wouldn't mind going to Africa myself, but if I do, I'm not going into a python cave. I'm sure it's not called the python cave because of all the cuddly bunnies running around. She's lucky all she got was Marburg.  Wouldn't it be ironic if she was an anti-vaxer?

But that's not the point; The point is that it took the CDC over a year to confirm that it was in fact Marburg.  After suffering through the anti-science administration we've had for the last eight years, I'm not surprised. At least now we have a President that knows that Science is important.  Let's just hope he doesn't cave in to the religious wing-nuts (cave, get it?).

At least there are still people who take their science seriously out in the field. Some would say that it was a miracle that no-one else was infected, but lets give credit where it's due. Marburg is pretty nasty and it wasn't prayer that stopped a potential "hot zone".  It was the brave doctors and nurses and lab techs at Lutheran Medical Center and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment who worked with the CDC to minimize the risks to anyone who may  have come into contact with the patient. They are unsung heroes. I also heard a rumor that there was some old guy dressed in black who was mumbling over some beads, but he didn't do anything usefull.

Unfortunately the United States isn't the clear leader in high-tech research it once was. I blame that luddite, Ronald Reagan and all the gullible lemmings who followed him over the cliff of voodoo economics. Stealing our thunder, the Human Virology Department of the Ecoles normales supérieures in Lyons, France are at the forefront of research into Filoviruses. A team lead by Prof V Volchkov are figuring out what makes this stuff tick. They clone the virus from cDNA and then engineer mutations in it's genome. Different mutations affect different proteins and this way they will find out the role of specific proteins in pathogenicity of the virus. Once the replication of the virus and the synthesis of proteins is understood, vaccines and therapeutic tools against Filoviruses can be developed. Or they could just go to church and listen to some charlatan tell them how the god of Bronze Age goat-herders is still somehow relevant and how Jesus wants tax cuts for the wealthy. 

*don't get mad at me for using a misogynistic stereotype. Do something to change it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Happy Birthday Darwin!

Why am I posting an episode of Star Trek in Honor of Darwins Birthday? I guess you'll have to watch it to find out. The episode doesn't allow embedding, so click through and find part one.This one of he best episodes, not just of Voyager, but in all of the Roddenberry universe.

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