India has a coastline of more than 8000 km which is rich in biodiversity. Apart from sustaining fishing grounds, India's coastal waters and beaches provide foraging and nesting sites for a variety of marine species, including sea turtles. Five species of sea turtles are known to inhabit Indian coastal waters and islands. But as detailed in a report from the WWF this summer, the turtles are under threat from a variety of sources, including unplanned beach development (including ports, lighting, tourism and plantations), by-catch mortality (in trawl nets and gill nets), weak enforcement of fisheries and Protected Area regulations and, to a limited extent, killing of turtles for meat and the poaching of eggs. The future may be bleak unless conservation steps are taken - and tourism could play its part in helping conservation, rather than harming it.
Zee News reports that beaches like Mandarmani and Digha in West Bengal are among those where turtles, including vulnerable Olive Ridleys, are threatened by tourism.
Blog contributed by Bettina Carter, Plant Protection Content Editor, CABI
Our honey bees are dying in large numbers, and in an attempt to understand why, scientists at the Natural Resources Institute and Rothamsted have developed an ingenious monitoring system using a technique called harmonic radar entomology. This involves attaching tiny antennae to the bees' backs to monitor their flight path. In this rather delicate operation each antenna is stuck to the bee's thorax by hand using a strong adhesive. A signal is emitted by a portable radar tracking system which is picked up by a diode in the centre of the antenna on the bee's back. This signal is unique and allows researchers to track the exact flying path of the bees. Each signal translates into a blip on a radar screen. A computer programme then transforms the series of blips into a flight path.
Based in Delémont, part of Canton Jura, CABI Switzerland recently opened its doors to local members of the community as part of the regional Université Populaire. On the visit, Dr Hariet Hinz presented key research and environmental development projects that CABI staff work on each day.
Here, local members of the community had the opportunity to see first hand the facilities, including the indoor laboratories, plant and insect quarantines, outdoor gardens and multiple greenhouses. Most of the work done here in Delémont is applied to help restore and protect healthy ecosystems in different countries around the world, finding safe and long-term solutions to damage from pests and invasive species.
This visit helps to clarify for those in the area the misconceptions which some have that CABI is a 'house of bees' or 'house of ghosts' after seeing the net-covered plants dotting the hillside around the facility.
Dr Hinz and fellow members of the CABI Swiss Centre staff will hold these open-houses annually to show the public what CABI is doing for environments worldwide.
What do Pamela Anderson the actor, and Billy Graham the
wrestler have in common?
A quick search on Wikipedia will show you they both
are reported to have had hepatitis C. Pamela got it apparently by sharing a needle
for a tattoo, Billy by exposure of blood during competitions. Evel Knievel the
dare devil stuntman got hepatitis C after a blood transfusion. WHO celebrates World Hepatitis
Day on July 28th to raise awareness about this insidious disease
with the theme of 3 monkeys and the ancient proverb “see no evil hear no evil
speak no evil” to highlight how people are not communicating about this
Hepatitis C and B are chronic diseases, passed by blood or
other body fluids. Often symptomless for years they result in extensive liver
damage and cancer. Their silent nature makes them particularly difficult to
combat - people don’t make the link between the occasion they got infected and
the disease, and don’t find it easy to stick to treatments that feel worse than
their symptoms. On top of that, although
in many countries hepatitis B is a disease of childhood there is stigma associated with the infection in some
countries because it can be sexually transmitted. Both illnesses are associated
with injecting drug use.
The list of
celebs with hepatitis C on Wikipedia is one way of breaking the taboo to
get people talking about hepatitis C.
Airing the issue is important because less than half hepatitis C
infected people know that they have the illness, according to recent research.
While they don’t know they are ill they can be suffering liver damage and spreading the disease. Ignorance isn’t
There has been no better time to break the silence around
hepatitis because it is treatable and preventable. There is a vaccine for
hepatitis B that can be used from birth. For hepatitis C, new antivirals are on
the way that could herald a totally oral treatment with fewer side effects:
several new protease inhibitors as well as a viral polymerase inhibitor. There
are simple public health measures to stop disease spread too- safe sex with
condoms, use of clean needles for injections of any kind, screening blood
donations, mass vaccination.
“Does your new book have 10 or 11 chapters?” a colleague of mine at the University of Washington (UW) Graduate School asked when he heard about my forthcoming textbook, Genetic Epidemiology: Methods and Applications. “How did you know, it has 11 chapters,” I replied. He said he was initially puzzled by the fact that, of the many textbooks he had read by UW faculty, they all had 10 or 11 chapters. Then he realized that there are ten weeks during quarter of teaching at UW. Add an introductory chapter, and there are 11 chapters! Sure enough, that describes how this book came about, based on over 20 years of teaching genetic epidemiology, the interdisciplinary field that integrates human genetics and epidemiology, to UW graduate students.
Genetic epidemiology research methods are key to discovering how genetic factors influence health and disease, and to understanding how genes and environmental risk factors interact. Innovations in genomic technology, recent statistical and computational developments, the availability DNA samples and environmental data from large population-based and family studies, and the application of rigorous epidemiologic study designs using these resources, have resulted in rapid advances and growing interest in this field.
“Are you planning a second edition of Fundamentals of Genetic Epidemiology?” I asked Muin Khoury, Director of the Office of Genomics and Public Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the lead author of the now classic textbook published in 1993. That book has been used by countless public health researchers to design, implement, and analyze the data from genetic epidemiology studies. No, he responded, and after 20 years, a new, comprehensive book is urgently needed. As he later wrote in the forward to the new book, “Prior to the genomics era, the field consisted primarily of population and statistical geneticists, and a few epidemiologists interested in searching for the genetic basis of human disease. Today, the thriving field of genetic epidemiology is integrated into clinical and public health research.” Terri Beaty, another 1993 author, contributed to the current textbook, writing portions of two chapters. (Bernice Cohen, the third author of the 1993 book passed away in 2011, after a distinguished career at Johns Hopkins University).
Overall, the goal of the new textbook is to provide students with a contemporary working knowledge of the fundamentals of genetic epidemiology research methods. Following an overview of the discipline, the next 6 chapters (weeks!) begin with review key genetic concepts, provide an update on relevant genomic technology such as genome-wide SNP chips and DNA sequencing, and describe methods for assessing the magnitude of genetic influences on diseases and risk factors. Then, the book focuses on research study designs for discovering disease susceptibility genes, including family-based linkage analysis, candidate gene, genome-wide, and rare variant association studies, assessing gene–environment interactions and epistasis (gene-gene interactions), and statistical analyses of data from these studies. Specific applications of each research method are illustrated using a variety of diseases and risk factors relevant to public health. Local Seattle colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and from the UW, many of whom have given guest lectures in the course for several years, made important contributions to these chapters, including Barbara McKnight, Bruce Psaty, Steve Schwartz, and Janet Stanford. Long time colleagues who are too far away to lecture were still willing to help write these chapters, included Terri Beaty (Johns Hopkins University) and Ruth Ottman (Columbia University).
“The book will be out of date as soon as it is published,” commented one of the books coauthors as he was completing writing his chapter. Although this is inevitable for a field as dynamic as genetic epidemiology, many fundamental concepts remain highly relevant to the field, and can be newly interpreted in the “omics” era. For example, the notion of “heritability” (the proportion of variation in a disease or risk factor attributable to genetic influences) was developed long before the word “genomics” existed, and is now essential to determining the contribution of genetic variants found to be associated with disease in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). The statistical genetic analysis approaches originally developed to examine single major gene effects in families (segregation and linkage analysis) have evolved into methods using exome sequencing data to identify rare variants causing Mendelian diseases. The principles of genetic association analysis first developed in candidate gene studies, including the role of indirect association due to linkage disequilibrium and bias due to population stratification confounding, are being examined in both GWAS and DNA sequencing studies, most recently in studies using extreme trait sequencing. Statistical and biological models designed to describe the complexities of gene-environment interactions and epistasis can now be applied to the extensive data available from large-scale, international, collaborations to identify combinations of genetic, behavioral, dietary, and environmental factors that contribute to health and disease.
The final 4 chapters of the book describe completely new areas of genetic epidemiology that have emerged in the last two decades:
Non-Mendelian genetics: Mitochondrial DNA variation, parental and parent-of-origin effects, de novo variation, and epigenetic factors (heritable characteristics of chromosomes other than DNA sequence variation that influence gene expression) are mechanisms that to date have been examined primarily in either rare conditions or subsets of common conditions.
Web-based resources: A remarkable array of statistical software, genomic databases containing genotype and phenotype data, and population reference panels with high-throughput SNP genotyping and next-generation sequencing data are either freely available or can be obtained through monitored access.
Ethical issues: Because genetic epidemiology studies require the voluntary participation of both patients and healthy individuals, researcher-participant interactions pose a host of important ethical and regulatory concerns that need to be addressed at the earliest stages of designing and implementing a study.
Public health and clinical applications: Translating findings from genetic epidemiology research studies to clinical practice and improved public health outcomes can be regarded as a four-phase translational framework: T1: Discovery to candidate health application; T2: Health application to evidence-based guidelines; T3: Guidelines to health practice; and T4: Practice to population health impact.
Once again, both local and distant colleagues with wide ranging expertise contributed to these chapters: Steve Schwartz from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Timothy Thornton, Stephanie M. Fullerton, and Kelly Edwards from the University of Washington, and Marta Gwinn and W. David Dodson, both affiliated with the Office of Public Health Genomics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To conclude, quoting once again from Muin Khoury’s forward, “I am confident that the book will be a great resource for researchers, students and practitioners from multiple scientific disciplines.”
(Photograph by Graeme Robertson for the Guardian.)
Summer music festivals are popular as ever, with nearly 900 festivals taking place in the UK alone in 2012 (efestivals),
compared with 465 in 2007 - an increase of almost 50% in five years.
Whereas before people who stayed in the site for more than a day and
therefore camped, would pack up and take their tents back home, it is
now a common custom to leave the muddy tents behind, as well as
wellington boots and even items of clothing, for the organisers to
dispose of. Read on to find out how organisers are dealing with the waste left behind.
In the largest COST Action to date, 34 EU countries have banned together to find
a solution to stop Ragweed's spread on the continent. This invasive weed from
North America, now one of the most common air-borne allergens in the EU, causes
half of all asthma attacks in its regions, and costs the EU economy an estimated
€4.5B a year. CABI will join a consortium of over 120 biologists,
ecologists, economists, and medical
experts to explore sustainable solutions. Top on the agenda, biological control,
or using ragweed’s natural enemies to help stop its spread.
10 years ago it was SARS, now the new coronavirus worrying pandemic planners
is theMERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus, that emerged in Saudi Arabia, last year. The number of cases is gathering
momentum and we don’t yet know how it is transmitted or what animal is harbouring
it. As Saudi Arabia is the host for the annual Hajj pilgrimage one of the
largest mass gatherings in the world, it is important we find out before
millions of visitors descend on the country.
Today is World Environment Day, which is the day to
highlight awareness of the environment and promote political attention and
action to protect all environments each year, always on 5th June. The day has been celebrated since 1972 and this year’s official theme is ‘Think.Eat.Save: Anti-food Waste and Unnecessary Resource Consumption,’ which is a very
important point when considering the massive amount of food that is wasted, especially
in the western world, each year.
Image: King College London, project Emerald (emerging mental health systems in low- and middle-income countries)
Oneof the key sessions I attended at the second day of “The world in denial: Global mental health matters”( March 26-27, 2013, Royal Society of Medicine, London) highlighted the existing legal tools available to achieve international recognition of the Right to Health, AND the problems of getting mental health included in this framework. In particular how including it under disability has implications for access to treatment. This blog summarizes the session and puts information into context with current events, including the 66th World Health Assembly recommendations.
There was much I learnt that day, yet of much I was already aware, as CABI’s Global Health
database has 20,000 records on mental health, 25% of them
focussed on developing countries. One of the eye-openers for me was an
understanding of the various legal tools dealing with international
recognition of the Right to Health
and the problems of getting mental health included in this framework;
how including it under disability has implications for access to