Welcome to the second issue of The Filtrate, motto: "All the news that fits through a 0.2µm RSS feed."
This paper describes a new animal model for studying one of the most annoying aspects of dengue fever virus: post-vaccination infection enhancement, in which prior immunity to one strain of the virus can actually make people develop much more serious symptoms when infected by another strain. The new model appears to provide a robust system for testing future dengue vaccines to make sure they don't cause this problem. That could help avoid a repeat of the Dengvaxia fiasco, which killed several kids, terrified millions of parents, and set the entire field back by years.
While dengue fever is spread by mosquitoes, many other tropical diseases are waterborne, and a huge problem in combating them is tracking sewage upstream. These folks used open source geographical information system algorithms and databases to map the watersheds of tens of thousands of villages across Indonesia, with immediate applications to public health.
Besides the infections we already know about, researchers are on the lookout for new pathogens that could move from animals into people. The traditional model of zoonosis, as this phenomenon is called, stipulates that an animal pathogen has to clear a series of barriers to establish itself in humans. An insightful new paper argues that the first barrier, adapting to the human genetic environment, is by far the most important. That should help a lot in focusing our surveillance efforts.
In less inspiring news, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center - and possibly other research centers - purged several ethnic Asian researchers from the payroll at the behest of federal officials. After Science broke the news, administrators went into damage control mode to deny racial profiling, but the facts alone are disturbing.
Are you organizing a meeting? Writing a news story? Convening a panel? Instead of using the lazy approach and just Googling up the same old white dudes everyone else contacts for these things, reinforcing structural biases, why not make an actual effort to diversify? This database should help.
We conclude with a bedtime story. Triatoma sanguisuga, the kissing bug, is best known as the vector for Chagas disease, a nasty tropical parasite endemic to Latin America. Now the vector, at least, has made it as far north as Delaware, where concerned parents found one biting their child's face while she was in her bedroom. Sleep tight.