It's time once again for a weekly aliquot of The Filtrate. Like a real vacuum filtration apparatus, we keep working when everything else sucks.
For years, researchers have been warning that some of the compounds used in food processing might not be good for us. The data have now persuaded the American Academy of Pediatrics to take a stand against certain additives, including the notorious bisphenol-A, some plastics, and a range of artificial colors. Their technical analysis and policy statement make interesting reading. In case you think this is strictly a recent problem, though, check out Deborah Blum's biography The Poison Squad.
Some viruses stimulate immune responses against highly variable parts of their capsids. This is why we have to get new flu shots every year, for example. It's possible for the immune system to generate antibodies against more conserved parts of these viruses, yielding "universal" immunity to multiple strains, but it happens rarely. These folks came up with a nifty strategy to hide the normal antigenic targets and focus immune attention on conserved epitopes. It seems to work in their animal model.
A strong antibody response is the usual goal in vaccine development, but for some viruses that might not be enough, or even desirable. This paper shows that vaccinating mice against chikungunya virus works well in adult animals, stimulating a strong antibody response and protecting the mice from serious disease. When the vaccinated mice get old, though, the protective antibodies appear to make them more susceptible to the virus than unvaccinated controls. Chikungunya vaccine developers should watch out for this, or risk replicating the Dengvaxia disaster.
Until we have effective vaccines against vector-borne diseases, insect repellents are one of the best lines of defense. The classic DEET remains popular, but how does it work? In three different ways, apparently. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, at least, seem to think that DEET smells bad, tastes terrible, and feels icky on their feet. Finally, something we can agree on.
Deal or no-deal? That seems to be the question Brits are obsessed with lately, and European science funding agencies aren't happy with the situation. Among other traumas, UK researchers receiving some EU funds may now need to figure out how to move their grant administration offshore. Good luck with that, folks. We'll just chuckle smugly to ourselves and ... try to read the Mueller report. Okay, nevermind the smug part.