This week's issue of The Filtrate is brought to you by schmutzdecke, the schmutz that filters out other schmutz.
Any paper that correlates survey respondents' policy opinions with their blood alcohol concentrations has to be a fun read, and this one doesn't disappoint. One surprising result: even the drunkest drunks in a crowd favored strong restrictions on alcohol, possibly because they didn't realize how drunk they were. That's the classic logical fallacy of in vino ergo propter hoc.
Speaking of intoxication, how about some mushrooms? No, not the trippy kind, the ones that send you to the emergency room. As reported in the ever-readable MMWR, an ethnic Karen man living in Minnesota foraged for mushrooms behind his workplace, found some that looked like the ones he used to enjoy back home in Burma, and ate them. He got out of the hospital 8 days later. The shroom in question appears to have been Amanita muscaria, which is lovely to look at but best left off the dinner table. Local health officials subsequently contacted the local Karen community (which is huge in Minnesota) to educate them about the risks of fungal foraging.
Next time you're hiking through the woods reminding yourself not to eat the mushrooms, remember to check for ticks, too. Of course we're all rightly paranoid about Lyme disease in many parts of the country, but it seems the ticks that spread it might not always have been so common. This team used museum collections and historical records to track major changes in tick species prevalance from 1900 to 2017 in Pennsylvania, revealing that infamous Lyme vector Ixodes scapularis didn't become dominant until the 1990s. Of course other species of ticks spread many other horrible diseases, so perhaps that's cold comfort.
You've heard of PCR, but how about LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification)? It's one of many alternative DNA amplification protocols people have developed over the years, and a major advantage of it over PCR is that LAMP doesn't require an expensive thermal cycler. In a new paper, researchers combined LAMP with the tiny MinION DNA sequencer for easy genotyping of chikungunya virus in the poor rural areas where it usually strikes. That could help track outbreaks of this mosquito-borne virus as they unfold, improving control efforts.
When trying to control epidemics, officials often consider travel restrictions, but there's little data showing whether these work. By analyzing mobile phone records, this group obtained some much-needed empirical results from a "stay at home" lockdown during Sierra Leone's 2015 Ebola virus outbreak. They found that people moved around a lot less during the lockdown, implying that this intervention was widely obeyed. The next question to investigate is whether the mobility reduction affected disease transmission rates, but that's much harder to test.
That's all for this week. As always, feel free to send a tweet or an email if you want to comment on these stories, or plug something for possible inclusion in the next Filtrate.