Scientific Discovery

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22 Oct, 2016

Tasmanian Devil milk kills MRSA

Researchers at Sydney University find that breastmilk from tasmanian devils can be used to treat MRSA and other superbugs. The marsupial’s breastmilk is found to contain bacteria-fighting peptides. They have scanned the devil’s genetic code to find and recreate the infection-fighting compounds, called cathelicidins. Experts believe devils evolved this cocktail to help their young grow stronger. One of the synthetic peptides – Saha-CATH5 – appeared to be particularly effective at killing the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.


Crash site found

schiaparelliThe Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has located what experts believe to be the site of the Schiaparelli probe’s crash landing on Mars. The roughly 15m by 40m dark patch, which is probably dust and rock fragments thrown out from the impact, is sited some 5.5km west of Schiaparelli’s expected touchdown point in the equatorial Meridiani Plain. The feature is not present in previous MRO pictures of the location. Images also show an artefact 1km to the south of the patch. This white blob looks to be Schiaparelli’s 15m-wide parachute which would have floated down behind the probe.

24 Aug, 2016

Discovery announced

Scientists at European Southern Observatory announce the discovery of Proxima b, a planet that appears to be similar to Earth, circling Proxima Centauri, a dwarf star four light years from Earth. The relative proximity of the planet gives scientists a better chance to eventually capture an image of it, to help them establish whether it has an atmosphere and water, which is believed to be necessary for life. Proxima b is only 7.5 million kilometres from its parent star – some 5% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun – and it takes just 11.2 days to complete one orbit. Lead scientist:

For sure, to go there right now is science fiction, but people are thinking about it and it’s no longer just an academic exercise to imagine we could send a probe there one day.

ESOcast 87: Planet found around closest Star

11 Jul, 2016

Eruption spreads ash across NE San José Costa Rica

Volcanologists from the University of Costa Rica’s National Seismological Network (RSN) report an eruption of Turrialba. The explosion expelled ash and vapor more than one kilometer high above the crater and lasted for about ten minutes. An RSN volcanologist says minutes before the explosion, instruments at various nearby stations recorded a strong tremor around the Turrialba area.

5 Feb, 2016

Brazil finds Zika virus in urine, saliva

Brazilian scientists says they have detected the presence of the Zika virus in samples of human saliva and urine, a first for Brazil. The samples came from two patients with Zika-like symptoms; one was found to have the virus in urine, the other had Zika in the saliva sample. It remains unclear whether the tiny sample size was enough to produce solid conclusions. Researchers warn that the virus might have the potential to spread through kissing or urine, but are quick to point out that this still remains to be proved. A potential upside to Friday’s revelation could involve developing urine tests as a diagnostic tool. Researcher:

It is something we have to further investigate. We are not yet sure if Zika can be transmitted to others [through saliva or urine].

Apr 2015

Zika identified

By March 2015 the virus appears in two more Brazilian states, then reaches Salvador, a city of 2.5 million. Doctors speculate that the symptoms are the result of an allergy; that it was roseola, a childhood illness; that it was a new variant of Fifth Disease, a facial rash that gives children a “slapped-cheek” look. Dr Soares, a biologist:

People were claiming it was polluted water. I began thinking it was something transmitted by mosquitoes.

Working in his modest lab with a colleague, Dr. Soares tests thousands blood samples. Other doctors are doing the same. Over 6,800 samples are tested from victims ranging from 4 months to 98 years old. Parvovirus, dengue, chikungunya and other suspects are all ruled out, leaving Zika as the cause in April. Dr Soares:

I actually felt a sense of relief. The literature said it was much less aggressive than viruses we already deal with in Brazil.


First well-documented infection report

The first well-documented report of human Zika infection is reported, when researcher D.I.H. Simpson describes his own occupationally acquired illness at age 28. The infection starts with mild headache. The next day, a rash covers his face, neck, trunk, and upper arms, and spreads to his palms and soles. Transient fever, malaise, and back pain develops. By the evening of the second day of illness the fever abates, the rash fades, and he feels better. By day three, he feels well and only the rash remains, which disappeared over the next two days. The virus is isolated from serum collected while he has the fever.

18 Apr, 1945

Virus isolated in Uganda

Zika virus is first isolated from a sentinel rhesus monkey placed in a cage on a tree platform in the Zika Forest near Lake Victoria, Uganda. The monkey, Rhesus 766, was part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s program for research on jungle yellow fever. Two days later, Rhesus 766, still febrile, was brought to the Foundation’s laboratory at Entebbe and its serum was inoculated into mice. After 10 days all mice that were inoculated intracerebrally were sick, and a filterable transmissible agent, later named Zika virus, was isolated from the mouse brains.