Leeches may help prevent the next coronavirus outbreak

Using the latest biotechnology, a team led by Professor Douglas Yu of Britain’s University of East Anglia extracted DNA from digested blood in leeches’ stomachs, determined what animals they had fed on, and then produced a model of the distribution of wild animals in the Ailao Shan Nature Reserve in Yunnan province.

The same DNA analysis method could feasibly be used to examine drain water for evidence of illegal wildlife consumed or traded in markets, Yu says…

Wild animals are a reservoir of viruses that, due to their ability to rapidly change genetic make-up, regularly “jump” to other species, including humans…

Until recently, biotechnology couldn’t separate individual bits of DNA in the “soup” to identify which animals they came from. But the latest technology can process multiple DNA molecules at the same time, and it has become a powerful forensic tool.

Without seeing or touching the animals, their presence can be detected from a sample of soil, water – or the remnants of digested blood in a leech’s stomach.

Yu’s team extracted DNA from leeches’ stomachs, then applied sophisticated statistical software that could compare the different DNA sequences against animal DNA sequences in existing databases, similar to how facial recognition software matches an image of an individual face from a set of millions…

The results closely matched the biology of the animals. “The right species were found in the right places,” Yu says. It also gelled with previous records of animal sightings in Ailao Shan. The leeches could be trusted.

Scientific methods don’t really care what country, culture or economic system they operate in. Yes, everything from context to funding vary; but, real data produces a catalog of information that can provide new and revealing information, conclusions.

Good for you, Doctor Yu.

“Natural” supplements are unregulated for quality, content or safety


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More than two-thirds of Americans take dietary supplements. The vast majority of consumers – 84% – are confident the products are safe and effective.

They should not be so trusting.

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 allows manufacturers to sell dietary supplements without providing proof of their quality to the FDA. Instead, it’s up to the FDA to prove a product is unsafe and take it off the market. That’s an incredibly tall order, and woefully inadequate. But it’s unlikely to change.

All you have to worry about are heavy metals, bacterial and fungal contamination, undisclosed drugs including not approved for pharmaceuticals, over-and-under-dosing of listed ingredients…and more. Professor White’s article suggests independent labs that monitor supplements. He includes several ways you can assure yourself – to a point about what you’re going to consume.

Please be careful.

It never ends…Storm Dennis follows Storm Clara


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Storm Dennis, one of the deepest low-pressure centres to have formed in recent years, has brought severe weather to Iceland and many western and central parts of the UK.

Some of the regions now being affected by Dennis were also hit by a preceding storm, Ciara, which brought stronger winds than Dennis but less rain. Nevertheless, rivers were already full and the ground saturated before Dennis’s arrival.

The military has been called in provide assistance in parts of northern England, where rivers have overflowed in recent days.

Click through and check out the photos. The worst waves haven’t hit land [yet?]. They’re up to 100 feet high.

Trump sending armed tactical forces after immigrants in sanctuary cities


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…100 US Customs and Border Protection officers, including those from the SWAT-like Border Patrol Tactical Unit, will be deployed from February through May across nine sanctuary cities: Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, and Newark, NJ.

Border Patrol Tactical Unit agents receive special training for high-risk law enforcement activities, including sniper certification and other advanced weapons training. Their primary charge has been tracking down drug traffickers on the US-Mexico border…but now they will also be responsible for conducting routine immigration arrests in some of America’s largest cities, according to the NY Times…

It’s just the latest instance in which President Donald Trump has sought to target sanctuary cities — which do not allow local law enforcement to share information with ICE or hand over immigrants in their custody — for refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Immigrants advocates say that the deployment is not only a waste of federal law enforcement resources, it also might endanger immigrant communities.

I doubt Trump cares a jot about who is killed in the course of his ethnic cleansing of immigrants. Even losing an active supporter, here and there, of his bigoted policies would just be taken as an opportunity to prattle about heroes in his war on furriners.