Shrimpocalypse! How Reintroducing Prawns Could Save Humans from Deadly Disease

It’s a familiar ecology story: human dam-building activities in the 1980s wiped out a species of prawn in the Senegal River by blocking its migration routes. But this tale takes an unexpected turn into human health. A pilot study suggests that reintroducing the prawns to the river wouldn’t be good just for biodiversity—it could also help to control a parasite that causes disease in humans.

The research, published today in PNAS, found that when river prawns were reintroduced to a village’s water supply, the number of parasite-carrying water snails dropped substantially compared to a village with no prawns. This drop had a significant impact on the disease levels of the villagers.

Source: Shrimpocalypse: How reintroducing prawns could save humans from deadly disease

This reads like a poorly constructed experiment. The “control” village really wasn’t. There should have been a third village with a net, and no prawns or medication if they were going to do it correctly.  Or at the very least set up a third net in a similar setting and conduct snail counts in all three. But I could understand the reluctance to withhold medication just for the study, assuming there was enough to go around outside the study area already.

The article didn’t mention if the prawns were edible, but I’d take prawns over snails any day.

Any excuse to use this image…

Dogs Can Sniff Out Thyroid Cancer in Your Urine

Now we know why they smell our crotch!

Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) presented findings at the Endocrine Society’s ENDO 2015 conference March 6 in San Diego showing nearly 90 percent accuracy using scent-trained dogs to detect thyroid cancer.

“Detecting and diagnosing thyroid cancer can be difficult, because it’s often looking for a very small number of occurrences in a very large background of benign nodules. It is also difficult to say with certainty that a patient is cancer-free after surgery,” said Donald Bodenner, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of geriatrics at UAMS and director of the Thyroid Center and chief of endocrine oncology.

“Having a technique with which to do these things with a higher degree of certainty would be a tremendous advance in thyroid cancer,” he said.

the researchers believe the training could potentially be used in diagnosis of other cancers such as ovarian, breast, kidney, bladder and prostate.

Source: UAMS Researchers Use Scent-Trained Dogs to Detect Thyroid Cancer

Non-invasive, just shy of 90% accuracy… But I have to wonder about costs to train, house, and exercise the dogs for their life (10 years on average).  Still, it’d be one of the more fun lab jobs I can think of.

Dying Your Hair May Not Be as Safe as You Think

The basic chemistry of hair dyes has changed little over the last century, but what do we know about the risks of colouring our hair, and why do we do it?

Every two months Barclay Cunningham goes through a process that begins with taking an antihistamine tablet. After a few hours, she smears a thick layer of antihistamine cream across her forehead, around her ears and over her neck. Finally, she shields the area with ripped-up plastic carrier bags.  All this so she can dye her hair.

It didn’t start out this bad. Cunningham coloured her hair for a decade without any problems. Then, one day, she noticed that the skin on her ears was inflamed after she’d dyed her hair. She fashioned plastic bag earmuffs and carried on colouring. But the allergic reaction persisted, so her precautions became more elaborate. Now if she dyes her hair without these measures, she gets an itchy, blistery, pus-filled rash that lasts for weeks.

Source: Why Dying Your Hair May Not Be as Safe as You Think

I have always been startled by how many people I know eat organic vegetables, drink only from glass, use only vinegar to clean their houses… and dye/colour their hair.

Artificial Sweeteners: What Are They Really Doing to Our Bodies?

They’re what stimulate your sweet tooth without adding girth to your waistline; they give diet colas and sugar-free snacks a saccharine kick without the consequences. At least that’s the idea. But these sweeteners have been the subject of hoaxes and misinformation for years, slowly discrediting their wondrous health claims. Can you really, as Dr. Susan Swithers of Purdue University quips, “have your fake cake and eat it, too?”

Source: What Are Artificial Sweeteners Really Doing to Our Bodies?

Supplementary: Burning artificial sweeteners with a Red Nickel Ball (youtube, 4:13 minutes)