1. In India’s Sultry Summer, Bucket Bathing Beats Indoor Showers
Two items that are essential to most Indian households are a bucket and a pitcher. They are to Indians what showers are to Americans, an integral part of the daily ritual of bathing. In a country where you can’t count on running water, the vast majority of people bathe using a bucket of water, and a plastic pitcher to pour the water over your head and body.
Like every other Indian I know, I grew up with bucket bathing. But by the time I was 10, indoor showers had started to become more common in bathrooms as did a regular water supply, at least in urban India.
For my younger brother and me, showers were the cool, new way to bathe. It made time in the bathroom much more fun than the bucket bathing ways of the old India. Much to my mother’s annoyance, we stayed in the bathroom longer, wasting time and water, as she would put it. As a result, she spent her time yelling at whoever was in the bathroom to hurry up and get out.
When I moved to the United States in my twenties, I was glad to bid goodbye to bucket bathing. I was thrilled to have a hot and cold water supply any time of the day, any time of the year, with no fear of the water running out.
Long hot showers early in the morning quickly became a necessary ritual. Over the 11 years that I spent in the U.S., I conveniently forgot what bucket bathing was like. That is, until this summer, when I was forced to return to that old practice in order to survive the scorching heat of New Delhi.
You see, houses in New Delhi still don’t have a 24-hour water supply. The city supplies water once or twice a day, and homeowners store that water in an overhead tank.
Continue reading.
Photo: An Indian youth rinses off soap suds during his bucket bath near the waters edge with background buildings of Mumbai. (Rob Elliott/AFP/Getty Images) View in High-Res

    In India’s Sultry Summer, Bucket Bathing Beats Indoor Showers

    Two items that are essential to most Indian households are a bucket and a pitcher. They are to Indians what showers are to Americans, an integral part of the daily ritual of bathing. In a country where you can’t count on running water, the vast majority of people bathe using a bucket of water, and a plastic pitcher to pour the water over your head and body.

    Like every other Indian I know, I grew up with bucket bathing. But by the time I was 10, indoor showers had started to become more common in bathrooms as did a regular water supply, at least in urban India.

    For my younger brother and me, showers were the cool, new way to bathe. It made time in the bathroom much more fun than the bucket bathing ways of the old India. Much to my mother’s annoyance, we stayed in the bathroom longer, wasting time and water, as she would put it. As a result, she spent her time yelling at whoever was in the bathroom to hurry up and get out.

    When I moved to the United States in my twenties, I was glad to bid goodbye to bucket bathing. I was thrilled to have a hot and cold water supply any time of the day, any time of the year, with no fear of the water running out.

    Long hot showers early in the morning quickly became a necessary ritual. Over the 11 years that I spent in the U.S., I conveniently forgot what bucket bathing was like. That is, until this summer, when I was forced to return to that old practice in order to survive the scorching heat of New Delhi.

    You see, houses in New Delhi still don’t have a 24-hour water supply. The city supplies water once or twice a day, and homeowners store that water in an overhead tank.

    Continue reading.

    Photo: An Indian youth rinses off soap suds during his bucket bath near the waters edge with background buildings of Mumbai. (Rob Elliott/AFP/Getty Images)

  2. running water

    bucket bathing

    india

    summer

  1. UNICEF Report On Female Genital Mutilation Holds Hope And Woe
Women and girls are less likely to undergo female genital mutilation, or FGM, than 30 years ago. That’s the encouraging news from a UNICEF report on the controversial practice, presented this week at London’s first Girl Summit.
The rate has dropped in many of the 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East where FGM is practiced. In Kenya, for example, nearly half the girls age 15 to 19 were circumcised in 1980; in 2010 the rate was just under 20 percent.
But there’s a sobering side to the report. In countries like Somalia the rate has gone down slightly but is still over 90 percent.
And because the population is growing in parts of the world where the practice takes place, total numbers are on the rise. Unless the rate of decline picks up, another 63 million girls and women could be cut by 2050.
The report is “exciting and worrying,” says Susan Bissell, the chief of child protection at UNICEF. “The population growth will far surpass the gain we’ve been seeing if we don’t step it up.”
The report shows that more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of genital cutting or mutilation in 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East.
The practice involves removing, partially or completely, the female genitalia — sometimes just the clitoris, other times also the labia or “lips” that surround the vagina. In extreme cases, the vaginal opening is narrowed by sewing up the outer labia.
In many communities, the custom has long been perceived as a rite of passage into womanhood. Because sexual contact is painful, the practice is also seen as a way to prevent a woman from losing her virginity before marriage. Some see it as ensuring fidelity during marriage, as the procedure eliminates sexual pleasure.
Continue reading.
Graph: This chart tracks the changing rates of female genital mutilation in a sampling of countries — and projects the rate needed to end FGM by 2030. (via UNICEF) View in High-Res

    UNICEF Report On Female Genital Mutilation Holds Hope And Woe

    Women and girls are less likely to undergo female genital mutilation, or FGM, than 30 years ago. That’s the encouraging news from a UNICEF report on the controversial practice, presented this week at London’s first Girl Summit.

    The rate has dropped in many of the 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East where FGM is practiced. In Kenya, for example, nearly half the girls age 15 to 19 were circumcised in 1980; in 2010 the rate was just under 20 percent.

    But there’s a sobering side to the report. In countries like Somalia the rate has gone down slightly but is still over 90 percent.

    And because the population is growing in parts of the world where the practice takes place, total numbers are on the rise. Unless the rate of decline picks up, another 63 million girls and women could be cut by 2050.

    The report is “exciting and worrying,” says Susan Bissell, the chief of child protection at UNICEF. “The population growth will far surpass the gain we’ve been seeing if we don’t step it up.”

    The report shows that more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of genital cutting or mutilation in 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East.

    The practice involves removing, partially or completely, the female genitalia — sometimes just the clitoris, other times also the labia or “lips” that surround the vagina. In extreme cases, the vaginal opening is narrowed by sewing up the outer labia.

    In many communities, the custom has long been perceived as a rite of passage into womanhood. Because sexual contact is painful, the practice is also seen as a way to prevent a woman from losing her virginity before marriage. Some see it as ensuring fidelity during marriage, as the procedure eliminates sexual pleasure.

    Continue reading.

    Graph: This chart tracks the changing rates of female genital mutilation in a sampling of countries — and projects the rate needed to end FGM by 2030. (via UNICEF)

  2. Global Health

    female genital mutilation

    fgm

    unicef

    women's rights

  1. Globe-Trotting Virus Hides Inside People’s Gut Bacteria
New viruses are a dime a dozen.
Every few months, we hear about a newly discovered flu virus that’s jumped from birds to people somewhere in the world. And the number of viruses identified in bats is “extraordinary and appears to increase almost daily,” scientists wrote last year in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
But a virus that has been quietly hiding inside millions of people on three continents — and never been noticed before? That doesn’t come along often.
Scientists at San Diego State University have discovered what may be the most common and abundant virus in the human gut. And yet, the tiny critter, called crAssphage (oh yes, there’s a story behind that name), has eluded researchers’ radar for decades.
Here’s the cool part: The virus doesn’t just hang out in our intestines naked and alone, scientists report Thursday in the journal Nature Communications. Instead, the virus takes up residence inside gut bacteria — specifically insideBacteroides, a group of microbes that have been linked to obesity and diabetes.
So the system is almost like a Russian nesting doll: The virus lives inside the bacterium, which lives inside our gut.
The new virus doesn’t make us sick, but it may be involved in controlling weight through its effect on Bacteroides. "We suspect this virus is very important in regulating the number of these bacteria [the Bacteroides] in the intestine,” says computational biologist Robert Edwards, who led the study.
Edwards and his colleagues found the virus in fecal samples from people across the U.S., Europe, Korea and Japan. “But we think the virus is likely found worldwide,” he tells Goats and Soda. “We’ve basically found it in every population we’ve looked at. If we tested Africans, we think we’d find it in them, too.”
Continue reading.
Illustration: We are all Russian nesting dolls: Our intestines house many bacteria, which house many viruses. These so-called bacteriophages are likely as important for our health as the bacteria they live in. (Lisa Brown for NPR) View in High-Res

    Globe-Trotting Virus Hides Inside People’s Gut Bacteria

    New viruses are a dime a dozen.

    Every few months, we hear about a newly discovered flu virus that’s jumped from birds to people somewhere in the world. And the number of viruses identified in bats is “extraordinary and appears to increase almost daily,” scientists wrote last year in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

    But a virus that has been quietly hiding inside millions of people on three continents — and never been noticed before? That doesn’t come along often.

    Scientists at San Diego State University have discovered what may be the most common and abundant virus in the human gut. And yet, the tiny critter, called crAssphage (oh yes, there’s a story behind that name), has eluded researchers’ radar for decades.

    Here’s the cool part: The virus doesn’t just hang out in our intestines naked and alone, scientists report Thursday in the journal Nature Communications. Instead, the virus takes up residence inside gut bacteria — specifically insideBacteroides, a group of microbes that have been linked to obesity and diabetes.

    So the system is almost like a Russian nesting doll: The virus lives inside the bacterium, which lives inside our gut.

    The new virus doesn’t make us sick, but it may be involved in controlling weight through its effect on Bacteroides. "We suspect this virus is very important in regulating the number of these bacteria [the Bacteroides] in the intestine,” says computational biologist Robert Edwards, who led the study.

    Edwards and his colleagues found the virus in fecal samples from people across the U.S., Europe, Korea and Japan. “But we think the virus is likely found worldwide,” he tells Goats and Soda. “We’ve basically found it in every population we’ve looked at. If we tested Africans, we think we’d find it in them, too.”

    Continue reading.

    Illustration: We are all Russian nesting dolls: Our intestines house many bacteria, which house many viruses. These so-called bacteriophages are likely as important for our health as the bacteria they live in. (Lisa Brown for NPR)

  2. microbiome

    virus

    obesity

  1. Shades Of The Middle Ages: The Plague Popped Up In China And Colorado
The plague isn’t just something you read about in medieval history books.
This past week, five cases were reported: four in Colorado and one in China.
The Colorado residents were diagnosed after coming into contact with an infected dog.
According to Chinese officials, parts of a city in northern China were quarantined for nine days, and 151 people were put under close observation after a man died of the disease last Wednesday. He was reportedly infected after handling a dead Himalayan marmot, a chubby rodent with a history of carrying the bacterium that causes the plague.
What’s remarkable is that the disease has remained essentially the same over all those years and in all those places. Anthropologists have found that the strain of bacteria in medieval skeletons from Europe is almost identical to the one circulating today.
Once known as the Black Death for the dark patches caused by bleeding under the skin, the plague swept Europe 700 years ago, killing a third of the population — an estimated 25 million. It wiped out millions in China and Hong Kong in the late 1800s before people put two and two together and started targeting rat populations.
Centuries later, the plague periodically pops up in countries across the globe.
The painful infection is caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterium that dwells in fleas. The bacteria will hook onto the lining of the flea’s gut and stomach, and grow into a film that can clog the insect’s digestive passage. The next time the flea goes for a blood meal, it pukes into whatever animal it feeds on (usually a rodent), spreading the bacteria.
Continue reading.
Illustration from Wikimedia Commons. View in High-Res

    Shades Of The Middle Ages: The Plague Popped Up In China And Colorado

    The plague isn’t just something you read about in medieval history books.

    This past week, five cases were reported: four in Colorado and one in China.

    The Colorado residents were diagnosed after coming into contact with an infected dog.

    According to Chinese officials, parts of a city in northern China were quarantined for nine days, and 151 people were put under close observation after a man died of the disease last Wednesday. He was reportedly infected after handling a dead Himalayan marmot, a chubby rodent with a history of carrying the bacterium that causes the plague.

    What’s remarkable is that the disease has remained essentially the same over all those years and in all those places. Anthropologists have found that the strain of bacteria in medieval skeletons from Europe is almost identical to the one circulating today.

    Once known as the Black Death for the dark patches caused by bleeding under the skin, the plague swept Europe 700 years ago, killing a third of the population — an estimated 25 million. It wiped out millions in China and Hong Kong in the late 1800s before people put two and two together and started targeting rat populations.

    Centuries later, the plague periodically pops up in countries across the globe.

    The painful infection is caused by Yersinia pestisa bacterium that dwells in fleas. The bacteria will hook onto the lining of the flea’s gut and stomach, and grow into a film that can clog the insect’s digestive passage. The next time the flea goes for a blood meal, it pukes into whatever animal it feeds on (usually a rodent), spreading the bacteria.

    Continue reading.

    Illustration from Wikimedia Commons.

  2. black death

    bubonic plague

    bacteria

    china

    fleas

  1. A Doctor Leading The Fight Against Ebola Has Caught The Virus
In the past several months, Dr. Sheik Umar Khan has been a leader in the fight against the deadliest and largest Ebola outbreak in history.
Khan, 39, has treated over 100 Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. He’s a “national hero,” the country’s health minister said Tuesday.
Now the doctor has caught the deadly virus himself, Reuters reports. Khan is being treated at an isolation ward in Kailahun, run by Doctors Without Borders, the Sierra Leone government said in a statement.
"He is a very respected medical professional in the country," says Meredith Dyson, a health worker with Catholic Relief Services in Freetown, Liberia. “Everybody here in Sierra Leone is praying for him right now.”
Since the outbreak started in March, more than 1,000 people have been infected in three countries; 604 people have died, the World Health Organization said Saturday. Sierra Leone has reported 442 cases and 206 deaths.
Khan had worked for years treating people for another viral disease, called Lassa fever, which causes symptoms similar to Ebola. When cases of Ebola started to emerge in Sierra Leone, Khan immediately turned his attention to the outbreak and started treating patients at a hospital in Kenema.
Continue reading.
Photo: Wellington boots, part of health workers’ protective gear, hang out to dry at the Doctors Without Borders’ treatment center in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. Dr. Khan is now an Ebola patient in the center’s isolation ward. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR) View in High-Res

    A Doctor Leading The Fight Against Ebola Has Caught The Virus

    In the past several months, Dr. Sheik Umar Khan has been a leader in the fight against the deadliest and largest Ebola outbreak in history.

    Khan, 39, has treated over 100 Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. He’s a “national hero,” the country’s health minister said Tuesday.

    Now the doctor has caught the deadly virus himself, Reuters reports. Khan is being treated at an isolation ward in Kailahun, run by Doctors Without Borders, the Sierra Leone government said in a statement.

    "He is a very respected medical professional in the country," says Meredith Dyson, a health worker with Catholic Relief Services in Freetown, Liberia. “Everybody here in Sierra Leone is praying for him right now.”

    Since the outbreak started in March, more than 1,000 people have been infected in three countries; 604 people have died, the World Health Organization said Saturday. Sierra Leone has reported 442 cases and 206 deaths.

    Khan had worked for years treating people for another viral disease, called Lassa fever, which causes symptoms similar to Ebola. When cases of Ebola started to emerge in Sierra Leone, Khan immediately turned his attention to the outbreak and started treating patients at a hospital in Kenema.

    Continue reading.

    Photo: Wellington boots, part of health workers’ protective gear, hang out to dry at the Doctors Without Borders’ treatment center in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. Dr. Khan is now an Ebola patient in the center’s isolation ward. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR)

  2. Global Health

    West Africa

    Sierra Leone

    infectious disease

    Ebola

  1. Images from an epidemic.

    Shots in and around Kailahun, Sierra Leone where the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded continues unabated.
    The latest bad news is that the lead doctor at the largest government-run Ebola isolation ward has now also come down with the disease.

    Photos:  Jason Beaubien, NPR

  2. Ebola

    Sierra Leone

    NPR

  1. This Aspiring Astronaut Might Be The World’s Most Amazing Teen
At age 7, Gideon Gidori knew exactly what he wanted to be: a rocket ship pilot.
The only thing was, he was living in a tiny Tanzanian village where schools only went through grade six and books about space (or for that matter, any books) were scarce.
But that didn’t stop him. Now 15, Gidori is determined to become Tanzania’s very first astronaut.
Gidori has always been fascinated with stars and spent his boyhood nights staring at the clear skies above his hometown. “I think there is much more up there than there is down here, and I want to know what that is,” he says. When he becomes an astronaut, he hopes his first stop will be the moon – one of Jupiter’s moons, that is.
"They say that on Europa, there’s life," he says. "I want to be part of the crew that investigates it."
With the help of Epic Change, his dream isn’t just wishful thinking. The nonprofit, which raises money for education and technology, gave him a scholarship to study in the U.S. This May, Gidori completed his first year of flight training school at Florida Air Academy.
To finance his next school year, he’s using the allure of potato salad. Tanzanian astronaut potato salad, to be exact.
Inspired by the entrepreneur who raised more than $60,000 to make potato salad on Kickstarter, Gidori and his host family — Epic Change cofounders Sanjay Patel and Stacey Monk – are using the online platform to raise $35,000 to cover tuition and fees for next year. On their Kickstarter page, the trio has promised to throw the “greatest potato salad party in Tanzanian history” the day Gidori lifts off into space for the first time.
And the Tanzanian teen means it; he already has an experimental recipe in the works. As of July 22, a little more than $12,000 has been raised on Kickstarter and Rally.org.
Continue reading.
Photo: It took 101 takes to get the right shot for Gideon Gidori’s Kickstarter video. He hopes supporters will fund his flight school tuition in exchange for a secret potato salad recipe. (via Kickstarter) View in High-Res

    This Aspiring Astronaut Might Be The World’s Most Amazing Teen

    At age 7, Gideon Gidori knew exactly what he wanted to be: a rocket ship pilot.

    The only thing was, he was living in a tiny Tanzanian village where schools only went through grade six and books about space (or for that matter, any books) were scarce.

    But that didn’t stop him. Now 15, Gidori is determined to become Tanzania’s very first astronaut.

    Gidori has always been fascinated with stars and spent his boyhood nights staring at the clear skies above his hometown. “I think there is much more up there than there is down here, and I want to know what that is,” he says. When he becomes an astronaut, he hopes his first stop will be the moon – one of Jupiter’s moons, that is.

    "They say that on Europa, there’s life," he says. "I want to be part of the crew that investigates it."

    With the help of Epic Change, his dream isn’t just wishful thinking. The nonprofit, which raises money for education and technology, gave him a scholarship to study in the U.S. This May, Gidori completed his first year of flight training school at Florida Air Academy.

    To finance his next school year, he’s using the allure of potato salad. Tanzanian astronaut potato salad, to be exact.

    Inspired by the entrepreneur who raised more than $60,000 to make potato salad on Kickstarter, Gidori and his host family — Epic Change cofounders Sanjay Patel and Stacey Monk – are using the online platform to raise $35,000 to cover tuition and fees for next year. On their Kickstarter page, the trio has promised to throw the “greatest potato salad party in Tanzanian history” the day Gidori lifts off into space for the first time.

    And the Tanzanian teen means it; he already has an experimental recipe in the works. As of July 22, a little more than $12,000 has been raised on Kickstarter and Rally.org.

    Continue reading.

    Photo: It took 101 takes to get the right shot for Gideon Gidori’s Kickstarter video. He hopes supporters will fund his flight school tuition in exchange for a secret potato salad recipe. (via Kickstarter)

  2. astronaut

    potato salad

    Kickstarter

    Tanzania

    education

  1. Legalizing Prostitution Would Protect Sex Workers From HIV
If prostitution were legal around the world, the transmission of HIV among female sex workers would go down by at least a third, according to a paper presented at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
That would be a huge step forward. “Sex workers face a disproportionately large burden of HIV,” the paper notes.
Goats and Soda spoke to Dr. Kate Shannon, director of the Gender and Sexual Health Initiative of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in British Columbia, and lead author of the paper published in the July 22 journal The Lancet.
What led you to do research on HIV and female sex workers?
This is part of a larger series of research on sex workers and HIV that also looked at transmission among male and transgender sex workers.
Why has the criminalization of prostitution made sex workers more vulnerable to HIV infection?
We see across many settings that criminalization leads to more violence. Policing practices displace sex workers, sending them to more hidden places where they’re less safe and where they lose the ability to negotiate conditions, such as condom use.
It seems counterintuitive: A greater police presence in the sex trade leads to more violence and less safety for sex workers. How does that happen?
From our review, we see that policing efforts include bribes, confiscating condoms, police harassment, forced detainment and abuse. And where sex workers experience violence, or fear violence, they’re more likely to have to do things like jump into vehicles quickly [for sex] with a reduced ability to negotiate condom use.
Continue reading.
Photo: Masked Indian sex workers protest alleged police atrocities in Bangalore last year. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images) View in High-Res

    Legalizing Prostitution Would Protect Sex Workers From HIV

    If prostitution were legal around the world, the transmission of HIV among female sex workers would go down by at least a third, according to a paper presented at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

    That would be a huge step forward. “Sex workers face a disproportionately large burden of HIV,” the paper notes.

    Goats and Soda spoke to Dr. Kate Shannon, director of the Gender and Sexual Health Initiative of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in British Columbia, and lead author of the paper published in the July 22 journal The Lancet.

    What led you to do research on HIV and female sex workers?

    This is part of a larger series of research on sex workers and HIV that also looked at transmission among male and transgender sex workers.

    Why has the criminalization of prostitution made sex workers more vulnerable to HIV infection?

    We see across many settings that criminalization leads to more violence. Policing practices displace sex workers, sending them to more hidden places where they’re less safe and where they lose the ability to negotiate conditions, such as condom use.

    It seems counterintuitive: A greater police presence in the sex trade leads to more violence and less safety for sex workers. How does that happen?

    From our review, we see that policing efforts include bribes, confiscating condoms, police harassment, forced detainment and abuse. And where sex workers experience violence, or fear violence, they’re more likely to have to do things like jump into vehicles quickly [for sex] with a reduced ability to negotiate condom use.

    Continue reading.

    Photo: Masked Indian sex workers protest alleged police atrocities in Bangalore last year. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

  2. Global Health

    sex workers

    prostitution

    HIV/AIDS

  1. Rumor Patrol: No, A Snake In A Bag Did Not Cause Ebola
"A lady had a snake in a bag. When somebody opened the bag, that made the lady die."
That’s the beginning of a story that Temba Morris often hears about the origins of Ebola. Morris runs a government health clinic in a remote village near Sierra Leone’s border with Guinea. According to the story, somebody else then looked inside the bag.
"And the one who opened the bag also died," is what Morris hears next. The snake escaped into the Sierra Leone bush.
So there you have it: Ebola is an evil snake that will kill you if you look at it.
The striking thing about this story, which is told and retold, is that Ebola really did come here from Guinea, and it currently is out of the bag.
But narratives like this are a dangerous distraction when health officials are dealing with a virus that spreads by human-to-human contact — and a lack of knowledge about how to stay safe.
In the remote northeastern corner of Sierra Leone, dozens of new Ebola cases are being reported each week. As the virus spreads, so do rumors about the terrifying disease.
The first is that Ebola doesn’t exist. Some say it’s a ploy to extract money from the international aid agencies. Others say the people aren’t dying from Ebola, they’re dying from a curse.
Then there are people who accept that it exists but have unorthodox ideas about how it got there.
Continue reading.
Photo: Eerie protective suits and shiny body bags have fueled rumors about the origins of Ebola. Here, a burial team removes the body of a person suspected to have died from the virus in the village of Pendembu, Sierra Leone. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR) View in High-Res

    Rumor Patrol: No, A Snake In A Bag Did Not Cause Ebola

    "A lady had a snake in a bag. When somebody opened the bag, that made the lady die."

    That’s the beginning of a story that Temba Morris often hears about the origins of Ebola. Morris runs a government health clinic in a remote village near Sierra Leone’s border with Guinea. According to the story, somebody else then looked inside the bag.

    "And the one who opened the bag also died," is what Morris hears next. The snake escaped into the Sierra Leone bush.

    So there you have it: Ebola is an evil snake that will kill you if you look at it.

    The striking thing about this story, which is told and retold, is that Ebola really did come here from Guinea, and it currently is out of the bag.

    But narratives like this are a dangerous distraction when health officials are dealing with a virus that spreads by human-to-human contact — and a lack of knowledge about how to stay safe.

    In the remote northeastern corner of Sierra Leone, dozens of new Ebola cases are being reported each week. As the virus spreads, so do rumors about the terrifying disease.

    The first is that Ebola doesn’t exist. Some say it’s a ploy to extract money from the international aid agencies. Others say the people aren’t dying from Ebola, they’re dying from a curse.

    Then there are people who accept that it exists but have unorthodox ideas about how it got there.

    Continue reading.

    Photo: Eerie protective suits and shiny body bags have fueled rumors about the origins of Ebola. Here, a burial team removes the body of a person suspected to have died from the virus in the village of Pendembu, Sierra Leone. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR)

  2. Global Health

    Ebola

    Sierra Leone

    West Africa

    Guinea

  1. Don’t Pop That Bubble Wrap! Scientists Turn Trash Into Test Tubes
Hate to burst your bubble, glass lab gear. But plastic bubble wrap also works pretty well at running science experiments.
Scientists at Harvard University have figured out a way to use these petite pouches as an inexpensive alternate to glass test tubes and culture dishes. They even ran glucose tests on artificial urine and anemia tests on blood, all with the samples sitting inside bubble wrap.
"Most lab experiments require equipment, like test tubes or 96-well assay plates,” says chemist George Whitesides, who led the study. “But if you go out to smaller villages [in developing countries], these things are just not available.”
One glass test tube can cost between $1 and $5. Bubble wrap, by contrast, is dirt cheap. One square foot of it, with about 100 to 500bubbles depending on bubble dimensions, costs only 6cents, Whitesides and his team reported Thursdayin the journal Analytical Chemistry.
"You can take out a roll of bubble wrap, and you have a bunch of little test tubes," he says. "This is an opportunity to potentially use material that would otherwise have been thrown away."
Whitesides is a master at converting cheap, everyday materials into lab equipment. He’s made a centrifuge from an egg beater and CD player. And he’s designed aglucose detector from paper and tape.
While visiting scientists around the world, Whitesides noticed that many labs in developing countries don’t even have simple pieces of equipment, such as test tubes for running blood tests, storing urine samples or growing microbes.
That’s when the idea popped into his head: bubble wrap. The packaging material is readily available all over the globe, and scientists often have it around the lab because other equipment is shipped in it.
Continue reading.
Photo courtesy of American Chemical Society View in High-Res

    Don’t Pop That Bubble Wrap! Scientists Turn Trash Into Test Tubes

    Hate to burst your bubble, glass lab gear. But plastic bubble wrap also works pretty well at running science experiments.

    Scientists at Harvard University have figured out a way to use these petite pouches as an inexpensive alternate to glass test tubes and culture dishes. They even ran glucose tests on artificial urine and anemia tests on blood, all with the samples sitting inside bubble wrap.

    "Most lab experiments require equipment, like test tubes or 96-well assay plates,” says chemist George Whitesides, who led the study. “But if you go out to smaller villages [in developing countries], these things are just not available.”

    One glass test tube can cost between $1 and $5. Bubble wrap, by contrast, is dirt cheap. One square foot of it, with about 100 to 500bubbles depending on bubble dimensions, costs only 6cents, Whitesides and his team reported Thursdayin the journal Analytical Chemistry.

    "You can take out a roll of bubble wrap, and you have a bunch of little test tubes," he says. "This is an opportunity to potentially use material that would otherwise have been thrown away."

    Whitesides is a master at converting cheap, everyday materials into lab equipment. He’s made a centrifuge from an egg beater and CD player. And he’s designed aglucose detector from paper and tape.

    While visiting scientists around the world, Whitesides noticed that many labs in developing countries don’t even have simple pieces of equipment, such as test tubes for running blood tests, storing urine samples or growing microbes.

    That’s when the idea popped into his head: bubble wrap. The packaging material is readily available all over the globe, and scientists often have it around the lab because other equipment is shipped in it.

    Continue reading.

    Photo courtesy of American Chemical Society