Minnesota Birdsong: An interactive poster
Cute interface with birdsong content provided by the always amazing Corn
ell Lab of Ornithology.
"Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets."
After an extensive
, months-long debate
, one of two controversial
papers showing ways the H5N1 "avian" influenza virus could potentially become transmissible in mammals with only 3 or 4 mutations was published
today. The journal included an editorial on the merits and drawbacks of "publishing risky research
" with regard to biosafety. The debate included an unprecedented recommendation by The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to block publication -- a decision they later reversed.
's special report
has additional articles, including interviews with the teams behind both papers.
Searchable Ornithological Research Archive
a site containing back issues of avian journals dating back to 1884. Some highlights: The landing forces of domestic pigeons
, [pdf] an 1889 comparison of bird brains
Nature starts a weblog about the flu pandemic.
Now the virus is in coastal cities on both sides of South America. It hit Europe two weeks ago, ripping through Paris in just 11 days. In the French capital alone, there were 2.5 million cases and 50,000 dead. That's par for the course — infection rate 25% and mortality 2%, similar to the 1918 pandemic. Extrapolate these numbers, and we're going to have over 30 million dead worldwide. In poor and densely populated countries like India, it could be worse.
Where's next, I asked. Based on passenger data — which had to be prised from the airlines — one epidemiologist was willing to make a guess. "Within two weeks, there." He traced his finger from San Diego to Los Angeles, up to San Francisco. Within another three to four weeks, it'll be the turn of the conurbations along the eastern seaboard.
It's fiction but it might become reality soon.
"Fears growing that an H5 pandemic is likely"
A followup to 37271 (Dec. 2004)
“It appears this virus is progressively adapting to an increasing range of mammals in which it can cause infection, and the range of disease in human beings is wide and clearly includes encephalitis.”
The New England Journal of Medicine says "These cases suggest that the spectrum of influenza H5N1 is wider than previously thought."
The WHO is encouraging the stockpiling of bird flu vaccines now
. There is concern in Britain that they are not moving fast enough
First Birds with teeth in 70 million years
. Vicious toothed, flying microraptors once darkened the Jurassic skies. Now, scientists
have learned to activate the dormant, vestigal avian "tooth gene" and so coaxed chicken embryos into growing teeth. From the grave, Alfred Hitchcock enviously quips - "a messy thing indeed when toothed birds kill a man". Meanwhile the French are appalled: “quand les poules auront des dents”, which translates to “when hens have teeth”, is analogous to the English “pigs might fly”. Coming soon: flying pigs.
But there might be a baldness cure in this new research. I'll remember that as the flocks of mutant raptor-fowl move in for the kill.