KentuckyFC writes "Epidemiologists have long known how to model the way disease spreads through a population using a computer simulation. This generally involves three populations of individuals: those who are susceptible to disease, those who are infected and those who recover, return to the population and are no longer susceptible. Researchers then feed data about the number of infections and so on into the model which can then work out the disease characteristics such as infection rates. And with this information, they can predict the future evolution of the disease. Now researchers have used a similar model to simulate the spread of infection during a zombie epidemic. They've gathered infection data from real zombie movies, put this into the model and used it to predict the disease characteristics. The results show two clear types of zombie infection which differ in what happens to people after they die. In the first, epitomized by Night of the Living Dead, everybody who dies becomes a zombie. In the second, as in Shaun of the Dead, not everyone who dies becomes a zombie--contact with a zombie beforehand is required. This allows the interesting dynamic of escaping zombification by committing suicide. It also shows how close these zombies have come to winning. The research isn't entirely frivolous. The researchers say exactly the same process of model-building, data gathering and simulation works equally well on real diseases such as influenza. So their approach is a useful teaching tool for budding epidemiologists of the future."
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First time accepted submitter Josiah Zayner writes "Katie Drummond at The Verge reports that 'the Infectious Diseases Society of America warned that the pipeline of new antibiotics was "on life support," with only seven drugs in advanced stages of development to treat multidrug-resistant gram-negative superbugs. That's in part because, unlike drugs prescribed to treat chronic conditions, antibiotics are only taken for a few days or weeks at a time — meaning they're less profitable for pharmaceutical companies.' Dr. Josiah Zayner, a synthetic biology fellow at NASA, and Dr. Mark Opal, a neurobiologist and drug development specialist have started an Indiegogo campaign: The ILIAD Project. ILIAD stands for the International Laboratory for Identification of Antibacterial Drugs. Contributors to the project will receive Science kits with all the materials needed for testing environmental samples, such as plants, insects, and bacteria, for antibiotic properties. The information will then be documented in Open manner on Wiki-style website to create the first Massively Multi-Scientist Open Experiment."
kkleiner writes "Among the possible uses for Google Glass that early adopters are dreaming up, you can now add 'surgical assistance' to the list. With approval from the institutional review board, a UCSF cardiothoracic surgeon recently utilized Glass during procedures by utilizing its voice activation features to refer to patient x-ray scans. Aimed at providing surgeons with the most up-to-date patient data, a startup named VitaMedicals is building apps to stream in patient records and live scans to the device. Even though it's early days for Glass, its potential in the medical space is huge and could revolutionize how doctor's access and apply information from patient records."
An anonymous reader writes "Following a BBC report showing abnormal variation in the number of people taken into police custody with mental health problems, concerns have been raised about the legal definition of "mental illness". Prof. Steve Fuller argues that a much sharper legal distinction is required to ensure criminals with mental disorders are not released without appropriate treatment. Fuller distinguishes between two cases: a 'client', who pays a therapist and enjoys a liberal, level-playing field in face-to-face interactions, and a 'patient' who is being treated by a doctor for a particular disorder. If the former relationship cannot be established due to person's mental state, then the latter one should be enforced. Thus, Fuller calls for 'a return to institutions analogous to the asylums of the early 19th century.'"
The much-discussed health care finance sign-up website HealthCare.gov has benefited from the flurry of improvements that have been thrown at it in the last several weeks. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokesman Aaron Albright told Fox News Saturday that "[w]ith the scheduled upgrades last night and tonight, we're on track to meet our stated goal for the site to work for the vast majority of users." CMM spokeswoman Julie Bataille. "said the installation of new servers Friday night helped improved the response times and error rates, even with heavier-than-usual weekend traffic." If you've used the site this weekend, what has your experience been like?
ananyo writes "By analysing the chemical structure of a drug, researchers can see if it is likely to bind to, or 'dock' with, a biological target such as a protein. Researchers have now unveiled a computational effort that used Google's supercomputers to assesses billions of potential dockings on the basis of drug and protein information held in public databases. The effort will help researchers to find potentially toxic side effects and to predict how and where a compound might work in the body. 'It's the largest computational docking ever done by mankind,' says Timothy Cardozo, a pharmacologist at New York University's Langone Medical Center, who presented the project at the US National Institutes of Health's High Risk–High Reward Symposium in Bethesda, Maryland. The result, a website called Drugable, is still in testing, but it will eventually be available for free, allowing researchers to predict how and where a compound might work in the body, purely on the basis of chemical structure."
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "In 2012, Canadian Ellen Richardson was hospitalized for clinical depression. This past Monday she tried to board a plane to New York for a $6,000 Caribbean cruise. DHS denied her entry, citing supposedly private medical records listing her hospitalization. From the story: '“I was turned away, I was told, because I had a hospitalization in the summer of 2012 for clinical depression,’’ said Richardson, who is a paraplegic and set up her cruise in collaboration with a March of Dimes group of about 12 others.'"
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC is reporting that an investigation into a UK-based Amazon facility has uncovered conditions that experts believe foster mental illness. At the root of the problem seems to be unreasonable performance expectations combined with a fundamentally dehumanizing environment. From the article: 'Amazon said that official safety inspections had not raised any concerns and that an independent expert appointed by the company advised that the picking job is "similar to jobs in many other industries and does not increase the risk of mental and physical illness."'"
An anonymous reader writes in with this excerpt from Shirky.com. "The idea that 'failure is not an option' is a fantasy version of how non-engineers should motivate engineers. That sentiment was invented by a screenwriter, riffing on an after-the-fact observation about Apollo 13; no one said it at the time. (If you ever say it, wash your mouth out with soap. If anyone ever says it to you, run.) Even NASA's vaunted moonshot, so often referred to as the best of government innovation, tested with dozens of unmanned missions first, several of which failed outright. Failure is always an option. Engineers work as hard as they do because they understand the risk of failure. And for anything it might have meant in its screenplay version, here that sentiment means the opposite; the unnamed executives were saying 'Addressing the possibility of failure is not an option.' ... Healthcare.gov was unable to complete even a thousand enrollments a day at launch, and for weeks afterwards. As we now know, programmers, stakeholders, and testers all expressed reservations about Healthcare.gov's ability to do what it was supposed to do. Yet no one who understood the problems was able to tell the President. Worse, every senior political figure—every one—who could have bridged the gap between knowledgeable employees and the President decided not to. And so it was that, even on launch day, the President was allowed to make things worse for himself and his signature program by bragging about the already-failing site and inviting people to log in and use something that mostly wouldn't work. Whatever happens to government procurement or hiring (and we should all hope those things get better) a culture that prefers deluding the boss over delivering bad news isn't well equipped to try new things.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Joseph Stromberg writes at the Smithsonian that one afternoon in October 2005, neuroscientist James Fallon was sifting through thousands of PET scans to find anatomical patterns in the brain that correlated with psychopathic tendencies in the real world. 'Out of serendipity, I was also doing a study on Alzheimer's and as part of that, had brain scans from me and everyone in my family right on my desk,' writes Fallon. 'I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological.' When he looked up the code, he was greeted by an unsettling revelation: the psychopathic brain pictured in the scan was his own. When he underwent a series of genetic tests, he got more bad news. 'I had all these high-risk alleles for aggression, violence and low empathy,' he says, such as a variant of the MAO-A gene that has been linked with aggressive behavior. It wasn't entirely a shock to Fallon, as he'd always been aware that he was someone especially motivated by power and manipulating others. Additionally, his family line included seven alleged murderers, including Lizzie Borden, infamously accused of killing her father and stepmother in 1892. Many of us would hide this discovery and never tell a soul, out of fear or embarrassment of being labeled a psychopath. Perhaps because boldness and disinhibition are noted psychopathic tendencies, Fallon has gone in the opposite direction, telling the world about his finding in a TED Talk, an NPR interview and now a new book published last month, The Psychopath Inside. 'Since finding all this out and looking into it, I've made an effort to try to change my behavior,' says Fallon. 'I've more consciously been doing things that are considered "the right thing to do," and thinking more about other people's feelings.'"
MTorrice writes "To understand the brain and its chemical complexities, researchers would like to peer inside the skull and measure neurotransmitters levels as the brain at work. Unfortunately, research methods to measure levels of chemicals in the brain require drilling holes in the skull, and noninvasive imaging techniques, such as MRI, can't detect specific molecules. Now, as a first step toward a new imaging tool, chemists report they can detect molecules hidden behind 3- to 8-mm-thick bone."
cartechboy writes "The electric car challenge is what insiders call "getting butts in seats" — and a lot of butts today still belong to humans who are not yet buying electric cars. The big question is: Why? Surveys show drivers are interested in electric cars--and that they love them once they drive them. EVs also cost less to maintain (though more to buy in the first place) and many experts say they're simply nicer to drive. So what's the problem? Disinterested dealers, uneven distribution, limited supplies, and media bias are some potential challenges. Or maybe it's just lousy marketing--casting electric cars as a moral imperative or a duty, like medicine you have to take."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Health authorities have been struggling to convince the public that the threat of totally drug-resistant bacteria is a crisis. Earlier this year, British chief medical officer Sally Davies described resistance to antibiotics as a 'catastrophic global threat' that should be ranked alongside terrorism. In September, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a blunt warning: 'If we're not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era. For some patients and some microbes, we are already there.' Now Maryn McKenna writes that we are on the verge of entering a new era in history and asks us to imagine what our lives would be like if we really lost antibiotics to advancing drug resistance. We'll not just lose the ability to treat infectious disease; that's obvious. But also: The ability to treat cancer, and to transplant organs, because doing those successfully relies on suppressing the immune system and willingly making ourselves vulnerable to infection. We'll lose any treatment that relies on a permanent port into the bloodstream — for instance, kidney dialysis. We'd lose any major open-cavity surgery, on the heart, the lungs, the abdomen. We'd lose implantable devices: new hips, new knees, new heart valves. We'd lose the ability to treat people after traumatic accidents, as major as crashing your car and as minor as your kid falling out of a tree. We'd lose the safety of modern childbirth. We'd lose a good portion of our cheap modern food supply because most of the meat we eat in the industrialized world is raised with the routine use of antibiotics, to fatten livestock and protect them from the conditions in which the animals are raised. 'And it wouldn't be just meat. Antibiotics are used in plant agriculture as well, especially on fruit. Right now, a drug-resistant version of the bacterial disease fire blight is attacking American apple crops,' writes McKenna. 'There's currently one drug left to fight it.'"
kkleiner writes "Starting next month, Americans suffering from degenerative eye diseases can get excited about the launch of the Argus II, a bionic eye implant to partially restore vision. Designed for those suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, the Argus II is a headset that looks akin to Google Glass but is actually hard wired into the optic nerve to transmit visual information from a 60 electrode array. The device opens the door for similar 'humanitarian' implants that both reduce the difficulty in getting government approval and increase the adoption of brain implants."
kkleiner writes "With the cost of healthcare services increasing, it's welcome news that a recent deal between Walgreens and Theranos will bring rapid, accurate, low-cost blood testing to the local pharmacy. A pinprick of blood from a finger is enough to run any number of a la carte diagnostic tests with results in four hours or less. The automation of blood testing in one convenient machine may mean that the demand for clinical technicians may decline, but the benefits of making blood analysis more accessible to everyone is enormous."
sproketboy writes "WikiLeaks releases the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter." The Syndney Morning Herald took a look at the leaked documents, from their article: "An expert in intellectual property law, Matthew Rimmer, said the draft was 'very prescriptive' and strongly reflected U.S. trade objectives and multinational corporate interests 'with little focus on the rights and interests of consumers, let alone broader community interests.'"
dcblogs writes "U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has released 175 pages of "War Room" notes — a collection of notes by federal officials dealing with the problems at Healthcare.gov. They start Oct. 1, the launch day. The War Room notes catalog IT problems — dashboards weren't showing data, servers didn't have the right production data, third party systems weren't connecting to verify data, a key contractor had trouble logging on, and there wasn't enough server capacity to handle the traffic, or enough people on the help desks to answer calls. To top it off, some personnel needed for the effort were furloughed because of the shutdown. Volunteers were needed to work weekends, but there were bureaucratic complications."
New submitter hoboroadie writes "Scientific American Magazine says antibiotic-resistance genes have moved from the incubators of our hospitals and factory farms, and are spreading through diverse species in the wild. Resistance genes have been detected in crows, gulls, houseflies, moths, foxes, frogs, sharks and whales, as well as in sand and coastal water samples from California and Washington. This stuff is getting more and more like a Hollywood script everyday, n'est ce pas?"
First time accepted submitter neapolitan writes "PBS has a report on the difficulties of tracking the complications arising from surgical robotic systems, particularly the Da Vinci robotic surgery apparatus. The original study (paywall) notes that there is a large lag in filing reports, and some are not reported at all. It is difficult to assess the continued outcomes and safety without accurate reporting data."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Science writer and 42-year old pre-med student Barbara Moran writes in the NY Times that organic chemistry has been haunting pre-meds since 1910, when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a landmark report calling for tougher admission standards to medical school and for medical training based on science. "The organic chemistry on the MCAT is chemistry that students need to know to succeed in medical school," says Karen Mitchell, senior director of the MCAT Program. Basically, orgo examines how molecules containing carbon interact, but it doesn't require equations or math, as in physics. Instead, you learn how electrons flow around and between molecules, and you draw little curved arrows showing where they go. This "arrow pushing" is the heart and soul of orgo. "Learning how to interpret the hieroglyphics is pretty easy. The hard part is learning where to draw the little arrows," writes Moran. "After you draw oxygen donating electrons to a positive carbon a zillion times, it becomes second nature." But the rules have many exceptions, which students find maddening. The same molecule will behave differently in acid or base, in dark or sunlight, in heat or cold, or "if you sprinkle magic orgo dust on it and turn around three times." You can't memorize all the possible answers — you have to rely on intuition, generalizing from specific examples. This skill, far more than the details of every reaction, may actually be useful for medicine. "It seems a lot like diagnosis," says Logan McCarty. "That cognitive skill — inductive generalization from specific cases to something you've never seen before — that's something you learn in orgo." This takes a huge amount of time, for me 20 to 30 hours a week writes Moran. This is one thing that orgo is testing: whether you have the time and desire to do the work. "Sometimes, if a student has really good math skills, they can slide through physics, but you can't do that in orgo," says McCarty ."