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Tuberculosis, the global scourge, and a new drug-design strategy

Posted 18 June 2014 by Kausik Datta

Every year on March 24, World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed to commemorate the discovery of the etiological agent of this disease, the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis by noted German physician and microbiologist and Nobel Laureate, Robert Koch (1843-1910). The infection occurs via inhalation of the air-borne bug; therefore, the disease primarily affects the lungs, but it can spread to other parts of body as well, such as the central nervous system (brain and spinal chord), bone, and internal organs. If... Read more

Saga of Dietary Supplements: “All Natural”? “Herbal”? “Safe and effective”? Um… Not quite.

Posted 5 June 2014 by Kausik Datta

Poor wee "All Natural", "Herbal" dietary supplements -- 'safe and effective' alternative medical modalities so beloved of the pseudoscience aficionados and woomeisters all over the world: they can't get a break! On June 2, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public warning - via its Medication Health Fraud webpage - against 6 over-the-counter products for 'Sexual Enhancement', its second-largest single-day set of warning in this particular category. (The largest-yet set was warnings against 7 products in June... Read more

Bug’s “To-do”: Lose a few genes; Cause the Black Death

Posted 27 May 2014 by Kausik Datta

Yersinia pestis (YP) is a rod-shaped bacterium associated with the pandemic plagues that have devastated human civilization multiple times. According to available genetic evidence, an ancestral bacterium called Yersinia pseudotuberculosis (YPT) gave rise to this bug in China, from where it spread repeatedly westward to the rest of the world causing disease in both animals and humans. Infections due to both YPT and YP are classified as “zoonoses”, transmissible from animals (mostly rodents) to other animals and humans. YPT is... Read more

Nuance is critical in science communication both ways

Posted 16 May 2014 by Kausik Datta

Over at Communication Breakdown, my Scilogs-brother and science communicator par excellence Matt Shipman has brought out an interesting post, highlighting the problems in health research coverage by reporters as well as public information officers writing news releases. Matt exhorts these communicators to pay attention to three important concepts: context, limitations, and next steps. I understand and accept the point about context: it is important and necessary to present a given set of observations/results in the context of existing work in... Read more

The Master And His Student

Posted 9 May 2014 by Kausik Datta

It is said that Internet is for cats. And a casual flipping through the pages of the world wide web amply serves to consolidate that impression. Even to someone like me, who is an inveterate dog-person, and who vocally professes not to like cats, adorable furballs adorably engaged in various adorable antics can often seem adorably irresistible; oh, did I mention they are adorable? It is that same internet that alerted me to an awesome program at the Animal Rescue... Read more

Lies, misrepresentation, cherry picking quotes: PeTA’s tactics to garner support against animal research

Posted 30 April 2014 by Kausik Datta

I work with immunology of infectious disease and study host-pathogen response. My work has naturally involved a good amount of animal experimentation, especially mouse models of various infections. These mouse models are incredibly useful, because they offer a valuable window into the process of infection, pathogenesis ('disease production'), and the kind of immune response a vertebrate mammal generates to the infection. The same broad reasoning applies to rodent models of various metabolic and endocrine diseases, as well as cancer. These... Read more

Bugging city communities with impunity: this is the Staph of legend

Posted 28 April 2014 by Kausik Datta

Whether we know it or not, the human skin is a veritable garden of micro-organisms. The outermost layer (‘epidermis’) of the skin, the shafts of hair follicles, as well as the soft surface inside the nose (‘nasal mucosa’), making up for approximately 1.8 square meter of surfaces, is home to about 1000 species of bacteria among other things. Most of these don’t ordinarily cause disease; some are there for the ride, and some even offer benefits by warding off other... Read more

Ethical quandary, to blog or not to blog

Posted 24 April 2014 by Kausik Datta

Not apropos of anything, an ethics question flitted through my mind as I was reviewing a rather interesting paper for a journal, which shall remain nameless. As for all questions of such deep significance and importance, I would love to turn to my most valuable resource, the scientists and/or blogger tweeps with whom I communicate and/or interact and/or whom I follow on Twitter. I do see the social medium of Twitter to be a valuable tool for collaboration, and I... Read more

Two things: good and bad

Posted 13 March 2014 by Kausik Datta

Two things I encountered today, good and bad in equal measures. First, the good. In the recent past, I received an invitation for reviewing a submitted manuscript from a noted journal (which shall remain nameless). The topic of the study verged on pharmacognosy and ethnobotany, both areas of knowledge that I - as an erstwhile drug discovery researcher in another lifetime - find fascinating. I accepted the invitation to review because the study piqued my interest. The review, however, proved... Read more

Dwindling Intellectual Capital in US Science Research: How Sequestration Continues to Hurt Long-term US Interests

Posted 28 February 2014 by Kausik Datta

For a while, I have been following and writing on the terrible science funding crunch situation in the US as a result of sequestration, whose ill effects were compounded by the period of government shutdown. I heard the alarm bells at the end of 2010 (when my blog was still a part of Nature Blogs); it scared me to find out how much even the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) seemed to agree with me on this. The... Read more