Friday, July 15, 2005
The good news today is that scientists have sequenced the genomes of three particularly nasty parasites - Trypanosoma brucei, which causes African sleeping sickness; Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chegas disease; and Leishmania major, which causes leishmaniasis - all of which have received little attention in recent years due to a combination of low incidence and prevalence overall and very low incidence in richer nations.
The Beeb's coverage focuses on these neglected diseases while the New Scientist explains the science involved nicely, a split I find wholly appropriate. I want to read about the genes sequenced and their function - and why T. brucei might be especially hard to vaccinate against - but also think it's vital that the general public thinks about these diseases that probably don't affect them directly. Just because people in DC don't tend to get leishmaniasis doesn't mean we won't benefit from a cure/vaccine: for starters, learning about things increases our general arsenal, if you will, against new diseases.
On the other hand, there is bad news: a study has linked the sweetener Aspartame to leukemia. This is the sweetener of choice for most diet sodas, since the much-overblown risks of Sodium Saccharin were reported in the 1980's. I hope this study is similarly without external validity, since I love me some diet cola, and Splenda is really nasty.