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News in a nutshell

Global disease research foundation freezes China support; Human Microbiome goes public; Googling for epidemiology; 2010's top new species

By | May 26, 2011

This week's news includes word that the Global Fund has halted millions of dollars in grants to China amid allegations of misuse and abuse, the publication of the first sequences from the Human Microbiome Project, the World Health Organization punting on a decision to preserve remaining smallpox strains, doctors use Google as a tool to track the spread of MRSA, Monsanto's drought-resistant corn trials stymied by rain, and the top 10 new species of 2010.
2010's top new species
Copyright Arizona Board of Regents
Foundation money pulled from China A major international funder of research and public health efforts on debilitating infectious diseases has frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money to China amidst questions about the country's use of the funds. In November, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria halted payment of $283 million in AIDS grants to China after discovering that the government had breached an agreement by sharing too small a chunk of the money with independent community groups. Then, earlier this month, the Global Fund decided to freeze all funding to the communist nation because an internal investigation turned up evidence of further misuse of the money and fuzzy financial record keeping on local government levels. The Chinese government has until June 7th to respond to the Global Funds concerns or it risks losing $300 million in funding over the next few years for programs aimed at fighting disease in the country. Your gut online Sequences from a US government-funded program to paint a genomic picture of the human gut's complex ecosystem are going public for the first time since the effort started in 2008. Researchers sequenced thousands of samples taken from 300 healthy volunteers as part of the Human Microbiome Project, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health. The genomic information -- results from shotgun sequencing of 690 metagenomes from 300 individuals and targeted 16S sequencing of 5034 microbiomes -- appeared online last week. You can access the whole metagenome data linkurl:here;http://www.hmpdacc.org/HMASM/ and the 16S reads here. WHO punts on smallpox The World Health Organization is remaining mum on the issue of maintaining laboratory stocks of the smallpox virus, which the US government wants to preserve for the next five years. The WHO originally slated the two remaining stocks, one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the other at a federal lab in Russia, for disposal in 1993, 13 years after the disease was essentially wiped from the face of the earth in 1980. That deadline was pushed back due to pressure from the US and other developed nations, which claimed the stocks were necessary to continue research on the disease should it reappear. The WHO's policy arm, the World Health Assembly, decided this week to defer a decision on the issue until 2014. The sticking point appears to be Iran's opposition to a clause in the US resolution stating that each country must affirm to the WHO that they do not maintain undeclared stocks of the virus, according to __Nature__. Google, epidemiology tool Researchers have found a nifty new use for Google -- the popular search tool may be able to track the spread of the deadly bacterial disease, MRSA (methicillin-resistant __Staphylococcus aureus__). In a linkurl:paper;http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/17/6/1068.htm published last week on the website of __Emerging Infectious Diseases__, University of Chicago epidemiologist Diane Lauderdale and colleagues compared Google searches for information on MRSA from 2004 to 2008 to hospital records of the disease. They found a strong correlation between the online searches and the disease's spread. "Potentially, we can get from Google a more timely measure of trends," Lauderdale told __Wired__. Drought-tolerant corn trials underwater Agribusiness giant Monsanto is finding out that it's difficult to conduct field trials of drought-resistant corn when it won't stop raining. The company hopes to launch a new line of corn seed that's been genetically engineered to thrive in drought conditions by 2013, with plans to distribute it royalty-free to impoverished African farmers. But rainy summers since 2008 in the US western Plains, where Monsanto is conducting field trials of the seed, have muddied results. "We had about three good years where we could do field trials in Kansas. It was nice and dry," Monsanto regulatory affairs manager Bill Reeves told the Des Moines Register. "And then it started raining." 2010's best new species This Monday (May 23), which happens to be the birthday of famed naturalist and species namer extraordinaire Carolus Linnaeus, researchers at Arizona State University listed their picks of the top 10 newly-described species of 2010. Without further ado, here are your winners (in no particular order): Darwin's bark spider (__Caerostris darwini__) Eternal light mushroom (__Mycena luxaeterna__) A bacterium from the __Titanic__ (__Halomonas titanicae__) Sierra Madre Forest Monitor (__Varanus bitatawa__) Pollinating cricket (__Glomeremus orchidophilus__) Walter's Duiker (__Philantomba walteri__) Leech (__Tyrannobdella rex__) Rogue mushroom (__Psathyrella aquatica__) Leaproach (__Saltoblattella montistabularis__) The Louisiana Pancake Batfish (__Halieutichthys intermedius__) Check out pictures and descriptions of the species here.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Gut microbes influence behavior;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57968/
[31st January 2011]*linkurl:The Profits of Nonprofit;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/57891/
[January 2011]*linkurl:Relief for parched plants;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57745/
[14th October 2010]
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Comments

Avatar of: Mike Waldrep

Mike Waldrep

Posts: 155

May 26, 2011

Interesting news this week! I hope that everyone had a great weekend, is having a great week and I hope that they have another great week! I also hope that they have a great Armed Forces Day! I'm sorry that I didn't say anything about this last week,but it slipped my mind. I also hope that everyone has a nice Memorial Day! That goes for last year and all the other years that I've missed.

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