TS Picks: February 5, 2015

Phage therapy; sharing data; recognizing faces

Tracy Vence
Feb 5, 2015

Electron micrograph of bacteriophages attached to a bacterial cellWIKIMEDIA, GRAHAMCOLM

Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:

  • BuzzFeed News this week examined an uptick in patients who are seeking out bacteriophage-based therapies to treat their antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. But, as microbiologist Jason Gill of Texas A&M University told The Scientist in September, more work is needed before this strategy becomes routine in the clinic. “We don’t have a good feel for how phage and bacteria interact within a host to know for sure why one phage [might] work better than the other,” Gill said. “As we move on, we’ll find that some pathogens and some infections respond well to phage therapy and others don’t.”
  • How well do today’s facial recognition technologies work? “In recent years, the technology has moved on from measuring distances on people’s faces, which can be relatively inaccurate, to analysing each pixel to look for correlations to typical facial structures,” BBC News reported this week (February 3). Still, it seems, people are better than machines at recognizing faces. As Carnegie Mellon University’s Marlene Behrmann told The Scientist in November: “We meet thousands of individuals . . . and we can differentiate them, we can recognize them in different conditions: when there are shadows on them, when the face is turned at different angles, if they get a haircut. It’s an incredibly robust human ability.”
  • The New York Times this week (February 2) covered the critical issue of data-sharing, and how it could affect President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative.