TS Picks: October 13, 2016

Forgotten bacterium; talc and cancer risk; innocuous mutations

Oct 13, 2016
Tracy Vence

Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:
 

  • Can an overlooked bacterium (Rickettsia helvetica) cause Lyme disease-like condition? STAT News spoke with infectious disease experts who reviewed papers from late Wilhelm “Willy” Burgdorfer, discoverer of Lyme disease–causing Borrelia burgdorferi. “While the evidence is hardly conclusive, patients and doctors might be mistaking under-the-radar Swiss Agent [R. helvetica] infections for Lyme,” the infectious disease specialists said. “Or the bacteria could be co-infecting some Lyme patients, exacerbating symptoms and complicating their treatment—and even stoking a bitter debate about whether Lyme often becomes a persistent and serious illness.”
     
  • “Most research finds no link or a weak one between ovarian cancer and using baby powder for feminine hygiene,” the Associated Press (AP) reported last month (September 26). But that hasn’t stopped juries from siding with those who have sued Johnson & Johnson. “It is very hard to establish causal relationships,” Nicolas Wentzensen of the US National Cancer Institute told the AP. “A lot of ovarian cancers occur in women who have never used talc, and many women have used talc and not gotten ovarian cancer.”

See “Can Talc Cause Cancer?” 

  • “Many disease-association studies, particularly in recent years, have identified mutations as pathogenic simply because scientists performing analyses on a group of people with a disorder found mutations that looked like the culprit, but didn’t see them in healthy people. But it’s possible that they weren’t looking hard enough, or in the right populations.” —Nature News on ongoing work from the Exome Aggregation Consortium

See “Largest Human Genetic Variation Repository Yet”