public health

US bill restricts use of science in environmental policymaking

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a future in which its hands will be tied on making many policies if a new bill becomes law.

Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill, the HONEST Act, that would prevent the EPA from basing any of its regulations on science that is not publicly accessible – not just journal articles themselves, but all of the underlying data, models and computer code. Read more in New Scientist.

Canada Foundation for Innovation awards $18 million to Amundsen

CFI aims to secure ongoing operation and maintenance funds for research facilities including Canada’s only research icebreaker.

Laval University has received more than $18 million for the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen in the latest round of funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Major Science Initiatives Fund.

Over the next five years, the funding will mainly be used to maintain and deploy the coast guard ship’s scientific equipment and to pay the specialised engineers who operate the Arctic research vessel, says Louis Fortier, the Amundsen’s scientific director. But the money will also be used to subsidize some scientific projects that need a little extra cash. Read more in University Affairs.

Florida’s White Ibises May Be Spreading Disease

The increasingly urban birds are carrying salmonella.

If you’re golfing in Florida this winter, resist the urge to feed the friendly white ibises congregating around the water hazards—they might just give you salmonella.

The birds, native to Florida’s dwindling wetlands, have been moving to urban golf courses and parks. There they come into close contact with people—even being hand-fed in some cases—and leave their droppings on benches and buildings. Each point of contact has the potential to infect people. Read more in Hakai Magazine.

Excessive Pubic Hair Grooming Linked to Higher Rates of STIs

Shaving and grooming may create an opportunity for infections to spread.

People who frequently groom or remove their pubic hair are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections, according to new research.

The researchers surveyed more than 7,500 people aged 18-65 from across the United States, and found that two-thirds of men and 84 percent of women reported grooming their pubic hair. Among those who groomed, the survey found higher rates of infections, including herpes, syphilis, gonorrhoea and HIV. The risk is highest for “extreme” groomers – those who remove all pubic hair at least 11 times a year, and high-frequency groomers who trim their hair daily or weekly. Read more in Inside Science.

NIAID director wins Canada Gairdner Global Health Award

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has been awarded 2016’s Global Health Award from the Gairdner Foundation for his decades of work against HIV/AIDS.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has won the 2016 Global Health Award from Canada’s Gairdner Foundation for his work on HIV/AIDS.

Fauci is “one of the towering figures in understanding the natural history of HIV”, John Dirks, president of the Gairdner Foundation, tells The Lancet. Fauci is being given the award for his important fundamental research on the virus, as well as his leadership of NIAID over the past three decades where he contributed to the development of new treatments, and worked on combating AIDS around the world, especially in Africa. “Without him, we would not have made the overwhelming progress that we have made”, says Dirks. Read more in The Lancet.

Calls for more independence for government medical officers

Physicians are calling for Canada’s chief medical officers of health to be given greater independence from provincial governments following the recent firing of New Brunswick’s medical officer, Dr. Eilish Cleary, for reasons that remain unknown.

“The position is too important to allow people to be arbitrarily dismissed,” says Dr. James Talbot, the former chief medical officer of health for Alberta. “We need to be sure they can speak out.” Read more in CMAJ.

Ebola needed better coordinated Canadian response

IMG_7104Canada needs to step up its game when responding to international disease outbreaks, says New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, who spent more than six months in Africa with the World Health Organization during the Ebola outbreak. Dr. Eilish Cleary was disappointed that the Public Health Agency of Canada was not able to deploy teams of public health experts to help with the response.

“When I was there, especially in the beginning, there were a lot of people from other countries — Americans, a lot of Euro­peans particularly, but there were not that many Canadians. Some Canadian doctors had gone independently, but there was no organized group,” she says. “I think the value for money is better if you send teams.” Read more in CMAJ.

Sewage Bacteria Reveal Cities’ Obesity Rates

Urban ‘microbiome’ can offer glimpses into disease trends.

Sampling the waste in a city’s sewage system can be a good way to study the microbes that live in the population’s guts – and could even offer a way to monitor public health issues such as obesity, according to new research.

The community of microbes that live in a person’s gut, known as the microbiome, is intricately tied to that person’s health. The microbiome can influence, and be influenced by, a range of characteristics such as weight, disease, diet, exercise, mood and much more. But it can be difficult to draw large-scale conclusions about what constitutes a “healthy gut” because of the financial and privacy implications of sampling large enough numbers of people.

So a team of researchers led by Sandra McLellan at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Mitchell Sogin at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, set out to test whether they would be able to spot human microbes lurking in the soupy mix of municipal sewage systems, and thus sample entire cities at once. Read more at Inside Science.

Rare enterovirus continues to circulate in North America

D68, an uncommon strain of enterovirus, has caused an unexpectedly high number of respiratory illnesses across the USA and has now appeared in Canada.

A rare strain of enterovirus that can cause severe respiratory illness in children is circulating throughout the USA and Canada, causing a higher than usual number of infections.

Between mid-August and Sept 26, 277 people in 40 states and the District of Columbia have tested positive for enterovirus D68, all but one of them children, reports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)in Atlanta, GA. National numbers are not available for Canada, but the virus has been detected in several provinces, including Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Read more in The Lancet.