Are mothers too easy to blame? – Nature book review

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Rachel Yehuda’s 2016 study claimed that the children of Holocaust survivors have epigenetic changes at a particular site in the genome, and those changes make them more susceptible to stress. Yehuda’s study has been criticized often for its small sample size, tiny control group and outsize claims of causality. Sarah Richardson’s book The Maternal Imprint broadens this criticism to the field of human transgenerational epigenetics more generally. She argues that social assumptions about maternal responsibility lend ideas in this field more credibility than they deserve on the basis of the data. 

The children of sickle cell disease are growing up – Nature

Taj Francis

Sickle-cell disease was once a childhood ailment, simply because many children with the condition died before reaching adulthood. Since 1972, the United States has managed to drastically reduce childhood deaths from the disease, but the outlook has worsened for adults. 

“Adult sickle-cell programmes should be funded like the paediatric ones are,” says Sophie Lanzkron, a haematologist specializing in adults at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s not about education: specialists generally know what to do, the health-care system just isn’t doing it, she says.

What Parents Need to Know About the New Mask Guidance – Slate

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that people vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks indoors. Plenty has been written about whether this decision was well communicated, whether it was too hasty, and whether it could possibly have the intended effect of swaying anyone toward vaccines. But if you’re a parent like me, already exhausted from a year of trying to take care of a small person during a global crisis, you likely have one overarching question: What am I supposed to do now?

“It seems like kids are just getting overlooked in this,” says Tara Smith, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Kent State University in Ohio and parent of a 7-year-old. To navigate this new morass of risk calculations, I spoke to Smith and Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor at the University of California, San Francisco. They had somewhat different outlooks—illustrating just how much work is being thrust on parents right now to make constant judgment calls.

How much should we really worry about the coronavirus variants? – Slate

Photo: Jacek Pobłocki on Unsplash

New coronavirus variants are spreading: the so-called South Africa, U.K., and Brazil variants, as well as newer variants like the ones that have popped up in New York City and California. You might have some questions about what this all means for vaccines, masks (and lack thereof), and our general future. I spoke to four experts, and here’s what they say we know—and what we’re still waiting to find out.

Bees die needlessly as Zika prompts US state to spray pesticide – New Scientist

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It was an avoidable massacre. Beekeepers in Dorchester County, South Carolina, saw 48 of their hives killed off on 28 August. The culprit was a pesticide, sprayed from a plane with the aim of killing mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus. But South Carolina’s mosquito population isn’t yet known to carry Zika – and even if the virus is present, there are ways to kill the mosquitoes without killing bees.

The Vulturepocalpyse Is Coming, and It’s Bad News

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Vultures are in trouble. Worldwide, 73 percent of vulture species are endangered or near threatened with extinction; only six of 22 species aren’t threatened. The problem is particularly bad in Africa and on the Indian subcontinent, where the birds are mostly killed by poisons and a veterinary anti-inflammatory drug used on livestock, finds a new study in the journal Biological Conservation by Evan Buechley and Çağan Şekercioğlu of the University of Utah.

The prospect of losing the unattractive, bald-headed carrion-eaters may not seem alarming for humans, but it is.

Read the full story in Mental Floss.

Artificial Intelligence Offers a Better Way to Diagnose Malaria

Image credit: Intellectual Ventures Laboratory

An algorithm for spotting malaria under the microscope could bring accurate, rapid diagnosis to understaffed areas.

For all our efforts to control malaria, diagnosing it in many parts of the world still requires counting malaria parasites under the microscope on a glass slide smeared with blood. Now an artificial intelligence program can do it more reliably than most humans.

Read the full article in MIT Technology Review.