Baxter: Product contaminated with live H5N1 avian flu virus

The company that released contaminated flu virus material from a plant in Austria confirmed Friday that the experimental product contained live H5N1 avian flu viruses.

And an official of the World Health Organization’s European operation said the body is closely monitoring the investigation into the events that took place at Baxter International’s research facility in Orth-Donau, Austria.

“At this juncture we are confident in saying that public health and occupational risk is minimal at present,” medical officer Roberta Andraghetti said from Copenhagen, Denmark.

“But what remains unanswered are the circumstances surrounding the incident in the Baxter facility in Orth-Donau.”

The contaminated product, a mix of H3N2 seasonal flu viruses and unlabelled H5N1 viruses, was supplied to an Austrian research company. The Austrian firm, Avir Green Hills Biotechnology, then sent portions of it to sub-contractors in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany.

The contamination incident, which is being investigated by the four European countries, came to light when the subcontractor in the Czech Republic inoculated ferrets with the product and they died. Ferrets shouldn’t die from exposure to human H3N2 flu viruses.

Public health authorities concerned about what has been described as a “serious error” on Baxter’s part have assumed the death of the ferrets meant the H5N1 virus in the product was live. But the company, Baxter International Inc., has been parsimonious about the amount of information it has released about the event.

On Friday, the company’s director of global bioscience communications confirmed what scientists have suspected.

“It was live,” Christopher Bona said in an email.

The contaminated product, which Baxter calls “experimental virus material,” was made at the Orth-Donau research facility. Baxter makes its flu vaccine — including a human H5N1 vaccine for which a licence is expected shortly — at a facility in the Czech Republic.

Read moreBaxter: Product contaminated with live H5N1 avian flu virus

Oldest human footprints found in Kenya

The oldest human footprints – left more than 1.5 million years ago – have been discovered in northern Kenya.


A fossil footprint left by a human ancestor about 1.5 million years ago in Kenya has been discovered Photo: REUTERS

Two sets of prints left by Homo ergaster, an early ancestor of modern humans. were found in separate rock layers near Ileret.

Laser scanning revealed that feet have stayed much the same over 1.5 million years and the creature walked the same way as people do today.

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Japan’s boffins: Global warming isn’t man-made

Climate science is ‘ancient astrology’, claims report

Japanese scientists have made a dramatic break with the UN and Western-backed hypothesis of climate change in a new report from its Energy Commission.

Three of the five researchers disagree with the UN’s IPCC view that recent warming is primarily the consequence of man-made industrial emissions of greenhouse gases. Remarkably, the subtle and nuanced language typical in such reports has been set aside.

One of the five contributors compares computer climate modelling to ancient astrology. Others castigate the paucity of the US ground temperature data set used to support the hypothesis, and declare that the unambiguous warming trend from the mid-part of the 20th Century has ceased.

The report by Japan Society of Energy and Resources (JSER) is astonishing rebuke to international pressure, and a vote of confidence in Japan’s native marine and astronomical research. Publicly-funded science in the West uniformly backs the hypothesis that industrial influence is primarily responsible for climate change, although fissures have appeared recently. Only one of the five top Japanese scientists commissioned here concurs with the man-made global warming hypothesis.

JSER is the academic society representing scientists from the energy and resource fields, and acts as a government advisory panel. The report appeared last month but has received curiously little attention. So The Register commissioned a translation of the document – the first to appear in the West in any form. Below you’ll find some of the key findings – but first, a summary.

Read moreJapan’s boffins: Global warming isn’t man-made

How to save new brain cells that are created every day of your life

Fresh neurons arise in the adult brain every day. New research suggests that the cells ultimately help with learning complex tasks—and the more they are challenged, the more they flourish

Recent work, albeit mostly in rats, indicates that learning enhances the survival of new neurons in the adult brain. And the more engaging and challenging the problem, the greater the number of neurons that stick around. These neurons are then presumably available to aid in situations that tax the mind. It seems, then, that a mental workout can buff up the brain, much as physical exercise builds up the body.

The findings may be particularly interesting to intellectual couch potatoes whose brains could benefit from a few cerebral sit-ups. More important, though, the results lend some support to the notion that people who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or who have other forms of dementia might slow their cognitive decline by keeping their minds actively engaged.

It’s a New Neuron!

In the 1990s scientists rocked the field of neurobiology with the startling news that the mature mammalian brain is capable of sprouting new neurons. Biologists had long believed that this talent for neurogenesis was reserved for young, developing minds and was lost with age. But in the early part of the decade Elizabeth Gould, then at the Rockefeller University, demonstrated that new cells arise in the adult brain—particularly in a region called the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory. Similar reports soon followed in species from mice to marmosets, and by 1998 neuroscientists in the U.S. and Sweden had shown that neurogenesis also occurs in humans [see “New Nerve Cells for the Adult Brain,” by Gerd Kempermann and Fred H. Gage; Scientific American, May 1999].

In rodents, studies of neurogenesis generally involve injecting the animals with a drug called BrdU (bromodeoxyuridine), which marks newly formed cells, making them stand out when viewed under a microscope. Those studies indicate that in rats, between 5,000 and 10,000 new neurons arise in the hippocampus every day. (Although the human hippocampus also welcomes new neurons, we do not know how many.)

Read moreHow to save new brain cells that are created every day of your life

Toxic cabin air found in new plane study

“Scientists, former pilots and aviation pressure groups have accused the industry of knowing about the problem for decades and doing little to tackle it. But reports linking exposure to contaminated air with long-term harm to health have led to an increase in passengers and crew seeking redress, according to lawyers in the United States.”


Samples taken secretly from the planes of popular airlines have raised fresh concerns over passengers inhaling contaminated air.


Hundreds of incidents of contaminated air have been reported by British pilots Photo: GETTY

Fresh concerns about whether passengers could be inhaling contaminated air on aircraft have resurfaced, after undercover investigators claimed to have found high levels of a dangerous toxin on board several planes.

As part of an investigation by a German television network, ARD, and Schweizer Fernsehen (Swiss television), 31 swab samples were taken secretly last month from the aircraft cabins of popular airlines.

These were analysed in laboratories at the University of British Columbia, under the supervision of Prof Christian van Netten, a leading toxicologist.

Twenty-eight were found to contain high levels of tricresyl phosphate (TCP), an organophosphate contained in modern jet oil as an antiwear additive, which can lead to drowsiness, headaches, respiratory problems or neurological illnesses.

Scientists refer to the condition as Aerotoxic Syndrome. Dr Mackenzie Ross, a clinical neuropsychologist at University College London, says the illness may be affecting up to 200,000 passengers each year.

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Flu may not have killed most in 1918 pandemic


An emergency hospital at Camp Funston, Kansas, for soldiers sickened by the 1918 flu.
REUTERS/National Museum of Health and Medicine/Armed Forces Institute of Pathology/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Strep infections and not the flu virus itself may have killed most people during the 1918 influenza pandemic, which suggests some of the most dire predictions about a new pandemic may be exaggerated, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

The findings suggest that amassing antibiotics to fight bacterial infections may be at least as important as stockpiling antiviral drugs to battle flu, they said.

Keith Klugman of Emory University in Atlanta and colleagues looked at what information is available about the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed anywhere between 50 million and 100 million people globally in the space of about 18 months.

Some research has shown that on average it took a week to 11 days for people to die — which fits in more with the known pattern of a bacterial infection than a viral infection, Klugman’s group wrote in a letter to the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Read moreFlu may not have killed most in 1918 pandemic

Vitamin D is ray of sunshine for multiple sclerosis patients


An MRI scan of the brain of a multiple sclerosis sufferer

Multiple sclerosis could be prevented through daily vitamin D supplements, scientists told The Times last night.

The first causal link has been established between the “sunshine vitamin” and a gene that increases the risk of MS, raising the possibility that the debilitating auto-immune disease could be eradicated.

George Ebers, Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford, claimed that there was hard evidence directly relating both genes and the environment to the origins of MS.

His work suggests that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and childhood may increase the risk of a child developing the disease.

He has also established the possibility that genetic vulnerability to MS, apparently initiated by lack of vitamin D, may be passed through families.

These risks might plausibly be reduced by giving vitamin D supplements to pregnant woman and young children.

“I think it offers the potential for treatment which might prevent MS in the future,” Professor Ebers said.

“Our research has married two key pieces of the puzzle. The interaction of vitamin D with the gene is very specific and it seems most unlikely to be a coincidence of any kind.”

Warnings over sun exposure could now also be called into question – sunlight allows the body to produce the vitamin.

Read moreVitamin D is ray of sunshine for multiple sclerosis patients

Scientists: 40,000 planets could be home to aliens

And Jesus probably has to show up on all of them. Being God’s only begotten son must be a very busy job. No wonder he can’t make it back anytime soon.

From the perspective of an advanced civilization human beings on planet earth look more like a deadly plague, than like the crowning achievement of creation.


Up to 40,000 planets could support alien life forms, scientists at the University of Edinburgh believe.


40,000 planets could be home to aliens Photo: GETTY

Researchers have calculated that up to 37,964 worlds in our galaxy are hospitable enough to be home to creatures at least as intelligent as ourselves.

Related article:
UFOs: database of police sightings of records 310 incidents in six years (Telegraph)

Astrophysicist Duncan Forgan created a computer programme that collated all the data on the 330 or so planets known to man and worked out what proportion would have conditions suitable for life.

The estimate, which took into account factors such as temperature and availability of water and minerals, was then extrapolated across the Milky Way.

Mr Forgan believes that the life forms would not be amoeba wriggling on the end of a microscope but species at least as advanced as humans.

Read moreScientists: 40,000 planets could be home to aliens

World is getting colder: It’s the sun, not CO2, that’s to blame

David J. Bellamy is a professor at three British universities and an officer in several conservation organizations. Mark Duchamp, a retired businessman, has investigated global- warming theory and written more than 100 articles.

After the wet and cold centuries of the Little Ice Age (around 1550-1850 A.D.), the world’s climate recuperated some warmth, but did not replicate the balmy period known as the Middle Age Warm Period (around 800-1300 A.D.), when the margins of Greenland were green and England had vineyards.

Climate began to cool again after World War II, for about 30 years. This is undisputed. The cooling occurred at a time when emissions of C02 were rising sharply from the reconstruction effort and from unprecedented development. It is important to realize that.


Related article: BBC abandons ‘impartiality’ on warming (Telegraph):
Again and again the BBC has been eager to promote every new scare raised by the advocates of man-made global warming. As late as August 28 this year it was still predicting that Arctic ice might soon disappear, just as this winter’ s refreezing was about to take ice-cover back to a point it was at 30 years ago.


By 1978 it had started to warm again, to everybody’s relief. But two decades later, after the temperature peaked in 1998 under the influence of El Nino, climate stopped warming for eight years; and in 2007 entered a cooling phase marked by lower solar radiation and a reversal of the cycles of warm ocean temperature in the Atlantic and the Pacific. And here again, it is important to note that this new cooling period is occurring concurrently with an acceleration in CO2 emissions, caused by the emergence of two industrial giants: China and India.

To anyone analyzing this data with common sense, it is obvious that factors other than CO2 emissions are ruling the climate. And the same applies to other periods of the planet’s history. Al Gore, in his famous movie “The Inconvenient Truth,” had simply omitted to say that for the past 420,000 years that he cited as an example, rises in CO2 levels in the atmosphere always followed increases in global temperature by at least 800 years. It means that CO2 can’t possibly be the cause of the warming cycles.

So, if it’s not CO2, what is it that makes the world’s temperature periodically rise and fall? The obvious answer is the sun, and sea currents in a subsidiary manner.

Read moreWorld is getting colder: It’s the sun, not CO2, that’s to blame