Life as an Extreme Sport

Know Your Species: SUDV vs. EBOV

Last night, it was confirmed that at least some of the hemorrhagic deaths in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of Congo are from an ebolavirus–but it looks like it’s species Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV), rather than the one ravaging Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and trying to get a foothold in Nigeria: species Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV). Technically, EBOV is the only member virus within the species Zaire ebolavirus, but let’s keep it simple. …simpler. In other words, while the two outbreaks involve members of the same family (Filoviridae) and the same genus (Ebolavirus), they are not the same species. It might help to think about cats.Ian Mackay uses cars, and goes into much more detail. But frankly, it’s the internet. Cats are the obvious go-to. Like these guys: While these cats are both members of the same family (Felidae) and the same genus (Felis), their species are different. In fact,

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Paternalism, Procedure, Precedent: The Ethics of Using Unproven Therapies in an Ebola Outbreak

The WHO medical ethics panel convened Monday to discuss the ethics of using experimental treatments for Ebola in West African nations affected by the disease. I am relieved to note that this morning they released their unanimous recommendation: “it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.” There are, of course, the common caveats about ethical criteria guiding the interventions, but ultimately the recommendation has saved me from a tortured “WHO’s on first”-style commentary.[note]For other commentary on the committee composition, see Udo Schuklenk’s short, sweet, and to the point commentary; you can also read his reaction to their statement here.[/note] I’m sure we all appreciate that. But just because the WHO recommendation follows what I’ve been arguing for the last 10-odd days doesn’t mean that the argument is actually over. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s

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The Flaw in “Where Did it Come From?!” Ebola Panic Narratives

I am an aficionado, if you will, of the mystery plague novel. I can probably place the blame for that somewhere between my father and the science fiction he raised me on, and Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.I was always bitter about the differences between book and movie, moreso than just about any other adaptation. And of course, one of the key aspects of the mystery plague novel is the driving question of “where did it come from?” The thinking typically goes that if we know the plague origin, we can cure it, and a panicked rush to discover both origin and cure drives many (if not most) stories in the genre. So it’s not too surprising to see the mystery plague origin pop up in the West Africa Ebola outbreak coverage. There seems to be a lot of concern about it’s unknown origins, how did the virus get from

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VSS Post-Show: Emily Willingham, PhD

This week on Virtually Speaking Science, my guest was Dr. Emily Willingham. Emily received both her BA and PhD at the University of Texas, Austin; the former was in English and the latter in Biological Sciences.You might be seeing a pattern with my guests. Her dissertation was on the effects of atrazine and temperature on the sex development of red slider turtles; she went on to do a fellowship in pediatric urology at University of California, San Francisco. On academic achievement alone, Emily is impressive, but she didn’t forget her English background when she wandered into science. Instead, she has written for Scientific American, The Scientist, The New York Times, Slate, and Discover; has a regular column at Forbes called The Science Consumer; and is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of DoubleX Science. She was a Shorty Award finalist in 2013, as well as being selected for the Open Lab 2013

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