Re: WOE

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AIIIEEEEE EBOLA MOSQUITOES ENGINEER "DENGUE FEVER"; WORLDWIDE DANCE SENSATION SHUTS DOWN INDUSTRY; MILLIONS STARVE


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 9:57 PM
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1. Mosquitos

2. Ebola

3. Sifu Tweety


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 9:59 PM
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Sure, Becks, if the Morgellons doesn't get us first.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:03 PM
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Tweety is patient zero.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:06 PM
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I think I had dengue fever once. I could barely roll out of bed, and it hurt to look out of the corners of my eyes.

Cheaper mosquito nets would help a lot, I imagine. Lots of poor people in developing countries can't afford them.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:08 PM
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1. Mosquitos

2. Ebola

3. Sifu Tweety

4. ?

5. Profit!


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:15 PM
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Everybody put your thinking caps on and solve comment 6, then you just go ahead and let me know.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:16 PM
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People know that another name for dengue fever is "breakbone fever" for the way the muscle cramps and aches make you feel, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:18 PM
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Get them some tax credits. The mosquitoes, I mean. The disincentives to work are just too high, so they start feeding on the tit of the people.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:19 PM
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8: I didn't know that, no, but I'm sure some people do.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:21 PM
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8: BREAKDANCE FEVER!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:22 PM
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Just thought I'd throw in a vote for the dengue fever as really bad, even if it isn't Ebola.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:22 PM
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Not bad as in bad but bad as in good!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:23 PM
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Perhaps we should quarantine Tweety.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:29 PM
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I don't think we can catch anything from him under these circumstances.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:30 PM
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I'm so drooling on my keyboard right now.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:32 PM
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7. Who profits?

Perhaps step 4 is something like use Sifu Tweety's unique biology to cultivate Ebola vaccine. You science types are tricksy that way.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:32 PM
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Clearly, Becks bought stock in Off!® while it was tanking, and now she's trying to drive it back up. Sickening, Becks. Just sickening.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:35 PM
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I remember it felt good somehow to lie in bed with my whole body aching from the fever. Restful. But when it came time to crawl down the street to the phone girl so I could call in sick, I felt like I was going to die. The sun was crazy bright, and I could barely walk.

I slept for most of the next few days, and I would have to turn my whole head to look at something, on account of the pain in my eye sockets. And there was the diarrhea. I went to the doctor, where this beautiful receptionist knelt by my chair, smiling and very patiently asking me questions, and I felt like my colon was going to explode.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 10:40 PM
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19: That sounds like dengue, except for the diarrhea. Was it diagnosed as dengue?


Posted by: the Other Paul | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 11:29 PM
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I was hoping these experiments would be performed far away from me...Alas, the Ebola is right here on my campus at Madison.


Posted by: layman | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 11:33 PM
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21: Consider me committed to assiduously avoiding you. Actually, considering these stories, I may have myself permanently sealed inside a room-sized terrarium.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 11:39 PM
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20: I never found out what I had because I didn't have enough money to see the doctor. The fever went away after a few days, anyway. A while before I had eaten a weird soup at an improvised food stall, with little triangular chunks of meat in it that looked like bits of tongue. So maybe it was from that instead.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 11:41 PM
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A friend of mine from college grew up right next door to Ft. Detrick in Maryland. They keep some nasty stuff there, though he was never too concerned about it.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 11:55 PM
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Think positive, even the most brutal strains of ebola still have a survival rate of 10 percent or so.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 11:59 PM
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Why should I care how much of the ebola lives through the experience?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:02 AM
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Definitely the mosquitoes. The Ebola's not a very big deal. What's the likelihood it will get out? Contrary to movies, tragic lab accidents just don't happen very often. Too bad, too -- I'd have superpowers by now.

The mosquitoes, on the other hand, sound like a recipe for a disaster. Tetracycline just isn't that special of a chemical structure that, set loose in a rain forest, these mosquitoes couldn't find something that mimicked it. I would not trust Darwin to be my friend on this one.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:10 AM
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Speciest.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:10 AM
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28: What would it have been if it were viruses?


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:15 AM
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Just as some would have denied blacks human status, Klug would deny the poor viruses membership in the Tree of Life.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 12:32 AM
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the already existing answer for 6.4:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ca/Stuffed_ebola.jpg


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 3:09 AM
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5. Michael, there's actually a pretty good effort underway on that effort. It arose out of stopping malaria rather than dengue, but still.

www.nothingbutnets.net


Posted by: shpx.ohfu | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:57 AM
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Hey, the mozzie thing isn't that weird; remember the special mutant screwworm flies they released to control a cattle disease? And viral attenuation is only as old as, uh, Pasteur.

Can haz blithe middle-class ignorance? Thx!


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 4:58 AM
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Unhand me, sir! Outrageous impertinence!


Posted by: Blythe Middle-Classignorance | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:10 AM
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remember the special mutant screwworm flies they released to control a cattle disease?

True, dat. Screwworm has been eliminated from the U.S. for decades, and it is getting close to elimination in the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Some pockets in the jungles of Central America remain. Before this campaign, it was basically impossible to profitably raise cattle in the Southern United States. Screwworm is directly responsible for a (no longer so pronounced) cultural difference between North and South: the fact that Northerners tended to eat beef and Southerners tended to eat pork.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:31 AM
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In my amateur understanding of the epidemiology of Ebola, the horror scenario is the appearance of a mutant strain that isn't quite as fatal. Today the virus usually kills, and kills quickly, so the risk of contagion is contained. If a strain were to develop that had a longer incubation period, or were not quite so incapacitating, or (worst case) had asymptomatic carriers, the world could have a catastrophe on its hands.

Seen in this light, the attenuation approach makes me a tad nervous. (Yes, I grokked that the specific intervention in this case was to interfere with replication, but still, CREEPY GERMS!)


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:39 AM
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It occurs to me that the biotech industry has hit upon a pretty effective strategy for getting the camel's nose under the tent in the debate over genetically modified organisms.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:45 AM
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37 refers to the genetically modified dengue mosquito story, in case that wasn't obvious.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:47 AM
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They refer to the modified mosquitos as "Terminator Mosquitos". That can't be a good sign. They're mosquitos from the future, man!


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 5:47 AM
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But if you won the bet, how would you collect?


Posted by: Biggering | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:15 AM
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re: 36

This has (possibly) already happened. There's a strain floating around now in central Africa that seems to be less lethal and with a longer incubation period.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22114246/


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:16 AM
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iirc, Scotland has a release program for sterile midges, too. To stop the little bloodsucking bastards rendering 50% of the country uninhabitable in the summer.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:17 AM
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I felt pretty sheepish the other day when the nice man from the government came around the back of my house and showed I had mosquitoes breeding in the rainwater that had collected around the edges of an upturned storage bin from ikea. it was molded plastic with little indentations in the underside where your fingers can grip when it's upright; those were each holding about a half-cup of water full of little inching prawns of death. SGD$100 fine, but well-deserved, and I like their aggressive mosquito abatement efforts. it's to combat dengue.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 6:28 AM
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In other biotech news, Maryland Scientists Build Bacterial Chromosome

(And what is it with the WaPo covering these science stories from the Metro desk?)


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:00 AM
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I haven't read the actual research papers, but I'd be a little more worried about the ebola, and not too worried about either.
The mosquito thing is not a big deal- let's say the lethal gene is mutated to no longer be lethal, or that they somehow found a symbiont that could live inside them and produce tetracycline (highly unlikely, and they're not going to be able to just eat dirt to get Tet- mosquitos eat blood.) The result is just mosquitos that can reproduce normally. Oh noes, the world has never seen such a thing, teh horror!
The only concern with the Ebola is if they manage to pick up the missing VP30 gene from the monkey cells. However, Ebola does not splice itself into the host genome, unlike HIV, so I can't imagine how this would happen. The Ebola genome is a single RNA strand, there's no part of the normal lifecycle that would allow the host VP30 gene to be spliced back into the Ebola genome. Even so, it's not like this version of Ebola is going to be used in someone's basement- there are NIH guidelines about working with large fractions of viral genomes, the attenuated Ebola will still probably be handled at BSL3.
44- That's not so impressive yet because they haven't gotten it to form an actual bacteria yet. They just ordered lots of DNA from synthesis companies and stuck it together, which has been done many times, just not at this scale.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:03 AM
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37: It occurs to me that the biotech industry has hit upon a pretty effective strategy for getting the camel's nose under the tent in the debate over genetically modified organisms.

Not meaning ot go all Kurzweil or anything, but I think this (actually the broader context of purposeful manipulations of life directly at the genetic level) will be THE technology story of the next 50 years in the way that computing has been for the past 50*. I don't think it will wipe us out or anything, (but, sure, mistakes will be made), but I do think at the end of the day it will radically alter our conceptions of life and ourselves.

*And I think those two threads will merge during that time—so it's the smart Ebola of 2050 you've got to watch out for.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:13 AM
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From the mosquito article:

By postponing death with tetracycline, the scientists can keep the altered bugs alive long enough to breed them in large numbers. When released into the wild, they no longer receive tetracycline so the previously silenced gene springs into action. The bugs stay alive long enough to breed with wild females, but their offspring die young.
In other words, the mosquitoes are genetically poisoned, but Alphey's team provides the antidote until they are released in the wild.
"It occurred to me that this could be used to give death, sterility or whatever you want in insects," Alphey said.

Isn't that the plot of "Jurassic Park"? They engineered the dinosaurs to be unable to produce the enzyme lysine, so that in theory they couldn't survive in the wild. But at the end of the book the survivors heard about some mysterious animals that had recently passed through farms on the mainland, and they happened to eat a lot of spinach and chickens and lysine-rich foods on the way.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:39 AM
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Should I be the w-lfs-n of biochemistry? Lysine is an amino acid, not an enzyme.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 7:45 AM
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48: you can be, if we get the dsquared of biochemistry over here too to point out that Jurassic Park is complete horse manure from a scientific point of view.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 9:42 AM
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In Narnia you can neither chew gum nor breed mosquitoes not vandalize shit, and if you do they flog you! Tropical paradise my ass!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:51 PM
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There is a lysine enzyme, though. Possible verbal slip.

"Enzyme" is a function rather than a description, I think.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 2:55 PM
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Wiki just told me that "vitamins" are just compounds necessary for life which are not synthesized within the body. They have various sorts of chemical structures. Vitamin D is a vitamin to the extent that the body can't sythesize enough (due to lack of sun, etc.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-25-08 3:06 PM
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