MRSA attacks the Castro

A new variety of antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria that may be spread by sexual contact is striking gay men in San Francisco and other cities.

A study released online by the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found the infection rate in 94114 ZIP code of San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood was 1 in 588. Gay men are 13 times more likely to be infected than the rest of the city’s residents.

The infection crops up where skin-to-skin contact occurs during sexual activity, such as the the buttocks and genitalia. Doctors say the risk of infection can be minimized by showering with soap and water after sexual activity.

Read the story from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Teens Who Get Sex Ed Delay Having Sex

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“Sex education seems to be working,” said Trisha Mueller, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mueller is the lead author of a study that showed that young people who get sex ed in school are much more likely to delay first sexual intercourse. Male and female teens who received sex education in school were significantly more likely to be virgins at age 15. Sex ed decreased their chances of having first intercourse before that age by 71% and 59%, respectively.

In addition, among males in school, those who got sex ed were 2.77 times more likely to use birth control during first intercourse than those who got no such education. Sex ed seemed to have no effect on whether female teens used birth control.

Read the story from ScienceDaily.

Giraffes are Really Six Species

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picture from the BBC

To you and me, one giraffe may look like any other, but genetic research out of UCLA suggests that the familiar animal is actually six different species.

Biologists generally define a species as a group of similar animals that can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. While a giraffe in the zoo will breed with any other giraffe, wild giraffes self-segregate into six distinct mating groups whose spots vary in color and shape.

The groups’ territories overlap, suggesting the giraffes could interbreed but choose not to. “The female Maasai giraffe may be looking at the male reticulated giraffe and thinking, ‘I don’t look like you; I don’t want to mate with you’,” lead author David Brown told the BBC.

Although both the Maasai giraffe and the reticulated giraffe live in Kenya, the genetic information shows the two groups separated 0.5 to 1.5 million years ago.

Read the story from the BBC.

South Africa Searches for Escaped TB Patients

Forty-nine patients with multi-drug-resistant (MDR) or extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis cut through a wire fence to escape a Johannesburg hospital last week. Twenty-six patients have since returned, but the rest remain at large.

Authorities said the patients wanted to spend Christmas with their families.

South Africa is confronting an epidemic of tuberculosis, which is especially dangerous for the country’s 5.4 million citizens living with HIV. Several South African provinces have taken legal action to keep patients with drug-resistant TB under quarantine. Some of the recent escapees had been isolated in the hospital for eighteen months.

Read the story from the BBC or from FOX News.

Sperm Makes HIV more Infectious

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A component of human semen can make the HIV virus up to 100,000 more virulent, according to new research published in the journal Cell. German scientists looking for a possible HIV inhibitor examined many of the 900 peptides found in human semen, and discovered bits of a protein called prostatic phosphatase. Those protein bits link up to form chunky amyloid fibers, which the scientists called “semen-derived enhancer of virus infection” (SEVI). In rats, SEVI-treated HIV was five times more infectious than HIV alone.

Squirrels Use Snakeskin Cologne

Researchers from UC-Davis observed two species of squirrel picking up rattlesnake skin, chewing it, and spreading it on their fur. The squirrels appear to be smearing themselves with snake scent in order to avoid being sniffed out by predators. The snake smell can mask the squirrel’s own scent, or convince a squirrel-craving serpent that another snake is around. The scent-masking behavior is carried out most often by female squirrels and juveniles, which are more vulnerable to predation than male squirrels.

Read the full story.

Recipient of Face Transplant Doing Well

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picture from the NEJM

The woman who received the world’s first partial face transplant has regained nearly full use of her facial muscles eighteen months after surgery. The update on the woman was published in the December 13th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Isabelle Dinoire was mauled by her Labrador retriever in 2005 after she overdosed on sleeping pills. Surgeons took the lips, chin, and nose from a 46-year-old brain-dead woman and grafted them onto Dinoire’s face. Her surgeon reports that Dinoire is “satisfied with the aesthetic result”.


See a video of Isabelle talking and smiling from the New England Journal of Medicine.

Read the story from the NYTimes.