The observable effects of climate, habit, diet, and other causes, on length of life, have furnished the pretext for asserting its indefinite extension; and the sandy foundation on which the argument rests is that, because the limit of human life is undefined, because you cannot mark its precise term, and say so far exactly shall it go no further, that therefore its extent may increase for ever, and be properly termed indefinite or unlimited.

An Essay on the Principle of Population

Previous posts

One Health 2024

Because people tend to congregate indoors when it is cold or rainy, flu and COVID-19 are weather sensitive

This page was initiated in Hong Kong in year 2000, when blogs did not exist yet, at the HKU-Pasteur Research Centre Ltd, a joint venture between the University of Hong Kong and the Institut Pasteur, established by Antoine Danchin. It does not compete with information provided by news agencies such as Agence France Presse or Reuters but selects information occasionally not discovered by the mainstream media. It also provides some information on the History of Science and the creation of concepts used by modern biology. Access to the very nature of Science is discussed in a lecture given at Zhong Shan University (中山大學) in Guangzhou (广州). You can also follow our E-seminar for ongoing open discussions. Finally, the importance of China is stressed as an often enigmatic actor of the world development.

Unlike 10 years ago, when little information was available, there are now a multitude of data sources.  Crawford Kilian's blog, which has expanded to include all sorts of other diseases and which keeps track of the Web, is highly recommended. The Center for Infectious Disease Research Policy (CIDRAP), University of Minnesota and the World Health Organization (WHO) sites are major sources of information. Many sites provide interesting information on seasonal flu (especially type A H3N2), avian flu (H5N1) and swine flu A (H1N1). For H7N7, H7N9, H3N8 and H9N2 influenza, see the Hong Kong Health Authorities alerts. In general, new emerging pathogens are mainly viruses. Note that among the possible outbreaks that would have negative consequences (much more than the COVID-19 episode, which may be relatively mild, but would have negative consequences as it progresses) are influenza outbreaks, especially those related to the H2N2 serotype, which could be much more deadly. Hopefully, unlike SARS, the current outbreak will have served as a lesson.

For COVID-19 note that the figures provided are purely indicative and changing fast

To display the content of daily news, click on a triangle or on Full news | Titles only

arrow 18 April 2024. A biodegradable gel containing nematodes protects corn against a caterpillar pest. The widespread abuse of pesticides not only contaminates the environment, but also leads to the rapid selection of resistant insect pests. Swiss researchers have come up with the idea of using a natural predator, encased in a gel that sticks to the plant, as an insecticidal agent. The armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda is fond of the gel stuck to the plant, and becomes infected by the nematodes trapped there, which multiply by killing it. This approach can be generalized and should soon be imitated.
arrow 28 March 2024. Animals are heavily contaminated by human viruses. Genomic analysis of more than 12 million viral genomes performed by scientists at the University College in London, showed than among those, more than 3,000 jumped from one species to another vertebrate species. 79% jumped from one animal to another one, while the remaining involved our species. However, two third of the infections were from man-to-animal when one third was from animal-to-man. A considerable proportion involved domesticated animals and pets in particular. Change of host is always associated to a burst in the number of mutations affecting the virus, following its adaptation to its new host.
arrow 23 January 2024. Catastrophic death score of elephant seal pups in South Argentina. The new influenza virus strain H5N1 is creating havoc in the Argentina's Valdés Peninsula: more than 17,000 elephant seal pups died suddently from the disease with corpses everywhere on shores. The most concerning observation is that contagion seems to have happen from pup to pup, and not from contact with other dead animals. Until recently the virus did not transmit within mammalian species but from infected birds to mammals. This new development should be closely monitored as the scope of infection might reach man.
arrow 21 January 2024A Chinese researcher uploaded a genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to a database linked to the INSDC on December 28, 2019, 2 weeks before the Chinese government formally released the sequence. The sequence was quickly deleted from the database (January 16, 2020), about one week after the China CDC entered an almost identical sequence on January 10, 2020 in a database associated to GenBank, an INSDC partner, on January 12. This information, previously mentioned, reinforces the mystery surrounding the origin of the pandemic.
arrow 16 January 2024. We are not out of the woods yet: Laboratory experiments in China test a highly lethal coronavirus. In virology accidents are the rule, not the exception. How can we perceive the fact that at a high security laboratory of the chinese People Liberation Army, a group of "humanized" mice were administered with SARS-CoV-2-related pangolin coronavirus GX_P2V to test its effect. All mice died, after the disease had spread from the lungs to the brain. Notably, the virus had been adapted to mice cells through serial cell culture passages. The study is published in bioRxiv.
arrow 1 January 2024. Anti-COVID-19 vaccines and emerging diseases. The USA-based project NextGen for a life-long vaccine against COVID-19 will begin large scale human experiments. Three vaccines have been chosen for phase 2b trials (10,000 participants):
  • A self-amplifying synthetic RNA vaccine aiming to be “variant-proof” from Gritstone Bio;
  • Covi-Vac/CoviLiv: A live virus intranasal vaccine from Codagenix;
  • Castlevax viral vector intranasal vaccine, from a Mount Sinai Hospital spin-off.
  • In this context it is important to remember that synthetic RNA slips into ribosomes when being translated, generating spurious polypeptides that are immunogenic. The consequences of this situation is not yet explored. In the case of possible flu epidemics, the reassortment of influenza viruses must be closely monitored. Finally, there is a strong and very dangerous propaganda trying to allow the development of "gain of function" (GoF) experiments, using the fact that the expression is extremely ambiguous. Supporters of the concept, for example, stress that heterologous expression of proteins in cells could be considered as resulting from a gain of function. This is obscuring the fact that making viruses innocuous to man propagate efficiently in human cells, for example, is a very dangerous GoF experiment, with no serious justification. It only serves to ensure the notoriety of its authors.