Links to go viral – 11th January 2015

Three interesting pieces from this week to feed your brain:

“Should we curb our appetite for beef? | Microbe Post”

Fascinating window into the viruses that exist in our food. Some polyomaviruses are carcinogens, including Merkel Cell polyomavirus in humans. Interestingly, the ability to cause tumours may result from the recent introduction of such viruses from a natural host species into a brand new one. Whilst a link to cancer in humans is speculative right now, it’s a link worth investigating. 

“Why Doesn’t Everyone Get the Flu Vaccine? — Freakonomics Radio — Overcast”

A great podcast (35min) covering vaccine hesitancy, the damage to international healthcare efforts caused by the CIA campaign to assassinate Osama Bin Laden, more US-centric reasons for avoiding the flu vaccine, how to increase the number of people getting shots and self-interested vs altruistic vaccination. 

An interesting reason for avoiding the vaccine is the perception that it’s not necessary. There’s a paradox of public opinion and public action: when the vaccine is working the disease is less of a problem, which in turn reduces the disease’s newsworthiness, which in turn reduces the public perception of flu being a problem. The end result? “Who worries about getting the shot if flu isn’t a problem?”

“An unexpected benefit of inactivated poliovirus vaccine”

Vincent Racaniello’s blog post about a cool study looking at the ability of the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to boost mucosal immunity in children previously receiving oral polio vaccination (OPV).

IPV is a killed preparation of virus that stops paralytic polio disease, but doesn’t prevent wild polio infecting the human gut. With the aim of eradicating polio, stopping the spread of the virus is crucial. 

OPV is great at stopping virus spread but is itself a live virus preparation that can (on very rare occasion) mutate and spread through the human population.  

Neither vaccine alone appears to hold the key to eradicating the virus, but this new study shows a third way: follow one with the other. 

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