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September 12, 2012 | By Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times
The population of mice that carry hantavirus may have swelled in Yosemite National Park, a possible lead in the ongoing investigation into an outbreak of infections that has killed three people since mid-June. Recent trapping related to the investigation indicates that the park's deer mouse population is larger this year, said Dr. Vicki Kramer, head of the California Department of Public Health's vector-borne disease section. Deer mice are the primary carriers of hantavirus in the U.S. Agency officials have twice laid peanut butter-laced traps for the rodents at the park, Kramer said.
September 2, 2012 | By Todd Martens
The second and final day of the FYF Fest in downtown Los Angeles was three hours old before it received a wake-up call. It came in the form of a menacing bass rumble and a cloud of dust, the latter of which was quickly becoming visible from a nearby tent dedicated to comedy and electronic music. From a distance, it looked as though something may have been wrong. Security need not have worried, even as officials kept a nervous eye on the swelling mosh pit. All that was happening was a mid-afternoon set by Ceremony, a Northern California punk band that understands the value of musical thriftiness, the importance of a fist-in-the-air guitar riff and the crowd-unifying power of a simple lyric.
August 16, 2012 | By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times
Ever wonder why there's no birth control pill for men? For starters, it's a math problem: To stop a woman from getting pregnant, all you have to do is block a single egg each month. But a man produces millions of sperm each day -- about 1,000 every time his heart beats. Blocking them all is a much bigger task. This helps explain why no one has come up with a reversible form of birth control for men since the condom was introduced centuries ago. (The first unambiguous description of the prophylactic's use appears in a 1564 writing called "De Morbo Gallico," which describes a syphilis outbreak in Europe that began in France in the 1490s.)
August 13, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Presumably, when people buy antibacterial soap, the idea is to kill bad germs and promote health. But over the years, scientists and public health advocates have worried that triclosan -- a common chemical in antibacterial soap -- may actually do more harm than good. The latest warnings come from a team of researchers who ran a series of tests that showed that triclosan hindered muscle performance in isolated cells and in animals. Writing Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, UC Davis toxicologist Isaac Pessah and colleagues reported that exposure to the chemical in doses similar to what a person or animal might encounter in everyday life, impaired isolated muscle cells' ability to contract; decreased heart function and grip strength in mice; and slowed swimming activity in fathead minnows.
August 3, 2012 | By Melissa Rohlin
A University of Illinois student playfully taunted an umpire by playing the song "Three Blind Mice" after he made a questionable call during a minor league baseball game between the Daytona Cubs and the Fort Myers Miracle in Florida on Wednesday. Umpire Mario Seneca apparently didn't find the dig funny and ejected the deejay, 21-year-old Derek Dye. Dye, a sports management major, was surprised that Seneca was so offended by his music choice. "It was the first time we've ever played it," Dye told the Chicago Tribune, "and within about three or four seconds, the home plate umpire looks at me, points directly at me and yells, 'You're gone!
July 26, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times
The psychedelic image above is a super-close-up view of the skin -- and the brightly colored blobs are immune cells. What's it about? Read on. Evidence is mounting that the bacteria that live on our bodies affect our health, for good or ill. It's a hot area of research , much of it centered on the gut -- and no wonder, for this is the spot where the richest bacterial communities are found. The bugs that dwell there seem to help our immune systems develop along the right lines, among other things.
July 12, 2012 | By Jon Bardin, Los Angeles Times
There's a new weapon in the fight against the flu: Researchers have discovered that a synthetic protein called EP67, commonly used as a helper molecule in vaccines, is highly effective on its own when taken within 24 hours of infection. Vaccines are currently the best weapon we have against the flu. But vaccines target individual strains of the virus, meaning that if public health experts guess incorrectly when they develop that season's flu shot, it will do little good for the population.
June 21, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Last week, scientists reported on a 5-year study of all the bacteria that inhabit the human body - 100 trillion of them, weighing 2 to 6 pounds total (in a 200-pound person) - and of 10,000 different types, though not all of them will reside in any one particular person. This week, an interesting article published in the journal Cell points to just how crucial the correct bacteria may be for developing a robust immune system. Scientists know that mice reared in a germ-free environment don't develop normally.
June 20, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Score one for man's best friend. For folks who start to sneeze and wheeze as soon as they enter a dog owner's home, new research may come as a surprise: Dust from households with dogs may help protect against an asthma-related respiratory infection, according to results presented Tuesday at this year's General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Previous research has pointed to the idea that sharing space with cats and dogs could actually be beneficial to the immune system.
May 18, 2012 | By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
In an age of long commutes, late sports practices, endless workdays and 24/7 television programming, the image of Mom hanging up her dish towel at 7 p.m. and declaring "the kitchen is closed" seems a quaint relic of an earlier era. It also harks back to a thinner America. And that may be no coincidence. A new study, conducted on mice, hints at an unexpected contributor to the nation's epidemic of obesity - and, if later human studies bear it out, a possible way to have our cake and eat it too, with less risk of weight gain and the diseases that come with it. Just eat your cake - or better yet, an apple - earlier.
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