Science writer Carl Zimmer talks to Geneticist Christopher Mason at Weill Cornell Medicine in NYC about his mission to study the DNA of astronauts. He’s part of a team of scientists who are examining blood and other samples from astronaut Scott Kelly, who recently spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station. They’re looking at how life in space alters astronauts at a molecular level. They hope their discoveries can help protect astronauts on long-distance trips, such as the proposed mission to Mars.
Importantly, they will also be looking at epigenetic differences (relevant, since epigenetics have been a popular topic lately).
A new case of ebola has been reported in New York City in a doctor who recently worked in West Africa. In a perfectly timed New York Times article, Carl Zimmer examines how contagious ebola is, and how easily it spreads. Turns out… compared to influenza, its not too bad. For all the New Yorkers out there, it is unlikely that anything less than direct contact with the patient, will put you at risk for infection with ebola (primary source here). As witnessed in Dallas, where even family members living in close quarters with Thomas Eric Duncan early in the disease course were not infected.
All the evidence scientists have gathered about Ebola, on the other hand, indicates that it spreads through contact with fluids from infected people. During an infection, the virus makes huge numbers of copies that contaminate the victim’s vomit, blood, diarrhea, urine and saliva.
Unlike the flu, Ebola does not lead to the kinds of coughs and sneezes that create a cloud of aerosols around a patient. Scientists who track the spread of Ebola have found that close contact with an infected person is necessary to become infected.