Parasite genomes mapped
Scientists have mapped out the genomes of two parasites that cause snail fever, a disease that afflicts 210 million rural people worldwide and for which there is still no vaccine. Only one drug exists to fight the disease, which is also known as schistomiasis. Experts hope that by laying out the genetic structure of the parasites, new drugs can be designed to fight them. The Schistosoma mansoni is found in sub-Saharan Africa, parts of the Middle East, Brazil, Venezuela and some Caribbean islands. Some 280,000 people die from snail fever in Africa alone each year. The age-old disease leaves people so weak they are unable to work. Victims suffer fever, abdominal pain, cough, diarrhea, fatigue and distended bellies in advanced stages of the illness. People and cattle are ideal hosts of these parasites and those who are infected shed the parasites in their stools, which in turn infect freshwater snails in paddy fields and lakes. The snails then shed larvae, called cercariae, that infect mammals by tunneling through the tiny pores on their skin.
Former leader on respirator
Former president and Nobel laureate Kim Dae-jung has been placed on a respirator in hospital, a medical official said yesterday. “The president is on a breathing machine but he is not in a life-threatening condition. Vital signs are all normal,” the official at Seoul’s Severance Hospital said. Kim, 83, was taken to a hospital on Monday for a medical check-up after suffering from cold symptoms and a fever, said an aide quoted by Yonhap news agency. On Wednesday he was diagnosed with pneumonia and moved to an intensive care unit.
Dog nurses red panda cubs
Two red panda cubs abandoned by their mother at birth are thriving at a zoo thanks to milk and loving care from an unlikely surrogate mother — a dog, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday. The cubs, born on June 25, were abandoned immediately by their mother after giving birth in front of a crowd of visitors at the Taiyuan Zoo in Shanxi Province. The dog wet nurse, belonging to a farmer from a nearby suburb, was selected from two other candidates that had recently given birth. The dog is now raising the two panda cubs like its own pups, sometimes even refusing to feed its own pup, a zoo official said.
UN official shot dead
A UN official working in a camp for displaced civilians in Peshawar was shot dead during a failed kidnapping attempt yesterday, UN and Pakistani officials said. The wounded Pakistani, who works for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), was rushed to a hospital, where he later died, the officials said. “A national staff of UNHCR at the Kutcha Gari camp has been a victim of a kidnapping attempt that turned into a shooting,” UN spokesman Janos Tisovszky said by telephone. “He was shot in the chest several times and he was rushed to hospital.” Another UN spokeswoman, Stephanie Bunker, said the official later died.
City to honor ‘veil martyr’
The hometown of a pregnant Egyptian woman stabbed to death in a German courtroom is to honor the “veil martyr” with a street in her name, Egypt’s official MENA news agency reported on Wednesday. Alexandria governor Adel Labib “agreed to give the name of martyr Marwa al-Sherbini” to a street in the city, MENA quoted Labib as saying. Sherbini, 31, died in a courtroom in Dresden after being stabbed at least 18 times in front of her son and husband, allegedly by a Russian-born German man. Dresden is also mulling ways to honor her after the killing sparked anger in the Muslim world, including possibly also naming a street after her. Sherbini became known as the “veil martyr” as she was wearing a headscarf when she was attacked for apparently racist motives.