Latest research news

September 10, 2003

Vaccine could end drug abuse
Researchers are developing vaccines that might soon help nicotine and cocaine addicts quit their habits, the British Association science festival heard yesterday. Addicts might find it easier to cope with their withdrawal if they found that their drug no longer delivered a rush of euphoria, immunologist Campbell Bunce told the gathering in Salford.
(Guardian, Times, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

Green tea may bag superbugs
Peter Taylor of the School of Pharmacy at the University of London told the British Association festival that the answer to hospital superbugs could be found in green tea, which contains a natural chemical that can make bugs sensitive to antibiotics.
(Times, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph)

Scientists develop 'bacterial battery'
Cheap, portable batteries based on sugar-eating bacteria could be a possibility, say scientists. A novel microbe, found in marine sediments, is able to convert sugar into electricity with a higher efficiency than any previously known organism.

'Living condom' could block HIV
Genetically modified vaginal bacteria may be able to serve as a "living condom", secreting proteins that protect women against HIV, suggests a new report. The bacteria have already been used to cripple the virus in test tube experiments. Now the researchers are verifying whether the unmodified parental strain - a natural component of the vaginal microbial flora - can successfully colonise the vaginal tissues of rhesus macaque monkeys.
(New Scientist)

Suffocation suspected for greatest mass extinction
The oxygen-starved aftermath of an immense global belch of methane left land animals gasping for breath and caused the Earth's largest mass extinction, suggests new research. Greg Retallack, an expert in ancient soils at the University of Oregon in Eugene, says his theory also explains the mysterious survival of a barrel-chested reptile that became the most common animal on the planet after the end of the Permian period, 251 million years ago.
(New Scientist)

Warming warning for Antarctica
The face of Antarctica will change in the next 100 years as ice melts, glaciers retreat, penguins move south and green plants begin to colonise bare rocks of the Antarctic peninsula, researchers warned yesterday. "We know parts of Antarctica are warming, and they are warming very rapidly," Andrew Clarke of the British Antarctic Survey told the British Association festival. "The Antarctic Peninsula is one of three points on the globe that is warming particularly quickly at the moment."

'Super El Nino' could turn Amazon into dustbowl
The Amazon river could dry up and its lush vegetation turn into a dustbowl within 50 years because of global warming, Mat Collins, a senior research fellow at the Meteorological Office in Reading warned yesterday. The stark vision for the Amazon rainforest would result from a shift in rainfall patterns caused by changes in ocean currents in the Pacific. The chances of such a calamity are presently estimated at between only 10 and 20 per cent.

Oil and wildlife 'can co-exist'
In a rare tribute to the energy industry, scientists have praised one company's record in exploiting an African oilfield. They say Shell's field has more wild creatures than the surrounding national parks. The company says its environment policy has changed radically in the past 30 years.

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