Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – January 2, 2015

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By: Nicholas Jury, Ph.D

Photo credit: PETA

Federal Regulatory Policy

Members of Congress request investigation into U.S. monkey lab

Four members of Congress have submitted an inquiry into the experimental procedures that are being used on non-human primates at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The members sent a letter to Francis Collins, the director of the NIH, asking that he create a new bioethics committee to investigate experiments being conducted on non-human primates at the NIH’s primate center in Poolesville, MD. The letter is most likely in response to an aggressive public relations campaign by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The group requests a bioethical review of the work by February 2015. From September to October 2014 the group purchased advertisements in the Washington, D.C. metro trains and stations decrying the use of millions of tax payer dollars spent on experiments that traumatize the monkeys. In the letter the representatives bring light of the PETA claims and public outcry. “Prominent experts … have raised questions about the scientific and ethical justification of these particular experiments,” the letter states. The NIH says that it will respond directly to Congress and address the letter in detail.

Source: David Grimm (Science Insider)

Photo Credit:  Saéz et al., 2014. Investigating the zoonotic origin of the West African Ebola epidemic.  EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Photo Credit: Saéz et al., 2014. Investigating the zoonotic origin of the West African Ebola epidemic. EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Global Health – Ebola

New clues to where the Ebola epidemic started

The current Ebola epidemic in West Africa started in late 2013 and can be traced to its first victim, Emile Ouamouno, a two-year old boy. A group of German scientists claim that they have identified a potential location of where the first infection occurred, which is a remote region of southeastern Guinea. The location is a hollowed out old cola tree near a small village, Meliandou, Guinea, where the two-year old lived. Trees such as this one have been known to harbor an insect-eating bat species, Mops condylurus.

The researchers believe that this particular bat species, Mops condylurus, is a prime candidate for the zoonotic infection of humans with Ebola because the bats can survive despite infection with Ebola. The German research group set out to identify the source of the infection by traveling to Guinea to collect DNA samples from these bats. However, by March of 2014 that tree and many others had been burned down. No bats were left to collect samples from, so the researchers had to improvise and collect soil samples for DNA analysis. The testing could identify evidences of infection, but could not definitively identify the species of bat. The results of the study, which are published in the journal, EMBO Molecular Medicine, give circumstantial evidence as to this particular bat species being involved in the Ebola infection in this small remote area of Guinea. The lead scientist, Fabian Leendertz, says, “It’s probably the best we can get but we are very unhappy with the data.” In light of this evidence, the bat is still the prime suspect as to how the infection transferred from animals to humans.

Source: Dina Fine Maron (Nature via Scientific American)

Photo Credit: Kara Wall

Photo Credit: Kara Wall

Environmental Policy

Protecting a home where the puffer fish roam in Biscayne National Park

For almost two decades environmentalists, government officials, fisherman, and boaters have debated about how to protect, Biscayne National Park, one of South Florida’s most popular underwater national parks. The issue is that the once abundant supply of grouper and snapper fish has been depleted to historically low levels. Environmentalists state that the area has been overfished and that too much boat activity has dangerously deteriorated the coral reefs and sea grass.

The disagreement over exactly how much regulation over access to fishing and boating within the national park has federal officials weighing their options of how to proceed. One such proposal would ban fishing in roughly six percent of the parks waters to help replenish the supply of snapper and grouper. Florida’s saltwater recreational fishing makes up more than $7.6 billion in revenue each year, which is the largest in the United States. This has state officials proposing incremental fixes that will avoid closing a portion of Biscayne National Park’s millions of acres of water space.

The park’s superintendent, Brian Carlstrom, has stated that the deterioration of the park’s natural resources have been occurring over the last 15 years, and that something must be done to protect these precious resources. He must decide whether to institute a “no take” zone, in which no fishing would be allowed, or whether to institute other measures, such as a size restriction limit on the types of fish being caught. Florida officials do not want to see this particular portion of the park designated a “no take zone” because it is the area of the park that is the most popular and would hurt tourism revenue. However, state and federal officials did agree to a fishing management plan that would set goals for the entire park. The larger question still remains about how to best protect the parks natural resources, while allowing visitors to enjoy them.

Source: Lizette Alvarez (The New York Times)


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Written by sciencepolicyforall

January 2, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Linkposts

Tagged with , , , ,

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