Showing posts from February, 2018

A Viral Epidemic in Waiting and How to Avert It: Embracing Materials Virology

The flu vaccine this year in the US has only been 36% effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with several thousand human fatalities reported so far. US is going through one of its worst flu seasons in recent times. The devil is the dreaded flu strain, H3N2. Influenza claims 290000 to 650000 human lives worldwide annually (World Health Organization). Flu vaccines are modified each year according to strain predictions. Defense mechanism in the strains can, however, overcome these vaccines. In general, influenza viruses have high mutation rates, a fact that has, so far, kept the arrival of a universal flu vaccine at bay. If the above does not scare you (I am sure it does!), let us talk about ‘zombie pathogens’. Imagine giant, complex viruses that thrived freely on life forms several thousands of years ago, but have been hibernating ever since in the polar caps. Modern lifeforms, including us, have not interacted with these pathogens leaving

Is Social Media Destroying Society?

I come from India. Decades ago, the Indian village life and culture was characterized by the simple and meek village folk gathering around a banyan tree, of which every village would proudly boast of, and discuss ‘global’ matters. The matters would encircle the local agriculture, the overall village health, neighbors, families, politics, and the like. These sittings, or ‘panchayats’ as they were called, had a social aspect. One could often see the village folk behaving and acting as a cumulative whole, as a well-knit extended family. The discussions though often lacked the bigger picture: what were the latest trends in science and technology and what was new in geopolitics? Things soon began to change with the younger generations seeking greener pastures and leaking into the adjoining cities. Globalization further punctured the village borders. Younger generation soon found itself at crossroads: one path led to the ancestral lands, memories and culture that shaped and molded it;