Egypt Independent: Science-Main news http://www.egyptindependent.com//enhome_channel/Environment/rss.xml en Brazil says Zika-linked microcephaly cases stable at 4,908 http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2469138 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2016/04/27/505021/zika.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p><span id="articleText"><span class="focusParagraph">The number of confirmed and suspected cases of microcephaly in Brazil associated with the Zika virus remained stable at 4,908 in the week through April 23, just one case more than a week earlier, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.</span></span></p><p><span id="articleText">Of these, the number of confirmed cases climbed to 1,198 from 1,168 a week earlier, but suspected ones under investigation continued to decline to 3,710 from 3,741 a week ago.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">Cases that have been ruled out rose to 2,320 in the week through April 23, from 2,241 a week earlier, the ministry said.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">Brazil considered most of the cases of babies born with abnormally small heads to be related to Zika, though the link between the virus and the birth defects has not been scientifically established. </span></p><p><span id="articleText">Brazil has registered 91,387 likely cases of the Zika virus from February until April 2, the health ministry said earlier on Tuesday, in its first national report on the epidemic.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">The country&#39;s populous southeast, which includes Olympic city Rio de Janeiro, registered the most diagnoses of any region, with 35,505 likely cases.</span></p> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 14:14:00 +0000 Reuters 2469138 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2016/04/27/505021/zika.jpg World's first solar-powered plane lands in California after Pacific flight http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2469101 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2016/04/26/43/cgxp_oxwwaev_dk.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>An experimental plane flying around the world without a single drop of fuel landed in California after a two-and-a-half day flight across the Pacific.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Piloted by Swiss explorer and psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse 2 touched down in Mountain View just before midnight, local time.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It&#39;s a new era. It&#39;s not science fiction. It&#39;s today,&quot; Piccard told CNN from California after his successful voyage. &quot;It exists and clean technologies can do the impossible.&quot;</div><div>Images of the elegant solar aircraft, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 but only weighs about as much as an SUV, flying over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay mark a significant achievement. The team has seen the project beset with problems and setbacks during its pioneering airborne circumnavigation.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;I&#39;m very happy that everything works extremely well and the airplane is functioning as it should,&quot; Piccard&#39;s business partner and the plane&#39;s other pilot, Swiss engineer Andre Borschberg, told CNN by phone from California just ahead of the successful, on-schedule landing.</div><div>&quot;It&#39;s a demonstration that the tech is reliable.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The plane took off from Hawaii on Thursday, resuming a journey that had stalled on the island of Oahu for almost 10 months.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It lifted off just before sunrise Friday to cheers and applause. On arrival into the skies above California, it flew holding patterns for several hours above San Francisco Bay in celebration of the achievement.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As dusk fell over the city, the team posted striking images on its social media accounts.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Because the plane travels at about the same speed as a car, the Hawaii-California leg took just over 62 hours to complete.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>While Piccard was at the controls for this ninth leg of the round-the-world trip, he and Borschberg, take turns flying the plane solo.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The flight has benefited from a &quot;very stable weather window,&quot; Solar Impulse spokeswoman Alexandra Gindroz said, and is expected to touch down on schedule.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The solar plane looks like a giant high-tech dragonfly and requires near-perfect conditions to fly.</div><div>After all, it&#39;s the weather &mdash; particularly the sun &mdash; that ultimately decides the schedule of this journey, even with dozens of engineers and experts monitoring the plane&#39;s every move.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Nobody&#39;s done this before,&quot; managing director Gregory Blatt said. &quot;There&#39;s no guidebook. There&#39;s no best practice.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The team has learned this the hard way.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/160424123139-solar-impulse-2-piccard-takeoff-hawaii-super-169.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 302px;" /></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Rolling with the punches</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Solar Impulse 2 was originally supposed to land in Abu Dhabi, where it started its journey in March 2015, by the end of last summer.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But a series of frustrating weather delays in China slowed progress for weeks, followed by an unexpected diversion to Japan, where the aircraft was damaged on the tarmac by a storm. Still, the pilots and their team of more than 100 pushed onward, repairing the aircraft and preparing it for what they called &quot;the moment of truth&quot; &mdash; the Pacific crossing to Hawaii.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It was a moment of human achievement. For almost five days and five nights, Borschberg piloted the plane wearing an oxygen mask as it climbed up 8,000 meters high during the day, its solar cells soaking up enough energy to propel the aircraft through the night.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>&#39;We made a mistake&#39;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>While Borschberg set a new record for the solo flight, clocking in at 117 hours and 52 minutes, a chain of events caused the batteries to overheat.</div><div>It was only after he landed that the team discovered how bad the damage was.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We made a mistake with our batteries,&quot; Piccard said after the plane touched down in July. &quot;It was a human mistake.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>And a mistake that took more than nine months to fix.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/140411155935-solar-impulse-bertrand-piccard-and-andre-borschberg-horizontal-large-gallery.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 302px;" /></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Back in the air</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Fast forward to this spring, and the Solar Impulse 2 has new batteries, a new cooling system that can be manually operated by the pilot, and US$20 million in fresh funding to keep the mission up and running.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The engineers and pilots flew more than eight training and maintenance flights over the past few months, and the plane has been performing remarkably well, Blatt said. While the team is pumped up and feeling confident, Blatt said he recognizes the challenges ahead, including tricky springtime weather over the US mainland.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>After several stops in the United States, the pilots hope to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and then Europe or northern Africa. They plan to return to the Middle East by late summer, completing a 35,000-kilometer trip around the world.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Piccard says he&#39;s been working toward the realization of his dream for 17 years, and &quot;the last 16 years have been more difficult than the flight itself. The flight was for me the accomplishment of this dream ... and we can prove the reliability of these clean renewable technologies.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>At least in theory, the plane now has the ability to fly for an unlimited period, Borschberg said, with only the human factor limiting how long the plane could potentially stay on the air.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;When you have the possibility to fly forever, it is an incredible feeling,&quot; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/150309105859-solar-impulse-2-take-off-exlarge-169.jpg" style="width: 538px; height: 302px;" /></div><div>&nbsp;</div> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:12:00 +0000 CNN 2469101 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2016/04/26/43/cgxp_oxwwaev_dk.jpg Cocktail of UV, Vitamin B zaps malaria in blood http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2469081 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2012/01/16/36/mosqbnr.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Blood donated by unknowing malaria carriers can be made safer with UV radiation and Vitamin B, said a study Friday which may &quot;revolutionize&quot; transfusion safety in Africa.<br /><br />The technology, not yet commercially available, also holds promise for killing other blood-borne germs such as HIV, Ebola and Zika.<br /><br />The technique was previously shown in lab experiments to kill the malaria parasite &ndash; as well as HIV and hepatitis viruses &ndash; in blood in petri dishes.<br /><br />It has now been proven effective in live humans, a team reported in The Lancet medical journal.<br /><br />In a trial with transfusion recipients in Ghana, treating the blood to be transfused &quot;severely reduced&quot; the risk of malaria transmission, though it did not eliminate it.<br /><br />Sixty-five patients who tested negative for the mosquito-borne parasite Plasmodium before transfusion, were chosen to take part in the clinical trial.<br /><br />Some were given blood treated with UV light and vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, while the rest received untreated blood.<br /><br />As would be the case in any ordinary hospital, neither the doctors nor the patients knew whether the donated blood contained the malaria parasite.<br /><br />&quot;Twenty-two percent of patients (8/37) who received untreated blood later tested positive for malaria parasite, compared to four percent (1/28) of patients who received treated blood,&quot; said a statement from The Lancet.<br /><br /><strong>438,000 deaths last year</strong><br /><br />According to the World Health Organization, there were 214 million malaria infections last year, and 438,000 deaths &ndash; 90% in sub-Saharan Africa.<br /><br />It is not known what percentage is contracted via blood transfusion.<br /><br />&quot;In many countries in sub-Saharan Africa where malaria is endemic, a high proportion of the population carry the parasite but do not show any clinical symptoms,&quot; said study author Jean-Pierre Allain of the University of Cambridge.<br /><br />&quot;This is particularly problematic when it comes to donated blood transfusions, as it puts the recipients at high risk of infection if no blood treatment procedure is provided.&quot;<br /><br />Testing for Plasmodium in donated blood is expensive, and there has been no means of treating infected &quot;whole blood&quot; &ndash; the type mainly used in transfusions in Africa.<br /><br />In Europe, blood platelets or plasma are normally used rather than &quot;whole blood&quot;. These constituent parts are exhaustively tested and treated.<br /><br />In Ghana, about half of blood donors carry the parasite, and some 30% of recipients who test negative for Plasmodium before a transfusion test positive thereafter.<br /><br />In the new technique, scientists added Vitamin B to the blood before exposing it to UV light for about 45 minutes while vigorously stirring.<br /><br />&quot;The technology is currently in the testing phase, and the authors add that further studies, in larger population groups, and in particular at risk populations such as young children and pregnant mothers, are now needed,&quot; said the statement.<br /><br /><strong>Blood safety &#39;revolution&#39;</strong><br /><br />Commenting on the study, Sheila O&#39;Brien of the Canadian Blood Services, said pathogen reduction technology also held promise for other pathogens &ndash; having been shown to work in the lab on HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.<br /><br />In developed countries, she wrote, the technology would further reduce the already low risk of transmitting infections.<br /><br />&quot;It would also address concerns from emerging pathogens such as... West Nile virus, chikungunya virus, and Zika virus,&quot; she aid.<br /><br />And if it can be used on donated &quot;whole blood&quot;, O&#39;Brien wrote, the technology could &quot;revolutionise transfusion safety in Africa, where it is most needed.&quot;<br /><br />But the method and equipment is not cheap, which means it is unlikely to be introduced to the field right away.<br /><br />The study was published days ahead of World Malaria Day on April 25.</p> Mon, 25 Apr 2016 17:37:00 +0000 AFP 2469081 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2012/01/16/36/mosqbnr.jpg Sedentary time tied to coronary artery calcium http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2468997 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2015/12/17/43/shutterstock_12.2a5bb153753.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>One reason being sedentary is so bad for one&#39;s health may be that it promotes &ldquo;hardening&rdquo; of the arteries with calcified deposits, a new U.S. study suggests.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Research with middle-aged volunteers found that each additional hour of sedentary time was linked to 12 percent higher odds of having calcium buildup in the coronary arteries, an early sign of coronary heart disease.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;This is one of the first studies to help tease out the ways in which sedentary time relates to heart disease risk, by evaluating this early marker of atherosclerosis in the heart arteries,&rdquo; said study coauthor Julia Kozlitina of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The researchers analyzed data on more than 2,000 participants in the Dallas Heart Study who had measures of physical activity based on wearable tracking devices and had coronary artery calcium scans.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Participants&rsquo; average age was 50 years old and about half were black. Overall, the volunteers spent between one hour and 11 hours per day sedentary, and spent between zero and 200 minutes a day doing moderate to vigorous physical activity, with an average of 29 minutes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>About one-quarter of people in the sample had some detectable coronary artery calcium, Kozlitina said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Participants who were the most sedentary tended to be older, to have diabetes, high blood pressure and higher body mass index. They also were more likely to have coronary calcium, the study team reports in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Accounting for age and other factors, the researchers linked extra hours of sedentary time to higher risk of having coronary artery calcium. Time spent exercising was not tied to the likelihood of coronary calcium, however.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A single week of physical activity monitoring may not be representative of lifetime exercise habits, and can&rsquo;t necessarily prove that being sedentary causes coronary artery calcium to accumulate, only that the two factors are linked, the authors point out.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The most interesting finding from this study is that sedentary time, but not moderate to vigorous physical activity, was associated with coronary artery calcium,&rdquo; said Qibin Qi of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who was not part of the study.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Besides exercise in the gym and a walk during lunch break, breaks in sedentary behavior might help,&rdquo; he said by email. &ldquo;That means getting up from your desk job to move around once in a while (e.g., get a cup of tea) could be beneficial. Future studies will need to look at the optimal length and frequency of breaks from sedentary time.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Exercising and being sedentary may both influence cardiovascular disease, but by different pathways, Qi told Reuters Health.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Maintaining a healthy diet, not smoking and keeping alcohol intake light or moderate also help prevent cardiovascular disease, Qi said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Try to take a one to five minute break every hour; stand up; walk up a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator; etc.,&rdquo; Kozlitina said by email. &ldquo;All of this helps in a small way.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div> Sat, 23 Apr 2016 10:43:00 +0000 Reuters 2468997 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2015/12/17/43/shutterstock_12.2a5bb153753.jpg