Category Archives: Disease

Ed Yong’s TED Talk: Suicidal crickets, zombie roaches and other parasite tales

“Are there any parasites that are influencing our behaviour without us knowing it?”

When I started this blog back in 2007, Ed Yong was a fledgling science writer gaining an audience with his Not Exactly Rocket Science wordpress blog; clear and engaging online articles that opened up primary research to a wider audience. You’ll find many links to his writing throughout this site, connecting the concepts of the IB Biology course to current science and ‘the wow beat’. He has since had a book and is resident at NatGeo’s Phenomena Salon, after moving through Science Blogs and Discover.

He continues to inspire me as a writer and this week he gave his TED Talk, a funny and fact-packed tour of the sinister side of parasites. Enjoy! You will even be able to find some links out to further reading and references.

If you don’t already, you should subscribe to the Phenomena blogs, and if you’re a teacher or student whose schedule are as packed a mine, I highly recommend Ed’s weekly ‘Missing Links‘ roundup of science news and writing – they make for my Sunday morning reading!

Remaining Ethical in the Search for a Cure for HIV [TED Talk]

This is an interesting discussion starter and is only 11 minutes long. Boghuma Kabisen Titanji talks about the ethical dilemmas of HIV research in developing countries. What happens when the trial ends?

Some discussion ideas:

  • Discuss the pros/ cons of testing pharmaceuticals in the developing world vs the ‘west’.
    • Authorisation of trials
    • Risk of litigation
    • Willingness of populations to participate
    • Potential sample size
    • Ethics vs efficiency in data generation
    • Cost-benefit ratio
  • Outline what is meant by ‘informed consent’ in terms of clinical trials. Discuss the challenges of informed consent in trials in the developing world.
  • Evaluate the suggestions Boghuma Kabisen Titanji makes about:
    • Informed consent
    • Standard of care provided to participants
    • Ethical review of research
    • Exit plan – what happens to participants once the trial has ended?


Rotavirus Vaccine: A Great Graph

Another great find from Twitter (follow everyone in this tweet):

Rotavirus Vaccine impact, from

Matthew Herper’s short article in Forbes includes this graph, which is a clear link to the efficacy of the rotavirus vaccine. You can access the full pdf from the New England Journal of Medicine here (also brief, with a better graph).

Some questions to think about, connecting this case to the curriculum (11.1 AHL: Defense Against Infectious Disease):

  • How does the rotavirus infect its host?
  • Why does diarrhea lead to death?
  • What type of vaccine is this and how is it produced?
  • What challenges are still to be overcome?

The rotavirus vaccine has been a big part of the Bill Gates Foundation’s work, and they have a short video on it here:

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