Ultra-Secure Lab In Gabon To Handle World’s Most Dangerous Viruses

'Teams on alert'

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Dr. Mombo dons his white coat as he prepares to analyse samples at the Franceville International Centre of Medical Research (CIRMF) is seen on June 12, 2018 in Franceville.
Dr. Mombo dons his white coat as he prepares to analyse samples at the Franceville International Centre of Medical Research (CIRMF) is seen on June 12, 2018 in Franceville. VOA

At a research facility in Gabon, one isolated building stands behind an electrified fence, under round-the-clock scrutiny by video cameras. The locked-down P4 lab is built to handle the world’s most dangerous viruses, including Ebola.

“Only four people, three researchers and a technician, are authorized to go inside the P4,” said virologist Illich Mombo, who is in charge of the lab, one of only two in all of Africa that is authorized to handle deadly Ebola, Marburg and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever viruses. The other is in Johannesburg.

The P4 was put up 800 metres (half a mile) distant from older buildings of the Franceville International Centre for Medical Research (CIRMF), in large grounds on the outskirts of Franceville, the chief city in the southeastern Haut-Ogooue province.

Filming the ultra-high-security lab or even taking photos is banned and the handful of people allowed inside have security badges. Backup power plants ensure an uninterruptable electricity supply. “Even the air that we breathe is filtered,” Mombo explains.

When he goes into the P4 lab to work on a sample of suspect virus such as Ebola — which has claimed 28 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during an outbreak in the past six weeks — Mombo wears a head-to-foot biohazard suit.

The special clothing is destroyed as soon as he has finished. Draconian measures are in force to prevent any risk of contamination, with potentially disastrous effects.

Ebola Virus, Treatment
Ebola Virus, Treatment, Pixabay

‘Teams on alert’

Once a suspect virus has been “inactivated” — a technique that stops the sample from being contagious — it is carefully taken from the P4 unit to other CIRMF laboratories in the compound, where it is analysed.

Specialized teams will scrutinize it, looking to confirm its strain of Ebola and hunting for clues such as the virus’s ancestry and evolution, which are vital for tracking the spread of the disease.

CIRMF director Jean-Sylvain Koumba, a colonel in the Gabonese army and a military doctor, said lab teams had been “placed on alert” to handle Ebola samples sent on by the National Institute of Biomedical Resarch in the DRC capital Kinshasa.

The nature of the sample can be determined with rare precision, for the facility has state-of-the-art equipment matched in few other places worldwide.

“On average, it takes 24 to 48 hours between the time when a sample arrives and when we get the results,” Mombo said.

Founded in 1979 by Gabon’s late president Omar Bongo Ondimba to study national fertility rates, the CIRMF moved on to AIDS, malaria, cancer, viral diseases and the neglected tropical maladies that affect a billion people around the world, according to the WHO.

The center is financed by the Gabonese state, whose main wealth is derived from oil exports, and gets help from France.

In all, 150 people work for the CIRMF and live on the huge premises. Its reputation draws scientists, students and apprentices from Asia, Europe and the United States, as well as Africa.

“[The] CIRMF is uniquely suited to study infectious diseases of the Congolese tropical rain forest, the second world’s largest rain forest,” two French scientists, Eric Leroy and Jean-Paul Gonzalez, wrote in the specialist journal Viruses in 2012.

“[It] is dedicated to conduct medical research of the highest standard … with unrivaled infrastructure, multiple sites and multidisciplinary teams.”

African child suffering from Malaria and ebola
African child suffering from Malaria and ebola, Pixabay

Animal ‘reservoir’?

The facility also conducts investigations into how lethal tropical pathogens are able to leap the species barrier, said Gael Darren Maganga, who helps run the unit studying the emergence of viral diseases.

“A passive watch consists of taking a sample from a dead animal after a request, while the active watch is when we go out ourselves to do fieldwork and take samples,” he said.

A major center of interest is the bat, seen as a potential “reservoir” — a natural haven — for the Ebola virus, said Maganga. Staff regularly go out all over Gabon to take samples of saliva, fecal matter and blood.

The consumption of monkey flesh and other bush meat is common practice in central Africa.

Also read: Vaccination Campaign Against Ebola Virus Launched In Democratic Republic of Congo

“It’s still a hypothesis, but the transmission to human beings could be by direct contact, for instance by getting scratches [from a bat] in caves, or by handling apes which have been infected by bat saliva,” he said. (VOA)

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Is the Young Generation Really Able to Enjoy Childhood?

The academic competition has burdened the kids of this generation so much, that the meaning of childhood has changed for them

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water-Childhood
Childhood should be free of burdens and tensions. Pixabay

-By Muskan Bhatnagar

Childhood is the best phase of one’s life. The phase of life where there is no stress, no worries, no sorrows, but only enjoyment, innocence, and joy. Every time you recall those free happy days, all you’d wish is to rewind your life and relive those moments. Right?

Remember those weird yet fun outdoor games that we used to play all day long? Those little fights with friends? Crying over the smallest scratches we would get while playing? And how a bar of chocolate could give us all the happiness in this world? Those happy days are now long gone.

Nowadays, the idea of childhood has completely changed. Seeing parents forcing their kids into tuition classes at the tender age of 5 or 6 completely surprises me. Parents are so busy in their schedules that they tend to think that their kid might not be able to grasp everything at school. And due to lack of time and attention, they enroll their children into tuition classes at a very young age.

kids
Parents send their kids to extra study classes after school at a very young age. Pixabay

The parents are not wrong when they say that primary classes are the base of higher studies and hence they provide extra tutoring to their kids. But then, isn’t nursey class just too early for a student to compromise on playing and attend tuitions? After all, that is exactly what a student has to do after completing primary school. What is the need to burden kids with bookish knowledge at an age this young? Neither alphabets nor numbers are so tough. Studying in school is enough for a primary school kid even if the parents are not able to pay requisite attention to their ward’s studies.

Such decisions might hinder the child’s playtime which is very important during early childhood. Why has it turned so necessary to push your child into academic competition since the beginning of childhood? Why do parents want their kids to score the first rank in the first standard? How is it gonna help in the future? After all, academic excellence in primary classes doesn’t ensure good academic performance in later years.

I have come across kids who’ve been studying all day, all night since the start of their schooling, attending all subject tuitions for hours, then attending co-curricular classes as well. Don’t you think that childhood has been destroyed of a kid like this?

girl childhood
Parents are not able to give attention to their kids’ studies and hence seek help through tuition classes. Pixabay

Parents need to understand that providing kids with luxurious lifestyles and all possible facilities isn’t called good parenting because at the end of the day you’ve destroyed the innocence, pure joy, and the childhood fun of the kid. Kids nowadays don’t experience the purity of childghood innocence, the burden-free playtimes, and the carefree mischiefs of childhood.

They’ve been exposed to academic competition and the race to achieve the highest marks, at such an early age that they have to compromise on every other thing. The parents have also become so careful that they don’t completely allow kids to have fun or to play outdoors. The fear of getting physically hurt stops parents from sending their kids to play as carelessly as the previous generation did.

Also Read: 80% Maharashtra School Students Don’t Report Cybercrimes: Survey

Seeing kids miss out on the happiest and the most carefree phase of their life saddens me. Studies are no doubt one of the most important aspects of life, but that never meant that it is more important than enjoying life.

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Children should be set free from all the burdens of life so that they can enjoy the best phase of their life carelessly. Pixabay

Adulthood and teenage years are hard phases of life, most of the time. Adolescents often face many difficulties, and adulthood has its own problems. The only carefree and stress-free part of a person’s life is childhood. After all, school life never comes back and there is no friendship as pure as the school friendships. Then why are we killing today’s generation’s childhood?

Let your child explore new things out of the bookish world, let them play more study less, let them play rough, let them become strong on their own, let them find subjects of their interest, let them make countless of unforgettable memories, let them make mistakes, let them live carelessly till they reach an age where it gets necessary to be burdened. At the end of the day, what childhood memories are your kids going to share with their kids?

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Every 4 in 10 Adults Suffer From Gastrointestinal Disorders Globally: Researchers

Mostly people find it embarrassing to talk about stomach and bowel symptoms

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gastrointestinal disorders
For every ten adults in the world, four suffer from functional gastrointestinal disorders. Pixabay

For every ten adults in the world, four suffer from functional gastrointestinal disorders of varying severity, say Researchers, adding that people think it’s embarrassing to talk about stomach and bowel symptoms.

Functional gastrointestinal disorders, FGIDs, is a collective term for chronic disorders in the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms may arise throughout the gastrointestinal tract. From the upper part, the esophagus and stomach, they can include heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion (dyspepsia).For the lower parts (the intestines), chronic constipation, abdominal distension or bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are among the complaints.

The current study, published in the journal Gastroenterology, gives an overall picture of the global prevalence of FGIDs. Data of more than 73,000 people in 33 countries were collected by means of web-based questionnaires and face-to-face (household) interviews.

“It’s striking how similar the findings are between countries. We can see some variations but, in general, these disorders are equally common whatever the country or continent,” said study author Magnus Simren from University of Gothenburg in Sweden.Web-based questionnaires were used in most of the countries in the study.

gastrointestinal disorders
The findings showed that the prevalence of FGIDs was higher in women than in men. Piaxbay

In some countries, instead, the respondents were asked to reply to the questions when an interviewer read them aloud.The questions posed to the respondents were based on the diagnostic criteria for IBS and other FGIDs. Particulars of other diseases and symptoms, living conditions, quality of life, healthcare consumption, etc. were also requested.

Also Read: GoodwillforGood: Vidyut Jammwal Launches Initiative to Support Ideas of Entrepreneurs

The findings showed that the prevalence of FGIDs was higher in women than in men, and clearly associated with lower quality of life. According to the questionnaire responses, 49 per cent of the women and 37 per cent of the men met the diagnostic criteria for at least one FGID. The severity of the disorders varied, from mild discomfort to symptoms that adversely affected the quality of life to a high degree.

The prevalence of FGIDs was also strongly associated with high consumption of healthcare, such as visits to the doctor and use of medication, but also surgery, the study said. (IANS)

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Bullying a Common Factor Leading to LGBTQ Youth Suicides: Researchers

LGBTQ youth are more likely to be bullied than non-LGBTQ youth

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bullying
LGBTQ youth suicides are mainly caused because of bullying. Pixabay

Researchers have found that death records of LGBTQ youth who committed suicide were substantially more likely to mention bullying as a factor than their non-LGBTQ peers.

For the findings, published in the journal ‘JAMA Pediatrics’, the research team reviewed nearly 10,000 death records of youth aged from 10 to 19 years who died by suicide in the US from 2003 to 2017.

While LGBTQ youth are more likely to be bullied and to report suicidal thoughts and behaviours than non-LGBTQ youth, this is believed to be the first study showing that bullying is a more common precursor to suicide among LGBTQ youth than among their peers.

bullying
bullying is a more common precursor to suicide among LGBTQ youth than among their peers. Pixabay

“We expected that bullying might be a more common factor, but we were surprised by the size of the disparity,” said study lead author Kirsty Clark from the Yale University.

“These findings strongly suggest that additional steps need to be taken to protect the LGBTQ youth — and others — against the insidious threat of bullying,” Clark added.

The research team used data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-led database that collects information on violent deaths, including suicides, from death certificates, law enforcement reports, and medical examiner and coroner records.

Death records in the database include narrative summaries from law enforcement reports and medical examiner and coroner records regarding the details of the youth’s suicide as reported by family or friends, the youth’s diary, social media posts, and text or email messages, as well as any suicide note.

Bullying
Among 10 to 13-year-olds, over two-thirds of LGBTQ youth’ death records mentioned that they had been bullied. Pixabay

The team searched these narratives for words and phrases that suggested whether the individual was LGBTQ. They followed a similar process to identify death records mentioning bullying. The study found that death records from LGBTQ youth were about five times more likely to mention bullying than non-LGBTQ youth’ death records.

Also Read: ICRA Expects Moderate Participation in Spectrum Auctions

Among 10 to 13-year-olds, over two-thirds of LGBTQ youth’ death records mentioned that they had been bullied.

Bullying is a major public health problem among the youth, and it is especially pronounced among the LGBTQ youth, said the researchers.

“By showing that bullying is also associated with the life itself for the LGBTQ youth, this study urgently calls for interventions that foster safety, belonging and esteem for all young people,” said study researcher John Pachankis. (IANS)