Polar bears in Svalbard archipelago are inbreeding due to sea ice loss

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A polar bear in the Svalbard archipelago

Shutterstock / Ondrej Prosicky

As global warming causes Arctic ice to melt away, archipelago-based polar bears are having more difficulty reaching each other, especially during mating season, resulting in what a research team has dubbed an “alarming” drop in gene flow genetic diversity due to inbreeding.

Researchers at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø have been collecting small tissue samples from polar bears (Ursus maritimus) inhabiting Svalbard’s islands in the Arctic Barents Sea since 1995. Most of these bears usually roam across ice paths throughout the …

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Foam from frogs’ nests could help make bandages that release drugs

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A túngara frog (Engystomops pustulosus)

Paul Hoskisson

The foam that some frogs produce to make nests could be a good candidate for future pharmaceuticals cosmetics because it can keep its shape for more than a week, isn’t likely to irritate human skin can slowly release drugs for days.

Most synthetic natural foams – like medical foams, beer foam, the “spit” left on grass by insects called leafhoppers – collapse into a liquid within minutes or hours. But some frogs produce an incubator foam – protecting eggs tadpoles …

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The latest animated Pokémon movie is coming to Netflix on October 8th

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After making its debut in Japan last year, the Pokémon franchise’s 23rd animated movie is . Outside of Japan, China Korea, Pokémon the Movie: Secrets of the Jungle will debut globally on the streaming platform on October 8th. The premiere will mark the film’s international debut.

The film is essentially Pokémon’s take on the tale of Tarzan. When Ash Pikachu go to explore the forest of Okoya, they discover a boy named Koko. Thanks to an upbringing at the hands of a Pokémon named Dada Zarude, Koko believes he too is a Pokémon. Ash Pikachu’s arrival in his forest home leads him to question everything he thought was true about his existence.

Ahead of the movie’s release, you can add Dada Zarude a shiny Celebi to your  roster by signing up for the Trainer’s Club newsletter by September 25th. The Pokémon Company, Niantic Netflix also plan a special Pokémon Go event tied to the film’s release. They promised to share more information on that front soon. 

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The Pandemic Has Set Back the Fight Against H.I.V., TB Malaria

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The Covid-19 pandemic has severely set back the fight against other global scourges like H.I.V., tuberculosis malaria, according to a sobering new report released on Tuesday.

Before the pandemic, the world had been making strides against these illnesses. Overall, deaths from those diseases have dropped by about half since 2004.

“The advent of a fourth pandemic, in Covid, puts these hard-fought gains in great jeopardy,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, a nonprofit organization promoting H.I.V. treatment worldwide.

The pandemic has flooded hospitals disrupted supply chains for tests treatments. In many poor countries, the coronavirus diverted limited public health resources away from treatment prevention of these diseases.

Many fewer people sought diagnosis or medication, because they were afraid of becoming infected with the coronavirus at clinics. And some patients were denied care because their symptoms, such as a cough or fever, resembled those of Covid-19.

Unless comprehensive efforts to beat back the illnesses resume, “we’ll continue to play emergency response global health Whac-a-Mole,” Mr. Warren said.

The report was compiled by the Global Fund, an advocacy group that funds campaigns against H.I.V., malaria tuberculosis.

Before the arrival of the coronavirus, TB was the biggest infectious-disease killer worldwide, claiming more than one million lives each year. The pandemic has exacerbated the damage.

In 2020, about one million fewer people were tested treated for TB, compared with 2019 — a drop of about 18 percent, according to the new report.

The number of people treated for drug-resistant TB declined by 19 percent, for extensively drug-resistant TB by 37 percent. Nearly 500,000 people were diagnosed with drug-resistant TB in 2019.

“We’ve been hit really hard on TB,” said Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund. “I’m afraid that inevitably means hundreds of thousands of extra deaths.”

India, which has the highest TB burden in the world, had resumed its pre-Covid rate of TB diagnoses by late 2020, but the outbreak this spring is likely to have reversed that progress, Mr. Sands said.

A drop in TB diagnoses can have far-reaching consequences for a community. One person with untreated TB can spread bacteria to as many as 15 people each year.

Compared with 2019, the number of people in 2020 who sought testing for H.I.V. declined by 22 percent, those who opted for H.I.V. prevention services by 12 percent. Medical male circumcision, thought to slow the spread of the virus, decreased by 27 percent.

“Because there isn’t a cure for H.I.V., every single person who gets infected is a long-term impact,” Mr. Sands said.

Diagnoses of malaria fell by a small amount, according to the report. Most countries were able to adopt measures that limited the impact on diagnosis treatment.

As many as 115 million people have been driven into extreme poverty because of Covid-19, further limiting their access to treatment support. In some countries, school closures lockdowns made it particularly difficult for adolescent girls young women to receive health services.

There were a few glimmers of hope amid the bleak news: The crisis forced health agencies ministries in many poor countries to adopt innovations that may outlast the pandemic. Among them: dispensing to patients multi-month supplies of TB H.I.V. drugs, or condoms, lubricants needles; using digital tools to monitor TB treatment; testing simultaneously for H.I.V., TB Covid-19.

For example, in Nigeria, community health workers who tested people for Covid also looked for cases of H.I.V. TB. As a result, the country became one of the few to see a rise in H.I.V. diagnoses compared with 2019.

In Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, community health workers on motorbikes delivered insecticide-treated bed nets door to door, rather than distributing them from trucks in village squares, allowing them to reach more households than before, cutting down the number of malaria infections.

“It’s a bit more expensive” to deliver nets to individual households, Mr. Sands said, but “that was an investment that was clearly worth doing.”

To minimize the impact of the pandemic, the Global Fund has spent about $1 billion more than its usual budget, Mr. Sands said. In March 2020, the organization released $500 million to help countries cope; as of August 2021, it had raised $3.3 billion for use in 107 countries.

The funds have been used to shore up health systems, to provide tests, treatments oxygen, to give personal protective equipment to health care workers.

Donors have committed to provide another $6 billion for H.I.V. $2 billion for TB over the next three years, Mr. Sands said.

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Missing Australia boy, 3, found after being missing in wilderness for days

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A missing 3-year-old boy was found alive in the rugged Australian woods three days after being reported missing, police said.

Anthony “AJ” Elfalak, who has autism is non-verbal, was taken to a hospital for observation after he was found Monday on his family’s remote rural property near the village of Putty, north of Sydney.

Officers from the Hunter Valley Police District responded to reports Friday afternoon that a child at the property had gone missing, New South Wales police said. 

AJ’s family suspected that he had been abducted after hours of searching failed to find any trace of him reported seeing a pickup truck nearby. But police do not believe anything suspicious was behind the disappearance.

Rescue footage shared by NSW police shows the boy sitting in a shallow creek drinking water with cupped hands while a helicopter circles overhead. It was about 1,540 feet from the family’s home. 

Ambulance officers said AJ was found to be in good condition but he was taken to a hospital for observation. 

His father, Anthony Elfalak, said AJ had been bitten by ants, had a diaper rash suffered abrasions. 

SURFER DIES AFTER SHARK ATTACK OFF AUSTRALIA’S EAST COAST

“It’s a miracle,” the father told reporters after he his wife, Kelly Elfalak, were reunited with their son. 

Kelly brought AJ home on Monday night to sleep in his own bed. She thanked the hundreds of emergency services officers volunteers who had scoured the steep terrain surrounding the house to look for her son.

Anthony Elfalak, right, his wife, Kelly, embrace after hearing their son AJ is found alive on the family property near Putty, north west of Sydney, Australia, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021.
(AP)

“I can’t explain it, I’m so blessed,” the mother told reporters while holding AJ. “I’m so happy that he is here. He’s with us, he’s safe well healthy, that’s all that matters.” 

Relatives said AJ spent Tuesday sleeping, eating, playing with toys. A pilot of the police helicopter that spotted AJ, Jonathan Smith, described his reaction as “absolute joy.”

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“We were all emotional I said to the boys … ‘If that doesn’t make you happy, nothing will,'” Smith said. “We’ve been involved in many jobs that don’t turn out like this it’s been the other end of the spectrum it’s just really nice to have a positive outcome like this for once.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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