• The Global Travels of Chikungunya Virus: Is it Coming to You?

    By Roberta Attanasio Chikungunya virus is spreading fast — worldwide. First described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952, it caused sporadic illness in Africa and large urban outbreaks in Thailand and India in the 1960s and 1970s. As of now, it has been identified in over 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Americas. The virus, which causes…

  • Food Additives, Microbiota, and Inflammation

    By Roberta Attanasio “For centuries, additives have served useful functions in a variety of foods. Our ancestors used salt to preserve meats and fish, added herbs and spices to improve the flavor of foods, preserved fruit with sugar, and pickled cucumbers in a vinegar solution. Today, consumers demand and enjoy a food supply that is flavorful, nutritious, safe, convenient, colorful…

  • Small Predator Diversity Plays a Significant Role in the Spread of Infectious Diseases

    By Roberta Attanasio Biodiversity is a term coined to describe the diversity of all living things, from human beings to microorganisms. A New York Times editorial published almost two decades ago aptly describes the importance of the biodiversity concept: “Biodiversity is a hugely important concept that stresses the coherence and interdependence of all forms of life on earth and a…

  • TB Unmasked: Healthcare Workers and the Global Tuberculosis Epidemic

    By Roberta Attanasio World TB Day, falling on March 24th each year, is approaching — it reminds us that tuberculosis (TB) is a massive global health problem. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest communicable diseases. It is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious…

  • Climate Change: A Key Driver of the Syrian Conflict?

    By Roberta Attanasio Climate change is happening here and now, with significant damage to natural systems and society. The shrinking of the Arctic sea ice, the melting of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, the acidification of the oceans, the sea level rise, the shifting patterns of precipitation, and the amplified threat of wildfires, are some of its well-recognized effects.…

  • Early Menopause: Links to Ubiquitous Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

    By Roberta Attanasio There are as many endocrine-disrupting chemicals (also called endocrine disruptors) as there are deleterious health effects caused by them. These chemicals mimic the body’s hormones and confuse our physiological systems — we respond to them with a series of inappropriate changes that, depending on the specific endocrine disruptor, lead to the development of obesity, cancer, malformation of…

  • E-Cigarettes and Vaping May Cause Lung Damage and Impaired Immune Responses

    By Roberta Attanasio A few months ago, Oxford Dictionaries announced “vape” as its international Word of the Year 2014 – language research conducted by their editors revealed that its use in 2014 had more than doubled compared to 2013 (and increased by 30-fold since 2012), mostly because of the rapidly growing popularity of electronic cigarettes and the expanding debate over…

  • Tasmanian Devils: Contagious Cancer Drives the Risk of Extinction

    By Roberta Attanasio In November 2013, a team of biologists scattered 15 plastic cylinders in the fields of Maria Island, three miles off the east coast of the Australian island state of Tasmania. Each cylinder contained a healthy Tasmanian devil, a marsupial  species that until then lived only in Tasmania. Soon, the 15 devils emerged from the containers, becoming the first ever to inhabit…

  • Prenatal Exposure to Pollutants: Influence on the Immune Response

    By Roberta Attanasio The development of the immune system during fetal and neonatal life is negatively influenced by exposure to toxic chemicals, resulting in compromised immune function later in life. An example is fetal exposure to arsenic, which has deleterious effects on the immune response to influenza virus infection in adulthood. Now, results from a new study provide additional evidence for…

  • Inflammation Drives Susceptibility to Anxiety and Depression

    By Roberta Attanasio Stress and anxiety are part of life — but while a little bit of stress (good stress) may keep us active and alert, and sometimes even motivate us, the long-term type (bad stress) can have negative effects on our health.  Elevated blood pressure and heart disease are just some examples of the so-called “stress-related diseases”. In addition,…