This Could Have Huge Implications

Grind for March 14th, 2019
“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

– Louisa May Alcott


The Headline

New treatment has the potential to protect us against influenza

The Background

Each year, influenza kills roughly 650,000 people worldwide and sickens millions more. According to the CDC, influenza killed 80,000 people in the US during the 2017-2018 season.

The influenza virus is difficult to treat because it is contagious and always changing.

We have a flu vaccine, but it is only 40-60% effective in blocking the specific strain it was designed to protect against.

The News

A new treatment developed by scientists at Janssen R&D in New Jersey is expected to be much more effective.

The treatment is designed to mimic the human body’s natural response to infection, but does not contain antibodies – which are difficult and expensive to produce.

Instead, the treatment utilizes a specific type of molecule that acts like a flu-fighting antibody.

Experiments on mice suggest the molecule is 100% effective in blocking several strains of influenza – including deadly levels of the virus.

“If you told me 10 years ago that we’d have a small molecule that could do this I would have been completely surprised,” says biologist Ian Wilson. “It’s a proof-of-principle that small, manageable drugs can behave like these really powerful antibodies.”

The treatment has been tested on lab-grown human lung cells, but not on living humans.

World News

The Headline

India’s upcoming general election will be the largest election ever

The Grind

India this week announced the dates for its next general election, which will occur in seven stages starting April 11th and ending May 23rd.

With a population exceeding 1.3 billion, India’s election is expected to be the biggest in world history.

Next month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his People’s Party (BJP) will face off against the Indian National Congress, which is hoping for a comeback following a dismal performance in 2014.

The Details

General elections in India can take months to complete, with key challenges including logistics (900 million people are expected to vote) and safety (polls must be secured by federal forces).

India’s last election – held in 2014 – involved more than 8,000 candidates representing 464 political parties. Modi and the BJP came out on top, winning a full third of the popular vote and 282 of 428 contested seats.

This year, Modi will also be up against an unexpected opponent in Uttar Pradesh (India’s most populous state): a new alliance between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), former rivals seeking to prevent another BJP victory.

Polls suggest Modi is still the most popular candidate despite a dip in approval ratings.

Did you know… In 30 minutes, the average body gives off enough heat (combined) to bring a half gallon of water to boil.