Unusual case of a tapeworm moving across the brain sparks genomic insight

Brain MRI Scan over time Credit Nagui Antoun

Dr Hayley Bennett is a researcher from the parasite genomics group at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. She is the lead author of an article published in Genome Biology which has revealed the genome of a rare tapeworm found living inside a patient’s brain. In this post she talks about new developments in genome sequencing that are managing to reveal an impressive amount of detail on potential drug targets for rare infections.

We have recently collaborated with pathologists, radiologists and clinicians looking at an exceptionally rare case of a tapeworm in a patient’s brain. The worm was removed by surgery and the material was used to find out more about a hitherto unsequenced order of tapeworms.

The case had baffled clinicians …

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On 20 years and open access: Q&A with Professor Wen-Chang Chang

The editorial board of Journal of Biomedical Science celebrated the journal’s 20th Anniversary in Taipei Medical University, Taiwan

At the start of November, the Editorial Board of the Journal of Biomedical Science gathered for a very special board meeting, marking the journal’s 20th anniversary. To celebrate this landmark, we spoke to Editor-in-Chief Wen-Chang Chang about the journal’s history and its switch – five years ago – to open access.

In the 20 years since your journal started, what changes have you seen to publishing, and researchers’ attitudes to open access?

In these 20 years, the Journal of Biomedical Science (JBS) has changed from traditional to open access publishing. The journal became open access in 2009. We noticed a tremendous increase in number of submissions when this change took place – from 286 submissions in 2008, to 524 submissions in …

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Take a deep breath for COPD day

World COPD Day 2014

The third biggest killer

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, better known simply as COPD, is the third leading cause of death worldwide. Three million people died of COPD in 2012 according to the WHO, yet public awareness of this disease isn’t nearly as high as say cancer, HIV or heart disease.

This is where the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) come in with their annual World COPD Day, hoping to raise awareness about COPD and improve treatment options worldwide.





So, what exactly is COPD?

COPD can be classified as a narrowing of the airways which obstructs normal breathing, resulting in symptoms such as chronic cough, shortness of breath and abnormal sputum production.

COPD is an umbrella term encompassing a whole range …

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15 million babies born too soon: World Prematurity Day 2014

Credit to DFID

This year 15 million babies will be born prematurely, with 1 million a year – or 3000 a day – dying as a result of premature birth. And for the first time in history, preterm birth has overtaken pneumonia as the leading cause of death in young children.

Today marks the 4th World Prematurity Day, a global effort to raise awareness of preterm birth and its prevention, involving over 200 countries, NGOs and relevant organizations.

What are the problems?

Preterm birth is now the leading global killer of young children with more than 3,000 children dying daily from preterm birth complications as outlined in a recent Lancet special issue.

Across the world, the top 5 countries with the highest numbers of babies …

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Sealed with a kiss – and 80 million oral bacteria


Christmas seems to come earlier each year. Our thoughts turn to the exchange of gifts, time with family and friends and the inevitable office party. But you may find that you exchange more than a secret santa gift this year. A drunken kiss with a colleague could leave you with many million of their oral bacteria, according to a new study in Microbiome.

It is an oft-quoted fact that we have more bacterial cells living on us than the number of human cells we’re made from. Less well understood is how bacteria move between us, travelling from human to human, from human to animal (including our pets) and to and from our built environment.

The oral microbiome has been …

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An open future for neuroscience – join BioMed Central at SfN 2014!


SfN 2014 starts tomorrow, and I will be there, along with several of my colleagues. It’s a big event in the neuroscience research calendar, and every year the conference is an opportunity to hear about the latest and most cutting edge research in the field.

Over the last few years I’ve seen open access becomes increasingly popular within the field of neuroscience (and rightly so, I think), and it’s great to be part of that. I work with some of the first high-quality open access neuroscience journals, edited and supported by a community of leading experts, and we’re proud of that here at BioMed Central.

This year, as we’ve been gearing up for SfN, we decided to mark the occasion by summing up in …

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Diabetes: Risk factors and lifestyle interventions

Diabetes definition

Today is World Diabetes Day and this year it is centred on the theme of healthy living and diabetes. To mark this, we take a look at some of the recent research and discussions on risk factors and lifestyle interventions associated with type 2 diabetes*.

The rise in the global burden of diabetes is expected to challenge healthcare systems. Already, it is estimated that 29.1 million people in the US have the condition. Diabetes is one of the four main non-communicable diseases and the World Health Organization (WHO) action plan includes a global strategy for its prevention and control. This is an important aim, as diabetes is known to lead to many co-morbid conditions, which in …

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Chemical sterilization: A safe alternative for dogs?


Could chemical sterilization be an affordable solution to keeping stray dog populations under control? Raffaella Leoci, DVM, PhD, is a researcher at the University Bari Aldo Moro in Italy and a specialist in pet reproduction. She is the lead author of two articles published in Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica on chemical sterilization of dogs using calcium chloride, which identified the most effective concentration and the optimal solution. In this guest post she tells us why she thinks use of calcium chloride sterilization could be the answer to stray overpopulation.


Pet overpopulation is a serious problem across much of the world. In some regions such as where I live, the number of stray dogs is not under control and many dogs …

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Keeping it clean: Spotlight on contamination in microbiome studies

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Figure 1 Summary of 16S rRNA gene sequencing taxonomic assignment from ten-fold diluted pure cultures and controls. Salter et al. BMC Biology 2014, 12:87

A study published today in BMC Biology has found that many published microbiome studies may have been contaminated. In this guest post, Susannah Salter and Alan Walker, authors on the paper, tell us more about what they found.


The last decade has seen amazing developments in DNA sequencing technology. One area that has benefitted tremendously from these advances is the field of microbiology, as it is now possible to characterise microbial communities (“microbiota”) at previously unimaginable depths.


As a result microbiota research is currently booming, led by many recent large-scale, world-wide initiatives such as The Human Microbiome Project, MetaHIT, and the Earth Microbiome Project, which use the power of sequencing to try and understand …

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October blogs digest: Open Access Week, Viagra, hepatitis, and more

We as scientists work to further

October was a busy month on the BioMed Central blogs, so here are some of the top posts for you to browse through at your leisure.

Open Access Week

October 20-26 was Open Access Week, and we celebrated with a whole variety of posts on the topic. The theme for the week was ‘Generation Open’, with the emphasis on engaging students and early career researchers with open access, so among other things, we asked some early career researchers what they thought about about open access publishing. Particularly popular was Bryony Graham’s post about the theory and the reality of being able to publish open access when you’re at the start of your research career.

We also marked Open Access Week …

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