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Red And Green Mingles At Tsavo

[FOREWORD: In commemoration of the World Elephant Day 2020, August 12, here is a nature essay I had written earlier in the year for coursework.]

The brilliant azure of the sky adorned with cottony cumulus would strenuously belie that fact now, but it did rain by the gallons throughout the night, continuing the trend of the past few days at the Tsavo East National Park.

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Of COVID-19: Immunity, Vaccines, Herd Immunity

Today is the 15th of July. For more than half a year, humanity in the entire world has been witnessing the ravages of a deadly pandemic, caused by a respiratory virus that belongs to the ‘Coronavirus’ family and is named SARS-CoV-2. Currently, we are practically defenceless against the disease, termed COVID-19, caused by this virus. In clinical studies, limited effects, in overall small number of patients under special conditions, have been seen with an antiviral medication (remdesivir) and the use of an anti-inflammatory medicine (dexamethasone), while a few other medicines fell off the wayside when rigorously tested for efficacy against COVID-19.

But that situation may change. All hope is not lost.

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When Hype Meets Medicine: the Curious Case of Dexamethasone in COVID-19

Evidence-based medicine requires evidence. It’s not optional.”—these golden words in science- and evidence-based medicine were re-emphasized by Dr. Angie Rasmussen, virologist at Columnbia University and prolific science communicator, on Twitter recently.

For proper appreciation of the magnitude of this quote, let me elaborate on the fascinating context in which Rasmussen wrote it.

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Pseudoscience of Homeopathy Exacts a Tragic Cost; What Would Science Advocates Do?

The mood in New South Wales State Supreme Court was somber that early June day in 2009. Seven years earlier a little girl of nine-months from Earlwood, Sydney, had died under tragic circumstances, and in the dock for medical negligence were her Indian immigrant parents, Mrs. Manju and Thomas Sam. The jury heard, from experts and other witnesses, how baby Gloria Thomas suffered from significant malnutrition early in her short life, which compromised her immunity; how she was diagnosed with eczema at four months, and through her broken skin, disease-causing bacteria entered her bloodstream, attacking her lungs and one eye; and how throughout the entire, extremely painful ordeal, her father—a homeopath—steadfastly, repeatedly refused medical care, electing instead to treat her with one homeopathic remedy after another, until she passed away. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, and the judge sentenced the couple to up to 8 years in prison.[1]

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On Being Protected and Served… with 36 Scratches

It was not a dark and stormy night, just a regular one. My workday had ended a little later than usual. Having worked all day standing at the laboratory bench, I was looking forward to getting home, plonking myself on the sofa and putting my feet up, a position which invariably serves as open invitations to both our cat-babies to jump up on my extended legs and immediately fall asleep. In other words, bliss.

Our Cat-babies on my leg hammock

My familiars and I, in bliss mode

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Methods Section of a Research Paper: What is it good for? Absolutely Everything.

I love a well-written methods section in a research communication. There, I said it. And as a peer reviewer, I often go to the methods in the manuscript under review in order to understand both the experiments that authors have designed and performed, and the rationale behind the flow and organization of different experiments, each yielding a separate piece of the overall puzzle in form of data. But I didn’t start out this way; this is the story of my evolution, as well as the woeful tale of a long-held (and recently re-encountered, in a high impact journal, no less) annoyance—poorly or inadequately written, incomplete methods.

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Review Unto Others, As You Would Have Others Review Unto You: my Golden Rule for Scientific Manuscripts

Finding—more like, eking out!—time from within a back-breaking work schedule, I recently managed to review back-to-back four manuscripts for publication in diverse journals. The topics in these papers touched my work only marginally, in that they belonged to the broad areas of microbiology, antibodies and immunodiagnostics. A chance remark by a professional friend—”Your reviews are impressively long and detailed…“—got me thinking about my overall experience reviewing scientific manuscripts. “Long and detailed” is probably why it takes me a considerable time and effort to go through the paper, occasionally check the references, and note down my thoughts in the margin, either on paper (i.e. on a print-out), or electronically (annotating the manuscript PDF, my preferred mode). Not unknown to anyone who is familiar with the process of scientific publishing and the world of biomedical journals, Peer Review is a mechanism that attracts a significant amount of controversy. So why do I keep investing the time and effort towards it? More after the fold.

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Nature Publishing Group dabbling in Homeopathy is a loss of opportunity for good pharmacognostic research

This morning, I was alerted to the latest homeopathy shenanigan via the Forbes column of Dr. Steven Salzberg. (COI statement: I don’t know Dr. Salzberg personally, but I follow his columns, and he is a faculty member at my institution—albeit in a discipline not directly related to mine.) At the heart of it is yet another bog-standard ridiculous “study” purporting to show “clinical effect” of homeopathy, despite the preponderant evidence that homeopathy does not work. What makes this instance special enough for me to take time out from my over-burdened work schedule? The fact that it was published in Scientific Reports from the—wait for it!—Nature Publishing Group. Yes, THAT Nature.

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In Which I Discover My First Homeopathic Remedy

It has been a while since I last posted on homeopathy. Frankly speaking, having written about it quite a bit, I have grown kinda tired of the utterly unscientific, nonsensical nature of homeopathy, and foolishness of its relentless proponents. However, a few days ago on Twitter, my attention was brought to a whole new level of ridiculousness in this quackery modality, and I found it concerning anew because of what it implies for the hapless, gullible and vulnerable patients desperately seeking medical care. Today’s short post touches on this.

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