Greetings everybody

WWF's Living Planet Report 2016 was published last week. Media outlets have made it their mission to deliver the news of an 'impending sixth mass extinction all of our own making'. My issue with this is that it is not news. This has been a long thing coming. 
Today's post is aimed to give you a bit of perspective on this entire sixth mass extinction and more importantly WWF's Living Planet Report.

WWF's Global Living Planet Index 2016 remains to be largely unchanged since the 2014 report

WWF's Global Living Planet Index is used as a bioindicator to assess whether the world are all on course to achieve the 2020 Biodiversity targets. The Living Planet Index (LPI) is not a measurement to be taken lightly, it represents data collected on populations of over a thousand different vertebrate species and uses this number to illustrate the level of biodiversity abundance.

WWF's Living Planet Report 2014 reported a decline in LPI by 52% between the years of 1970-2010 

This Years Report showed an increase in the LPI to 58% between 1970-2012

Overall message: The world's vertebrate populations have declined by more than 50% in the space of just 40 years

The threats to our world's biodiversity hasn't changed!

In both reports from 2014- 2016 the same threats have reared their heads as the prime drivers behind our world's large-scale biodiversity loss. The image below is taken out from the 2016 Living Report.  

WWF Living Planet Report 2016 - Threat to Biodiversity

LPI's for all environments are still in a state of decline.

Terrestrial LPI:

Terrestrial vertebrate populations have reduced by 39%. Take a look at what are the main threats driving these populations to decline. 

Living Planet Report 2016 - Terrestrial LPI
For Terrestrial populations, it is clear that habitat loss and degradation is a threat shared by many. In the case of reptiles and amphibians, a combination of habitat loss alongside Invasive species and disease are causes for concern. 

Outside of the graphs and the LPI measurements WWF's report has a number of case studies from the frontline of conservation to place perspective in the land of numbers. One of the case studies focused on a population of  African elephants  located in Selous-Mikumi reserve in Tanzania. This happens to be one of the largest reserves of fauna and yet the proportion of illegally killed elephants (PIKE) is still too high to be sustainable. In 2009, the elephant population was 44,806. In  2014 it is down to 15,217
I know another graph but this one is nice and easy to get lots of information from! Courtesy of WWF 2016 Living Planet Report
Freshwater LPI:

Of all the vertebrate populations included in the report, those in the most amount of trouble are the freshwater vertebrates. In 2014 freshwater populations had experienced a 76% decline in numbers between 1970-2010. Recent updates on this data show that 81% of freshwater populations have been reported lost. 

Below shows the main drivers behind the large scale loss of abundance in freshwater vertebrates. 

Habitat loss and degradation appear again as a key driver behind the decline of not only terrestrial vertebrates but for vertebrates that live in freshwater as well. Overexploitation is a close running second for Birds, Mammals, Reptiles and Fish. 

Marine LPI

Vertebrate marine populations have decreased by 56% between 1970- 2010.

Overexploitation is one of the biggest threats facing marine fish, reptile, and mammal populations. Bycatch, incidental killing as well as targeted trade are all examples of overexploitation. Habitat degradation and loss playing a close second for some. 

Tropical LPI:

Tropical vertebrate populations contain some of the most charismatic and well-loved species. These are the exact same species that attract us towards many of  the best nature programs out there! int he 2014 report these species have suffered a decline by 56%.

2016 WWF Living Planet Report shines a light on ecosystems not previously mentioned before.

Check out the 2016 WWF Living Planet Report to see how Coral Reefs, Grasslands, and Rivers are affected and why the vertebrate populations residing in these areas are decreasing also. 

Lastly. The Sixth Mass Extinction is not new it has been known for a long long time! 

Just to show you guys just how much scientists have researched into this event I used the Google Scholar: 

I started off by just typing in the sixth mass extinction. In 0.04 seconds google returned with 80,700 results. The first result had been cited in other papers 1137 times!

I decided to narrow down the window.  I wanted to find out how many papers had been published in the space of 2 years from the WWF's last Living Report in 2014. In a matter of 0.05 seconds, my search gave me 12,800 results between 2014-2016 with some of them even mentioning the era of the Anthropocene.

What now?

The whole point of this post today was to emphasize just how repetitive it is all becoming. It feels a lot like it is the same story in a new format. We need to focus on what we know based on what we have: 

  • Our Biodiversity is declining at an accelerated rate
  • If this continues then the mass extinction is no longer a question of if it is a matter of when. 

These cold hard truths are uncomfortable to hear for many people and as such, they say they are dealing with it by getting scientists to gather more data to improve our statistics. This is so wrong! We have been using this strategy for years and even in the wake of better data the end message of this year's report is... crap the world's biodiversity is in trouble!  
In another two years, WWF will release another Living Planet Report, it will have the same information give or take a few percentages if we continue to sit on our buts and tweak with datasets. If we want to change the fate of our world it is relatively simple. We need to use the social media to apply pressure to the world's politics and to drive change. 

WWF Living Planet report 2014: click here
WWF Living Planet Report 2016: click here

There was a real call to action theme running through this post, but the power really is with the people! 

Over and out 

(P.S I am announcing some really cool news very very soon!)

Greetings everybody, 

So this is a bit strange... Instead of giving you a dosage of science to see you into the weekend I am delivering a bit of science at the beginning of the week! Last week was crazy busy, applying onto graduate schemes, tutoring, and temping as a practice secretary... so I was a little bit short on time. Enough with what I was doing let's dive straight into Monday Facts. 

The dark side of cancer immunotherapy will be a featured post possibly next week in case you wanted to know a little more about this treatment. In the meantime have an amazing week  to all of you guys and will catch you in a short while!

Over and Out
Greetings everybody

Happy Friday to all of you lovely readers. This week we are focusing on Tuberculosis.

What is Tuberculosis? 

Quick dip into history! Tuberculosis has been following humans closely throughout their history, signs of infection have been found in mummies. 

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Tuberculosis is a communicable respiratory disease (infectious) caused by a bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis manifests itself in many different species, as such not all forms are caused by that one bacteria. M. tuberculosis is the strain commonly associated with disease in humans, however, it's part of a larger group known as the Mycobacterium. tuberculosis complex
This complex includes the following tuberculosis-causing species: 
  • Mycobacterium bovis - clue in the name. This strain mainly affects bovines but can be transmitted to mammalian hosts - like us. 
  • Mycobacterium africanum - main culprit for tuberculosis transmission in West Africa. 
  • Mycobacterium microti - Infects small rodents primarily
  • Mycobacterium pinnipedii - Infects seals
  • Mycobacterium caprae - this species is thought to be able to infect animals including humans. 

All species included in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex are classed as obligate pathogens. An obligate pathogen must become active inside the host for it to become infectious and ensure successful transmission from one host to the next. 
Why is tuberculosis such a worrying threat to global health? As we have seen, it is widespread amongst a variety of species. Some of the species involved in the M. tuberculosis complex are able to cross the species barrier separating animal health from human health. 


Size matters:
The individual bacterial agents (M. tuberculosisinvolved in the transmission of this disease are very small in size. An infected individual will sneeze or cough releasing these infectious agents, their size allows for them to remain in the air for a length of time spanning from minutes to hours. Inhalation of just one M. tuberculosis will lead to the host (human or animal) becoming infected with Tuberculosis. Once again the size of this bacteria allows it to migrate from our airways to the terminal structure of our respiratory system - the alveoli. 

Perfect storm for tuberculosis transmission: 
M. tuberculosis has many mechanisms that aid its virulence found inside the bacterial genes. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are becoming resistant to many of the drugs on the market to treat it. For more on drug resistance and why it matters click here 
Once activated M. tuberculosis triggers many symptoms that can remain mild for many months such as a cough, fever, and weight loss. This allows for the infected individual to infect others, and average 10-15 people can get infected in this way. Tuberculosis has made use of our globalized world to aid its success in transmission. Population expansion, overcrowding and the unregulated movement of people has allowed Tuberculosis to affect all four corners of the world.

Tracking the stages of this disease: 

  1. M. tuberculosis bacteria is engulfed by alveolar macrophages (an immune cell) when the bacteria arrives in the lungs. Once engulfed macrophages produce chemical distress signals (chemokines and cytokines) to recruit other immune cells to the site of infection. 
  2. Inside the macrophage, the bacteria begin replicating exponentially. They block the cell activating bactericidal mechanisms (processes that would lead to the extermination of the bacteria). Eventually, the bacteria cause the premature unprogrammed death of the macrophage known as necrosis
  3. Released bacteria are then taken in by other macrophages responding to the distress signals. The process continues causing growth in necrosis tissue. 
  4. It is 2-4 weeks after the initial infection when T cells (the bodies biggest and badest immune cells) are primed, prepped and ready to target the Mycobacterium 
  5. These cells stop disease progression by halting bacterial replication. A combination of T lymphocytes, macrophages, and other immune cells form a wall around the site of infection (necrosis tissue and infected macrophages) 
  6. The formation of this granuloma leads to the containment of the disease in 90% of infected individuals and halts the progression. 

The threat of Latent TB: 

We know the outcome for 90% of individuals affected by Tuberculosis, what about the remaining 10%? 
M. tuberculosis has one last trick up its sleeve. The bacteria retains the ability to resuscitate itself and become active all over again. 
Whilst most of the bacteria are killed in the granulomas, some manage to block the mechanisms that will lead to their destruction such as: 
  • Preventing the fusion of phagosomes (these are air bubbles like vesicles filled with bacteria inside macrophages) with lysosomes (vesicles containing digestive enzymes that break down bacteria). 
  • Preventing antigen presentation by MHC class 1, Class 2, and CD1 molecules. By preventing this it makes it impossible for our immune system to launch an attack because it doesn't know the target! 
  • Prevents immune cells creating an inhospitable environment. 
Blocking these mechanisms allow the bacteria to enter a dormant/latent state and remain in our alveoli without detection. 
Latent Tuberculosis shows its true insidious nature during this phase.  Bacteria will continue to remain dormant waiting until our bodies immune system becomes weakened by another type of infection (e.g. HIV). Stimulated by the weakened immune system Tuberculosis is activated, allowing for the continued replication as well as disseminating throughout the body.  

Deadly dynamic duo a phrase not saved for superheroes: 
HIV and Tuberculosis are perfect bed buddies. HIV decimates the immune systems of those infected. In its absence,   M. tuberculosis ceases the opportunity and starts its path of destruction all over again
Check out the map below showing the prevalence of individuals infected with both TB and HIV!

Tuberculosis is a threat as a cause of multiple factors; its size, ability to disseminate around the body, route of transmission, growing antibiotic resistance, the threat of latent infections. WHO estimates that a third of the world's population may suffer from latent TB- a ticking time bomb. In the year of 2014 Tuberculosis killed 1.5 million people and was responsible for 1/3 HIV deaths. We have no idea if or when latent Tuberculosis will be activated, there was a case where a man had fallen ill to Tuberculosis that had remained dormant for 30 years (it was gained by his father). 

That was your biology fix for this weekend guys, as always I want to know what you guys thought. Did you find this interesting and if you guys want any diseases looked into any greater detail leave a comment down below!

Over and out! 

NOTIFICATION: I will be changing the name of the blog in the month of December! Please keep up to date with the change in name as I value every one of you as readers. 
Greetings  everybody!

It is Friday! I am so crazy happy about this and so for this week have a look at some of these Friday Facts. 

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That was Friday Facts for this week guys! I do have a major announcement to make... But that is for another time guys have an amazing weekend as always. 
I will see you all next Friday. 

Over and out
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