Monday Links

  • The United States is going to destroy six tons of illegal ivory, which it hopes will discourage elephant and rhino poaching. I’m skeptical – I don’t get the feeling that ivory buyers really care what the United States does with its ivory – but haven’t seen studies analyzing supply-and-demand after these types of events (in the 80s, Kenya did the same thing)
  • One man’s quest to develop a malaria vaccine, which has so far culminated in the most successful vaccine to date – theoretically. Logistically, rolling out multiple rounds of intravenous vaccine to children in low-resource settings is a mess
  • Mass drug administration – like giving praziquantel to kids in schistosomiasis-endemic regions – is a powerful public health strategy. This article goes in depth about mass drug administration with respect to lymphatic filariasis, the parasite best known for causing elephantitis  
  • I think Sendhil Mullainathan gets it a bit wrong in his latest article on obesity. One study he references (which I wrote about here) looks at gut bacteria and how it affects weight, irrespective of total calories consumed. It finds that mice with “thin” gut bacteria will gain less weight on an equivalent diet as mice with “thick” gut bacteria – but that, with the right diet (heavy in fruits and vegetables), the thin gut bacteria would actually overtake the thick gut bacteria  in an obese mouse after a fecal transplant, which causes it to lose weight. Importantly, this takeover never happened in obese mice that continued to eat an “unhealthy” diet high in saturated fat. To me, this bolsters the case for viewing obesity as something that can be profoundly affected by behavioral changes (and, indeed, behavioral economics), and even provides a roadmap for better health

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