Why is HIV incurable?

virus-1913183_1920This is something that’s come up often as I talk to people about my Honours project. “Why can’t we cure HIV?” It’s been around since the 50s, although it was only identified in 1983.

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Rainwater harvesting – tapping into a greatly underused resource

This article is specific to the context of the Cape Town drought, but the concepts can be applied in any water-scarce situation where there is the potential to harvest rainwater.cropped-rain.jpgAs you’ve probably heard, over and over if you live in Cape Town, dam levels are low. At 31% capacity, water storage levels are 25% lower than they were this time last year.  Although there are talks of shipping water from upcountry, and building a desalination plant, perhaps we should be looking to the skies – which deliver fresh water right into our backyard.

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Greywater: the do’s and don’ts of reusing greywater at home

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Catch your shower water in a bucket for later reuse. Photo credit: peasap

It’s winter in the Cape, and although I’ve enjoyed having a longer period of warm sunny days this year, even I have to admit that I’ve been hoping for a good wet winter after the drought. For a city right next to the sea, it’s amazing how we can be so affected by a drought season. But here we are, and as we look for ways to use less water, many are turning to greywater recycling. While this is great, greywater cannot be handled in the same way as municipal water, and health risks can arise from simple mistakes. If you’ve wondered about that smell as you water the lawn, or the colour of the water you’ve been storing, you may be doing something wrong with how you use greywater. Continue reading

Long term thinking and the antibiotic resistance crisis

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Adapted from a photo by Fredrik Rubensson

There was the email: I would like to invite you to our July event Getting Cozy with Catastrophe: Superbugs, Drug Resistance … When I received an invitation to a talk on antibiotic resistance, I have to admit, I was initially a little bit uninspired by the topic. If you’ve been in a biological field for long enough, you kinda know the antibiotic resistance story. But then I looked a little closer at the write-up. Superbugs, Drug Resistanceand the Power of Long Term Thinking. “Ah,” I thought. “Maybe there will be something new to bring to the table.” And so it was that when on July 5th, Women in Tech Cape Town hosted a TechTalk with drug resistance scientist Dr Imogen Wright as the speaker, I was sitting in the audience, with my pen at the ready. Continue reading

There’s science in your mug – it must be teatime!

A bit of a frivolous post, as I take a teatime break, and muse at the science of everyday. cropped-tea-2238290_1920.jpgMilk first? Milk at all? Sugar? How long should I leave the tea-bag in for? Green or black or red or white? Herbal – does that still class as tea? The science of tea is clearly important to our everyday lives. However you take your tea, the evidence points in favour of the humble tea break! Continue reading

White hat hacking to combat disease

white hat hacking to combat disease (2)Information can be hacked – unfortunate as it is, it’s true. And interestingly, hacking can take place not only on the internet, but also within your very cells. Viruses use our genetic information against us to make more of themselves – a form of molecular hacking. However, hacking doesn’t always imply something bad. Just as there are white hat hackers, there is also good molecular hacking. Continue reading

Difficult conditions can be difficult to study: the journey of a little white pill

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The problems with human subjects
Credit: xkcd

It all starts with a cause. Of course it does. Be it malaria, Alzheimer’s or something else – there is a reason to start looking for a cure. Sometimes, it’s easy. Traditional healing plants are obvious avenues for drug discovery. Sometimes, it’s hard. What do you do when bacteria become resistant to all known drugs? Or if you just don’t understand a disease enough to develop something that will target the underlying cause rather than just the symptoms. Whatever road is taken, drug development has to tick certain boxes, and contend with certain politics, before a pill ends up in your bathroom cabinet. Continue reading