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Medicine

13-Year-Old Finds Fungus Deadly To AIDS Patients Growing On Trees 134

Posted by samzenpus
from the nature-not-nurture dept.
An anonymous reader writes Researchers have pinpointed the environmental source of fungal infections that have been sickening HIV/AIDS patients in Southern California for decades. It literally grows on trees. The discovery is based on the science project of a 13-year-old girl, who spent the summer gathering soil and tree samples from areas around Los Angeles hardest hit by infections of the fungus named Cryptococcus gattii.
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13-Year-Old Finds Fungus Deadly To AIDS Patients Growing On Trees

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:41AM (#47747145)

    I did'nt know there were AIDS patients growing on trees...

  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:42AM (#47747149)

    AIDS patients grow on trees now?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:44AM (#47747167)
    Thirteen year olds have access to the results of genetic testing and do basic analysis on them. The tools that are available for people to do science is amazing. It is a good time to be alive. Now if we could only find a way to convince the politicians and parents to let teachers share these insights without forcing students to sit in chairs and be lectured at all day.
    • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:53AM (#47747243)

      As great as that sounds, it's actually not the case here. The article states that the girl's father is an infectious disease researcher at UCLA and she was sending the samples to a lab at Duke to be DNA-sequenced. It seems like most of what she did was collect samples of the fungus for her father - an interesting summer project, but not exactly hard science.

      • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:55AM (#47747277) Homepage Journal

        Tenured professors at universities get their names on papers for less work than that.

      • by sjames (1099) on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:33AM (#47747573) Homepage

        So why didn't the hard scientists already know where the fungus was coming from?

        That's right, because they didn't do the science. The girl in TFA did.

        • by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Monday August 25, 2014 @01:05PM (#47749123)

          The student sampled 109 swabs of more than 30 tree species and 58 soil samples, grew and isolated the Cryptococcus fungus and then sent those specimens to Springer at Duke. Springer DNA-sequenced the samples from California and compared the sequences to those obtained from HIV/AIDS patients with C. gattii infections.

          Oh look, the "hard scientists" actually did the science.

          Dukeâ(TM)s chairman of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Joseph Heitman M.D., was contacted by longtime collaborator and UCLA infectious disease specialist Scott Filler, M.D., whose daughter Elan was looking for a project to work on during her summer break. They decided it would be fun to send her out in search of fungi living in the greater Los Angeles area.

          The girl didn't figure out where the fungus was coming from, nor did she even come up with the idea to sample fungus herself. The scientists knew it was coming from somewhere in the environment and, since they had an offer of help collecting samples, allowed the student to assist them.

          The girl did not do the science. She just assisted the scientists with the manual labor.

          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by sjames (1099)

            You sound bitter.

          • by Krishnoid (984597) on Monday August 25, 2014 @04:29PM (#47751181) Journal

            The girl did not do the science. She just assisted the scientists with the manual labor.

            So she's, what, a grad student?

          • by ediron2 (246908)

            Science is proper data collection, too. She did science.

            Don't get me wrong, GP does seem to have a hate going for scientists -- Maybe there's an innocent reason; maybe they've got a bad case of the Mondays, or maybe they're just cromag antisci doofuses -- It sure seems like half the stuff that spins people up boils down to simple-minded people getting everything deconstructed and predigested down to shittily-written innacurate morality plays and 'ooga booga' sorts of us-vs-them scary narratives. One commo

            • by sjames (1099)

              Or just pointing out that the girl did science and (in the same sense as saying Sir Issac Newton did not discover radium) the other scientists didn't do that particular science.

      • by Mike Buddha (10734) on Monday August 25, 2014 @12:24PM (#47748717)

        Since when is collecting samples and cataloging them not hard science? Not particularly difficult, but most definitely hard science.

        • by ttsai (135075)

          Since when is collecting samples and cataloging them not hard science? Not particularly difficult, but most definitely hard science.

          It is part of hard science, but it's the technician part. The scientist part is figuring out what problem to address, thinking of hypotheses to test, designing a methodology to test the hypotheses, and then executing the experiment and analyzing the gathered data.

          Finding a kid who has executed some scientific project is not rare. However, finding a kid who has done that without having the problem set up or at least directly motivated by a mentor (often a parent) is rare. Furthermore, it's even more rare

        • Relevant Rutherford: all science is either physics or stamp collecting.
      • by nbauman (624611)

        As great as that sounds, it's actually not the case here. The article states that the girl's father is an infectious disease researcher at UCLA and she was sending the samples to a lab at Duke to be DNA-sequenced. It seems like most of what she did was collect samples of the fungus for her father - an interesting summer project, but not exactly hard science.

        That's pretty common. Your dad helps you with your science project.

        There's nothing wrong with that. It's actually a good thing. If you own a restaurant, you'd let your kid work there over the summer. If you're a medical researcher, you'd give your kid a little useful project to do over the summer.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      The question is, how come it took a 13 year old student to find the fungus that is literally growing on the trees in the area where they knew the fungus had to be?

      Did nobody at all think to go look for it before this 13 year old girl? Seriously?
      • by Stickerboy (61554) on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:36AM (#47747613) Homepage

        Because honestly no one in medicine cares. There's not just one single environmental source of Cryptococcus, pigeons for example are known carriers. Getting rid of these trees is not going to prevent Cryptococcus infections anytime soon. What will prevent them is getting the HIV in the infected properly treated on a combination antiviral regimen so their own immune system can prevent the infection in the first place.

    • by EmagGeek (574360)

      It's called Montessori School, and it's wonderful.

      • Yes it is. I sent my daughter to an MS. It was a drain at the time but worth every penny. An aside - she now teaches mid-school physics and physical sciences with an elective in robotics. She's in heaven.

        • by Sciath (3433615)
          Confirmation bias? Children will be successful if they want to be successful regardless of the school. I could use the same argument for public school because both daughters of mine did well in public school. Both have university level degrees (magna and summa cum laude), one has a masters and both have successful careers in education. They both went to public school. So I could say their school was "wonderful". The facts would support that each individual determines their own fate not necessarily the insti
    • Incorrect. She used her father's influence to get a position collecting samples. She was responsible for collecting the samples and sending them for analysis. After DNA sequencing, the results were compared against the profile of an AIDS patient and then sent back to her.

      From the article..."She was surprised to find that specimens from three of the tree species were genetically almost indistinguishable from the patient specimens.".

      That was several years ago. Since her initial findings, the researchers (

  • by mmell (832646) <mike.mell@gmail.com> on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:54AM (#47747263)
    1) Create a disease which targets gays, blacks and IV drug users. Check.

    2) Disseminate a fungus which grows on trees so we can target those left-wing tree-huggers. Check.

    3) ???

    4) Profit!!!

    Damnit - I forgot the part where we nuke the whales. Oh, well - nothing's perfect.

    • Damnit - I forgot the part where we nuke the whales.

      Better to it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

  • Missleading title (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Technician (215283)

    I have not seen any AIDS patients growing on trees so this should not be an issue. :-)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They've all already died from the fungus.

  • How many AIDS patients grow on trees?

  • There's a fungus among us.

  • "There's a humongous fungus among us." -- Zoidberg [imgur.com]
  • by LearningHard (612455) on Monday August 25, 2014 @01:48PM (#47749503) Journal

    My father in the mid-south had a 3 year long struggle with this infection. It has left him a completely different person (three tumors in his brain). This is a nasty disease that was previously sub-tropical and is making its way into North America. The treatment is really nasty.

    Amphotericin B has terrible common side effects and the nurses had a nickname for it that was something like "Ampho the Terrible."

    Flucytosine is also used and it has a dramatic effect on the mental state of the patient.

    During the time my father was taking these medications he suffered kidney failure, massive weight loss, constant nausea and vomiting, poor impulse control (to the point that it was like he had no filter to stop him from saying or doing anything). I'm very glad my father is still alive but even two years removed he still is suffering the effects of this illness.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I had something similar happen to me this year but the fungus was Blastomycosis instead. I was on ampoterrorist B daily for two months, the first month in a coma in ICU, I was lucky I tolerated it rather well. The blasto nearly killed me they told my wife there was only a 20% chance I would survive. I did suffer bad weight loss but I attribute that mainly to the disease, I lost 54 lbs total.

  • by azav (469988)
    Isn't everything deadly to AIDS patients?

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