The disease named Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a particularly
virulent type of pneumonia caused by an unidentified virus or bacteria,
does not pose great risks for travellers. According to assistant student
doctor Mario Berreta in Wageningen, only close contact leads to infection.
The symptoms of Sars are a fever higher than 38°C, dry cough, shortness of
breath or breathing difficulties. According to Berreta only people staying
or working in hospitals in Hong Kong and other Asian countries have caught
the disease. The 219 cases of infection so far recorded by the World Health
Organization were people who travelled after such a stay. The WHO has not
yet issued a warning to travellers. The Foreign Office of the Netherlands
has opened a telephone line for questions: 070-3407890. More information on
Sars can be found on the website of the WHO: www.who.int/csr/sars/en
Zinc helps if taken regularly
Extra zinc can help improve growth in rural Ethiopian children, according
to nutritionist Melaku Umeta. Newborn children that are given extra zinc in
the first six months grow taller, heavier, eat more and are less sick.
The staple foods in the Ethiopian diet contain relatively large amounts of
zinc, but the human body has difficulty absorbing it, discovered Umeta,
because of the phytate in the same foods. Zinc supplements can help but
only if taken regularly. When Umeta stopped his research, and returned to
examine his subjects after three years, there was no trace to be seen of
the effects of the supplements. The children who had received zinc had the
same weight and height, and were sick just as often as the children who had
not had supplements. Melaku Umeta received his PhD on 17 March, and was
supervised by Professor Jo Hautvast.
Loose fitting jacket for diamond rice
Researchers at Plant Research International are developing a rice variety
that contains more vitamins, proteins and minerals. Diamond rice, as the
research group has named it, has grains with a special structure.
When brown rice is milled to produce white rice, preferred by large groups
of the world population, many of the nutrients are lost. Researchers at
Plant Research International went in search of ways to mill rice that would
not lead to such high nutrient losses. They have now bred a variety in
which the nutritious layers of the husk are not removed during milling, but
only the fibrous outermost husk. Diamond rice is not genetically modified,
and farmers in China already use a similar variety, so stepping over will
not be difficult. Nevertheless it will be about two more years before all
tests are completed.