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Ridley Scott Teams Up With Ebola For This New Series

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The_Hot_Zone_(cover) 2Ebola is already all over your TV. Seriously, it’s just covered in Ebola right now, but that’s going to intensify soon, thanks, in large part, to Blade Runner director Ridley Scott. The filmmaker is going to take a detour in his busy schedule to produce, and likely direct the first episode of a limited event series based on Richard Preston’s best-selling book The Hot Zone. Subtitled A Terrifying True Story, the book recounts the origins and incidents involving the notorious hemorrhagic fever.

There’s been talk of turning The Hot Zone into a movie for years, Jodie Foster was going to star at one point. First published in 1994—adapted from an article Preston wrote for The New Yorker in 1992—it came out just as movies like Outbreak were sweeping the nation and causing widespread public alarm. To call the book hyperbolic and sensationalist is putting it a bit mildly, but it’s a hell of a read, and absolutely terrifying to boot. If you’re currently having any worries about Ebola, however, you should probably leave this one on the shelf.

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Ebola: CDC Confirms The First Case On U.S. Soil In Dallas

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o-EBOLA-facebookYou may already be aware of this, but Ebola is terrifying. With the current glut of zombie apocalypse narratives like The Walking Dead sweeping across popular culture, the Ebola virus is about the closest thing we have. Sure, it won’t make your loved ones hungry for brains or bring them back from the dead, but this particular hemorrhagic fever is a nasty piece of business. The disease has been all over the news lately, with outbreaks ravaging parts of Africa, but now it’s coming stateside, with a case confirmed in Dallas. If you’ve seen movies like Outbreak or Contagion, that’s exactly where our minds immediately went.

The patient, who is not being publicly identified, is being kept under “strict isolation” at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas while the CDC investigates the situation. This is the first substantiated case of this latest strain of Ebola on American soil. Others have been tested, but those came back negative.

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Science Revives Another Ancient Virus, With More To Come

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pithovirus Lately, there’s been a lot of news about viruses that hang around a whole lot longer than you would imagine. Modern human DNA still contains traces of a Neanderthal virus, and scientists recently recovered strands of an ancient plague from an old tooth. I know scientists learn from these ancient bugs, but I have to admit that I’ve been wondering why they’d focus on something so old when there are so many debilitating illnesses that wreak havoc on modern man. I found the frightening answer in a story about yet another virus that’s been revived by scientists. This one has been hibernating in the Siberian tundra.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study by French scientists who thawed out a virus that had been frozen 98 feet below the surface, well into the permafrost of Siberia, for some 30,000 years. That means the disease would have been active around the time of Neanderthals and woolly mammoths. Despite its long nap, the virus, Pithovirus sibericum, grew in a petri dish and eventually infected an amoeba.

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Neanderthal Virus Present In Modern Human DNA

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NeanderthalWe’ve have been uncovering new and often surprising information about our evolutionary predecessors lately—namely, that we’re all more alike than we thought. About a month ago scientists suggested that early hominids are all the same species. And while Neanderthals aren’t early hominids, they are genetically very similar to Homo sapiens, even to the extent that some have proposed bringing them back from extinction via cloning. Another link between us and our Neanderthal ancestors has been unearthed, a virus that affected their DNA and, it turns out, affects ours too.

Researchers from the U.K. published their findings in Current Biology, building on prior knowledge that viruses can affect our DNA if they become genomic, DNA that is then passed on to our offspring. Scientists have never found a virus-altered strand of DNA that spells troubles for modern humans, until now. The new research also builds upon a discovery from last year that indicates Neanderthal and Denisovan (a cousin of the Neanderthal, thought to have lived about 40,000 years ago) DNA was changed by an ancient retrovirus. They were able to chart the alterations because of viral evidence left in genomic junk sequences (sequences that don’t create proteins and don’t seem to do much at all). That research time found 14 instances of viral evidence and then decided to see if they could match of the 14 to our current DNA. Initially, they couldn’t.

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Scientists To Make A Superflu In Labs, And They’re Not Even Super Villains

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H7N9Creating viruses seems like a favorite past-time of super villains out for world domination. Turns out, it’s also the not-so-nefarious plan of scientists specializing in flu research. One group wants to destroy the world, one wants to save it. If you haven’t heard of the bird flu, you either aren’t planning any travels to Asia, or don’t plan on communing with many feathered creatures. But the thing about the bird-flu—the most common and well-known strain is H5N1—is that it can jump species and spread to other animals, including humans.

Last week, Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, along with Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published plans to start a slew of risky experiments with the H7N9 virus, a new breed of bird flu. The first report of the H7N9 strain infecting a human occurred in mid-February in China, but the number of cases soon jumped—at least 134 humans have been infected, and 43 of them died from the virus. The number of cases rose particularly quickly, triggering renewed fears of a worldwide pandemic. Live bird markets appeared to be the cause of much of the human infection, and scientists worried about potential human-to-human transmission.