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June 23, 2017

Weekend reads: A bite from this tick could make you allergic to red meat

Daily Briefing

    Marcelle Maginnis' reads

    This tick makes you allergic to red meat—and it's spreading. Just one bite from the lone star tick—an insect, named for the Texas-shaped white splotch on its back, that's spreading around the country—can "reprogram" your immune system to permanently reject even the slightest bite of red meat, Megan Molteni writes for Wired. Molteni explains that once infected, individuals develop an allergy to a protein-linked saccharide called galactose-alpha-1 (alpha-gal) that's found in red meat, experiencing stomach cramps, hive outbreaks, shortness of breath, and, in rare cases, even death, if they ingest so much as a nibble of bacon. But that's not what makes the tick and the allergy so fascinating to researchers, Molteni writes—the allergy seems to be the only one that "affects all people, regardless of genetic makeup." 

    Let's give some praise to the unsung heroes. Polling everyone from medical experts to Mercy Street's McKinley Belcher III, The Atlantic poses a crucial question: What is the most underappreciated medical invention in history? According to Jack Ende, president of the American College of Physicians, it's the stethoscope. "Light, relatively inexpensive, and so attractive whether draped around the neck or dangling down the chest, the stethoscope connects doctors to patients, and to their organs," Ende said. "What could be more valuable as we struggle with escalating costs in health care and concerns about the eroding relationship between doctors and patients?" For Christopher Crenner, president of the American Association for the History of Medicine, it's placebos, which he says "benefit almost everyone who receives medical care—quietly bolstering some therapeutic effects while subjecting others to a rigorous test."

    Rachel Schulze's reads

    The more feelings, the merrier. Experiencing a range of different positive emotions can be good for your health, according to new research. Time's Amanda McMillan explains that while prior studies have found positive emotions can have an anti-inflammatory effect, the new research focuses on whether the range and scope of those positive emotions has any further effect on overall health. The researchers found that people who said they experienced a broad variety of positive emotions had less inflammation than those who experienced a narrower variety of good emotions—and the difference held even when participants reported a similar frequency of positive emotions.

    Skirting the rules. When school officials at Isca Academy in Exeter, England, rejected boys' appeal to swap their trousers for shorts, which aren't part of the school's dress code, for the summer, several boys decided to don an option that is in the school's dress code—well, the girls' dress code, that is. A few boys on Wednesday showed up at school wearing tartan-patterned skirts, with at least 30 doing so on Thursday, Steven Morris reports for The Guardian. In response, Headteacher Aimee Mitchell said while she "would not want to make any changes without consulting both students and their families,  ... with the hotter weather becoming more normal, [she] would be happy to consider a change for the future." 

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