Science & Nature Round-up: Danes still sceptical about vaccines despite all evidence to the contrary – The Post

Science & Nature Round-up: Danes still sceptical about vaccines despite all evidence to the contrary

Cutting medicine residues in water, robots could be the farmer’s new helpmate and a helping hand for Parkinson patients

Long before the advent of the internet these Danes in 1899 were convinced of the value of vaccination (Anna Ancher, ‘A vaccination’ Skagens Museum)
June 21st, 2019 2:14 pm| by Stephen Gadd

The theories of anti-vaxers and other internet sceptics seem to be gaining ground, if a study encompassing 140,000 people from over 140 countries carried out by the Wellcome Trust is to be believed.

The study reveals that an average of 79 percent of people worldwide believe that vaccines are safe, but in Denmark the figure is only 69 percent.

Generally speaking, 21 percent of the world’s population do not believe that vaccines are safe to use. Even more are sceptical how safe vaccines and vaccination programs are, the BBC reports.

A block on progress
Amongst the Danes, 14 percent of the population are either indifferent to, or disagree with, the idea that vaccines have the preventive effect that experts and health professionals have documentation for.

“In some places, hesitation when it comes to vaccines has the potential to put a stop to the progress we’ve made worldwide in controlling diseases that can be prevented by vaccination,” said Ann Lindstrand from the World Health Organization.

From the study, France can be seen as a case in point. From 2017-2018 the country experienced a serious measles outbreak – a disease that can be prevented by vaccination.

In France, every third person is unsure whether vaccination is safe, and 19 percent are unsure whether it has the desired effect.

Bacterial warfare against medicine residues
Medicine residues often end up in rivers and lakes when they are flushed into the sewage system. A new plant in Herning in Jutland has shown promising results when it comes to removing residues in an environmentally-friendly way, reports DR Nyheder. The plant is the first of its kind in the world and it works by using special bacteria to eat the residues before water is released from the system. Small plastic shells are placed in tanks with clean water that bacteria naturally grows in. By varying the conditions in the tanks, different bacteria can be activated at different times to get rid of the more stubborn medicine residues. Traditional ways of trying to cope with the problem have only been able to do a partial clean. The plant has received 3.5 million kroner in support from the environmental authority’s development program MUDP.

Help on the way to Parkinson-sufferers
Researchers from Aarhus University have discovered that during the onset of Parkinson’s disease a certain part of the brain, the caudate nucleus, is broken down. When this happens a person’s cognitive powers are weakened quicker, and many are hit by depression and have problems walking. Data from 397 patients who had Parkinson’s disease for two years or less was analysed. Their condition was re-examined four years later to see how the disease had progressed. Already in the first phase, almost half the subjects showed signs of damage to the caudate nucleus. This new knowledge can be useful in identifying ‘at risk’ patients in order to begin a focused treatment regime.

Robots could be farm labourers of the future
No, it is not Tatooine where Luke Skywalker’s uncle Owen bought the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 to help out on the farm, but Falster in Denmark, where Robotti is hard at work on a sugar beet field. Since April, organic sugar beet farmers have been using 12 small robots on their fields of  as part of a Danish research project, reports TV2 Nyheder. As well as sowing the crops, the robots can also weed between the rows. Because the machines are more accurate than humans, it has been possible to reduce the amounts of pesticides needed by as much as 80 percent – to the benefit of the environment. However, it will not be possible to tell whether the project is truly economically viable until the sugar beet has been harvested.

Whale meet again
Through DNA analysis of a skull at the Statens Naturhistoriske Museum, a research team from the University of Copenhagen has established that narwhals and white whales are capable of interbreeding and producing viable offspring.  A hunter who shot a hybrid whale in Greenland in 1980 was struck by the abnormal size of its skull. It subsequently ended up in the zoological museum’s stores. “As far as we know this is the first and only proof in the world that these two Arctic whale types can interbreed,” said DNA researcher Eline Lorenzen, who is a curator at the Statens Naturhistoriske Museum.

Is it a bird, is it a frog? No, it’s a crake
Ornithologists have been flocking to Vaserne in Birkerød this week as an extremely rare visitor has been sighted: a Baillon’s crake. The little bird is a very rare visitor to Denmark and its normal stomping ground is in Asia, South Africa and a few places in southern Europe, reports DR Nyheder. The bird is extremely shy and has a characteristic cry that sounds like a frog. The last time it came this way was 2015.