Published: Wednesday 31 March 2004

trouble gets modified: Researchers from the National Centre for Compositional Characterisation of Materials, Hyderabad, have found that mercury can accumulate in the environs in various forms. They studied mercury present in lichen and moss growing in the vicinity of Hindustan Lever Limited's thermometer factory in Kodaikanal. Both the lichen and moss samples had a different form of the metal than what was emitted from the factory. As per the researchers, the magnitude of environmental contamination can only be gauged if the modification is considered.

cancerous connection: Frequent antibiotic use can lead to breast cancer, indicates a study of thousands of Americans. "Our findings are worrisome; we don't know why this connection exists," says John Potter of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, USA. In 2000, Finland scientists had also found that women who had taken antibiotics for urinary tract infections had an elevated risk for the disease.

disease-free rice: Researchers from Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the Directorate of Rice Research have developed a new line of Samba masuri -- a popular rice variety -- that is resistant to the crop's number one pest disease, the bacterial leaf blight (BLB). The development is significant, as BLB is responsible for almost 15 per cent reduction in yields in states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

brain storming info: The brain drain of scientists from South Africa is four times greater than what is depicted by government figures, reports the South African Human Sciences Research Council and the National Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. As per the official migration statistics, almost 17,000 science and technology professionals (about one per cent of the country's total scientific workforce) left the country between 1994 and 2001. But the new study shows otherwise.

distinctive diagnosis: Unlike current diarrhoea detection techniques, a new method diagnoses the disease within one hour. Many different infections caused by viruses and bacteria can trigger diarrhoea and cause severe dehydration. But the condition can also be the symptom of cholera or typhoid. "So the exact cause has to be diagnosed," says Chris Probert from the University of Bristol, the UK, who has developed the new test. His technique works by analysing the distinctive gases emitted by the bugs in a person's stool.

coral trouble: Australia's Great Barrier Reef will lose 95 per cent of its coral by 2050, predicts a new report. Global warming is expected to increase sea temperatures by 1.5-4.5C by the end of this century. Even at the lower end of the temperature limit, "coral bleaching incidences will become quite common," says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, co-author of the report and the director of University of Queensland's Centre for Marine Studies, Australia.

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