Science Interviews


Sun, 11th Mar 2007

Science Update - Polio and Viruses

Chelsea Ward and Bob Hirshon from AAAS

Part of the show Naked Scientists Question and Answer Show

Chelsea - Since 1955 America has spent 35 billion dollars on Polio vaccination, that might seem like a lot but that spending has generated a net saving of over 180 billion dollars, that's according to a new analysis by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health. Lead author Kimberly Thompson says they modelled how the disease would have spread without vaccinations and then estimated how much it would have cost to treat it.

Kimberly - People often don't realise that its hard to get credit for things that don't happen. This is a real challenge because with respect to public health because if people don't see the benefits of intervention but they look at the cost, then they might misperceive in fact how very valuable public health interventions are.

Chelsea - She says that's an important lesson not only for efforts to eradicate Polio in developing countries, but also for healthcare systems in developed countries where emergency treatment often trumps preventative care.

Bob - A new kind of drug may fight viruses and other causes of disease by silencing their genes. The key ingredient is small interfering RNA, a molecule that can block specific genes from making proteins. Julie Leberman from Harvard Medical School says such drugs would have broad potential.

Julie - Since the machinery for RNA interference exists in all cells, this natural pathway can be used to silence any gene that might be involved in disease.

Bob - In animal studies, Leberman's team found a way to get interfering RNA into infected cells without affecting healthy cells. Now she and her colleagues are working RNA therapies for a respiratory virus, pandemic 'flu and even high cholesterol.

Chelsea - Thanks Bob, next time we'll look at how global warming could break up some happy symbiotic relationships. Back to you Naked Scientists...


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