Worms that eat plastic and computers that help doctors make much better diagnoses

Researchers in Spain and England recently found that the larvae of greater wax moths can efficiently break down polyethylene which accounts for 40% of the plastic in the environment. We produce 300 metric tons of plastic yearly and 12 million metric tons pollute the ocean. The scientists have found that the moths have developed enzymes in their stomachs which break down the plastic and the hope is to harvest or reproduce the enzyme to break down plastics in our land fills and in the oceans. The research is reported in Current Biology and in this month’s Scientific American August 2017 Page 21.

Recent studies also show that physicians who use clinical support decision systems in making their diagnoses have a significantly lower adverse events rate for misdiagnosis. The most popular computer software system is Visual Dx, in a 2012 study comparing 1600 emergency rooms those who used the systems to check diagnoses had a 60% correct diagnosis rate. Those that did not use the system had a 14% success rate. About 1600 hospitals use the system now but the numbers are expected to increase substantially. Scientific American August 2017 Page 24.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers.