Friday, March 16, 2012

Weird Weather, Illness, and Research - During a Week Off

Spring break was all week. I didn’t do a great deal. Partially, I had an excuse: Martha and I both got sick with that nasty stomach bug that has hit so many people this winter (is that the right word to use for what this past season was?). But I was able to get a couple of good physical therapy visits in as well as gym workouts when I wasn’t laid up with the bug. And I also got some good reading in as well. But now I have to start refocusing my mind back towards the class load. So I’ll be spending a chunk of time this weekend doing just that. When I’m not working on Saturday, of course. And this will be the last Saturday that I’m going to work an abbreviated tour. Next week I can turn the volume back up and go to 16 hour days again.

One of the projects I have to do this semester is a research paper similar to one I wrote last semester in the Biology I class I was in. The paper is due in about 4 weeks (in Biology II, of course), and the topic I chose was to question the how HIV/AIDS jumped from primates to humans. It’s a loaded subject, and the professor who teaches the course doesn’t think I have a prayer of either finding good supporting information or writing it succinctly enough to get it within the limits that she set as part of the assignment.

Fortunately, I was able to find plenty to work with, and I can certainly whittle the writing down to at least get it to where it needs to be. I’m sure of that.

I think I have mentioned in previous posts that I am reading the book The Origins of AIDS, written by a Canadian immunologist named Jacques Pepin. He’s not to be confused with the French chef of the same name; they are no relation. One of the conditions that I have to follow to write this paper is that I can only use three sources, and none of them can be books. As I’ve found multiple sources outside of this book, I don’t have to worry about not having enough material to work with. I do wish, however, that there was some way to work this into the paper because the information in this book is exceptional. As it is, I looked at his sources (depending on the chapter, there were anywhere between 10 and 76) and some of those he cited in this book were among those that I found to use. But I had to pick three that would work, plus I have a five page limit within which to try to answer my question. But it can be done. I just have to do it.

As it is, the information I have so far, at least with regard to my original question, rejects what would comprise the equivalent of a null hypothesis. That said, I’d been looking at whether or not the CHAT Oral Polio Vaccine administered in what is now the Central African Republic between 1957 and 1960 was where it started. From what I am reading, both in the research I have as well as the book, this is definitely not the case. While HIV in any of the sub-strains that exist (there are 12 known strains that are documented) has been around for much longer than 1957, it has not been in existence for as long as many researchers originally thought. Using the techniques around what is known as the “molecular clock” – this is a method for determining dating, analogous to Carbon-14 dating but definitely not the same – it appears SIV, the simian precursor to HIV, originally surfaced sometime between the mid-19th century and the early 1930’s. Granted, this is a big window of time, but there is a lot of work still going on to narrow that down. And as I said before, there are 12 documented strains that have crossed that inter-species Rubicon, and they can all be traced phylogenically back to a single SIV source.

When I am at a point where I have something written that is at least partially ready for viewing, I am considering posting it along with my sources. Bear in mind that it is a research assignment so it’s going to be written in the style appropriate for scientific use. It definitely won’t be any sort of bestseller, but hopefully it will get me through the semester. And I do want it to be good; I just have to make sure I do it right.

I will definitely talk more about this in future posts.

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