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For many of us here in the U.S., cholera is something we only know about from a book that we read in high school.

But for millions of people around the world, this disease is a very real threat to their health simply because they don't have access to clean drinking water.

So, what if there were an easy way to filter out cholera-causing bacteria from water?


Image via iStock.

That is exactly the question that marine microbiologist Rita Colwell pondered while she was on a research trip in Bangladesh.

She had been studying the bacterium that causes cholera, called Vibrio cholerae, for decades and had made a series of important discoveries about it with her colleagues. For example, they had learned the bacteria could survive in both fresh- and seawater and that it was the primary bacteria attached to copepods, microscopic crustaceans and plankton that live in water all over the world.

But up until then, their research had focused mostly on the bacteria and the environment where it was found — not on any practical solutions that might help people not get sick.

"It occurred to us, well, my goodness, in all the work we are doing, clearly we could do something for the village families who get cholera," Colwell says.

An electron microscope image of V. cholerae bacteria, which causes cholera. Image via Dartmouth University/Wikimedia Commons.

Cholera is a deadly diarrheal disease caused by the ingestion of contaminated food or water.

While this disease has been rare in the United States for over a century, it is still a serious problem throughout the developing world, including in Bangladesh, where access to clean drinking water can be difficult. In fact, according to the World Health Organization,between 1.3 to 4 million people get sick with cholera every year, and as many as 143,000 people die from it.  

In rural Bangladesh, where Colwell was working, cholera was a serious problem because women would scoop drinking surface water directly from canals, rivers, and lakes. There was no filtration, and there wasn’t enough fuel, like firewood, available for families to boil water every day.

Colwell and her colleagues realized that if they could devise a crude, inexpensive filter to strain the copepods (which the V. cholerae bacteria are attached to) from the water, maybe they could help people protect themselves from the disease.

They started by testing out T-shirt material, but that didn’t work. It was difficult to rinse, it didn’t dry, and a lot of debris in the water got through the weave in the fabric.

Then they tried sari cloth the same cloth that women in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal have worn for thousands of years. It's also a cloth that women in rural Bangladesh already were using to prepare home-brewed drinks.

Sari cloth has been used as traditional clothing for centuries in the region. Image via iStock.

It worked.

The sari fabric, when it was folded four times over the urns used to gather water, created a mesh filter that was effective enough to remove 99% of the bacteria attached to the plankton copepods that cause the cholera.

Not only that, but the cloth could be reused over and over again, making it a very practical and inexpensive solution. That’s because the cloth is light and porous, Colwell explains. "Because it rains — with monsoons — every day [there], the sari cloth is designed to dry quickly. So, what is nice about it is that you can unfold it, rinse it off, and then hang it up. It dries and then you can re-use it."

Colwell and her colleagues taught villagers how to make their own sari filters in 65 rural Bangladeshi villages, and over three years, she says, "we were able to show a 50% reduction in cholera."

Folded four times over a water collection urn, sari cloth can reduce the amount of cholera in drinking water. Image via iStock.

The team returned to the villages five years later and found that news of the filters had spread to other villages. As many as 75% of the population in these villages were using these filters.

And, Colwell says, they discovered something called the "herd effect" taking place — even if villagers weren’t filtering water themselves, fewer people were getting sick because fewer people were shedding the bacteria back into the water. "By virtue of all their neighbors staying healthy because they filtered," she explains, "they were not exposed to the larger numbers of bacteria themselves."

Of course, the filter isn't 100% effective at catching cholera-causing bacteria. Still, Colwell says there is power in this simple solution.

According to UNICEF, 663 million people do not have access to clean water around the world. Not only that, almost 2.4 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation.  

There are a lot of high-tech solutions out there that try to address the problem of access to clean water, she says, and there are a lot of ways to work to combat the spread of cholera. But sometimes, it is the simple, inexpensive solutions — such as the sari filter — that can do a lot of good.

A view of rural Bangladesh. Image via Balaram Mahalder/Wikimedia Commons.

With more education about how the sari can be used, she says, it can make a difference for public health in regions where there isn’t access to clean water. Sari filters could even be useful in the aftermaths of large hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters all over the world, she adds.

Colwell and her colleagues hope to spread the word about sari filters to other places, such as Africa and other regions in Asia, where inexpensive solutions have the potential to make a big impact.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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