Science  22 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6041, pp. 391

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  1. New Virus Jumps From Monkeys to Lab Worker

    Within weeks after a single titi monkey came down with pneumonia at the California National Primate Research Center in Davis, 19 monkeys were dead and three humans were sick. The Davis outbreak was the first known case of an adenovirus jumping from monkeys to humans, according to a new report in PLoS Pathogens.


    A team led by infectious diseases researcher Charles Chiu of the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed lung tissue samples from the dead monkeys and identified a new adenovirus, which they named titi monkey adenovirus (TMAdV).

    It's unlikely that the virus originated in the titi monkeys themselves, Chiu says: “Hosts that are that susceptible to a disease are not likely to be its originators.” Humans were also not likely to be the source of the virus: Although a lab worker fell ill during that period and her blood showed the same antibodies as those in the infected monkeys, those antibodies didn't appear anywhere in a representative set of 81 blood samples from donors in the western United States. Instead, the virus might have originated in rhesus macaques. One healthy rhesus macaque at the primate center did have the TMAdV antibodies.

    Michael Imperiale, a microbiologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, says TMAdV isn't necessarily a public health threat. He likens the virus to avian influenza, which humans can contract from birds but that is so poorly transmissible between people that it hasn't triggered an epidemic. “The question isn't just whether the virus can jump, but also whether it can widely spread,” he says. “That hasn't been proven yet.”

  2. Oceanographic Eddies Helped Form China Blooms

    In 2008, millions of tons of algae blanketed the Yellow Sea off the coast of Qingdao, China, threatening to foil sailing events at the summer Olympics. Using satellite images of the sea, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Laboratory of Experimental Marine Biology in Qingdao have helped explain why these blooms flourish.

    Their research, which appears in the 15 July issue of Environmental Science & Technology, is the first to combine biological data from algae samples with meteorological and oceanographic analysis. Whether a bloom on the scale of the 2008 disaster forms “completely depends on the waves and the wind,” says the study's lead author, Song Qin. Critical in this process are cyclonic eddies—huge, constantly moving bodies of water— that swirl through the Yellow Sea in spring and summer. In 2008, the eddies made conditions ideal for a bloom of Ulva prolifera.

    The group's multidisciplinary approach to tackling algal blooms would be “very useful … for other areas with green tides,” says Jaanika Blomster, an expert on blooms at the University of Helsinki, in an e-mail.

    Workers remove algae along the coast of Qingdao in June 2008.


    In the meantime, the blooms that have wreaked so much havoc in the Yellow Sea may carry hidden potential: Qin and colleagues are exploring putting the slime to good use by harvesting it and converting it into biofuel.

  3. Punching a Hole in Time

    In recent years, physicists and engineers have developed rudimentary “invisibility cloaks” that funnel light around an object. A new study published at takes this feat a step further, demonstrating a cloaking device that can hide (for a fraction of a second) an event that occurs at a specific point in time.

    The “time cloak” opens a gap in a laser beam; whatever happens in that gap cannot affect the beam and thus cannot be detected. To open the gap in the beam, Alexander Gaeta, Moti Fridman, and colleagues at Cornell University used a “time lens”: a device that can shift the frequency of the light. They send this “frequency modulated” light through an optical fiber that speeds up some wavelengths of light. As one set of wavelengths races ahead of others, a gap opens in the beam.

    After the light has passed the spot where the hidden event will occur, the experimenters reverse the process and the beam is stitched together again, so that an observer sees a continuous, uninterrupted beam of light—and never suspects that part of the action has been edited out.