Discovered: children from poor families are getting less obese; a supervirus may lead the UK to cry over its milk; chicken farmers swap oregano for antibiotics; ultramassive black holes are unfathomably huge.
Waistlines on low-income American kids are shrinking. With one in three American children overweight, it's heartening to hear that the number of obese kids is finally going down. A new study of 26.7 million young children from low-income families concludes that, "the prevalence of obesity and extreme obesity among young U.S. children may have begun to decline." The researchers focussed on children between the ages of 2 and 4 from 30 states and the District of Columbia. In 2003, 2.22 percent of kids in this group were extremely obese, defined as a body mass index above 40.0 (for instance, a 4'0'' kid weighing more than 130 pounds would be considered extremely obese). By 2010, that number dipped to 2.07 percent. [Scientific American]
You might want to avoid raw dairy in Britain. Who's ready to go vegan? Researchers associated with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have found a strain of MRSA—a nasty antibiotic resistant bacterial infection that people often pick up in hospitals—in U.K. milk. They tested 1,500 samples of pre-pasteurized milk, finding ST398 MRSA in seven samples from five different farms. Scientists assure the British public that milk and cheese should be safe to consume, since pasteurization would kill off the bacteria. Maybe don't buy raw milk or cheese though, they warn. The real concern here is that farm workers might pick up the infection, becoming a vector that carries MRSA into the general public. [Wired]
Can oregano replace antibiotics on chicken farms? One theory as to why infections like MRSA are spreading so rampantly posits that our over-use of antibiotics has caused pathogens to evolve immunity to such drugs. Following that logic, we might want to use less antibiotics on our livestock. But how will farmers keep infections from breaking out? As The New York Times's Stephanie Strom reports, some chicken farmers are using oregano oil as an antibiotic substitue. Many researchers doubt the effectiveness of this herbal remedy, though. "Oil of oregano is a perennial one, advertised as a cure for just about everything," says Toronto-based pharmacist Scott Gavura. "But there isn’t any evidence, there are too many unanswered questions and the only proponents for it are the ones producing it." [The New York Times]
Ultramassive black holes are crazy huge. Forget those puny supermassive black holes. NASA scientists have discovered new black holes that are so much bigger than anything they've observed before, they have to categorize them as ultramassive black holes. It would take 10 to 40 billion suns to equal the mass of these monsters. Researchers led by Stanford University's Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo have found that these astronomical behemoths may be more common than previously thought, locating ultramassive black holes in 10 out of the 18 galaxies they studied in a recent survey. "Several and even dozens of these colossal black holes may exist," writes Hlavacek-Larrondo. "I wouldn't be surprised if I end up finding a 100 billion solar mass black hole." [RT]