News This 1348 painting shows how plague devastated European cities like Florence

Black rats are also implicated in both outbreaks, which took place 800 years apart

Breakthrough offers hope in breast cancer fight

A naturally occurring molecule in bacteria can block the development of breast cancer, scientists have discovered, paving the way for the design of more potent and selective drugs.

Oldest known fossils prove life began more than 3.4bn years ago

The fossilised remains of the oldest known lifeforms on Earth have been discovered in samples of rock collected near a remote watering hole in the middle of the Australian Outback.

And you thought it was just fluff? New bacteria found in belly-buttons

Scientists have found 1,400 strains of bacteria lurking in human belly buttons. The discovery was made during a study in which 95 volunteers allowed a team of microbiologists to gaze at their navels and take swabs from inside their belly buttons.

Germany: Sprouts did cause deadly E. coli outbreak

German vegetable sprouts caused the E. coli outbreak that has killed 31 people and sickened more than 3,000, investigators announced Friday after tracking the bacteria from patients in hospital beds to restaurants and then farm fields.

Bacteria link to Parkinson's

A stomach bug that causes ulcers may help to trigger Parkinson's disease, research suggests.

Antibiotics that reduce gut bacteria linked to obesity

Scientists believe that the widespread use of antibiotics may be playing a significant role in exacerbating the obesity epidemic.

'Lyme disease nearly made me come indoors,' says Ray Mears

Survival guru highlights tick-borne diseases

The conker canker: disease fells avenue of horse chestnuts

A sad milestone in the spread of a disease mortally affecting Britain's horse chestnut trees was passed this week when one of the country's noblest horse chestnut avenues was finally cut down.

It's life, but not as the scientists of Nasa know it

It was one of Nasa's most intriguing messages: an invitation to a briefing where it would "discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for extraterrestrial life". The event held on 2 December at Nasa's headquarters in Washington led to headlines around the world, including The Independent's "Science grapples with the concept that alien life may be among us".

New superbug strain affects youing and healthy

A new strain of the superbug MRSA has been detected on the Isle of Man, said health bosses.

Statins may ward off serious infections

Cholesterol-lowering drugs have a useful side effect - killing bacteria, scientists have discovered.

Cholera may have arrived on island 'years ago' from Asia

Medical briefing

Hard times cause hard feelings over office etiquette

Longer hours and job insecurity are blurring the boundaries between home and office – and not everyone approves

Errors & Omissions: We can't escape 'The Hobbit', but we can at least get the details right

Yesterday's Arts & Books section carried an interview with the Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro, who resigned from the Hobbit project some months ago when it looked as if the money men would never give the films the green light.

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

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Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea