Germ warfare `could target ethnic groups'

GENETICALLY engineered biological weapons capable of targeting particular ethnic groups could become reality within 10 years, an expert panel warned yesterday.

Letter: Life from space?

Sir: Recent comments on the crossing of the Leonid meteor stream have all overlooked an interesting and potentially important consequence. It is now widely accepted that comets carry complex organic molecules, including amino acids, that might at the very least have been connected with the beginnings of life on this planet. There also serious discussions in progress in scientific circles of the even more radical possibility of cometary panspermia of the type we pioneered in the late 1970s.

New antibiotics to fight `superbugs'

THE FIRST new class of antibiotics for 20 years is close to being licensed for use against "superbugs" that resist conventional drugs, say medical researchers.

Green tea and garlic keep the ulcers away

IT MIGHT taste a bit strange, but think of the benefits: drinking tea and eating garlic should prevent you from getting an ulcer, according to two teams of scientists.

E.coli bacteria found on holiday beaches

SAND ON beaches at two of the United Kingdom's most popular holiday resorts is contaminated with bacteria that causes common food poisoning, according to research published yesterday.

Science: The Truth About... pasteurisation

WE CAN thank Louis Pasteur (pictured) for inventing the idea of heating something in order to eliminate the harmful bacteria it may harbour. If there was a single moment in the career of the great 19th century microbiologist when he became convinced of the importance of heat treatment, it was when he decided to climb a glacier on Mont Blanc leading a mule carrying 20 glass flasks.

Scientist urges food crisis body

AN INDEPENDENT advisory body should be set up to prevent a BSE-type crisis happening again, a leading specialist in microbiology said yesterday.

Law Report: Use of words `farm fluid' in name was passing off

Law Report: Antec International Ltd v South Western Chicks (Warren) Ltd

Science: NEW BLOOD? IT'S IN THE BAG

With HIV and CJD undermining faith in blood for transfusions, progress is being made in finding alternatives. Roger Dobson reports on the fakes

Letter: No cheese ban

THE GOVERNMENT has not proposed a ban on cheeses made with raw cow's milk ("Britain's finest cheese threatened...", 1 February). We are, however, in the process of consulting on proposals to ban the sale of raw cows' drinking milk only. No legislation has been put forward yet. The move is based on independent scientific advice from the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food. There is clear evidence that raw milk can contain bacteria that are dangerous to human health.

Health: Call for urgent screening to halt rise in infertility disease

Urgent measures to halt a rapidly-spreading infectious disease that is responsible for up to one third of cases of infertility are to be considered by the Government's chief medical officer next week. Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor, reports.

`It's been a great year for us, so stuff you'

Well, you are a cowardly lot. Or maybe you're just nicer than me. Despite apparently having "touched a nerve" with my broadside on round robins, most of your letters did not actually come up with the goods. Clearly the worry of being crossed off Dick and Shirley's Christmas card list next year won out against the prospect of a year's supply of life- enhancing lessons for your children. So the prize must go to Liz Radcliffe, of Lancaster, for her own family newsletter, which shows an acute understanding of the genre. She starts with the more modest achievements of her husband - "a contender for the Nobel next time round" - and builds up to a crescendo with daughter Judy teaching swimming skills to underprivileged dolphins while son Jacob, after only one term at medical school, is showing "such great potential that he has been offered a chair in microbiotic surgery at Liverpool University. However, he turned it down as it would not give him enough time to train the England squad in rowing, plus study for his FRCS,FRCP, combined with lecturing in Radiology techniques in the 21st century." I particularly like her spin on the traditional closing line of a round robin - "If we have time, or if we are passing on one of our regular trips to your area. we will try to call ... I know your family news cannot live up to ours, but it serves you right for all your pompous letters in the past." Sadly Liz feels unable to accept the prize - her family's extra-curricular activities are already booked through to the millennium.

Scrabble champion finds means to an end

Proud of his pultoon, but aghast not to recognise an agami when he ran into one, Andrew Cook, 26, from Abingdon in Oxfordshire, won the British Scrabble championship yesterday, with a 3-0 win in the final over Jackie McLeod, a secretary from Highgate, north London.

Don't be a sponge. There's nothing to worry about

Anti-bacteria this, anti-bacteria that: there's a hot new sales pitch from the people that want to sell us stuff for the kitchen. A few weeks ago it was the anti-bacteria chopping board. Now comes anti-bacteria washing-up liquid. Much-needed protection? Charles Arthur, science editor, pours cold water on it.

Health: Vital Signs - WHO says

There is no cause for concern about the amount of radiation used in irradiated food, the World Health Organisation says. If the sensory qualities of food are retained and harmful micro-organisms are destroyed, the amount of ionising radiation applied is of secondary importance.
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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
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