Quarantine: a case study

venningBroadcaster: BBC2

Year: 2017

Genre: Sport commentary, discussion

URL: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/101715

During the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London an outbreak of norovirus amongst the competitors raised an interesting case study regarding the rights and wrongs of quarantine.

On Monday 7th August, Botswana sprinter Isaac Makwala withdrew from the 200 metres heats citing illness. The following day he turned up at the stadium to compete in the 400 metres final, to find that his accreditation had been revoked on the grounds that he was still within the time period when he needed to be in isolation to avoid infecting other people.

A confusing evening of claim and counterclaim culminated in Pam Venning, Head of Medicine for the IAAF, appearing in the stadium studio being grilled by host Gabby Logan and former athletes Paula Radcliffe, Denise Lewis and Michael Johnson about the decision to ban Makwala (and the way that communication had been handled).

This clip (just over 15 minutes) could be a useful resource for examining the tensions between personal autonomy and public health in the context of infectious diseases. As Onora O’Neill notes in her book Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics, restricting the movement of someone on grounds that they are a potential health risk to others is one of the classic examples that personal autonomy is not a universal right in the way that is sometimes portrayed.

Whilst Dr Venning outlines the epidemiological rationale for keeping infected athletes, including Makwala, away from the other competitors, the former athletes in the studio display their empathy for the sprinter; he’s been training for this, he says he’s ok today, so why can’t he compete?

A news item about the case (broadcast on BBC1 at about the same time as the studio discussion above) can be reached via this link https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/101736

If you have longer to get into the issues associated with quarantine, I recommend the Belgian series Cordon or, if you can’t cope with the sub-titles in the original, with the inferior American copy Containment.

Should you complete a course of antibiotics?

flemingBroadcaster: BBC1 & Sky News

Year: 2017

Genre: News package

URLs:
(1) https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/101304
(2) https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/101301

Should you complete a course of antibiotics or stop taking them as soon as you feel better? Received wisdom, and current policy, is that you ought to continue the course to ensure that the bacteria causing the problem have been eliminated. However, a new paper The antibiotic course has had its day in the British Medical Journal argues that there is no evidence base for the existing practice and, given the known correlation between exposure to antibiotics and the development of resistance, we ought – as a bare minimum – to be conducting appropriately-controlled trials to examine the impacts (good or bad) of recommending shorter treatment regimes.

The paper received a variety of coverage in both the print and broadcast media. The two links here are to discussion of the work on the BBC Six O’clock News (1, 2.2 mins) and Sky News (2, 2.4 mins). Both clips have their own merits, but if you want to pick one then, on this occasion, I’d go with the Sky News clip. Both packages include historical footage of Alexander Fleming, but the Sky piece has more thorough explanation of the arguments.

For further coverage see my Journal of the Left-Handed Biochemist post on the paper, and this article from the Daily Telegraph.

IVF for rhino conservation?

rhino1Broadcaster: BBC News

Year: 2017

Genre: (1) News package, (2) Interview

URLs:
(1) https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/101093
(2) https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/101088

Clip 1 (3 minutes) is a piece by Rebecca Morelle about plans to use IVF to try and save the Northern White Rhino of which there are believed to be only three specimens remaining. At the Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire (UK), scientists are trying to pioneer rhino IVF as a mechanism for conserving the species. The less rare Southern Rhino is being used as a test model whilst developing the technique and could potentially be a surrogate mother for a Northern White Rhino baby or a hybrid between the two species. The package was shown in several news bulletins, this clip is actually taken from World News on BBC4.

Clip 2 (5.5 mins) from BBC Breakfast begins with a synopsis of the original piece, before a longer interview with Jon Merrington, heading up the project at Longleat. This interview was very helpful in explaining more of the plans and elaborating on the complications. For example, eggs to be harvested are located 1.5 metres within a female rhino, and gestation is 16-18 months. The remaining Northern Rhinos are an elderly male and two younger females, none of whom are capable of reproduction themselves.

 

 

What constitutes “the inner me”? (Horizon)

owen1Broadcaster: BBC2

Year: 2009

Genre: Documentary

URL: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/101258

Fascinating insights have emerged from recent studies of the brain. This episode of Horizon, first transmitted in 2009, is quite old now. However many of the insights remain highly pertinent and the work of Adrian Owen described in the programme continues to amaze (see also his new book Into The Grey Zone).

I actually wrote about this programme previously over at our sister site Bioethicsbytes, so rather than reiterate the key points here, please follow this link to original post.

bbbrain

Putting the technology into Food Tech (Click)

saladBroadcaster: BBC News

Year: 2017

Genre: Magazine

URL: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/100169

In this episode of the BBC’s technology show Click the team investigate various cutting edge development in food production. They look at salad, “meatless” and lab-grown meat and other agricultural developments.

00:45-02:04 and 08:51-12:04 (in this file) Spencer Kelly looks into the work of Local Roots and other companies in production of salad plants. Using carefully controlled hydroponics in shipping containers, crops can be grown much more efficiently than out in the fields. The potential exists to set up the containers wherever needed, e.g. in an environment where conditions would be too extreme to grow plants in a traditional way, or to position them near supermarket distribution centres, reducing travel costs and environmental impact and bolstering freshness.

More than this, tweaking the conditions can improve the flavour of plants – for example altering the spicy flavour of basil by sustained exposure to blue light. The plant-related discussion moves on (12:04-14:00) to reflect on the ethics of small private companies taking the lead on this type of development. One concern is the limitation of any one small company being unlikely to have expertise in the range of different fields necessary for the best refinement of species growth. There are also worries about intellectual property rights. The MIT Open Agriculture Initiative (OpenAg) looks to develop foods in a copyright-free way, sharing the knowledge and even starter-kits for plant production.

05:51-08:50 Kat Hawkins investigates the work of Impossible Foods making artificial meat from plant material and added haem, which it turns out is a significant contributor to “meaty” flavour. She also talks to Finless Foods about growing fish tissue from stem cells and to Memphis Meats and others about lab-grown mean (which has been the subject of other posts on this site, e.g. here and here).

The programme also looks at measures to reduce food wastage (from 15:40) and Dutch innovation to make biodegradable cars (from 19:42) but these are less relevant to biology courses.

 

Anyone for Gene Editing? (Panorama)

panoramageneediting1Broadcaster: BBC1

Year: 2016

Genre: Documentary

URL: http://bobnational.net/record/421686

In June 2016, BBC current affairs programme Panorama conducted a whistle-stop tour around potential applications of CRISPR, the emerging gene editing technology.

In Medicine’s Big Breakthrough… Editing Your Genes (30 mins), Fergus Walsh talks to a number of key players in the field. These include Jennifer Doudna, credited as one of the co-creators of CRISPR as an editing took, George Church who is looking to humanise pig organs to reduce the likelihood of rejection, and Fyodor Urnov (from Sangamo Biosciences) who is trying to use the technology to tackle diseases such as AIDS and haemophilia. Alison van Eenennaam discusses genetic approaches to making horn-less cattle (which, she argues, is more humane than the current methods for removing existing horns). Walsh also visits biohacking entrepreneur Josiah Zayner, and Kathy Niakan from the Crick Institute who has the UK’s first licence to use CRISPR with human embryos.

The video is good at raising ethical as well as scientific questions. I can see this episode either serving as a very nice introduction to the topic, which students could be asked to watch before a face-to-face teaching session, or alternatively one or more of the vignettes could be used as illustrative clip(s) within a lecture.

A transcript of the programme is available via this link.

transcript from programme

There are a several introductory videos about CRISPR on YouTube. These include one produced by The Royal Society, available via this link. It starts from quite a low level, and so is probably most applicable for a school audience. A second, longer, video produced by Kurzgesagt (German for “in a nutshell”) is available via this link.

Meeting the demand for meat

Year: 2016

Broadcaster: BBC 1

Genre: Documentary

URL: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/86970

Full original programme URL: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/0B9E458F?bcast=121120092

Review by June Adams

The current worldwide demand for meat is huge, and growing faster than production rates can keep up with. How will we stop our commercial supply of meat from running out?

One way that farmers have tried to tackle the beef shortage is by producing cows that give more meat.  Belgian blues are a type of cow that has been specially bred to have 20% more muscle than the average cow, equating to 900 more quarter pounders. They can be reared to weigh up to one tonne! However, the extreme looking breed is controversial and difficult to farm. Belgian blue cows are unable to give birth naturally, and the calves often suffer from joint and heart problems. Is there a way to increase meat production without overburdening livestock?

In this five minute clip from the series Tomorrow’s Food, Professor Mark Post has managed to grow a burger in a lab by extracting stem cells from a tiny piece of meat, which then multiplied for 8 weeks in an incubator to make new muscle tissue. It takes 30 billion cells to make a single burger. The process is faster and may require less energy than rearing a whole cow, but it produces a very small amount of meat that costs a lot; a lab-grown burger costs over $200,000. In order to reduce costs to make the process viable on the market, production would need to be scaled up drastically – Olympic swimming pool sized incubation tanks! With some work, hopefully lab-grown burgers will become cheap enough to be sold commercially in less than 10 years.

World’s first lab-grown burger is eaten in London (5th August 2013) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23576143

Is interfering with genes ethical? (The Big Questions)

TBQ - Crispr

Front row, left to right: Keith Fox, Jackie Leach Scully, Tony Juniper, David King, Trevor Stammers, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Jonathan Montgomery, Silvia Camporesi, Virginia Bolton, Ruth Stirton and David Wood. Steve Storey is on the extreme right-hand side of the second row.

Broadcaster: BBC2

Year: 2017

Genre: Debate, Factual

URL: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/99294

On 11th June 2017, the final episode of the BBC’s ethical debate series The Big Questions was given over to a full hour’s discussion on the theme “Is interfering with genes ethical?”

As readers may know, this is an important and timely discussion. The emergence of CRISPR gene editing technology over the past three years has, for the first time, made it feasible to alter genes in situ and raises the potential/spectre (delete as applicable) of genuinely designer babies.

An impressive cast of bioethicists had been assembled to lead the debate (see caption of photo, above). A number of interesting and relevant points were raised. Despite the longer allocation of time, however, there was still a frustrating lack of depth on the topic. The focus was allowed to drift far too wide, embracing cryogenic preservation at one end of the spectrum and GM crops at the other. A moving account of the treatment of Steven Storey with his own stem cells was also not really on topic.

A full transcript of the episode is available via this link

transcript from programme

For a list of older episodes of The Big Questions on bioethical themes see this link at our sister site Bioethicsbytes.

Intervention at any cost? The Charlie Gard case

cgardBroadcaster: Channel 4

Genre: News

Length: 3:16 mins

URL: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/95288

When an infant has an illness that will, in all probabilities, prove fatal their parents face an agonising choice. Do you follow all possible interventions, or do you reach a point where you recognise that it is in the best interests of the child to withdraw treatment?

This dilemma is brought into stark relief by Charlie Gard who, at the time of writing, is the subject of a High Court case at the Royal Courts of Justice. There are several aspects that make this case particularly tricky, and particularly interesting from a medical ethics standpoint.

Charlie was born in August 2016 with a rare mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. He is deaf and blind, it is tricky to know how much pain he is aware of at present. Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital want to move to a regime of palliative care only. A crowdfunding project has raised over a million pounds parents and his parents want to take Charlie to the USA where a doctor is willing to enrol him on a trial of nucleoside bypass therapy, an experimental treatment which has an extremely low probability of alleviating some of his symptoms. He will almost certainly still die.

The case shines a spotlight on different medical culture in the UK and the USA. In the UK doctors tend to take a more cautious approach whereas doctors in America are more willing to try experimental procedures if the patient (or in this case, their parents) want to try and have the money to do so.

For further coverage of the case see: The Guardian and ITV News and a later report from the BBC.

 

Parkinson’s: The Funny Side

Broadcaster: BBC1

Year: 2017parkinsons-the-funny-side

Genre: Documentary

URL: https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/92447

Review by June Adams

In 2011, comedy writer Paul Mayhew-Archer (whose work includes The Vicar of Dibley) became one of about 127,000 people in the UK diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. At that time, he was told to expect “five good years”. Since then laughter, chocolate, medication and exercise classes run for Parkinson’s patients by the English National Ballet have helped keep his spirits up and his symptoms relatively in check. However with those five good years now passed, Paul begins to ask what the coming years may hold for him and his condition.

As you can imagine from the title, this is not a serious scientific documentary – but there are short sections that might prove useful to demonstrate different forms of intervention being used to understand more about Parkinson’s, to treat the symptoms and/or to find a potential cure. With the help of various Departments of Oxford University, Paul investigates:

  • Tests for Parkinson’s, including development of a phone app that help doctors with an early diagnosis of the disease (this clip, 1.47 mins)
  • Deep brain stimulation for controlling tremors (this clip, 3.30 mins), and
  • News of a possible cure involving stem cells (this clip, 1.54 mins).

Along the way, Paul meets other people with Parkinson’s and discovers how everyone’s experience of the disease is different; each has a unique combination of symptoms, some of which are much more troubling than others. As he summarises in closing:

A philosopher once said, I think it was Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” And Parkinson’s is like a particularly rubbish sort of box of chocolates. Every symptom, every chocolate is particularly disgusting. But some are more disgusting than others. And let’s hope, as I come to the end of my five good years, that I won’t end up with the orange cream.