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TWiP 48 Letters

Ruth writes:

Dear Dick Despommier

My name is Ruth
I am a listener of twip and recently I decided to look into your vertical farming that you mention on the podcast.

While I was watching a video of you explaining vertical farming you mentioned soil-less growth in an urban environment and I immediately thought of another video that saw earlier this week.

The video is about a man named Eric Maundu - who combined aquaponics with fish farming in an amazing way. Using a very small amount of space he set up a system with a fish tank . The fish water with the fish waste is carried on a basin of rocks (in which sit plants). Bacteria break down the fish waste and the plants use the nutrients. Afterwards the water -minus the waste is returned to the fish tank. Maundu also mentions that the fish could be edible types - so you could grow two resources at once.

I just thought it was so amazingly efficient and thought you may be interested also.

Here's the link to the video .

Also I would like to thank you and Vincent very much for This Week in Parasitism and this week in virology - both wonderful entertainment and education :)


Maureen writes:

I'd like to learn more about sarcocystis, a parasite that usually only affects animals but seems to have infected some of our military.


Carl writes:

To: This Week in Parasitology podcast (Vincent Racaniello, Dickson Despommier)

Here's evidence-based advice for cat owners unwilling to get rid of their pets:

"...cat litter should be changed daily, and pregnant women should delegate this task to others.

"Many scoopable cat litter manufacturers suggest scooping fecal lumps daily and changing litter weekly, but this is likely to give a false sense of security because the oocycts might sporulate in the leftover feces; in addition, the scooping spoon is likely to become contaminated with oocysts; hundreds of oocycts may be present in a milligram of infected feces. There is also the risk of cats tracking infected feces throughout the house.

"We do not currently have a practical recommendation for safe disposal of cat litter other than disposing it in a heavy duty plastic bag with the hope that anoxia will kill T. gondii oocysts."

Dubey et al: Survival of T. Gondii in Cat Litter.
Journal of Parasitology, Oct 2011 at 753.

"Gloves should be worn while gardening, while changing litter and while handling soil potentially contaminated with cat feces.

"Owners may also be advised to keep dogs away from the cat litter box to prevent ingestion of and passage through of oocysts.

"Vegetables should be washed thoroughly before eating, because they may have been contaminated with cat feces."

Dubey: Toxoplasmosis of Animals and Humans,
2d ed. 2009 at 54.

Practical suggestions:

Here's what I'm doing with 3 cats my wife insists on keeping:

Using a small open litter box, arrange a big plastic bag covering the bottom and extending up over the sides. Add the litter. At least once every 24 hours, wearing disposable examination gloves, lift the bag containing all the litter, knot the top and take it outside to the trash container. (No scooping.) Replace bag and litter.

We switched to pine pellets for litter, which is much cheaper--especially from farm or horse supply stores.

Public health risk:

Although most vets believe that cats shed oocsyts once for a few days, the leading researcher says, "Whether naturally infected cats shed oocysts more than once in their life is unknown."

Dubey: Toxoplasmosis of Animals and Humans, 2d ed. 2009 at 36 - 39.

While everyone was skeptical of the initial reports of brain cysts leading to mental illness and car crashes, the more recent research has made such claims more plausible. Given the limits of research tools and funding (and how small oocysts are and how hard it is to evaluate brain cysts...), it seems prudent to minimize our individual risk of toxo from cats and encourage more effective public health efforts (like changing the labels on cat litter.)


I assume you've been trying to get JP Dubey on your podcast. Please
keep trying....


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