Infectious Thoughts

Beware the glowing millipede

Siouxsie Wiles Sep 27, 2011

Millipedes of the genus Motyxia are nocturnal detritivores* who protect themselves from predators using cyanide, which they generate internally and discharge through pores. Most creatures that protect themselves in this way also produce a visible signal to predators that they taste foul, usually by being brightly coloured. But being nocturnal, such visible cues wouldn’t be much use to Motyxia. Instead … Read More

Sniffer bees

Siouxsie Wiles Sep 26, 2011

Anyone entering New Zealand via the International arrivals terminal at Auckland may well have been welcomed by one of MAF Biosecurity’s sniffer dogs. These lovely animals are specially trained to search baggage, mail and cargo to locate undeclared or forgotten agricultural products. But one day you may be greeted by bees too. Honeybees can be trained to recognise particular … Read More


If you think the All Blacks shirt was a rip off, think again.

Siouxsie Wiles Sep 26, 2011

Much fuss was recently made when New Zealanders found out that Adidas All Blacks shirts could be bought online overseas for less than half the cost they are selling for here. Except fans couldn’t buy them online as Adidas had to put a stop to deliveries to New Zealand. If you think that’s ‘rip of NZ’, here is some more … Read More


Is your dog as healthy as you? Not likely in your case, Ms Kelland.

Siouxsie Wiles Sep 24, 2011

I recently described the ‘health correspondents’ who feature in a local free publication called the Ponsonby News. This month they have a new one, Deborah Kelland*. In her first article entitled ‘Is your dog as healthy as you?’** Ms Kelland described how she has recently completed four liver/gallbladder cleanses “to rid myself of hundreds of gallstones … Read More


‘Pseudoscience’ for profit

Siouxsie Wiles Sep 20, 2011

Every month a free 150 page glossy A4 magazine lands in my letter box, one of almost 17,000 distributed around Auckland’s inner suburbs. The Ponsonby News is essentially an enormous advertising feature, and being Ponsonby based, a number of the adverts are for acupuncturists and holistic spa’s. The Ponsonby News has a couple of ‘health correspondents’: John Appleton, … Read More


Mind altering microbes Part I: Suicidal crickets

Siouxsie Wiles Aug 18, 2011

I went to a fantastic departmental seminar yesterday by Associate Professor Mark Thomas about how parasites are able to manipulate the behaviour of their unfortunate host, usually as a means of enhancing transmission or to enable the parasite to reach the next phase of its life cycle. I wanted to share some of the fantastic examples Mark talked about, … Read More


A swift and deadly foe

Siouxsie Wiles Aug 02, 2011

I’ve just read in the NZ Herald that the chief executive of the construction company Fulton Hogan died suddenly and unexpectedly at the weekend, apparently within hours of contracting an aggressive meningococcal infection. The bug responsible, Neisseria meningitidis, is a pretty nasty one and the symptoms of infection can often be fatally mistaken for flu. N. meningitidis can cause … Read More


Should we be rethinking the HPV vaccination strategy?

Siouxsie Wiles Jun 22, 2011

A study just published in the Lancet suggests that Australia’s cervical cancer vaccination programme is already showing signs of success, with a decrease in the number of high-grade cervical abnormalities in vaccinated girls under 18. To quickly recap, the human papilloma virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection which causes cervical cancer in women. A number of countries, including … Read More