TIME public health

Your iPhone Can Now Tell If You Have a Parasite

loa loa worm parasite
Getty Images Loa Loa, or eyeworm

A new way to diagnose a nasty kind of worm

Parasitic worms plaguing Africa may soon meet their match—because now, there’s an app for them, too. According to a new report in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers have developed a way to rapidly test for a particularly troublesome kind of eye worm through an iPhone.

Worms are a huge problem in parts of Central and West Africa. A single species called O. volvulus causes “river blindness,” the second-biggest cause of infectious blindness in the world, and another, W. bancroftiis, causes lymphatic filariasis, the second leading cause of disability in the world.

The good news is that they can be cured with an anti-parasitic drug called ivermectin. The bad news is that a third kind of worm—a particularly disgusting kind called Loa loa, or African eye worm—makes treatment much more risky. Loa loa wriggle out of the eye when they mature and spread throughout the body, but even though they look terrifying, they’re not life-threatening. However, when people harbor high quantities of these worms and take the antiparastic drug ivermectin, they can suffer fatal brain damage within days. That enormous side effect has stopped mass drug administration in its tracks, putting the effective drug on ice and countless at risk for blindness and disability.

Finding people with high levels of this worm is extremely important, but screening takes days and requires resources. In order to test levels, technicians have to make a blood smear on a glass slide, stain the sample to highlight the worms and manually count them under a microscope. But now, engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a method that takes just three minutes using a smartphone device called CellScope Loa.

Here’s how it works: you slide your iPhone into a small 3D-printed box, which is built with microprocesssors, a motor and some LEDs for illumination. Align the phone camera with lenses in the box, and after a quick fingerprick for blood and the push of a button, the phone takes five short videos of worms wriggling in the blood and wirelessly analyzes the sample with the help of an app. The microscope senses the motion of the Loa loa, and within a matter of seconds, a worm count pops up on the screen.

The researchers tested the CellScope on 33 people in Cameroon and compared that analysis against the gold-standard smear technique. The diagnoses and very low false-negative rates matched.

Being able to diagnose worms with one streamlined portable device has a lot of advantages over current testing methods, which involve bulky microscope, a computer, a laboratory and a lot of time and money, says Daniel Fletcher, head of the lab that designed CellScope and associate chair and professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley. Teams that provide mass drug administration services will be able to take the CellScope to villages, filter out who shouldn’t be treated and give worm medication to the rest, he says.

Next, the team will test the device on 40,000 people in Cameroon.

It’s possible that the device will have implications far beyond the African eye worm. “Right now, we’ve designed the algorithms to look for this particular kind of worm,” Fletcher says. “But we’re hopeful that the general strategy of using all parts of the phone—not just the camera, but using its ability through Bluetooth to control other components, its computing ability to analyze images, and the screen to report results—could be applicable to a range of other resources.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

7 Delicious New Takes on Avocado Toast

Fun combinations for your taste buds

It seems that every kind of food, no matter how basic, is getting fancy these days: Broth, coffee, jerky–and now toast.

If you have any doubt that toast has gone gourmet, remember that Gwyneth Paltrow compared toast (specifically, avocado toast) to “a favorite pair of jeans” in her 2013 cookbook It’s All Good ($20, amazon.com). And we all know Gwyneth means a very expensive, fancy favorite pair of jeans. More recently, the Better on Toast ($16, amazon.com) cookbook was released, and it is full of 70(!) different recipes for taking this morning staple to another level.

Still, we agree with Gwyneth that the tastiest way to get in on this trend is via the humble, yet versatile avocado. Whether you’re already a devotee of “avo toast” or not, we’ve got some variations on it that you’ve got to try.

As a guide: We used sprouted multigrain bread from Alvarado Street Bakery ($33 for 6 loaves—freeze them!, amazon.com), and about ¼ of an avocado for each slice, unless otherwise noted. Have 2 slices for a meal with a salad, or 1 slice as a snack.

  • Classic

    Beth Lipton

    Whole-grain (or sourdough) bread, mashed avocado, sea salt, black pepper. Add hot sauce or red pepper flakes for some heat, if you like.

  • Smoked salmon

    Beth Lipton

    Whole-grain bread, mashed avocado, 2 Tbsp. flaked smoked salmon, 1 tsp. lemon zest, pepper. Sliced red onion is optional.

  • Veg-heavy

    Beth Lipton

    Whole-grain bread, mashed avocado, 6 thin slices cucumber, 4 to 6 thin slices radish, 1 Tbsp. chopped olives. Drizzle with 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

  • Nacho

    Beth Lipton

    Whole-grain bread, mashed avocado, 2 Tbsp. salsa (drained), 1 Tbsp. shredded Cheddar or jack. Broil until the cheese melts (watch carefully to prevent burning).


  • Seedy

    Beth Lipton

    Whole-grain bread, mashed avocado mixed with 1 tsp. chia seeds, 2 tsp. each sunflower and hemp seeds, a splash of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Top with more seeds, if desired.

  • Chocolate

    Beth Lipton

    In a blender or food processor, combine 1 chopped avocado with 1/3 cup cacao powder, ½ cup pure maple syrup, a splash of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, adding water 1 Tbsp. at a time if needed to reach desired texture. (Yield: About 1 cup; use about 2 Tbsp. per bread slice. Cover and refrigerate remaining chocolate-avocado spread, if you can stop yourself from eating it off a spoon.)

    This article originally appeared on Health.com.

    More from Health.com:

TIME Research

This Is How People Judge How Smart You Are

How smart we are is best conveyed through our voice

A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business suggest that when giving a pitch, an interviewee’s voice—not what they’ve written down—is what’s most convincing when it comes to gauging intellect.

In the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, the researchers conducted several experiments using MBA students. They videotaped the students while they were giving elevator pitches. Prospective employers or professional recruiters then watched, listened to or read transcripts of those pitches.

The researchers found that the evaluators rated the job candidates as more intelligent, thoughtful, and competent when they heard their pitch as opposed to when they read it. Showing the evaluators the video didn’t impact the results of the evaluations any more than hearing the candidate’s voice.

“Our data does not show that appearances don’t matter,” says study author Nicholas Epley, a professor at he University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “What they show is that your intelligence is not necessarily something I can see on your body, but I think it’s a cue that we can pick up or hear in your voice.”

MBA students didn’t expect this to be the case. “People seem to be afraid of sounding stupid or something, but in fact, they seem to be in danger of seeming stupid when they type,” says Epley.

In the context of a job interview, Epley says their data suggests that if there’s an opportunity to speak to someone directly, you should take it.

Epley also adds that the study sheds light on why people treat each other terribly on the Internet. “We think this gets to something really fundamental in social life,” he says. “We think this speaks to a broader capacity to recognize that other people are human beings. And the capacity to recognize someone’s mind, we think comes quite literally through their voice. So much of our conversations and interactions with each other are done digitally with the voice stripped out. I don’t think it’s any accident that people online people seem to treat each other as mindless idiots.”

Though the study is still preliminary, it reminds us that in certain contexts we can fail to recognize someone’s mind, or humanity, because they may not have much of a voice.

TIME LIFE Photo Essay

Celebrate National Nurses Week With a LIFE Cover Story on Nursing in the 1930s

A look at how "acolytes in a great sisterhood of healers" earned their stripes in 1938

National Nurses Week, which begins May 6, recognizes the millions of nurses who make up the backbone of the American healthcare system. And the annual shout-out is more than warranted: A 2014 survey of more than 3,000 nurses found respondents to be stressed out, underslept and — at least in their own estimation — underpaid.

When LIFE featured the profession on its cover in 1938, the career was in a moment of transition. “Once almost any girl could be a nurse,” LIFE explained, “But now, with many state laws to protect the patient, nursing has become an exacting profession.” A candidate needed not only a background in science, but also a combination of “patience, devotion, tact and the reassuring charm that comes only from a fine balance of physical health and adjusted personality.”

Nurses also needed, as they still do, stamina. A typical day in the life of a Roosevelt Hospital School of Nursing student who had been capped — meaning she had successfully completed the probationary period — was described as follows:

Her day begins early. She rises at 6, breakfasts at 6:30, reports to duty at 6:55, has lunch sometime between 12 and 1:30. The rest of the day is consumed with ward duty, two hours of classes, three hours of rest or study. At 7 p.m. she is free to go out on parties, read in the library, dance in the reception room with her fellow nurses or make herself a late supper in the nurses’ kitchen.

The photo essay, shot by Alfred Eisenstaedt, was an earnest nod to a group of people responsible not only for the well-being of individual patients, but also the public health of a city and a nation. Their duty, after all, was “to secure the health of future generations.”

Alfred Eisenstaedt—LIFE MagazineJanuary 31, 1938 cover of LIFE magazine.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.


You Asked: Do High Heels Actually Damage My Feet?

You Asked: Do High Heels Actually Damage My Feet?
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Yep. And the damage doesn’t end at your toes.

High heels hurt. If you’ve worn them (I have not) then you probably know this already. But are high heels also bad for you? A 2014 survey from the American Podiatric Medical Association—composed of the nation’s top foot and lower-leg docs—found heels were far and away the most common cause of foot pain among women.

Unsurprisingly, much of that pain comes from contorting your foot into a steep “plantarflexed” position, concludes a study from the Journal of Applied Physiology. Like standing on your tiptoes for hours, that high-heeled posture may lead to painful muscle fatigue and strain injuries, the authors of that study say.

Calluses, blisters, bunions, and ingrown nails are all common among high heel wearers, adds Dr. Rodney Stuck, division director of podiatry at Loyola University Chicago. The higher the heel, the more trouble you’re likely to run (or walk) into, Stuck says.

But the most significant risks of your high-heel habit may begin higher up your leg. According to research from the U.K. and Austria, lots of time spent walking in heels actually changes the structure of the muscles and tendons in your calves—and not for the better.

High heels lead to shorter muscle fibers and a toughening of the Achilles tendon, says Dr. Marco Narici, a professor of clinical physiology at the University of Nottingham (and coauthor of that study). Narici says these muscle changes reduce your ankle’s range of motion, and contribute to your risk for strains and sprains. Stuck says these sorts of muscle adaptations may also up your risk for other lower-body injuries. A sore ankle or leg you blamed on running may actually have more to do with your high heels, he says.

More research shows walking in heels puts a great deal of force on your kneecaps. This force can lead to the early onset of osteoarthritis, says Dr. Constance Chu, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford.

Chu says this risk increases among heavier women. “Combining walking in very high heels for long periods of time every day with obesity and aging would be a perfect storm for knee osteoarthritis, as well as foot, back, and other joint problems,” she says.

Of course, tossing your stilettos is the one surefire way to dodge all these potential health hazards. But if you’re not willing to part with your pumps, Chu says lower heels lowers your risk. For formal or work events when you feel heels are a must, she recommends wearing flats beforehand and changing into your heels only when you’ve arrived at your destination. “Taking time to sit and move the knees through a full range of motion may also be helpful,” she says.

Loyola University’s Stuck also suggests standing against a wall or with one foot on a step and stretching your feet for a few minutes every day.

But don’t swap your heels for flip-flops. An Auburn University study found the way those loose summer sandals shorten your gait and force you to grip with your toes may lead to all sorts of heel, ankle, and sole problems.

Feet sure don’t have it easy.

Read next: These High-Tech High Heels Change Color With the Click of an App

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TIME Research

U.S. Ranks Worst Developed Country for Maternal Health

But there's plenty of room for improvement

A woman in the United States faces a one in 1,800 risk of maternal death, according to an annual report by the charity Save the Children, the worst of any developed country in the world. What’s more, they’re more than 10 times as likely to die from a cause related to pregnancy as those in Belarus, Poland and Austria.

The State of the World’s Mothers 2015 report, a global index that ranks the best and worst places to be a mother based on the latest available data on indicators like political status, economics, education, children’s well-being and maternal health, ranks the U.S. at No. 33 of 179 surveyed countries—down two spots from last year.

The U.S. ranked No. 42 on children’s well-being, No. 61 on maternal health and No. 89 for political status—or the participation of women in national government. Among the other statistics, the report finds that an American child under the age of 5 is nearly just as likely to die (6.9 per 1,000 live births) as one in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovakia or Macedonia.

Of the 25 capital cities of wealthy countries surveyed, the report finds Washington, D.C., had the highest rate of infant mortality (7.9 deaths per 1,000 live births as of 2012). In comparison, cities like Stockholm and Oslo had rates below 2.0. Washington’s rate fell in 2013, to 6.6, but a number of major American cities have had rates much higher. In 2011, Detroit’s rate was reported at 12.4, and in Cleveland, it was 14.1.

Prematurity was considered a major factor in the Detroit rate, but others included insufficient prenatal care, a dearth of education and poverty. Save the Children found race to be a factor, too.

The national average for deaths per live births in the U.S. is 6.1 per 1,000, but the report finds it’s much higher for unwed, poor and young black mothers. As one example, a black mom in San Francisco is six times more likely than a white one to lose her baby before its first birthday.

The overall top 10 included Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Australia and Belgium. The bottom 10 were Haiti and Sierra Leone (tied), Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Niger, Mali, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

Read the full report here.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Weird Thing That Packs on Calories—And Pounds

Getty Images

A new study says an increase in food brands is leading us to overeat

A quick trip down the frozen-food aisle at the supermarket can be anxiety-ridden. Given the sheer range of options for everything from popcorn to cereal to tomato soup, it’s tough to know what to buy (if you’re not going based on cost alone). Now, a new study suggests having so much variety may be wreaking havoc on our waistlines.

The new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows having so many different brands of the same food may be making us overeat. The researchers asked people nearly 200 people about their consumption of pepperoni pizza. In the study, there were over 70 different pepperoni pizza brands consumed, and the calorie content varied by well over 300%. The researchers then compared the eating habits of people who regularly ate multiple varieties of pizza to people who only regularly consumed the same brand.

The researchers found that the people who ate multiple brands of pizza were more likely to view pizza as less filling compared to people who ate one brand, and they were more likely to overeat when they were eating pizza to avoid being hungry later, suggesting they were unable to accurately compensate for the calories they were consuming on a given day.

“It would appear that this high variability of food items makes it more difficult for people to learn about food and manage their consumption which exposes a new feature of Western diets and which has potential public health implications,” study author Charlotte Hardman, a lecturer in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool said in a statement.

The findings suggest that having so many options may distort people’s perception of how filling a given food is. Historically, our ability to regulate our own expectations of food satiety was based on sensory experiences with that food. The researchers suggest that the influx of brands for foods that have the same taste, but not necessarily the same calories, may be throwing us off. And that might be bad news for the number on the scale.

TIME public health

This Is the Leading Cause of Injury Death for Children in NYC

"We have an epidemic and must do all we can to make our streets more forgiving"

Motor vehicle accidents killed more than 100 children under the age of 13 in New York City between 2003 and 2012, making such crashes the leading cause of injury death in that age group, according to a New York City Department of Health report. Two-thirds of children killed in motor vehicle-related accidents were pedestrians.

The announcement comes as New York has sought to implement a comprehensive plan by Mayor Bill de Blasio to reduce traffic deaths. The program, known as Vision Zero, reduced the speed limit, redesigned intersections and called for more forceful prosecution of traffic violations. Traffic deaths in the city hit a 100-year low last year, even with the program in its infancy.

The high-profile deaths of several children, often pedestrians, have drawn publicity to the program. “My son Sammy was one of the hundreds of children who have been killed in traffic. Each statistic represents an unfathomable loss,” said Amy Cohen, a member of Families for Safe Streets, in a press release. “We have an epidemic and must do all we can to make our streets more forgiving.”

Fire-related injuries, suffocation and falls are also among the leading killers. Together, they account for nearly two-thirds of child injury deaths, according to the report.

TIME Research

Can Antidepressants Be Safe for Kids?

A new study looks into how antidepressants can best be used to help kids quickly without initial side effects

Currently, antidepressants carry a “black box warning” cautioning people that the pills can cause an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. But researchers in a new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry have taken a closer look at what exactly is causing these behaviors, and how to avoid them.

The warning was first affixed to antidepressants 10 years ago, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that a phenomena of increased “suicidality”—which means suicidal thoughts and behaviors, as opposed to actual suicide—could occur in young people who begin taking antidepressants.

As TIME has previously reported, many in the psychiatry community were upset by the addition of the warning, saying it discourages prescribing the drugs to people who need them. Depression is the greatest risk for suicide, not antidepressants, they argue.

In the new study, researchers decided to take a closer look at what exactly was happening when young people started on antidepressants. It’s been known for some time that often, when people take antidepressants, the individuals’ symptoms can get worse before they get better. Dr. Adam Kaplin, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his colleagues looked closely at this period, and how this adjustment period might be mitigated in young people.

Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) cause serotonin levels to rise. But there is a receptor in the brain called the 5-HT1AR, which acts like a break and prevents this from happening. Eventually, the receptor regulates, and allows serotonin levels to increase, but before that happens, patients can feel worse. The researchers tested this with mice, and showed that mice became anxious when they were first given an SSRI. But when the researchers gave these mice drugs that blocked the 5-HT1AR receptor in addition to the SSRI, the mice fared better.

“Not only did it completely reverse that anxiety, it made them less anxious than they were at baseline. It made the SSRI’s positive effects kick in almost immediately,” says Kaplin.

Currently, fluoxetine (Prozac) is the slowest-acting SSRI, and the only one approved for kids ages 8 to 12, the authors say. The researchers used a computer simulation to determine how long the adjustment period is for other types of SSRIs as well. They found that starting with half the normal dose and slowly increasing to the full dose over the course of a month was the best strategy for limiting the downside that comes with the adjustment period.

The researchers say they hope their study sheds light on what’s happening when kids start on antidepressants, and what an appropriate dosing strategy may look like. “We are saying, Look, these drugs are perfectly safe once you understand them, and you understand that you have to start them low and go slow or add something that blocks the 5-HT1AR receptor,” says Kaplin. “We are trying to say this is not a mystery. We understand the mechanism.”

Currently there are no drugs that effectively block the 5-HT1AR receptor in the way the researchers would like, but Kaplin says they are looking for a company that may be interested in developing one for human use.


TIME psychology

Why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Cried in Court

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, photo released on April 19, 2013.
FBI/Getty Images Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, photo released on April 19, 2013.

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

When bravado does battle with the brain, the brain will win

Savagery is harder than you think. As members of a highly social species, genetically coded for cooperation, compassion, and the powerful, nearly telepathic ability to experience what another person is feeling, we should not be terribly surprised that convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shed at least a few tears in court on Monday when his aunt took the stand in the trial’s penalty phase to plead for his life.

We like to think that our criminal monsters are just that—monstrous, somehow fundamentally different from the rest of us. And in some cases that’s true: serial killer Ted Bundy is often described as sociopathic, a man incapable of empathy. Movie theater shooter James Holmes is thought to be schizophrenic, a disease that can indeed leave people incapable of feeling.

But most of the time killers are people with the same emotional software as the rest of us. And just as happens with real software, theirs got corrupted somehow. When it comes to empathy, such a breakdown takes some doing.

The human brain is wired with so-called mirror neurons, brain cells that draw us together by causing us to experience similar things at the same moment. It’s mirror neurons that explain why yawns are contagious, why a newscaster’s sudden laughing jag makes you laugh too, why newborns—who have never seen themselves in a mirror and thus have no idea what their faces look like—will open their mouths wide when an adult does. Up to 10% of the brain’s neurons are thought to have mirroring properties, which is a measure of how important they are.

When Tsarnaev’s aunt took the stand, she began crying before she even spoke. When she did speak, she could manage to give only her name, her age and her place of birth before dissolving entirely and being allowed to step down. She was seated only 10 feet from her nephew, which made her a real and tactile presence.

Tsarnaev’s cool indifference, which has been on display throughout the trial, has seemed at least partly 21-year-old bravado—magnified many times over by whatever psychological journey he took that allowed him to commit the horrific crime he did, and magnified still more by the certain knowledge that his life is over, that he will either be executed or spend the next half dozen or so decades in a cage. It pays, at least in public, to maintain a certain numbness in the face of that reality, lest it become overwhelming.

But for a man-child who may be a horror but is not a Bundy, there are limits. Another person’s tears are limits. An aunt who, in a different time and place, would surely hug you is a limit. And mirror neurons—which populate the brain of the bomber as surely as they do the brain of the doctor or the mother or the person you love—are limits too. Tsarnaev ran out of emotional room today, and the sorrow he felt is just a small part of a penalty he will pay for many years.

Read next: Boston Bomber’s Teacher Says Tsarnaev ‘Always Wanted to Do the Right Thing’

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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