We are familiar with fungal infections like Thrush and Athlete’s Foot, but fungal diseases that can kill are on the increase. The World Health Organisation is so concerned that it has published its first ever list of life threatening fungi. James Gallagher hears stories of hospitals being shut down, a ruined honeymoon and fungal infections that consume human tissue leaving terrible disfigurement. Add to that The Last of Us, a hit video game turned TV series where a parasitic fungus manipulating the brains of ants has jumped to people. Sounds fanciful but while this particular fungus could not cross from ants to humans, Dr Neil Stone explains why invasive fungal infections are on the rise and a potential pandemic should not be dismissed.
Soaring food prices mean putting food on the table is a daily struggle. This is the grim reality for millions around the world. But hunger, so long a feature in lower-income countries, is becoming a familiar picture in richer ones too.
James Gallagher reports from the UK, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, where food prices are rising at the fastest rate for 45 years and millions are turning to charity to feed themselves and their families.
He visits the charities which help people to continue to eat and cook healthy food and hears from Professor Sir Michael Marmot from University College London, who has spent a lifetime researching the consequences of inequality and poverty. Food insecurity, he tells James, damages the health of children and adults.
Maggots in medicine
After centuries of use in wound-healing, the maggot is back. The rise of the drug-resistant superbug means fresh eyes are focused on the superpowers of the larvae of the greenbottle fly species, Lucilia Sericata. James Gallagher reports on the healthcare professionals who are turning to maggot therapy to help clean up wounds and stop infection.
He talks to Melanie who has Type 1 Diabetes and had a quarter of her foot amputated. When the skin around the wound started to die, threatening the whole limb, she was offered maggot therapy. Now a self-declared maggot superfan, Melanie watched as the larvae, inside a bag a bit like a teabag, digested the dead skin on her foot.
And James visits a factory in Wales, BioMonde, preparing medical grade fly eggs for use across the UK health service.
(Photo: Larvae of the greenbottle fly sitting on so-called horse blood agar seen through a magnifying glass at the pharmaceutical company BioMonde. Credit: David Hecker/DDP/AFP/Getty Images)
Lazy guide to exercise
James Gallagher is on a mission to find out what is the least amount of exercise you can do to still stay healthy. James goes on a Ramblers wellbeing walk, uses a treadmill for the first time and takes a hot bath all to find out how lazy he can be and still gain some health benefits.
(Photo: James Gallagher on a treadmill. Credit: Emma Lynch)
The impossible number
There is a bizarre number in maths referred to simply as ‘i’. It appears to break the rules of arithmetic - but turns out to be utterly essential for applications across engineering and physics. We are talking about the square root of -1, which makes no sense.
Professor Fry waxes lyrical about the beauty and power of this so-called ‘imaginary’ number to a sceptical Dr Rutherford.
Dr Michael Brooks, author of The Maths That Made Us, tells the surprising story of the duelling Italian mathematicians who gave birth to this strange idea, and shares how Silicon Valley turned it into cold hard cash. Professor Jeff O’Connell, Ohlone College California, demonstrates that it is all about oscillations, and Dr Eleanor Knox, philosopher of physics at KCL and a senior visiting fellow at the University of Pittsburgh reveals that imaginary numbers are indispensable for the most fundamental physics of all - quantum mechanics.