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Below is a round up of news from or about South Asia for the period 16–29 May.

Bangladeshi toddler 'recovering from bird flu'
A Bangladeshi baby boy who was infected with bird flu is recovering, say health officials. This is the country's first human bird flu case following its first outbreak of the H5N1 virus in poultry in March 2007. More>>

Mapping estimates human consequences of cyclone Nargis
US researchers estimate that 3.2 million people have been affected by cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar on 3 May. The researchers used geographic information system (GIS) tools to prepare maps of the likely distribution of the population and areas at highest risk from the cyclone's effects. More>>

Poor investment in Sri Lankan science has 'slowed development'
Sri Lanka's science and technology minister, Tissa Vitharana, says poor investment in science and technology (S&T) has slowed the country's development over the past few decades. At the fortieth anniversary celebration of the country's National Science Foundation, Vitharana said Sri Lanka allocated just 0.13 per cent of its gross domestic product to S&T, and should aim for two per cent. More>>

Indian government approves public sector GM cotton
The Indian government has approved a new genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton variety for commercial planting — the first approval for a GM crop produced by the country's public sector. The new variety, Bikaneri Narma, was developed by the Central Institute of Cotton Research in Nagpur and the University of Agricultural Sciences in Dharward. More>>

Nanotech 'improves' leishmaniasis treatment
Treatment of leishmaniasis, a widespread tropical disease spread by sandflies, can be improved by using nanoparticles of the common antileishmanial drug amphotericin. Cell studies of the effectiveness of the nanoparticles in the spleen — the major site of infection — showed them to be more effective than the conventional form of the drug. More>>

Earthworm compost 'yields better strawberries'
Adding vermicompost — compost produced by earthworms — to the top ten centimetres of soil helps grow better strawberries, say Indian scientists. Not only did the strawberry plants have more leaves and fruits, but the soil treatment also produced firmer fruits, and reduced mould growth, discolouration and malformation. More>>

Water lettuce 'mops up toxic metals'
Pistia stratiotes, or the common water lettuce found in most tropical areas, can mop up toxic metals from municipal sludge. Indian scientists report the plant's fronds and roots accumulate substantial amounts of metals. The plant fights any damage to itself by increasing antioxidant activity and levels of carotenes. More>>

DNA profiling for Bhutan's snow leopards
Scientists in Bhutan will track the country's vanishing snow leopard community by analysing genetic material in the animals' faeces. This will be combined with computerised graphs to generate data on the number and spread of the leopards. More>>

Turmeric takes on cancer cells
Turmeric prevents cancer cells from growing, multiplying and taking over normal cells, report a group of Indian scientists in the United States. The yellow colouring agent in turmeric, curcumin, inhibits cancer cell proliferation by interfering with the activity of several key proteins involved in cell signalling, they say. More>>

Restrictions on Pakistani nuclear scientist relaxed
Pakistan has relaxed its restrictions on nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan by allowing him to meet friends outside his home. The scientist has been under house arrest for the past four years after admitting to smuggling nuclear weapons. More>>

South Asian primates find climbing 'as easy as walking'
A Sri Lankan slender loris and a pygmy slow loris from Indo-China have contributed to the finding that climbing is as easy as walking for smaller primates like squirrels and lemurs. The finding defies scientists' assumptions that climbing against gravity consumes more energy than walking on the ground. More>>

Compiled by T. V. Padma. Additional reporting by Sanjit Bagchi.

If you would like to suggest a story for this news in brief, please contact the South Asia Regional Coordinator T. V. Padma ([email protected]).

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