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Global News: Science

Read the best science news from around the world this week

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Five HIV patients are ‘virus-free’

Researchers in Barcelona have combined two new HIV vaccines with a cancer treatment, and have successfully suppressed the HIV virus in 5 patients, leaving them without the need for the daily drugs they had previously been taking. After receiving the new treatment, 5 out of 24 patients did not have any detectable trace of the virus for between 6 to 28 weeks, and one has been without standard treatment drugs for 7 months. This is the first time this has been possible in humans, and using this new breakthrough technique, leading scientist Dr Beatriz Mothe aims to help infected people worldwide to keep the virus at bay.

Zealandia: the eighth continent of Earth

Zealandia is not the name of the country in some new fantasy-fiction novel, but a real continent underneath New Zealand. The geological entity is almost entirely submerged and invisible, but matches all the important criteria to be an official continent. It has recently been facing a battle for recognition, since there is no authorised body in charge of assigning it its title. Classification as a continent would allow scientists to study how land masses on Earth broke up historically, and understand how the world we see today came to be.

Prince Charles takes on invasive species with Nutella

Prince Charles, well known for his support of environmental causes, has backed plans to tackle the problem of grey squirrels in the UK via the UK Squirrel Accord initiative he started three years ago. Grey squirrels may appear to be native in the UK, but are an aggressive invasive species from the US which have been damaging native red squirrel populations and British woodlands for many years. Previous attempts to control grey squirrels have involved ineffective culling, but a new technique proposes to use oral contraceptives hidden within Nutella in forests across the country to sterilise them.

Water pump sensors boost African water security

Simple vibration sensors that attach to African water pumps are being used to determine the depth of ground water levels. Hand pumps are a primary source of water for 200 million people in Africa, but the growing demand for deep water supplies are putting pressure on scientists to accurately estimate the future supply and locations of the most plentiful areas. Using low-cost mobile sensors that attach to pumps, the depth of aquifers and thus supply can be more easily predicted so that water availability and use is more sustainable.