What if, after the Allies won World War II, world health officials had employed a Nazi version of DDT against mosquitoes that transmit malaria? Could that disease, which infects more than 200 million people a year and kills 400,000, have been wiped off the planet?

That is one of the questions asked by Michael Ward, an NYU chemistry professor, who came across an insecticide that had been developed by German scientists during World War II. In postwar Allied intelligence reports that Ward examined, German scientists claimed their insecticide, called DFDT, was more effective than DDT. Allied officials dismissed those assertions. Now, Ward and his colleagues, reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, appears to corroborate the German claims. The forgotten compound killed mosquitoes in as little as one-fourth the time of DDT.

Fungus mutates to the cheer of cheese lovers

Camembert was invented in 1791 when a priest from Brie took shelter with a dairymaid, Marie Harel, as he fled France’s anticlerical government. He taught her to make cheese with an edible rind, as lore tells it. But the lesser-known character in Harel’s story is a mold that resided in Normandy.

Penicillium appears in the wild as a toxic blue fungus, but in Camembert, Brie and other French regional cheeses, it is white and edible. In a new study, researchers offer the first detailed view of how a fungus transforms into a mold safe for food production in as few as four weeks. Throughout a summer, the research team planted wild blue penicillium on the surface of cow’s milk cheese curd while simulating the conditions of French cheese caves.

“We saw in real time how the fungi could change their metabolism in a way that would be advantageous for cheesemakers,” said Benjamin Wolfe, with Tufts University. He said the research could lead to “a diverse new approach to making cheese in the United States.”

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