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Letter from the editor | 111

A journey between pain, pleasure and ethics

Little is known about neurocysticercosis in Brazil. From the Public Health point of view, one is dealing with a serious illness, which, supposedly, affects around 140,000 people in the country at this moment and which could certainly be avoided through some simple prophylactic measures. And, so much so that there is an epidemic in vast regions of Latin America, of Asia and Africa – which suggests its association with under development and poverty -, the disease is practically non-existent in developed countries. Looking closer to home and singularly at an illness, a parasite in the central nervous system, shows a dramatic face in many cases, marked by crises of epilepsy, a series of sad neuropsychiatric sufferings and even death to a number between 15% and 25% of its victims. The cover story of this edition, put together by special editor Fabrício Marques, presents a wide diagnosis of the illness in the country and even reveals a piece of good news in the pathway of its dark panorama: an inexpensive test, developed by a team of São Paulo researchers, capable of detecting vestiges of the parasite’s DNA that brings about neurocysticercosis in the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid. Because of this, diagnostic images are no longer the only alternative for deciding if someone is or is not a neurocysticercosis victim and adequate treatment can be started.

It’s just as well that scientific and technological research has a plasticity that is almost infinite, which in a certain manner allows us, on accompanying it, to run in parallel with practically all of the wide range of feelings and human emotions. Thus, the article that disputed with neurocysticercosis the cover story for this edition, a long way from being associated with pain and sadness, brings to us a scent of glamour and sensuality, a delightful joyful fragrance, I would say. This is an innovative process for the extraction of rosewood essential oil starting from its leaves, and no longer from the trunk of this tree that is native to the Amazon and is under threat of extinction, and guarantees, apart from its preservation, the continued production of Chanel Nº 5, the perfume that Marilyn Monroe helped to transform into one of the greatest icons of the French cosmetics industry. Who gives us this report is our assistant technology editor, Dinorah Ereno, starting on page 64. The concern with the preservation of native species in the Amazon, indeed, receives considerable support in the article that begins on page 68, in which our special editor Marcos Pivetta relates how simulations made by computer indicate that the commercial extraction of certain majestic trees from the Amazon may not be a sustainable activity over a long period of time. According to data produced virtually, two species of tree that have been tested, the tatajuba and the maçaranduba, would take more than a century to grow and restock the quantity of wood cut down.

While technology launches projections for the future, which recommend caution when managing the country’s natural resources, some glimpses back into the past brought about by research in the humanities field could reveal that not always were things as dramatic as we had thought in the processes of the formation of the Brazilian nation. For example, the Christian missionary intervention brought the indigenous populations together, instead of only a cultural shock between winners and losers, with the destruction of the culture of the later, can perhaps be understood in a more subtle and complex manner as the establishing of relations between cultures where the cultural forms apparently condemned to disappear are recreated and reinvented so as to produce new significance. This is the article from our humanities editor, Carlos Haag, starting on page 82, taking as the article’s objective wide research into the missionaries of the Brazilian Amazon. Curiously enough, this anthropological research has turned itself at this moment into amazing reality, just when the late Pope, a clear missionary who ritually shelter the differences during his incursions throughout the world, has left the scene, and the throne of Saint Peter has been assumed by another who, though conceding the importance of missionary work, submits the questions of doctrine and Christian faith as the major universal ethical question. Good reading!