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Letter from the editor | 232

Integrated activities

In the past five years (2010-2014), Brazil has recorded an annual average of 881,000 cases of dengue, a 126% increase compared to the annual average for the previous five-year period (338,000 cases).  In just the first four months of 2015, there have been nearly 750,000 cases in Brazil, 66% of them in the Southeast.  This issue’s cover story shows that there is no single solution for preventing new epidemics.  An effective public policy of disease eradication has to be based on a coordinated campaign that combines existing tools with scientific and technological research findings.  New approaches, such as preventive vaccines and the use of new insecticides and transgenic mosquitoes to reduce the population of disease-causing insects could also prove effective, especially if subsidized by widespread data collection on the part of public and private officials.

Identifying changes in the structure and functioning of the brain that characterize its healthy maturation is the main objective of a broad multidisciplinary and multicentric study. One theory suggests that during the transition from childhood to adolescence, the changes experienced in the brain systems of healthy young people are different from the changes that occur in individuals with a higher propensity for developing psychiatric problems. One of the long-term goals of the study is to gather together a set of changes that could indicate atypical brain development, leading to the establishment of risk markers of mental disorders.  By identifying the signs that surface before the disease takes hold, there is hope in the future for developing methods that will bring the brain back to its normal developmental trajectory.

A trip to Vale do Ribeira in southern São Paulo State shows how descendants of quilombolas are organizing themselves to ensure productive occupation of territories recognized after 1997. Owned by associations of residents, the lands occupied by these farmers are split between small family plots dedicated to subsistence farming and larger commercial cultivations of such crops as banana and pupunha. The local population is seeking to balance their land use traditions with legal restrictions such as those that limit burning and hunting.  We followed researchers there engaged in studying the forms of land use, collecting and preserving seed species and conducting a cultural inventory of the quilombos, and witnessing a group harvesting effort capped off by a dance.  A photo gallery is available at

A recent mapping of Brazilian research infrastructure indicates that investments have benefited small laboratories with modest equipment. The focus has not been on large research structures or facilities whose multi-user laboratories are outfitted with sophisticated equipment able to serve wide demand.

And lastly, a perfect example of research that both advances knowledge and carries economic consequences, in addition to awakening interest and curiosity, is the report on bird mites. Identification of the microscopic arachnids that have affected chicken production in inland São Paulo State resolved a practical problem and led to an advance in the little-explored field of zoology. It is a pleasure to share this (my first) issue with readers.