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São Paulo drowned its rivers

The title of this letter should be in quotes since it is not mine but comes from engineer and lawyer Rodolfo Costa e Silva, coordinator of the Tietê River cleanup and the Tietê and Pinheiros Rivers riverbank recovery programs. But quotation marks in titles are frowned upon by those who strive to maintain a clearer visual journalistic aesthetic because they are perceived as graphically excessive and bordering on the abusive. So I left them out, but immediately cited the author of this brilliant synthesis of what happened to the rivers of the largest Brazilian metropolis during its urbanization process. I am sure he would generously grant me permission for this restricted use of his expression and would understand as recognition the short and accurate translation I performed into the vernacular of his understanding of a complex process.

Costa e Silva is one of the individuals mentioned in the cover story of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP, which clearly excites me in many ways: because of the reporting, the writing, the refined visual treatment, and even the topic, in the humanities, that initially seemed inadequate or surprising for a cover story, but on which we decided to take a chance. And I hasten to say that the credit for this must go to our Special Editor Carlos Fioravanti and our Art Editor, Mayumi Okuyama, before even mentioning that the starting point of this beautiful work was a display of 17 antique maps of the rivers in São Paulo that can be seen until March at the São Paulo State Public Archives. Entitled O tempo e as águas: formas de representar os rios de São Paulo (The weather and water: representations of the rivers of São Paulo), curated by professors from USP and Unifesp, in addition to the State Archives staff, the exhibition sparked a journalistic voyage that explores the geography and history of the channeling of the rivers of São Paulo under streets and avenues, the related urban issues and, finally, the environmental and economic aspects involved in the long-standing and continuing effort to decontaminate the two major rivers flowing through the state capital. It is worth taking a look, starting on page 16.

Another report, in the science section, which contributes greatly to my quantum of satisfaction with the present issue, is about the research on using human medicines to control a disease affecting orange trees, namely citrus variegated chlorosis (CVC) caused by the famous bacteria Xylella fastidiosa. In addition to antibiotics such as tetracycline and neomycin, which work well but are impractical given the high cost that they would entail in practice,  N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is now emerging as a possible weapon in the arsenal against CVC. It is the active ingredient of a common drug, Fluimucil, known to smokers and those with various respiratory conditions who suffer from an accumulation of mucus in the lungs. This makes a lot of sense, because when X. fastidiosa attacks the plant, the colony forms a biofilm that unites the invading microorganisms and allows them to act as a single organism, clogging the xylem and preventing the passage of water and nutrients from the roots to the crowns of the trees. Breaking the biofilm as it begins to form may be the best way to combat the disease, and if a mucolytic has the power to unclog alveoli, bronchioles and bronchi etc.., why shouldn’t it work against this biofilm? It is worth seeing how far this reasoning by biologist Alessandra de Souza took her, with every detail recounted, starting on page 58, by Pesquisa FAPESP Online Editor Maria Guimarães.  Why do I like this story so much?  This periodical has been accompanying the adventures of X. fastidiosa since the first work to sequence its genome in 1997. And each new piece of knowledge about the biology, physiology and treatment of diseases caused by this organism seems to intertwine it a little more with the history of Pesquisa FAPESP itself.