La Jolla News Nuggets

River the outdoor cat, a veritable mascot around the Pannikin, has gone missing and there is a $100 reward for his return.

River the cat is missing

River — the precocious outdoor cat famous for nuzzling up to pedestrians on the northern part of Girard Avenue — has vanished.

Stasia Osment, who has provided River with food, a water bowl and a litter box on a nightly basis for almost two years, said she hasn’t seen him since Monday, Nov. 4. Neither has his previous owner, Osment said.

“I’m very concerned,” Osment said as she taped a sign onto the glass in the front door of the Pannikin Coffee & Tea. “He stays out and does his cat thing, but then he comes home every night.”

Many La Jollans who didn’t know River were introduced by a Jan. 16, 2019 cover story in the Light Lifestyles section. This bizarrely intelligent feline could usually be found safely crossing streets on his own, browsing the lower shelves at D.G. Wills Books or waiting to pounce on unsuspecting birds from inside the tops of Pannikin umbrellas.

Osment said she doesn’t believe River was struck by a car, since he proved time and again his remarkable pedestrian skills — and because anyone who found him would have phoned the number on his tag.

No, she believes River may have been stolen.

“My father passed away two months ago,” Osment said. “River stayed with my dad toward the end, sort of like he knew, and now this. It’s pretty upsetting.”

Dennis Wills, owner of D.G. Wills Books next door to the Pannikin, is trying not to be pessimistic.

“I suspect he may have found a new comfortable place to hang out at — maybe with someone who has a child that he took to,” he said. “At least I’d like to believe that.”

There is a $100 reward for anyone with information resulting in his return. (858) 752-9986.

UCSD’s novel use of phages

UC San Diego School of Medicine researchers have, for the first time, used bacteriophages (phages) — viruses that destroy bacteria — to treat a condition not considered a classic bacterial infection: alcoholic liver disease.

The researchers discovered that patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis had high numbers of a destructive gut bacterium. So they used a precise cocktail of phages to target and kill the bacteria in mice, eradicating the disease.

“We not only linked a specific bacterial toxin to worse clinical outcomes in patients with alcoholic liver disease, we found a way to break that link by precisely editing gut microbiota with phages,” said UCSD professor of medicine and gastroenterology Bernd Schnabl, lead author on the paper, which was published in the Nov. 13 Nature.

This advance is notable because effective treatments for alcoholic hepatitis are rare, with up to 75 percent of patients dying within 90 days of diagnosis. The condition is most commonly treated with corticosteroids, but they aren’t highly effective. Early liver transplantation is the only cure, but is only offered at select medical centers to a limited number of patients.

In the early 20th century, researchers experimented with phages as a potential treatment for bacterial infections. But then antibiotics emerged and phages fell out of favor. With the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, however, researchers have renewed their interest in phage therapy.

City surveying older residents to improve livability

The City of San Diego wants residents ages 50 and older to complete an online survey to help it prepare for the changing needs that come with aging.

The survey, which takes about 10 minutes to finish, seeks input about outdoor and public spaces, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, work and civic engagement, communications and information, and community and health services.

The public can respond until Friday, Dec. 13 at

UCSD perfects microsurgery to prevent lymphedema

UC San Diego Health now offers a novel surgical procedure to prevent lymphedema, a painful condition that can occur as a consequence of lymph nodes being removed from under the arms during breast-cancer surgery. One in five of the 3.5 million current breast cancer survivors in the U.S. experience lymphedema.

“While the majority of patients do not experience complications from lymph node removal, it can be devastating for those who do,” said Frederic Kolb, plastic surgeon at UC San Diego Health. “Immediate lymphatic reconstruction is a preventive procedure to restore lymphatic connections in the arm. This delicate surgery is performed at the same time the lymph nodes are removed and tested for cancer.”

During lymph node dissection, Kolb and his team map the drainage routes of the nodes in the upper arm. The team reconnects any disrupted channels by creating a “bypass” to prevent swelling. Using a microscope, the team reroutes the tiny vessels, many less than the thickness of a dime.

“Instead of treating patients after lymphedema presents itself, we hope to prevent the condition for patients who may be at risk,” Kolb said.

Dressed to the canines for Halloween

The second annual J.McLaughlin dress-up-your-dog Halloween fundraiser — thrown in partnership with the La Jolla Veterinary Hospital — raised $300 for the FACE Foundation on Oct. 30. The winning costume contestants included Jessie the Double Doodle as a Paddington Bear, Dylan the Standard Poodle as Dylan the Villain and Cooper the Australian Labradoodle as Marilyn Monroe.

“We were happy to partner with the Face Foundation along with help from many local merchants who donated product and services,” said J.McLaughlin store manager Natalie Aguirre. “La Jolla loves its dogs!”

— Compiled by Corey Levitan from local reports.