Dr Google always thinks it's cancer, except when it's lupus. So how do you find reliable health information online? The (US) National Institute on Aging has some good rules of thumb
, and the National Library of Medicine has a simple tutorial
. Many of us, though, might prefer a list of general trustworthy resources. Here are some of my favorites, including some Australian and UK resources that American MeFites might not know. [more inside]
A new study
by Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann and others found that voice-hearing experiences of people with serious psychotic disorders are shaped by local culture – in the United States, the voices are harsh and threatening; in Africa and India, they are more benign and playful. This may have clinical implications for how to treat people with schizophrenia, she suggests.
Humans have co-evolved with the resident microbes that call us "home", known as the microbiota, consisting of trillions of cells that colonize our bodies. The microbiota carry out many beneficial functions, such as producing vitamins, aiding in digestion, and protecting against invading microbes, but disruption from antibiotics or delivery by Caesarian section may have consequences for human health. Recently, antibiotic use has been linked with obesity and asthma. Using both human studies and experimentally observed mice, we are beginning to understand how antibiotics may lead to the disappearance of microbes and to identify key microbes that impact our health.
Save the Microbes [more inside]
We tend to think now of scurvy as mainly a punch line, if anything—“scurvy-ridden rats” is the kind of popular pirate epithet that appears in even the most G-rated family fare. Partly this is because now, fully understanding its mechanism, it seems a particularly ridiculous problem. But ask anyone who's suffered from it: it is a singularly horrid and terrible way to die.
- The Spoil of Mariners
, Colin Dickey, Lapham's Quarterly
and "extensively" resistant
strains make containment and treatment of tuberculosis
ever more difficult. Fortunately, researchers based in Switzerland
have (re-)discovered a naturally-made antibiotic called pyridomycin
, which will kill isoniazid-resistant M. tuberculosis
IBM is currently putting together
database and barcode tracking to allow farmers and grocers in China to track your porkchop, from the pig to the plate. Using supply chain tracking (similar to what is done already in other industries), the goal is to limit and hopefully prevent disease outbreaks by tracking the health of the animal, including which other animals it has come into contact with. So the next time you sit down for some nice ham, you might be able to scan the barcode (or RFID tag) to see whom else on your block shares your own porcine six degrees of separation. [more inside]
A new malaria vaccine has been shown effective in large-scale field trials. After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges.
In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis. [more inside]
The New Biology
- Eric Schadt's quest to upend molecular biology and open source it. (via
Just imagine if your legs continued growing
long after the rest of your body stopped. [more inside]
Imagine if you were the only person on earth; if no one else could understand you except yourself. No matter how hard you tried, you could never make contact with the outside world, not for long at least. This is the life of a Schizophrenic
, in a simulation created to understand what a typical trip to the pharmacy is for a patient suffering from Schizophrenia [previously
], you will experience for a few minutes what life is all about for people afflicted with this disease. (via) [more inside]
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells
- "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract
, nature writeup
, audio announcement
In this week’s medical research update, being mildly overweight
might not be so bad for you. According to one
summary, “overweight people have a lower death rate because they are much less likely to die from a grab bag of diseases that includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, infections and lung disease. And that lower risk is not counteracted by increased risks of dying from any other disease, including cancer, diabetes or heart disease.” And so what is meant by “overweight” needs to be reconsidered
. But last week’s bulletin, discussed here
, suggested that longer life spans are associated with lower weights, and the primary recommendation
was to “Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.” Allright: Epidemiological studies are hard to interpret and some people question the science
. Newspapers are oriented to breaking news and treat medical reports as such, relying on he said/she said quotes from experts instead of providing integrative analysis. So who exactly is going to put together the pieces? What about NIH
, your tax dollar at work? Or some blogs?
Have You Eaten Your Dirt Today, Honey? A New Approach To The Hygiene Hypothesis. The hypothesis argues: The reason why there is so much asthma, eczema, allergies and maybe even childhood diabetes in the modern world is because we — well infants really — live in too clean a universe. What our baby immune systems need is a kickstart by exposure to viruses, bacteria, worms, pollutants and so on. If you don’t get an infant hit from these icons of uncleanliness, the immune system goes haywire and your body over-reacts to all sorts of invasive things that normally could be ignored. Via. [more inside]
Body fat causes cancer
according to a scary report from the American Institute for Cancer Research
and the World Cancer Research Fund
that reviewed 7000 studies. Obesity creates "a low-grade chronic inflammatory state" that promotes cancer. This report seems more foreboding than others of its ilk, e.g.: "Even small amounts of excess body fat, especially if carried at the waist, increase risk." Drinking is also carcinogenic: better limit yourself to 2 drinks a day if you're male and 1 if you're female. (Of course, breathing
is also bad, and so is sunlight
. ) Conclusion: you can live a really long time if you don't like to eat or drink, though you want to avoid taking this to extremes
was a former concert pianist and systems analyst who suffered from an autoimmune disease similar to lupus for over 20 years. The disease left her in constant pain
and made her allergic to most pharmaceutical painkillers. Only medical marijuana brought her relief, but last spring the DEA seized her medicine. Unable to cope with the chronic pain any longer, she committed suicide
on October 18th
. [Via Andrew Sullivan.]
Drug-resistant TB strain raises ethical dilemma.
A man in Arizona who has a virtually untreatable strain of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB)
has been locked up indefinitely
because he failed to take precautions to avoid infecting others, even though he has not commited a crime. The new strain of TB is described as a nightmare
by health officials, and though mainly found in Africa and Asia, it is slowly beginning to spread in the U.S. [Via Technoccult.]
Doctor Larry Brilliant (mentioned before)
spoke at TED this year, calling himself the "luckiest man in the world." He played witness to the last case of Smallpox, and played a significant role in making it the last case. Inspiring/terrifying video here,
long, with some graphic
images of smallpox.
Back in 1974, Brilliant's technique for early detection in India was to take graphic photos door to door, asking if anyone inside looks like this
. Now, as head of Google's philanthropic efforts, he's advocating systems for "early detection, early response." Unsurprisingly, Google, etc, are an important piece of that system: can we detect what's happening before it can spread?
One of the first responses to Brilliant is up already, a means for doctors to immediately text epidemiological information straight into a global spatial database.
It's a rough and promising start, and its fascinating that it's coming from the bottom up, instead of NGOs like the Red Cross.
China isn't known for being open
about most things, including the spread of deadly diseases. (Many will remember China's original attempt to cover up SARS
. As the International Society for Infectious Diseases
reports, a prominent WHO
virologist has made a claim that China has now experienced at least 300 human avian flu deaths and is actively attempting to cover this information up. "We are systematically deceived," he is reported to have said. "At least 5 medical co-workers who should be reporting on the
situation in the provinces were arrested, and [other] publication-willing
researchers were threatened with punishments."
possibly one of the most common diseases, believed to affect 600,000 to a million Americans, remains obscure. It is what afflicted Julius Ceasar, Alexander the Great, and Dostoyevsky
. Known through the work of Bear
, it is virtually impossible to diagnose except in a severe cases where a seizure can be witnessed by an MRI or EEG, also because of the controversial theories on personality
. While a neurological disorder, it is treated by psychiatrists, and when medicated, artists have often felt that the muse has left them
Is circumcision an AIDS weapon?
To cut or not to cut? Does circumcision prevent the transmission of HIV? It was deemed "An acceptable strategy for HIV prevention"
in Bostwana and a study looking at the magnitude of females who get infected with HIV/AIDS/STDs through circumcision
Another year, another flu vaccine shortage.
Perhaps it just the first salvo of 2004's media Flu Frenzy!
I think this winter I will retire the the TV, forget about my pharma portfolio and instead light a fire, swig some hot lemon and honey tea, and spice up my life.
May 12th is International ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia Awareness Day
. If you aren't aware of these afflictions, then it's time to become so. "Fibromyalgia (FM)
is an increasingly recognized chronic pain illness which is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal aches, pain and stiffness, soft tissue tenderness, general fatigue and sleep disturbances." The WebMD description
. For those who live with chronic fatigue, systemic immunity problems, and long term pain, I think the rest of us, at least, owe our awareness of what these people cope with every day. Again, via the always excellent Watermark, who writes movingly of her relationship with Fibromyalgia.
Batten down the mosquito netting
In Iraq: "Now a new wave of unexpected horror, leishmaniasis, is arriving at WRAMC – which has the only accredited leishmaniasis lab in the United States – and its dedicated docs are burning the midnight oil to find a treatment. A model predicts that 1 percent to 4 percent of our soldiers in Iraq can expect to be hit by this potentially deadly parasite, delivered by the bite of infected sand flies as common in the Middle East as fleas on a wild dog. "
After reading that beef has been recalled
from my local grocery store, I spent some time reading Mad Cow USA
a book written back in 1997 but not widely published because of fears of repercussions under the Texas food disparagement act. AlterNet has an article
written by one of the book's authors summarizing some of the key points of the book. Some claim that only ground beef is infected, while others claim that's bull
has a lot of good information on the topic, and it seems the powers that be are going to blame Canada
Frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear the accuser and accused freely speak.
In the west, before it was HIV/AIDS, it was GRID, for Gay-Related Immunodeficiency Disease, or Kaposi Sarcoma-Opportunistic Infection, or simply "gay cancer." But there are other names for it now, where it hits hardest, but no less euphemistic or obscuring. More inside...
First Documented Case
of HIV hybridization in a human being was presented at the International AIDS Society conference in Paris. In this case, genetic tests on a superinfected woman showed that the two strains she was infected with swapped genetic material, creating a new hybrid strain of HIV. The actual effects are not yet clear, but this could pose a serious problem for researchers trying to create a vaccine.
I mean small and really ugly!
And they don't do us any favors
at all. We can hold each other's hands, and share support
. Our fight against them may lead to knowledge in other battles
, but I think its time to go on the offensive
. Its time to defang the beastie
(Maybe I should have posted this at Warfilter
WHO lifts Toronto travel ban
And Health Canada
Recommendations: Health Canada continues to strongly endorse travel into and throughout the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] as safe and encourages travellers to maintain their business and/or personal travel plans to the GTA.
That's just great. What, a week after banning all travel to Toronto because of SARS, it's on again?
That's bloody irresponsible, considering the damage it has done and will continue to do so to travel to Canada no less Toronto. [s'more inside]
CDC posts medical alert for atypical pneumonia.
There is travel alert for those traveling from Asian countries around and in China. It seems that this type of pnenumonia has been found in North America. Symptoms include fever and hard-of-breathing. More articles about the disease here.
A rather extraordinary applet. Find out about the reportable communicable diseases in the US. Many hidden features.
3.1 million in 2002 comes out to some 8,500 a day, 354 an hour, and almost 6 a minute. Each minute. Each hour. Each day. Deaths. Of AIDS.
The Access to Essential Medicines Campaign
is an initiative by Medecins Sans Frontieres
that seeks to "lower the prices of existing medicines in developing countries, to bring abandoned drugs back into production, to stimulate research and development for neglected diseases that primarily affect the poor, and to overcome other barriers to access
is one target disease. The Campaign's press releases
, press clips
on HIV give a good picture of recent developments. In light of this evidence, does anyone care to step up and defend "big pharma
" and the governments of the wealthy North? Have we/they "done enough"? What would "doing enough" look like, given the scope of the crisis?
"China's catastrophic mismanagement of its AIDS crisis has come to this:
Xie Yan is trying to give away her son. Ms. Xie's husband died last year of AIDS, and she has the virus as well. They are the victims of government-backed blood-selling schemes that have left about one million people infected here in Henan Province in central China. Multiply Ms. Xie's heartache a millionfold, and you understand the cost of the Chinese government's cover-up of its AIDS crisis. If China continues to be more concerned with hiding the tragedy than confronting it, then today's Chinese leaders could kill millions of people over the next two decades. We in the West must exert strong pressure on China to act quickly to address the AIDS challenge."
South African mining giant begins providing triple coctail for HIV treatment.
Something optimistic for a Friday post: AngloGold
along with DeBeers
is offering its employees HIV Triple cocktail
treatment for free. With almost 30%
of some of these companies' workforce affected with the HIV virus, is this an example of merging corporate and social interests or is this a sign of honest corporate citizenship?
is being hailed as the key to better treatments for the Parkinson's disease, marking a complete turnaround from a few weeks ago when ecstasy was condemned for causing the disease.
For years, it's been observed that some people infected with HIV never develop full-blown AIDS. Now American and Chinese scientists think they know why
. But remember kids, barebacking
is still dangerous, and a cocktail is not a cure. Maybe this research will change all that.
Is this the big one?
With some 18,000 sick and over 700 people having died of the flu in a country the size of France over the past couple of months, I find it odd that the media seems obsesessed with the US / Iraq thing and missing children.
The 1918 flu epidemic killed some 675,00 Americans alone, with a global tally in excess of 20 MILLION killed.
Some of the photos taken back then are pretty grim
. It seems the power of influenza is that it (ahhem) mutates
and thats why it could once again be a big killer. Cynical as it might sound, as a race maybe we need
something like this to teach us that we've got a lot more in common with each other than skin colour and religion might otherwise lead us to believe. ObDisclaimer: I'm unemployed right now, have maybe six months of canned goods in the flat; if this hits London, I ain't opening my door to nobody
How Safe is the Blood Supply?
A tainted donor infects two with HIV in Florida. The people in charge
of the blood claim it's safe
. But recent books
raise serious questions.
No More Malaria?
The first step has been taken to making mosquitoes incapable of passing on malaria. But, should we?
Diane Petty, suffering from motor neurone disease, refused right to euthanasia by European Court. "Mrs Pretty, from Luton, who is paralysed from the neck down, had claimed the refusal breached the Human Rights Convention, which outlaws "inhuman or degrading treatment"."
seems to be on the rise. Working in a hospital lab I've seen an increase in tests for HPV
It's enough to make one wonder if sex is worth the risk.
AIDS Programs: An Epidemic of Waste.
Interesting article about AIDS funding in the USA... and these people want more taxpayer money! Heres a quote:
The Stop AIDS Project of San Francisco, which received $698,000 (39 percent of its budget) in CDC grants in fiscal 200139, has sponsored several "prevention" events, including a gay prom in April. Last August it held "Booty Call," a seminar about dildos, plugs, fisting, and rimming. The advertisement read, "After a little basic science, share tales of intercourse and orgasm. Find out why so many of us find ass play a major turn on."
SmallPox 2002 - Silent Weapon...
It is April 2002, and a smallpox outbreak occures in New York. 4 and a half months later and 60 million people across the planet are dead.
Tonight, The BBC broadcast a fictional documentary
as if it were filmed in 2005, looking back at the smallpox pandemic that swept the world in 2002 and killed 60 million people.
Heavily rooted in fact, it was disturbing viewing, to put it mildly. Did anyone else in Europe see this?
wants to ban anyone with HIV or hepatitis from visiting or living on the island. I can't see how they can get away with this.
with comprehensive links, thanks to Sister Mary Elizabeth of the Sisters of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and AEGIS
(AIDS Education Global Information System), "...a service the Centers for Disease Control calls 'the best of its kind'..." (See How Aegis Began) People making a difference.