The UN's FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) have announced that they believe rinderpest, an frequently fatal viral disease that affects livestock and wild ruminants, to have been eliminated. This is only the second virus, after smallpox, to have been wiped out. The BBC
and the Guardian
discuss the story in brief, and Science
has a slightly more in-depth look at it. The FAO themselves have put up an interesting history of the disease and its treatment
The HIV ancestor virus, SIV, has been around much longer than previously thought.
The NY Times notes: "And that assumption in turn complicates a question that has bedeviled AIDS scientists for years: What happened in Africa in the early 20th century that let a mild monkey disease move into humans, mutate to become highly transmissible and then explode into one of history’s great killers, one that has claimed 25 million lives so far?" [more inside]
Parasites may affect brain function: Toxoplasmosis
is a famous example. Now researchers have proposed
that country-by-country differences in IQ can be explained, in part, by parasite burden.
Bushmeat stew: complexities of a shadowy trade.
Illegal bushmeat (estimated 270 tons a year) 'rife in Europe
Bushmeat, or wild-animal meat, has been part of the traditional diet
of many forest-dwelling African people. It is found to introduce disease
and might well be more common
than you think. (wiki; related
"During World War I, the [US] Army lost 7 million person-days and discharged more than 10,000 men because they were ailing from STDs. Once Penicillin kicked in in the mid-1940s, such infections were treatable. But as a matter of national security, the military started distributing condoms and aggressively marketing prophylactics to the troops in the early 20th century
." [more inside]
Atkins was right?!
According to a meta-study of nearly 350,000 people
, "there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of (heart disease) or (vascular disease)... However, replacement with a higher carbohydrate
intake, particularly refined carbohydrate
, can exacerbate ... insulin resistance and obesity that includes increased triglycerides, small LDL particles
, and reduced HDL cholesterol. Dietary efforts to improve ... (cardiovascular disease) risk ... should primarily emphasize the limitation of refined carbohydrate intakes and (losing weight)." [more inside]
"Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is an extremely rare disease of the connective tissue. A mutation of the body's repair mechanism causes fibrous tissue (including muscle, tendon, and ligament) to be ossified when damaged. In many cases, injuries can cause joints to become permanently frozen in place. Surgical removal of the extra bone growths has been shown to cause the body to "repair" the affected area with more bone."^
Detailed in an article from The Atlantic, February 1998. Part 1
. Part 2
. [more inside]
With 12-year old Maggie Wiederholt's permission, Quad City Times reporter Kay Luna and photographer John Schultz followed her and her family for several weeks as the terminally ill Walcott, Iowa girl faced death - and made choices about how to live.
is a heart-wrenching project that captures the last days of a young girl with with a rare form of Behcet's disease. [more inside]
Detecting a handful of diseases with comic book ink and a postage stamp
(well, not quite, but the technology is related to the ink and it's on a postage stamp sized piece of paper). What's best is that the result is a simple visual that can be sent to doctors far away for recognition.
About a hundred years ago, public health took a visual turn. In an era of devastating epidemic and endemic infectious disease, health professionals began to organize coordinated campaigns that sought to mobilize public action through eye-catching wall posters, illustrated pamphlets, motion pictures, and glass slide projections. An Iconography of Contagion
In the mood for a good epidemic? Try the English Sweating Sickness
. To get a full picture of the horror and uproar a fast spreading disease with frighteningly sudden onset caused in Tudor England, here is an amazingly complete account by a contemporary physician
. The exact etiology of the disease is still a mystery
- perhaps a viral pulmonary disease
(PDF in link).
: “I wanted to call my father and tell him that a white man thought my brain was beautiful”.
Sherman Alexie doing his thing in The New Yorker, excerpted from his upcoming book (early review
; interview 1
, the fungal disease that caused the Irish Potato Famine
may destroy this years tomato crop in the Northeast and Midatlantic
United States. [more inside]
Just imagine if your legs continued growing
long after the rest of your body stopped. [more inside]
Polio: A Virus’ Struggle
is a Graphic Novella by James Weldon.
When we eradicate a disease, do we ever think about how it may effect the disease?
Learn all about the history of Poliomyelitis, as he tells his story to the group.
What if we could rid the world of AIDS? The notion might sound like fantasy: HIV infection has no cure and no vaccine, after all. Yet there is a way to completely wipe it out - at least in theory. What's more, it would take only existing medical technology to do the job. [more inside]
Addiction: thousands of studies have been done claiming that it is a disease
, often using rats in isolated cages with a bar-press system of delivery, showing they will repeatedly get high even if it means starving to death. Bruce Alexander was a skeptic, questioning the ecological validity of all such results: "They were said to prove that these kinds of dope are irresistible, and that’s it, that’s the end of the addiction story right there," and after delivering one particularly fruitless seminar in 1976, he decided to build Rat Park
to conduct his own studies... [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
"The new generation of resistant infections is almost impossible to treat."
While many ailments are considered terrifying, Lesch-Nyhan
is the stuff of nightmares. An extremely rare genetic neurological disorder with no cure, it often compels its victims to self-mutilate, even when they understand that doing so causes them harm. Richard Preston
used Lesch-Nyhan as a plot device in his best-selling thriller The Cobra Event
, and went on to write a fascinating article about the disease, its sufferers, and its implications for human behavior in the New Yorker. [PDF]
. [more inside]
"Why do some people continue to hold Rachel Carson
responsible for millions of malaria deaths?" [more inside]
. I’ve come to bear witness to American folly, to rest my eyes on the flying machines that flattened the forests of Southeast Asia, poisoned its people, and changed my life.
A personal essay about the long-reaching effects of Agent Orange. [more inside]
Bacteriophages ("phages" for short) were the only effective treatment against infectious diseases until antibiotics came along during WWII.
Phages are the most ubiquitous organism on Earth. They are naturally occurring viruses that infect bacteria and bacteria only. We live in a sea of phages. Our bodies are more phage than human. There approximately 10 to the 32 power of them around us. That's 10 with 32 zeros behind it.
Antibiotics cannot keep up with evolving infections, while phages naturally co-evolve with the bacteria.
Currently we are in a growing antibiotic crisis
and phage therapy is getting a serious look again.
Here's a fascinating discussion
from National Public Radio.
Retrospectacle on the Plague
. Shelley Batts
is a neuroscience PhD candidate who writes the great blog Retrospectacle [Prev]
. She's recently posted a series on the bubonic plague
: It's real and perceived causes (1 2
), the bizarre medical garb
doctors used, and modern cases of Yersinia pestis*
infection in the U.S.
and the world
Our Decrepit Food Factories.
Michael Pollan on what sustainability is really about. [Via Gristmill.]
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.]
Devil facial tumor disease
has ravaged the population of Tasmanian Devils in the last decade. DFTD is a transmissible cancer
, i.e. the tumor cells themselves (which differ genetically from their host animal) are the agent responsible. The disease is spread by biting and other contact, and the resulting grotesque tumors interfere with feeding and lead to starvation. Poor immune response
may be partially responsible. This is actually not the only such disease: canine transmissible venereal tumor is an analogue
that has been known to be contagious since the 19th century. (CTVT, however, gets a proper immune response.) [more inside]
Upon the Nazi invasion of Poland, pediatrician Eugeniusz Łazowski and his friend Stanisław Matulewicz fabricated a fake typhus epidemic
to save Polish Jews from the Nazis
. Knowing that typhus-infected Jews would be summarily executed, non-Jews were injected with the harmless Proteus OX19
, which would generate false positives for typhus. [more inside]
Drugs Banned, Many of World’s Poor Suffer in Pain
"Millions of people die in pain
because they cannot get morphine, which is legal for medical use in most nations." [Via TalkLeft.]
The 2005 outbreak of Corrupted Blood
in World of Warcraft
may provide epidemiologists
with a new platform for studying the spread of disease.
By using these games as an untapped experimental framework, we may be able to gain deeper insight into the incredible complexity of infectious disease epidemiology in social groups.
It comes as no surprise that the "stupid factor"
plays a role in susceptibility to viral marketing, but it may also be a factor
in the spread of real life germs.
This year, 500 million people will get malaria and about a million of them will die from it. Some scientists believe that one out of every two people who have ever lived have died of malaria.
Here are some reports
from Sierra Leone on efforts to control this deadly disease.
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.]
What disease does your pig have?
Mine has Porcine Epidemic Diahorroea!
83 percent of fresh, whole broiler chickens in the U.S. contain campylobacter or salmonella, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease.
This is a disturbing increase from the 49 percent
that tested positive in 2003. What’s more, most of the bacteria showed resistance to one or more antibiotics, and more expensive premium brands were actually more likely to contain salmonella. Is the problem factory farming?
Rampant antibiotic use?
Or are chickens just really gross?
Diseases of the Skin
by Gary M. White & Neil H. Cox. All you ever wanted to know about how bad your skin could be - full of images. Possibly NSFW, as some groin photos are included.