The rats who sniff out tuberculosis. by Emma Young [The Guardian] The African giant pouched rat can be trained to sniff out tuberculosis more accurately than most lab tests. So why is the medical profession still sceptical? [more inside]
By the dawn of the 19th century, the deadliest killer in human history, tuberculosis, had killed one in seven of all the people who had ever lived. The disease struck America with a vengeance, ravaging communities and touching the lives of almost every family. The battle against the deadly bacteria had a profound and lasting impact on the country. It shaped medical and scientific pursuits, social habits, economic development, western expansion, and government policy. Yet both the disease and its impact are poorly understood: in the words of one writer, tuberculosis is our "forgotten plague." [54:11]
One day in February 1945, in Paris, George Orwell waited at the café Deux Magots, where he was to meet Albert Camus for the first time."The Meeting That Never Was", an essay by Matthew Lamb in the LA Review of Books. [more inside]
HeroRats: "If people step on landmines, they will get hurt, but the HeroRats are too small to press the button that explodes the bomb. Then people can dig up the landmine without it exploding and no one gets hurt." (PDF document). The associated Twitter account: @HeroRATs. They tweet at celebrities for the LOLs and to raise awareness, as well as interacting with fellow Tweeters. [more inside]
While volunteering for the Peace Corps in Ukraine in 2010, I contracted a severe version of drug-resistant tuberculosis. Two years of painful, isolating treatment taught me the vital role social media may play in finally eradicating this disease.
Inconspicuous Consumption, a longform autobiographical essay.
It's not all bad news. People are living longer, we're winning the fight against malaria, worldwide poverty is down, and eight more reasons for hope in the coming year.
To protest a UK government policy in favor of killing badgers to reduce bovine tuberculosis, Queen guitarist Brian May has teamed up with Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash and naturalist David Attenborough to form the supergroup Artful Badger and Friends. The group released the song Badger Swagger on June 3. [more inside]
Ever heard of the Jewett City Vampires? Sure, you know about Salem and its witches, but New Englanders also went through several vampire panics that come far closer to the present than any Salem shenanigans. But who were the real people behind the modern legends? One common thread in the American myths: Tuberculosis (PDF).
Drug-resistant 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 bacteria.
Tuberculosis, which kills around 1,000 people a day in India, has acquired a deadlier edge. Forty years ago, the world thought it had conquered TB. [more inside]
19 year-old Virginia Frances Sterrett was commissioned by the Penn Publishing Company to illustrate Old French Fairy Tales by Comtesse de Segur (1920). Sterrett was already ill with tuberculosis, the disease that would end her life at age 30. [more inside]
"Why TB you ask. The house I grew up in, from 1961 to the 1974, faced the grounds of the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium. There was a fence around the property and it was patrolled by security guards daily. That was all I knew." Via.
An Atlanta man caused the U.S. government to issue its first quarantine order since 1963 this weekend, knowingly exposing as many as 107 passengers on two transatlantic flights to a rare, "extensively drug-resistant" form of tuberculosis. "It's regretful that we weren't able to stop that," the CDC's Dr. Martin Cetron said of how the man fled when U.S. health officials tracked him down in Rome and told him not to get on an airplane.
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.]
The Challenge of Global Health is an article written in the most recent Foreign Affairs, describing how "stovepiping" health care funding towards only HIV/AIDS, the shortage of health care workers in the West, and a vacuum of international health-care experts are all causing great damage to developing countries. The article was written by Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague, Betrayal of Trust, as well as a Pulitzer Prize winner for her writing on Ebola. Previously on mefi: garrett resigns, comments on world leaders.
According to an article in The Guardian about this new scientific report on XDR-TB, a new kind of multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis, in PLOS Medicine, "More than 300 cases of the highly infectious disease, which is spread by airborne droplets and kills 98% of those infected within about two weeks, have been identified in South Africa."
Rats are being trained to detect buried land mines in Africa. Giant African pouched rats! Mine-detecting is definitely not a suicide mission, the rats are trained with care and attention and are expected to give about eight years of service. They can also detect tuberculosis. And so cute! Here's a page on keeping them as pets (but you'd need a spare room and a nocturnal lifestyle.)
With a newly indurated PPD in my arm, I went looking for tuberculosis resources. According to the WHO over 2 million people a year die of tuberculosis. About a third of the 40 mil. people infected with HIV worldwide are also infected with TB. Successful treatment takes 6-9 months of powerful antibiotics, but that's assuming the bacteria in your body aren't drug resistant. Epidemics of drug resistant TB are raging in some parts of Central America and in the Russian prison system. Paul Farmer is the man for treating it, and quite a good man in general. On the plus side, possibly having TB puts me in good company: Orwell, Kafka, Chekhov, Chopin, and the 70s favorite mummy, King Tut all had it. Every one of the Brontes did too, and they were all geniuses. Of course they all died of it. On a more sober note, if I do have to get treatment, but I refuse, I might be ordered to take medications by a judge.
Psychophysical spaces - the tuberculosis sanatorium of Paimio, Finland from the beginning of thirties. Explore Alvar Aalto's soothing Scandinavian functionalism on a detailed virtual tour.