Tag Archives | Disease

Beware of the Superspreaders

"Typhoid" Mary Mallon

Modern day Typhoid Marys are on the loose! Carrie Arnold describes the dangers for Slate:

If germs hung a recruiting sign for their hosts, it would probably be a version of the World War I poster of Uncle Sam pointing: We want YOU to help us reproduce. All hosts were equally eligible for service, infectious-disease researchers thought. Assuming the recruits weren’t immune due to a prior infection or vaccination, anyone should have roughly the same potential to spread a disease’s pathogens. But then came severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

This pandemic started as just another strange pneumonia from southern China, but in 2003 it turned into a global outbreak that infected 8,098 people and killed 774. Key to the disease’s spread, researchers found, was a small but crucial portion of the population that became known as “superspreaders,” people who transmitted the infection to a much greater than expected number of new hosts.

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Flesh-Eating Fungus Unexpectedly Killed Five People After Missouri Tornado, Scientists Warn

How society could crumble: chaos sown by flesh-eating fungus attacks in the aftermath of global warming-induced extreme weather. Via EurekAlert!:

A fast growing, flesh-eating fungus killed 5 people following a massive tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., according to two new studies based on genomic sequencing by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Health officials should be aware of infections caused by the fungus Apophysomyces, according to the studies, which tracked 13 people infected by the pathogen during the tornado [which] plowed through Joplin on May 22, 2011, initially killing 160 and injuring more than 1,000.

The common fungus — which lives in soil, wood or water — usually has no effect on people. But once it is introduced deep into the body through a blunt trauma puncture wound, it can grow quickly if the proper medical response is not immediate, the studies said.

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Obesity Is Bigger Health Crisis Globally Than Hunger

At the beach - male abdominal obesityIt’s not just America y’all. Via CNN:

Obesity is a bigger health crisis globally than hunger, and the leading cause of disabilities around the world, according to a new report published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet.

Nearly 500 researchers from 50 countries compared health data from 1990 through 2010 for the Global Burden of Disease report, revealing what they call a massive shift in global health trends.

“We discovered that there’s been a huge shift in mortality. Kids who used to die from infectious disease are now doing extremely well with immunization,” said Ali Mokdad, co-author of the study and professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which led the collaborative project.

“However, the world is now obese and we’re seeing the impact of that.”

The report revealed that every country, with the exception of those in sub-Saharan Africa, faces alarming obesity rates — an increase of 82% globally in the past two decades.

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Pennsylvania Teenager Sleeps For 64 Days Straight

Imagine existing mostly in a dreamworld, with interludes of sleepwalking to eat, drink, and use the bathroom. Is it a burden or a blessing? Daily Mail reports:

A Pennsylvania teenager slept for 64 days from Thanksgiving into January — her longest sleeping episode yet. Nicole Delien, 17, struggles with a rare sleep disorder called Kleine-Levine, or ‘Sleeping Beauty Syndrome’.

During her sleep spells she will wake up in a confused state for small periods of time to eat and go to the bathroom and then fall back to sleep. Nicole’s mother, Vicki, says her daughter will sleep 18 to 19 hours a day, and when she eventually wakes up to eat she is in a ‘sleepwalking state which she doesn’t remember’.

A doctor at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was able to pinpoint the disorder and offer some suggestions on how to manage it, including medication. Affected individuals may go for a period of weeks, months or even years without experiencing any symptoms, and then they reappear with little warning.

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Possible Cover-Up of Dangerous West Nile Virus Mutation?

Picture: CDC (PD)

Most people who contract the mosquito-borne pathogen West Nile virus are asymptomatic, and even those who do get sick usually experience flu-like symptoms that resolve on their own. In a small percentage of those infected, the symptoms can be much worse: swelling of the brain and permanent neurological damage among them. Now, the Washington Post reports there are signs that the virus could be getting worse and evidence of a possible cover-up in the form of a “recalled” email:

Last month, Leis asked a Food and Drug Administration scientist who studies the genetics of the virus whether a new, more virulent strain was circulating.

“You are absolutely right . . . that new genetic variants of WNV might have appeared this year,” the scientist replied in an Oct. 23 e-mail obtained by The Washington Post. The scientist continued that “it is not easy to correlate” the new mutations with any specific type of brain damage.

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The United States Is Collecting World Leaders’ DNA

In the future, synthetic viruses will be unleashed which spread quickly, producing no symptoms — until they reach a targeted person whose DNA sequence unlocks the virus’s lethal abilities. The Atlantic reveals that preparations are already underway for this coming era of biological assassination:

The U.S. government is surreptitiously collecting the DNA of world leaders, and is reportedly protecting that of Barack Obama. Decoded, these genetic blueprints could provide compromising information. In the not-too-distant future, they may provide something more as well—the basis for the creation of personalized bioweapons that could take down a president and leave no trace.

DNA of world leaders is already a subject of intrigue. In the President’s Secret Service, Navy stewards gather bedsheets, drinking glasses, and other objects the president has touched—they are later sanitized or destroyed—in an effort to keep would‑be malefactors from obtaining his genetic material. Personalized bioweapons are a subtler and less catastrophic threat than accidental plagues or WMDs.

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FDA Expands Warning Regarding Medicines Contaminated With Deadly Fungus

“Dangerous impurities” is frequently given as one of the reasons to avoid street drugs, but dangerous impurities in the products of Big Pharma seem to be killing more people. CNN reports:

More patients will soon be told that they received potentially contaminated drugs from the New England Compounding Center, whose products are associated with 308 illnesses and 23 deaths.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration posted on its website a list of more than 1,200 hospitals and clinics that had purchased steroids and other drugs from the compounding center that, if contaminated, would be especially dangerous for patients. [Drugs of concern] include triamcinolone acetonide, an injectable steroid used to treat pain; injectable drugs used for eye surgery; and cardioplegic solutions, which are used during open heart surgeries.

Tennessee has been the hardest-hit state in the meningitis outbreak, with 70 cases as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The Pro-Cancer Lobby In Washington D.C.

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof describes what he terms the “cancer lobby” — how major industry spends millions of dollars to influence Congress in support of carcinogenic chemicals:

Who knew that carcinogens had their own lobby in Washington? Just consider formaldehyde, which is found in everything from nail polish to kitchen countertops, fabric softeners to carpets. Largely because of its use in building materials, we breathe formaldehyde fumes when we’re inside our homes. According to government scientists, it causes cancer.

The chemical industry is working frantically to suppress that scientific consensus — because it fears “public confusion.” Big Chem apparently worries that you might be confused if you learned that formaldehyde caused cancer of the nose and throat, and perhaps leukemia.

The industry’s strategy is to lobby Congress to cut off money for the Report on Carcinogens, a 500-page consensus document published every two years by the National Institutes of Health, containing the best information about what agents cause cancer.

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Asian Disease Likened To New AIDS

Photo: justinwdavis (CC)

The “new AIDS” is one scary headline. Marilynn Marchione reports for AP via Yahoo News:

Researchers have identified a mysterious new disease that has left scores of people in Asia and some in the United States with AIDS-like symptoms even though they are not infected with HIV.

The patients’ immune systems become damaged, leaving them unable to fend off germs as healthy people do. What triggers this isn’t known, but the disease does not seem to be contagious.

This is another kind of acquired immune deficiency that is not inherited and occurs in adults, but doesn’t spread the way AIDS does through a virus, said Dr. Sarah Browne, a scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

She helped lead the study with researchers in Thailand and Taiwan where most of the cases have been found since 2004. Their report is in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

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CDC: Untreatable Gonorrhea Might Be Just Around the Corner

Picture: National Archives and Records Administration (PD)

Via NPR:

There’s disturbing news coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The sexually-transmitted disease Gonorrhea is getting close to being untreatable. There’s only one antibiotic left that works against the disease, and if gonorrhea continues to mutate then it too may become ineffective. That’s right: You could have “the clap” for the rest of your life, and it’s all because of the over-prescription of antibiotics:

“Gonorrhea used to be susceptible to penicillin, ampicillin, tetracycline and doxycycline — very commonly used drugs,” said Jonathan Zenilman, who studies infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins.

But one by one, each of those antibiotics — and almost every new one that has come along since — eventually stopped working. One reason is that the bacterium that causes gonorrhea can mutate quickly to defend itself, Zenilman said.

“If this was a person, this person would be incredibly creative,” he said.

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