Tag Archives | Disease

Do You Suffer From Nature-Deficit Disorder?

BachalpseeflowersTell me you don’t, I dare you… Timothy Egan explains why in the New York Times:

Your day breaks, your mind aches for something stimulating to match the stirrings of the season. The gate at the urban edge is open, here to the Santa Catalina Mountains, and yet you turn inward, to pixels and particle-board vistas.

Something’s amiss. A third of all American adults — check, it just went up to 35.7 percent — are obese. The French don’t even have a word for fat, Paul Rudnick mused in a mock-Parisian tone in The New Yorker last week. “If a woman is obese,” he wrote, “we simply call her American.”

And, of course, our national branding comes with a host of deadly side effects: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, certain kinds of cancer. Medical costs associated with obesity and inactivity are nearly $150 billion a year.

This grim toll is well known.

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Bird Flu, Pig Flu, Now Bat Flu? This Man is Stunned

Adam West's BatmanReports the AP via Newsday:

For the first time, scientists have found evidence of flu in bats, reporting a never-before-seen virus whose risk to humans is unclear. The surprising discovery of genetic fragments of a flu virus is the first well-documented report of it in the winged mammals. So far, scientists haven’t been able to grow it, and it’s not clear if — or how well — it spreads.

Flu bugs are common in humans, birds and pigs and have even been seen in dogs, horses, seals and whales, among others. About five years ago, Russian virologists claimed finding flu in bats, but they never offered evidence.

“Most people are fairly convinced we had already discovered flu in all the possible” animals, said Ruben Donis, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who co-authored the new study.

Scientists suspect that some bats caught flu centuries ago and that the virus mutated within the bat population into this new variety.

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How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy

catnapIs a microscopic, mind-altering parasite spread by cats responsible for car accidents, hoarding behaviors, and schizophrenia? Respected scientists are now saying that “crazy cat lady” disease is real and millions of people are infected. Shocker from Kathleen McAuliffe in the Atlantic:

Jaroslav Flegr is no kook. And yet, for years, he suspected his mind had been taken over by parasites that had invaded his brain. So the prolific biologist took his science-fiction hunch into the lab. What he’s now discovering will startle you. Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia?

The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis — the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death.

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Mysterious Tourettes-Like Tics Strike Teen Population Of New York Town

800px-Downtown_Le_Roy,_NYCan this really be a case of youthful “mass hysteria”? Feel bad for the left-out teens who have not acquired the exciting mystery illness. Via MSNBC:

The mystery illness now producing Tourette’s-like symptoms in a more than a dozen girls from upstate New York is also affecting a 36-year-old who is experiencing the same tics as the teens. Some neurologists have suggested the illness could be “conversion disorder,” or mass hysteria.

High school student Thera Sanchez, 17, and 14 others started experiencing the odd symptoms last fall: stammering, verbal outbursts and limb spasms.

The teens’ plight captured the attention of environmental activist Erin Brockovich, who began speaking out about a 1970 train accident that spilled cyanide and industrial solvent four miles from the teens’ school, LeRoy Junior-Senior High School. According to a 1999 Environmental Protection Agency report, approximately 35,000 gallons of TCE (trichloroethene) contaminated the area near the derailment.

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Flesh-Eating Bacteria Mutation Now Spread By Sneezing And Handshakes

4014611539_bfdaef47d5My bet for how civilization will end in 2012…The worst strains of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” have largely been found within hospitals, but the newest version can be contracted far more easily and is spreading through the streets in Britain and the United States, the Daily Mail reports:

A flesh-eating form of pneumonia that is easily passed between healthy people on public transport is spreading across the UK, experts have warned.

The deadly strain of MRSA called USA300 passes easily through skin-to-skin contact. It can also survive on surfaces and so has the potential to be picked up on crowded buses and tubes. It was first seen in the U.S but cases are now being reported in the community and not just hospitals in Britain.

USA300 is resistant to treatment by several front-line antibiotics and can cause large boils on the skin. In severe cases, USA300 can lead to fatal blood poisoning or a form of pneumonia that can eat away at lung tissue.

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Mysterious White-Nose Syndrome Is Killing Bats Across The U.S.

White Nose BatmanHoly Fungus, Batman! Reports David Wrights and Jonann Brady of ABC NEWS:

A mysterious fungus is killing off thousands of bats around the country. Scientists are calling it white-nose syndrome, because of the distinctive white smudges on the noses and wings of infected bats.

White-nose itself doesn’t kill bats, but it disturbs their sleep so that they end their hibernation early. During the winter there are no insects to eat, so the bats literally starve to death.

Bats may be one of Mother Nature’s least cuddly creatures, but they are ecologically important, keeping mosquitos and insects that attack crops in check.

Researchers say the syndrome has killed upward of half a million bats from New England to Virginia.

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Tuberculosis Strain Totally Resistant To Antibiotics Spreads In India

Sputum sample containing Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Sputum sample containing Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Are we approaching the end of the wondrous age of antibiotics? Scientists have nothing to combat this strain of TB, as Eryn Brown  reports for the LA Times:

At least a dozen people in India are infected with a type of tuberculosis that is resistant to all antibiotics used to treat the disease.

In December, the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases published an online report that documented four of the cases. This weekend, news outlets in India reported that there were actually at least 12 people with the drug-resistant lung disease.

Officials fear that what they’ve seen so far is just the beginning, and that many more cases are lurking undetected.

“It’s estimated that on average, a tuberculosis patient infects 10 to 20 contacts in a year, and there’s no reason to suspect that this strain is any less transmissible,” study co-author Zarir Udwadia of the Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Mumbai told New Scientist.

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UN Forces Spread Deadly ‘Superbug’ Strain Of Cholera

UN peacekeeper in Haiti. Photo: Robert Miller (CC)

UN peacekeeper in Haiti. Photo: Robert Miller (CC)

As if Haiti didn’t have enough problems already… From ABC News:

Compelling new scientific evidence suggests United Nations peacekeepers have carried a virulent strain of cholera — a super bug — into the Western Hemisphere for the first time.

The vicious form of cholera has already killed 7,000 people in Haiti, where it surfaced in a remote village in October 2010. Leading researchers from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere told ABC News that, despite UN denials, there is now a mountain of evidence suggesting the strain originated in Nepal, and was carried to Haiti by Nepalese soldiers who came to Haiti to serve as UN peacekeepers after the earthquake that ravaged the country on Jan. 12, 2010 — two years ago today. Haiti had never seen a case of cholera until the arrival of the peacekeepers, who allegedly failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their base.

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Mystery Kidney Disease Epidemic in Central America

Central AmericaKate Sheehy reports for PRI’s The World:

In the western lowlands of Nicaragua, in a region of vast sugarcane fields, sits the tiny community of La Isla.The small houses are a patchwork of concrete and wood. Pieces of cloth serve as doors.

Maudiel Martinez emerges from his house to greet me. He’s pale, and his cheekbones protrude from his face. He hunches over like an old man — but he is only 19-years-old.

“The way this sickness is — you see me now, but in a month I could be gone. It can take you down all of a sudden,” he says. Maudiel’s kidneys are failing. They do not perform the essential function of filtering waste from his body. He’s being poisoned from the inside. When he got ill two years ago, he was already familiar with this disease and how it might end. “I thought about my father and grandfather,” he says.

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Fecal Matter Transplants Used to Cure Intestinal Infection

Clostridiumdifficile

C. difficile colonies on a blood agar plate.

James Gallagher reports in BBC News

Transplanting faecal matter from one person to another — the thought might turn your stomach, but it could be lifesaving.

Some doctors are using the procedure to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria, which can become unbalanced in some diseases. Dr Alisdair MacConnachie, who thinks he is the only UK doctor to carry out the procedure for Clostridium difficle infection, describes it as a proven treatment. He says it should be used, but only as a treatment of last resort.

The logic is simple. C. difficile infection is caused by antibiotics wiping out swathes of bacteria in the gut. It gives the surviving C. difficile bacteria room to explode in numbers and produce masses of toxins which lead to diarrhoea and can be fatal.

The first-choice solution, more antibiotics, does not always work and some patients develop recurrent infection.

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