Some fall into comas. Some are paralyzed down one side of their body. Others can’t walk a straight line. Still others come to Nash partially blind, or lose the ability to speak; many fall into violent seizures. Underneath this panoply of symptoms is the same cause, captured in the MRI scans that Nash takes of his patients’ brains. Each brain contains one or more whitish blobs. You might guess that these are tumors. But Nash knows the blobs are not made of the patient’s own cells. They are tapeworms. Aliens. “Nobody knows exactly how many people there are with it in the United States,” says Nash, who is the chief of the Gastrointestinal Parasites Section at NIH. His best estimate is 1,500 to 2,000. Worldwide, the numbers are vastly higher.
Tag Archives | Disease
Reports Elizabeth Campbell in the Washington Post:
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The first time mad cow disease appeared in the U.S., beef exports plunged 82 percent. More than six years later, the discovery of an infected dairy cow in California may do little to prevent shipments from surging to a record for a second straight year.
U.S. beef sales to buyers including Mexico, China and Japan will jump 6 percent to 1.34 million metric tons in 2012, exceeding last year’s record, which the government valued at $4.7 billion, said Global AgriTrends, a Denver-based researcher that advises meat companies, investment banks and hedge funds. The company affirmed its forecast after the U.S. reported its fourth case of mad cow since 2003 and first since 2006.
Detection of the tainted carcass before it entered the human food chain should bolster confidence that U.S. meat is safe, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said yesterday, as cattle prices rebounded in Chicago.
Tell me you don’t, I dare you… Timothy Egan explains why in the New York Times:
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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.
Reports the AP via Newsday:
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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.
Is 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:
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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.
Can 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.
My 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:
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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.
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.
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:
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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.
As if Haiti didn’t have enough problems already… From ABC News:
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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.