Tag Archives | Disease

Will Nanotechnology Save Us From Drug-Resistant Bacteria?

staphThe future: injecting tiny nanoparticles into our bodies to fight the superbugs against which our immune systems are powerless. How could that ever go wrong? Via Technology Review:

Researchers at IBM are designing nanoparticles that kill bacteria by poking holes in them. The scientists hope that the microbes are less likely to develop resistance to this type of drug, which means it could be used to combat the emerging problem of antibiotic resistance.

IBM’s labs aren’t equipped for biological tests, so the researchers collaborated with Yi Yan Yang at the Singapore Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to test the nanoparticles. They found that the nanoparticles could burst open and kill gram-positive bacteria, a large class of microbes that includes drug-resistant staph. The nanoparticles also killed fungi.

The IBM researchers believe the drug could be injected intravenously to treat people with life-threatening infections. Or it could be made into a gel that could be applied to wounds to treat or prevent infection.

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Losing The War Against Drug-Resistant Superbugs

NEWS-US-ANTIBIOTICSWe’ve all heard warnings that overuse of antibiotics would breed drug-resistant superbugs, but the day of reckoning seems to be approaching faster than anyone anticipated, and science is at a loss for what to do. The pharmaceutical industry is proving to be little help, having abandoned the field of medicines that cure things for the golden revenue flow of drugs that individuals consume chronically until death (e.g. antidepressants and cholesterol-controlling medicine). Are we headed for a future of human helplessness against bacterial plagues, as in the Middle Ages? Via News Daily:

Welcome to a world where the drugs don’t work. For decades scientists have managed to develop new medicines to stay at least one step ahead of an ever-mutating enemy.

Now, though, we may be running out of road. MRSA alone is estimated to kill around 19,000 people every year in the United States — far more than HIV and AIDS — and a similar number in Europe.

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French Doctors Announced Lung Cancer ‘Breakthrough’

LUNGThis may be a breakthrough in the treatment of lung cancer, but it doesn’t mean you should pick up smoking just yet. BBC reports:

French doctors say they have made a significant breakthrough in the treatment of lung cancer.

A medical team at Bobigny hospital in Paris removed a patient’s cancerous growth, and then gave him an artificial airway, or bronchus.

The bronchus was made from reconstituted aorta, the body’s largest artery.

The pioneering treatment in October 2009 avoided the complete removal of the patient’s lung.

In the later stages of lung cancer, only a third of patients survive a year.

The Paris patient, 78, is said be fit and well, some 16 months after surgery.

[Continues at BBC]

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Clinic Mistake Exposes Patients To HIV and Hepatitis

Photo: Andrew Magill (CC)

Photo: Andrew Magill (CC)

It’s difficult to hear your doctor say you have cancer. It’s even more difficult to hear how his nurse used the same needle for 2 months before using it to take your blood. Sky News reports:

More than 50 cancer patients will have to wait an agonising three months to find out whether they have been infected with HIV, after a NSW clinic used one needle on patients for two months.

The bungle occurred when a newly employed nurse mistakenly believed the Accu-Chek Multiclix, a device used to check blood sugar levels, automatically changed needles.

Dr. Michael Jones, chairman of the private radiology company PRP Diagnostic Imaging which runs the Gosford clinic, said the nurse didn’t realise she had to change the needle manually for each new patient.

Instead, the needle was left unchanged between November 28 and January 28, and used on 53 patients and two staff members.

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Japanese Dog Sniffs Out Early Bowel Cancer

Labrador retrievers are known to be trained for many things. They can work as seeing-eye dogs, therapy dogs, sniff for drugs, sniff for bombs, and now, sniff bowel cancer? BBC News reports:

A Labrador retriever has sniffed out bowel cancer in breath and stool samples during a study in Japan.

The research, in the journal Gut, showed the dog was able to identify early stages of the disease.

It has already been suggested that dogs can use their noses to detect skin, bladder, lung, ovarian and breast cancers.

Cancer Research UK said it would be extremely difficult to use dogs for routine cancer testing.

The biology of a tumour is thought to include a distinct smell and a series of studies have used dogs to try to detect it.

[Continues at BBC News]

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Oral Sex Causes Cancer

Two views of Clara Jacobi, a Dutch woman who had a tumor removed from her neck in 1689. Includes text which describes the tumor and its removal.

Two views of Clara Jacobi, a Dutch woman who had a tumor removed from her neck in 1689.

No doubt conservative Christians are going to make hay with this, claiming they knew it was a sin all along… Amanda Gardner reports on a new study showing that oral sex may be a principal cause of head and neck cancers, in USA Today:

There’s a worrisome uptick in the incidence of certain head and neck cancers among middle-aged and even younger Americans, and some experts link the trend to a rise in the popularity of oral sex over the past few decades.

That’s because the human papillomavirus (HPV) is a major trigger for these cancers, and HPV can be transmitted through this type of sexual activity.

“It seems like a pretty good link that more sexual activity, particularly oral sex, is associated with increased HPV infection,” said Dr. Greg Hartig, professor of otolaryngology — head and neck surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.

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U.S. Balks At International Effort To Destroy Smallpox Virus

Bangladeshi child with smallpox.

Bangladeshi child with smallpox.

Citing the “war” on terror is a useful catchall for the U.S. government to do anything distasteful that it desires, even in defiance of the rest of the world, it seems. Betsy McKay reports for the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. and Russia will fight international efforts this week to set a deadline to destroy the last known stocks of smallpox, saying the deadly virus is needed for research to combat bioterrorism.

Members of the World Health Organization meet on Wednesday to begin debating the future of what is left of what was one of the world’s most lethal viruses before it was eradicated more than 30 years ago: samples kept in tightly guarded freezers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and a Russian government lab near Novosibirsk.

The U.S. says it needs to maintain the virus samples to develop new drugs and vaccines to counter a potential bioterror attack or accidental release of smallpox from an unsanctioned stock.

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Is Schizophrenia Caused By An ‘Insanity Virus’?

imagesIt’s a novel and chilling theory: we are all born with a brain-ravaging virus that invaded the human DNA millions of years ago. Our bodies work to contain it, but childhood infections such as the flu can allow HERV-W to become temporarily unleashed — the cause of schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. Discovery reports:

Schizophrenia has long been blamed on bad genes or even bad parents. Wrong, says a growing group of psychiatrists. The real culprit, they claim, is a virus that lives entwined in every person’s DNA.

Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25, but the person who becomes schizophrenic is sometimes recalled to have been different as a child or a toddler—more forgetful or shy or clumsy. Even more puzzling is the so-called birth-month effect: People born in winter or early spring are more likely than others to become schizophrenic later in life. It is a small increase, just 5 to 8 percent, but it is remarkably consistent, showing up in 250 studies.

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What’s That Itch?!? Go Ahead And Pee On Your Phone to See If You Have an STD

CellphonesWelcome to our brave new world. (I’d like some soma, please if I ever have to do this…) Denis Campbell writes in the Guardian:

Mobile phones and computers will soon be able to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases under innovative plans to cut the UK’s rising rate of herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea among young people.

Doctors and technology experts are developing small devices, similar to pregnancy testing kits, that will tell someone quickly and privately if they have caught an infection through sexual contact.

People who suspect they have been infected will be able to put urine or saliva on to a computer chip about the size of a USB chip, plug it into their phone or computer and receive a diagnosis within minutes, telling them which, if any, sexually transmitted infection (STI) they have. Seven funders, including the Medical Research Council, have put £4m into developing the technology via a forum called the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.

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Disease Kills 20 Ugandans And Infects Over 20,000 Within Two Months

Director George Romero can scare us with zombies and crazies, but this disease which causes the body to rot away is all too real. The disease is caused by insects that enter the body, suck the blood and breed rapidly. Associated Press writer Godfrey Olukya reports:

A disease whose progression and symptoms seem straight out of a horror movie but which can be treated has killed at least 20 Ugandans and sickened more than 20,000 in just two months.

Jiggers, small insects which look like fleas, are the culprits in the epidemic which causes parts of the body to rot. They often enter through the feet. Once inside a person’s body, they suck the blood, grow and breed, multiplying by the hundreds. Affected body parts — buttocks, lips, even eyelids — rot away.

James Kakooza, Uganda’s minister of state for primary health care, said jiggers can easily kill young children by sucking their blood and can cause early deaths in grown-ups who have other diseases.

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