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Posts Tagged "infectious disease"

Absolutely Maybe

The winter sneeze – hand, tissue or Dracula style? (Gesundheit!)

Cartoon of Marie Antoinette saying "Let them sneeze into their elbows"

When I was a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, wiping your nose on your clothes was a marker of social class. Lots of us girls were very keen on our hankies, though. I used to embroider initials on them and crochet lace around their edges. Now it’s hankies that should make people [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Legionnaire’s Disease at the Luxor: What Causes It?

legionella_pneumophila_cdc_11151_200

In July 1976, a convention of members of the American Legion — a veterans’ group — was meeting in Philadelphia at the Belleville Stratford Hotel in honor of America’s bicentennial. Soon, 221 attendees would be sickened and 34 dead of an illness it was believed no one had ever seen before. Swine flu was suspected, [...]

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Food Matters

Resistance from the Rear – Hospital Effluent and the Growing Antibiotic Crisis

Not the actual sewer pipe in this story. Click for source.

If you ever worry that you’re a bit too optimistic about the future, try reading Maryn McKenna’s posts about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. The primary tools we’ve had to combat microbial disease for the past century are failing, and it’s largely our own fault. Antibiotic resistance genes (or ARGs) are spreading fast, and [...]

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Food Matters

Variolation, Aviation, and Genetic Modification: Progress in the Face of Fear and Danger

The Wright Brothers' Plane (click for source)

In 1721, a small pox epidemic was ripping through the colonial city of Boston. Cotton Mather, a Reverend and Royal minister, convinced the physician Zebadiah Boylston to perform an arcane medical procedure on two slaves and Mather’s own son. The procedure, called “variolation,” involved piercing the skin of the patient with needle that was contaminated [...]

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Food Matters

The Genetics of the Immune System

a-new-vision-for-teaching-science_1

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of students from Grandview Heights School in Edmonton, Canada. The students are learning about genetics, and the instructor, John Chase asked me to talk about how genetics impacts my field, and to give them a perspective on how this stuff translates to the real world. [...]

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Food Matters

Viruses and virulence with a side of GMOs: Podcasts I’ve been on recently

Ebola_virus_em

Lab work can often be a bit tedious. I often make the joke (not entirely innacurate) that my entire job is moving very small amounts of liquid between different tubes in a controlled manner. In order to combat this tedium, I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts of various sorts, from short shows [...]

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Molecules to Medicine

Ebola and Priorities in Drug Development

Ebola in Guinea (flickr Euro Comm DG ECHO)

News is rapidly changing regarding Ebola. Even as I’ve been writing this post, we’ve gone from “There is no treatment except supportive care” to NIH’s Dr. Fauci saying a potential vaccine “could be given to health workers in affected African countries sometime in 2015.”⁠ This optimistic projection was a surprise to me, as normally it [...]

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Molecules to Medicine

Muddled about MERS? Here’s A Quick Guide

MERS coronavirus

While I was working on the “H1N-What?” post, I also knew there would soon be questions about MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), just as there were about SARS. So here are the essentials of what we know and don’t know about MERS—which has just been reported in the U.S.—as well as intriguing tidbits that remain [...]

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Molecules to Medicine

Germs, Microbes Compete With Athletes in Sochi Olympics

Ski Jump

This blog appears in the In-Depth Report Science at the Sochi Olympics The Olympics are not just a chance for countries to bring home the gold. They also provide a perfect chance to spread infections all over the world. The Olympics are likely surpassed only by the annual Hajj Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in the [...]

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Molecules to Medicine

H1N-What? Wading Through the Alphabet Soup of Flu Names

"Influ-venn-za"

Muddled about all the new flu viruses? It’s hard to keep up with the changing names in the news. H1Nwhat? Bird flu. Pig flu. MERS. SARS. Here is a quick overview of this dizzying, dyslexia inducing array, with what you need to worry about, even if some aren’t yet in your backyard. Acronym soup I [...]

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Molecules to Medicine

What do you need to know to survive this year’s flu?

I spent a year filtering spit and nasal washings, growing influenza in tissue cultures in a minimalist lab, and trying to develop an oral flu vaccine, all as part of my Infectious Diseases fellowship thirty years ago. We’re still not there…but for now, here is information to help you this year. Every year, the strains [...]

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Molecules to Medicine

Will Antibiotics Be There When You Need Them? Get Smart

CDC: Antibiotic Resistance Threat

Just in time for “Get Smart about Antibiotics Week,” I had a refreshing experience recently, working in a different rural hospital. Over that week, I didn’t see one patient with “superbugs” other than the occasional MRSA. No one had the now scarier Gram negative bugs known as ESBLs (extended spectrum beta lactamases) or the even [...]

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Molecules to Medicine

Antibiotic resistance-another view from the trenches

Remember the story of the elephant and the blind men? I feel I am revisiting it whenever I go back and work another stretch in the hospital as an infectious diseases physician. There are great articles giving a broad overview of the rise in antibiotic resistant organisms, especially Carbapenem resistant enterobacter, written by Maryn McKenna, [...]

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Observations

U.S. Agency Aims to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

CDC’s Kitty Anderson holds up a 96-well plate used for testing the ability of bacteria to growth in the presence of antibiotics. Credit: CDC

When patients take too many unnecessary antibiotics it inches us ever closer to a world where essential drugs are no longer effective. More than two million people in the United States develop antibiotic resistant infection each year and some 23,000 of them die as a result. Yet understanding the origins of the problem remains a [...]

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Observations

First Local Case of Tropical Disease Chikungunya Debuts in the U.S.

Remove mosquito-friendly habitat. Credit: U.S. EPA

The day we knew would come is finally here. The first locally acquired case of the tropical disease chikungunya was reported in the U.S. today. The mosquito-borne viral disease first debuted in the Western Hemisphere last year and has since sprawled across the Caribbean, with cases in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. The first [...]

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Observations

Nasty Mosquito-Borne Virus, Now in Puerto Rico, Expanding Its Reach

Image: Thinkstock/iStock

It’s summertime so when the weather is fine many of us head outdoors. But there lurk mosquitoes, an all-too-familiar menace.  What’s more, a wave of mosquito-borne tropical disease that first appeared in the Western Hemisphere in late 2013 has now spread across the Caribbean, stoking concerns about a debut in the continental U.S. The painful [...]

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Observations

Why Big Data Isn’t Necessarily Better Data

Google,flu,big data

Tech companies—Facebook, Google and IBM, to name a few—are quick to tout the world-changing powers of “big data” gleaned from mobile devices, Web searches, citizen science projects and sensor networks. Never before has so much data been available covering so many areas of interest, whether it’s online shopping trends or cancer research. Still, some scientists [...]

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Observations

A Simple Way to Slash Unnecessary Drug Prescriptions

Sneezing Man

Treating the sniffles or a common cold with drugs is ineffective and unnecessary, yet too often patients are leaving their doctors’ appointments with a prescription in hand, helping to fuel the epidemic of antibiotic resistance. But one cheap and apparently effective approach is making inroads at a small number of Los Angeles clinics. A new [...]

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Observations

The FDA’s Action on Agricultural Antibiotics Is Overdue—and Utterly Insufficient

Image: iStock/Thinkstock

Most of the meat on our dinner plates comes from cows and chickens treated with a battery of drugs that helped them grow quickly in dismal, cramped conditions that would otherwise make them sick.  The drugs are blended into their food and water without any requirement for a veterinary prescription. The U.S. Food and Drug [...]

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Observations

Dengue Fever Reemerges in Texas

Image: Wikimedia Commons/USDA

Late last week Texas public health officials confirmed a new wave of dengue fever has cropped up in the southernmost tip of Texas, marking the first outbreak the state has seen since 2005. The news came on the heels of reporting in Scientific American about how scientists are trying to uncover why the mosquito-borne infection [...]

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Observations

Jimmy Carter Fights to Eliminate Eye Disease That Plagued His Childhood

Pres

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was at Pfizer Headquarters in Manhattan on November 5th to honor the 15th anniversary of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), a non-for-profit program dedicated to eliminating the eye disease as a public health concern by 2020. Trachoma is a bacterial infection, often spread by houseflies, and it stands as the [...]

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Observations

My God, Man! XPRIZE Unveils Medical Tricorder Teams

"Jim, I'm a doctor, not an entrepreneur." Image of iPhone and Tricorder courtesy of JD Hancock, via Flickr

In the Star Trek universe, handheld medical tricorders became standard issue for Starfleet vessels as early as the mid-22nd century. Here in a little place we like to call “reality,” a competition seeks to help deliver such all-in-one health analyzers at least 100 years ahead of schedule. After more than 300 prospective entrants for the [...]

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Observations

Hospital-Based Infections Could Be Moving to Doctors’ Offices

MRSA Image: Janice Haney Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/WIkimedia Commons

When patients check into a hospital, they expect doctors there to fix what ails them, but one in 20 patients seeking care at hospitals contract a health care–based infection. Those infections escalate care costs to the tune of billions of dollars. And many of them–one in five–are part of the scary alphabet soup of superbugs [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

No Shots for the Octopus, Its Immune System Doesn’t Remember

octopus immune system shots

Flu season is almost upon us, so millions of us are already rolling up our sleeves to get the annual shot. This jab is formulated to introduce our immune system to this year’s circulating strains of the virus so that it will remember how to make the specialized antibodies to fend it off the viral [...]

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