September 2011

Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak: 16 Now Dead

This is shaping up to be one of the most deadly outbreaks of food-borne illness in almost a decade, according to the CDC. The official number of deaths has risen to 16 as of today, and will likely rise higher. The culprit is listeria, which has a long incubation time - up to four weeks in some cases - and the outbreak began around the 1st of September.
The deaths all stem from a contaminated batch of cantaloupes which were grown in the Colorado area. The cantaloupes were grown by Jensen Farms, and may also be labeled Frontera Produce or Rocky Ford Brand. There have been 17 cases of illness, in addition to the 16 deaths, in states across the country.

Fighting Cancer with HIV

New course of treatment could cure leukemia using modified autoimmune viruses


It sounds ridiculous: like something off of a MAD TV skit or a really dumb, low-budget medical paranoia movie. You can almost see that third-rate actor blurting out the lines even he's ashamed of: "Cure cancer with AIDS? But how?"

It sounds completely absurd, but that's exactly what doctors at the University of Pennsylvania did. They eliminated leukemia--as far as they can tell--from one man's system. And they did it using the HIV virus. 

Cuban Scientists Release Lung Cancer Vaccine


Curing cancer might not be an achievement we see in the near future, given how sneaky the disease is and how many varying forms it takes, but every stride in the battle against it is surely good news for those afflicted and their families. And it now seems we have another weapon in our arsenal--one specifically developed to combat lung cancer. 

Cuban medical scientists have just developed a new vaccine to help treat lung cancer. The vaccine, called CimaVax-EGF, comes as the result of 25 years of research at Havana's Center for Molecular Immunology. Unlike the cervical cancer vaccine, which shields against the viral infection that leads to cancer, CimaVax-EGF doesn't prevent lung cancer from developing. It's designed to treat patients who are already suffering from the disease. Those who are in the later stages of aggressive lung cancer can now transform their disease from a death sentence into a more manageable chronic illness.

Scientists Developing Blood-Swimming Microspiders

Tiny arachnoid robots could make strides in modern medicine


If a scientist came up to you and told you he was going to strap you down and release tiny spiders into your bloodstream, you might not take it as a sign of goodwill. You might assume he was an evil madman looking to torture willing victims. You might wonder if you were suddenly trapped in the latest Saw sequel, or if maybe you should stop eating Domino's so close to your bedtime. 

Could Antibiotics Permanently Kill Helpful Gut Bacteria?

Most people know that taking an antibiotic can kill off your helpful gut bacteria. Which is why conventional wisdom has it that you should eat yogurt during and after a round of antibiotics. But what if yogurt doesn't go far enough? What if persistent antibiotic use is permanently killing off our helpful gut bacteria, leaving us vulnerable to a lot of serious diseases?
Wired Magazine features an article profiling the scientist behind "a provocative editorial" in Nature regarding this thesis. Martin Blaser argues that antibiotic use (overuse) can cause a permanent disruption in the balance of our gut bacteria. And furthermore that the lack of helpful gut bacteria can be responsible for "obesity, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and asthma." All of these diseases have mysteriously been on the rise in recent decades. Can our penchant for antibiotics be to blame?

Sleeping Pill Wakes Coma Patients


I'm scared of brain damage even more than death. Death I could deal with. Death is final, punctuative, transformative. I don't know what it's like but everybody's got to do it eventually. At least it's decisive. But severe head injuries? The kind that kill parts of you but leave the rest sort of floundering about for a while until they finally go as well? Those sound like the worst. I never want to know what it's like to have part of myself be killed before the rest. I'd rather lose a limb than parts of my personality or consciousness. Not only must it be miserable for the victim, but I'd imagine their friends and family would take it pretty hard too. I can't think of what it must be like to have someone you're close to permanently mentally altered by an accident or illness. And having a loved one in a vegetative state must be even more painful than losing them altogether for some. The lingering uncertainty of it, the drawn-out process of hoping for recovery while being prepared for the worst has got to be awful. 

Uninsured 24-Year-Old Dies from Toothache

Lacking dental insurance can kill


This recession is literally killing us. 

Conservatives who love to decry universal health care as an evil tool of socialism also love to quote the founding fathers ad nauseum, whether correctly or not. One of the most recognizable quotes from ye olde America has got to be a little something along the lines of "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." You know, those things that we're all supposed to have a right to? I'm pretty sure the "life" part covers being able to live past the age of 24. But maybe I'm extrapolating.