September 2012

Is this the new SARS?

New coronavirus has killed one, hospitalized another.

SARS was the Viral Pandemic That Wasn't, thanks largely to a global effort to corral the disease before it could spread too far into the general population. Much like the Y2K Disaster which was averted thanks to millions of hours of work by dedicated computer professionals, SARS was turned away by alert and focused medical staff. In the end, SARS infected about 8,000 people, and killed about 800. Without quick global action and coordination, it would have been far worse.

Better still, the global medical community clearly learned from the experience. The latest SARS-like virus has been identified after only two victims were identified. The first was a 60 year-old Saudi Arabian man who died in England earlier this year. In hindsight, the virus which killed him was recently identified as a match with the virus that currently has a Qatari man fighting for his life in an English hospital.
 
Both of the victims had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, which leads the World Health Organization (WHO) to believe that Saudi Arabia is the reservoir for this new coronavirus. The virus is previously unidentified in humans, and is remarkably similar to SARS. 

The industry scandal: drugs don't work

The Guardian blows the lid off the story.

As Ben Goldacre says, "The people you should have been able to trust to fix these problems have failed you." The basic scenario at work in the pharmacy industry today is that the fox is in charge of the hen house. Drugs are being tested by the company that manufactures them, and their drug trials are - predictably - poorly designed, small, and hopelessly biased. 

As a result, negative data is buried, small positive results are trumpeted, and new drugs are brought to market that are worse than placebos. Worse because they don't work any better than placebos, but they can have strong and damaging side effects, not to mention the cost and inconvenience.
 
And as a side effect of the way the pharmaceutical industry works, there are a lot of medical problems which (as Goldacre points out) are left unaddressed because no one can make money off them. 

Meds: Store brand vs. name brand

Which is better?

Though we try not to shop at Wal-Mart by any cost, in the past two years we’ve done so on occasion when we are just too broke to go anywhere else. This past week when my husband started passing a kidney stone and my daughter and I both started being sick was one of these times. So we headed over to the store to buy meds for us—cold for me, allergy for our daughter, and pain meds for my husband.

Rosacea mystery solved?

Could this disgusting skin mite be the cause?

Rosacea has been a mystery for ages. It causes the skin - particularly the cheeks - to become reddened, inflamed, and rough. It often develops in adults, between 30 and 60, and is more frequently seen in women and people of Celtic ancestry. Rosacea can be extremely embarrassing, sometimes resembling acne, and often being mistaken for "gin blossoms," the chronic redness seen in the face of long-term alcoholics and heavy drinkers.

Long resistant to treatment, rosacea had largely been relegated to the back burner of medical research because it was considered harmless. (Though not to its sufferers…) But Irish researchers believe they have found the answer to rosacea's mystery. Can a cure be far behind?
 
Everyone plays host to facial mites, microscopic insects which live off your sloughed skin and sebum. But rosacea sufferers apparently have larger colonies of these demodex mites than most other people. And it turns out, they may be more sensitive to the, err, "residue" left behind by the mites.