Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Scientific article] The dissemination of staph infections in hospitals

From the ScienceDaily summary

Date:March 19, 2015
Summary:Wireless sensors recording human interactions explain the transmission of germs, such as MRSA, in hospitals, according to new research.

The results indicate that the study of individuals contact may help identify increased risk of transmission situations and ultimately reduce the burden of nosocomial S. aureus transmission.

The researchers say: “Contact networks have been increasingly used in modeling the spread of infectious diseases. Yet, the contacts collected were often incomplete or used proxies that were thought to capture situation at risk. In this unique experiment, the joint analysis of contact and carriage validates the use of close-proximity interactions recorded by electronic devices, and opens a new field for prevention measures in hospitals.”

March 24, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] The other butterfly effect

English: Photograph of a Monarch Butterfly.

English: Photograph of a Monarch Butterfly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 10 February eScience commons article

Humans have come up with many ways to protect ourselves from infectious diseases.

“We used to think we were alone with this, but now we know we’re not. Now we know there’s a lot of animals out there that can do it, too,” says Emory biologistJaap de Roode in a TED talk. (TED is currently featuring de Roode’s talk from last November on its national Web site.)

In recent decades, scientists have learned that chimpanzees can use plants to treat their intestinal parasites, as can elephants, sheep, goats and porcupines. “And even more interesting than that is the fact that recent discoveries are telling us that insects and other little animals with smaller brains can use medication, too,” says de Roode.

For the past 10 years, de Roode has studied monarch butterflies and how they get sick from parasites. He discovered that female monarch butterflies are able to use medicinal milkweed plants to reduce the harmful effects of the parasites on the butterflies’ offspring.

“This is an important discovery, I think, not just because it tells us something cool about nature, but also because it may tell us something more about how we should find drugs,” de Roode says. “Most of our drugs derive from natural products, often from plants. In indigenous cultures, traditional healers often look at animals to find new drugs. In this way, elephants have told people how to treat stomach upset and porcupines have told people how to treat bloody diarrhea. Maybe one day we will be treating people with drugs that were first discovered by butterflies. And I think that is an amazing opportunity worth pursuing.”

De Roode is one of the featured speakers for the 2015 Darwin Day Dinner in Atlanta on Sunday, February 15. The title of his talk is “How Darwin laid the groundwork for understanding infectious disease.” Tickets for the event, sponsored by Atlanta Science Tavern, sold out within days after they came available a few weeks ago.

February 11, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] The Global Health Impact Index

From the 30 January 2015 post  by Nicole Hassoun and Priya Bhimani at Impact Ethics

For much of 2014, the Ebola outbreak in Sub-Saharan Africa dominated headlines as the virus spread and eventually made its way to the United States and Europe. Unfortunately, while the world focused on graphic images of people dying from Ebola on the street, little attention was paid to other infectious diseases that continue to plague much of the developing world.

As media coverage of the Ebola outbreak slowly started to decline, however, news of a new strain of drug-resistant malaria started to catch the public’s attention. Drug-resistance is a silent but serious threat to public health. And, if drug-resistant malaria were to spread from its current location in Myanmar to the nearby nations of India and China, it could easily become the world’s next big global health emergency.

More generally, every year millions of people die from malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDs – aptly named neglected diseases. This fact invites the following questions: What efforts to combat these neglected diseases are working? Where is help still needed? And, what initiatives are actually making a difference?

A new Global Health Impact index, supported by a collaboration of university-based researchers and civil society organizations around the world, helps provide answers to these questions. The index evaluates the global health impact of particular drugs. This information can be used to increase awareness about particular diseases, and create national and international demand for drugs to treat these diseases.

Screenshot 2015-01-30 10.57.00

A drug’s global health impact is determined by compiling information about: (1) the need for the drug; (2) access to the drug; and (3) effectiveness of the drug. In this way, the Global Health Impact index makes it possible to estimate the impact of each drug in each country, as well as the global impact of particular drugs on specific diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

January 31, 2015 Posted by | Health Statistics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Global Health: Time to Pay Attention to Chronic Diseases

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 4.42.38 AM

From the 1 Ju;ly 2014 blog post

…While infectious diseases remain a significant problem in the developing world, cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases are now among the fastest growing causes of death and disability around the globe. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the 38 million people who died of chronic diseases in 2012 lived in low- or middle-income countries [1].

The good news is that many NCDs can be prevented by making lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake for hypertension, stopping smoking for cancer and heart disease, or venting cookstove fumes for lung disease. Other NCDs can be averted or controlled by taking medications, such as statins for high cholesterol or metformin for diabetes.


July 2, 2014 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Stigmas, once evolutionarily sound, are now bad health strategies

Cannot but think of the New Testament headings, especially of lepers.

Stigmas, once evolutionarily sound, are now bad health strategies.

Stigmatization may have once served to protect early humans from infectious diseases, but that strategy may do more harm than good for modern humans, according to Penn State researchers.

“The things that made stigmas a more functional strategy thousands of years ago rarely exist,” said Rachel Smith, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and human development and family studies. “Now, it won’t promote positive health behavior and, in many cases, it could actually make the situation worse.”

Stigmatizing and ostracizing members stricken with infectious diseases may have helped groups of early humans survive, said Smith, who worked with David Hughes, assistant professor of entomology and biology. Infectious agents thrive by spreading through populations, according to Smith and Hughes, who published an essay in the current issue of Communication Studies.

For early humans, a person who was stigmatized by the group typically suffered a quick death, often from a lack of food or from falling prey to a predator. Groups did not mix on a regular basis, so another group was unlikely to adopt an ostracized person. Infectious disease stigmas may have evolved as a social defense for group-living species, and had adaptive functions when early humans had these interaction patterns.

However, modern society is much larger, more mobile and safer from predators, eliminating the effectiveness of this strategy, according to Smith.

“In modern times, we mix more regularly, travel more widely, and also there are so many people now,” Smith said. “These modern interaction patterns make stigmatization unproductive and often create more problems.”

Hughes studies disease in another successful society, the ants, which have strong stigma and ostracism strategies that serve group interests at the cost to individuals.

“Ants are often held up as paragons of society and efficiency but we certainly do not want to emulate how they treat their sick members, which can be brutal,” said Hughes.

Stigmatization could actually make infectious disease management worse. The threat of ostracization may make people less likely to seek out medical treatment. If people refuse to seek treatment and go about their daily routines, they may cause the disease to spread farther and faster, according to the researchers, who are both investigators in the Center of Infectious Disease Dynamics in Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Stigmatization may harm a person’s ability to survive a disease. Ostracization may increase stress, lessening the body’s ability to fight off diseases and infections.

“People are very sensitive to rejection and humans worry about being ostracized,” said Smith. “These worries and experiences with rejection can cause problematic levels of stress and, unfortunately, stress can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight off an infection, accelerating disease progression.”

Once applied, a stigma is difficult to remove, even when there are obvious signs that the person was never infected or is cured. Health communicators should make sure they intentionally monitor if their public communication or intervention materials create or bolster stigmas before using them, Smith said.

Enhanced by Zemanta

March 31, 2014 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Study reveals role of sex in spread of deadly disease

English: Life cycle of the parasites from the ...

English: Life cycle of the parasites from the genus Leishmania, the cause of the disease Leishmaniasis. Français : Cycle de vie (en anglais) des parasites du genre Leishmania, responsables de la Leishmaniose. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Study reveals role of sex in spread of deadly disease.


 Research involving scientists at the University of York has provided important new information about transmission of human leishmaniasis, a group of infectious diseases which kills more than 100,000 people a year.

rofessor Deborah Smith of the Centre for Immunology and Infection at York, working with colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Charles University in Prague, has shown that “Leishmania” parasites reproduce sexually in the wild.

The research, published in PLOS Genetics, is a significant step forward in understanding how leishmaniasis is spread in endemic regions. Caused by “Leishmania”parasites, human leishmaniasis is a serious public health problem in more than 90 countries worldwide. There are high fatality rates among children and young people and those with suppressed immune systems. Pharmaceutical treatments are limited and there is no vaccine.

These microscopic organisms infect humans through the bite of a female blood-feeding sand fly carrying infective parasites in its gut. People only become infected, therefore, in geographical regions that are well-suited to support sand fly populations — those with suitable habitats, humidity and temperature. But the biology of the parasite in the sandfly is also critically important in determining the outcome of infection in man.

The new research uses DNA sequencing to investigate genetic variation at the highest level of resolution in “Leishmania “parasites isolated from sand flies caught in a defined focus of human leishmaniasis in south-east Turkey. This analysis provides evidence that “Leishmania “parasites can reproduce sexually in wild-caught sand flies, an event only detected previously under specialised laboratory conditions.. It also establishes, for the first time, quantitative estimates of the relative rates of sexual and asexual reproduction during the parasite life cycle.


Read entire article here





Enhanced by Zemanta

January 21, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Study tracks 30 years of Newark murders as ‘infectious disease’

Janice Flahiff:

Related article

New Jersey city copes with grinding reality of killing (National Catholic Reporter)

Two sentences really stood out…
“they realized that they had to replace a fundamental and often-asked question, “Why did you do that?” with another, “What happened to you?””
“Putthoff said that behavior that has protected the youth amid the effects of poverty and abuse — the knowledge of friends and families killed, mothers beaten and the constant threats of homelessness and hunger — doesn’t work in other surroundings.”

Originally posted on AVC Triad:

Homicides in Newark have spread through the city over the past 30 years like an infectious disease and can be tracked and treated like a public health issue with prevention, inoculation and treatment, according to a study by Michigan State University.

1180 Raymond Blvd., Newark, NJ

The study, among the first to track murder through the lens of medical research, is part of a widening trend among local leaders and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to treat violent crime like a medical condition.

Newark native Jesenia Pizarro and April Zeolis, professors of criminal justice at Michigan State, analyzed the 2,366 homicides that occurred in Newark between 1982 to 2008 and tracked how and where they spread throughout the city.

Their report, titled “Homicide as Infectious Disease,” said the clusters originated in the Central Ward and moved south and west. Like other diseases, homicide clusters have a source, a mode of transmission and…

View original 143 more words

January 2, 2013 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

New study maps hotspots of human-animal infectious diseases and emerging disease outbreaks

FIGURE 2. Global richness map of the geographic origins of EID events from 1940 to 2004.
The map is derived for EID events caused by all pathogen types. Circles represent one degree grid cells, and the area of the circle is proportional to the number of events in the cell.
This image and others from this article may be found here 


Maps reveal animal-borne disease as heavy burden for 1 billion of world’s poor; new evidence on zoonotic emerging disease hotspots in US and Western Europe

From the 4 July 2012 EurkAlert article

NAIROBI, KENYA (5 July 2012)—A new global study mapping human-animal diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and Rift Valley fever finds that an “unlucky” 13 zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. The vast majority occur in low- and middle-income countries.

[An abstract of the article may be found here. Full text requires a paid subscription. Article may be free at a local academic, public, or medical library. Call ahead and ask for a reference librarian!]

The report, which was conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (UK) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, maps poverty, livestock-keeping and the diseases humans get from animals, and presents a “top 20” list of geographical hotspots.

“From cyst-causing tapeworms to avian flu, zoonoses present a major threat to human and animal health,” said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with ILRI in Kenya and lead author of the study. “Targeting the diseases in the hardest hit countries is crucial to protecting global health as well as to reducing severe levels of poverty and illness among the world’s one billion poor livestock keepers.”

“Exploding global demand for livestock products is likely to fuel the spread of a wide range of human-animal infectious diseases,” Grace added.

According to the study, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania in Africa, as well as India in Asia, have the highest zoonotic disease burdens, with widespread illness and death. Meanwhile, the northeastern United States, Western Europe (especially the United Kingdom), Brazil and parts of Southeast Asia may be hotspots of “emerging zoonoses”—those that are newly infecting humans, are newly virulent, or have newly become drug resistant. The study examined the likely impacts of livestock intensification and climate change on the 13 zoonotic diseases currently causing the greatest harm to the world’s poor.

The report, Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots, was developed with support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). The goal of the research was to identify areas where better control of zoonotic diseases would most benefit poor people. It also updates a map of emerging disease events published in the science journal Nature in 2008 by Jones et al.i

Remarkably, some 60 percent of all human diseases and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Among the high-priority zoonoses studied here are “endemic zoonoses,” such as brucellosis, which cause the vast majority of illness and death in poor countries; “epidemic zoonoses,” which typically occur as outbreaks, such as anthrax and Rift Valley fever; and the relatively rare “emerging zoonoses,” such as bird flu, a few of which, like HIV/AIDS, spread to cause global cataclysms. While zoonoses can be transmitted to people by either wild or domesticated animals, most human infections are acquired from the world’s 24 billion livestock, including pigs, poultry, cattle, goats, sheep and camels.

July 6, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Dirtiest Places In The Office

From the 24 May 2012 Medical News Today article

If you think the restroom is the place you are most likely to pick up germs at the office, perhaps you should think again, because new findings from the US suggest the dirtiest places in the office are in break rooms and kitchens, with sink and microwave door handles topping the list of germ “hot spots”…

An ATP **count of 300 or more means the surface has a high level of contamination and there is a high risk of illness transmission. When they analyzed the samples, the researchers found ATP counts of 300 and higher on:

  • 75% of break room sink faucet (tap) handles,
  • 48% of microwave door handles,
  • 27% of keyboards,
  • 26% of refrigerator door handles,
  • 23% of water fountain buttons, and
  • 21% of vending machine buttons.

**ATP  (adenosine triphosphate) is the universal energy molecule found in all animal, plant, bacteria, yeast and mold cells. Large amounts are present in food and organic residues, which when left on a surface can harbor and grow bacteria.

May 25, 2012 Posted by | Workplace Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Animals in Schools and Daycare Settings

Photo: Girl looking in jar

From the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Web page

Animals can provide important opportunities for entertainment and learning. However, there is also a risk for getting sick or hurt from contact with animals, including those in school and daycare classrooms.

Animals can be effective and valuable teaching aids for children, but there is a risk of illness and injury from contact with animals. Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths, a behavior that can spread germs. …

Boy washing hands

The page also summarizes

  • Types of diseases animals can spread
  • How to reduce risk of illnesses from animals
  • How to check that animals are healthy
  • Links to further information, for both adults and children


August 17, 2011 Posted by | Public Health, Workplace Health | , , , | Leave a comment



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 176 other followers

%d bloggers like this: