Disease

Iceland is a small island in the North Atlantic Ocean with a total population of about 330,000. Its relatively small size belies what may turn out to be its great importance to the world's aging population. Because the country was essentially isolated for centuries, its people became more inbred. This means that genetically speaking, native Icelanders are more similar to each other than are members of more diverse populations, and genetic researchers can use this similarity to more easily identify rare mutations in various genes. They've done so with genes that affect the onset of Alzheimer's Disease (AD).

For example, in 2012 Icelandic researchers found a variant of a gene (APP) that protects against AD. It's rare — even in...

Smallpox, rabies, Spanish flu, polio, AIDS and Ebola are all viruses that evoke great fear, having demonstrated catastrophic impacts on humans, including wiping out entire populations.  The evolution and emergence of viral infectious diseases is without bounds. Viruses parasitize every living organism, including bacteria (phages) and plants. Human pathogenic viruses frequently require a zoonotic host. The original animal viruses subsequently evolve to become very communicable among animals, including humans.  Humans find themselves living knee deep in an animal cesspool of ever-evolving viral diseases. According to WHO, the 2016 top 10 list of emerging infectious diseases are: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever,...

Prion diseases are rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals. They are distinguished by long incubation periods, characteristic spongiform (Swiss cheese) changes in brain and spinal cord tissues associated with neuronal loss, and a failure to induce inflammatory response.

These diseases are 100% fatal; they appear to arise spontaneously in humans (sporadic) or the causative factor is found in family genetics (inheritable). However, these diseases can also be transmitted to humans eating meat contaminated with BSE or human neuronal material harboring prions, or by contact with brain-derived therapeutic factors like human growth factor extracted for pituitary glands harvested from cadavers. 

Surgical instruments used in neurosurgery on...

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a particularly nasty form of arthritis. While the more common form of arthritis — osteoarthritis — typically results from use and overuse of joints which wear down protective cartilage, RA is known to result from autoimmunity. The immune system is misdirected to attack the lining of joints, causing swelling, severe pain, and if not treated joint destruction. Not only the joints are affected, however. RA involves an inflammatory process that can affect many body organs, including the skin, heart, lungs and bone marrow. For example, it's known that RA sufferers have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Of course, just because autoimmunity is involved doesn't mean that external...

As if on cue, two articles on transmission of diseases came across my computer screen simultaneously. The first, which we recently published – written by the PhD Steve Schow, who has decades of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields – I read with great interest.

The second, a significant and impressive piece of research and reporting addressing similar areas – how infections spread from animals to humans – was so engrossing that we wanted to call your attention to it, as well. Taken together these two complementary pieces shed light on an important, overlooked topic.

Since the first article, titled "The Next Plague Part 2: 1940 - New Infections Arrive, But From Where?" is already...

In the battle against antibiotic resistance, here's an interesting proposal: salted doorknobs [in hospitals, or elsewhere] could fight super bug infections. Intrigued? So are we. Bummed you didn't think of it first? So are we.

The body's organs are fed by blood, which provides nutrients in exchange for waste products from cells. This free exchange of goods and services, however, is dangerous for the brain, primarily for two reasons.

First, the brain is under tight metabolic control. If ions and other substances had easy access to the brain, neurons would not work properly. Second, if there wasn't an extra layer of protection, nasty microbes could gain access. To prevent both of these unpleasant outcomes, the brain is protected by a special wall, called the blood-brain barrier (BBB), that tightly regulates what goes in and out of the brain. 

Despite this extra security, some pathogens still get in. One of them is called Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that can be found in the...

The HPV vaccine has been the subject of some controversy in the United States. Some public health officials (and pharmaceutical companies) would like the vaccine to be mandatory, but since the recommended age is pre-teen, some parents fear this sends a bad message about sexual activity in an already over-sexualized culture.

Both sides make flawed arguments. The bottom line is the vaccine prevents cancer.

Human papillomavirus is definitely a scourge. It causes 99% of cervical cancers in women, and it is also behind an increase in head and neck cancers, mostly in younger white people (i.e., those in their 40s and 50s). While...

Part One: Going Back to Neanderthals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The antibiotic chloramphenicol (Chloromycetin) was isolated from a culture of Streptomyces venezuelae in 1947. During a large typhus fever outbreak in Bolivia in December 1947, Doctor Eugene Payne from the pharmaceutical firm, Parke, Davis & Company, arrived at La Paz General Hospital carrying a small supply of a new drug. Four patients who were sick with typhus and presenting signs and symptoms of probable death were chosen to receive the limited supply of drug.

A death...

"Every night on the television news now is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation," lamented Al Gore in his opening remarks for the Climate & Health Meeting. After all these years, he still has a demented penchant for apocalyptic exaggeration. Though it can occasionally rain frogs and fish (and even golf balls), the oceans have not yet turned to blood and and no one needs to remove any wax seals from that scroll just yet.

Studies have shown that temperatures have increased...