Disease

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...

Few things are more exciting than saving the world. James Bond and Superman have done it. Now, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan want to do it, too. It's a sufficiently sizable goal for a couple with a sufficiently sizable ego. And their goal will be best accomplished by spending their money on boring stuff.

The duo (Z-Chan? Chuckerberg?) recently announced their intention to "cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children's lifetime." But according to Nature News, the first grants will...

Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer. B-cells, immune cells that play a crucial role in adaptive immunity, differentiate into plasma cells that secrete the antibodies we need to fight infections and other foreign invaders. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of these plasma cells.

A common treatment for multiple myeloma is itself an antibody called daratumumab. (Pro tip: A drug name that contains the suffix -mab indicates the drug is an antibody.) The antibody targets a cell membrane protein called CD38, which is highly expressed on malignant plasma cells. This triggers an immune response against the malignant cells, resulting in their death.

B-cells and plasma cells also play a role in allergies....

I recently returned from spending two weeks on a college campus in upstate New York. While there, I was surprised to see, in every building that I entered, signs posted with health information about mumps. Mumps... the same viral infection that was predicted to be eliminated from the United States by 2010.

Before the mumps vaccine was available in 1967, there were an estimated 150,000 - 200,000 cases reported each year. Since then, the number of cases of mumps has decreased by 99% in the United States. That being said, there remains a lot of fluctuation from year to year, easily seen in the graph below. To this point, there is an outbreak of mumps currently in Washington state, with nearly 300 cases reported - a large number compared to the normal ebb and flow of mumps from year...