Disease

By Katherine Gammon

(Inside Science) -- Sometime in the mid-1600s, a small child died. Because the child was part of the noble class, the remains were placed in a crypt in the Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Many of the remains in that crypt decomposed, but some -- like the child -- were naturally mummified by the low humidity and low temperature conditions.

Now that small body is telling secrets about one of the deadliest scourges to ever plague mankind. That’s according to a new report published yesterday in the journal Current Biology, providing clues about the origins and spread of smallpox -- all due to tissue samples from the mummified...

If you asked any American what's dangerous about cigarette smoking, you'd likely get a response such as "the smoke" or "the nicotine" or "the tar". And if you delved deeper you might get an accurate response like "the chemicals". But what chemicals? A recent report in the journal Tobacco Control unfortunately demonstrated that many smokers are confused about exactly which chemicals are causing the damage — and this confusion may actually benefit the purveyors of some cigarettes.

Led by Dr. Noel T. Brewer from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, investigators conducted 2 telephone surveys and an internet survey of over 10,000 people. About 1100 were...

Last week, I was fortunate to hear a talk at the Population Council given by the inspiring Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr. Dr. El-Sadr is the founder of International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and an expert on global HIV prevention and treatment. 

She touched on many aspects of HIV infection, giving both a global and historical perspective that should inform our thinking as we approach the future. One point that she made was an idea that I had not heard before, and struck me largely both for its simplicity and its innovation.

The idea is that HIV treatment is HIV prevention. 

And, that is a novel way...

By Brian Owens

(Inside Science) -- People who frequently groom or remove their pubic hair are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections, according to new research.

The researchers surveyed more than 7,500 people aged 18-65 from across the United States, and found that two-thirds of men and 84 percent of women reported grooming their pubic hair. Among those who groomed, the survey found higher rates of infections, including herpes, syphilis, gonorrhoea and HIV. The risk is highest for “extreme” groomers – those who remove all pubic hair at least 11 times a year, and high-frequency groomers who trim their hair daily or weekly.

Charles Osterberg, a urologic surgeon at the University of Texas Dell Medical School in Austin who worked on the study, cautions...

Like an unlucky penny, Vladimir Putin keeps showing up in the American media. From allegations of election tampering to hacking emails, Mr. Putin chooses to stay relevant through notoriety. This has, bizarrely, earned him admirers all over the world.

For many reasons, this admiration is deeply misguided. Mr. Putin heads a kleptocracy and imprisons or murders political dissidents. And, as a shocking new essay in Foreign Policy explains, he fiddles while an HIV epidemic blazes through his country.

Today, there are an estimated 1.5 million people who have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS in Russia, which has a population of...

When a measles outbreak occurred at Disneyland roughly two years ago, anti-vaccine activists mocked it. They derided the infectious disease, caused by perhaps the most contagious human virus known, as "Mickey Mouse measles." Many claimed that measles is no big deal. As proof, they cited memories of getting measles as a child and recovering.

If only every person was so lucky. The World Health Organization estimates that, in 2015, there were 134,200 deaths caused by measles, or 367 deaths every single day. In 1980, a staggering 2.6 million people died from measles. That is why measles really is a big deal; it's a highly infectious virus that is potentially deadly. And it is why global public health...

Recently, Bill Maher instructed America on the importance of knowledge. He's right, of course, but he's a rather imperfect messenger: Listening to him is like receiving a lecture from Bill Clinton or Donald Trump on the importance of marital fidelity.

Mr Maher's monologue provided some insight into his political viewpoint. It was illuminating for two reasons, but probably not in the way Mr. Maher would hope for.

First, he accused people who disagree with his political views of being lazy and engaging in "false equivalence," an entirely fictitious logical fallacy that is an...

With winter approaching, perhaps you or somebody you know will be unlucky enough to catch a nasty "stomach flu" or "24-hour flu," which will allow you to spend some quality time in the bathroom. And while you will almost certainly feel better within 24-72 hours, here's the catch: There's no such thing as the stomach/24-hour flu.

This widespread misconception stems from the fact that so many people don't understand what the flu actually is. The flu is caused by the influenza virus, different strains of which take on names such as H1N1 or H5N1. (Our own Dr Julianna LeMieux has eloquently explained these weird names.) The seasonal flu is a potentially serious infection for the...

Peanut allergies range from inconvenient to potentially fatal. The cause is unknown, but it is likely to involve a combination of immunogenetic and environmental factors. In the case of the latter, research suggests that peanut allergies are more common among Westerners, possibly because they eat dry roasted peanuts while Asians eat boiled ones.

Those who are afflicted by deadly peanut allergies take great pains to avoid any foods that might contain even a trace of the legume. In case they accidentally consume peanuts, some carry an EpiPen to prevent anaphylactic shock.

For these sufferers, relief soon may be...

Necrotizing fasciitis, which literally translated means "inflammation of the fascia (connective tissue) causing cell death," is the proper medical term for what is colloquially known as "flesh-eating" disease. The most recent case that made national headlines involved a man who died four days after becoming infected with the ocean-dwelling microbe Vibrio vulnificus

Naturally, public health officials, microbiologists, and journalists tend to focus on how a bacterium can become so deadly. Indeed, as bacteria evolve, they can acquire various weapons (e.g.,...