Disease

The quick and frightening death of a man who contracted a kind of flesh-eating bacterium after cleaning crab pots has made national headlines. As is often the case, the man had a cut on his leg, through which the bacteria entered his body and ravaged his flesh. Even though doctors resorted to radical measures to save him, including amputating his leg, the bacteria still invaded his bloodstream and killed him merely four days after he was infected. 

Understandably, the public wants to know what causes such a terrifying illness and what, if anything, can be done to prevent it. The media is not...

Breast cancer is one of the most intensively investigated forms of cancer. While the research has not yet resulted in a cure, it has informed decisions about how to treat its various forms. Not only are there various types of chemotherapy for treatment, but also effective drugs (e.g. aromatase inhibitors and SERMS) to delay or prevent recurrence. There are also, of course, genetic tests that can help women determine whether they are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, and also genomic tests to indicate which treatments should be undergone.

Women who carry the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 mutations are now known to be at higher risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer. Knowledge of these mutations, coupled with a family history of breast cancer may induce a woman to...

Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) used to be called "adult-onset" diabetes because it was typically seen in people aged 40 and up, as opposed to Type 1 which is frequently seen in younger folks — even children. Over the last few decades, with the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity, which are linked to T2D, we've seen it occurring at much earlier ages. Bariatric surgery that bypasses part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract has been shown to induce substantial weight loss and often to cause remission of T2D in the obese. Many of the studies that have demonstrated this efficacy included people whose diabetes began later in life. Some researchers have questioned whether it would also be as effective in people whose T2D was diagnosed at younger ages — their disease is less amenable to...

The benefits of circumcision

In recent years, circumcision has become a prickly issue. Protesters smear fake blood on their pants*, decrying "genital mutilation." They declare that a man should make the choice for himself when he comes of age. 

As with most politicized topics, science gets quickly drowned out by activists' hyperbole and exaggeration. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance, says that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, though it falls short of giving the procedure a blanket endorsement. Never mind the scientific consensus, activists retort. This is merely evidence of systemic bias among American medical doctors.

A more evidence-based opinion...

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The United Nations took responsibility for starting the cholera epidemic in Haiti that has killed over 9,000 people and sickened hundreds of thousands more. After six years, it admitted that it brought Vibrio cholerae, the bacteria that causes cholera, to Haiti when a  peacekeepers battalion arrived from Nepal in October 2010.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made the U.N.'s culpability clear when he referred to the tragedy in his opening remarks to the General Assembly. While addressing world leaders in French, he spoke directly about the cholera epidemic while stressing the need for a new strategy. 

"I have a lot of regret and sorrow for the terrible suffering of the Haitian people affected by cholera. A new strategy is needed to alleviate their distress and improve their...

Our consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to virtually every illness known to man (only a slight exaggeration) — including obesity and type 2 diabetes — to name just a couple. Thus far it hasn't been blamed for most cancers — but that doesn't mean that people aren't trying to do just that. An example is a recent report in the journal Translational Cancer Research, citing data suggesting that there might be a link between recurrence of some cancers and high sugar consumption, they attempted to determine if cancer survivors had high intakes of sugar from sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). 

The senior author of the report was Dr. Melinda Sothern from LSU Health New Orleans. She and colleagues...

When a new virus or other pathogen surfaces in the news, like Zika did earlier this year, most people have the same first thought.... will I get it?

Although there are different ways to address this question, epidemiologists have a particularly effective way to guess how infective a virus or bacterium will be. It's called the R0 (pronounced R naught) or the Basic Reproduction Number.  The R0 of a virus estimates the number infections that are expected to arise from one person during the time in which he or she is infectious.

Let's say a child comes down with a new virus that has an R0 of two. The model would predict that, at some point during that child's infection, two new people will become infected. Likewise, if the R0 of a...

Who could possibly forget Ebola - the virus that we were all talking about before Zika? Although it sounded like something from a bad science fiction movie, it was all too real. Fortunately, it's gone. Or is it?

In June of this year, the WHO declared the end of Ebola virus transmission in the Republic of Guinea and in Liberia. This landmark came 42 days after the last person (the two year old boy in the photo) who was previously confirmed to have Ebola virus disease tested negative for the second time. Guinea and Liberia are currently in a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to ensure that any new cases are identified quickly before they can spread to other people.

But, that 90 day waiting period may be far too short, according to new data presented both at an Ebola-...

Hillary Clinton's camp has said she has pneumonia, which accounts for her wobbling at a September 11th ceremony. Like other sources of reliable medical and scientific information, we have been asked about the diagnosis of pneumonia and her potential for being contagious. Unlike most media outlets, we won't make diagnostic statements based on videotape and supposition, but we will spend a few moments talking about pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a broad term that means inflammation of the lung from an infectious source – that can be bacteria, viruses, and fungal pathogens. This results in damage to the tiny air sacs (alveoli) where oxygen transfers to the blood and carbon dioxide is released. When inflamed, the alveoli fill with fluid, resulting in the signs of symptoms of pneumonia,...

A recent report by the organization known as Cancer Research UK presents some worrisome data describing the population's lack of awareness about links between overweight status or obesity and several types of cancer. Nearly 3,300 individuals answered an online survey about obesity and its relation to various health risks — especially cancer. Seventy-five percent of those people said they didn't know that obesity was linked to cancer; this ignorance was more prevalent in those from "the lowest social grade", the report stated.

The researchers also found that women were more likely than men to list cancer as an obesity-linked heath condition. Even so, when asked about...