Disease

Quick quiz: What is the world's most deadly human pathogen for which there is no vaccine? Since the title, unfortunately, must precede the article, you already know the answer. Norovirus, which is incorrectly called the "stomach flu," isn't a virus that most people would associate with death (although you may prefer to be dead if you catch it), but its annual death toll is estimated to be 200,000, mostly due to dehydration in developing areas that lack clean water.

But a group at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis may have discovered what makes the bug so nasty which may also represent a possible way to exploit this nastiness to help discover a badly-needed drug or vaccine.

To add to its splendid array of qualities, norovirus, which got its name...

Alzheimer’s Disease is a great fear for many individuals, and for the health care system as it may well eclipse heart disease in costs as the “Boomers” age. And it is a global problem. The research into the underlying causes and treatment have been intensifying but have been a bit undisciplined; it is hard to study a disease when it is characterized by a cluster of symptoms, defined medically as a syndrome, rather than a diagnosis based on objective biological evidence. In a whitepaper in The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association researchers have created a framework to describe Alzheimer’s diagnostically and to begin to recognize its trajectory, what we used to call its natural history. 

The framework was developed by the National Institute on Aging, the Alzheimer’s Association...

April is National Autism Awareness Month. One of the biggest goals of autism research is to determine its cause, and one of the best ways to achieve that is to rule out the things that do not cause it. So, let's acknowledge this month by listing all the things that do not cause autism.

Vaccines. A substantial proportion of people refuse to accept the reality that vaccines do not cause autism. This was never controversial in the scientific community. After the fraud Andrew Wakefield published his sham "study" linking vaccines to autism, the New England Journal of Medicine...

High blood pressure, hypertension, is a pervasive health problem in the U.S. and globally. It consumes significant amounts of health dollars and is a co-morbidity or risk factor for many of the chronic diseases that ‘plague’ Western society. Given all the costs and concerns you think we could easily describe the onset of hypertension in more of a dynamic way compared to simply saying once your blood pressure is higher than 130 mm Hg for the systolic or upper number, the current guideline, you are hypertensive. A new paper in JAMA describes the onset of hypertension; it is not a static, yes-no, process.

In the static model, one day you are normal, the next hypertensive – after all, you have only two points in time to compare. This makes little physiologic sense, so we are left to...

While many of us have seen the ads for Attends, the problem being treated, urinary stress incontinence in women, is rarely mentioned [1]; and that is odd for a problem that by some reports effects 25% of women over age 25. (The incidence of breast cancer is about 12%). A recent article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology sheds light on this somewhat unmentioned disease.

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary passing of urine, frequently associated with coughing, laughing or any activity that causes a person to bear down. It is a result of the loss of support for the bladder, rectum, and vagina – all the structures of the pelvis and is most often seen in women after childbirth. For all the beauty and miracles of birth, passing an eight-pound object through the...

Bras do not cause breast cancer. They are listed by Susan G. Komen alongside abortion, implants, caffeine, cell phones, deodorant, and electromagnetic fields as things that do not cause breast cancer.

An activist husband-and-wife team disagree. In 1995, they published a book called Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. Because scaring people is an excellent way to make money, they are releasing a second edition of the book this year. And for good measure, they are recruiting women into a sham cohort study to "prove" their wacky belief.

Before we debunk this junk study...

A new CDC report says that, in 2017, there were 9,093 new cases of tuberculosis in the United States.

Like most other infectious diseases, tuberculosis never "went away." It's still with us, but it's mostly under control in developed countries. Elsewhere, it's a different story. According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis is the #9 leading cause of death worldwide, killing an estimated 1.3 million people in 2016. That's worse than HIV/AIDS.

Tuberculosis has a very strange history, detailed nicely by Michael Barrett in an essay for Aeon. Because tuberculosis destroys the lungs...

Parasitic worms aren't all bad.

Parts of the world in which people are still regularly infected by them tend to have lower levels of autoimmune disease. This and other observations have led to the hygiene hypothesis, which posits that the ultra-clean, super-hygienic setting of the developed world may be responsible for the rise of chronic conditions such as allergies and asthma.

In theory, some health conditions that involve dysregulation of the immune system, especially out-of-control inflammation, might be treated by making the patient less hygienic. This, in turn, has led to helminth therapy, the purposeful infection of a patient with parasitic worms. To survive, some parasites "turn down" the host's immune response, and...

Twenty years ago an expert panel at the NIH created a furor among obesity researchers by suggesting that the BMI cutoff point for a person to be considered overweight be lowered from 27 to 25. That guidance was accepted, and Americans' girths continued to rise. Now, an editorial in JAMA has suggested that we should lower that cut point even more — but for only one group — postmenopausal women.

We, and plenty of others, have pointed out the weakness of using BMI to indicate fatness, whether overweight, obese or extremely obese. In a...

Women who are diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer have many decisions to make and the more informed they are about their situation, the better able they'll be to make those decisions. Genetic testing is an important means of accessing information that can impact decisions. For example, discovering that one carries the BRCA1 or BRACA2 mutation, which substantially increases the risk of both ovarian and breast cancer, might induce a woman to have her ovaries removed, as well as a bilateral mastectomy. Not easy decisions by any account, but critical information for a woman and her family to have.

Unfortunately, many women who might benefit from such genetic screening don’t get it, recent research finds....