Disease

May is Celiac Disease Awareness month which makes this the perfect time to focus on some exciting new research in the field. 

One of the most interesting questions out there is - what is the cause of celiac disease? 

For some time, the genes responsible for the genetic predisposition of celiac disease have been known - they are called HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8. These two genes are, as geneticists like to say, "required but not sufficient." This means that you need to have them in order to get celiac disease, but, having them is not enough.

This point can be seen when you look at the amount of people who have the genetic predisposition (roughly 30-40%) and compare it to the amount of people with celiac disease (only about 1%).

So, what is it that separates the 1%...

Mental illness still carries a stigma in society, particularly for those who suffer from a severe form, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. High-profile incidents, in which a mentally ill person commits a violent crime, has led to the stereotype that the mentally ill pose a dire threat to society.

It is certainly true that rates of violent crime are higher among the severely mentally ill than among the general population, with approximately 5 to 10% committing an act of violence within 5 years of diagnosis. Still, the vast majority of them never do so. The question, then, is how psychiatrists can identify the subset of patients who are most likely to become violent. Some risk assessment tools already exist, but most are either unreliable or overly complicated. Now, a team...

When it comes to story ideas, sometimes plenty of research and contemplation is involved. But sometimes, they just appear out of nowhere. Other times still, it seems that they just reach up and bite you.

In this case, I mean literally. 

Over the weekend, I went off my deck for a short stretch of time, venturing around the house's perimeter to take a good look around, given it's been awhile since I last did. It wasn't for long, and since it was still relatively chilly that day I didn't think much about tick risks. 

However, a few hours later I was surprised when I looked down to discover a blacklegged bloodsucker on my lower leg behind my knee, having a nice meal at my expense.

Shortly after plucking and zip-lock bagging that unwelcome guest, it occurred to...

I may be pathogenically biased, but in the world of germs, nothing is more frightening than viruses. (See Steve Schow: "The Next Plague - Viruses: The Superstars Among Pathogenic Plague Microbes," but only if you want to scare the hell out of yourself.)

With warm weather on the way, we will need to be aware of the usual suspects transmitted by ticks (like the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi) and by mosquitoes (like the virus that causes West Nile). These are nasty enough, but there is a bad boy out there that makes them look like creamed spinach. Meet the Powassan virus (1). It is pure evil. (Figure 1)

...

Although there are measles outbreaks occurring all over the world at the moment (sigh), Italy's outbreak is of particular concern. 

This year, the country has reported 1603 measles cases (through April 16th) according to the Ministero della Salute. To put into perspective how above average that number is - there were 840 cases in all of 2016 and 250 in 2015.

Most cases have occurred in people older than 15 (the median age is 27 for people affected.) It is hypothesized that the effects of people not vaccinating their babies 20 years ago are now coming to light in these adults who are susceptible to measles. 

Italy is a hot destination for travelers...

Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) finalized a controversial recommendation that general breast cancer screening should begin at age 50, not before then. The decision was controversial not just because of its implications for health insurance coverage but because society has been conditioned to believe that screening is a valuable part of preventive medicine. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily true.

The reason is due to false positives. If an initial screen produces a positive result, a doctor is likely to recommend a more invasive test. Not only does this cost the patient in terms of psychological distress and money, it also poses new...

Watching an autopsy has a way of changing one's view on death. Every single one of us – rich, poor, white, black, male, female, religious, atheist – will one day be on a cold metallic cart with a tag on our toe. And the medical examiner will open us up, poke around, extract and weigh a few organs, then ship your lifeless corpse on to the funeral home.

So, the question isn't if we are going to die, but when and how. Science has little to say about the former, but it has collected quite a bit of data on the latter. That's what makes the CDC's weekly report on the dead and dying so morbidly fascinating.

This week, the CDC listed the top 10 causes of death for Americans based on sex. The top 10 causes of death are not the same for men and women. (...

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause more than two million infections per year in the US, resulting in ~23,000 deaths. These infections incur an estimated $20 billion in direct healthcare costs and $35 billion in lost productivity, and these costs are expected to rise rapidly over the next several years. The threat of antibiotic resistance is especially critical in the case of Gram-negative bacterial pathogens, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Infections caused by MultiDrug Resistant (MDR) Gram-negative bacteria result in higher mortality rates, longer hospital stays and higher treatment costs compared to antibiotic-susceptible infections.

Patients with MDR Gram-negative bacterial infections have a mortality...

It's impossible to keep up with every "alternative fact" or crazy conspiracy theory on the Internet. By the time a lie has circled the globe, the Truth has just put its shoes on1. For some reason, people find falsehoods much more entertaining and believable than the truth.

I thought that I had heard every possible vaccine conspiracy theory out there: Vaccines cause autism. Vaccines aren't necessary and are pushed on us by greedy pharmaceutical companies. Vaccines are used for mind control. Bill Gates is using vaccines to control the human population.

So, even I was slightly surprised to discover yet another vaccine conspiracy theory. A couple days ago on Facebook, I came across the following comment:

"The key to surviving the flu is to get a...

Pancreatic cancer.

When news of this type of diagnosis is mentioned, those two words strike fear and dread in most every adult – whether family member or friend – who knows anything about cancer and survivability of its different forms.

That, of course, is because pancreatic cancer is the most aggressive, least treatable form of the disease and in a large majority of cases it reduces the victim's life expectancy to a matter of months. In short, more than any other cancer, those two words carry the approximate weight of a death sentence.

Why is this type of cancer so ravenous and what makes it accelerate so rapidly? German researchers say they have discovered the answer to this question, and they've traced the cancer's aggressiveness to a key factor in its earliest...