Archive for category Health
Scientists Discover Protein That Reverses Heart Disease In Older Mice
Scientists at Harvard University think they have found a way to possibly reverse the aging process in human organs.
Dr. Richard Lee, director of regenerative medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Amy Wagers, of the Department of Regenerative Biology at Harvard, made the discovery when they were working with younger and older mice.
They took an older mouse with the most common form of human heart failure and merged the mouse’s blood stream with that of a healthy young mouse using a Siamese twin technique known as parabiosis. They found that the older mouse’s diseased heart was able to reverse to a younger healthier condition.
They later identified a protein in the blood of young mice called GDF-11, which diminishes with age. They injected this protein directly into the older mice and had the same positive results. They are using this protein to restore other aging/diseased tissues and organs. Their results are published online today in the science journal Cell.
- Scientists may be able to reverse aging process in vital organs (upi.com)
- Transfusions Reverse Aging Effects On Hearts In Mice (science.slashdot.org)
- Scientists discover protein that may turn hearts younger (foxnews.com)
- ‘Macabre’ Technique Turns Old Mouse Hearts Young (news.sciencemag.org)
- Protein Rejuvenates Hearts In Mice (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Scientists discover protein that can REVERSE ageing in the heart (dailymail.co.uk)
- Blood hormone restores youthful hearts to old mice (nature.com)
- Researchers Discover Protein that Could Reverse Aging in the Heart (counselheal.com)
- Young blood reverses heart decline in old mice (newscientist.com)
- Blood ‘Youth’ Hormone Reverses Heart Failure Symptoms in Aging Mouse Hearts (medicaldaily.com)
We are a sick bunch of people.
Everywhere I go, all I hear and see is hacking and sneezing.
“I have allergies,” a woman said in line while I was waiting for my food.
Joe Heller / Green Bay Press-Gazette
No, you don’t. You have a virus like the rest of us.
Blaming allergies makes people around you feel safer. Allergies are not contagious, like that crud we’re all struggling with.
“Don’t worry, it’s just allergies,” she said. Yeah. That’s why everyone around you is going to feel like poop by tomorrow, right?
This season’s crud is stronger than usual. It grabs you and makes you feel like … crud.
“I’m sick as a dog,” I overheard another person saying.
No, you’re not. I have dogs, and they don’t get sick. If they did get sick, I would rush them to the veterinarian and get them well.
And, if you are sick as a dog (let’s assume that a dog got really sick and had to be rushed to the vet), what are you doing out here in public, spreading germs?
I used to get sick more often when I had little kids because kids are germ magnets. They got sick, shook it off in a few days, and I suffered for the next two weeks.
When I was in kindergarten, I remember chewing on the same rubber toy every other kid in the class chewed on. What an efficient way to spread germs. Only kids would think of that. Oh, yes, then comes kissing. That’s even more efficient.
After I sucked on the toy, I always washed my hands, just to be on the safe side.
Yes, we are sick, sick, sick.
I get the flu shot each year, but it does not protect against the crud. Last time I got it, I didn’t even feel the needle. Not that I’d freak out if I did, but I expected to feel a prick, and there was nothing. The tech did a great job. Then she sneezed. Good thing I got the shot.
A friend said she would rather be sick with the flu than get a flu shot. Excuse me? The flu is vicious. It takes you down and keeps you down.
With my luck, the only year I don’t get the shot, we’d have a repeat of the 1918 pandemic.
It actually lasted two years and killed between one and three percent of the world’s population.
It was started by a group of kids in a kindergarten class chewing on the same rubber toy. Just kidding. It started some other way.
So, getting the shot and parting with a few dollars is actually a much better option than becoming a human faucet for a couple of weeks.
What’s really unfair is when I get sick right before a big trip, and I bought non-refundable airline tickets. Watch out fellow flyers, here I come. I cannot get my money back, so all of you are now going to get the germ treatment.
I try to be thoughtful of others. I sneeze into my sleeve, not in the air. I even do silent sneezes, but that feels like a bomb going off in my head. It feels better when the sneeze is released normally … into my sleeve.
So, when you’re around me, and I don’t look all that good, don’t touch my sleeve; nor my rubber toy.
Being self-employed, it’s really a big problem when I get the crud. It took me a while to learn to deal with it.
I once called in sick, but nobody picked up the phone.
So, I left a message.
Nothing got done that day. I then decided to go back to work and stay late.
Like I said, we are sick people.
The Danger of Secret Alcoholism
High-functioning alcoholics are often hiding in plain sight—and they’re often more dangerous than drop-dead drunks.
January 8, 2013
“He was never drunk when I interviewed him,” the late writer Truman Capote’s biographer told me.
“It was just a mistake. He didn’t hurt anyone,” a friend said of an acquaintance who got a DUI last year.
“She doesn’t drink much,” my husband said of me when a therapist asked about our drinking habits. “Just a little white wine.”
Alcohol is confusing. For one thing, it is selectively addictive. Some people can drink safely; others can’t. For another thing, although alcohol is a depressant, especially in large doses, new research shows that in moderate doses it can also act as a happy stimulant. The first few drinks make the world a better place. The next few have the opposite effect: The drinker “may not be able to grasp the thread of a conversation; his reflexes will be somewhat delayed, his speech slurred, and his gait unsteady,” writes Dr. James Milam in his classic study Under the Influence.
Because ethanol, the active ingredient in alcohol, is a very simple and very tiny molecule, it is the Speedy Gonzales of addictive substances, zooming right through the protective blood/brain barrier and delivering an immediate punch. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, it triggers a series of responses that can last 24 hours. Many heavy drinkers are always in some stage of inebriation or withdrawal, and this changes the way they engage with the world. There may be hours—entire mornings!—when they appear to be “normal,” but there is no “normal” in the body or brain of a heavy drinker.
Alcohol is metabolized at the approximate rate of one drink per hour. Someone who has two drinks before dinner, three beers with dinner and two nightcaps may pass out and wake up six hours late still drunk. If they sleep longer, they wake up with more alcohol out of their system but often in a painful state of withdrawal (along with dehydration and other nasty symptoms caused by the toxins that your body churns out as it processes the ethanol). Hangovers, which arguably have a greater effect on mood than alcohol itself, are the body’s scream for more. Soon enough, driven by a cellular level craving, the heavy drinker with a hangover will have that beer or that brandy in the coffee that quiets the disturbance, at least for a while.
Someone in withdrawal is even less likely to seem drunk than someone who has had a few drinks. But the effects can be deadly. “The strange truth that alcoholics are often in worse shape when their blood alcohol content is descending than when it is at its highest level is an extremely difficult point to grasp,” write Catherine Ketchum in her bookBeyond the Influence. “The withdrawal syndrome represents a state of hyperexcitability, or extreme agitation in the nervous system. “ Ketcham uses the tragic example of Henri Paul, the driver of the car in which Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were killed in 1997. Paul, who had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit when his body was tested after the accident, had been waiting around the Ritz for two hours to drive during which he had little to drink. “Paul was drunk and he was in withdrawal,” Ketchum writes. “Both facts sealed his doom and the fate of his passengers.”
In Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, Sarah Allen Benton makes the case that the image of the archetypal alcoholic—the stumbling Bowery bum—has obscured a much more common and infrequently treated type of alcoholic—the alcoholic who can function in the world and appear to be fine. Perhaps because high-functioning alcoholics do not tax government systems and cause social problems, they get far less attention than more dramatic drinkers. Although these high-functioning boozers sometimes do not meet the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism, they are desperately in need of help. Examples abound: from former First Lady Betty Ford to actor Robin Williams and musician Eric Clapton. Dr. Mark Willenbring, an addiction specialist, told Benton, “[High-functioning alcoholics] are successful students. They’re good parents, good workers. They watch their weight. They go to the gym. Then they go home and have four martinis and two bottle of wine. Are they alcoholics? You bet.”
I was one of those confusing invisible alcoholics. I didn’t stumble or slur. I didn’t break out in handcuffs. No one ever told me to stop drinking. There were no emergency rooms or rehabs. Most of the day, I considered myself sober. From the outside all was well: I had a loving husband, two terrific kids and an enviable career. From the inside I was hollowed out by despair. I got through the mornings on coffee and sugar, promising myself that I wouldn’t drink again. In this twilight state I lived my life—driving cars, arguing with the IRS, complaining about my marriage. By evening there only seemed one solution to the unbearable hammering of the hours—a glass of white wine, and then another. I felt entirely alone. Now, 20 years later, I realize that I had a great deal of company.
- The Danger of Secret Alcoholism (alternet.org)
- Digital Ice Cubes Designed To Monitor Alcohol Consumption (positivelygood.net)
- CDC: Binge drinking among teen girls increasing (csmonitor.com)
- Does Drinking Alcohol Really Keep You Warm When It’s Cold Out? (mentalfloss.com)
- Are Women The New Problem Drinkers, Because They Are Lady Binge-Drinkers? (theawl.com)
- Idaho inmates blame it on the alcohol (newsfixnow.com)
- Health News: Having a word can help cut dangers of alcohol (walesonline.co.uk)
- Binge drinking warnings ‘overstated’ (stuff.co.nz)
- CDC: 1 in 8 U.S. women binge drink 3 times a month (cbsnews.com)
- Dieters `often ignore alcohol calories` (indiavision.com)
The Deadly Secret About the Fiscal Cliff Charade
Let’s stop repeating failures of austerity and move toward solutions that can restore our Federal budget – and us – to health.
January 4, 2013
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Imagine a nation with a terrible problem – one its leaders refuse to discuss. The problem will needlessly drain trillions of dollars from its economy in the next ten years.
Now imagine that this problem also robs that nation’s citizens of life itself, draining years from their lifespans while depriving them of large sums of money. Imagine that it sickens and disables countless others, drives many people into bankrupcty, and kills more than two newborn infants out of every thousand born.
Imagine that fixing this problem would make result in a dramatic decline in publicly-held debt. It wouldn’t just “help” the debt problem, mind you – it would cause that debt to plunge.
And now imagine a national “deficit debate” which completely ignores this problem.
Imagine a news media which pretends the problem doesn’t exist. Imagine a corporate-funded “Fix the Debt” movement that refuses to mention it, and yet is treated as an objective source of information. Imagine a political consensus in which the debate isn’t around how to fix this problem, but how to cut service programs that help people cope with it.
Welcome to the United States of America, January 2012. It’s a land where the population is broke, sick, gypped, and mistreated. But the problem’s fixable – if we can find the political will.
The problem, of course, is our health care system – although “system” seems like a flattering word for this greed-driven, anarchic three-ring circus. Our health care system – guess we’ll need to call it that for lack of an alternativer – is the worst in the developed world. It costs far more, provides much less, and has worse outcomes than any system that’s even remotely comparable.
How bad is it?
Our health care spending is 17.6 percent of GDP , compared with an average of 9.6 percent for all developed countries. (All figures are from the compendium ofhealth and economic statistics published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ( OECD ), unless otherwise indicated.)
Total health spending (from all sources, not just insurance-related) averages $7,960 per person in the United States, versus an average of $3,233 for all developed countries.
If we spent the same on health as the average developed country (as a percentage of GDP ) that would inject more than a trillion dollars per year into other parts of the economy. ( 1.14 trillion, by my rough calculation.)
What are we getting for our money?
- Life expectancy at birth in the United States is 78.2 years, compared with an OECD average of 79.5 years and Japan’s life expectancy of 83 years.Our expected lifespan is the shortest of any among the countries we normally think of as “developed.” The ones that trail us are newer entrants into the “developed” category — like Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, and the Eastern European countries.
- Our infant mortality rate is 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, as opposed to the OECD average of 4.4 deaths. As with life expectancy, we lag behind all the other long-term “developed” nations.
- We score even more poorly on another metric, “Premature Mortality,” which measures the number of years someone loses “before their time” (essentially by calculating how many years it would have taken on average to reach the age of 70).
Our high rates of premature mortality are affected by our high rates of accidents and suicide, too, and from a homicide rate for males that’s five times the average. (That’s a figure worth citing in the gun control debate.)
The question becomes, Why? Why do we pay so much and get so little for our money?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that, despite the high cost of private-insurance premiums, our health plans don’t provide enough coverage. According to survey data, Americans were unable to meet their medical needs because of cost more often than citizens of ten comparable countries ( OECD , Table 6.1.3).
That statistic applied to lower-income Americans, as might be expected. But interestingly, it was also true for higher-income Americans – those that are most likely to have private health insurance. 39 percent of Americans with higher-than-average income had an unmet medical need due to cost in 2010. For the runner-up, Germany, that figure was 27 percent. (It was 12 percent in Switzlerland and 4 percent in Great Britain.)
Higher-income Americans also led the pack in reporting out-of-pocket expenditures of $1,000 or more per year, along with their lower-income peers, with 45 percent in the higher-earner category spending that much or more per year. The figure was 37 percent for runner-up Switzerland. It was 2 percent in Sweden. And in much-reviled “socialist” Great Britain the figure was effectively zero.
These results reinforce the findings of studies on medical bankruptcies by Prof. Elizabeth Warren, which showed that medical costs were a dominant reason for bankruptcy even for people with health insurance. (She was officially sworn in as Senator Warren today – congratulations!)
Where does all the money go? Much of it goes to profit margins for private insurance companies, of course. (They’re experts at understanding their margins, which are much higher than most observers believe.) There are also profit margins for a number of health providers, including for-profit hospitals, medical imaging companies, and physician practice management groups.
Underlying much of our explosive cost growth is the phenomenon we described in “Sick Money“: Investors like Bain Capital buy up health care companies, load them up with debt, and demand highly aggressive profit margins. Many of them respond to the problem the way the Bain companies did in our piece: through fraud.
But many other providers overtreat, subjecting the population to a barrage of needless (and sometimes invasive) procedures while other basic health needs go unmet.
Here are two more OECD statistics that illustrate the point:
The United States is second only to technology-crazed Japan in the prevalence of high-cost (and high profit) MRI and CT devices for medical imaging, both in hospitals and in free-standing facilities. Many American facilities were financed by physicians who send their patients there, which poses a significant conflict of interest and which both public and private insurers have been attempting to limit. Many others are owned by sales-driven chains. Unsurprisingly, studies suggest there is significant overuse of this equipment in the United States.
And let’s not forget drugs. When it comes to per-person pharmaceutical costs the United States is off the charts, spending $947 per person on average. That’s nearly twice the OECD average of $487.
And remember: Congress won’t even let Medicare negotiate with the drug companies.
Pharmaceutical corporations, for-profit hospital companies, private insurers — our system is sick. The diagnosis: Corporate greed.
Our “sick secret” can be fixed. In our next piece we’ll discuss how to attack it — and what it will take to shift the debate away from a “consensus” plan to adopt the miserly failures of austerity and toward real solutions that can restore our Federal budget – and us – to health.
- The Deadly Secret About the Fiscal Cliff Charade (alternet.org)
- The Deadly Secret About the Fiscal Cliff Charade | Alternet (seculardiscourse.wordpress.com)
- America’s White Male Problem | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- 6 Reasons the Fiscal Cliff is a Scam | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Tea Party Republicans Flaunted Their Nihilist Extremism During Fiscal Cliff Negotiations | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- America’s White Male Problem | Alternet (goodolewoody.wordpress.com)
- The Real Meaning of the Fiscal Cliff: “We Were All Lying in 2011.” (teapartyeconomist.com)
- The Real Meaning of the Fiscal Cliff: “We Were All Lying in 2011.” (flyoverpress.wordpress.com)
- Fiscal Cliff charade over – next charade will be debt ceiling and sequestration charades…… meanwhile the Fed will be buying 45 billion a month in treasuries starting January 3rd….. (fredw-catharsisours.blogspot.com)
- Even Mainstream Pundits Are Now Saying, Republicans ‘No Longer a Normal Governing Party,’ ‘Unfit for Government’ | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
Joe Walsh Slams Sandra Fluke On Contraception Issue: ‘Go Get A Job’
| By Chris Gentilviso Posted: 09/08/2012 5:32 pm Updated: 09/09/2012 12:20 pm
Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) took aim at Georgetown University Law graduate Sandra Fluke on Saturday, attacking her on the issue of birth control.
In a video captured by CREDO Super PAC at a campaign event in Addison, Ill., Walsh pointed to Fluke’s Wednesday evening speech at the Democratic National Convention, calling her remarks “embarrassing.”
“Think about this, a 31-32 year old law student who has been a student for life, who gets up there in front of a national audience and tells the American people, ‘I want America to pay for my contraceptives,’” Walsh told the crowd. “You’re kidding me. Go get a job. Go get a job Sandra Fluke.”
Fluke entered the national conversation in February, when Democrats invited her to attend a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing. The topic at hand was the Obama administration’s contraception rule, requiring health insurers to offer birth control coverage. But committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) barred Fluke from speaking in favor of access to contraceptives, on the grounds that she was “not appropriate or qualified.”
Conservative media host Rush Limbaugh added to the controversy, linking Fluke’s thoughts on birth control to an endorsement for casual sex.
“It makes her a slut, right?,” Limbaugh said. “It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”
Fluke weaved that experience into her DNC speech, explaining that this presidential campaign presents “two profoundly different futures” for women, with one “look[ing] like an offensive, obsolete relic of our past.”
In that America, your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. Who won’t stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party. It would be an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms. An America in which states humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds we don’t want and our doctors say we don’t need. An America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don’t. We know what this America would look like. In a few short months, it’s the America we could be. But it’s not the America we should be. It’s not who we are.
Walsh saw the address differently, telling voters on Saturday that Fluke’s remarks were offensive in light of the economic struggles many Americans are facing.
“We’ve got parents in this country who are struggling to buy sneakers that their kids can wear to school that just started,” Walsh said. “We’ve got parents up and down my district who are barely keeping their house. And, and, and, we have to be confronted by a woman, the Democratic Party this is what they stand for. They’re going to put a woman in front of us who is complaining that the country — you, me and you — won’t pay the 9 dollars per month to pay for her contraceptives.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story listed Fluke as a Georgetown University Law student. She graduated from the school in 2012. This post has also been updated to reflect that Fluke was advocating for access to birth control under employers’ insurance plans, not government-subsidized contraceptives.
- Joe Walsh To Sandra Fluke: Get A Job (VIDEO) (democraticunderground.com)
- Rep. Joe Walsh Attacks Sandra Fluke: “Get A Job” (alan.com)
- Rep. Joe Walsh: Sandra Fluke, You’re 31, ‘Get A Job’ (mediaite.com)
- Deadbeat dad Rep. Joe Walsh thinks Sandra Fluke should ‘get a job’ (rawstory.com)
- Rep. Joe Walsh Tells Diner Patrons that Sandra Fluke Really Ought to ‘Get a Job’ [Video] (jezebel.com)
- Rep. Walsh Attacks Sandra Fluke – No-Cost Birth Control and Entitlements (ebbandflowofcurrentaffairs.com)
- A Nation of Sandra Flukes (nationalreview.com)
- Sandra Fluke: Health Access Is An Economic Issue (npr.org)
- Sandra Fluke chickening out on women’s issues debate with Breitbart’s Dana Loesch (redalertpolitics.com)
- Bill O’Reilly Suggests Contraceptives Will Fall From Ceiling When Sandra Fluke Speaks At Democratic Convention (newshounds.us)
Sara Alvarez was afraid.
The doctors told her she needed surgery — brain surgery. Operations on such a complex organ are never simple, but this procedure was exceptionally difficult. There was a high risk of complications, of debilitation, of post-op problems. Alvarez might wake up paralyzed. She might wake up legally blind. Worse still, there was a chance she might not wake up at all.
Her mad dash to the emergency room had all begun with a walk in the park four days earlier. It was December 20, 2010, in Sunnyvale, Calif., a town that lives up to its name. The West Coast winter, not as long or as harsh as seasons in the East, gave her the opportunity to take her youngest child out for an afternoon stroll.
In the fading light of dusk, Alvarez, too, began to fade. She lost the feeling in her right leg. Her right foot followed suit. She couldn’t lift or move her right hand. She was weak, and her body was numb.
There was fear then, too.
At 10:15 p.m., Alvarez says her husband drove her to Redwood City. That night she became a patient at Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Hospital. She says the doctors batted diagnoses back and forth. It was a tumor. No, it was cancer.
It was Christmas, and Alvarez’s children cried and prayed, terrified that an unknown affliction would steal their mother away. Finally a CT scan revealed the malady. Alvarez had neurocysticercosis — a calcified tapeworm lodged in her brain.
Neurocysticercosis, which is common around the world but is not recognized as a major health concern in the U.S., has taken root in California, some health officials say. The disease is easy to prevent and relatively inexpensive to treat if caught early on. But once in the advanced stages, these brain parasites are costly to both patient and government.
The problem is that, due to a lack of education, most of the population doesn’t know that there’s a parasite wriggling within them, says Patricia Wilkins, a scientist with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Latinos, the community most afflicted by the disease, do not receive outreach or education about how to avoid or treat the potentially life-threatening organism, Wilkins adds.
Neurocysticercosis “primarily exists in marginalized populations, Hispanic immigrants,” Wilkins adds.
The National Institutes of Health classifies neurocysticercosis as the leading cause of epilepsy worldwide, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tapeworms infect 50 million people globally. The CDC says an estimated 1,900 people are diagnosed with neurocysticercosis within the United States yearly.
According to in , California bears much of the burden with 304 hospitalized cases in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics exist. Eighty-five percent of patients in California were identified as Latino, and 72 percent were reported in the southern half of the state.
The high percentage of Latino cases is not surprising. Neurocysticercosis is common within third-world countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The disease’s telltale symptoms of paralysis, extreme headaches and chronic seizures present themselves in mass form. Individuals contract neurocysticercosis after becoming infected by tapeworm carriers. Immigrants traveling between countries, such as migrant workers, are often unwitting tapeworm hosts, transporting the disease across borders in their guts.
Scientists aren’t quite sure how it works, but tapeworm larvae seem to have developed a chemical secretion that keeps the human body’s immune system from barging in on their banquet. People can live for decades without any symptoms of neurocysticercosis because the tapeworm larvae break down natural defenses. Unfortunately, tapeworm larvae can’t live forever.
“While it’s alive, it’s a problem, but when it starts to die it’s a bigger problem,” Despommier says.
When the larvae die, the chemical balance is restored, and the immune system begins to attack, causing headaches, seizures and paralysis. Alvarez says she experienced debilitating headaches for 20 years before her diagnosis, but she probably consumed tapeworm eggs much earlier than that. When Alvarez immigrated to the United States in
the late 1980s she complained to American doctors of a pain so absolute it blinded her and made her vomit.
They gave her Tylenol.
“That’s a very typical story,” says Darvin Scott Smith, chief of infectious disease at the Kaiser Hospital.
Many physicians, even those in highly populated areas sizable immigrant populations, are unaware of the disease and how to diagnose it, he adds. Even many of the health organizations that target Latinos had never heard of neurocysticercosis and said their institutions were not funding research or community outreach.
Nobody cares about this disease, and they should, if not from a humanitarian point of view than from a fiscal aspect, says Wilkins, a scientist with the CDC.
Drugs such as Ablendazole and certain steroids, which are used to treat tapeworms and brain swelling, are relatively inexpensive — a maximum of a few hundred dollars. Wait until it’s a serious problem, though, and the dollar amount rises dramatically.
The CDC reports the average cost of neurocysticercosis at $37,600 per hospitalization.
The most common form of payment is Medicaid, a tax-funded public service. In Los Angeles County, the economic impact is even more pronounced, costing $66,000 on average, the increase likely due to the high cost of health care in the state, says Frank Sorvillo, a University of Los Angeles professor of epidemiology.
Despite a marked decrease in immigration over the past few years, the number of neurocysticercosis cases has remained relatively constant since 2001, when there were 386 recorded hospitalizations in California. This suggests that the parasite has taken hold in the U.S., Sorvillo says.
These numbers are likely underestimated. Only five states — New York, California, Texas, Oregon and Illinois — report the disease, and the data is inconsistent. Oftentimes, departments rely on each other to deal with paperwork, and the numbers are never recorded, Smith says. As a result, not much is known about tapeworm outbreaks in the U.S. — or the parasites themselves. Scientists still consider much of their life cycle a mystery.
Pork tapeworms, or , are complex organisms. They exist in three life stages: egg, larvae and adult, but their growth is not a straight progression from one form to the next. Tapeworm larvae enter the body when humans eat contaminated pork.
The babies, about the size of peas, fight their way into the small intestine and attach, using rows of grappling hook-like teeth to make tiny slices into the soft flesh of the intestinal walls. The parasites cling to the slippery surfaces of their new homes and begin draining nutrients from their host. If all goes well, adults can grow up to 20 feet long.
It sounds unpleasant, but if you’re going to contract a tapeworm, dealing with 20 feet of invertebrate is really the way to go. Researchers say that adult is relatively harmless and asymptomatic. The real trouble starts when they begin to reproduce within their human host.
Tapeworm adults are made up of hundreds of segments called proglottids. The parasite grows like a fingernail, the newest addition at the head and old material at the tip. The senior proglottids contain eggs — thousands of them. During the course of a natural lifecycle, the proglottids are discarded through their host’s anus. A family member, friend or restaurant cook infected with an adult tapeworm can secrete tens of thousands of tapeworm eggs daily, which can be easily ingested by others.
Being infected with the eggs, however, doesn’t result in an adult tapeworm. The eggs just develop into larvae—and grow no further. According to parasitologist Judy Sakanari at the University of California, San Francisco, no one really knows why. Unlike most animals whose lifecycle follows a child-adolescent-adult pattern, these eggs will never mature into adulthood. Their development is stunted at the larvae stage, which allows them to ride the bloodstream. They use their hooks to rip apart tissue and gain access to nutrient-rich hotspots. Some of these miniature reapers ultimately find their way into the brain. That’s where the trouble starts — and stops.
While alive, the larvae are not as dangerous as they are when they’re dead. The brain calcifies the dead larvae, and, oftentimes, surgery is necessary to remove them. This ramps up costs for the hospital and drains Medicaid funds. The State of California is not responding to the issue, Wilkins says, because there isn’t enough funding to tackle every bug that infiltrates a community. Health officials must pick and choose which diseases require the most resources. So far, neurocysticercosis has not been one of them.
In a 2000 proposal filed by the WHO, doctors called for international monitoring of neurocysticercosis. They argued that surveillance was key to eradication, that statistics were paramount if governments across the globe had any hope of reducing epilepsy and increasing quality of life. So far, the petition has not experienced much success.
In early January 2011, Dr. Smith of Redwood City, Calif. celebrated his birthday in the operating room of Kaiser Hospital, observing Sara Alvarez’s brain surgery. Medical professionals trimmed Sara’s hair, gingerly peeled away layers of skin and cut through a portion of her skull. Hours later, the chief of infectious disease watched as a neurosurgeon plucked a calcified tapeworm larvae from Sara’s head.
Before she was diagnosed, Alvarez had never heard of neurocysticercosis, and she still isn’t sure who gave her the eggs. It could have been a chance encounter, or one of her loved ones might be a carrier. She’ll never know for sure. The host may remain undetected and contagious, spreading the disease — thousands of eggs at a time.
Watch the video:from on .
- Brain Parasites, California’s Hidden Health Problem: neurocysticercosis (engineeringevil.com)
- Brain Parasites, California’s Hidden Health Problem (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Brain Parasites, California’s Hidden Health Problem (zen-haven.dk)
- California’s Unspoken Health Problem: Brain Parasites (news.slashdot.org)
- Brain tumor or parasite? (biosil.wordpress.com)
- Oy Vey!: Pig Tapeworm in the Orthodox Jewish Community (bodyhorrors.wordpress.com)
- San Carlos’ fire department needs infusion of bodies (mercurynews.com)
- Redwood City cyclist wins bronze at London Paralympics (mercurynews.com)
- Tinea solium (slideshare.net)
- Redwood City woman and boy killed when truck veers off creek bank in Yolo County (mercurynews.com)
Romney invokes Massachusetts health law ahead of Republican convention
By Elise Viebeck - 08/25/12
Mitt Romney is invoking his Massachusetts healthcare law in the lead-up to the Republican convention, alarming conservatives who argue it’s a losing issue for his campaign.
Romney’s new willingness to talk about the issue could be a sign that he thinks the Massachusetts law could help him in November.
“My healthcare plan I put in place in my state has everyone insured,” Romney told a CBS reporter on Thursday. In a second interview, he called the law an “important accomplishment” that is “working, by and large, pretty well.”
Romney has consistently defended his healthcare overhaul, but has not made it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. The law inspired parts of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which remains anathema to conservatives.
The convention in Tampa, which serves as a showcase for Romney’s career in business and politics, will almost certainly have to address the Massachusetts law in some way.
“He’ll have to strike a delicate balance on the Massachusetts law,” said Potomac Strategy Group President Matt Mackowiak.
“It’s in his nature to defend something that he signed, but it’s not a winning issue. … The truth is, he doesn’t need to go there.”
The Massachusetts law contained the same central elements as the federal healthcare reform plan, most notably an individual mandate to have health insurance.
Conservatives argue the federal mandate is a breathtaking expansion of federal power, and say Romney neutralizes criticism of the Affordable Care Act and, by extension, Obama, when he touts a law with a similar requirement.
The concern was central to arguments against Romney during the GOP primaries, but faded from view until August 8, when a Romney spokeswoman volunteered praise for the state law during a television interview.
“There are a lot of people losing their jobs and losing their healthcare in President Obama’s economy,” Andrea Saul told Fox News. “If people had been in Massachusetts, under Gov. Romney’s healthcare plan, they would have had healthcare.”
The backlash from conservative commentators was swift.
“Andrea Saul just gave the Obama campaign a big, fat, wet, kiss,” said radio host Laura Ingraham. Author Ann Coulter called Saul a “moron.” And Erick Erickson, who manages the blog site RedState, tweeted the comments may be remembered as “the moment Mitt Romney lost the election.”
“The concern among conservatives is that there will be some kind of ‘Read my lips’ moment with Romney and healthcare,” said Republican strategist Keith Appell.
The famous remark refers to a promise by then-candidate George H. W. Bush not to raise taxes. Bush ultimately did raise taxes in the White House.
“Since the primaries began, Romney has said he is against ‘Obamacare,’ that he’s pro-life and pro-Second Amendment,” Appell said.
“Those statements are what people are staking their activity and engagement on. It’s not Romney’s record that they’re staking it on.”
Romney’s recent healthcare comments recall his performance during primary debates, when, under fire from opponents about the Massachusetts system, he expressed pride in “caring about people.”
“We have less than 1 percent of our kids [in Massachusetts] who are uninsured,” Romney told Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) in an October 2011 debate. “You have a million kids.”
Several months later, Romney said he would be most prepared to debate Obama as a result of his experiences dealing with healthcare.
“I will be able to show that I have a passionate concern for people in this country,” he told a debate audience in January.
Mackowiak wondered whether Romney’s recent comments reflect a desire to appear more relatable to voters. Polls show that Obama leads Romney in likability.
“They’re trying to show compassion,” Mackowiak said of Romney’s campaign.
“The problem is, the play for independents will be on the economy and the direction of the country … Romney may not want to appear as a sort of ‘careless Republican,’ but there are other ways to do that.”
- Santorum releases delegates ahead of GOP convention (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- Romney: Mass. health plan better than Obama’s (kansascity.com)
- Santorum releases delegates ahead of GOP convention (fox6now.com)
- Santorum releases delegates to Mitt Romney (wfmz.com)
- Report: Romney May Have Violated Massachusetts Ethics Laws Via a Company Linked to Paul Ryan’s Brother (alternet.org)
- Romney: Mass. health plan better than Obama’s (onlineathens.com)
- Romney: Mass. health plan superior to Obama law (boston.com)
- Romney: Mass. health plan better than Obama’s (hosted.ap.org)
- Romney: Mass. health plan better than Obama’s (cnsnews.com)
- RNC 2012: Biden Reportedly Skipping Tampa Stop During Republican National Convention (huffingtonpost.com)
Do Antibiotics Make Us Fat?
by Kai Kupferschmidt on 22 August 2012
Fattening for the feast. Farmers use antibiotics to make turkeys grow bigger. Now, scientists are suggesting something similar could be happening to babies treated with antibiotics.
Farmers have long used antibiotics to make cows, pigs, and turkeys gain weight faster. Now, scientists claim that receiving antibiotics early in life may also make children grow fat. The researchers believe the drugs change the composition of the bacterial population in the gut in a crucial developmental stage that may have a long-lasting impact.
Other scientists are casting doubt on the conclusions, however. The new data are “not convincing,” says Michael Blaut, a microbiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam, Germany. And David Relman, a microbiologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, calls the work “provocative” but says some of the data are “a bit vague and unclear.”
Billions of microbial cells live in the guts of humans and other animals. Research on these vast bacterial populations, called microbiomes, is just getting started, but scientists already know that some microbial boarders play a crucial role in breaking down nutrients in our diet. Some have also suspected that low-dose antibiotics, given to farm animals to make them grow bigger, could work by altering the gut microbiome.
To test this hypothesis, a team led by microbiologist Martin Blaser of the New York University School of Medicine in New York City added antibiotics to the drinking water of mice that had just been weaned. The medicine—either penicillin, vancomycin, a combination of the two, or chlortetracycline—was given at doses comparable to those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as growth promoters in farm animals. After 7 weeks, the group of mice on antibiotics had significantly more fat than a control group drinking plain water, the team reports online today in Nature. “This confirms what farmers have shown for 60 years, that low-dose antibiotics cause their animals to grow bigger,” Blaser says.
If the findings of the study are replicated in other animal models, such as pigs, they could have considerable implications for public health, says Oluf Pedersen, professor of genomic medicine at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen.
Antibiotics did not reduce the overall number of microbes in the animals’ guts, but it shifted their composition. DNA comparisons showed that mice treated with antibiotics had a higher proportion of bacteria belonging to the group Firmicutes than control animals. Firmicutes might be able to extract more calories from food and deliver them to the host, Blaser argues. The results are relevant to humans as well, he says. Another paper Blaser co-authored, published online in the International Journal of Obesity yesterday, reports a link between antibiotic use in infants and obesity in childhood.
The researchers looked at data collected from more than 11,000 children born in Avon, U.K., in 1991 and 1992. Those who had been treated with antibiotics in the first 6 months of their lives had a higher chance of being overweight at 10, 20, and 38 months of age. “It is an association, and that does not mean causation,” says Leonardo Trasande, the paper’s first author. “But coupled with the Nature paper, it begins to tell a convincing story.”
Blaser argues that his work shows that antibiotic use in babies has an unappreciated cost. And while they’re sometimes necessary, antibotics are often used willy-nilly, he says.
But others say caution is in order. In the human study, the differences in weight were small, and there was no correlation between antibiotic use in the first 6 months and weight at 7 years, the last time information was collected on the children. And there are many reasons why the mice experiments should not be extrapolated to humans and children, Relman says. The study was done with just one inbred line of mice. Seven weeks is a long time in mice, which mature quickly and live to be only 2 or 3 years old, he says. “We never give antibiotics to children continuously from the time they wean to the time they reach sexual maturity.”
Also, the differences in fat mass between antibiotic-fed mice and controls are small, Blaut says. And Relman points out that while they became fatter, the mice’s overall weight did not increase, as happens in farm animals. “Although one doesn’t expect antibiotics to work the same in all species and under all circumstances, it does seem curious that there was this one effect and not the weight gain,” Relman writes in an e-mail.
Finally, Relman cautions that the composition of the mouse microbiome was measured only at the end of the experiment. “This means that we don’t know whether the microbiome changes were the cause of, the result of, or unrelated to the mouse fat content change,” he says. Blaser calls that a valid criticism, but adds that he has begun to address this. “We have shown in further experiments that have not been published yet that transferring the microbiome also transfers the obesity from one mouse to the next.”
- Do Antibiotics Make Us Fat? (news.sciencemag.org)
- Antibiotics linked to fat buildup (sciencenews.org)
- Livestock fattening antibiotics ‘could have contributed to human obesity’ (sott.net)
- New Study Accuses Antibiotics of Boosting Civilization’s Fatness Problem (motherboard.vice.com)
- Antibiotic use in infants before 6 months associated with being overweight in childhood (engineeringevil.com)
- Do Antibiotics Contribute To Obesity? (science.slashdot.org)
- Childhood Obesity Linked With Antibiotic Use In Infants Under 6 Months Old (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Antibiotic Use in Infants Tied to Overweight Later: Study (news.health.com)
- Giving babies antibiotics could lead to obesity – study (vanguardngr.com)
- Antibiotic use in infants before 6 months associated with being overweight in childhood (eurekalert.org)
Some students use prescription drugs to boost academics
Published On: Aug 14 2012
Prescription stimulants are so dangerous that the Drug Enforcement Administration considers them just as addictive as cocaine and morphine. The drugs Adderall and Ritalin are supposed to be used for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Local 2 found that some students are using them to improve their academic performance.
“Joe” is now in medical school. He told Local 2 he was prescribed Ritalin for legitimate medical reasons as a child, but evolved to abusing it as a study drug.
“I took a whole 30-day prescription of Ritalin in six days. It got to the point where I would hallucinate. I saw shimmers and shines,” he said.
The jolt of energy unleashed by one pill was so strong and so intense, the one-time National Merit Scholar was able to stay awake and race through his homework marathon with laser focus.
“I stayed up four days straight on Ritalin and tobacco and caffeine, trying to study for my exam. I studied 90 hours. It was to the point where I was sitting in math class or physics lab and I went to write my name and I wrote a chemical compound.”
Students, particularly those in high school, are under tremendous pressure to get straight A’s and outperform their classmates academically and on the athletic field. So, experts said, more and more are turning to prescription stimulants to meet the expectations society puts on them and the ones they put on themselves.
“They think, ‘That is really the only way they can make the grade that I have to make.’ There (are) no two choices about it,” clinical psychologist and school counselor Dr. Jennifer Welch said.
Psychologists and counselors warn that while students who abuse these drugs might think they’re invincible, they are actually heading down the dangerous road toward addiction and may ultimately put their health in jeopardy.
“Their heart rate can increase. They may develop high blood pressure. They are putting themselves at a very serious risk,” Dr. Marylou Erbland said.
Erbland is the clinical director at the Center for Success & Independence in Houston.
The warning signs that a child may be struggling with too much pressure are similar to the symptoms for depression or anxiety. They may be irritable, having difficulty sleeping or isolate themselves.
Experts said parents can help their kids by redefining success.
“Empower kids to take risks, make choices to maybe fail sometimes, to fall down and learn to be resilient and work through that. Those are the skills that are going to serve them better than the shortcuts,” said Welch.
“Joe,” who is now in recovery for another type of addiction, said it’s a lesson he had to learn the hard way.
“I just put myself through the physical and emotional ring for no reason,” he said.
- Some students use prescription drugs to boost academics (click2houston.com)
- Prescription Drugs ~ What You Don’t Know (indybay.org)
- The Alarming Amount Of Prescription Drugs In Education (edudemic.com)
- Q1Medicare.com Drug Search Tools Updated with Latest Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Data (prweb.com)
- College Kids Abuse Rx Drugs (noellio.wordpress.com)
- David Sack, M.D.: Do ‘Study Drugs’ Breed a Nation of Winners — or Cheaters? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Wales News: Marilyn Monroe death anniversary prompts legal drugs warning (walesonline.co.uk)
- More Mental Health Woes in College Kids Who Abuse Prescription Drugs (nlm.nih.gov)
- Nation’s Drug Czar Pushing For Prescription Monitoring (fox2now.com)
- Prescription Drugs: What You Don’t Know (iamaddicted2.wordpress.com)