Stories tagged health

Jan
07
2011

Back in 1998, a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield did a study on twelve children, and wrote a paper claiming that a link existed between childhood vaccinations and autism.

Naturally, this freaked out a lot of parents, and lots of folks stopped having their kids vaccinated. Consequently, infection rates of diseases that are totally preventable with vaccines—like measles and whooping cough—went up.

Then, other scientists were unable to reproduce Wakefield's experiment, which kind of made it seem like it was wasn't accurate to begin with. Wakefield couldn't even reproduce his experiment. Nonetheless, lots of people stuck to the idea that autism is caused by vaccines, or by ingredients in vaccines. When these ingredients were removed because of the concern, people picked other ingredients to blame. Still scientists could find no link between any of the components of vaccines and autism.

Meanwhile, most of the other scientists involved with Wakefield's research removed their names from the published results. And then The Lancet, the respected medical journal that originally published Wakefield's research, actually retracted the study, because it was so inaccurate. And then Wakefield had his medical license, because his poor research was so irresponsible. Still Wakefield and his supporters insisted that the link existed, and that he was the target of a global conspiracy.

Now, there's another nail in a coffin that just won't stay shut: a journalist (who has signed a statement saying that he has no financial interest in the debate) has found that Wakefield's original research on the twelve children was fraudulent. Wakefield misrepresented the medical histories of his subjects to make it appear that they had developed autism after receiving the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella, when, in fact, some of the subjects had shown signs of autism before receiving the vaccine, and some had not developed autism at all.

During all this, Wakefield accepted $674,000 from lawyers preparing a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers. Eh... whoops.

The new information suggests that not only was Wakefield's research inaccurate, he deliberately falsified it.

It's an interesting story, but as Dr. Max Wiznitzer points out in the article linked to above, the medical and scientific communities already knew Wakefield was a fraud, and Wakefield's followers aren't likely to change their positions now, so it's a little bit of a moot point.

Wakefield himself says that the truth is in his book, which he wants you to buy.

Jan
02
2011

Podcast Crew members Annie, Mai, and Alonzo at the Walker Art Center
Podcast Crew members Annie, Mai, and Alonzo at the Walker Art CenterCourtesy KAYSC

A few months ago, I shared a video created by the Podcast Crew in the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center (http://www.smm.org/kaysc/) at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The Podcast Crew were a group of high school staff who worked to create a series of web-based videos about infectious diseases for the Disease Detectives exhibit (www.diseasedetectives.org). We worked from January through August learning video production skills, learning about different infectious disease topics, talking to experts and folks on the museum floor.

Well, earlier this month, one of our videos, Malaria Worldwide, screened at the Walker Art Center as part of the All City Youth Film Festival, and I wanted to share that here as well. You can watch the video here, which features interviews with folks at the MN Department of Health and Metro Mosquito Control District as well as some cows from the U of M Ag School.

This man is surprised: To learn about the new technology. Because you can also read science news articles on your phone.
This man is surprised: To learn about the new technology. Because you can also read science news articles on your phone.Courtesy CJ Sorg
Believe it, y'all: scientists are developing cheap, disposable chips that will be able to diagnose any of a range of sexually transmitted diseases that you might be carrying. All you have to do would be to pee on your phone. Or pee on a chip, and then plug it into your phone. And, viola, you've got male itch. Or female itch. Or whatever.

Joke about dropping your phone in the toilet, joke about coverage area, joke about app store, joke about loving your phone. Joke about herpes.

Bottled Water Obsession: screen capture by Art Oglesby from fora.tv
Bottled Water Obsession: screen capture by Art Oglesby from fora.tvCourtesy ARTiFactor
Listen to Peter H. Gleick explain the connections between water and human health, the human right to water, the hydrologic impacts of climate change, sustainable water use, privatization and globalization and international conflicts over water resources.
Here is a link to his concluding statements about The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water (3min)
Here is a link to the whole presentation (52min)

[It's Blog Action Day 2010, and this year's theme is water.]

Oct
15
2010

Burdened by water
Burdened by waterCourtesy One Laptop per Child

Thirsty?

When you are thirsty, how long does it take for you to get a drink of water? Drinking water, like breathing air, is necessary to stay alive. So to stay alive, you do what you have to to get some water.

Would you walk three hours for water?

In Africa alone, people, usually women and children, spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Once, when I ran out gas I tried carrying 5 gallons of gas to my car. My arm sockets ached so bad after a quarter mile that I considered pouring half of it out. Five gallons of water weighs 40 pounds. No way I would carry it on my head (an old neck injury would really flare up). I know that carrying that water is causing neck, back, and arm pain.

Wishing for a well

Some charitable organizations are hoping contributions can be used to provide relief to those needing easier and safer sources of water.

With safe water nearby, women are free to pursue new opportunities and improve their families’ lives. Kids can earn their education and build the future of their communities.

They figure that "every $1 invested in improved water access and sanitation yields an average of $12 in economic returns, depending on the project." charitywater.org.

[It's Blog Action Day 2010, and this year's theme is water.]

Oct
15
2010

.

Blog Action Day 2010

Water is a global issue, deserving a global conversation. Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15. The idea is for everyone to talk about the same topic on the same day to increase world awareness about that topic. This year the topic is WATER.

Water ideas to blog about

You can go here blogaction page at change.org for blogging ideas about water.

Please say something about World Water

I am going to spend 5 or 6 hours today blogging about water. I will put links to my posts in the comments below. If you have time, please use our comments area to talk about World Water.

Oct
03
2010

Human embryonic stem cell differentiation: A: Cell colonies that are not yet differentiated. B: Nerve cell
Human embryonic stem cell differentiation: A: Cell colonies that are not yet differentiated. B: Nerve cellCourtesy Nissim Benvenisty

Another step toward living forever

Stem cells have the potential to become almost any type of body part. I believe they will soon be used to rejuvenate, repair, or rebuild body parts. Look at our past Science Buzz posts about stem cells. Bad knees or hips? Inject some stem cells to rebuild the cartilage. Stem cells also can repair cut spinal cords, damaged eyes, diseased brains, or help a diabetic's pancreas make insulin.

A new, better way to make stem cells

Up until now, the stem cells created by reprogramming adult skin cells still had bits and pieces remaining that were not safe enough for human applications.
"Now stem cell researcher Derrick Rossi of Harvard Medical School in Boston and his colleagues have developed a way to reprogram cells using synthetic RNA molecules." (Science Magazine) The technique is also twice as fast and 100% more efficient. The team calls its cells RiPS cells, for RNA induced Pluripotent Cells.

Learn more about RNA induced Pluripotent Cells

The new technique, is published online in the journal, Cell Stem Cell.

Oct
03
2010

Open fire cooking
Open fire cookingCourtesy Tallia Miller

Smoke in my eyes (and lungs)

Cooking food on an open fire may sound romantic but in reality breathing smoke and scrounging for fire wood make it not so pleasant. It is estimated that the smoke from cooking fires leads to nearly 2 million premature deaths each year.
A Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has formed to

"save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions."

100 million new stoves by 2020

A better burning stove should not be rocket science but several factors should help the Alliance meet their goal of 100 million households converting to clean cookstoves and fuels by 2020.

  • Recent advances in clean cookstove design, testing, and monitoring
  • Compelling new research on the health and environmental benefits of clean cookstov
  • Recent commercial success and development of a number of business models in the field
  • The advent of national cookstove programs in India, Mexico, Peru and elsewhere
  • The increasing need for effective near- and long-term action to address climate change at the local and regional level; and
  • The potential for carbon finance to fund stove initiatives at greater scale

Learn more

BBC video
Clean Cookstoves/media

Sep
22
2010

Salmonella invades human cells: Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells.
Salmonella invades human cells: Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells.Courtesy Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH
More than half a billion eggs were recalled after Salmonella sickened over 1600 people (according to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC in September.) That’s a lot of eggs, and a lot of sick people.

What is this nasty bacteria that makes us wonder whether we should let our kids eat raw chocolate chip cookie dough, even as we sneak several spoonfuls when they’re not looking?

Salmonella enterocolitis is one of the most common types of food poisoning and is caused by the bacteria Salmonella Enteriditis. You can get a Salmonella infection by swallowing food or water that is contaminated with the salmonella bacteria. Often, the culprit is surface contamination from raw chicken and raw or undercooked eggs. In most people, it causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping, but young children and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of dehydration and more serious infections.

Why don’t they just wash the eggs better? Salmonella bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of animals and birds and can infect the ovaries of healthy-looking chickens. This allows bacteria to infect the eggs even before the shell is formed and voila- you have a pathogen that can’t be washed off of the egg because it’s inside. Salmonella bacteria are often found in the “white” of an egg, although they can migrate to the yolk as the raw egg sits in your refrigerator. Organic and free range chickens have less disease than factory-”farm” raised chickens, partly because of healthier diets and less crowding. Cooking eggs until the yolk is solid kills Salmonella bacteria.

How can you make your cookie dough and eat it too? Buy pasteurized eggs (you can find them at most grocery stores) that have been heat-treated to kill bacteria, but are still essentially raw for all cooking and baking purposes.

Also, remember to wash cutting boards you’ve cut meat on with soap and water before cutting anything else on them, or just have separate cutting boards for meat. Don’t forget to wash your hands after handling raw eggs! Pet food and reptiles can also harbor salmonella bacteria, so have your kids wash their hand after handling either!

Bacteria are everywhere. Some keep you healthy and some make you sick, but making good decisions in the kitchen can keep you and your family from being affected by food-born illness!

(This blog post was originally posted on the Kitchen Pantry Scientist blog.)