Star-shaped polymer kills superbug strains without antibiotics

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Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne's School of Engineering, has developed a polymer that rips apart the cell walls of superbug strain bacteria.

From Science Alert:

The polymers - which they call SNAPPs, or structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers - work by directly attacking, penetrating, and then destabilising the cell membrane of bacteria.

Unlike antibiotics, which 'poison' bacteria, and can also affect healthy cells in the area, the SNAPPs that Lam has designed are so large that they don't seem to affect healthy cells at all.

"With this polymerised peptide we are talking the difference in scale between a mouse and an elephant," Lam's supervisor, Greg Qiao, told Marcus Strom from the Sydney Morning Herald. "The large peptide molecules can't enter the [healthy] cells."

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Siberian heat wave unleashes deadly 'zombie anthrax' outbreak

A family in the hospital with anthrax in Russia, 2016. Image: Channel 1

At least 90 people have been hospitalized from an anthrax outbreak in Russia, including 50 children. Eight are confirmed as infected with anthrax. Doctors believe at least 6 patients have the more virulent intestinal form of the disease, which killed one boy, age 12. Authorities say it's the first fatal anthrax outbreak in Russia in more than 75 years.

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Zika hits the US military: 33 service members now have virus, says Pentagon

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Pentagon officials told reporters today that at least 33 active-duty American service members, one of whom is a pregnant woman, have Zika.

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Gonorrhea may soon be unbeatable

Vintage STD Propaganda Poster (12)

Approximately 350,000 people in the US are diagnosed with gonorrhea each year. According to the CDC, it may soon be untreatable. Currently, the sexually-transmitted disease, not-so-fondly known as The Clap or The Drip, is treated with two antibiotics, azithromycin and ceftriaxone. Data is currently showing a rise in gonorrhea samples that are resistant to those drugs.

Companies are developing new antibiotics but could be "years away," says CDC medical epidemiologist Robert D. Kirkcaldy.

"We think … it’s a matter of when and not if with resistance,” he says. “This bug is so smart and can mutate so rapidly.”

(Scientific American) Read the rest

First case of female-to-male sexually-transmitted Zika reported, in NYC

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The Centers for Disease Control and Infection reported the first confirmed case of Zika transmitted from a woman to a man during sex. Previously, they thought that the disease was only likely to be sexually-transmitted from a male to female or male to male. The CDC will soon update their advisory "for sexually active people in which the couple is not pregnant or concerned about pregnancy and for people who want to reduce personal risk of Zika infection through sex." From CNN:

A non-pregnant woman in her 20s had unprotected vaginal sex with a male partner on the day she returned from travel to a country where Zika is circulating. The next day, she came down with Zika-like symptoms, including fever, rash, fatigue and muscle pain, along with numbness and tingling in her fingers and toes. On day three, she visited her primary care doctor, who took blood and urine samples, and sent them off to the NYC health department. Both tested positive for the virus.

On day seven after intercourse, her male partner, also in his 20s, began to show the same typical signs of Zika, such as fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, despite the fact that he had not traveled outside the United States for more than a year...

While this is the first documented case of female to male sexual transmission, it's not the first clue that the Zika virus might be hiding in the female genital tract. A case report published this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal tells the story of a 27-year old Guadeloupean woman who came down with Zika in May.

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San Diego woman contracts Zika through sex, first such case in region

A health ministry worker fumigates a house to kill mosquitoes to prevent the entry of Zika virus in Managua, Nicaragua Jan. 26, 2016. REUTERS

A woman in San Diego, CA is reported to have contracted the Zika virus through sexual transmission.

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This graph shows causes of death by age

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People between the ages of 15-30 are more likely to die from external causes than any other reason. The 60s, 70s, and 80s are cancer years. If you've made it that far, your failing heart is most likely to kill you. Nathan Yau created this stacked area graph that "shows how cause of death varies across sex and race, based on mortality data from 2005 through 2014. Select a group to see the changes. Select causes to see them individually." Read the rest

This video will show you how to live so long, you'll be the oldest person alive on the planet.

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It's complicated.

The best person who ever lived is an unknown Ukrainian man

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Out of everyone who ever existed, who has done the most good for humanity? It's a difficult question.

California woman killed by brain-eating amoeba

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A 21-year-old California woman died from an amoeba that settles in the brain and destroys its tissue. The disease she contracted is called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). It is rare, with only zero to eight cases reported a year, says Inyo Public Health officer Dr. Richard Johnson. But it is almost 100 percent fatal.

Humans are infected by the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, when swimming or diving in fresh, warm water. The amoeba then migrates through the nose and skull, where it reaches the brain and begins to destroy brain tissue.

"I advise people to be cautious when using untreated hot springs in the Sierras," Dr. Johnson said, "The best way to do that is to keep your head above water."

Image: "Focal hemorrhage and necrosis in frontal cortex due to Naegleria fowleri." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Read the rest

Infectious disease squeeze-balls, full of buboes

The coolest gross-out toy under our tree this year is the $5 infectious disease ball, a squeeze-ball wrapped in mesh that erupts into disquieting, vividly colored buboes when you squeeze it. Read the rest

Deforestation leads to Ebola

Over the past few months, West Africa has been experiencing the biggest and most deadly Ebola outbreak on record and deforestation is a key part of why. Read the rest

As many as 75 federal scientists may have been exposed to anthrax

Anthrax bacteria. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Up to 75 scientists who work at a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biosecurity lab in Atlanta may have been exposed to anthrax, because researchers there did not follow procedures for inactivating the deadly and highly contagious bacteria. Read the rest

Possible food poisoning at Food Safety Summit

More than 100 people reportedly fell ill with food poisoning while attending a high-profile Food Safety Summit in Baltimore, Maryland. The 1,300 attendees included representatives from the Food and Drug Administation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tyson, McDonald's, and many more agencies and food companies. (NBC News) Read the rest

Now we know what causes narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease — a finding that helps explain why the 2009 swine flu (and the vaccine used to prevent it) was correlated with increased cases of narcolepsy. Read the rest

Why new parents (and almost-parents) need pertussis vaccines

I'm 38 weeks pregnant now. Two weeks ago, my husband and I both got Tdap vaccines — tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. This despite the fact that we've both gotten Tdaps relatively recently, within the last six years, thanks to a home renovation lifestyle that involves regular exposure to rusty nails.

So why re-up on the Tdap before the birth of our baby? It's all about the pertussis. Also called whooping cough, pertussis is particularly hard on infants. Pre-vaccine, it killed 4000 Americans every year, and most of them were new babies — and infections are on the rise in this country, so there's actually a reasonable risk of a newborn coming into contact with the bacteria that causes pertussis. But the larger problem is with the pertussis vaccine, itself. It doesn't have the staying power it once did. A little over 20 years ago, we switched the formulation for pertussis vaccines. There were good reasons for doing that — the "new" formula has fewer side effects. But it also doesn't seem to protect people as well for as long. In fact, the protection starts to wear off within a year of vaccination. Read the rest

Why it's risky to be a bad-ass

At Matter, physical therapy professor Eric Robertson writes about a very rare condition called rhabdomyolysis — it's what happens when chronically overworked muscle cells rupture and overload your kidneys with massive amounts of protein. The results are painful, reasonably disgusting, and potentially deadly. Rhabdomyolysis used to be something you only had to worry about if you were, say, part of an elite military squad or a professional athlete. But as more average folks have gotten into elite physical training regimens through programs like CrossFit, the profile of people damaged by rhabdomyolysis is changing. Training like a bad-ass can bring along some of the physical risks of being a bad-ass. Read the rest

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