May 11, 2009 | 3
As the world frets about the swine flu virus, the scientists credited with discovering HIV urged governments and international organizations to redouble their commitment to the battle against AIDS.
Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier, whose roles in identifying the viral cause of AIDS have been disputed over the years, came together Friday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their discovery with a global call to action.
Acknowledging the public’s preoccupation with the unfolding H1N1 pandemic, Gallo said, "Don't forget we have a known problem…a known deadly epidemic." Some 175,000 people die from AIDS every month—about the same number of lives claimed by the 2004 Asian tsunami, he told the audience gathered at the National Press Club in Washington.
May 8, 2009 | 11
School closures, canceled proms, and emergency rooms flooded with people panicking over run-of-the-mill coughs and sore throats. Have people gone hog wild over the so-called "swine flu," and is the media to blame for fanning the flames of fear?
The media hype, in particular, has drawn heavy criticism from the Los Angeles Times's James Rainey, who recently highlighted headlines like "Bracing for the Worst" (CNN) and other examples of fear mongering. Others, such as the reporters and editors quoted in this piece by Editor & Publisher, say it has been appropriate and measured.
May 6, 2009 | 1
Last week, we reported on an ongoing eBay auction for personal genome sequencing, analysis, and interpretation by Knome, Inc., a genetics company in Cambridge, Mass. At the time, no one had placed a bid.
But since then, someone did: The auction closed Monday afternoon, with a single bid at the $68,000 minimum Knome had set.
"We don't know who the [auction's] winner is," says Knome's Ari Kiirikki. "We know it's a male and we know he's from Europe." But as soon as the payment goes through, probably within days, the company will learn his identity, he adds, and the unknown man will join about 20 others who have had their genes sequenced by Knome.
May 6, 2009
A 57-year-old man from Alberta, Georgia has become the first person in the U.S. to receive a double hand transplant. After undergoing a ten-hour surgery that ended Monday night, the patient, Jeff Kepner, is in critical but stable condition, according to Amy Dugas Rose, a spokesperson for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UMPC), where team of ten surgeons carried out the operation.
Kepner, who lost both hands and feet to a bacterial infection a decade ago, will need intense physical therapy before he is able to use his hands effectively, according to Rose.
Kepner is reportedly receiving a bone marrow transplant from the donor sometime in the next few days, which is part of a special protocol developed at UMPC that aims to minimize the amount of anti-rejection drugs transplant recipients need to take. These drugs, which suppress the immune system, help prevent the body from attacking the transplanted tissue, but they also increase susceptibility to infections and cancer and may eventually lead to kidney failure, says Kadiyala Ravindra, a transplant surgeon at the University of Louisville in Kentucky who has been involved in single hand transplants at Louisville's Jewish Hospital. The idea behind the bone marrow graft, which is not standard in these types of surgeries, is to reeducate the immune system to recognize the transplanted tissue as its own, he explains.
May 4, 2009 | 7
Last Friday, we reported on Egypt's recent attempt to curb transmission of the human H1N1 epidemic by butchering all 300,000 of its pigs. Experts we interviewed said there was no sound rationale for such a move, because pigs had never been infected with the new virus, which has sickened at least 1085 people in 21 countries – until now.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recently announced that a herd of pigs in Alberta might have caught the new virus from a Canadian who had recently spent time in Mexico, ground zero for the current epidemic. Fortunately, both man and pigs have recovered or are in the process getting better, but the incident raises a new question: do pigs now pose a threat to humans?
May 4, 2009 | 10
We all know what Cialis (tadalafil) does for the phallus, but what if it fought cancer? A team from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine just started enrolling patients in a clinical trial on Cialis for treating head and neck cancer.
The irony, perhaps, is that the tumors Cialis may help treat are more and more likely to be due to oral sex—one thing Cialis certainly makes more likely. A growing number of such cancers appear to be driven by infections with the human papilloma virus (HPV), which appear to be spreading via oral-genital sex, Maura Gillison, an Ohio State cancer researcher said last week at the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Clinical Investigator Symposium in New York City.
May 1, 2009 | 3
Last week, The New York Times reported that CIA interrogators subjected 9/11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah to a total of 266 episodes of waterboarding between 2002 and 2003. More recently news broke that top Bush administration officials, including Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft, had condoned the practice as early as 2002.
The Obama Administration considers waterboarding – in which a person is strapped on a board with a rag or cloth covering his or her face and doused with water -- a form of torture. So does the United Nations' former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, according to news reports.
May 1, 2009 | 7
As swine flu fears sweep the world, governments everywhere are taking steps to prepare for a global pandemic, such as ramping up disease surveillance, reinforcing medicine stockpiles, and distributing infection control information to citizens. Egypt, however, with no confirmed cases of swine flu within its borders, added another step: Killing all 300,000 of its pigs.
"It has been decided to immediately start slaughtering all the pigs in Egypt using the full capacity of the country's slaughterhouses," Health Minister Hatem el-Gabaly said earlier this week, according to The Independent. The idea is to prevent the animals from passing the disease to humans.
Apr 30, 2009 | 5
The 21 polo ponies that dropped dead at the U.S. Open Polo Championship in Wellington, Fla., eleven days ago most likely succumbed to an overdose of selenium, used to help muscles recover after strenuous exercise, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has reported.
The source of the toxic overdose appears to be supplement injections the horses received a few hours before they began falling to the ground. Franck's Pharmacy in Ocala, which filled the prescription for the supplement—a cocktail of selenium, vitamin B-12, potassium, and magnesium -- has owned up to the mistake: "The strength of an ingredient in a medication Franck’s Pharmacy prepared for the 21 horses on the Lechuza Polo team was incorrect," Jennifer Beckett, the pharmacy's chief operations officer, said in a statement. "We can confirm that the ingredient was selenium."
Apr 29, 2009 | 1
Concerned over the rapidly spreading swine flu, the World Health Organization (WHO) has upped the influenza pandemic alert to phase 5, just one step short of declaring a bona fide global pandemic.
"All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, calling on government ministries and manufacturers of vaccines and antiviral meds to mobilize resources immediately to deal with the rapidly evolving swine flu outbreak.
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