Alcohol Consumption To Protect Against Infectious Disease?

Fruit flies use alcohol to to self medicate to increase their survival rate when infected with a bloodborne parasite according to an Emory University study.

Fruit Flies

Fruit Flies Self Medicate With Alcohol

This research shows alcohol can protect against infectious disease and particular against blood-borne parasites.  Could this work for humans too if they consumed a large amount of alcohol?

The fly larvae eat the rot, or fungi and bacteria, that grows on overripe, fermenting fruit. “They’re essentially living in booze,” researcher Schlenke says.  The amount of alcohol in their natural habitat can range from 5% to 15%. Can you imagine if everything that you ate and drank all day long was 5% alcohol?  Humans wouldn’t be able to live like that, but fruit flies are really good at detoxifying alcohol.

To test the theory, the researchers used a bisected petri dish filled with the yeast that fruit flies are normally fed in a lab environment. The yeast on one side of the dish was mixed with 6% alcohol, while the yeast on the other side remained alcohol-free. The researchers then released fruit fly larvae into the dish, allowing them to freely move to either side.

After 24 hours, 80% of the fruit fly larvae that were infected with the wasps that were on the alcohol side of the dish, while only 30% of the non-infected fruit fly larvae were on the alcohol side.

The infected fruit flies really did seem to purposely consume alcohol and the alcohol consumption correlated to a much higher survival rates for the fruit flies. The alcohol diet was far less effective against the specialist wasps, killing them in only 10% of the cases researched.

Many studies in humans have shown decreased immune function in chronic consumers of alcohol, little attempt has been made to assay any beneficial effect of acute or moderate alcohol use on parasite mortality or overall host fitness following infection according to the researchers.

Could someone become an alcoholic by trying to ward off an infectious disease? 

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Researches Find Protein That May Stop The Spread of HIV

Researches from the New York University Langone Medical Center have found a protein that stops the spread of HIV. This could slow the progression of the AIDS virus.

Aids Virus

Protein to stop the spread of aids virus?

The research focused on a protein called SAMHD1. Recent studies have found that immune cells, called dendritic cells, containing the protein are resistant to infection by HIV. Since the discovery, scientists have sought to understand how SAMHD1 works to protect these cells, with hopes that science might find a way to synthetically apply that protection to other cells.

The researchers found that that when a virus, like HIV, infects a cell, it hijacks the cell’s molecular material to replicate. Once the virus replicates, the resulting DNA molecule contains all the genes of the virus and instructs the cell to make more virus. SAMHD1 enters the cell and then nothing happens. It has nothing to build and replicate with and no DNA is made.

Since AIDS emerged in 1981 25 million have died from this infectious disease. There are now currently 1.8 million people that die each year from AIDS still. This new research may be able to put an end to these grim statistics.

This study appears online at Nature Immunology.

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No Medicines Left?

There is a short supply of infectious disease medications with many reports of patient harm as a result and can be life threatening.


Short supply of infectious disease medications

The shortages can be life-threatening in infectious diseases because there are some drugs for which it is hard to find an alternative, the researchers note. The study was published in the January 19 Clinical Infectious Diseases edition. Although the largest number of infectious disease drugs in short supply are antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and other infectious disease drugs also have appeared on the shortage list in recent years, the researchers have found.

The United States Congress is contemplating new bills that would force the drug companies to tell the FDA about expected shortages. Another bill, introduced February 1, would require the agency to speed up review of drugs proposed for approval that could help ease shortages, and force the US Drug Enforcement Agency to ease regulations on controlled substances in short supply, such as Adderall to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. There have also been cancer medications that have run out of supply as well.

This is also happening at the same time as infectious diseases are developing resistances to commonly prescribed medications like antibiotics and the number of new drugs are declining. The article in the Clinical Infectious Diseases edition list some alternatives doctors can prescribe.

Is the drug shortages because of lack of manufacturing by the drug companies or the over regulation of the FDA? Each blames each other.  Who do you think is to blame and what can be done?

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Lyme Disease Hot Spots For 2012

Lyme Disease is one of the most rapidly emerging infectious diseases in North America according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Researchers have revealed a new map pinpointing the highest risk areas.

Lyme Disease

Where Lyme Disease Will Bring the Biggest Risks To

Researchers have found the high infection risk areas confined mainly to the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest and low risk in the South. The results were published in the February issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Yale researches spent 3 years doing research by dragging fabric through the woods to collect ticks.  The researchers are hoping their new map can help improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of Lyme disease. Previous risk maps were mostly reliant on reports of human infections, but those can be misleading, according to the study, because the disease is both over- and under-diagnosed.

The study also provided new information about the infection rate among ticks, according to  researcher Diuk-Wasser. About 1 in 5 ticks collected were infected which was more than researchers expected and that percentage was fairly constant across geographic areas, she said.

The symptoms of Lyme Disease can be tricky as not everyone gets the classic bulls eye rash associated with being bite by a tick. Symptoms may include:

      • Fever
      • Headache
      • Chills
      • Aches
      • Arthritis
      • Stiff Neck
      • Fatique
      • Swollen Joints

and if undetected it can can lead to:

  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Meningitis
  • Numbness
  • Slow Heartbeat
  • Neurological damage

If you suspect anything with these symptoms be sure to see your doctor for antibiotics as soon as possible to avoid further complications. If you test is negative be sure to go back in 2 weeks to be tested again as some can be false negatives. (Especially if you get in early after the bite).

Back in December we wrote how 2012 was expected to be on of the worst years for Lyme Disease due to the low acorn production in the Northeast. So be prepared when you are outdoors, wear protective clothing and use deet spray to avoid being bit by a tick.

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Bird Flu Found Again

Health workers in Nepal are set to slaughter thousands of chickens following the discovery of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in the  southeastern part of that Himalayan country today.


H5N1 found in chickens

They had sent samples to London for testing and it was confirmed today that the infection of bird flu in poultry farms in Khanar and Ithari of the Sunsari district are indeed there. There have been no reports of infection in humans to date there. It had been reported that 8,000 chickens have died from this strain of H5N1 over the past few days.

Another report from the Sunday Times learns that more than 5,000 chickens on two farms in Bingiriya have been de-populated after some were confirmed as being infected with H5N2 virus.  And in India H5N1 cases were reported in birds there as well.

In Lahore eight peacocks have died mysteriously. Fears are being spread that it is a strain of bird flu there too.

These recent strains of bird flu around the world are not the same as the ones reported here in the United States earlier this year.  Could they all be part of an impending bird flu yet to come?

These cases are all happening as scientists have paused their avian flu tranmission studies for fear of getting the information into the wrong hands.


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Mice Suggests Obesity Could Be Infectious

A new study in mice shows that obesity might just be an infectious disease according to a study by researcher Richard Flavell, a professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine.

mice and obesity

Mice study shows obesity may be an infectious disease

In the study, mice engineered to have a particular immune deficiency developed fatty liver disease and got fatter when fed a Western-style diet.  Fatty liver can cause inflammation and scarring.  (Some fatty livers are also caused by excessive alcohol intake.) But strikingly, when these immune-deficient mice were put in the same cage as healthy mice, the healthy mice started to come down with symptoms of liver disease, and also got fatter.

We normally live in symbiosis with the bacteria in our guts, but in the study, the number of “bad,” disease-associated bacteria increased 1,000-fold in mice with immune problems, Flavell said. And it’s these bad bacteria that were transmitted from mouse to mouse, causing the healthy mice to also experience changes in their gut microbes and making them fat. It is more likely to be contagious in mice because they eat each others poop.

Fatty liver disease is very common among obese people, affecting 75%-100% of the obese population, the researchers say. In about 20 percent of these individuals, the disease progresses and becomes severe.

Previously, if two family members living in the same household both developed liver disease or became obese, people would have blamed genetics. Or could it also be the lifestyle of that household? Unhealthy food, fatty foods and lack of exercise could also be blamed. But the new study suggests the environment may play a role in this too. Perhaps antibiotics or probiotics could play an important role in the reduction of obesity.

Do you think you can “catch” obesity from a friend or family member?

The study was published online Feb. 1 in the Journal Nature.

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Hand Washing and Masks Proven to Slash Spread of Flu

A new study found up to a 75 percent reduction in flu-like illness over the study period with hand hygiene and surgical masks, said Allison Aiello, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Masks can help prevent flu spread

Wearing surgical masks and hand washing can prevent spread of flu

The Journal Public Library of Science ONE reports that the results from years of study found no significant reduction in symptoms in mask use alone, which suggests masks and hand hygiene should be used together.

More than 1,000 students were used in this research from the Michigan school of Public Health in residence halls.  They were assigned to groups who work masks, another group that wore masks and washed hands properly, and the last group that did neither. The study was launched in 2006 and lasted 2 years. Students in both studies were asked to wear masks in the residence halls for six hours per day and clean their hands with an alcohol based hand sanitizer in addition to soap and water hand washing.

This method of wearing surgical masks and proper hand washing could be the first line of defense in avoiding a pandemic. Vaccines may not be available for the newest flu pandemic to hit immediately.

Will your hospital or medical office be prepared for the next flu pandemic?


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FDA Bans Some Drugs in Foods

The FDA last week has banned some drugs in foods such as chicken, turkey, cattle and swine as ensuring the antibiotic drugs remain effective in people. The ban takes effect April 5, 2012. Since 2001 the American Medical Association went on record opposing the routine feeding of medically important antibiotics to livestock and poultry. It has taken over a decade for this ban to happen.

FDA bans antibiotics in poultry

The FDA has banned antibiotics in poultry

Some medical experts are saying the ban does not go far enough as the new order doesn’t limit the use of cephapirin, an older cephalosporin drug, and veterinarians can still prescribe cephalosporins for limited extra-label use as long as they follow the proper dosing instructions. But some livestock groups said there’s no proof the practice is associated with resistance in humans.

Almost 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. in 2010 were for use in food animals, mostly to promote growth and prevent disease, leading to antibiotic resistance in people, according to Keep Antibiotics Working. (is a coalition of health, consumer, agricultural, environmental, humane and other advocacy groups with more than eleven million members dedicated to eliminating a major cause of antibiotic resistance: the inappropriate use of antibiotics in food animals.)  

Medical experts have been warning this has become a public health crisis as everyone is at risk from antibiotic-resistant infections, but children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

According to the CDC people infected with antibiotic-resistant infections are more likely to have longer, more expensive hospital stays, and may be more likely to die from it. These infections include MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and E. coli.

Do you think the FDA went far enough with this ban?

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Can A Microchip Tell You In Minutes If You Have An infectious Disease or Cancer?

Toronto’s medical community is excited today about a new way health care professionals can screen for infectious diseases or cancer.  It is a device that works with a blood sample or swab placed on a microchip. It then reads and can even recognize certain types of cells.

They believe there will eventually be a cartridge that would be disposable containing the samples. (It has been tested at the University of Toronto for the past 10 years.) You would no longer have to wait for days or weeks to find out what is ailing you or a patient and be able to start treatment immediately.  This device would be able to detect what is wrong with you or your patients in 15 minutes. Imagine what you could do knowing what is wrong in such a short time period? 

This microchip could save a lot of lives by detecting diseases much  quicker. Patients may be willing to go to the doctors sooner knowing that this would save them time in awaiting answers and having lengthy testing done.  This device probably would save a lot of money on healthcare costs. There is hope that this will be available in the next few years as Canada, the United States and an European country have invested money in this life saving device.

Would you like to see this device come to market as soon as possible?

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Will The ER Give You An Infection?

Most people visit the ER to get well from being quite sick. Either they have become ill or hurt suddenly and head right to the ER or if they have called their doctor and were told to go to the Emergency Room. There’s new research claiming not so fast with the elderly heading to the emergency room.

ER Visits

ER visits may not be best for seniors

The findings of a new Canadian study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal today claims that elderly patients who have visited an emergency department are three times more likely to develop respiratory or gastrointestinal infections in the week following their return to a long-term care facility. They found there is a benefit for isolating the patients once they return to their facility. The study was conducted for 2 years in Canada during non-summer months (September through May) involving 1269 patients.

The seniors who went to an emergency department had a higher rate of chronic illnesses and tended to be less independent than those who did not go to an emergency department.

Our immune system may not work as effectively as we get older, which increases our risk even more for infections. This “winding down” of the immune system is a major reason why infections become more common as we age. Specific types of immune cells are less able to produce the antibodies needed to fight off infections.

Having other illnesses or disorders probably has the greatest effect on the body’s natural ability to fight infections too. Fever is the most common sign of an illness in the elderly. Not all seniors will have a fever but an infection will appear as a rapid loss of function for no apparent reason like falling or just not eating well. They may not be able to communicate well at this point either. Anytime you see a senior that is just not their “regular self” is a good time to take them to their doctor for a check-up.

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