Category Archives: News

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End of Antibiotics in View?

A report published by the CDC last week has confirmed that a Nevada woman who passed away in September was infected by an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria. Every single FDA-approved antibiotic, twenty six in total, were utilized to fight her infection and none were successful. This marks the first-ever case of a “superbug” officially documented in the US. At this point, it is still limited to this one case, but these findings have alerted the scientific community to be vigilant in finding the source of these bacteria and infections, along with cures.

This superbug was an infection caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria called CRE (carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae). Carbapenems are basically super antibiotics that are used as a last resort when illnesses do not respond to regular antibiotics. So when a bacteria is resistant even to carbapenems, it is a type of CRE. Disconcertingly enough, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden has called CRE “nightmare bacteria”. According to the CDC, CRE cause 9,000 drug-resistant infections per year and 600 related deaths, according to the CDC. Most CRE are resistant to at least one type of antibiotic, but in the Nevada woman’s case, the bacteria was resistant to all 26 FDA-approved antibiotics, hence a “superbug”.

A study published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that CRE are more common than previously believed. According to the study’s senior author William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, this bacteria can be passed from person to person without any symptoms arising, and thus, is spreading beyond the more observable case of disease. Due to this factor, the authors of the study believe it is important to increase genetic surveillance of CRE. The study also showed that CRE contain a large range of genetic material that makes them resistant to antibiotics, and that this genetic material can be transferred over to other CRE species, and cause them to also become resistant. Hanage says that if the unobserved transmission of the bacteria is found and studied, then we can formulate ways to prevent transmission of the bacteria in the first place.

Since bacteria always eventually form a resistance to any antibiotic, new antibiotics are always needing to be developed. In the case of a CRE, this resistance evolves much faster- faster than humans can develop an antibiotic to defeat it. And as drug resistance has been growing exponentially, antibiotic development has been grinding to a halt.

Though the underlying cause of CRE infection is still to be found, there are many factors that may contribute to developing this drug-resistant bacterial infection. Long hospital stays (especially in India or other countries that are more susceptible to this type of bacteria), travel, and exposure to many different types of antibiotics may all contribute to the acquiring of a CRE infection. While this seems to be a looming threat, it is important for individuals to be precautious and take watchful care in observing basic sanitary measures.

Image Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech

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More American Children Becoming Paralyzed

A polio-like illness is on the rise in the US, and its source and cause remain mysterious and unknown. The illness is a muscular condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) and affects the nervous system, mostly the spinal cord, and in most cases causes paralysis. The symptoms of AFM are compared to the symptoms of polio.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pediatrician Dr. Manisha Patel, there have been 50 reported cases in 24 different states since August 2016, which is more than half the reported cases in all of 2015 combined. Ninety percent of these cases are children.

Health officials believe the condition is occurring due to enteroviruses, and is possibly linked to West Nile and adenoviruses. The enterovirus is the most likely culprit because these viruses circulate the most between August and October, and that is when the rise of AFM has occurred this year. Also, there is a strain of enterovirus presently in circulation, and in 2014, a certain enterovirus strain paralyzed 120 children throughout the US. So doctors think this could be the same enterovirus strain now linked to AFM. An enterovirus is any of a group of RNA viruses that usually occur in the gastrointestinal tract, and sometimes spread to the central nervous system or other parts of the body. Usually they cause only mild illness in children, but when they spread to the central nervous system is when they become more dangerous, and can even cause inflammation of the brain. The affecting of the central nervous system is a clear link to AFM.

Before paralysis occurs, symptoms of AFM include sudden limb weakness and limping, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, difficulty swallowing, and slurred speech. Respiratory failure can also occur if the muscles needed for breathing are among the muscles weakened.

Though the condition is still very rare, scientists at the CDC are hard at work testing patients’ blood, nose, respiratory, and spinal cord specimens to figure out the cause and how to accurately treat and prevent the illness. The source of the illness may not even be a single infection, but could possibly be the outcome of complications from more than one viral infection.

While scientists attempt to develop a vaccine and treatment, taking steps for prevention is necessary, most importantly with children. The most effective ways to prevent acquiring an enterovirus is to remain vigilant about washing your and your children’s hands with soap and water, and using insect repellent when outdoors to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses. Additionally, covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, and not going to work or school when you’re sick, are both very important things to remember for prevention.

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Doctors Warn About LED Streetlights

We are all happy to get rid of the gloomy streetlights of old, but if you’ve felt like the new white LED lights are harsh on the eyes, you’re not alone. Science is on your side.

The new LED streetlights shine in a color range that is scientifically proven to hurt our eyes and produce significant glare. Doctors Color Temperaturerecommend that streetlights produce a color temperature less than 3000 Kelvin and new LED streetlights produce light at 4000 to 5000 Kelvin. This range has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns in humans and wildlife.

Although the lights look pretty from a distance, they might have significant long term effects on local residents and wildlife.

Click here to read the press release by the American Medical Association.

 

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GMO Labels: coming to a store near you

July 1st marks the first day of mandatory GMO labeling, at least in Vermont. Although the new law only applies to food sold in Vermont, any company which sells food nationwide would either need specific packaging for Vermont or would in effect be labeling their product  everywhere. Many believe this will begin a chain reaction in GMO labeling.

Federal law makers are considering ways of putting a hold on the state law, citing concerns about its impact on US agriculture and commerce. They claim that state level laws could potentially create 50 different regulation frameworks that food product manufacturers would have to adhere to. Additionally, they claim that labeling GMOs will unnecessarily increase food prices.

The Senate has proposed a compromise law that will be voted on in the next few weeks. This law allows food manufacturers to display GMO information by either printing it on the box or having a QR code that one can scan with a smart phone. Opponents of the bill say that requiring a smart phone to read the label defeats the purpose of even having a label and helps keep US consumers in the dark about their food.

Click here to learn more.

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Living without a heart for one year

Stan Larkin was diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy when he was just 16 years old. This disease causes serious irregular heartbeats and inhibits proper blood flow.

Stan was immediately placed on the heart transplant list, but would have to wait a long time for a matching donor. In the meantime, doctors installed an internal defibrillator to help his heart beat whenever it would have problems.

Unfortunately, Stan’s heart continued to deteriorate. Near his 24th birthday, doctors knew they needed to do something drastic. They installed a SynCardia Total Artificial Heart.

Stan’s heart was literally on his sleeve. He would carry with him a 13.5 pound artificial heart that allowed him to maintain a normal lifestyle and continue being a father to his three children while he waited for an organ transplant.

“I just want to put the heart to use.” – Stan Larkin

The device performed all the functions of a healthy heart and kept Stan alive for an incredible (and record-setting) 555 days. He finally received his new “real” heart in May of 2016 and is making a swift recovery. He looks forward to putting his new heart to use on the basketball court.

Click here to read more.

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Electric Shock Drowning: 15 year old dies

Memorial Day is just around the corner and for many folks that means spending time at the lake. Unfortunately, there are lethal dangers that many of us are completely unaware of.

Electric Shock Drowning is when water around a dock is electrically charged and nearby swimmers are electrocuted by the AC charge. Many times swimmers are unaware of any possible danger before they enter the water, only to be electrocuted when they jump in or when they reach for the ladder to get out.

Typically, this problem arises when water finds it’s way into electrical components on the dock or somehow the wiring shorts into the water. Very little electricity is required to drown a swimmer. If you feel the water tingle, you should probably stay out until the dock is fixed.

10566279_GOne month ago Carmen Johnson died due to Electric Shock Drowning.  She was only 15.

After a few minutes, another friend jumped in. About that same time Jimmy lowered the metal ladder into the lake so the girls would have a way to climb out of the lake.

Jimmy said when the ladder hit the water, it sent an electrical current through the water. He heard Carmen’s friend scream for help. When he peered over the dock, he could see Carmen’s friend clinging to the ladder and Carmen underwater around her friend’s knees.

Jimmy said he jumped in the water to try to save the girls and that’s when he immediately felt the electric current. Before he blacked out, he yelled to his wife Casey, “Cut off the power to the boat dock.”

Carmen was a cheerleader with hopes to cheer at the University of Alabama. Her father is now raising awareness of Electric Shock Downing and promoting Dock Lifeguard, a product that warns of electrical charges in the water.

Click here to learn more about Electric Shock Drowning.

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Flint in Alabama? 12 water systems have carcinogens in water

High concentrations of the cancer causing chemicals, PFOS and PFOA (Teflon related), have been detected in 13 water systems nationwide.

The EPA has finally decided to issue health warnings on these chemicals after decades of ignoring all the related health effects. We reported on these overlooked poisons last year and are thrilled the EPA has finally taken action. Unfortunately, 8 water systems in Alabama have been cited for having high concentrations of PFOS and PFOA.

According to EWG, a non-profit, non-partisan health organization,  9 Alabama counties are affected by PFOS and PFOA:

Chilton, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Marshall, and Morgan County.

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The Poisons We Live In: How Dangerous Chemicals Still Evade Safety Testing

The story of Parkersburg, West Virginia is a cautionary tale of how large companies are still able to use marketing, lobbying, and lawyering to protect dangerous products.

Mariah Blake of the Huffington Post shares the story of  how Parkersburg became disastrously poisoned by DuPont’s chemical waste and how the main toxin, perfluorooctanoic acid (C8), has found it’s way into many US water systems. In fact, studies have shown the toxic chemical to be in the blood of over 90% of Americans.

Shelby county, Cullman County, and Clayton county are some of the many US counties that have detected C8 in the water supply.

Click here to see if your water is contaminated.

Although C8 is a known carcinogen,  liver toxin, developmental toxin, allergy stimulant and disrupter of normal thyroid function, it is still an unregulated substance.

The article in the Huffington Post explains how we arrived at this situation:

By the early 1970s, Congress was once again debating how to regulate the chemicals that now formed the fabric of American domestic life. Both houses drafted legislation that would empower the Environmental Protection Agency to study the health and environmental effects of chemicals and regulate their use. But the industry unleashed another lobbying blitz. Under the final version of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, existing chemicals were again grandfathered in. Manufacturers did have to inform the EPA when they introduced new chemicals—but no testing was required. The resulting regulatory regime, which exists to this day, is remarkably laissez-faire. Only a handful of the 80,000-plus chemicals on the market have ever been tested for safety—meaning that we are all, in effect, guinea pigs in a vast, haphazard chemistry experiment.

Developments in chemistry have produced many valuable chemicals and medicines that have greatly benefited mankind. However, we should never be so foolish to ignore the dangers that can permanently damage our future and the future of our children.

The article is a long read, but definitely worth the time. Click here.