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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Health: Snippets

Photograph from Auntie Beeb

Gulf War veterans everywhere should thrill to hear that Auntie Beeb says there is evidence linking chronic health problems suffered by Gulf War veterans to exposure to pesticides and nerve agents, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

One-third of veterans of the 1991 war experienced fatigue, muscle or joint pain, sleeping problems, rashes and breathing troubles, the article says.
A US Congress-appointed committee on Gulf War illnesses analysed more than 100 studies in the research.

It found evidence linking the problems to a particular class of chemicals.

These were an anti-nerve gas agent given to troops, pesticides used to control sand-flies, and the nerve-gas sarin that troops may have been exposed to during the demolition of a weapons depot.
Dr Beatrice Golomb of the University of California, San Diego, the committee's chief scientist, has basically stated that the reason some people were affected, and not others, is due to genetic variance. We strongly believe that sooner or later U.S. health insurance companies will use genetic testing to deny health care claims to those unfortunate enough to have exposure to toxins that sicken them.
"Convergent evidence now strongly links [...] acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors to illness in Gulf War veterans," Dr Golomb told Reuters.

[...] unlike the most recent conflict in Iraq, the ground conflict during the 1991 Gulf War lasted only a few days, she added.
We're guessing that's a polite way of warning that the fit will hit the shan and there is a vast store of as-yet-undetected, undiagnosed, or unreported illnesses that will result from Dumbya McFuckwit's Excellent Adventure in murdering Iraqis and Americans alike.

En route to the Little Shop of Horrors (the dentist) today, we had the much-maligned opportunity to sit in traffic for lengthy periods, inhaling fuel exhaust. Preferring nitrous with our oral torture, we returned, somewhat addled and pained, to research just how good pollutants are for the functioning human brain, and, surprise! Auntie Beeb asserts that they are not!
According to researchers at Zuyd University in the Netherlands, humans who spent as little as an hour in a room filled with exhaust from a diesel engine came away with not just headaches, but altered brain functions as well. The findings were published in the journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology.

Scientists have known nanoparticles reach the brain when inhaled, but this is the first time they have been shown to affect how we process information.

The volunteers were wired up to an electroencephalograph (EEG) and monitored during the period of exposure and for an hour after they left the room.
After about 30 minutes, the brains of those in the exhaust rooms displayed a stress response on the EEG, which is indicative of a change in the way information is being processed in the brain cortex.

This effect continued after they were no longer in the room.

"We can only speculate what these effects may mean for the chronic exposure to air pollution encountered in busy cities where the levels of such soot particles can be very high," said lead researcher Paul Borm.
Ken Donaldson, professor of respiratory toxicology at the University of Edinburgh, calls the study "very interesting, and potentially important." The article also referred to a study of dogs in Mexico. Apparently, those who lived in highly-polluted Mexico City had brain lesions similar to those seen in Alzheimer's patients, while those who lived in much less-polluted rural areas showed a much lower rate of damage to the brain.

We would like to take this opportunity to indulge in a little baseless speculation regarding the overwhelming increase in Alzheimer's disease, as revealed by anecdotal yawp by those of our acquaintance. We note, together with Brass and Ivory, that MS, which is the central topic of that worthy (and newly-discovered) blog, also results from lesions in the brain.

If you, or anyone you know, has MS, you might consider frequenting Brass and Ivory for support, information, and the sense of spiritual well-being that comes from knowing that you are not alone, and no, it's not "all in your head." In a manner of speaking.

In the spirit of further indulgence in baseless speculation, let us also point out that Listeriosis, commonly contracted from contaminated food, may not kill you but it will give you summat in the way of lesions of the CNS (central nervous system) and brain. Listeria monocytogenes is often found in milk, which is an excellent medium for bacterial growth, and the bacterium thrives under refrigeration. It is associated with listeric mastitits in cows, which in turn is associated with administration of BGH (bovine growth hormone).

Anyone ever had a kidney stone? Any of you, that is. We haven't, and hope, by the imbibing of the product of the noble vine coupled with humongoscads of our good clean local water, to avoid any such unpleasantness. We're reliably informed by sources that the experience is sort of like popping one's first sprog, but we're not able to offer a comparison of pain.

Good news for you lot, though. Researchers at Boston University just conducted a study on the possibility of using Oxalobacter formigenes, a naturally occurring bacterium, as a "probiotic" treatment for kidney stones. Results are available in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

It is not always clear what causes kidney stones, although they tend to be more of a problem in hot, dry places. In some people, they form naturally and recur at every opportunity.

They range in size from a grain of sand to a pearl. They can be smooth or jagged, and are usually yellow or brown. They can block the urinary tract, cause infection or severe pain, and even lead to kidney failure, sometimes even before the stone can be identified. They will afflict between five and fifteen per cent of the population, but seem to target people aged 20 to 40.

Up to 80% of kidney stones are predominantly composed of a compound called calcium oxalate. O. formigenes breaks down oxalate in the intestinal tract.

Don't celebrate just yet. According to a urologist interviewed for the article, clinical trials of a probiotic are still a ways off.

Meanwhile, Raw Story warns us that one in four teenage girls has an STD (sexually-transmitted disease). And the way the mainstream media has picked up on this story makes you wonder how much teenage cooter these people are indulging in; no wonder the American public has no idea how many have died in Iraq. The media's busy telling them all about teenage pussy, instead. Pertinent excerpts:
A virus that causes cervical cancer is by far the most common sexually transmitted infection in teen girls aged 14 to 19, while the highest overall prevalence is among black girls — nearly half the blacks studied had at least one STD. That rate compared with 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-American teens, the study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

About half of the girls acknowledged ever having sex; among them, the rate was 40 percent. While some teens define sex as only intercourse, other types of intimate behavior including oral sex can spread some infections.
Media peeps, the interest in this article wouldn't have anything to do with the drug giant Merck developing a handy-dandy little vaccine named Gardasil, would it? Being as how they're practically trying to force it up the snatch of every pre-teen child, and all?

Fortunately, we have no children, so we don't have to make this judgment call, but it must be tough. To the best of our knowledge so far, the effectiveness of Gardasil has been studied in a mere 20,000 women between 16 and 26 years of age, with follow-up lasting between 2 and 4 years. It does not protect against all types of HPV, of which there are over 100; Gardasil protects against four. It does not protect recipients who might already have been exposed to any of the four types of HPV against which it is effective (in other words, it is not a treatment). It has not been tested in the age group (11-12 years) for which it is being recommended. Two to four years is a very short follow-up for any vaccine, let alone a recombinant-DNA type vaccine.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) points out, among other things, that "At least 15 oncogenic HPV types have been identified, so targeting only 2 types may not have had a great effect on overall rates of preinvasive lesions." Which is a more scholarly way of saying that it only protects against two types of HPV that can cause cancer, and there are 15 such types. Moreover, the number of women who actually get cervical cancer from these particular types of HPV virus appears to be small, and it is not clear how effective the vaccine is against viruses that cause the type of lesion that leads to invasive cancers.

Please read the NEJM article, if you can. If you have a preadolescent daughter, do the research. The day has yet to dawn when Big Pharma aggressively pushed a drug whose sole value lay in its lifesaving properties.

We, meanwhile, will amuse ourselves with wondering why it is that no one is bothering to study the incidence of STDs in teen boys. After all, those sexually active little girls had to get their STDs on with someone, and let's hope it was a teen boy and not some repulsive aged, flabby, haggard old fart.

Meanwhile, researchers over at the Medical University of South Carolina are telling us that adding a glass of wine to your daily sup has shown a quick heart-protecting effect. We could've told them that, but we're just as happy for them to be backing this up with some hard, non-anecdotal evidence.

Regrettably, although your daily sip will reduce what the researchers euphemistically term "cardiac events" while improving your HDL cholesterol levels, they added a sentence in the article that makes us long for another glass of wine to deaden its effect:
There was no difference in deaths over the four-year follow up.
Apparently, if yer gonna kack, yer gonna kack. But you might want to reduce your cholesterol en route. Feh. If we're gonna kack, we'd rather have a relatively swift "cardiac incident" send us toes up, instead of dragging around with cancer or, worse yet, Alzheimer's. Disirregardless, as they say in the better schools of this fair land, we'll do it with wine, thanks, and hopefully we'll be sozzled enough not to give a good shit when it hits.

We leave you with a truly awful joke.

Doctor: Mr. X, I have some good news and some bad news, which do you want first?
Patient: Ah, give me the bad news, Doc, I can handle it.
Doctor: Mr. X, I'm sorry, but our tests show you have cancer.
Patient: Oh. What's the good news, then?
Doctor: You have Alzheimer's.
Patient: Oh, thank GOD! I was afraid you were going to tell me I had cancer!

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At 8:04 AM, Blogger Kathy NC said...

My name is Kathy, and I am the primary caregiver for my 79 year old Dad who has Alzheimer's disease and lives with me in North Carolina.

I am writing a daily blog on my Alzheimer's caregiver website that shows the lighter side of caring for someone with dementia.

I have also added over 100 pages of resources for caregivers that I have gathered over the three years Dad has lived here.

Please pass this link along to anyone you feel would enjoy it.



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