Health


Shipping CratesAccording to a new study just released in the current issue of Science, “over half a million shipments of wildlife containing >1.48 billion live animals have been imported by the United States since 2000…[and] the majority (92%) of imports were designated for commercial purposes, largely the pet trade.” Most of these imports were fish and species of coral, although all major groups of animals were imported.

That is a lot of animals; roughly 4.8 animals per person in the Unites States (estimated population in US is 304,000,000 according to Google)! Unfortunately, this study also found that a large number of these shipments did not contain the proper information to determine what exactly was being imported. According to this study, almost a third of the shipments were only labeled generically, using labels like “marine fish” or “live invertebrate.” This may be cause for concern, considering most of the imported animals were from wild populations in places like Southeast Asia, which has a high threshold of emerging diseases, which may be transmissible between animals and humans.

The authors of this study, including scientists from the Wildlife Trust, Brown University, Pacific Lutheran University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Global Invasive Species Programme, suggest that new measures are needed to decrease the risk of new pathogen introduction and to protect not only people, but also local animals and the health of our ecosystem. Unfortunately, there is currently no national strategy, legislative authority, or funding devoted to oversight of the live wildlife trade to implement any changes, but this study recommends much more strict record keeping of imported animals, third-party surveillance of imports and testing of pathogens in imported animals, and better public education about the dangers of diseases that may be brought in to the country.

The CDC’s “Healthy Pets, Healthy People” Web site advises pet owners about zoonotic diseases associated with some wildlife, but not only do pet owners need to be more aware of what they are bringing into their homes. Pet stores, veterinarians, and animal advocates should also be more educated on the risks of imported wildlife and how possible diseases may effect their businesses.

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Imagine not being able to buy a new pair of pants or even shoes that fit. Imagine not being able to buy lunch today. Or yesterday and the day before.  Imagine not being able to feed your children. Is this poverty? To some, yes. To others it is just the beginning. Now envision not being able to take your infant for her first check up and vaccinations. Or not being able to pay $0.50 for medication to treat your children’s hookworm infection. All over the world, these problems are happening right now.

You may think, “what does poverty have to do with science and medicine?” But increases in poverty have been linked with many infectious diseases including hookworm infection, Chagas disease, malaria, and syphilis as well as other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, and dental disease.

Not only do these ailments exist mainly in poverty stricken areas, but these diseases actually promote the continuation of poverty. These diseases have numerous detrimental effects on pregnancy and healthy childbirth, the growth and development of children, and the productivity of adults. This vicious cycle of poverty and disease are close bedfellows and both need to be addressed to take a step towards eradicating poverty on a global scale.

If you search poverty and disease on pubmed, you come up with over 3,500 hits. Many researchers have shown correlations between poverty and health problems, and some are trying to do something about it. The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases Control is a partnership formed in 2006 as the first ever global effort to combat these diseases. Working with the World Health Organization, these groups are trying to increase awareness of the problems associated with the injurious poverty-health cycle, as well as change how these problems are dealt with.

It is not enough just to treat the disease. Likewise, it is not enough just to improve sanitation and housing. In addition to these steps, which are already being done, education in destitute areas, monitoring for new outbreaks, and continuing research and development of vaccines to prevent instead of merely treat disease are crucially important.

sources include:

Hotez. Hookworm and Poverty. Ann N.Y. Acad Sci. 200825 Jul. 1136: 38-44

Hotez et al. Neglected Infections of Poverty in the United States of America. PLos Neglected Tropical Diseases 2(26): e 256

Vogt R. Evaluation of riske factors and a community intervention to increase control and treatment of asthma in a low income semi-rural California community. J Asthma. 2008 Sep; 45(7): 568.

Squassi A, et al. Reationship between oral health in children and poverty related factors. Acta Odontal Latinoam. 2008; 21(1): 49.

Hotez, et al. The anti-poverty vaccine. Vaccine. 2006 26 July 24(31-32); 5787.

Sara Davidson: Pleasant Dementia and Inner Peace | Newsweek Health for Life | Newsweek.com.

I read this article in Newsweek today. It was very interesting, and somewhat uplifting in a strange way. Sara Davidson chronicles her mother’s slide into dementia. Her mother turns into a very pleasant, in-the-moment type of person, with little anger towards her lack of memory.

“Pleasant Dementia” doesn’t turn up any articles in a very quick pubmed search, but this term has apparently generated a lot of interest since the Newsweek article went online. In the article, it is suggested that damage to the frontal lobes or the left hemisphere of the brain may cause this phenomena. Many people commenting on the story suggest that a frontal lobotomy may make dementia “easier” to accept…An interesting idea, but perhaps a bit hasty. I am curious to see if any researchers pick-up this line of research to delve deeper into why some people become “pleasantly” demented while most become angry and difficult to work with.

This just in – Marijuana holds promise as antibacterial drug! Not only can we use pot as a drug for cancer pain-relief, multiple sclerosis treatments, and glaucoma; but it may soon be used to treat drug-resistant bacterial infections. Ok, so it’s not quite that simple, but the following NY times article reveals new research from Italy and Britain implicating the active ingredient in marijuana, cannabinoids, may be the next line of defense in combating microbes that are becoming resistant to current antibiotics.

Observatory – Marijuana Ingredient May Fight Bacteria – NYTimes.com.

 

 

 

 

Finally, paralyzed people may be able to walk among us. According to an article I found on Rueters online, a new robotic suit may help keep the paralyzed wearer upright and propel them forward.

The device, called ReWalk, is the brainchild of engineer Amit Goffer, founder of Argo Medical Technologies, a small Israeli high-tech company.

Something of a mix between the exoskeleton of a crustacean and the suit worn by comic hero Iron Man, ReWalk helps paraplegics — people paralyzed below the waist — to stand, walk and climb stairs.

This new device may be a godsend in helping paraplegics boost their overall health – both physically and mentally. Physically, it helps use muscles that normally require intensive physical therapy to prevent atrophy. Mentally, it give the user a chance to be on eye level with everyone else and become less dependent on others to help them navigate through a world built for walking upright. To see more of the challenges facing people in wheel chairs, you should watch the FX series 30 Days with Morgan Spurlock where former NFL player Ray Crockett is confined to a wheelchair for 30 days! It is a great episode and really makes you think.