A woman died from a superbug that beat all 26 antibiotics available in the United States


A culture of Klebsiella pneumoniaeLarry Mulvehill/Getty

❝ If you had any doubts about the “nightmare” and “catastrophic threat” of antimicrobial resistance, take a look at this new field report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nevada public health officials tell the story of a Washoe County resident who appeared at a Reno hospital in August 2016 with sepsis. Doctors found out that she was infected with a type of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, superbug called Klebsiella pneumoniae and quickly put her in isolation. Tests showed that the bacterium, which spread throughout her body, was resistant to 26 different antibiotics — or every antibiotic available in the US.

In early September, the woman, who was in her 70s, developed septic shock and died.

❝ What makes this case particularly alarming is that the infection probably didn’t originate in the US. The woman had spent significant amounts of time in India, and while there, was hospitalized on several occasions over two years for a femur fracture and later, bone infections.

India has a major superbug issue, particularly in its hospitals. The authors of the report suggest the patient may have picked up her infection while in hospital there…

❝ This is a frightening story of a deadly bacterium doctors couldn’t control — and the real limits of our antibiotic arsenal. But it’s also a reminder of how tricky the superbug problem will be to solve without a lot of international collaboration.

RTFA, especially if you think the GOUSA can solve all its own problems alone. Mobility, communications, ease of travel compared to what was available a half-century ago, all mean little to someone who thinks the world begins and ends at their county line.

The rest of us have to be concerned with staying alive.

Koch Bros new campaign wants to convince Black folks that dirty fuel is good for them

Fueling U.S. Forward, a public relations operation funded by the Koch brothers, is trying to spread the message that Black people benefit the most from cheap fossil fuels, according to a story in The New York Times. Clean energy, they say, is a threat.

Last month, the group sponsored a toy drive and gospel concert in Richmond, Virginia. The event included a panel discussion on how the holidays were only possible thanks to oil and gas.

What went unsaid, of course, was that people of color are far more likely to be harmed by the fossil fuel industry than helped. They’re more at risk from climate change and pollution and more likely to suffer health problems tied to burning fossil fuels.

Asthma is more common among Black people than white people, partially because they’re more likely to live near coal-fired power plants and other fossil-fuel infrastructure. That’s not exactly because they want those plants in their neighborhoods; it’s because they have less power to fight them.

And on and on. Black communities, Black neighborhoods, can always be certain to receive the “benefits” of walk-in jobs from polluting industries. Same as it ever was.

Researchers find more new invasive tropical mosquitoes in Florida

❝ Two more tropical disease-carrying mosquitoes have been found on the U.S. mainland for the first time, caught in traps near Florida’s Everglades.

The scientists involved say this could raise the risk of mosquito-borne viruses reaching people and birds, but health officials say it’s too early to sound an alarm.

Think they’d keep their jobs if they raised an alarm with a thug like Scott as governor?

❝ The new arrivals from Latin America and the Caribbean — Culex panocossa and Aedeomyia squamipennis — were trapped in October in rural areas bordering Everglades National Park by University of Florida…entomologist Nathan Burkett-Cadena and…researcher Erik Blosser…

❝ In the traps, they discovered that native species were crowded out by thousands of Culex panocossa mosquitoes and hundreds of Aedeomyia squamipennis mosquitoes.

Both species can be found on a few Caribbean islands as well as from Mexico into South America. They lay their eggs on water lettuce — invasive weeds that float in the canals, drainage ditches and other waterways crisscrossing Florida neighborhoods.

“‘Hundreds’ is substantial, particularly when you get a hundred from a single trap. This is not a single specimen that blew in from a storm — this is a reproducing species,” Burkett-Cadena said.

❝ About 15 invasive mosquitoes now live in Florida, including nine that have arrived in the last decade. One, Aedes aegypti, is blamed for spreading the Zika virus, along with dengue fever and chikungunya.

The new arrivals are another sign that climate change, along with increased tourism and global trade, has made Florida more hospitable to exotic species, Burkett-Cadena said.

Populistus teabagocrap isn’t an exotic species in any of the Old Confederate states. Top it off with a governor from the latest generation of neo-con Republican and you won’t find any attention paid to potential disasters which reflect climate change. Rick Scott made a career from profiteering from the sick and poor. Then, he turned to politics and didn’t change a beat in his anti-science bongo solos.

A history of living conditions on Earth in 5 charts

world-pop-vs-poverty

A recent survey asked “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?”. In Sweden 10% thought things are getting better, in the US they were only 6%, and in Germany only 4%. Very few people think that the world is getting better.

What is the evidence that we need to consider when answering this question? The question is about how the world has changed and so we must take a historical perspective. And the question is about the world as a whole and the answer must therefore consider everybody. The answer must consider the history of global living conditions – a history of everyone.

Cynic that I am – even as an optimist – I tend to have a low opinion of my fellow Americans’ commitment to lifetime learning, understanding the world around us. This study makes it clear I should extend that analysis to our species worldwide. 🙂

Actually, things are better than that. But, I can’t resist grumbling – especially on a cold, snowy weekend moving into the mud phase.

RTFA. It serves as the debut for OUR WORLD IN DATA website. Which looks really interesting and useful.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Looking for work in a growth [har] industry?

❝ …Indeed, the marijuana industry seems set to explode. This week, Arcview Market Research announced that in 2016, the legal weed market in North America generated $6.7 billion, up 30% from 2015, when marijuana was the second-biggest growth industry in the US (after peer-to-peer lending platforms).

❝ Washington DC, and 28 states have passed laws, with various caveats, allowing medical marijuana use. As of this month, recreational cannabis is legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and DC. Possession has been decriminalized in 13 states. Overall, more than 20% of adult Americans now have access to weed, medically or recreationally.

❝ …“Canadians have had a medical marijuana program since the 1990s. I grew up knowing adults who smoked weed,” Lisa Harun, co-founder of Vapium, explains. “It’s medically recommended for 200 conditions, and it could help a lot of people who are popping pills right now.”

After more than a year of research and development, in early 2014, Vapium released its first device and there’s no going back for Harun or the company. She was a little nervous to talk to her “elders” about the new manufacturing plans at first, explaining, “I do a pulse check before launching any conversation.” But everyone’s been surprisingly receptive, from her 12-year-old nephew…to her 85-year-old great aunt, who expressed hope that the cannabis vaporizers find use in every home.

❝ Harun believes the increasing recognition of weed as therapy makes it ever-easier to get into the industry. She suggests that anyone who is interested consider either applying an existent passion to the developing marijuana market — like law or baking, say — or for those who don’t know what they love yet, use this trick to figure out a way in: “Think of a problem you want to solve and the people who suffer from it — even something simple like stress, or menstrual pain — and consider how cannabis could be or is being used to address it.”

I guess I should look at the baking side of the equation. It’s been almost 60 years since I quit smoking and even a half-legit rationale for vaping couldn’t tempt me. OTOH, if I get to where I need chemical/pharmaceutical management techniques for pain management – I’d probably try working some weed into my weekly batch of bran/blueberry muffins.

An emerging area of medical science we’ve only known about for a century or so


Professor Coffey

❝ A University of Limerick, Ireland, professor has identified an emerging area of science having reclassified part of the digestive system as an organ.

The mesentery, which connects the intestine to the abdomen, had for hundreds of years been considered a fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts. However, research by Professor of Surgery…J Calvin Coffey found the mesentery is one, continuous structure.

❝ In a review published in the November issue of one of the top medical journals…Professor Coffey outlined the evidence for categorising the mesentery as an organ…“In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date,”…

❝ Better understanding and further scientific study of the mesentery could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery and lower overall costs…

“…Up to now there was no such field as mesenteric science. Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function. If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science…the basis for a whole new area of science,” he said.

“During the initial research, we noticed in particular that the mesentery, which connects the gut to the body, was one continuous organ. Up to that it was regarded as fragmented, present here, absent elsewhere and a very complex structure. The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure,” Professor Coffey explained.

So cool, the publishers of Gray’s Anatomy have already included the research as an update to their classic.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia and others

Mediterranean diet can slow down brain aging and memory loss

❝ It has long been claimed that a Mediterranean diet is good for your health, but a new study suggests it may benefit the brain as well as the body – and could help slow down brain ageing.

A study by academics for the journal Neurology found that older people who followed a Mediterranean diet lost less brain volume over a three-year period than those who did not stick to the diet as closely.

❝ The Mediterranean diet includes large amounts of fruit and vegetables, olive oil, beans and cereal grains such as wheat and rice with moderate amounts of fish, dairy and wine and limited quantities of meat.

❝ Study author Dr Michelle Luciano of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland said: “As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells which can affect learning and memory.

“This study adds to the body of evidence that suggests the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on brain health.”…

❝ The study claims dietary difference explained 0.5 per cent of the variation in total brain volume – an effect that was half the size of that due to normal ageing.

The results were the same when researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect brain volume, such as age, education and having diabetes or high blood pressure.

There was no relationship found between grey matter volume or cortical thickness and the Mediterranean diet…

The Mediterranean diet has long been lauded by experts for its apparent ability to prevent many serious illnesses, including heart disease and breast cancer.

And it is often advocated by dieticians and nutritionists as an effective way to lose weight or stay slim because it delivers higher amounts of so-called “good” fats but is relatively low in sugar and harmful trans-fats.

I’ll second that emotion.

Though I grew up within the culture of a typical Mediterranean diet there were excesses of red meat and sugar. Not surprising in a first generation American family from the period including the Great Depression.

Though I’ve been gradually losing weight gained the last couple of years before retiring – with the encouragement of my ever-patient wife, the bullying of Essey – my iPhone, the purchase of a digital scale that measures lots of stuff and talks to the iPhone – I’ve lost 20 lbs over the past 8 months. I now weigh less than I did in 1977.

Nothing excessive. The most significant modifications being [1] reducing the amount of food consumed at any one time; [2] increasing my standards for daily exercise – which means walking – a little faster, and a mile more than previous averages. Not difficult. The changes have become habit. I eat, now, a daily amount that should eventually [gradually] knock off another 30 lbs.

Living by a busy road increases your eventual risk of dementia

❝ Living near a high-traffic road may cause more mental health problems than just sleep deprivation, according to Canadian researchers.

In a population-based cohort in Ontario, dementia, but not Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis was more common in people who lived close to a major road than those who lived further away from the road, reported Hong Chen, MD, of Public Health Ontario…and colleagues.

❝ According to Chen, “increasing population growth and continuing urbanization globally has placed many people close to heavy traffic. With the widespread exposure to traffic and growing population with dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure can pose an enormous public health burden.

“Quantitatively speaking, our study estimated that 7%-11% of dementia cases in patients who live near major roads were attributable to traffic exposure alone,” he explained…

❝ In an accompanying editorial, Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas…of the University of Montana in Missoula, and Rodolfo Villarreal-Ríos, of the Universidad del Valle de México in Mexico City, wrote that the study “opens up a crucial global health concern for millions of people.”

❝ Additionally, the researchers concluded that exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter was also linked to higher dementia incidence, but did not account for the full effect…

He also suggested that changes in transportation emissions and land use policies may help to prevent dementia and improve public health.

Living in healthful surroundings with reduced pollution and noise seems like a standard easy to understand for most human beings. Perhaps our populist blather-meisters really are extra-terrestrial aliens in disguise. 🙂

FDA says no more medically important antibiotics for livestock — Finally!


Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock

A new rule that aims to safeguard essential antibiotics for humans by limiting their use in food animals is now fully in effect.

Under the Food and Drug Administration policy, antibiotics that have been designated “medically important” — in other words, they’re needed to treat people — cannot legally be given to healthy animals to speed their growth. The policy, three years in the making, required producers of agricultural antibiotics to change labeling on the drugs to make clear they should not be used for so-called growth promotion. All manufacturers agreed to abide by the new rule.

The policy also requires that from now on, food animals can only be given medically important drugs under the supervision of a veterinarian — a move designed to restrict their use to the treatment of animal illnesses.

An FDA report on antibiotic use in food-producing animals released just before Christmas revealed that sales of medically important antibiotics rose by 2 percent in 2015, and that from 2009 to 2015 sales of these drugs to the food animal sector increased by 26 percent. The increased sales in 2015 could be the result of a commensurate rise in food animals produced — but critics of the heavy use of these drugs in agriculture note sales haven’t come down…

Scientists and public health professionals have long warned that the increasing use of antibiotics in the rearing of food animals such as chickens, pigs and cattle, and farmed fish and seafood is fueling a rise in so-called superbugs — bacteria capable of evading the drugs.

That puts at risk procedures that have revolutionized modern medicine. Organ transplants, cardiac bypass surgeries, even safe caesarean section births are an accepted part of medical practice but could become much more dangerous to perform if superbugs continue to proliferate…

As things currently stand, antibiotics can be used to prevent illness, which can also lead to prolonged use. Advocates for more judicious use of antibiotics in agriculture argue that this is growth promotion by another name. They insist disease prevention goals should be achieved through better and more humane production practices that reduce the disease risks associated with factory farming.

And, so, the battle is won; but, not the war. Humane, healthy conditions for livestock are important to the health of consumers in more ways than one. Most reasonable, informed people know this. Politicians and their appointees invoke the ever-present American god of sophistry to pretend otherwise.