Category Archives: Health

Chicken smells drive malarial mosquitoes away


Not only do chickens provide eggs, table meat, and Jewish penicillin; they also appear to possess mosquito-repelling aromas, offering a new way for folks to keep them at bay.

From BBC News:

The smell from a live chicken could help protect against malaria, researchers have found.

Ethiopian and Swedish scientists discovered that malarial mosquitoes tend to avoid chickens and other birds. The experiments, conducted in western Ethiopia, included suspending a live chicken in a cage near a volunteer sleeping under a bed net.

>snip<

The scientists, whose research was published in the Malaria Journal, concluded that as mosquitoes use their sense of smell to locate an animal they can bite there must be something in a chicken’s odour that puts the insects off.

Addis Ababa University’s Habtie Tekie, who worked on the research, said that the compounds from the smell of the chicken can be extracted and could work as a repellent.

Field trials for this stage of the research are now “in the pipeline”, he told the BBC.

Antioxidants may do more harm than good


One of thousands of products peddled with the promise of antioxidant health benefits.

One of thousands of products peddled with the promise of antioxidant health benefits.

You hear about them all the time, and countless foods and supplements containing them are peddled with promises that they’ll fix you up, keep you healthy, and put a little extra spring in your step.

But do antioxidants really fulfill all that hype? Or can filling up on them actually be harmful to your health?

A new cautionary note has been sounded in a study from scientists in Britain and the Netherlands, and our post includes the announcements from their respective universities.

First, from Maastricht University:

Researchers Professor Pietro Ghezzi of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Professor Harald Schmidt of Maastricht University urge caution in the use of antioxidants. Many people take antioxidants to treat or prevent disease. Ghezzi and Schmidt’s research has shown that such supplements help only in clear cases of vitamin deficiency, and that some antioxidants may even have harmful effects. The study has been published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

Gut microbes linked to Alzheimer’s progression


The human body is an interspecies cooperative, the with bulk of the cells in our body belonging to other species than homo sapiens, primarily the bacteria within out gut that enable us to digest the food on which our very lives depend.

But those bacteria excrete all manner of chemicals, and we’re only now beginning to learn that the complex stew they brew impacts us in very many ways.

Previous posts have noted newly established links between our intestinal microbes and multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, anorexia, Alzheimer’s disease, and even our emotional states.

And now comes the latest bombshell: Our intestinal inhabitants impact the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

From the University of Chicago:

Long-term treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics decreased levels of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and activated inflammatory microglial cells in the brains of mice in a new study by neuroscientists from the University of Chicago.

The study, published July 21, 2016, in Scientific Reports, also showed significant changes in the gut microbiome after antibiotic treatment, suggesting the composition and diversity of bacteria in the gut play an important role in regulating immune system activity that impacts progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’re exploring very new territory in how the gut influences brain health,” said Sangram Sisodia, PhD, Thomas Reynolds Sr. Family Professor of Neurosciences at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study. “This is an area that people who work with neurodegenerative diseases are going to be increasingly interested in, because it could have an influence down the road on treatments.”

Two of the key features of Alzheimer’s disease are the development of amyloidosis, accumulation of amyloid-ß (Aß) peptides in the brain, and inflammation of the microglia, brain cells that perform immune system functions in the central nervous system. Buildup of Aß into plaques plays a central role in the onset of Alzheimer’s, while the severity of neuro-inflammation is believed to influence the rate of cognitive decline from the disease.

For this study, Sisodia and his team administered high doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics to mice over five to six months. At the end of this period, genetic analysis of gut bacteria from the antibiotic-treated mice showed that while the total mass of microbes present was roughly the same as in controls, the diversity of the community changed dramatically. The antibiotic-treated mice also showed more than a two-fold decrease in Aß plaques compared to controls, and a significant elevation in the inflammatory state of microglia in the brain. Levels of important signaling chemicals circulating in the blood were also elevated in the treated mice.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Headline of the day II: Is nothing sacred?


BLOG Gauloises

Back in the days when we were black turtlenecks and hing out in coffee shops [long before espressos and lattes were trendy], we’d buy the occasional pack of Gauloises because, well, all them French existentialists and jazz musicians smoked ’em. That or Gitanes [literally, Gypsies].

So did guys like Serge Gainsborough, one of our favorite directors.

But, alas, no more [even though we’ve given up the evil weed, save for the very occasional puff or too].

From the Guardian:

Smokers fume as France mulls ban on ‘too cool’ Gitanes and Gauloises

Tobacco firms demand clarification of new public health law that could see some brands outlawed for being too trendy

Map of the day II: The AIDS crisis continues


From Agence France Presse:

Some 2.5 million people are still becoming infected with HIV every year even as drugs have slashed the death rate, a global AIDS study says.

Some 2.5 million people are still becoming infected with HIV every year even as drugs have slashed the death rate, a global AIDS study says.

Another version of the urge to purge, in Brazil


This time the targets of folks who have done a lot of good for Brazil’s poorest.

From teleSUR English:

Cuba is negotiating an extension beyond November for some 2,400 doctors in Brazil working under the joint social program “Mais Medicos (More Doctors).

Implemented by the government of suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the program has benefited nearly 63 million poor people.

According to an agreement reached by the Pan American Health Organization and the Brazilian Ministry of Health, the doctors will stay until at least November – after the Olympics in Rio and the country’s municipal elections. The new announcement follows a visit last week by the deputy Minister of Public Health of Cuba, Marcia Cobas Ruiz, who met in Brasilia with health authorities.

However, interim President Michel Temer announced last May that he wants to reduce the number of foreign doctors in the program from 13,000 to 3,000.

Since it was proposed, the social program has been criticized and opposed by pharmaceutical and medical corporations, as well as right wing politicians in the country.

Fracking wells linked with increased asthma rates


Fracking, the extraction of shale-trapped of oil and gas by hydraulic fracturing, using water laced with a noxious brew of chemicals injected under high pressure to break up the readily fissile rock and trigger the release of the precious hydrocarbons.

Fracturing has been fraught with problem, ranging from the contamination of drinking water wells to the release of chemically laden water from containment ponds into nearby streams and lakes.

Most infamously, fracking has given us home water taps so loaded with natural gas that a spark gives us a mix of water and flame.

Which leads to a question, expressed in music and animation by students of Studio 20 at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University:

The Fracking Song (My Water’s On Fire Tonight)

Program notes:

“My Water’s On Fire Tonight” is a product of Studio 20 NYU (http://bit.ly/hzGRYP) in collaboration with ProPublica.org (http://bit.ly/5tJN). The song is based on ProPublica’s investigation on hydraulic fractured gas drilling (read the full investigation here: http://bit.ly/15sib6).

Music by David Holmes and Andrew Bean
Vocals and Lyrics by David Holmes and Niel Bekker
Animation by Adam Sakellarides and Lisa Rucker

The fracking/asthma link established

And now comes evidence that fracking also leads to a rise in asthma in nearby residents.

From the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore [H/T to Newswise]:

People with asthma who live near bigger or larger numbers of active unconventional natural gas wells operated by the fracking industry in Pennsylvania are 1.5 to four times likelier to have asthma attacks than those who live farther away, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.

The findings [open access], published July 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine, add to a growing body of evidence tying the fracking industry to health concerns. Health officials have been concerned about the effect of this type of drilling on air and water quality, as well as the stress of living near a well where just developing the site of the well can require more than 1,000 truck trips on once-quiet roads. The fracking industry has developed more than 9,000 wells in Pennsylvania in just the past decade.

“Ours is the first to look at asthma but we now have several studies suggesting adverse health outcomes related to the drilling of unconventional natural gas wells,” says study leader Sara G. Rasmussen, MHS, a PhD candidate in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. “Going forward, we need to focus on the exact reasons why these things are happening, because if we know why, we can help make the industry safer.”

For the study, Rasmussen and her colleagues analyzed health records from 2005 through 2012 from the Geisinger Health System, a health care provider that covers 40 counties in north and central Pennsylvania. The study is a joint effort of the Bloomberg School and the Geisinger Health System. Hopkins researchers identified more than 35,000 asthma patients between the ages of five and 90 years. They identified 20,749 mild attacks (requiring a corticosteroid prescription), 1,870 moderate ones (requiring an emergency room visit) and 4,782 severe attacks (requiring hospitalization). They mapped where the patients with these attacks lived; assigned them metrics based on the location, size, number, phase, total depth and gas production of the wells; and compared them to asthma patients who didn’t have attacks in the same year.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading