• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


    from Twitter


    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Sanity, Melioidosis, & Agent Orange

    After working from 10:30pm to 5pm the next day, and only getting 1 and a half hours of sleep, I've finally regained my sanity (if I ever had it). I have to say, that spank the booty site is pretty dumb, but I still like the spank the monkey (it plays that song if you get over 200 mph).

    Anyway, the reason for the long hours is that my PI (principle investigator), Dr. Richard Robison, is giving a lecture today at the University of Utah as part of their Distinguished Lecture Series:Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biodefense.

    Anyone who can make it, please come. It promises to be a very interesting discussion of meliodosis and the cytokine expression of Burkholderia pseudomallei, a tropical disease found in about 50% of all rice patties in Southeast Asia.

    For a recent article in Nature on melioidosis, click the link. You may need a subscription. For an example, one professor at BYU got melioidosis when traveling in Vietnam during the war, and it stayed latent until a couple years ago (the disease can strike within 48 hrs, but may stay latent for decades before causing pathogenesis). He checked into the hospital because he was going crazy. He saw bugs crawling all over the ER, but thought it was normal because the hospital wanted to "get back to nature." Finally he told the doctors about his condition when he got sick of the talking monkeys in his hospital room. Nobody could figure out what he had. He almost died when one day a tropical disease specialist happened to see his chart, diagnose melioidosis, and give him the proper medication. He lost the ability to talk and walk, and much of his memory, but now has rehabilitated and is back at BYU.

    One quote from the article says:
    That was when [Wipada] Chaowagul teamed up with Nick White, who now directs the Wellcome Trust's southeast Asia programme, but was then heading up its Bangkok unit. The trust, Britain's largest biomedical research charity, has a long-standing interest in tropical diseases, and so agreed to launch a clinical trial to test a newer antibiotic, called ceftazidime. It halved the death rate. ... But Chaowagul still loses more than 40% of her patients.

    ...Against this gloomy background, the NIAID's biodefence initiative has provided a beacon of hope. Burkholderia pseudomallei has not yet been used as a biological weapon, but its close relative, B. mallei, was used as a biological agent in the First World War. It causes glanders, a disease that kills horses and, more rarely, people. The bacterium was spread by German troops in an attempt to disable the Russian army's horses and mules.
    With all the justifiable focus on human rights and politics in Southeast Asia, we often forget that most people care more about their health than the government they live under. Diseases such as melioidosis devastate families and communities every year without even a blink of an eye from developed nations.

    Another article in the 7 April 2005 edition of Nature talks about Vietnam and Agent Orange. For those of you with interest into the still broiling debate over the past use and effects of Agent Orange, read it. This article is interesting because it documents the breakdown of study on the chemical. In the article it says,
    The United States used Agent Orange to reduce forest cover during the Vietnam War. But since the war's end in 1975, Vietnam has suffered a high number of birth defects — estimated to be 2−3 times the expected number in some areas — which it blames on the defoliant.

    The herbicides that made up Agent Orange were contaminated with dioxins, a highly toxic group of chemicals. But a lack of reliable epidemiological studies means that there is uncertainty over the suspected link between dioxins and birth defects. Such studies are difficult to do in part because a single test for dioxins costs US$1,400.

    The joint US−Vietnamese research project would have analysed dioxin levels in 300 mothers of babies with birth defects, along with 300 mothers of healthy children. The study was approved in May 2003 by the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. But the institute pulled the plug on the project last month because, after two years, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health had still not approved the research protocols needed to begin the work.

    No comments: