Archive | The Body Electric

Antibiotic Resistance

It’s kind of Zen, don’t you think? The response to being overpowered is… stop fighting!

OSLO, Norway — Aker University Hospital is a dingy place to heal. The floors are streaked and scratched. A light layer of dust coats the blood pressure monitors. A faint stench of urine and bleach wafts from a pile of soiled bedsheets dropped in a corner.

Look closer, however, at a microscopic level, and this place is pristine. There is no sign of a dangerous and contagious staph infection that killed tens of thousands of patients in the most sophisticated hospitals of Europe, North America and Asia last year, soaring virtually unchecked.

The reason: Norwegians stopped taking so many drugs.

Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway’s public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics.

Now a spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway’s model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying these deaths — 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS — are unnecessary.

“It’s a very sad situation that in some places so many are dying from this, because we have shown here in Norway that Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA] can be controlled, and with not too much effort,” said Jan Hendrik-Binder, Oslo’s MRSA medical advisor. “But you have to take it seriously, you have to give it attention and you must not give up.”

The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is one of the leading public health threats on the planet. A six-month investigation by The Associated Press found overuse and misuse of medicines has led to mutations in once curable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, making them harder and in some cases impossible to treat.

Imagine That

I found a tirade against acupuncture at one of those “scientific” skeptic sites to which people always refer me to prove their own superiority, and I had to laugh. Some people are so determined to protest anything that can’t be measured in a test tube. Never mind that it actually, you know, works for at least some things:

Acupuncture designed to treat depression appears to improve symptoms in pregnant women, suggesting it as an alternative to antidepressant medication during pregnancy, a study found.

The study, published Monday in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, is the largest to date examining the effectiveness of acupuncture to treat depression in pregnant women. It was funded by a grant from the government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. “Acupuncture that we have tested works for pregnant, depressed women,” said Rachel Manber, a study author and professor at Stanford University. However, “no single study is enough to make policy recommendations,” she said.

Depression in pregnancy is a risk factor for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is associated in some studies with poorer cognitive and emotional development in children. Some have linked depression in pregnancy and low birth weight.

Public Service

I had yet another suspicious-looking mole removed last night. I left the house at 4:30 and got out of the doctor’s office at 8. This is a lot of aggravation (not to mention the $50 co-pays) but since I’m already at high risk for skin cancer (three stage-2 sunburns, blonde hair, light eyes), I gotta do it while I still have insurance.

So far, all but one biopsy has contained cells in the early stages of various skin cancers – squamous, basal cell – so I’m glad they’re gone. The doctor was suspicious this one might be a melanoma. (And here, I thought it was just a tiny dark freckle.)

This time, because it was my leg and not my back, I got to watch. I didn’t realize they actually punch out a core of tissue and then stitch it closed. (If you like that sort of thing, you can watch how it’s done here.)

I had a push: A friend who went through the full cycle of chemo and radiation for malignant melanoma and now peers at everyone else’s uncovered skin. “That’s what mine looked like. You really need to get that checked out,” she says to everyone she meets. (Thanks, Jean, I did!)

And now I’m pushing you. The only really painful part is the co-pay – that, and the long wait in the waiting room. But if you have a skin growth that concerns you, or you’ve never been checked by a dermatologist, go get it done.


I don’t know how new this information is, because I read this back when my dad was sick. Two of the highest risk factors are soda and cured lunch meat. My dad drank diet soda and ate lunch meat almost every day of his life:

MONDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) — People who down two or more soft drinks a week may have double the risk of developing deadly pancreatic cancer, compared to non-soda drinkers, new research suggests.

But the overall number of people developing the malignancy remains low, with the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimating 42,470 new cases last year.

“Soft drinks are linked with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer,” said Noel Mueller, lead author of a study appearing in the February issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. “We can’t speculate too much on the mechanism because this is an observational study, but the increased risk may be working through effects of the hormone insulin.”

This study refers specifically to sugared soft drinks, but there’s also evidence that diet drinks affect insulin, too.

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