Book Review: Polio: An American Story

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2015 by neandergal

Polio: An American StoryPolio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another must read for anyone entering the biological sciences..! A great medical history book that really gives an insight into the human fight against the Poliovirus that left children permanently disabled, and sometimes in an iron-lung. This book brings home the torment suffered by children and parents alike during the desperate search for a prevention throughout the decades of the last century.

View all my reviews

Tolerating the Deploreable

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 23, 2015 by neandergal

I’m an atheist and the screenshot of a Facebook discussion thread below is what some people would like to do to me and other atheists. Is it representative of all Christians? No, of course not. The point is though that there are tenets of the Christian religion that do call upon this type of bile and venom towards non-believers. It’s like how ISIS and Islamic countries respond to some other Muslims, infidels and those who have committed apostasy. The point is that apologists of Islam, will excuse similar sentiments below by saying, “Oh that isn’t representative of Islam”. Well let’s just ask those who express such sentiments towards non-believers and ask if they are representing Islam. They would say, “Yes.” Let us ask the people below in this screenshot and ask if they are representing Christianity, and without a shadow of a doubt, they would say in resounding unison, “Yes!”

Here is the difference: The people below are mute compared to their Islamist counterparts. They are mute because I am safe from people like this because I live in a democratic Western nation that guarantees my rights — especially as a woman. Where people like this would not be mute is in countries that subscribe to such bile and venom and would condemn people like me to death for apostasy and non-believers. Those would be Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, and many other Islamic nations. The order of magnitude is phenomenal and that is the clear difference — order of magnitude. The kind of extremism we speak of is the norm in those countries. And many excuse it time and time again in the threads of internet discussions, mainstream news outlets and the politically correct mealy mouths of celebrities.

Anyone condemning Islam and its extreme elements is a bigot or intolerant. There is little defense for the very tolerant standing up towards the very intolerant. The irony is that most of the criticism towards criticism of Islam is from the left. Next time someone bleats about the Crusades and other such events of times gone centuries by, remind them of the difference and how we should look at what we are faced with now. Point out how these religions have diverged rather than converged. These are our times and we own them. Speak up and speak out against those who want to crush how you think and what you think. And that includes the apologists. What you see below is lame chicken feed compared to what is going on in other parts of the world.
Facebook

Facebook “discussion” tread.

Want to help fact-check breaking news like the Malaysian airplane disaster? Here’s how and where you can do it

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2014 by neandergal

Excellent article on fact checking the proliferation of information and separating mis/disinformation that can often litter our social-media news feeds.

Ask a Scientist : “So What’s a Parasite Anyway?” Lecture Jim McKerrow Cont.

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2013 by neandergal
Ascaris


Ascaris

Parasites, parasites of the intestinal walls! Which is the most gross of them all? The most gross parasite title has to go to the most common of helminths, Ascaris lumbricoides.

According to the World Health Organization, Ascaris Lumbricoides infects approximately 30% of the world’s population. Infections for the most part, are in the rural areas of developing countries that use untreated human waste for fertilizer and irrigation. Without access to clean water and expensive fertilizer, farmers are left with little else to use, but human waste to grow their produce. A 2008 report in National Graphic news on the use of Human Waste cites that 200 million farmers world wide use human waste for fertilizer. The eggs from human feces used as fertilizer end up in the soil where they can stay fertilized for up to 10 years.

The eggs find their way into the human food chain via contaminated unwashed hands during food preparation, unwashed fruit and, or undercooked vegetables or fruit. When fertilized eggs are ingested, the eggs hatch in the upper intestinal tract where the larvae then penetrate the wall and move into the portal and systemic circulatory system. Once in the circulatory system, the larvae enter the lungs. In the lungs, the larvae penetrate aveoli walls and make their way up the bronchial tree to the throat. The larvae is swallowed by the host and ingested. In the lower intestines, the larvae attaches to the mucosa of the wall and feeds off the host’s partly digested food and grows to an adult. Adult Ascaris lays up to 200,000 eggs per day. The eggs are then excreted in feces. The infected feces returns to the land as fertilizer and the life-cycle of A lumbricoides repeats.

The Ascaris worm grows to approximately 30cm and about 2-4mm in diameter. The females are a little thicker and longer with their vulva making up a third of the length of the body. Gulp!

Sources:
Introduction to Microbiology, 9th Edition, Tortora, Gerard.J, Funke, Berdall R., Christine L. Case. Publisher: Pearson Benjamin Cummings. 2007 print.
Center for Disease Control – Ascariasis page
National Geographic 2008 report on use of human waste as fertilizer.
Ask a Scientist website
Dr. J. McKerrow UCSF page.

Ask a Scientist : “What is a Parasite” Featuring the Tapeworm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 6, 2013 by neandergal

Tapeworm Specimen

Tapeworm Specimen… Click the image to view the segments (proglottids) that contain testes and ovaries.

This is a continuation of the lecture on parasites by Dr. Jim McKerrow from the Department of Pathology at the University California San Francisco. Jim presented his parasites, or rather his lecture on them, at the StrEAT Park in the Mission District in San Francisco.

The diners absorbed details of the the tapeworm over their Mexican food and beer from the various food trucks in the food park. Warmed by the overhead gas lamps in the tent, we learned how we can become infected with tapeworms from eating undercooked pork or beef.

These parasitic helminths, Taenia saginata (beef Tapeworm), or Taenia solium (pork tapeworm), reside in the intestines of its definitive host by hooking their four heads (or scolex) into the walls of the intestines and absorbing nutrients intended for the host. It can reside there for up to 25 years.

SEM tapeworm

The scolex of the tape worm. Note the four suckers.

This not so little flat worm reaches lengths of up to 6 meters… The strange sexual beast contains both reproductive organs. Each segment or proglottid making up the length of the worm contain ovaries and testes. There may be up to a 1000 proglottids making up the length of this flat worm. Remember; this creature is approximately 6 meters long. That’s a lot of balls. This parasite can create many more tapeworms as each mature poglottid breaks down and releases eggs which end up in feces of the definitive host.

The eggs make their way into the next host (intermediate host) when it consumes infected food from the feces, or eggs from the feces. The eggs hatch in the intestines and the larvae make their way to the liver, lungs and or, brain and develop a cyst. One cyst produces many scoleces (heads) or larvae. When these cysts are consumed by the unsuspecting human or animal, the scoleces (singl. Scolex) will embed into the intestinal wall of its host and the cycle continues.

Fettuccine anyone…? 

Additional sources:
Introduction to Microbiology, 9th Edition, Tortora, Gerard.J, Funke, Berdall R., Christine L. Case. Publisher: Pearson Benjamin Cummings. 2007 print.
CDC Taeniasis (Tapeworms)
Ask a Scientist website
Dr. Jim McKerrow page at UCSF

Ask a Scientist : “So What’s a Parasite Anyway?”

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2013 by neandergal

rhodnius_prolixus“So What’s a Parasite?” was one of a lecture series called, “Ask a Scientist”. The lectures are for “curious humans” and I for one am curious about parasites and other nasties.

I attended the lecture by Dr. Jim McKerrow from the University California San Francisco’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine on parasites that took place in a toasty warm tent heated by gas lamps at the SF StrEAT Park in the Mission, San Francisco.

Anyway, I just want to share some gross pictures and remind you how the Lord God made all these creatures great and small; very, very small. Some of these creatures are so small that they live in the guts of bugs and some organisms are so small that they burrow into the skin infecting various organs reining havoc on their host by making them extremely sick and sometimes even killing them.

As the audience drank beer and tucked into their Mexican food from the various food trucks in the StrEAT park, Jim started by introducing the dining audience to the parasite responsible for Chagas’ disease. Chagas’ disease is a protozoan that damages the cardiovascular system.The protozoa Trypanosoma cruzi grows in the gut of the bug and is transmitted by the triatomine bug via its feces. The bug bites the skin of its victim and defecates in or near the wound which subsequently irritates the person or animal who then scratches the wound rubbing the feces into the wound even more. T. cruzi makes its way into the bloodstream and hides in the muscular wall of the heart and intestines causing damage.

Parasite - Trypanosoma cruzi

The parasite can be transmitted across the placenta from the infected mother to her baby. All blood for blood transfusion in the USA is tested for the T. cruzi parasite since many of them remain in the blood stream.

According to the World Health Organization, 7 to 8 million people worldwide are infected with Chagas’ Disease — many of whom are in Latin America.

More bugs to follow… Stay tuned and don’t scratch!

Additional Sources:

WHO Media centre Factsheets
Ask a Scientist website
Dr. Jim McKerrow page at UCSF

Big Pharma Conspiracy and Kooks, Oh My!

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , on October 22, 2011 by neandergal

       The anti-vaccination lobby are convinced of big-pharma conspiracies; the wicked witch of FDA is corrupt, etc, etc. That is their single line of defense along with the isolated study that confirms their belief that vaccines harm. Anti-vaxxer kooks refuse to acknowledge hundreds of studies across developed nations showing that vaccinations do not cause harm and that vaccines do not, or ever have caused autism.

       In kook-land, the lack of critical thinking is astonishing. Which is more probably? Doctors, pharmaceutical companies, governments from all over the world are in cahoots with each other to harm children in the name of profit, or that as nations, and as human beings, we really just simply want to stop the spread of disease and ultimately eliminate it?

       Let’s stop for a moment to think about what if there really was a conspiracy between all the doctors, nurses, clinicians, every single person that worked for a pharmaceutical company, every government agency, educator and anyone else involved in healthcare from ALL OVER THE WORLD were all in cahoots to make a PROFIT by deliberately harming children? That is a heck of a lot of people all working together and keeping a secret of monumental proportion.

       Now lets think about if the conspiracy was true.

       If the conspiracy theories were actually true, who exactly would it benefit and to what end? If the big-pharma conspiracy was true, wouldn’t someone, somewhere down the line unveil the truth BACKED UP BY EVIDENCE in the form of DOCUMENTATION?

       In actual fact, if the drug companies, governments, et al really wanted to profit from all of this, then wouldn’t it behoove them to allow children to get sick from so-called “harmless” diseases so they could treat their disabilities from illnesses by discouraging vaccinations?

       Anti-vaxxers are not skeptics, they are deniers. They filter out any evidence presented to them that conflicts with their belief that vaccines harm. The process of filtering is refered to as confirmation bias in psychology. Deniers employ the fallacy of confirmation bias repeatedly with their beliefs being constantly reinforced by only surrounding themselves with people that think exactly the same way as they do.

       As proponents of evidence-based medicine, medical researchers examine just that; evidence. IF there was a shred of evidence (and there isn’t), they would examine it and possibly change their minds based on new evidence.

       No evidence exists that suggests vaccines cause autism or other harm that outweighs the benefit of vaccinating. As a matter of fact, subsequent studies confirm over and over again that vaccines are safe and that the very small element of risk does not compare to the overwhelming benefit of vaccinating large proportions of the population.

       A little less emotion and a little bit of critical thinking analysis by pulling back the curtain of reason would reveal the ridiculousness of belief in elaborate conspiracies. Only then can the anti-vaccine kooks draw the conclusion that vaccinations do not harm and that the profit motive behind harming children is utter nonsense.

       Bertrand Russell said that, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and that the intelligent are full of doubt.” Unfortunately, the anti-vaxers will stick close together and continue to march along the yellow brick road to utter stupidity.

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