September 22, 2016
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Researchers have identified biological markers in both gut bacteria and blood that can be used to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome - also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS - in more than 80 percent of patients tested. ME/CFS is currently difficult to diagnose – it was only last year that it was properly classified as a real disease, and the existing treatment options are limited and controversial... the researchers found that ME/CFS patients had less diversity in their gut bacteria than the control group - specifically, fewer bacterial species that were anti-inflammatory and more which were pro-inflammatory....
The CDC reports that one million Americans have CFS. This illness strikes more people in the United States than multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many forms of cancer....CFS occurs four times more frequently in women than in men;... The illness occurs most often in people in their 40s and 50s...CFS occurs in all ethnic and racial groups and in countries around the world....People of all income levels can develop CFS. With his son terribly ill, a top scientist takes on chronic fatigue syndrome
In 2011, a study published in The Lancet claimed that it had done exactly that: The data, the authors declared, showed that a combination of exercise and talk therapy could significantly alleviate the symptoms of the disease, and even cure it fully in up to 20 percent of cases. Immediately, the study (also called the PACE trial) was both hailed as a great leap forward and criticized as bad science.
And now, definitive proof has emerged that the latter camp was correct. In a column published in Stat today, writer Julie Rehmeyer — herself a CFS patient — explained how a supposed breakthrough blew up so spectacularly. Soon after the study was published, Rehmeyer wrote, she and other CFS patients, skeptical of the study’s claims, began to examine it more closely. What they found looked a lot like manipulated data:
But patients like me were immediately skeptical, because the results contradicted the fundamental experience of our illness: The hallmark of ME/CFS is that even mild exertion can increase all the other symptoms of the disease, including not just profound fatigue but also cognitive deficits, difficulties with blood pressure regulation, unrestorative sleep, and neurological and immune dysfunction, among others.
Soon after I was diagnosed in 2006, I figured out that I had to rest the moment I thought, “I’m a little tired.” Otherwise, I would likely be semi-paralyzed and barely able to walk the next day.
Research published the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest Chronic fatigue syndrome may be a human version of 'hibernation'
After looking at the 612 different metabolites...They found that 80 percent of the metabolites were lower in those with CFS. They also found what they described as “abnormalities” in 20 of the metabolic pathways. All this suggests that the metabolism of people with CFS is markedly slowed down.....although humans do not, in fact, hibernate, he said the “metabolic signature” is similar to that of animals in hibernation.... If that were the case, he explained, curing people of CFS may be akin to waking the body up. Davis said it’s possible that the treatment may not be anything radical; it might involve putting the body back in balance with the right mix of diet and supplements.
But even Davis cautioned that however alluring the paper’s implications are, “it is only a hypothesis.” The scientists are now trying to replicate the PNAS study with a larger sample size.
September 18, 2016
Let them eat dirt
In the Wall Street Journal, more evidence on the importance of the microbes in our gut to our health.
Most human communities have experienced the benefits of medical advances like antibiotics, vaccines and sterilization, which have radically reduced the number and severity of infections that we suffer throughout life. Dying from a microbial infection is now a very rare event in the Western world, and, in the U.S., lifespans have increased by some 30 years since 1915—in large part because of success against infectious diseases.
Our anti-microbe mission has been accompanied, in industrialized countries, by an explosion in the prevalence of chronic noninfectious diseases and disorders. Diabetes, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases, autoimmune diseases, autism, obesity and certain types of cancer are at an all-time high. The incidence of some of these disorders is doubling every 10 years, and they are starting to appear sooner in life, often in childhood.
The practical upshot of all this research is clear: Our health depends to a large degree on maintaining a robust and diverse community of microorganisms in our bodies—and establishing good gut-health as children is especially important.
Inflammatory diseases (such as asthma, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease) and metabolic diseases (such as obesity and diabetes) are characterized by alterations in our immune system and our metabolic regulation. Knowing what we do now about the role of the microbiota, it is not surprising that these diseases are being diagnosed in more children. They are, to a great extent, a consequence of relatively recent changes in our lifestyle—modern diet, oversanitization, excessive use of antibiotics—that have altered the specific microbes that affect our metabolism early on.
Never before in human history have babies and children grown up so cleanly, and our diets have lost many of the elements most crucial to the health of our guts. We have become very bad hosts to our microbes. By preventing babies and children from following their innate impulse to get dirty, we shield them from the microbial exposure that is essential for the development of a healthy immune system.
September 17, 2016
The Fight Against Superbugs
A simple breath test could soon help doctors in the war against superbugs. Scientists have worked out how to instantly tell whether someone needs antibiotics for a chest complaint. Compounds were found in patients' breath who have respiratory infections; those who exhaled certain compounds also had specific bug in their lungs The research, which experts hope will eventually be used to build a licensed breath test, could slash the rate of antibiotics prescribed for coughs and colds. Experts fear that the overuse of antibiotics is driving a superbug epidemic that will kill more people than cancer by 2050.
Researchers have discovered a compound in an Antarctic sea sponge that's capable of killing 98 percent of the drug-resistant superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - better known as MRSA - which is rapidly spreading throughout the US.
The discovery of this new compound, which has been named 'darwinolide', is so exciting. Researchers found it inside an Antarctic sponge, Dendrilla membranosa, and initial lab tests have shown that it's able to kill 98.4 percent of MRSA cells.
The star-shaped 'peptide polymers' - dubbed SNAPPs - tear down cell walls in their attempts to defeat mutated bugs, experts claim. They aren't toxic to the body and pose no risk to patients. Genetically engineered, the molecules kill bacteria in different ways than most antibiotics which are designed to halt growth. Images appear to show bacteria exploding when attacked by the proteins. Lead researcher Shu Lam said: 'This discovery could potentially be developed as an antibiotic replacement for treating bacterial infections that do not respond to currently available antibiotics anymore.We are still at a preliminary stage and need to perform more detailed assessments on the star peptide polymers."
When a 43-year-old Chicago woman caught a sinus infection in 2009, she never imagined it could kill her. But five years later, after multiple antibiotics had failed to work, her body began to shut down: She could barely eat, her vision suffered, her head spun, and her joints ached. She had contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of about 20 multidrug-resistant superbugs that together infect about two million people in the United States every year, killing 23,000 of them.
Desperate, the woman turned to the internet, where she discovered a treatment called phage therapy, an alternative to antibiotics that is not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration but is attracting excitement as our national stockpile of antibiotics grows increasingly less potent. In July of last year, the world's first scientific trial of the therapy began in Europe. In January, the National Institutes of Health dedicated funds to studying it here. And this month, a startup called AmpliPhi Biosciences, in partnership with the U.S. Army, released the results of the first major FDA study of the treatment's safety.
This is a coup for a medical technique that was popular before the discovery of penicillin and which has for years only been available in countries like Russia, Georgia, and Poland. It's a lot like returning to old warplanes from modern fighter jets and realizing that the original planes had certain advantages all along.
The "phage" in phage therapy is short for bacteriophage, which is a type of virus that infects bacteria rather than people. "Phages are extremely specific for the bacteria we want to kill," says Robert Ramig, a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine. Each virus prefers a single species, so doctors can target bad bacteria and spare beneficial strains. In cases where bacteria develop resistance to the phages, doctors just create a new cocktail. Or they can give patients phages and antibiotics at the same time. "For some reason, when bacteria become resistant to phages, they lose their resistance to antibiotics, which often become effective again," says Ramig. "The bacteria lose either way.
Revolutionary Alzheimer's Drug
The first drug that can prevent Alzheimer’s disease is finally on the horizon after scientists proved they can clear the sticky plaques from the brain which cause dementia and halt mental decline. Hailed as the "best news" in dementia research for 25 years, the breakthrough is said to be a potential "game changer" for people with Alzheimer’s.
Scientists said they were amazed to find that patients treated with the highest dose of the antibody drug aducanumab experienced an almost complete clearance of the amyloid plaques that prevent brain cells communicating, leading to irreversible memory loss and cognitive decline.
Crucially they also found that after six months of the treatment, patients stopped deteriorating compared with those taking a placebo, suggesting that their dementia had been halted. "The results of this clinical study make us optimistic that we can potentially make a great step forward in treating Alzheimer's disease," said Prof Roger Nitsch, at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Zurich.“In the high dose group the amyloid has almost completely disappeared. The effect size of this drug is unprecedented.
While current therapies ease the symptoms, aducanumab tackles the underlying damage in the brain, raising hopes it will be the first to alter the course of the disease. It contains an antibody that homes in on amyloid, the protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer's, poisoning and killing the cells. In future, healthy pensioners could be prescribed the drug to ward off dementia, in much the same way as statins are given today to those at risk of heart attacks.
The Massachusetts-based biotech company Biogen will bring the product to market. The drug which targets brain plaque in Alzheimer’s has been granted a speedier process based on its success, and is now undergoing phase III trials, which doctors say will determine how effective the drug is in large populations. If successful, it would be the first Alzheimer’s treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration in over a decade.
September 12, 2016
An even darker side to identity theft
When victims of identity theft become criminal suspects and law enforcement or creditors mistakenly targeted them because someone else used their identity to commit crimes.
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, taking billions from American consumers each year. Now the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has uncovered a more insidious form of stolen identity that can also take your freedom.
The Federal Trade Commission monitors identity theft crimes nationwide. The Investigative Unit combed through years of FTC complaint data and found nearly 15,000 reports since 2013 from victims of identity theft who mistakenly had criminal and civil actions waged against them.
NBC Bay Area’s investigation found that the current system to track and catch identity thieves is so fragmented thousands of people like Jennifer become trapped for years, unable to extract themselves, even when they do everything officials tell them to do.
It’s a nightmare that dental assistant Jennifer Vrooman says she has been living for over a decade.
After a decade of saving every receipt, every memo, every police report and credit application, Jennifer Vrooman says she’s done everything to protect herself, yet still finds her entire life stolen held hostage to that person out there who might pop up and use her identity again.
The flair of a good insult
Our storehouse of insults could surely use replenishing, and for this re-stocking operation there’s no better place to go than the slang of the 19th century – a time of truly colorful and entertaining verbiage. These old-fashioned put-downs have a flair that modern insults lack — they’re clever, nuanced, descriptive, and quite amusing (at least to the issuer and those who overhear, if not to the receiver!).
Afternoon Farmer - A laggard; a farmer who rises late and is behind in his chores; hence, anyone who loses his opportunities.
Cad - A mean fellow; a man trying to worm something out of another, either money or information.
Duke of Limbs - A tall, awkward fellow.
Fussbudget - A nervous, fidgety person.
Fribble - A trifler, idler, good-for-nothing fellow; silly and superficial.
Gadabout - A person who moves or travels restlessly or aimlessly from one social activity or place to another, seeking pleasure; a traipesing gossip; as a housewife seldom seen at home, but very often at her neighbor’s doors.
Gasser - Braggart.
Ginger-Snap - A hot-headed person.
Grumbletonian - A discontented person; one who is always railing at the times.
Poltroon - An utter coward.
Nincompoop - A fool.
Stingbum - A stingy or ungenerous person.
Wrinkler - A person prone to lying.
September 11, 2016
The Fifteenth 9/11
Ben Sturner, the self-professed amateur photographer captured a striking ray of light beaming off World Trade Center on September 8, 2016. He described it as a "weird, reflective light" that lasted for about 10 minutes.
There are still wonderful untold stories about that fateful day.
Fifteen years ago, the most incredible marine rescue occurred on the island of Manhattan. BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience (video at link).
THEY WENT IN to fight a fire. They’re alive, they say, because they stayed together to save a life. This is the story of Ladder Company 6 and a woman they call their guardian angel, Josephine Harris.
"We wouldn't be shooting it down. We'd be ramming the aircraft," she told The Post. "I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot."
Penney, whose nickname is coincidentally Lucky, was a 26-year-old rookie pilot at the Andrews Air Force Base at the time. Not only had she just completed air combat training, but she was also part of the first group of female combat pilots our country has ever had.
The Tribute in Lights is a truly great memorial displayed from sundown on September 11 until sunrise on September 12 to honor those who were lost on 9/11. The New York Times as a wonderful video of The Towering Lights of 9/11.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Welles Crowther sat at his desk on the 104th floor in the south tower of the World Trade Center and dialed his mother’s cellphone. His mother, Alison, never heard the call. Welles left a short message. “Mom . . . this is Welles. I . . . I want you to know that I’m OK.” The time was 9:12 a.m. They were the last words his family would ever hear him speak.
Twenty-four years old and fresh from college, Welles put his firefighting ambitions aside for a job with Sandler O’Neill, a small but powerful investment banking firm in the World Trade Center. He may have looked the part of an investment banker, but there was one unorthodox piece to his personal dress code, not visible at first. It was a constant, tucked in the back right pocket of every set of trousers and every pair of suit pants. It was a red bandanna his father had given him when he was a boy. “You can always keep this back there,” his father, Jeff, told him then. “You’ll always have it if you need it.” From that moment, he kept it in his back right pocket, every day
......The FDNY credits Welles with saving at least five people. It is impossible to say for sure, but it could’ve been more.
The story of the man in the red bandanna, and those he saved, would spread....A replica red bandanna is on display at the museum today — in tribute to Welles.
Peggy Noonan Remembering a Hero, 15 Years After 9/11
Welles was beloved—bright, joyous, grounded. Family was everything to him. He idolized his father, Jefferson, a banker and volunteer fireman. They went to the firehouse together when Welles was a child. Welles would clean the trucks, getting in close where no one else could fit. One Sunday when Welles was 7 or 8 his mother dressed him for church in his first suit. His father had a white handkerchief in his breast pocket. Could he have one? Jefferson put one in Welles’s front pocket and then took a colored one and put it in Welles’s back pocket. One’s for show, he said, the other’s for blow.
“Welles kept it with him, a connection to his father,” said Alison Crowther this week by phone. “He carried a red bandanna all his life.” It was a talisman but practical, too. It could clean up a mess. When he’d take it from his pocket at Sandler O’Neill they’d tease him. What are you, a farmer? That is from Tom Rinaldi’s lovely book “The Red Bandanna,” which came out this week. He’d tease back: “With this bandanna I’m gonna change the world.” And he did.
The way I see it, courage comes from love. There’s a big unseen current of love that hums through the world, and some plug into it more than others, more deeply and surely, and they get more power from it. And it fills them with courage. It makes everything possible.
People see the fallen, beat-up world around them and ask: What can I do? Maybe: Be like Welles Crowther. Take your bandanna, change the world.
The Tribute in Lights, seen while looking up from inside one of the two installations