Tag Archives: medicine

The Mathematics of Ebola Trigger Stark Warnings: Act Now or Regret It

The Eurosurveillance paper, by two researchers from the University of Tokyo and Arizona State University, attempts to derive what the reproductive rate has been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They come up with an R of at least 1, and in some cases 2; that is, at certain points, sick persons have caused disease in two others.

You can see how that could quickly get out of hand, and in fact, that is what the researchers predict. Here is their stop-you-in-your-tracks assessment:

In a worst-case hypothetical scenario, should the outbreak continue with recent trends, the case burden could gain an additional 77,181 to 277,124 cases by the end of 2014.

more on wired.com.

While reports on the Ebola epidemic have become a sort of a background noise in the news, the growth of the disease is exponential. Yet none of the current or aspiring global powers, all busy in conflicts small and large, is willing to take a decisive action there.

I Watched Homeopathy Fanatics Protest in London

I asked her why she felt there were different standards. “Money!” she replied. Capitalism came up with almost everyone I spoke to in one form or another, with protesters variously criticising Monsanto, Nestle and, of course, the pharmaceutical industry. Some of their arguments had merit, and I found myself nodding along with agreement on more than one occasion. It was easy to see why alternative medicine has been so welcome in the anti-big business Green Party over the years.

more on m.vice.com.

A report from a small protest of homeopathy supporters. It seems that it’s not really about science, drugs or medicine: the strengths of the movement come from the distrust to big business and its narrative. As such, homeopathy is unlikely to be defeated with mere facts and science.

Language learning makes the brain grow, Swedish study suggests

While the brain structure of the control group remained unchanged, specific parts of the brain of the language students grew. The parts that developed in size were the hippocampus, a deep-lying brain structure that is involved in learning new material and spatial navigation, and three areas in the cerebral cortex.

The later and more relevant to me part of the article explains that learning languages also slows down Alzheimer’s disease. So back to that German book.

Medical devices: A ticking time-bomb

Of over 1,700 devices checked, only 3% were found to be accurate to within three seconds. One in five were off by more than 30 minutes; one ultrasound machine was running 42 years (and some minutes) early. The average error was a staggering 24 minutes.

“When I reflect what kind of engineer I am, I am afraid to go to a doctor. Oh, wait, I AM a doctor?!”

Indian drug giant Cipla slashes cancer drug prices

Indian drugs giant Cipla said Friday it has slashed by up to 76 percent prices of generic medicines used to treat brain, lung and kidney cancer in what the company called a “humanitarian move”.

To put things into a perspective: the real costs of drugs comes from research and clinical trials phases. When patent protection expires and drugs reach generic status, the business becomes not much different from selling soda or chewing gum: the only costs are manufacturing (usually cheap) and marketing. In this case the line between “humanitarian move” and marketing is a difficult one to draw.

Modafinil and startups

What I haven’t mentioned on any of my blogs yet is that to enable me to do this, I used a (legal) drug called Modafinil, also known as Alertec or Provigil. In the startup world, where everyone is driven to get more things done than fit in the day’s waking hours, the topic of using so-called “cognitive enhancers” surfaces every once in a while.
more on swombat.com

A first-hand detailed account of the usage of a “smart-drug” Modafinil, with predictable conclusions.

Man-made super-flu could kill half humanity

Researchers in Fouchier’s team used ferrets – test animals which closely mimic the human response to influenza – and transmitted H5N1 from one to another to make it more adaptable to new hosts. After 10 generations, the virus had mutated to become airborne, which means ferrets became ill from merely being near other diseased animals.
more on rt.com

Imagine a virus with a death rate of 50% that spreads through air. That’s exactly what has been recently manufactured in a lab, causing a discussion whether results of such research should be published. The author wants to get it out. A paper with the results, that is.

My experiment with smart drugs

I picked up a book about quantum physics and super-string theory I have been meaning to read for ages, for a column I’m thinking of writing. It had been hanging over me, daring me to read it. Five hours later, I realised I had hit the last page. I looked up. It was getting dark outside. I was hungry. I hadn’t noticed anything, except the words I was reading, and they came in cool, clear passages; I didn’t stop or stumble once.

Mesmerizing story of Provigil. That must be too good to be true or harmless. Yet side effects mentioned in the article are really either minor (slight decrease of the appetite) or come without evidence from clinical trials or other research (suppression of creativity).