China Faces ‘Serious’ Epidemic of Drug-Resistant TB

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2012 by lauriestonesoup

by Staff Writers Washington (AFP) June 6, 2012

@Earth Science News

China faces a “serious epidemic” of drug-resistant tuberculosis according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of the size of the problem there, said a US-published study on Wednesday.

“In 2007, one third of the patients with new cases of tuberculosis and one half of the patients with previously treated tuberculosis had drug-resistant disease,” said the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Even more, the prevalence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB in new cases (5.7 percent) was nearly twice the global average, said the study.

Using World Health Organization figures as a basis for comparison, “China has the highest annual number of cases of MDR tuberculosis in the world — a quarter of the cases worldwide,” it added.

“China has a serious epidemic of drug-resistant tuberculosis.”

 

The data came from a survey of more than 4,600 Chinese people who were recently diagnosed or treated for TB.

Patients for the study were treated at local TB clinics, not hospitals, and the survey was conducted by the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory (NTRL) of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control.

According to an accompanying editorial by Johns Hopkins University infectious disease specialist Richard Chaisson, the growth of drug-resistant TB presents an “enormous challenge.”

Even more concerning was the finding that most of the 110,000 drug-resistant cases were in people newly diagnosed with the disease, suggesting that the virulent bacteria are being transmitted from person to person and not developing solely as a result of a person prematurely stopping treatment.

“MDR tuberculosis is linked to inadequate treatment in both the public health system and the hospital system, especially tuberculosis hospitals; however, primary transmission accounts for most cases,” said the study.

Chaisson said the findings highlight the need for faster testing, and for new cases of TB to be tested for signs of drug resistance, not just recurrent forms.

In China, over one million new tuberculosis infections occur each year — a large chunk of the estimated nine million new cases worldwide annually.

Known formally as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, TB spreads through the air when infected people cough up bacteria. TB kills about 1.5 million people worldwide each year.

Often it can be cured with antibiotics, though drug availability is limited in the developing world and sometimes patients do not follow the entire regimen of treatment, which can encourage the development of resistant strains.

The study was funded by the Chinese Ministry of Health. —(Terra Daily)

66-foot Concrete Dock Washes Ashore in Oregon, May be from 2011 Japan Tsunami

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2012 by lauriestonesoup

By Eric Pfeiffer

Reporter

(AP Photo/The Oregonian, Lori Tobias)

A massive, 66-foot concrete dock mysteriously washed up on the Oregon shore this week. And officials are trying to figure out if the floating structure had traveled all the way from Japan after the March 2011 tsunami.

Local affiliate KATU reports that the dock has a placard with Japanese writing that they are attempting to translate. In addition, the station traced a phone number on the placard to a business located in Tokyo.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department sent a picture of the placard to the Japanese consulate in Portland for review.

“We don’t know where it’s from,” said Chris Havel with the parks department. “We don’t know if it’s from Japan or not but we have to eliminate those possibilities as we go forward.”

Even if the dock did travel thousands of miles to reach the shores of Oregon, it did not defy physics to get arrive there. While the structure is nearly 70 feet long, 7 feet tall and 19 feet wide and made of concrete and metal, it was also reportedly designed to float.

The dock was first spotted floating offshore but has now made its way to land. Kirk Tite was walking along the beach on Tuesday with his two sons and described the dock as a “massive hunk of concrete and metal covered in sea creatures.” They also found a Japanese symbol and imprint on tires attached to the dock, although those could simply indicate that the tires themselves were made in Japan. —(Yahoo)

Six People in Intensive Care After Outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2012 by lauriestonesoup

STV 4 June 2012 17:54 BST

Legionnairesdisease, X-ray

Six people are in hospital and a further four are receiving medical attention after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Edinburgh.

NHS Lothian is investigating four confirmed and four suspected cases of the Legionella bacteria in the Gorgie, Dalry, and Saughton areas of the capital.

Six men are being treated in hospitals throughout Lothian. Five of the men are in intensive care units while the sixth is in a high dependency unit.

A further four cases, as yet unconfirmed, are also being probed.

All ten cases are linked geographically to the Dalry, Gorgie and Saughton areas of Edinburgh.

The source of the outbreak is being investigated by officials from Edinburgh Council’s Environmental Health Department and the Health and Safety Executive who are concentrating on the south-west Edinburgh area.

Steps are being taken to treat cooling towers in the area as a precaution until the source is located.

Dona Milne, acting director of Public Health and Health Policy for NHS Lothian, said: “We have four confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease which all seem to come from the same point source in the South West of Edinburgh.

“Anybody who develops symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease should contact NHS 24 immediately or go to their GP.

“The safety of the public is our number one priority and we would urge people to look out for the symptoms of this disease.”

Duncan McCormick, consultant in public health for NHS Lothian said: “Investigations into the possible source of this outbreak are on-going and we continue to urge anyone who develops symptoms of Legionnaires disease to contact NHS 24 or go to their GP.”

The cases currently under investigation arose between May 28 and Monday, June 4. All GP surgeries in Lothian are open on Monday but some will be closed on Tuesday for the Jubilee holiday.

legionnaires disease

Legionella bacteria is commonly found in sources of water, such as rivers and lakes but can also enter artificial supply systems such as air conditioning devices, hot and cold water facilities, and cooling towers. The bacteria have the potential to spread rapidly once they have entered a water system.

Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water. The condition is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person.

Symptoms usually begin within three to six days of contraction. They often originate as mild headaches and muscular pain before escalating to more severe symptoms including high fever, intense muscle pain, and chills. Once the bacteria infect the lungs, the sufferer will experience a persistent cough – dry at first but later bringing up mucus and even blood – shortness of breath, and chest pains.

There is also a risk of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite, while around half of those who contract Legionnaires’ disease will also suffer changes to their mental state, such as confusion.  —(STV)

Spider Invasion Spooks Indian Village

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2012 by lauriestonesoup
  • Professor Ratul Rajkhowa of the Department of Zoology of Cotton College, holds a dead spider that was the alleged species that killed two people in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, in the department's laboratory in Guwahati. Panicked villagers in a remote Indian state complained of an invasion of giant venomous spiders that resemble tarantulas but are unknown to local specialists. (AFP Photo/)

    Professor Ratul Rajkhowa of the …

Panicked villagers in a remote Indian state complained Monday of an invasion of giant venomous spiders that resemble tarantulas but are unknown to local specialists.

Indian media said that a dozen people had been bitten and treated in hospital, with two unconfirmed deaths reported.

“Initially we thought it was a prank, but later on we saw swarms of this peculiar kind of spider biting people,” Ranjit Das, a community elder in the town of Sadiya in the northeastern state of Assam, told AFP by telephone.

Authorities have swung into action by fogging and spraying insecticides in the area, 600 kilometres (370 miles) east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati, and a team of scientists have been dispatched to investigate.

“We visited the spot and found it akin to the tarantula, but we are still not sure what this particular species is,” said L.R. Saikia, a scientist from the department of life science of Dibrugarh University in Assam.

“It appears to be an aggressive spider with its fangs more powerful than the normal variety of house spiders,” he told AFP.

Specimens have been sent outside Assam for identification by arachnologists, he said. —(Yahoo)

Two Dead After Venomous Spiders Invade Indian Town

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2012 by lauriestonesoup
Harry Potter Spiders

OK, so the spiders in India may not be like the ones in Harry Potter. But they have killed people. Picture: Harry Potter / Warner Bros

A TOWN in India is living in fear of a swarm of venomous spiders, which last month left two people dead after being bitten.

It may sound like a B-grade horror movie, but residents of the town of Sadiya, in Assam state, say that on the evening of May 8 as they were celebrating a Hindu festival swarms of spiders suddenly appeared and attacked them, The Times of India reported.

Over the next few days two people – a man, Purnakanta Buragohain, and an unnamed school boy – died after being bitten by the spiders. Scores more turned up at the town’s hospital with spider bites.

District authorities are panicking and are considering spraying the town with the insecticide DDT.

Locals say the most terrifying aspect is that spiders appear in swarms and their behaviour is highly aggressive.

“It leaps at anything that comes close. Some of the victims claimed the spider latched on to them after biting. If that is so, it needs to be dealt with carefully. The chelicerae and fangs of this critter are quite powerful,” head of the department of life sciences at Dibrugarh University Dr LR.Saikia said.

Teams of Indian arachnid experts have flocked to the town, hoping to identify the species, but so far they have drawn a blank.

They say it could be a tarantula, a black wishbone or even a funnel-web spider – or it could be a whole new species.

One thing they agree on is that it is not native to the area as there is no record of venomous spiders in Assam. The black wishbone and funnel-web are native to Australia.

Researchers are also still running tests to find out the toxicity of the spiders’ venom.

Dr Anil Phatowali, superintendent of the town’s hospital, said they had not administered antivenin as they could not be certain the spider was venomous at all.

He also pointed out other factors may have contributed to the two reported fatalities.

“All the bite patients first went to witch doctors, who cut open their wounds with razors, drained out blood and burnt it. That could have also made them sick,” Dr Phatowali said.  —(News.com.au)

 

Plate Tectonics Cannot Explain Dynamics of Earth and Crust Formation More Than Three Billion Years Ago

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2012 by lauriestonesoup

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2012) — The current theory of continental drift provides a good model for understanding terrestrial processes through history. However, while plate tectonics is able to successfully shed light on processes up to 3 billion years ago, the theory isn’t sufficient in explaining the dynamics of Earth and crust formation before that point and through to the earliest formation of planet, some 4.6 billion years ago. This is the conclusion of Tomas Naæraa of the Nordic Center for Earth Evolution at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, a part of the University of Copenhagen. His new doctoral dissertation has just been published by the journal Nature.

“Plate tectonics theory can be applied to about 3 billion years of the Earth’s history. However, the Earth is older, up to 4.567 billion years old. We can now demonstrate that there has been a significant shift in the Earth’s dynamics. Thus, the Earth, under the first third of its history, developed under conditions other than what can be explained using the plate tectonics model,” explains Tomas Næraa. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Copenhagen)

“Using radiometric dating, one can observe that Earth’s oldest continents were created in geodynamic environments which were markedly different than current environments characterised by plate tectonics. Therefore, plate tectonics as we know it today is not a good model for understanding the processes at play during the earliest episodes of Earths’s history, those beyond 3 billion years ago. There was another crust dynamic and crust formation that occurred under other processes,” explains Tomas Næraa, who has been a PhD student at the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland — GEUS.

Plate tectonics is a theory of continental drift and sea floor spreading. A wide range of phenomena from volcanism, earthquakes and undersea earthquakes (and pursuant tsunamis) to variations in climate and species development on Earth can be explained by the plate tectonics model, globally recognized during the 1960’s. Tomas Næraa can now demonstrate that the half-century old model no longer suffices.

“Plate tectonics theory can be applied to about 3 billion years of the Earth’s history. However, the Earth is older, up to 4.567 billion years old. We can now demonstrate that there has been a significant shift in the Earth’s dynamics. Thus, the Earth, under the first third of its history, developed under conditions other than what can be explained using the plate tectonics model,” explains Tomas Næraa. Tomas is currently employed as a project researcher at GEUS.

Central research topic for 30 years

Since 2006, the 40-year-old Tomas Næraa has conducted studies of rocks sourced in the 3.85 billion year-old bedrock of the Nuuk region in West Greenland. Using isotopes of the element hafnium (Hf), he has managed to shed light upon a research topic that has puzzled geologists around the world for 30 years. Næraa’s instructor, Professor Minik Rosing of the Natural History Museum of Denmark considers Næraa’s dissertation a seminal work:

“We have come to understand the context of the Earth’s and continent’s origins in an entirely new way. Climate and nutrient cycles which nourish all terrestrial organisms are driven by plate tectonics. So, if the Earth’s crust formation was controlled and initiated by other factors, we need to find out what controlled climate and the environments in which life began and evolved 4 billion years ago. This fundamental understanding can be of great significance for the understanding of future climate change,” says Minik Rosing, who adds that: “An enormous job waits ahead, and Næraas’ dissertation is an epochal step.” —(Science Daily)

Chagas: Is Tropical Disease Really the New AIDS?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2012 by lauriestonesoup

By Dylan Stableford | The LookoutThu, May 31, 2012

Chagas, a tropical disease spread by insects, is causing some fresh concern following an editorial—published earlier this week in a medical journal—that called it “the new AIDS of the Americas.”

More than 8 million people have been infected by Chagas, most of them in Latin and Central America. But more than 300,000 live in the United States.

The editorial, published by the Public Library of Science’s Neglected Tropical Diseases, said the spread of the disease is reminiscent of the early years of HIV.

“There are a number of striking similarities between people living with Chagas disease and people living with HIV/AIDS,” the authors wrote, “particularly for those with HIV/AIDS who contracted the disease in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

Both diseases disproportionately affect people living in poverty, both are chronic conditions requiring prolonged, expensive treatment, and as with patients in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, “most patients with Chagas disease do not have access to health care facilities.”

Unlike HIV, Chagas is not a sexually-transmitted disease: it’s “caused by parasites transmitted to humans by blood-sucking insects,” as the New York Times put it.

“It likes to bite you on the face,” CNN reported. “It’s called the kissing bug. When it ingests your blood, it excretes the parasite at the same time. When you wake up and scratch the itch, the parasite moves into the wound and you’re infected.”

Chagas, also known as American trypanosomiasis, kills about 20,000 people per year, the journal said.

And while just 20 percent of those infected with Chagas develop a life-threatening form of the disease, Chagas is “hard or impossible to cure,” the Times reports:

The disease can be transmitted from mother to child or by blood transfusion. About a quarter of its victims eventually will develop enlarged hearts or intestines, which can fail or burst, causing sudden death. Treatment involves harsh drugs taken for up to three months and works only if the disease is caught early.

“The problem is once the heart symptoms start, which is the most dreaded complication—the Chagas cardiomyopathy—the medicines no longer work very well,” Dr. Peter Hotez, a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine and one of the editorial’s authors, told CNN. “Problem No. 2: the medicines are extremely toxic.”

And 11 percent of pregnant women in Latin America are infected with Chagas, the journal said. —(Yahoo)