Archive | May, 2013

Transplanting Feces

13 May

There are types of diseases that require a special treatment. In particular, people that have contracted Clostridium difficile bacteria and have not been able to find a cure, may now have hope?

Dr. Josbert Keller’s completed new study finds

“… that such transplants cured 15 of 16 people who had recurring infections with Clostridium difficile bacteria, whereas antibiotics cured only 3 of 13 and 4 of 13 patients in two comparison groups. The treatment appears to work by restoring the gut’s normal balance of bacteria, which fight off C. difficile.”

The treatment requires that feces from healthy patients is transplanted into the guts of the infected patients.

Have dogs been self- medicating all this time?

The original article quoted above is from the New York Times.

Introduction to Epigenetics

10 May

These days there is a distinct lack of personal responsibility. Honestly, personal responsibility is not easy, and it’s so easy to transfer it to someone else.

Beyond the scope of drugs, guns and lawyers, there is the world of DNA. Today we’re told that our DNA controls everything, providing yet one more reason to vanquish personal responsibility.

Welcome to the world of epigenetics. The short explanation of epigenetics is that it is the study of how our bodies can and do, over-ride our DNA signals. The ability to over-ride our DNA can be passed down over generations, or it can be simply a response to other environmental stimulus that we encounter.

I was made aware of this through the PBS program “Ghost In Your Genes”. At the core of the show, they discuss a Swedish study that found a correlation between generations based upon famine. They discuss the way the epigenetic transfer took place to grandchildren, whose grandparents went through famines.

What catches my attention now, even more than it did before is an excerpt from the show from

ANDREW FEINBERG: Epigenetic changes…generally they stand at the cornerstone between our genome—in other words, all of our genes, the development of the cells of our body—and the environment that we live in.

We have no idea what impact there are to future generations based upon what we are doing today to our environment. Perhaps we’re developing epigenetic signals to fight the impact of chemicals in our system. Perhaps we’re not…

And DNA is not the entire picture on how the body deals with the environment.

Two Apps of Interest – AndroidLost and Splashtop

8 May

Ever lost or misplaced your phone?  There really is nothing to worry about other than any physical damage that may happen to the phone, thanks to an app called AndroidLost.

AndroidLost allows you to take charge of your phone, or any other android device, like a tablet, and perform a host of tasks. Let’s say my phone was actually maliciously stolen. Using a PC, and logging into my AndroidLost account, I could have the GPS location sent to my email account as well as a picture of the “new” owner. If I was simply paranoid about personal information on the phone, I could just “wipe” it clean. As I understand, this activity would occur without the “new” owner knowing anything about it.

Big Brother could be watching you.

Another app of interest for any Mac, PC, or Linux user is Splashtop. Again, using a login from your desktop, and after installing the app on your PC and device, Splashtop allows you to take control of your PC from your phone or tablet. Very interesting, but only useful for some unusual situations.

There are many more out there, but I find these two of particular interest today.

Organic Food and GMOs

6 May

Recently, California tried to pass legislation that would require food to be labeled in regard to the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). From information that is readily available, it would appear simpler to only require it when GMOs are not used. The way the industry sells the “usefulness” of GMOs, you’d think they’d want to point out to consumers those products that “do not contain GMO sources”, as a “health risk”.

Instead, the legislation did not pass. Now normally this might not be such a big deal. But now it appears that the labeling for “organic” products is being distorted to allow for GMOs in organic food. One would think that an extremely basic premise for an organic product would be one whose seed came from nature.. The USDA in particular clearly states what is required for organic labeling on their website.

Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used. (Source : http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop )

Additional information on the subject can be obtained from this article from The Alliance for Natural Health.

Does anybody know. “Are peanuts sold in the US genetically modified?” Answer may lie in a University if Florida Publication. They appear not be be genetically modified as seed appears to be readily available.

Insecticides and Bees

4 May

For some time now, perhaps beginning in 2006, there has been a concern around the world about a problem with bees. Known as Colony Collapse Syndrome, population of bee colonies are on a decline. The official statement from USDA is:

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a serious problem threatening the health of honey bees and the economic stability of commercial beekeeping and pollination operations in the United States. Despite a number of claims in the general and scientific media, a cause or causes of CCD have not been identified by researchers.

There are others who think that pesticides and even genetically modified farm crops are the cause. Pesticides are by design not good for insects. A specific pesticide known as neonicotinoids is widely in use in the US and considered the front runner as the major cause of CCD.

The European Commission had been working toward a ban on the use of neonicotinoids, against protest from the chemical companies. In April of 2013, the EU decided to implement a continent wide ban on the use of neonicotinoids. Even though the member vote (15 for ban, 12 against) was not the wider majority usually required, the decision was passed to the European Commission, who decided to go forward with the ban.

Within the US this week, a plan for no action was taken.  A report, by the Department of Agriculture and the EPA, blamed a list of possible factors for the cause of CCD. Even though pesticides, in particular neonicotinoids could be the cause, they felt that more studies were in order.

Health Quality Partners (HQP) and Hospital Incentives

1 May

There is a very good article written by Ezra Klein in the Washington post entitled :

If this was a pill, you’d do anything to get it

It is a story about the Health Quality Partners, who in Doylestown Pa., go about improving the lives of chronically ill patients. They have nurses who  visit patients in their homes on a weekly basis to discuss their conditions and progress. It’s a proven process that improves the quality of life for their patients and reduces the overall cost of care. Unfortunately it is on the chopping block under the new Healthcare program. There does not appear to be enough money to be made in the program.

Ezra’s article goes on to chronicle what really incentivizes the healthcare system to run on all cylinders when it comes to making money :

If you go into the hospital for heart surgery and you end up getting a central-line infection, you’d hope that the hospital would be penalized for it. The opposite, in fact, is true. According to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, surgical complications increase the margin the hospital makes on the patient by 330 percent for the privately insured and 190 percent for Medicare patients.

The Health Quality Partners in effect, are holding back chronically ill patients from hospitals with their in-home care. That is where the cost benefits are demonstrated. The profits on the other hand, are derived when these chronically ill patients enter the hospital.

We seem to be coming up with solutions on a daily basis, only to see them shot down for their “effectiveness”.

Check out the article in full from the link above.