Emerging Disease and Zoonoses #22–Popeye never warned you about this

E. coli outbreak traced to tainted spinach

An outbreak of E. coli in eight states has left at least one person dead and 50 others sick, federal health officials said Thursday in warning consumers nationwide not to eat bagged fresh spinach.

The death occurred in Wisconsin, where 20 others were also sickened, said Dr. David Acheson of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. The outbreak has sickened others — eight of them seriously — in Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah.

FDA officials do not know the source of the outbreak other than it appears to be linked to bagged spinach. “We’re advising people not to eat it,” Acheson said.

(More below)
Continue reading “Emerging Disease and Zoonoses #22–Popeye never warned you about this”

Well, this is going to tick some people off

The new vaccine against the human papilloma virus is something I’ve discussed a time or ten here. Reaction to the vaccine by many religious groups has morphed with time, from outright resistance to a more common stance right now that they’re accepting of the vaccine, but don’t want it to be mandatory. Well…

Michigan legislation would require girls to get HPV vaccine

Michigan girls entering the sixth grade next year would have to be vaccinated against cervical cancer under legislation backed Tuesday by a bipartisan group of female lawmakers.

The legislation is the first of its kind in the United States, said Republican state Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, lead sponsor.

A government advisory panel said that ideally, the vaccine should be given before girls become sexually active.

The American Cancer Society estimates that cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 9,700 women nationwide, and that 3,700 will die.

“We believe we can save the lives of these girls,” Hammerstrom said.

Guess who doesn’t like the idea, and why?
Continue reading “Well, this is going to tick some people off”

Semmelweis: ID hero

You may or may not be familiar with the name Ignaz Semmelweis. It’s not one that’s typically taught to school children, like Koch or Pasteur may be. He even tends to get glossed over in upper-level biology courses. But Semmelweis was an important figure in the history of microbiology (indeed, I picked his work as the greatest experiment in my field). Here’s what I wrote about him in that post:

Semmelweis was a physician in Vienna in the 1840s, with an interested in “childbed fever,” a leading cause of mortality in women who’d given birth. During this time, he noticed that the mortality rate from this disease in a hospital division where medical students delivered babies was 16%, while in a division where midwives delivered them was ~2%. It was also known that childbed fever was rare when women gave birth at home. Semmelweis thought there was something the med students were doing that served to raise the rates of childbed fever in those divisions.

In 1847, Semmelweis’ friend, another physician, died due to a wound acquired while performing an autopsy. Semmelweis examined the tissues of his friend, and noticed the pathology there was similar to those in women who’d died of childbed fever. According to history, this led to his “eureka” moment: medical students performed autopsies, and midwives did not. The students must be bringing some contagious agent from the autopsy room back to the delivery room.

To test this, Semmelweis instituted a procedure, requiring students to wash their hands in a chlorine solution before entering the maternity ward. Mortality dropped dramatically, and Semmelweis extended the procedure to include surgical instruments as well. However, colleagues scoffed. Semmelweis actually lost his job, and took a position in Budapest–where he again instituted his handwashing protocol, with similar incredible results. Sadly, he died in 1865 in an asylum, disgraced.

Of course, many of you realilze that IDers love to tell the stories of scientists who were persecuted and scorned when they first proposed their idea, only to have history vindicate them. They compare their own ID supporters to Galileo, Barry Marshall, and other noted scientists (and, of course, Dembski’s been called the “Isaac Newton of information theory,”) and like to pretend that, like these esteemed scientists, history will give them the last laugh. Well, it seems that Semmelweis also has become something of an iconic figure to some who support “intelligent design.” More after the jump.
Continue reading “Semmelweis: ID hero”


It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.
–Oscar Wilde

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since the collapse of the twin towers. In September 2001, I was still a graduate student in Ohio, with about another year to go until I finished my degree. I was in early that morning to get an experiment started, and shortly before 9AM, a grad student from the lab down the hall stopped in to tell us to turn on the radio. It was still pretty much utter confusion at that point, with reports that one plane had hit the World Trade Center, but no one knew exactly what was happening yet. Was this a horrible accident? At that point we still went around our business. The experiment that I was setting up was a quantiative real-time PCR, and because the real-time cycler was shared equipment that we had to sign up for, I needed to get the plate set up and started on time or else tick off the person who was next after me in line. So I mixed, diluted, and pipetted, trying to pay attention to the wells instead of the craziness playing out on the radio.
Continue reading “09-11-01”

Pediatrics Grand Rounds 1.11

The newest edition of Pediatric Grand Rounds is up over at Breath Spa for Kids.

Additionally, don’t forget that the latest edition of Animalcules will be up later this week at Viva la evolucion!. Because of some scheduling issues for this month’s host, it’ll be up on Sunday the 17th instead of Thursday the 14th. In the meantime, send your enties to me (aetiology AT gmail DOT com) or Salva (vivalaevolucion AT hotmail DOT com).