Every parent’s nightmare

Sometimes, I’m really, really glad that I didn’t go into medicine. Via Pediatric Grand Rounds and Flea comes this story of a baby’s death from herpes encephalitis. I mentioned previously that, while I work with pathogens that have been isolated from someone who had a serious infection, or even died, it’s easy to just think of them as bacteria, rather than the cause of someone’s death. Just studying their evolution and pathogenicity is interesting unto itself, but sometimes we need to be reminded again *why* we’re studying these–and this story again is one of those reminders.

Tangled Bank #66

Check out the best science blogging of the past two weeks over at Eastern blot.

And while we’re on the subject of carnivals, Animalcules will return next week after a month’s hiatus. Send any entries you’ve written recently about all things microbiological my way for now (aetiology at gmail dot com). Since we missed a month, go ahead and send two if you like; I’ve certainly not had enough time recently to do much blog reading either, so if you’re written something good on the topic, I’ve probably missed it.

Circumcision and the risk of STDs

Male circumcision is a difficult topic to discuss rationally. At the core, it’s a medical procedure, but it’s one tinged with centuries of cultural influences, and emotions tend to run high on both the pro- or anti-circumcision side of the discussion. One of the reasons that’s been given in favor of circumcision is that it lowers the risk of disease, including diseases transmitted by sexual contact. However, while this data has been fairy unambiguous regarding some diseases (including the reduction in HIV transmission due to circumcision), the effect circumcision has on the spread of others has been less clear. A new paper addresses this ambiguity, and finds that routine circumcision could reduce STD rates by as much as half.
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Abstinence-only education for the “Friends” generation

Apparently, it’s just not enough for this administration to push ineffective and inaccurate abstinence-only education programs for our schoolchildren. Nope–they’re also being emphasized for adults up to the age of 29, as well:

If you’re single and in your 20s, the federal government wants you to steer clear of sex.

That’s the new guidance for states under the Department of Health and Human Services’ $50 million Abstinence Education Program. HHS officials say it’s not a requirement — just another option for states to combat what they call an alarming rise in out-of-wedlock births.

(More after the jump…)
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