The microbiology of double-dipping

You’re probably familiar with the Seinfeld episode where George commits yet another social faux pas, getting caught “double-dipping” a tortilla chip. Just in time for your Superbowl festivities, turns out a soon-to-be-published manuscript (described in the New York Times) examined just how many bacteria are actually transferred by “double-dipping.” I have more at Correlations, and the Seinfeld clip is after the jump.

[Edited to add: Steve uploaded the poster describing the research here.]
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Turtles: not a kid’s best friend

An ongoing outbreak of Salmonella associated with turtles has now sickened more than 100 and caused a quarter of that number to be hospitalized:

Cases have been reported in 33 states, but mostly in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Most of the patients have been children.

No one has died in the latest outbreak, which began in August. But some patients have experienced severe symptoms, including acute kidney failure.

The most common symptoms reported to the CDC included bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever and vomiting. The median age of patients was 7 1/2 .

More after the jump…

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Administration: overdose antidote not good public health policy

Via new acquaintance Tom Levinson of the Inverse Square blog comes an all-too-familiar story of our “compassionate conservative” administration putting their own morality above proven public health programs:

Fact 1: public health officials around the country…are distributing rescue kits [containing Narcan, see below –TS] that save heroin users from overdoses. The kits cost $9.50, and they are credited with reversing 2,600 overdoses in 16 such local programs around the country. For context: NPR reports that “overdoses of heroin and opiates, such as Oxycontin, kill more drug users than AIDS, hepatitis or homicide.”

Great, right? Cheap kits, Narcan is easy to use (it can be given as a nasal spray), lives saved. What’s not to love? Well… (after the jump)
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What would it take to wipe out human rabies?

A few months back, I blogged about World Rabies Day, noting that this virus is still a huge public health threat in many areas of the world. A few weeks ago, biologist Olivia Judson wrote a post on a potential “coffin for rabies” on her New York Times blog, describing more about the reality of the disease and what we could do to practically wipe out this virus in humans. I have a bit more on it over at Correlations.

Image from

Back (barely) from the NC Science Blogging Conference

As I mentioned previously, I spent the weekend in North Carolina discussing blogging, science, medicine, and other sundry topics with about 200 other bloggers and interested folks at the 2008 Science Blogging Conference. The sessions were excellent, and I loved the “unconference” format. Science writer Becky Oskin and I ran a session on “Blogging public health and medicine,” which Mad Biologist was nice enough to summarize here. We’d started out bringing along a powerpoint presentation just in case, but the participants certainly weren’t shy about speaking up, so we ended up ditching that format and went with more of a participant-directed discussion (which still ended up touching on many of the topics we’d brought up at the wiki link above).

In addition to my own session, I also attended the session on Open Science, and how open-access publishing and blogging could work to change the way science is done, written, and communicated to others. Zuska, Karen, Pat, and Sciencewoman (with Minnow!) led a discussion on women and under-represented minorities in (and blogging about) science. The day ended with a panel discussion on The “F” word and ScienceDebate 2008, and then Jennifer wrapped up the conference discussing “Adventures in Science Blogging (see the link for much more on that).

I’m being harped-on to wrap this up, but I’ll be back with more thoughts on the conference later (and some links to the bloggers I met, which this conference has proved to me once again are simply a spectacular group of people). More plague blogging coming up in the next day or two as well…

Did Yersinia pestis really cause Black Plague? Part 3: Paleomicrobiology and the detection of Y. pestis in corpses

In parts one and two of the “What caused the Black Plague?” series, I discussed objections that had been raised to the conclusion that the bacterium Yersinia pestis was the cause of this pandemic, and the weaknesses with those criticisms. In today’s installation, I’ll discuss actual molecular evidence that Y. pestis indeed caused this–and does this research shut the door on alternative hypotheses? More after the jump…
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