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 […]

Texas: still bass-ackwards on public health

Yesterday I mentioned the controversy over needle exchange programs as an analogy to the objection the administration has to providing heroin anti-OD kits containing Narcan to drug users. In a bit of good timing, the LA Times has an article about a 73-year-old HIV+ lay preacher, of all people, who was on arrested while working […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Did Yersinia pestis really cause Black Plague? Part 4: Plague in modern times

Though there still may be some lingering doubt about the cause of the Black Death and subsequent outbreaks of plague, the pathogen behind the outbreaks that have taken place in the last 150 years or so is much less ambiguous.

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 […]

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 […]

Did Yersinia pestis really cause Black Plague? Part 2: Examination of the criticisms

Yesterday I introduced criticisms that have been raised against Y. pestis causation of the Black Death and subsequent plague outbreaks. Today I’ll discuss what I see as weaknesses in these criticisms, after the jump.


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has taken up residence in sport teams, prisons, schools, the military, and even swine. A new article in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that, at least in Boston and San Francisco, it’s also causing a lot of infections in men who have sex with men; more after the jump.