Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Parasites Unleashed

Via Boardgame News: Zygote Games has finally released Parasites Unleashed, a card game.

Become one of life's ultimate insiders! In PARASITES UNLEASHED! you control a wily parasite, racing to complete your life cycle, mate, and lay eggs before your opponents. Do all the entertainingly gross things real parasites do -- bore into vital organs, hide inside a blood cell, hitch a ride inside a mosquito, even take over your host's brain! But beware, because your enemies can add stages to your life cycle, and zap you with medicine!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lactose Intolerance in Europe

Tthere's an article about lactose intolerance at Food Reactions, with a map showing the percentage of people with primary lactase deficiency (the genetic inability to produce the lactose-eating enzyme lactase) across Europe.

In a review by Gudmand-Hoyer E in published on The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1994), [primary lactose deficiency] is lowest in Scandinavia and Northwest Europe (3-8%) and close to 100% in most of Southeast Asia. In Europe the frequency increases in the southern and eastern directions, reaching 70% in southern Italy and Turkey. There is also a high prevalence of lactose maldigestion in the people of Africa with the exception of cattle-raising nomads. Moreover, studies conducted by Scrimshaw and Murray and Sahi review the prevalence of lactose maldigestion globally. The prevalence is above 50% in South America, Africa, and Asia, reaching almost 100% in some Asian countries.

If you look very carefully at the map, though, you will see that the rate of lactose intolerance reaches not just 70% in Sicily but a pan-European high of 81% just north of Napoli (around the lower calf of Italy, above the spur). This region is called Campobasso, and it's where I get my gene for hypolactasia.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Via ProMED-mail: the South Carolina Department of Health and Environment Control reports on a rabid raccoon that exposed sixteen people to rabies, because they wouldn't let Darwin be Darwin.

Sixteen people who were exposed to rabies by a raccoon are under the care of a physician after the raccoon tested positive for the disease, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said today.
"The baby raccoon was found in the woods and was being cared for by several people over the past several weeks," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health.
According to Ferguson, many of the exposures occurred when feeding the raccoon, as caretakers came into contact with the animal's saliva. Seven more people are being evaluated for possible exposure risk.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Biolab Follies

Via Universal Hub: the Boston Phoenix reports on BU's ongoing "Biolab Follies."

Throughout the past few years, and particularly during the past 12 months, the biolab’s backers have suffered a string of setbacks: legal, diplomatic, political. Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) may still end up hosting a BSL-4 facility, but this is hardly the sure thing it once was. In fact, given the current momentum of the debate, the smart money might actually be on the biolab not coming to fruition, at least as it was originally conceived.
So what went wrong, exactly? Or, for those who see things differently: what went right?

The story chronicles the political side of the biolab debate, with, perhaps, too much attention to race and too little to zombie protesters.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Heparin Tainting Deliberate

I found this report accidentally in a Parkinson's search, because the CEO of Baxter happens to be one Robert Parkinson. The Chicago Tribune reports that Parkinson called the contamination of its heparin supplies a "deliberate adulteration scheme" by suppliers in China. (PlagueBlog is shocked that such a thing could happen.)

The scale of the scandal over tainted heparin continued to expand. David Strunce, chief executive of Wisconsin-based Scientific Protein, acknowledged that the company has no way of knowing which of 12 different suppliers might have introduced foreign matter into the heparin supply chain. Strunce also claimed Chinese regulators have interfered with his company's efforts to investigate the matter.
The FDA has tallied more than 80 reports of deaths and more than 1,000 adverse events associated with patients in the U.S. who had one or more allergic reactions to heparin products, including those sold by Baxter, since Jan. 1, 2007.

As a result, the Chicago Tribune also reports, Baxter is considering getting out of the heparin business altogether:

The product generates $30 million of Baxter's more than $11 billion in annual sales, and Wall Street analysts asked Parkinson last week whether it was worth the legal risks and liability to remain in the business given that sales are so small.
"We haven't made a decision whether or not we are going to re-enter [the market] with heparin," Parkinson told analysts.

PlagueBlog recommends producing drugs, including their ingredients, domestically.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Rabies on the Cape

Via an unnamed source: the Cape Cod Times reports two cases of rabies in pet cats in the past two weeks.

The discovery of rabies in the cats has dire public health implications, local veterinary and natural resources officials said yesterday. They urged residents to make sure their cats, as well as dogs and ferrets, are vaccinated.
Cats are the "perfect bridge to human health," said Dr. Thomas Burns, president of the Cape Cod Veterinary Medical Association, who treated the Yarmouth cat.
Officials fear an unvaccinated house cat could contract rabies, pass it on to a person before exhibiting symptoms, then wander off and die in the wild. The person might not be aware of the infection, the officials said.

PlagueBlog fondly recalls the days when ferrets were illegal in Massachusetts and continues to recommend fish--the perfect pet and the perfect food.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Heavy Drugs

Via Universal Hub: Xconomy reports on a Lexington (Mass.) company that plans to build better drugs with deuterium.

Concert Pharmaceuticals may have found a way to help established drug substances pack a better punch. By substituting a few normal hydrogen atoms with the heavier form, deuterium, the company believes it is possible to create new chemical entities with greater efficacy and fewer side effects. And since these entities are based on proven drugs, the reasoning goes, it will probably take less time and money to take them to the market.