Strange Illness, Disease and Death Origins

When it comes to being a human on planet Earth, there exists an endless array of things that threaten your fragile, individual existence. I’m not just talking about jay-walking, drinking two or more cokes a day or living in Australia. I’m talking about the things that will do you in, or bring you to the brink of death, that you’ve never heard of.

Being a cannibal

In case you lean towards Dr. Lecter’s affinity for exotic cuisine, you may want to consider at least avoid eating human brains. Kuru disease, suggested to be the human version of Mad Cow, is, not surprisingly one of the rarest diseases on the planet. It is transmitted among members of the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea, so delete that country off your bucket list, and the name means “trembling with fear”. The symptoms, caused by infectious brain particles that lead to brain and nervous system changes, instigate pathological bursts of laughter, which is admittedly not the scariest thing a cannibal might do to you.

Four kids or more

And it has nothing to do with an inheritance conspiracy. Rather, according to the Dallas Heart Study, women with that many young are twice more likely to develop heart disease than mothers of less children.
Even though the study claims the reason being increased body stress from the pregnancies, moms in the real world may wish to expand on that very narrow opinion. Either way, it would be wise for affected mothers to spend their very little free time on monitoring their blood pressure, cholesterol and try to remember to take care of their general well-being.

Saying cheers to Daylight Savings

There is a 24% spike in the number of heart attacks on the Monday following Daylight Savings Time in March, when we jump into Spring. This is in stark contradiction to the 21% drop when we Fall back in November.
According to interventional cardiologist, Hitinder Gurm, it has to do with circadian rhythms (link to last week’s sleep blog). It is based on the heart’s sensitivity to sleep-wake cycles of the body and the resultant significant influence that sleep deprivation has on heart disease related risk factors.
Refusing to be a cat, or dog lady

The University of Oxford had the courage to study more than 700 000 women for eight years. It found, contrary to what most women would think, that those who lived with a partner were 28% less likely to die from heart disease than those who lived alone. Loneliness leading to depression was found to be one of the greatest risk factors for those in a solo habitat and any other space co-occupier could be a life saver.

Guinea Worm Disease

Just in case you have not deleted Guinea off that list yet, this disease is a parasitic infection cause by a type of round worm. It enters your body if you drink stagnant water containing its larvae.
There is a chance that, a full year after infection, blisters will start to form on your arms and legs. Once the painful blisters burst, worms will be exposed, but the worms can survive under the skin for multiple years. Removal requires winding it very slowly around a stick day by day until it is completely removed. Sounds similar to a House episode? In that case you will know that even though you might have wished you didn’t have to live to experience it, this squatter worm won’t kill you.

Maybe not with the pitchforks of the angry mob, but operating like Dracula

Yes, uncurbed exposure to the sun can wrinkle your skin and cause a variety of diseases, including cancer. Vitamin-D, which you get from direct sunlight on your skin, also helps regulate the immune system and prevent inflammation however.
A study showed that patients with low level of Vitamin-D had a 32% greater chance that others to have coronary artery disease, resulting from arterial inflammation. Therefore, as with so many other things, there is a very fine balance that you should be trying to maintain. Prevent a Vitamin-D deficiency by getting enough sun, but avoid the harmful UV rays of midday.
Even after all this, there is no reason to feel blue. Mostly because you can’t pull it off as well as the Fugates from Kentucky. The family members lived in the area well past the age of 80 until quite recently. Their actual blue skin, a genetic condition passed on from generation to generation, may not have caused any other illnesses, but may have reduced tourism in their parts of the Appalachians until the 1960s. Martin Fugate came to Troublesome Creek from France in 1820 and family folklore says he was one of the first blues. He married Elizabeth Smith, who also carried the recessive gene. Of their seven children, four were reported to be blue. The last blue person should be around 40 now, but no one seems to be able to figure out if he’s still around.

Remedies for the Large, Small and Everything In-Between

When you think about wounds, the scenario probably goes a little something like this: chopping knife and onions, slip of the hand, band aid. Even though your experience correlates to that of the general population, you really should know at least a little more about the subject matter.

Wounds of all shapes and sizes are all caused by some type of trauma to the protective barrier the skin, or other body tissue, forms against its external environment. Open wounds include lacerations, punctures, incisions, abrasions and avulsions, where blood escapes from the body. Closed wounds include strained or torn muscles and bruises, where no blood escapes from the body and bleeding may occur under the skin.
Wound healing is a complex cellular process by which skin, or other body, tissue repairs itself after trauma. The deeper the wound, the longer it takes to heal, with the typical wounds requiring about 3 weeks, excluding scarring. Chronic wounds, however, are wounds that do not heal for a period of at least 3 months. They can be open on the external or internal surface of the body and include ulcers like stomach ulcers and bed sores.
The greatest concern regarding open wounds is the potential for serious bacterial infections. Between 5% and 10% of patients hospitalized in industrialized countries develop a healthcare-associated infection. It not only increases mortality and morbidity rates, but healthcare-associated infections diagnosed in intensive care units alone account for 15% to 20% of hospital spending. A key focus area for the treatment of wounds is therefore infection prevention.
Technology has been applied in this area since before the word existed. In the 1700s silver (yes, the metal) started being used on chronic wounds and it has played a major role in the development of wound care since. Over the past 20 years, topical cream and foam dressings containing silver have promoted wound healing and decreased infection. Its success is based on that fact that silver agents attach to the bacterial wall and block the respiratory cycle of the bacteria – basically choking it to death – and thereby reducing competition for nutrients attempting to heal the wound.
Ushering in the new technological age, Xiaolei Wang, and colleagues at NanChang University, have invented smart bandages which take silver one step beyond. Wang used silver nanoparticles that promote faster absorption, to develop antibacterial materials which are enclosed in the lining of capsules. The capsules have a switch to control the containment or release of the anti-bacterials upon manipulation. To demonstrate the capsules’ features, Wang’s team incorporated them into simple Band-Aids. Once the wearer presses down on the Band-Aid, the silver particles are released, and the color of the Band-Aid changes from white to orange to indicate that it has been activated, and the bacteria choking has commenced.
Infection prevention is not the only area in which technology is changing the game. Another is wound healing. Photochemical tissue bonding is when light is applied to a wound to stimulate healing. Until recently it could only be used for the treatment of superficial wounds. A new technique has been developed by researchers at the University of St Andrews and Harvard Medical School. By inserting biodegradable optical fibers, instead of traditional glass or plastic materials into the body, light to heal internal wounds locally can be delivered deeper into the body. Not only will it help heal wounds faster, but it will also provide doctors with the ability to heal wounds from the inside and without scarring.
In addition to infection prevention and wound healing, these emerging technologies will also change how all stakeholders in the healthcare industry look at wound care:
• Flexible biosensors can be embedded into wound dressings to detect bacteria that lead to infections early, and also to maintain pressure and temperature for optimal healing,
• As an alternative treatment for antibiotic resistant infections, new tissue can be biologically engineered, and
• And 3D technology can be used to create skin grafts or dressings that mimic the wound bed structure for improved healing.
With these technologies being the tip of the iceberg which simply wet your appetite, there is always the Deutscher Wundkongress, which will be held from 11 – 13 May this year in Bremen, Germany (). Apart from it being the very best time of the year for a visit to the North of the country, the sessions will evaluate experiences with different types of up-to-date wound healing technologies and devices, evaluated in the light of solid scientific evidence and in a cost-effectiveness perspective.

Now you See It, Now You Don’t: Remedies for the Large, the Small and Everything In-Between

When you think about wounds, the scenario probably goes a little something like this:  chopping knife and onions, slip of the hand, band aid.  Even though your experience correlates to that of the general population, you really should know at least a little more about the subject matter.

Wounds of all shapes and sizes are all caused by some type of trauma to the protective barrier the skin, or other body tissue, forms against its external environment.  Open wounds include lacerations, punctures, incisions, abrasions and avulsions, where blood escapes from the body.  Closed wounds include strained or torn muscles and bruises, where no blood escapes from the body and bleeding may occur under the skin.
Wound healing is a complex cellular process by which skin, or other body, tissue repairs itself after trauma. The deeper the wound, the longer it takes to heal, with the typical wounds requiring about 3 weeks, excluding scarring.  Chronic wounds, however, are wounds that do not heal for a period of at least 3 months.  They can be open on the external or internal surface of the body and include ulcers like stomach ulcers and bed sores.
The greatest concern regarding open wounds is the potential for serious bacterial infections.  Between 5% and 10% of patients hospitalized in industrialized countries develop a healthcare-associated infection. It not only increases mortality and morbidity rates, but healthcare-associated infections diagnosed in intensive care units alone account for 15% to 20% of hospital spending.  A key focus area for the treatment of wounds is therefore infection prevention.
Technology has been applied in this area since before the word existed.  In the 1700s silver (yes, the metal) started being used on chronic wounds and it has played a major role in the development of wound care since.  Over the past 20 years, topical cream and foam dressings containing silver have promoted wound healing and decreased infection.  Its success is based on that fact that silver agents attach to the bacterial wall and block the respiratory cycle of the bacteria – basically choking it to death – and thereby reducing competition for nutrients attempting to heal the wound.
Ushering in the new technological age, Xiaolei Wang, and colleagues at NanChang University, have invented smart bandages which take silver one step beyond. Wang used silver nanoparticles (nanomedicine article two weeks ago) that promote faster absorption, to develop antibacterial materials which are enclosed in the lining of capsules.  The capsules have a switch to control the containment or release of the anti-bacterials upon manipulation.  To demonstrate the capsules’ features, Wang’s team incorporated them into simple Band-Aids. Once the wearer presses down on the Band-Aid, the silver particles are released, and the color of the Band-Aid changes from white to orange to indicate that it has been activated, and the bacteria choking has commenced.
Infection prevention is not the only area in which technology is changing the game.  Another is wound healing.  Photochemical tissue bonding is when light is applied to a wound to stimulate healing.  Until recently it could only be used for the treatment of superficial wounds.  A new technique has been developed by researchers at the University of St Andrews and Harvard Medical School. By inserting biodegradable optical fibers, instead of traditional glass or plastic materials into the body, light to heal internal wounds locally can be delivered deeper into the body. Not only will it help heal wounds faster, but it will also provide doctors with the ability to heal wounds from the inside and without scarring.
In addition to infection prevention and wound healing, these emerging technologies will also change how all stakeholders in the healthcare industry look at wound care:
•    Flexible biosensors can be embedded into wound dressings to detect bacteria that lead to infections early, and also to maintain pressure and temperature for optimal healing,
•    As an alternative treatment for antibiotic resistant infections, new tissue can be biologically engineered, and
•    And 3D technology can be used to create skin grafts or dressings that mimic the wound bed structure for improved healing.
With these technologies being the tip of the iceberg which simply wet your appetite, there is always the Deutscher Wundkongress, which will be held from 11 – 13 May this year in Bremen, Germany.  Apart from it being the very best time of the year for a visit to the North of the country, the sessions will evaluate experiences with different types of up-to-date wound healing technologies and devices, evaluated in the light of solid scientific evidence and in a cost-effectiveness perspective.