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Archive for November, 2005

Wednesday, November 30th 2005

1918 & Today

A review of the 1918 influenza virus compared to H5N1.

A team at the CDC recreated the 1918 virus and tested it in mice for pathogenicity. Compared with contemporary human flu viruses, the 1918 virus produced nearly 40,000 times more viral particles in lung tissue. It caused severe bronchiolitis and alveolitis, pulmonary edema, and alveolar hemorrhage — just as it had in human lungs in 1918

The 1918 virus contains several amino acid changes that also are present in the current highly pathogenic H5N1 avian virus that has killed humans in the past 8 years.

I’d like to see the models of what an easily transmittable H5N1 would do in the industrialized world. I’m certainly completely off the track here, but how bad would the 1918 epidemic be with today’s public health knowledge and treatment options?

Of course there’s a great deal more of the world to be concerned about other than America and Western Europe.

Wednesday, November 30th 2005


A think tank in South Africa is proposing an AIDS tax to help combat the 11% infection rate in the country. A survey proposes that upwards of half of South Africa’s affluent would be willing to pay a tax to go towards helping stem the epidemic.

Tuesday, November 29th 2005

Others Get Paid To Say This Stuff?

I have this gut feeling. It’s deep. It is not that USC will lose on Saturday to cross town rival UCLA. It is more like it might happen, but not quite. Inexplicable as it may be, the feeling really is that if we’re going to lose its going to be to UCLA (no offense to Texas).

I’ve had it for weeks; since that night USC beat Notre Dame. My vision didn’t include a scare with Fresno St. but here we are having not pulled a Penn St. or LSU.

But to hear others speculate on it, against a team that needed a 21 point rally in the last 8 minutes to beat un-bowl bound Stanford. Who lost to Arizona. Arizona. Arrrrrrrizonnnnnna. Who can’t even spell defense. Well, those type of claims are only legit when they come from members of the USC family.

I’m just rambling. However, my plea to sports writers, if there’s no storyline don’t fabricate one.

USC 66, UCLA 19 (2 touchdowns in garbage time)

Prediction: USC 45, Texas 28

ESPN’s SportsCenter just had NCAA 06 simulate the Rose Bowl with decidely dissimiliar results to my simulation but very close to my prediction.

USC 45, Texas 27

Tuesday, November 29th 2005

I Will Never Stop…

…marveling at the human body.

The kidneys, like just about everything else in the body, really are incredible.
It is incomprehensible how something as really complex and yet eloquent as this could evolve. That’s not to say it’s fun to flip endlessly through histology slides of them…

Monday, November 28th 2005

Put The Pieces Together

It is always fun when, in the same day, you study the abdominal venous system, learn about the consequences of portal hypertension, and then stumble across a recent article like this. Or maybe I’m just a dork.

Beta blockers help prevent hemorrhage from existing esophageal varices but don’t apparently provide a means to limit esophageal varices, for those at risk, in the first place.

I’m still not quite sure why bleeding from these things is so difficult to stop.

Monday, November 28th 2005

All Their Chips On 14 Black

On Merck’s reorganization:

[M]any observers have questioned the industry’s over-reliance on a small number of blockbuster cures to keep the money rolling in. In common with most other drug giants, Merck has seen its earnings fall over the past couple of years as the patents expired on its leading drug and the flow of new medicines from its research-and-development pipeline dried up, highlighting the drawbacks of concentrating too much effort on a limited range of cures.


Making cost savings now in anticipation of fewer blockbusters and falling profits in the future is sensible. Making plans for fighting or settling legal cases that could break Merck is a much tougher call. By taking a knife to the company, Mr Clark [Merck CEO] has made his mark. But he may yet be remembered as the man who brought an American giant to its knees.

Monday, November 28th 2005

Can I Learn This in a Book?

Cleaning out cadaveric bowel isn’t high on the list of medical school rigths of passage and now I know why.

Monday, November 28th 2005

Big Bad Pharm

Huge greedy profit margins are forcing Merck to fire 11% of its workforce.

Not that Merck didn’t screw up with Vioxx, but it SHOULD be difficult (more difficult) in a court of law to prove causality between the drug and ill consequences. I’m being pessimistic, but the payouts Merck makes are going to come in numbers that defy the statistics on the probability of adverse effects from taking Vioxx.

Sunday, November 27th 2005

BCS Update for Week 6


Nevada (AP: NR Coach: NR Computer: NR) over Fresno St. (AP: 16 Coach: 16 Computer: NR)

Current Standings

AP: 192 + 14 = 206
Coach: 197 + 14 = 211
Computer: 190 + 0 = 190

Only one upset, of course it practically crushes any chance of the human polls beating the computers for the season. Is it possible for the AP poll to catch the computers? Well it depends on how the polls following Saturday’s games play out.

To even have a shot, here’s the games where the difference between the computer rankings is greater than for the AP polls…

Goal: +16

South Florida over West Virginia +2
Georgia over LSU +6
Florida St. over Virginia Tech +1
Colorado over Texas +1
Total: +10

And that wouldn’t be enough as the polls sit from last week.

So, what have we learned here? That the computers, even without using margin of victory which they claim would make them even MORE accurate, is a better judge of a team’s strength and predictor of games than the human polls.

Sunday, November 27th 2005

Overweight and Healthy

Think back to the report that revised the deaths attributable to obesity downward.

With apparently faulty information the government took action, lowered the BMI at which people are ‘fat,’ and

Seven years ago, 35 million Americans became overweight literally overnight.

America suddenly became fatter when the federal government changed the definition of overweight, based on a calculation called body mass index.

The question, addressed in the Chicago Sun Times article quoted above, becomes should so much stress be placed on lowering people’s weight as a preventitive health measure?

[N]utritionist Paul Ernsberger of Case Western Reserve University thinks the overweight threshold is too low.

He notes that a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who had with a BMI between 25 and 30 did not experience any increased risk in mortality. If anything, they had a slightly lower chance of dying.

Ernsberger thinks the overweight cutoff should be raised to 30.

The current cutoff of 25 “sets up people for failure. The goal may be admirable, but is not realistic,” he said.

Ernsberger and other critics say researchers have a vested interest in expanding the number of people defined as overweight by setting a low BMI cutoff. The worse the problem appears, the more funding they will receive from the weight-loss industry and government.


Right on cue, and thanks to Kevin, MD, The UK’s NHS is going to refuse some more elective surgeries, such as knee and hip replacements, to obese people. A Scotsman article sheds light on what it believes is the last PC discrimination, against those with ‘self inflicted’ health problems.