What do Jesuit priests, gin and tonics, and ancient Chinese scrolls have in common? They all show up in our animated history of malaria.
Story by NPR’s Adam Cole.
Posts tagged disease.
Enviro-headline of the year?
It’s a fatal infection without an effective treatment, and one that strikes in a decidedly gruesome manner: An amoebic organism lurking in water is inadvertently inhaled during a swim on a hot summer’s day. From there, it travels through the nasal passage and into the brain, where it multiplies, devours one’s cerebral fluid and gray matter, and almost invariably causes death.
These “brain-eating amoebas” — known to doctors and scientists as Naegleria fowleri, or N. fowleri — aren’t believed to kill often. In the US, researchers estimate that between three and eight people die from N. fowleri disease, commonly referred to as PAM (primary amebic meningoencephalitis) each year. But that might not be the case for long. In recent years, N. fowleri has popped up in unexpected locations, which some experts suggest is a sign that warmer waters — caused by brutal summer heat waves and rising temperatures across the country — are catalyzing their spread.
At the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, where the population has increased five-fold in the past year, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is treating growing numbers of patients and preparing for the additional hardships that will come with the approaching rainy season.
Climate and environmental changes affect the occurrence of diseases transmitted between animals and humans ›
How are human and animal diseases in general affected by the climate becoming “wilder, wetter and warmer?” New research shows that ticks have spread over larger geographical areas in Norway and that climate and environmental changes, access to host animals and demography affect tick distribution in Norway. Furthermore, local climatic conditions can have a decisive influence on the ability of the tick to spread dangerous viruses. The climate can also play a role in the spread of gastrointestinal infections.
The effects of climate changes are the easiest to detect and are probably most pronounced near the geographical distribution limits of the infection or for the vector which carries the infection.
Ticks are champions at spreading diseases, expanding in both poor countries and rich ones, and delivering an extraordinary menagerie of bacteria, protozoans, and viruses. In a 2010 report on the dangers of ticks, the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, declared the animals, with what sounds almost like admiration, “the Swiss Army knife of disease vectors.”
IT’S STARTLING to look at the graphs of tick-borne diseases over the past few decades. They’re mostly going in the wrong direction. The research on Lyme disease is fairly recent, sparked in the mid-1970s after a cluster of children around Lyme developed fever and aches. They were diagnosed with juvenile arthritis—a peculiar diagnosis for so many children in one place. Their parents searched for an explanation, and eventually Allan Steere, a doctor at Yale, figured out that they suffered from an infectious disease. The fact that they all came from a rural part of the state suggested that an insect or some other animal had delivered the infection. In 1982, Willy Burgdorfer, an entomologist with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, discovered corkscrew-shaped bacteria in black-legged ticks from Long Island. He exposed the bacteria to serum from people with Lyme disease and discovered that their antibodies swarmed around the microbes. That was a sign that these bacteria—which would later be named Borrelia burgdorferi after him—were the cause of Lyme disease.
Since Burgdorfer’s discovery, Lyme disease has spread relentlessly. New York and other northeastern states started recording new infections in the eighties. In the Midwest, Lyme disease came to light around the same time in Wisconsin and began radiating out from there. Today it can be found as far west as California, as far south as Virginia, and to the north across the border into Canada. Each year, 38,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with the condition. The list of symptoms includes fever, aches, fatigue, and, if left untreated for a length of time, arthritis, heart arrhythmia, and neurological damage. Lyme disease is rarely fatal.
Bucks County’s largest bat population has met a grim fate. Scientists have confirmed that nearly all of the 10,000 bats that have hibernated in an abandoned iron ore mine in Upper Bucks for generations have died. When Pennsylvania Game Commission Biologist Greg Turner recently visited the Durham mine for the first time in two years, he found total devastation.
The Durham bat mine was once the second largest known bat habitat in Pennsylvania, but this winter only 23 were found alive. Of those, half had clear signs of infection.
Bucks County’s bats were wiped out by a disease that has been killing bat colonies across the Northeast at an alarming rate in the past four years. White nose syndrome causes a white fungus to form around the nose of infected bats. They lose the body fat needed to survive hibernation and ultimately the mammals starve to death during the winter months.
During his visit to Durham’s mine on Feb. 21, Turner found three different species of cave bats. Eighteen of the 23 bats were little brown bats. Of those, half of them were crowding at the entrance to the cave or had fungus on their muzzles; both are tell-tale signs of the fatal infection….
In Pennsylvania, 98 percent of cave-hibernating bats have died, said Turner.
Terrible. White nose syndrome has wiped out populations across the northeast, too. Since bats regulate populations, expect an explosion of bugs in the coming years. And with rising temperatures from climate change, more bugs will be moving north, and their natural seasonal cycles will last longer.
The Ash Dieback Problem
Our resident tree expert Markus Eichhorn on the latest tree crisis - Ash Dieback or Chalara Dieback. See more tree videos at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3E28E3F38ACCE317
Forestry Commission info at: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara
Test Tube by video journalist Brady Haran for the University of Nottingham.
More at http://www.test-tube.org.uk/
by Test Tube.
If I understand the narrator, 75% of mature Ash trees have died in western Europe since the late 1990s. He shows how to identify Ash Dieback fungus. Ash trees are the 3rd most abundant tree in the UK after oaks and birch. The main issue is the die out will change the structure of forests. I disagree with his final analysis, which is to just shrug it off.
These diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites, and affect more than one billion people, mainly in the tropics, where the most vulnerable developing world populations are concentrated.
But the map of tropical diseases like malaria, Chagas’ disease, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis and dengue fever, is starting to change.
Tropical diseases transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes, flies, ticks or snails are directly affected by conditions in the ecosystems they inhabit, such as changes in humidity, water levels, temperature or rainfall, experts explain.
“Global warming is ‘tropicalising’ subtropical regions; rising temperatures could bring an explosion of parasite and insect vectors that are expanding into North America, the Southern Cone of South America, Australia and New Zealand,” Costa Nery said.
One sign of this, said the president of the SBMT, is the spread of leishmaniasis in Europe by travelling persons and dogs. He explained that the disease, which is endemic in southern Europe, could continue to spread northward if temperatures keep rising.
At the same time, climate variation in the tropics and its effects on the frequency of flooding and drought “could also modify the dynamic of the transmission of diseases,” with the emergence of vectors that alter the population’s immunity and resistance.
"The number of West Nile cases in people has risen dramatically in the last few weeks and indicates that we are in one of the biggest West Nile virus outbreaks we have ever seen in this country," says Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-borne Infectious Diseases.
"The number of West Nile virus cases in the U.S. jumped dramatically in one week, increasing to 1,118, with 41 deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.
The report marks a substantial increase from last week’s tally of 693 cases and 26 deaths.
Approximately 75% of the cases have been in five states: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota and Oklahoma, the CDC says.
Texas has been hardest hit, accounting for almost half of all cases.”
Study: global bullfrog trade spreads devastating amphibian fungus. More on amphibian decline @dotearth. News release here:
Tuberculosis outbreak has claimed 13 lives and sickened nearly 100 people. Local news outlets in Florida are mentioning the closure, but are giving weak coverage.
In late June, Florida’s governor and GOP Legislature shut down the state’s only hospital to treat tuberculosis. At the same time, the state was experiencing the largest outbreak of TB - “consumption” - in America in 20 years. The CDC warned Scott’s health office an epidemic was in the offing. But he never even told the lawmakers who voted to close the hospital, much less Florida’s millions of citizens who are at risk of their lungs melting.
As our Florida correspondent reports, it’s par for the course in the Sunshine State, where even septic-tank inspections are derided as socialism, and conservative lawmakers have cut social services to the bone—and Rick Scott has cut even further, using his line-item veto to slash mercilessly at Legislature-approved spending he deems unimportant.
Scott, for his part, has yet to comment on the TB outbreak in Jacksonville, Miami, and who knows where else. He’s at an air show in London.
Brazil has opened a new factory where scientists will manufacture millions of male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes each month. ›
Fantastic read: “Mosquitoes and NIMBYism" at The New Yorker.
Brutal piece on ‘nodding disease,’ a rare disease with no known cause or cure.
Nodding disease is a mentally and physically disabling disease that affects children between 1 and 10 years. It is currently restricted to small regions in South Sudan, Tanzania and northern Uganda. The disease is incurable at the moment and its cause is not known.
A Ugandan journalist, Florence Naluyimba, has taken the first initiative to investigate and bring the issue to light.