August 23, 2012 |
Aimee Copeland is finally home. The 24-year-old Georgia woman had spent several months in the hospital and then a rehabilitation center after a protracted battle with flesh-eating bacteria. The infection ravaged her body and nearly killed her: Both her hands, her left leg and her right foot were amputated. The nation has been following her fight, in part through a blog created by Aimee's father, Andy. The blog kept family and friends apprised in the early days, when her prognosis was so uncertain.
August 6, 2012 |
Consider an all-too-common scenario: You're burning up from a high fever after a routine surgical procedure, and an infection specialist is called to help treat your problem. You assume that a short course of antibiotics will quickly turn things around. But the specialist candidly admits: "I'm sorry, I can't treat your infection. You've got a resistant bacteria, a super bug. " Any of us might hear those frightening words sooner than we think. Antibiotics once seemed like a miracle weapon in our fight against microbes that have plagued mankind for millenniums, killing untold numbers of people with wounds and serious infections.
July 26, 2012 |
The psychedelic image above is a super-close-up view of the skin -- and the brightly colored blobs are immune cells. What's it about? Read on. Evidence is mounting that the bacteria that live on our bodies affect our health, for good or ill. It's a hot area of research , much of it centered on the gut -- and no wonder, for this is the spot where the richest bacterial communities are found. The bugs that dwell there seem to help our immune systems develop along the right lines, among other things.
July 21, 2012 |
Attempts to control malaria — which kills about 1 million people a year — have traditionally focused on the use of drugs to treat the disease and insecticides to kill mosquitoes. Now some scientists have devised a sneakier strategy: feed mosquitoes a genetically engineered bacterium that will kill the malaria parasite from within. Insecticides have a major flaw, said Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, a malaria expert at Johns Hopkins University and an author of the new study. "When insecticides are used — say, inside of houses — many of the mosquitoes in the area get killed but some will always survive.
July 13, 2012 |
We are teeming with microscopic life. Scientists recently reported on the billions of bacteria and fungi that grow inside us, finding a lot of diversity from person to person - and from spot to spot on the human body. Those findings were in 242 young adults (ages 18 to 40) in exceptionally good health. Even gum disease was grounds for exclusion, as we noted in a news article at the time. But what about older people? It's known that their bacterial populations are less stable than those of younger people and that the gut flora of one elderly individual can differ greatly from that of another.
June 21, 2012 |
Last week, scientists reported on a 5-year study of all the bacteria that inhabit the human body - 100 trillion of them, weighing 2 to 6 pounds total (in a 200-pound person) - and of 10,000 different types, though not all of them will reside in any one particular person. This week, an interesting article published in the journal Cell points to just how crucial the correct bacteria may be for developing a robust immune system. Scientists know that mice reared in a germ-free environment don't develop normally.
June 14, 2012 |
There has been lots of excitement this week as a horde of scientists released their first looks at the trillions of microbes that live in (or on) our bodies. As well as the two main papers published in Nature, a slate of reports was published in other journals, containing all kinds of tidbits. One week earlier, another slate of “microbiome” papers was published in the journal Science. We already covered the nuts and bolts of the Human Micriobiome Project report.
June 13, 2012 |
After five years of toil, a consortium of several hundred U.S. researchers has released a detailed census of the myriad bacteria, yeasts, viruses and amoebas that live, eat, excrete, reproduce and die in or on us. Described in two papers in Nature and a raft of reports in other journals, the data released Wednesday describe microbes of the skin, saliva, nostrils, guts and other areas of 242 adults in tiptop health. The $170-million, federally funded Human Microbiome Project also cataloged the genes contained within this zoo of life.
May 24, 2012 |
What spreads almost as fast as necrotizing fasciitis, a.k.a. flesh-eating infection? News stories about it. Surely by now you've heard about the horrifying case of Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia graduate student who cut her leg on May 1 and was on life support by May 4. When Copeland regained consciousness, much of the plugged-in world knew what she still did not: Her left leg had been amputated, skin on her abdomen had been removed and...
May 17, 2012 |
The rare disease commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria has claimed another victim: a South Carolina woman who had just given birth to a healthy set of twins and who noticed an unusual spot on the back of her leg. Lana Kuykendall, 36, is a paramedic, and her profession might have helped save her life. She recognized the spot as something to be concerned about -- perhaps a blood clot -- and promptly sought medical help. She has undergone four surgeries so far to remove dead flesh as doctors scramble to keep one step ahead of the disease formally known as necrotizing fasciitis. So far, Kuykendall has not suffered any limb amputations -- often a devastating result of the disease.