Category Archives: Disease

Can CRISPR Eliminate Malaria?

Eliminating malaria may soon be possible, spreading resistance genes among mosquito populations in a chain reaction driven by CRISPR One of the nightmares associated with genetically modified (GM) crops has been the worry that a genetic change engineered in the laboratory might somehow “escape” from a target crop and spread like fire through natural populations,… Read More »

Flu Is Back. Why Is Everybody So Scared?

Anybody who hasn’t been asleep for the last few days — anyone who listens to television, reads a newspaper, or checks out news on the internet —  knows that a new flu has arrived, and that a lot of public health officials are concerned.  The first cases of what is now being called “swine flu”… Read More »

Embryonic Stem Cells – Leaping the Ethical Fence

Because they can develop into any tissue, embryonic stem cells offer the exciting possibility of restoring damaged tissues.  You can see a colony of human embryonic stem cells in the photo. Each is totipotent—able to form any body tissue, and even an entire adult animal. What is an embryonic stem cell, and why is it… Read More »

Cholesterol-Fighting Drugs Prevent Heart Attacks

Last Sunday at the American Heart Association convention in New Orleans, researchers reported that cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins can dramatically lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. In a study involving nearly 18,000 people 50 and older who did not have high cholesterol or a history of heart disease, the risk of heart attack… Read More »

Why aren’t we asking the hard question about smallpox?

Last month I wrote a column about the threat that smallpox might be used as a bioweapon. The possibility terrified me then, and in the passing weeks this feeling has not diminished but grown. With the sinking certainty of a really bad nightmare, I see the exact shape and form of the danger, a demon… Read More »

SARS Anxiety

As the summer of 2003 approaches, newspapers and television news programs are reporting that public health measures are succeeding in bringing the SARS epidemic under control. This is welcome news to a worried world. In every country, people have been seeking ways to avoid a disease about which they know little but which scares them… Read More »

Smallpox: Is This Once-Vanquished Killer a Threat Again?

Thirty one years ago, near a small atoll in the South Pacific a thousand miles southwest of Hawaii, American forces were in the midst of highly secret tests of biological warfare weapons. At sunset one quiet July day an armada of ships was positioned in the ocean waters around Johnson Atoll, upwind from a line… Read More »

Whatever Happened to Bird Flu?

In the photo, members of the American Red Cross are removing two Spanish influenza victims from a home in Saint Louis in November, 1918.  Both are dead.  Some 675,000 other Americans died of flu within 18 months, the last months of the First World War.  The trouble had started  that spring, in early March ,… Read More »

Gene therapy may offer an effective way to combat Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a debilitating brain disorder in which, over a period of years, you loose the ability to control muscular movement. Arms begin to shake, facial muscles to twitch. Parkinson’s disease is named after Dr. James Parkinson, who first described the disorder as a shaking palsy in 1817. About one million Americans are afflicted… Read More »


Deadly baby food Babies the world over live on milk, rich in proteins, fats and other nutrients. But now it appears this food can be deadly to the babies who are fed it. In China over the last few weeks thousands of babies have become ill from the milk-based bottle formula they were fed, many… Read More »

Type II Diabetes Epidemic

We Americans love to eat, but on June 24, 2008 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report warning we are eating ourselves into a diabetes epidemic. Diabetes affected 7 million Americans in 1991. By mid-2008, the number was 24 million, more than 8% of all Americans, an alarming increase, with 3 million… Read More »

Why we have more “senior moments” as we age

It has been more than four decades since I was twenty and a Trivial Pursuits star.  In those feisty days I could remember every movie I had ever seen, every book read, every TV show seen.  Not now.  Ask me the star of a movie I know quite well, and I will often draw a… Read More »

Foot-and-Mouth Disease is more about money than public health

A grisly story came out of Britain last week. A slaughterman in Cumbria, northern England was moving the decomposing carcass of a cow killed because it was infected with hoof-and-mouth disease, when the carcass exploded, sending fluid into the man’s mouth. Yuch! Stark images of dead cows come to mind, thousands of carcasses burning atop… Read More »

Hepatitis C

An estimated 1.8 percent of adult Americans are infected with the hepatitis C virus, most without knowing it. In the last few weeks there have been several alarming reports of hepatitis A exposure at St. Louis restaurants. A virus transmitted by improper sanitation (typically, failure to wash hands after defecating), hepatitis A is no joke.… Read More »

Advances in Gene Therapy

While genetically modified foods are proving increasingly controversial, genetically modified humans are much in demand. The search for a way to introduce “healthy” genes into humans that lack them has gone on for 35 years. A trio of Nobel Prize winners (Ed Tatum, Joshua Lederberg, and Arthur Kornberg) suggested in 1964 that it should be… Read More »

The Approach of Flu Season

It is mid-summer, the day after baseball’s all-star game here in Saint Louis, with the cooler days of fall in distant sight.  This is the time of year that public health officials begin to seriously prepare for the unwelcome guest that arrives each fall with the cool weather – influenza.  Fall is the flu season… Read More »

The Cost of Failed Regulation Over 50,000 Chinese infants are seriously ill this week because of a failure of Chinese government food safety regulators to do their job.  The toxic chemical melamine was being added to baby food milk to disguise the fact that the milk had been diluted to raise milk dealers’ profits. Regulators… Read More »