Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Black Death

Well apparently there is a new movie out in the UK and in Germany called 'Black Death', which, perhaps not surprisingly, is set during the Black Death. Here's the summary:

In a plague-ridden medieval England, Osmund, a young monk, is charged in leading the fearsome knight Ulrich, and his group of mercenaries to a remote village where the inhabitants are unaffected by the deadly pestilence.

and some of the more entertaining reviews from rottentomatoes

'Though its title must rank as one of the most off-putting in film history, Black Death isn't as bad as you might fear.'

'Released into an era of poverty, pestilence and bad religion, Christopher Smiths historical horror-thriller Black Death fits the new Dark Ages like an bloodied iron gauntlet.'

'Dark and dirty entertainment.'

No information on a US release but you can watch a trailer. Looks like they managed to sneak some flagellants in there.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer reruns

I've posted both these before but I can't resist posting them again. John Stewart on Bubonic Plague and flagellation in a German Rock video.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Better late than never....

Mon Jun 28, 2010 from Reuters: FDA recommends new limits on livestock drugs:

To prevent development of drug-resistant bacteria that could infect people, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended on Monday that livestock farmers use the drugs solely to cure or prevent disease in animals, phasing out their use to promote growth.

FDA said research showed mixing antibiotics in livestock rations or feedlot water supplies "is not in the interest of protecting or promoting public health." Over-the-counter antibiotics have been routinely used for decades to promote livestock growth and feed efficiency.

Emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses a serious public health threat, said FDA, so it is looking for ways to reduce overuse of the drugs.

Antibiotics including penicillin and tetracyclines should be used only under the supervision of veterinarians to prevent or treat illness in livestock, FDA said in its 19-page draft.

FDA made its recommendations in a first-round version of a "guidance" document, which represents the agency's current thinking on an issue. Guidance does not carry the weight of law but generally is adopted by industry.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mining and Tuberculosis

Dust-choked mine shafts, crowded working conditions and stifling hostels where up to 16 miners share a room — all conspire to make mining a more important contributor to tuberculosis in Africa than had been realized, a new study finds.

Rates of the illness have doubled in Africa over the past two decades, and have tripled in South Africa, which even in 1996 had the highest TB rates in the world. Until now it has been assumed that the increases were driven by Africa’s high rates of infection with the AIDS virus, which weakens the immune system, helping latent TB become active.

But researchers from Brown and Oxford Universities, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of California, San Francisco, compared 44 African countries and found that even some with low rates of H.I.V. infection rates had high TB rates. When a country’s mines shut down, tuberculosis often fell. The study appeared in The American Journal of Public Health.


From an article in the New York Times last week reporting on an article in The American Journal of Public Health: Mining and Risk of Tuberculosis in Sub-Saharan Africa

Friday, June 25, 2010

More Creepy

I posted previously on the splendidly creepy Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky, complete with body chute:

The Body Chute was once used to transport the bodies of deceased TB patients from the hospital to the bottom of the hill to waiting hearses or trains. At the peak of the TB epidemic, many patients died everyday. In order to keep morale up and not upset living patients, the hospital administration decided to use the Body Chute to discretely send bodies away from the hill.

Because of the prevalence of Tuberculosis Sanataria were once quite abundant but within a few short years drug discoveries removed the need for them. There are still a number of long abandoned Sanataria out there. I think I'll continue the series with the Seaview Hospital complex.

Built between 1905 and 1938 it was, at one time
, the largest tuberculosis hospital at a time when fresh air was considered the most effective treatment of "the white plague." The first drug trials leading to a cure for 'consumption' were made at Seaview Hospital.

Now it's just creepy. Let's hope (or better still plan) so we don't need them again......

Thursday, June 24, 2010

'Hidden' tuberculosis raises drug-resistance fears

From a report in Nature this week:

Huge and hidden levels of tuberculosis discovered in a South African province devastated by HIV are increasing concerns about the prevalence of drug-resistant tuberculosis in Africa.

As reported in PLoS Medicine, when researchers examined newly deceased patients at Edendale hospital in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, they discovered that 50% were infected with the bacterium M. tuberculosis, the causal agent of tuberculosis, with 17% of the infected individuals carrying a multi-drug resistant (MDR) strain.

Among those with TB, only 58% had been diagnosed and started on treatment before their death. A previous study had found that only 28% of patients admitted to the same hospital were diagnosed with active tuberculosis.

In the new study, 96% of those positive for M. tuberculosis were also HIV positive, and the alarming prevalence of tuberculosis may reflect the situation in other low-income countries plagued by HIV. With weakened immunity, HIV-positive individuals are extremely vulnerable to other infections.

"This report is extremely serious," says Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO Stop TB Department in Geneva, Switzerland. "It confirms that over the last few years, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis has become rampant in people living with HIV [in Africa]".

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cholera roundup

Here are just a selected few previous posts on Cholera that you may find interesting:

Notetaker Needed

Disabled Students Program Notetaker Needed
EEMB 40 MTW 12:30

$25 per unit (of the class)
(this will be prorated based on the number of weeks for which they are hired)

Questions: Please contact Wanda Thomas:
Phone: 893-2668

Please apply online at

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Stolen Bacillus

It wasn't long after the discovery of bacteria and the germ theory of disease that the use of such microbes by terrorists was suggested by H.G Wells in a short story - The Stolen Bacillus, first published in 1894.

From the Literature, Arts and Medicine database:

This story is a chilling satire about the potential role of scientists in facilitating bioterrorism. The Bacteriologist is so pleased with his own work that he gives the Anarchist access to it, and in expounding on the power of the cholera bacillus (which he feels he has in his own power), he gives the Anarchist the information he needs to recognize bioforms as an effective weapon. The Anarchist's words are all too familiar; he says that others are "blind fools to use bombs when this kind of thing is attainable"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cholera country

The Guardian, a British newspaper, have a short video clip on their website about the Zimbabwe cholera epidemic in 2008/2009. It is well worth watching. Notice how all these people know exactly how cholera is contracted but can do nothing about it, and know what a cholera patient needs, but don't have the funds to provide it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer 2010

Welcome to the blog for EEMB40 - the Ecology of Disease - for Summer 2010. It will also serve as a class website and you will find links to lectures etc. in a box at the top right imaginatively called 'links'. Lecture slides will be available shortly after each lecture. They are put there for your convenience (you don't need to scribble down details of a graph because you know it will be available later) but please note that they are not designed to be lecture notes. In fact in most cases my slides would make very poor notes! In order to help you take notes I have made a glossary for the class - also linked on the right. All the terminology you will be required to know is listed in the glossary.

You are all welcome, and encouraged to post here. To do that all you need to do is to send me an e-mail saying just that. I will then add your address and google will send you an invitation to be an author. Just follow the simple instructions and away you go.

Postings to the blog should be relevant to the class but the blog is specifically designed to be a place where you don't need to worry about how relevant your post is. (I give you 'Basket full of puppies' as an example). I will be posting lots of things that I read in the news or that I take out of lecture (for time purposes) but that some of you may find interesting. By putting it here you can look at it at your leisure and you know it won't be on the exam.

I try to post every day when the class is running and, where possible, the postings are relevant to the current topics we are covering in class. You can access older postings (there are over 500 (!) of them from the five previous times I have taught this class) either by scrolling down the page and repeatedly hitting the 'Older posts' button at the bottom right or by using the 'Labels' (scroll down and they'll be on the right hand side) to pull up posts on particular topics.