Saturday, June 30, 2012

Who uses BCG?

The figure shows the countries in orange (USA, Canada and Italy) that never had BCG vaccination campaigns for tuberculosis; countries in purple (much of Europe and Australia) that used to recommend BCG but now do not; and in tan (most of the world) countries that currently have a BCG vaccination program.

This figure is from a PLoS Medicine article in 2011: The BCG World Atlas: A Database of Global BCG Vaccination Policies and Practices
which presents data and information about the BCG world atlas. For much more information about this interesting public health issue (to vaccinate or not to vaccinate?) check out their website.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tuberculosis Comics

I like comics as much as the next person but I found this Tuberculosis comic to be a little heavy handed.

It at least seemed a little edgy when I thought Laura, Juan and Joe were in a post-modern threesome but when a mysterious blond woman turned up on the final page I had to read the first page again to find out she was Juan's wife who had disappeared for pages 3-10 and is so unimportant we never know her name - unless I missed that. What's with the heavy handed emphasis on BEST friends?

Oh and there's a bunch of stuff about tuberculosis in there too.

I think I prefer this Soccer themed one. I like the fact that the Tuberculosis players have a variety of different names on their chest. 'Tuberculosis sputum' actually sounds like it could be the name of a European Soccer club.

Hamilton Academical 1
Tuberculosis Sputum 0

Thursday, June 28, 2012

TB in China

A little preview of next week's topic in this week's article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on the scale of the tuberculosis problem in China:
National Survey of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in China
China has a serious epidemic of drug-resistant tuberculosis. MDR tuberculosis is linked to inadequate treatment in both the public health system and the hospital system, especially tuberculosis hospitals; however, primary transmission accounts for most cases. 
The most alarming facts are the extent of drug-resistant strains and a number of news outlets picked up on this story, for example Reuters and the the New York Times.

(O)ne in 10 Chinese patients newly diagnosed or recently treated for TB had a drug-resistant strain of the highly contagious lung disease.
Around 0.5 percent of new cases - equating to 5,000 people a year - were diagnosed with extensively drug-resistant TB, which experts say is almost incurable.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The great mass of people

'The great mass of people…. don’t know that the miasma of an impure alley is productive of cholera and disease. If they did know these things, people would take care that they inhabited better houses.’English Liberal Economist, Richard Cobden 1853

I included the quote above in the second lecture on Cholera.  Hopefully you all appreciate how condescending the sentiment is and I don't think many of us would say such a thing today about poor people in our own country.

However when we talk about other countries I think there is a greater tendency to make this mistake - if only people knew to boil their water and get their sick people to hospitals then the problem would be solved.

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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Privy pits of the rich and famous

Benjamin Franklin's house in Philadelphia was destroyed in 1812 but excavations underneath the site of the original house have revealed the original foundations and the location of his privy pit (first photograph) and well (second photograph).  The third photograph shows the relative position of the two. Hmmm....

From the Toilets of World Leaders page at

Monday, June 25, 2012

Where did the Haiti cholera outbreak come from?

A Haitian protester in Port-au-Prince last year spray-paints a wall, equating the UN mission in Haiti (abbreviated here as MINISTA) with cholera.

 From the NPR health blog last week reporting on a paper published on June 18 2012 in The Proceedings of the national academy of Sciences (Genomic diversity of 2010 Haitian cholera outbreak strains)

Most researchers currently believe that United Nations peacekeeping soldiers introduced cholera to Haiti in October of 2010.
After all, Haiti hadn't recorded cholera for as long as a century, Nepal had experienced a cholera epidemic in the months preceding the soldiers' arrival, and the Haitian and Nepalese cholera strains were found to be nearly identical.
But it's not that simple, says a research group based at the University of Maryland.
  These researchers have found two very different cholera strains in some of the first Haitians to be struck by the disease.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Welcome to the blog for EEMB40 - the Ecology of Disease - for Summer 2012. 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 850 (!) of them from the previous times I have taught this class) by using the 'Labels' (scroll down and they'll be on the right hand side) to pull up posts on particular topics.