Category Archives: Medicine

How pandemics shape social evolution

WHEN will we learn never to declare the end of anything? Only 50 years ago, two prominent US universities closed their infectious-disease departments, sure that the problem they studied had been solved. Now, cases of measles and mumps are on the rise again in Europe and the United States, new infectious diseases are emerging at an unprecedented rate, and the threat of the next pandemic keeps philanthropist Bill Gates awake at night…

Illustration by Antoine Dore

This article first appeared in Nature on 15 October 2019. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

Right to know v. right not to know

IN THIS information-saturated age, what happens when the right to know comes up against the right not to know? The ease of genetic testing has brought this question to the fore. Genes, some of which contain disease-causing mutations, are shared within families, meaning the results of a test for a genetic condition inevitably affect more people than the one who consented to be tested. Two contrasting legal cases pitting these rights against each other – one in Britain, the other in Germany – stand to extend the idea of who, exactly, is a patient and to alter the way in which medicine is practised…

This article first appeared in The Economist on 28 September 2019. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

 

Fit to stand trial?

LLOYD Barrus stands accused in Montana of five federal crimes, including accountability to deliberate homicide relating to the death of a police officer. The charges have to do with an incident in 2017 that appears to have started in a dispute about a traffic violation. By the end of it, both Barrus’s son and Broadwater County sheriff’s deputy Mason Moore were dead…

Josie Ford for New Scientist

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 25 September 2019. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

Ebola psy-ops

THE Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is providing a natural experiment in fighting fake news. Occurring in a conflict zone, amid a controversial presidential election, the epidemic has proved to be fertile ground for conspiracy theories and political manipulation, which can hamper efforts to treat patients and fight the virus’s spread. Public health workers have mounted an unprecedented effort to counter misinformation, saying the success or failure of the Ebola response may pivot on who controls the narrative…

A member of UNICEF’s Ebola outreach team addresses the public in Beni, a city in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. © UNICEF/UN0228985/NAFTALIN

This story first appeared in Science on 15 January 2019. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

On nodding syndrome

A DISEASE mystery with no shortage of leads now has an intriguing new one. Since the 1960s, thousands of children in poor, war-torn regions of East Africa have developed epilepsy-like seizures in which their heads bob to their chest; over time, the seizures worsen, cognitive problems develop, and the victims ultimately die. Researchers have proposed causes for nodding syndrome that include malnutrition, parasites, and viruses, but have not proved a clear link to any of them. Now, the first published examination of the brains of children who died after developing the condition suggests it has a key similarity to certain brain diseases of old age, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s: It leaves victims’ brains riddled with fibrous tangles containing a protein called tau…

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This article first appeared in Science on 21 December 2018. To continue reading, click here (paywall).