Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Third Annual Contest for Inflammatory Language

Inflammatory Language is a series of primers on inflammation science. Care to contribute? There is a free preview copy of the following for the one winning submission:

Preview Copy of
The Forgotten Plague
American Experience 2/10/15
Photo by CM Doran 2015

American Experience: 
The Forgotten Plague
The Deadly Story of Tuberculosis in America 
and the Hunt for a Cure
Premiered 2/10/15

The 2013 winner was Dr. Monica Lalanda of Medicoacuadros. Her illustrations were included in Inflammatory Language: The Rain in Spain.... She received a signed copy of The Best Science Writing Online 2012.

This contest is a great opportunity for students, but anyone can contribute. The 2014 contest did not have a winner; there were no acceptable submissions.

So, for 2015, carefully select 300-500 words (or less) and/or an illustration that conveys inflammation. It can be humorous, political, or encompass pop culture or current events, but must be professional. It also needs to be appropriate for viewing/reading by most people.

The overall goal is to accurately inform readers.

Submissions can be sent to thefebrilemuse[at]gmail[dot]com. Please include "Inflammatory Language 2015 contest" in subject line, your professional byline, and your website URL, if you have one. Thank you in advance, and good luck! I look forward to reading your submissions.

Deadline:  by end of Sunday, March 15, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tuberculosis: Review of The Forgotten Plague by American Experience (PBS)

Now it is the forgotten plague, but in the 1800's through the early 20th century, tuberculosis (TB) was not out-of-mind. It affected everyone; nearly 1 in 170 people were in a sanitarium. Nearly every family, rich or poor, lost family members to TB. 

Highlighting how the U.S. was affected by TB, American Experience has produced yet another thought-provoking documentary:

American Experience: 
The Forgotten Plague
The Deadly Story of Tuberculosis in America 
and the Hunt for a Cure
Premieres Tues, February 10th from 9-10PM ET on PBS

Scores of Americans, rich and poor, became health-seekers. They migrated west and south, to Los Angeles, Pasadena, Tucson, Denver, and many other now large cities, in search of fresh air and health.

The film is partly based on Living in the Shadow of Death by Sheila Rothman, but also has contribution by authors Andrea Barrett (The Air We Breathe) and Peter Pringle (Experiment Eleven: Dark Secrets Behind the Discovery of a Wonder Drug). Also, in true American Experience form, there are interviews of people affected by TB, namely former patients of Trudeau's Sanitarium (Dr. Edward Trudeau was developer of the first sanitarium in the U.S.).

Dr. Trudeau was himself a patient, and an ardent believer of Robert Koch's 1882 postulates and felt TB to be contagious, especially after he detected the TB bacillus in his own throat swabs. The medical establishment was slow to adapt, and it took decades before major public health measures were taken. 

Public health measures helped with hygiene (think Kleenex, hemlines, beards, parks and playgrounds, and porches), but also led to stigma of the poor, namely immigrants and African Americans. Many people were sent to segregated sanitariums which helped many improve, for a while, but even in Dr. Trudeau's Sanitarium, only 1/3 of his patients (before medications became available) lived. His daughter and himself, as well, succumbed to the disease.

In 1943, Dr. Albert Schatz, working in Selman Waksman's laboratory, developed streptomycin, the first medication to treat TB. Within months, many patients relapsed, underscoring the need for multiple medications to treat this bacillus.

In the 1950's TB became treatable and sanitariums started closing. Today, we have an increase in multi-drug resistant TB. Let's not forget our history. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Robert Hooke's Microscope


Robert Hooke's Microscope at the
National Museum of Health and Medicine
photo by CM Doran 2013
Imagine the world explored when Robert Hooke looked into this beautiful microscope.

The card reads:
Microscope, Christopher Cock (London), 1665
This microscope was used by Robert Hooke of the Royal Society, author of Micrographia and first person to apply the cord 'cell' to microscopic structures.
M-030.00276

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reversion: Unintended Consequences

Today, Reversion by Amy Rogers at Science Thrillers is released:  a lab worker on an illicit drug mission, hiding in a cave with bats; a clinical trial of gene therapy at a foreign medical tourism destination (because it was not approved in the States); and assorted characters ranging from sweet and valiant to pure sociopathic. What could possibly go wrong?

The science of rabies, gene therapy, and mutations (to only name a few topics) are well portrayed:
"Disabling the virus was standard procedure when using a virus as a tool in gene therapy. Yes, her clinical trial used a rabies virus, but the virus was designed to be nothing more than a courier that delivered a package of DNA to a specific cellular address. It didn't behave like natural rabies, and it definitely did not make the patient sick. She'd taken great pains to guarantee the safety of her genetically-engineered virus. She had deleted the genes that allowed it to cause disease, and she had crippled the virus's reproduction. Outside the laboratory, it could not copy itself. Which was the reason Gunnar needed to be treated on a regular basis. The gene therapy virus died off, was cleared from his body, and had to be replaced over and over."
Contained within Reversion are Negri bodies and Batten's diseaseat odds with each other. A happy coincidence for the reviewer is that they were discovered in the same year, 1903. This coincidence is not a part of the story, but the lab bench "aha" moment (you will have to read the book to find out what that is) makes this coincidence sublime.

Reversion illustrates multiple ethical dilemmas such as the loss of subjectivity in clinical trials, for-profit medicine, and primate research. In addition, experiments inherently have some error. What effect does the power of nature have on error? 

The power of nature is a great theme, and was also portrayed in Dr. Roger's first well-done book, Petroplague. But Reversion is a more mature read, in content, and in story construction. 

The cover of Reversion shows Mayan glyphs, bats, and virus particles. The drug cartel certainly provides a Mayan underworld tone to the story (this reviewer will not be able to look at an MRI machine the same). But, also setting the tone is Lyssa, Greek Goddess of madness, rage, frenzy, and rabid animals; and there is allusion to King Midasa gift with consequences. The mythological stories are undercurrent, not central to the story. 

Reversion has Sameer, Vargas, and Lyle. They are the most strong characters who seemed either the most sincere, pathetic, or mysterious. The main protagonist, Dr. Tessa Price,  was well-defined, with a misguided sense of duty and an unreasonable fear of needles (read to find out where that gets her). She grows, but maybe not enough to end her story, or Gunnar's story.

Reversion is undeniably a satisfying read, and truly deserves a large audience. It is published by the new Science Thrillers Media, which now has four titles, and is also an invention of Dr. Amy Rogers. Readers have a lot to look forward to with her works.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Glimpse of Smallpox

Smallpox.
Extinction brought to you by all the hard efforts of research and vaccination.
CM Doran 2013: Preserved foot of smallpox victim at
National Museum of Health and Medicine;
Silver Spring, Maryland

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Second Annual Contest for Inflammatory Language!

Inflammatory Language is a series of primers on inflammation science. Care to contribute? The first place winner will receive a copy of ...

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson 

The 2013 winner was Dr. Monica Lalanda of Medicoacuadros. Her illustrations were included in Inflammatory Language: The Rain in Spain.... She received a signed copy of The Best Science Writing Online 2012.

This contest is a great opportunity for students, but anyone can contribute.

Carefully select 300-500 words (or less) and/or an illustration that conveys inflammation. It can be humorous, political, or encompass pop culture or current events, but must be professional. It also needs to be appropriate for viewing/reading by most people.

The overall goal is to accurately inform readers.

Submissions can be sent to thefebrilemuse[at]gmail[dot]com. Please include your byline and link to your website, if you have one. Thank you in advance, and good luck! I look forward to reading your submissions.

Deadline:  March 15, 2014 **Contest now closed** no acceptable submissions this year (3/17/14 CMDoran)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...