I love when the stories find me, so we’ve got some big ones this week including the nuclear deal with Iran and the arrival of multi-drug resistant Shigella in the United States. We’ve also got an Ebola update and other stories you may have missed.
Enjoy your (Easter) Sunday, have a great week and see you back here next weekend!
An Iran Nuclear Deal Built on Coffee, All-Nighters and Compromise
For months—many, many, months—there has been discussion of potential for Iranian nuclear weapons and what the U.S. planned to do about it. This week, those questions were finally answered as a nuclear agreement between American and Iranian officials was reached in Lausanne, Switzerland.
New York Times—“The agreement calls for Tehran to slash its stockpile of nuclear materials and severely limit its enrichment activities, theoretically bringing the time it would take to produce a nuclear weapon to a year — a significant rollback from the current estimate of two to three months.
Both sides made significant compromises. For the United States, that meant accepting that Iran would retain its nuclear infrastructure in some shrunken form. For Iran, it meant severe limits on its production facilities and submitting to what Mr. Obama has called the most intrusive inspections regime in history.”
Drug-Resistant Food Poisoning Lands in the U.S.
Before I travelled to China in 2012, my doctor prescribed me ciprofloxacin. It was, in his opinion, almost guaranteed I would come into contact with some sort of bacteria that would result in the dreaded “travel tummy.” Now, Cipro-resistant Shigella (a bacterial infection of the intestines) is becoming a growing problem in Asia and around the world. Over the past year, the resistant strain has shown up in 32 U.S. states and was linked with international travel to India, the Dominican Republic, and Morocco. However, in many instances, people who got sick hadn’t travelled outside the U.S. meaning the strain has already started to circulate unrelated to international travel. This could be a real problem.
NPR—“‘If rates of resistance become this high, in more places, we’ll have very few options left for treating Shigella with antibiotics by mouth,” says epidemiologist Anna Bowen, who led the study. Then doctors will have to resort to IV antibiotics.
Shigella is incredibly contagious. It spreads through contaminated food and water. “As few as 10 germs can cause an infection,” Bowen says. “That’s much less than some other diarrhea-causing germs.’”
This Week in Ebola
It’s been awhile since we’ve had an Ebola update, which should mostly be interpreted as a good sign. And there are good signs, like the two experimental trials of Ebola vaccine candidates have proven to be both safe and effective. However, during a three-day countrywide shutdown in Sierra Leone, 10 new cases of Ebola were found. The good news is that there were not hundreds of hidden cases, as some feared, and the Head of Sierra Leone’s Ebola Response has said the small figures indicate that the country is now at the “tail end” of the epidemic. If things are going relatively well in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Ebola still remains entrenched in Guinea. This week Guinea closed its border with Sierra Leone as an effort to stamp out the virus. Even those who aren’t sick, or have recovered, must still deal with the after effects of the disease. This week, the Liberian government recommended that all Ebola survivors practice “safe sex indefinitely” until more information can be collected on the length of time the virus may remain present in bodily fluids. All these stories should serve as a reminder that even though Ebola may not be as present in the news, the disease is still affecting people around the world.
Stories You May Have Missed
- My time here at Pandora Report has taught me that Hepatitis C is an epidemic in the U.S. affecting approximately 3.2 million people, many of whom don’t know they have it. It is a chronic infection that is most prevalent among those born between 1945 and 1965. On March 23, Tazo Tea co-founder Steven Smith died from liver cancer caused by Hepatitis C.
- I’ve taken to calling airplanes “flying disease tubes” and this interesting question posed to the New York Times explains How Not to Catch a Cold on a Plane.
- When you mix garlic, onion (or leek), wine, and bile from a cow’s stomach what do you get? Evidently, according to microbiologists at the University of Nottingham in the UK and a 10th century book of Anglo-Saxon medical advice, a treatment for MRSA.
- Planning a spring trip to New York? Make sure to stop by the New York Hall of Science to see the Epi-Rail visualization map of how diseases spread.
- A study out of Texas Tech has concluded that DNA from antibiotic-resistance bacteria in cattle feedlots is airborne. An estimated 80% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock.
- Brought to my attention by Greg Koblentz, Defense One, this week, published a piece called To Protect Ourselves From Bioweapons, We May Have to Reinvent Science Itself. It’s definitely worth a read.
Image Credit: Zeynel Cebeci