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Test That Could Tell Physicians When To Give Antibiotics

From the pages of CSI: Miami… a commonly used forensic chemical called luminol to identify traces of blood at crime scenes has been modified to be used in a novel medical test that can help differentiate a viral infection from a bacterial infection.

Why is this important?

Not uncommonly, it is sometimes hard to differentiate between a bacterial infection which is treated with antibiotics from a viral infection which is NOT treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, in the healthcare system, too often, antibiotics are given if an infection is present whether viral or bacterial which is leading to multi-drug resistant infections like MRSA.

Well with this test, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

Drug Resistant Bacteria Found In Half Of US Meat And Chicken

Drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus were found in nearly half of meat and poultry samples, and were likely from the animal themselves, a study reported.

Meat Department by Anthony Albright via Flickr and Creative CommonsResearchers collected and analyzed 136 samples of 80 brands of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 26 retail grocery stores in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Flagstaff, Ariz. Among the samples, 47% were contaminated with S. aureus, and 52% of the strains were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics–and some to nine antibiotics.

Translational Genomics Research Institute, a non-profit research organization, conducted the study and published results in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

DNA testing suggested that the food animals themselves were the major source of contamination. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

IBM’s New Solution For Drug-Resistant Bacteria: Nanotechnology

treatedcell.pngIBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Shanghai have designed a new type of polymer that can detect and destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA. The polymer nanostructures also prevent bacteria from developing drug resistance. Moreover, because of the mechanism by which the nanostructures work, they don’t affect circulating blood cells, and, unlike most traditional antimicrobial agents, the nanostructures are biodegradable, naturally eliminated from the body rather than remaining behind and accumulating in tissues.

From the Nature Chemistry abstract by Nederberg, et al.: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

5 Avoidable Air Travel Health Risks

For those of you planning air travel to your next medical conference (and ACP Internist isn’t too shameless to plug Internal Medicine 2011 — we hope to see you there), TIME reports that there are five health risks that are rare yet have recently happened. Tips on avoiding these maladies include:

E. Coli and MRSA on the tray table. Microbiologists found these two everywhere when they swabbed down flights. Bring your own disinfecting wipes.

Bedbugs in the seat. British Airways fumigated two planes after a passenger posted pictures online about her experience. Wrap clothes in plastic and wash them.

Sick seatmates. Everyone has experienced (or been) this person. Wash your hands.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Tennis star Serena Williams experienced a pulmonary embolism, possibly related to recent foot surgery. But DVT can happen to anyone restrained to a cramped position for long periods of time. Move around in-flight (but not during the beverage service, of course.)

Dehydration. Dry cabin air may make it more difficult to fight off infections. Drink more water.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Preventing Hospital-Acquired Infections: Patients Must Be “Safety Partners”

This is a guest post by Dr. Julia Hallisy.

Serious infections are becoming more prevalent and more virulent both in our hospitals and in our communities. The numbers are staggering: 1.7 million people will suffer from a hospital-acquired infections each year and almost 100,000 will die as a result.

When our late daughter, Kate, was diagnosed with an aggressive eye cancer in 1989 at five months of age, our life became consumed by doctor visits, MRI scans, radiation treatments, chemotherapy — and fear. My husband and I assumed that our fight was against the ravages of cancer, but almost eight years later we faced another life-threatening challenge we never counted on — a hospital-acquired infection. In 1997, Kate was infected with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the operating room during a “routine” 30-minute biopsy procedure to confirm the reoccurrence of her cancer.

Kate’s hospital-acquired infection led to seven weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit on life support, the amputation of her right leg, kidney damage, and the loss of 70 percent of her lung capacity. While most infections are not this serious, the ones that are often lead to permanent loss of function and lifelong disabilities. In the years since Kate’s infection, resistant strains of the bacteria have emerged and now pose even more of a threat since they can be impossible to treat with our existing arsenal of antibiotics.

Patients afflicted with MRSA will often have to contend with the threat of recurrent infections for the rest of their lives. These patients live in constant fear of re-infection and often struggle with feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. Family members, friends, and co-workers may not fully understand the facts and have nowhere to turn for education about risks and prevention. Loved ones may worry unnecessarily for their own safety, which can cause them to distance themselves from someone who desperately needs their presence and support.

We have the knowledge and the ability to prevent a great number of these frightening infections, but the busy and fragmented system in which healthcare is delivered doesn’t encourage adequate infection control measures, and patients continue to be at risk. A significant part of the problem is that the public doesn’t receive timely and accurate information about the detection and prevention of MRSA and other dangerous organisms, and they aren’t engaged as “safety partners” in the quest to eliminate infections. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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