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Latest Posts

What’s Your Poison? Science And Medicine Vs. Chemical Poisoning

The Poisoner's HandbookThis is going to be a quick welcome to Deborah Blum who has just moved her blog, Speakeasy Science, to ScienceBlogs.

Why quick?

Because I am only 22 pages away from finishing her latest book, The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.

This engaging tale of the race of science and medicine against chemical poisonings for profit and punishment features the true story of NYC chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler.

Of course, the other actors are arsenic, methanol, chloroform, thallium, and radium, among others. In the teens through the mid-1930s, long before benchtop atomic absorption spectrophotometry and LC/MS instruments, Norris and Gettler devised methods to detect poisons in human tissues with high sensitivity. These advances led to the prosecution of some, the absolution of the wrongly-accused, and revealed that our own government poisoned citizens who dared to challenge Prohibition. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

Ciguatera Poisoning and Sex

Ciguatera fish poisoning involves a large number of tropical and semitropical bottom-feeding fish that dine on plants or smaller fish that have accumulated toxins from certain microscopic dinoflagellates. Therefore, the larger the fish, the greater the toxicity. The ciguatoxin-carrying fish most commonly ingested include the barracuda, jack, grouper, and snapper. Symptoms, which usually begin 15 to 30 minutes after the victim eats the contaminated fish, include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tongue and throat numbness, tooth pain, difficulty walking, blurred vision, skin rash, itching, tearing of the eyes, weakness, twitching muscles, incoordination, difficulty sleeping, and occasional difficulty in breathing. A classic sign of ciguatera intoxication is the reversal of hot and cold sensation (hot liquids seem cold and vice versa), which may reflect general hypersensitivity to temperature. Unfortunately, the symptoms persist in varying severity for weeks to months. Victims can become severely ill, with heart problems, low blood pressure, deficiencies of the central and peripheral nervous systems, and generalized collapse. Anyone who displays symptoms of ciguatera fish poisoning should be seen promptly by a physician.

It was reported this spring that ciguatera fish poisoning has been linked to pain during sexual intercourse. Despite the sensational coverage that this announcement received by the press, the phenomenon has been known for quite some time. It is indeed a fact that a person affected by ciguatera fish poisoning may suffer symptoms of pain during sex. These symptoms include painful ejaculation in men, and a burning sensation during and after (for up to 3 hours) intercourse. What was interesting about this most recent report, which was generated by observations made in North Carolina, was quantification of the duration of the uncomfortable symptoms. One male reported that his symptoms lasted a week, and two of the women said that they were affected for a month. The fish implicated in this particular cluster of cases was amberjack.

Treatment for ciguatera fish poisoning is for the most part supportive, although certain drugs are beginning to prove useful for aspects of the syndrome. An example is intravenous mannitol for abnormal nervous system behavior or abnormal heart rhythms. These therapies must be undertaken by a physician. Prochlorperazine may be useful for vomiting; hydroxyzine or cool showers may be useful for itching. There are chemical tests (such as Cigua-Check® Fish Poison Test Kit) to determine the presence of ciguatoxins in fish, but there is not yet a specific antidote.

This post, Ciguatera Poisoning and Sex, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

People Might Risk Their Lives For Video Games

If we had a power outage for a really, really long time, how would you fare? Really…could you go a really, really long time with out your computer, TV, cell phone over, say, your refrigerator? If you had access to a super powered generator what would you turn on? In other words, what would you find “essential” – things like refrigerators, the stove and perhaps a light or two…or technology.

A recent article in USA Today is quite illuminating. It turns out that many people, adult people, are so hooked on technology that in the case of a massive power outage they would actually put their lives and those of their kids at huge risk by turning on things like video games over truly essential items like lights and a refrigerator by running the games in a closed garage.

The USA Today article points out the highlights of a new study in this month’s Pediatrics about the dangers of gas-powered generators. The study notes that after Hurricane Ike, an ER in Houston treated 37 people from gas-generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning. Of those people, 54% were under the age of 18 and 75% of this group were playing video games.

This study highlights that our sense of “what is essential” has become skewed towards all that is plugged in. If our kids can not deal without technology for a bit, if we can not deal without technology for a bit, it’s time we took a collective big step back and realized that we actually can. It will feel strange and foreign for a day or so but life will go on because our “essentials”…food, shelter, oxygen, family…are met.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

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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