The Dangers of Science: Population Explosion, Antibiotic Resistance, and Medicine.

Many argue that science and technology are bringing us closer and closer to perfection. Of course there are a number of issues with pollutants and sustainability, but speaking specifically about modern medicine, few will deny how few we have come.  In fact, there are many scientists who predict that humans could be living to be 150 years old in the near future, some even assert that the first person who will live to be 150 has already been born.

Information via USDA report, which can be found here

And it’s all thanks to science.

Modern drugs that help us combat the flu, malaria, and a host of other health issues have drastically increased the lives of many around the world. Thanks to new drugs and medicine, each year the average life expectancy increases…even in the most depressing areas on Earth. However, is this truly a triumph? Or is it cause for some concern?

One issue associated with modern medicine is the increase in population. Although vast tracks of the planet are still uninhabited, humanity’s agriculture alone takes up a landmass equal to South America. As we continue to improve our medicine, the population of the planet is only going to increase…and so will our demand for natural resources. However, population isn’t the only thing that we need to be concerned about. One of the biggest concerns? We might not be able to use antibiotics for much longer. Yes, you read that right.

Oxford researchers recently conducted a study on antibiotic resistance and noted that, “Antibiotic resistance is subject to frequent press comment, with fears expressed that we shall soon ‘run out’ of antibiotics and that classical infections will regain their status as major sources of mortality. It is suggested, too, that a swathe of modern medical procedures—from transplants to immunosuppressive cancer management—may collapse, as each depends crucially on our ability to treat infection.” When interrogating the accuracy of these fears, the researchers found that, although the resistance landscape is not as bleak as it is sometimes painted, there is a cause for serious concern.

So, how did we get here?

One was is the introduction of antibiotics to livestock. Ultimately, bacteria are becoming more resilient to existing antibiotics because many farmers do not properly regulate the intake of what their animals receive. Instead, all animals are given the same drugs, regardless of whether this is actually necessary. This leads vast swaths of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which no longer have to compete with non-resistant bacteria. As such, the resistant bacteria flourish. This, in turn, leads to the antibiotic becoming ineffective when used in humans. This new epidemic is already becoming apparent in many situations, and many hospitals are struggling to cope with the rise in the number of infections that patients obtain, post operation, due to ineffective antibiotics.

To keep up with this epidemic, pharmaceutical companies must invest heavily into finding and testing new antibiotics that can fight against the ‘Super Bug’. Since some bacteria are resistant to some antibiotics naturally, scientists and working to extract what it is that allows them to have a resistance. Moreover, scientists are looking in deep ocean ridges, that harbor millions of bacteria, which they believe may help them discover a new antidote; however, it could be sometime until they find and test a suitable new antibiotic…which then would only treat against one type of bacteria. This is problematic, as  there are millions of bacteria that can significantly harm us.

Many say that the only way to overcome this epidemic is for governments to provide sufficient funding to the companies to enable them to continue researching.

Potatoes Found to Combat High Blood Pressure.

 Are you worried about high blood pressure? Researchers studying the effects of potatoes on human health have noted that potato consumption is linked to a reduction in blood pressure among obese people with high blood pressure.

potatopurple 260x162 Potatoes Found to Combat High Blood Pressure

Lowering Blood Pressure Naturally

Just a few servings of potato each day can reduce blood pressure in overweight people who have high blood pressure, states researchers in a new report. The potato study was conducted using purple potatoes without any fat or oil. Two groups of participants were chosen for the study, a healthy group and an overweight group who suffered from high blood pressure.

The healthy participants ate 6 small purple potatoes a day or the equivalent of starch in the form of biscuits. At the end of the trial, it was found the antioxidant capacity of their blood and urine was increased by eating potatoes and decreased by eating biscuits. The overweight group ate 6 purple potatoes each day for 4 weeks followed by a 4-week period of no potatoes, followed by another 4-week period of eating potatoes. The results demonstrated that although eating the potatoes caused no change in body weight, blood fats or sugar levels, blood pressure did decrease.

One of the primary reasons for potatoes lowering blood pressure has to do with high levels of potassium found in the food. Potassium has several functions in the body, aiding with the proper workings of the heart, kidneys, nerves, muscles and the digestive system. A lack of potassium can manifest itself in many ways, including high blood pressure.

At the end of the study, researchers claimed that the consumption of purple potatoes was, in fact, effective for lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke in people who have high blood pressure. It is thought that red-skinned potatoes would have the same impact.

The Blacklisted Potato

Unfortunately, many Americans have blacklisted potatoes from their diet completely. The potato is often seen as an empty calorie, high carbohydrate, fattening food that has no nutritional value. This is actually a long way from the truth. But when a potato is topped with mounds of butter, sour cream, fried in oil or otherwise changed from its original state, this is where problems begin. In actuality, a potato only has slightly over 100 calories and numerous beneficial vitamins and phytochemicals such as those found in spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

A Little Potato History

Potato roots began in the Andes Mountains of South America where inconsistent temperatures and extremely poor soil were the norm. The potato, however, survived and even thrived in these conditions, some 15,000 feet up in the air. Pre-Columbian farmers, impressed by the heartiness of this vegetable began cultivating the potato almost 7,000 years ago. It was not until around 1537 that people in the west encountered the potato. Of course, everyone is aware of the potato’s use in Ireland. Because potatoes contain most vitamins that are needed for survival, it was a popular food. This explains the great famine in Ireland that followed the crop failure of the 1800′s.

How an ocean went into hiding in Australia.

A chunk of the oceans took a wrong turn in 2011. Instead of going from sky to rain, into rivers, and then back into the oceans in the usual water cycle, it got stuck in Australia, caught up in record-breaking floods and rivers that run backwards into the continent. So much water got lost down under that global sea levels fell and stayed low for more than a year.


John Fasullo of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, noticed something amiss while looking at trends in global sea levels. They had been rising steadily by about 3 millimetres every year, but in the second half of 2010, they suddenly plummeted. By early 2011, they had dropped by 7 mm, the biggest drop since satellite measurements began in 1992.

The reversal lasted until late 2011. Not many people noticed: at the time, the world was preoccupied with massive floods in Australia. Fasullo wondered whether the two events might be linked. If more water than usual was evaporating from the oceans and falling on Australia, that might help to explain both the floods and sea level drop.

Satellite data showed that more water was stored on land in 2011 than in previous years, most of it in Australia, South America and South-East Asia (Geophysical Research Letters, An early explanation was a strong La Niña, which funnelled warm, moist air towards Australia. But La Niña events happen every few years and regularly make it rain in Australia, says Fasullo. “Why don’t we see massive sea level drops after all La Niñas?”

Triple whammy

Re-examining weather records revealed two other factors. The Indian Ocean was much warmer in the east than in the west, pushing yet more warm, moist air towards Australia. This had not happened for 20 years. At the same time, a band of winds circling Antarctica shifted to the south, boosting the effect still further (Geophysical Research Letters,

The rare combination of events led to unusually heavy Australian rainfall, says Fasullo. But why did the water stay out of the oceans for so long? Extra rainfall on land should get washed back out to sea by rivers within a few months.

It turns out that Australia has an uncanny ability to trap water for long periods. River channels are sparse in the west, so rainwater tends to sit in the sandy soil. And in the east, many of the channels run into a low-lying desert basin at the centre of the continent rather than out to sea. With heavy rains, the basin fills up to become Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre; fish eggs lying dormant in the soil hatch, and an ecosystem briefly comes to life. “It’s an instant inland sea,” says Fasullo.

The unusual weather and geology offer a convincing explanation for the sudden drop in sea levels, says John Church of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Hobart, Tasmania. But his colleague Xuebin Zhangsays questions remain. He calculates that the extra water on land accounts for about 3.75 mm of the 7 mm fall in sea levels.

Similarly heavy rain fell on Australia in 1973-74, but sea-level records from then are not detailed enough to draw conclusions, and the three climate systems might not align again for decades.


Soil-transmitted helminth infection in South America: a systematic review and geostatistical meta-analysis.


The four common soil-transmitted helminth species—Ascaris lumbricoidesTrichuris trichiura, and the two hookworm species Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus—are endemic in South America, but their distribution, infection prevalence, and regional burden are poorly understood. We aimed to estimate the risk and number of people infected with A lumbricoidesT trichiura, and hookworm across South America.


We did a systematic review of reports on the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminth infection in South America published up to May 14, 2012. We extracted and georeferenced relevant survey data and did a meta-analysis of the data to assess the geographical distribution of the infection risk with Bayesian geostatistical models. We used advanced Bayesian variable selection to identify environmental determinants that govern the distribution of soil-transmitted helminth infections.


We screened 4085 scientific papers and identified 174 articles containing relevant survey prevalence data. We georeferenced 6948 survey locations and entered the data into the open-access Global Neglected Tropical Diseases database. Survey data were sparse for the south of the continent and for the western coast, and we identified no relevant information for Uruguay and little data for smaller countries such as Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, and Ecuador. Population-adjusted prevalence of infection with A lumbricoides was 15·6%, with T trichiura was 12·5%, and with hookworm was 11·9% from 2005 onwards. Risks of contracting soil-transmitted helminth infection have substantially reduced since 2005 (odds ratio 0·47 [95% Bayesian credible interval 0·46—0·47] for A lumbricoides, 0·54 [0·54—0·55] for T trichiura, and 0·58 [0·58—0·59] for hookworm infection).


Our findings offer important baseline support for spatial targeting of soil-transmitted helminthiasis control, and suggest that more information about the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminth infection is needed, especially in countries in which we estimate prevalence of infection to be high but for which current data are scarce.

Source: lancet


Time to Rethink Our Assumptions About ICP Monitoring for TBI.

A randomized trial finds no benefit from therapy guided by intracranial pressure monitoring rather than clinical and radiographic signs.

Guidelines recommend intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring in the acute management of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, only observational data support this recommendation, and not all clinicians follow it. Investigators have now performed the first randomized trial of ICP monitoring in patients with severe TBI.

Taking advantage of widespread equipoise in South America regarding the benefits of ICP monitoring, the trial involved six Bolivian and Ecuadorian hospitals with intensivist-staffed ICUs, 24-hour computed tomography availability, and neurosurgical coverage. Investigators enrolled patients older than 12 years with a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 3–8, excluding those with unsurvivable injuries or a GCS score of 3 and bilateral fixed and dilated pupils. Those randomized to ICP monitoring received an intraparenchymal monitor and treatment to keep ICP <20 mm Hg. The other half of patients received treatment triggered by signs of increased ICP on clinical examination or imaging.

The 324 enrolled patients had characteristics of severe TBI, with a median GCS score of 4 and midline shift in about one third. Six months after their injury, patients in both groups had similar scores on a composite measure of functional status and cognition, and similar cumulative mortality (39% in the ICP-monitoring group vs. 41% in the imaging-examination group, a nonsignificant difference). Patients who underwent ICP monitoring received fewer specific treatments for cerebral edema.

Comment: This impressive study requires us to rethink how we define and measure intracranial hypertension. In the meantime, it should be noted that this trial did not test whether we should treat intracranial hypertension, which was treated aggressively in both groups. Instead, the authors found no benefit to ICP monitoring in guiding this treatment. These results indicate that the treatment of intracranial hypertension after TBI can be guided appropriately by either ICP monitoring or the clinical approach outlined in the trial protocol.

Source: Journal Watch Neurology