Health & Wellness


Toxic bug has meat-eaters in its sights

Just when it seemed that contaminated vegetables posed a bigger risk of food poisoning than eating meat, along comes a pathogen that will only attack those of us who are carnivores.

The bacterium - a strain of Escherichia coli - makes a toxin that does its worst by latching onto a sugar molecule that humans don't have naturally. We can, only acquire it by eating red meat or dairy products.

"This toxin originally evolved to attack cattle or some other animals," says Ajit Varki, an expert in molecular medicine at the University of California, San Diego, who was involved in the study. By eating the toxin's intended target we made ourselves vulnerable too, he says.

When unlucky meat-eaters ingest this particular E. coli strain, its toxin kills the cells that line the gut, eventually causing bloody diarrhoea, Varki says. It also heads for blood vessels and the kidneys.


Doctors seek answers on mould mystery

Fungus expert Joan Bennett did not believe in so-called toxic mould - the cause of "sick building syndrome" and many lawsuits - until her New Orleans home was flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

When she got a whiff of the foul air that the black goo had created in her home, she decided to change her research focus and try to find out how and if the fungi that took over most of the flooded homes on the Gulf Coast might make people ill.


Guinea-Bissau cholera epidemic seen lasting months

The death toll in Guinea-Bissau's rapidly spreading cholera epidemic is rising and the outbreak may continue for months, United Nations agencies said on Tuesday.

The death toll is now 213, with 12,785 people known to be infected, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told a news briefing in Geneva.


Canada: Links in new E. coli outbreak unclear

Eleven cases connected to single Niagara restaurant, but officials concerned about source of four other incidents

Ontario's second E. coli outbreak this month continues to grow, and although a restaurant has been pinpointed as a possible source, officials fear "something broader" could be behind it.

Red Flag

Zimbabwe: Catastrophic Cholera outbreak in Bulawayo

Bulawayo-At least 8 people have died of cholera and 30 have been hospitalised in Esigodini, 40 kilometres outside of Bulawayo on the Johannesburg-Bulawayo highway.


Fifth case confirmed in South African viral outbreak

A fifth case has been confirmed in the recent outbreak of febrile illnesses caused by a mysterious virus in South Africa, and preliminary tests have supported earlier suspicions that it is new member of the arenavirus family, South African health officials announced recently.

A worker who fell ill and died after cleaning a hospital room where the first case-patient in the outbreak had stayed was confirmed to have the virus, South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said in an Oct 24 update.


Brain's 'Hate Circuit' Identified

© iStockphoto/Valentin Casarsa
New research has found that people who view pictures of someone they hate display activity in distinct areas of the brain that, together, may be thought of as a 'hate circuit.'
People who view pictures of someone they hate display activity in distinct areas of the brain that, together, may be thought of as a 'hate circuit', according to new research by scientists at UCL (University College London).

The study, by Professor Semir Zeki and John Romaya of the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at UCL, examined the brain areas that correlate with the sentiment of hate and shows that the 'hate circuit' is distinct from those related to emotions such as fear, threat and danger - although it shares a part of the brain associated with aggression. The circuit is also quite distinct from that associated with romantic love, though it shares at least two common structures with it.

Comment: Seems to be the circuit that Sarah Palin is trying to activate during her rallies.


Genetic mutation linked to club foot

Club foot, one of the most common birth defects, may be caused by a genetic mutation, a finding that opens the door to genetic counselling, prevention and treatment, researchers said Thursday.

Club foot - in which the foot turns inward and downward, making walking difficult - is one of the most common severe musculoskeletal birth defects, with a worldwide incidence of one in 1,000 live births, according to the researchers.

About half of club foot cases affect both feet, including the bones, muscles, tendons and blood vessels.

If untreated, those affected walk on the outside of their feet, which can lead to long-term pain and disability. Treatments include the use of casts and splints, or surgery.


Melamine scandal spreads to Chinese eggs

© Peter Parks / AFP / Getty Images
The Director of Hanwei Eggs was contrite. "We solemnly apologize to consumers," said Han Wei. "We apologize to the distributors. We solemnly declare that our company has never purchased melamine. We have never adopted melamine to the feeds or products." But somehow melamine got into eggs produced at the company's plant in Dailin in northeast China.

Melamine is a chemical used in making plastics and fertilizer. But in recent times, it has become the badge of shame for the Chinese food industry after being illegally added to food products to suggest they contain a higher level of protein. U.N. officials are concerned that melamine has been introduced to animal feed and may turn up in chicken, pork, farmed fish and other products.

Tainted eggs from Hanwei were discovered in Hong Kong late last week; melamine was present at nearly double the maximum permissible level.

Life Preserver

Suicide linked to brain changes

The brains of people who commit suicide are chemically different to those who die from other causes, a Canadian study has suggested. Researchers analysed brain tissue from 20 dead people and, in those who killed themselves, they found a higher rate of a process that affects behaviour.

Writing in Biological Psychiatry, they said it appeared environmental factors played a part in the changes. And they said the discovery opened up a new avenue of research.