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Thu, 09 Apr 2020
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Health & Wellness


The microbes in your mouth, and a reminder to floss and go to the dentist

brush teeth brushing toothbrush
© Alliance / Adobe Stock
Most people know that good oral hygiene -- brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits -- is linked to good health. Colorado State University microbiome researchers offer fresh evidence to support that conventional wisdom, by taking a close look at invisible communities of microbes that live in every mouth.

The oral microbiome - the sum total of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, that occupy the human mouth -- was the subject of a crowd-sourced, citizen science-driven study by Jessica Metcalf's research lab at CSU and Nicole Garneau's research team at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Published in Scientific Reports, the study found, among other things, a correlation between people who did not visit the dentist regularly and increased presence of a pathogen that causes periodontal disease.

For the experiments, carried out by Garneau's community science team in the Genetics of Taste Lab at the museum, a wide cross-section of museum visitors submitted to a cheek swab and answered simple questions about their demographics, lifestyles and health habits. Microbial DNA sequencing data analyzed by Metcalf's group revealed, broadly, that oral health habits affect the communities of bacteria in the mouth. The study underscored the need to think about oral health as strongly linked to the health of the entire body.

Comment: It would be interesting to see how much diet played a role in the oral microbiome versus brushing, flossing and trips to the dentist. Knowing what we know about the effect of diet on the gut microbiome, one could deduce a similar relationship with the mouth.

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Data methods show gap between US, Chinese flu-related deaths

Beijing Children's Hospital
© Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei
A child receives treatment at Beijing Children's Hospital in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 10, 2018.
Chinese netizens expressed concerns over an influenza epidemic in the US that infected 13 million people and killed more than 6,600, while fighting the deadly coronavirus that has killed at least nine back home.

Comment: Note that this article was published almost two months ago. Figures cited do not accurately represent current statistics.

Analysts noted the US mortality rate looks much higher than China's because of the two countries' different statistical methods. The response came after some net users questioned whether the high death rate shows the ineffective control of flu in the US and how different countries should cooperate effectively to curb the new coronavirus-related disease.

The flu epidemic in the US eased during the week of January 5-11 but remains active, with an estimated 13-18 million cases of flu illnesses documented since the start of the season, a latest report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Comment: This is an important point when comparing infection and death rates in flu-like illnesses - everyone may be using different methods for collecting their numbers. Keep this in mind when looking at the situation currently in Italy, when shocking numbers seem so out-of-proportion to the rest of the world.

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Anti-inflammatories may aggravate Covid-19, France advises

Anti-inflammatory drugs
© Alamy
Anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the body’s immune response.
French minister says patients should take paracetamol rather than ibuprofen or cortisone.

French authorities have warned that widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus.

The country's health minister, Olivier Véran, who is a qualified doctor and neurologist, tweeted on Saturday: "The taking of anti-inflammatories [ibuprofen, cortisone ... ] could be a factor in aggravating the infection. In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor's advice."

Health officials point out that anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body's immune system.

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Higher temperatures affect survival of new coronavirus, pathologist says

Transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.
Research from a laboratory-grown copy of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the COVID-19 illness shows that heat affects the virus and impacts its behavior, a top pathologist said new research has shown. But other infectious disease experts aren't yet convinced.

"In cold environments, there is longer virus survival than warm ones," Hong Kong University pathology professor John Nicholls told AccuWeather exclusively.

Nicholls and colleagues from a team at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, previously produced a study, which was published in February and has yet to be peer-reviewed, noting the effect of heat. Their research is based on one of the world's first lab-grown copies of SARS-CoV-2.

"Temperature could significantly change COVID-19 transmission," the authors note in the study. They also pointed out that the "virus is highly sensitive to high temperature."

On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. This is the first pandemic in 11 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Visualizing the history of pandemics... by death toll

Pan·dem·ic /panˈdemik/ (of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world.

As humans have spread across the world, so have infectious diseases. In fact, as Visual Cpitalist's Nicholas LePan notes, even in this modern era, outbreaks are nearly constant, though not every outbreak reaches pandemic level as the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has.

Today's visualization outlines some of history's most deadly pandemics, from the Antonine Plague to the current COVID-19 event.

history of pandemics chart

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Coronavirus survivors may suffer from reduced lung function

Some patients who have recovered from the coronavirus have been left with a reduced lung capacity - and left gasping for air when walking briskly, according to a report.

The Hong Kong Hospital Authority announced the findings after studying the first wave of patients who had fully recovered from COVID-19, the South China Morning Post reported.

Three people have died of the illness in the former British colony, which has so far recorded 131 confirmed cases. Among them, 74 people have been discharged.

Arrow Up

Woman who survived coronavirus shares her early symptoms

Elizabeth Schneider
© AFP via Getty Images
Elizabeth Schneider survived coronavirus.
At last comes a measure of reassurance about the effects of the global pandemic: A woman who has fully recovered from coronavirus is a living, breathing beacon of hope.

Elizabeth Schneider, 37, had a relatively mild experience with the sometimes-deadly virus, for which she treated herself at her home in Seattle, Washington. So far, the Northwestern state has suffered the highest number of deaths — at least 30 — in the US from the disease.

Schneider, who has a doctorate in bioengineering, told the Agence France-Press she was sharing her story "to give people a little bit of hope." Her story is more common than one might think: US health authorities say 80% of cases have been mild. The remaining cases that needed hospitalization affected mainly citizens over the age of 60 and those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease.

Comment: It's important to remember that the majority of people who come down with COVID-19 have a similar story. Their symptoms may be worse (or milder), but overall it's an illness that people get over without much fanfare, excluding people with pre-existing conditions. In other words, it's not much different from the flu in its effects.

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ICAN calls on CDC to remove misinformation about vaccines and autism from website

autism vaccines
Here's the brief summary of what happened:

Last summer, the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the CDC to provide all of the studies supporting its claim that "vaccines do not cause autism." Specifically, ICAN asked the CDC to produce all of the studies that demonstrated that the vaccines given in the first six months of life did not cause autism.

These vaccines are: DTap, HIB, HepB, Prevnar (PCV13), and the Polio vaccine (IPV).

Comment: The CDC is lying. This is hardly a shocker, but perhaps Bigtree and ICAN can actually hold them accountable in this latest legal action. We live in hope.

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Life Preserver

Breathe! Don't Succumb to the Pathological Hysteria from the Coronavirus Madness


Is this worth a lockdown?
I practice Family Medicine in Europe and as everybody knows by now, we're in the midst of Coronavirus madnessTM which we are told is now an official global pandemic. It's true that we're living through a critical, decisive and increasingly divisive era, but the real issue is something other than what the media and politicians would have us believe.

Let's review our society's problems for some much needed perspective.

Very Dark Statistics, Indeed

Regardless of how many people on the planet are actively aware of it, the truth is that tens of millions of people drop like flies from illness, depression and self-destruction every single day. And that's a trend that has been ongoing for, well, a very long time.

According to the WHO assessment of deaths by cause for the years 2000-2016, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. And those who have been paying attention will know that, in the past few years, the generalized state of the public's mental health has not improved.

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Could our gut microbiota protect us against harmful byproducts of food processing?

gut bacteria microbiome
Our gut microbiota provides us with many benefits; defending us against pathogens, tuning our immune systems, and aiding in the digestion of fiber. Now scientists have discovered yet another way that the bacteria in our guts could help by offering a potential way of protecting us from chemical modifications of food ingredients introduced by food processing.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis Missouri have discovered a species of gut bacteria that can transform the harmful byproducts of food processing into less harmful byproducts in mice and in vitro conditions. Specifically, scientists have found that the bacteria Collinsella intestinalis can metabolize the Maillard Reaction Product (MRP) e-fructoselysine (FL) to innocuous products.

Maillard reaction products form upon heat-induced reaction of amino acids with reducing sugars and are common in processed foods. The consumption of MRPs has dramatically increased in recent years due to the processing and "ultra-processing" of foods and are associated with negative health effects such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Comment: It makes sense that, given the right microbial balance, the microbiome would be able to help mitigate some of the over-consumption of toxic foods and pollutants we inundate it with in the modern age. One hopes that future research will uncover more microbial species that can metabolize even more of the toxic garbage we're exposed to regularly (glyphosate would be nice). This provides yet more evidence of the importance of keeping your gut microbiome in good condition.

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