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Wed, 26 Oct 2016
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Health & Wellness


The 'Swiss Agent': Long-forgotten research unearths new mystery about Lyme disease

A page from Willy Burgdorfer's archive shows elements of the research process he used to find infectious agents and study their properties. (English translation of the German: “Different Working Branches of Rocky Mountain Laboratories” )
The tick hunter was hopeful he had found the cause of the disabling illness, recently named Lyme disease, that was spreading anxiety through leafy communities east of New York City. At a government lab in Montana, Willy Burgdorfer typed a letter to a colleague, reporting that blood from Lyme patients showed "very strong reactions" on a test for an obscure, tick-borne bacterium. He called it the "Swiss Agent."

But further studies raised doubts about whether he had the right culprit, and 18 months later, in 1981, Burgdorfer instead pinned Lyme on another microbe. The Swiss Agent test results were forgotten.

Now STAT has obtained those documents, including some discovered in boxes of Burgdorfer's personal papers found in his garage after his death in 2014. The papers — including letters to collaborators, lab records, and blood test results — indicate that the Swiss Agent was infecting people in Connecticut and Long Island in the late 1970s.

And scientists who worked with Burgdorfer, and reviewed key portions of the documents at STAT's request, said the bacteria might still be sickening an unknown number of Americans today.

While the evidence is hardly conclusive, patients and doctors might be mistaking under-the-radar Swiss Agent infections for Lyme, the infectious disease specialists said. Or the bacteria could be co-infecting some Lyme patients, exacerbating symptoms and complicating their treatment — and even stoking a bitter debate about whether Lyme often becomes a persistent and serious illness.

Swiss Agent, now called Rickettsia helvetica, is likely not a major health risk in the United States, in part because such bacteria typically respond to antibiotics. Still, several of Burgdorfer's former colleagues called for infectious disease researchers to mount a search for the bacterium.

Comment: More information on Lyme disease:

Autism and Lyme Disease are Connected, Lyme-Induced Autism Study Finds
Lyme Disease - Why Lyme is the Mystery Disease
Doctors to reassess antibiotics for 'chronic Lyme' disease


Systematic review finds antidepressants double the risk for suicidality and violence in healthy volunteers

© iStock
The Nordic Cochrane Center conducted a systematic review of existing research trials on antidepressants and found that the drugs doubled the risk of feelings associated with violence and suicidality in healthy study volunteers.

"Antidepressants double the occurrence of events in adult healthy volunteers that can lead to suicide and violence," the authors write. "We consider it likely that antidepressants increase suicides at all ages."

The connection between antidepressants and violence and suicidality has been a subject of a great deal of debate in the research literature. Previous studies suggest that antidepressants can cause an extreme state called "akathisia," characterized by feelings of extreme agitation, restlessness, and thoughts of violence and suicidality. It is generally accepted that there is an increased risk for suicidality for children, teens, and young adults when taking antidepressants and in 2007 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added a black box warning for teenagers.

Similarly, last year, researchers in Sweden published a study finding that individuals were more likely to commit a violent crime when taking an antidepressant compared to when they were not. These results and others have often been criticized or dismissed by those who point out that anxiety and suicidality are often symptoms associated with the conditions being treated. To explore this explanation, this study attempts to disentangle the symptoms from side-effects by looking only at the drug effects on healthy study volunteers who showed no signs of 'mental disorder' prior to drug exposure.

Comment: This is only the tip of the iceberg. To get a better idea, listen to our radio show: Big Pharma Karma - Magic bullets and the astonishing rise of mental illness

Bacon n Eggs

Protein sources and why variety matters

Sometimes the simple story is good enough. I'd venture to say that simple is usually good enough, particularly when it comes to health. A good diet? Eat lots of plants and animals, don't eat so many carbs, and stop being scared of natural fat. Training? Lift heavy things, move around a lot at a slow pace (constantly, if you can swing it), go really fast once in awhile, and enjoy what you do. Lifestyle in general? Get some sun, be with your tribe, get into nature as often as possible, inject meaning, laugh, love, and live. There—that gets you most of the way. Simple, right?

Another common piece of advice is "eat protein." And yeah, that's true. We need protein to survive. It's probably the most essential nutrient in existence because we can't make it ourselves. But sometimes digging a little deeper pays off.

Not all protein is created equally. Protein is composed of up to 20 different amino acids. Every protein source contains some or all of those amino acids in different proportions, so each source of protein really is different. When we digest protein, what our body actually absorbs and utilizes are those amino acids. Each one plays a different role in the body, from building and repairing various tissues, performing vital metabolic processes, acting as progenitor for essential compounds, and even regulating gene expression. We need amino acids to live.

Microscope 1

Researchers identify chemical with potential to postpone aging and neurodegeneration

© www.alamy.com
Researchers have identified a key factor in the aging process they say could one day lead to longer lives. In a new study on mice and roundworms, researchers found that adding a chemical known as coenzyme NAD+ postponed physical aging and extend the subjects' lives. It's thought that these effects will be seen in humans as well, and could even help to prevent illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

The study from the University of Copenhagen's Center for Healthy Aging and the American National Institute of Health examined the effects on mice and roundworms bred with the illness Ataxia telangiectasia (A-T). This is a neurodegenerative illness which hinders DNA repairs and leads to symptoms that are typically associated with early aging.

Adding NAD+, however, was found to delay the aging process of the cells and halt mitochondrial damage. And, it extended the subjects' lives for both the mice and worms. According to the researchers, the study has major implications for human aging, and links two leading theories - DNA damage accumulation and mitochondrial dysfunction.


A shot in the dark: Where is the science supporting the childhood vaccine schedule?

© CDC Vaccine Schedule 1983 vs. Present
Americans have been carefully taught to fully trust the recommendations made by medical doctors and public health officials, and many do trust without questioning. After all, we expect and want to believe that the recommendations being made by the "medical experts" are evidence-based and thoroughly tested for safety.

In the case of the childhood vaccine schedule recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the general assumption is that the safety of giving infants and children 49 doses of 14 vaccines between day of birth and age six has been thoroughly researched and proven safe. Many parents (and perhaps many pediatricians) would be surprised to learn there are a number of important unanswered questions about the number of vaccines, timing, the order and the ages at which recommended vaccines are given to babies and young children.

Comment: And yet the CDC adds more vaccines to the childhood immunization schedule!


Online pornography and the corruption of young minds

© Anna Parini
Just a few weeks earlier, Jesse was excited to start grade five and share with his friends all the good stories he had from summer camp and playing baseball. But this past week, Jesse's father noticed his son's behavior was changing quite dramatically. Usually eager to share what he was learning in math and science, Jesse gave a simple shrug of his shoulders and said, "It was pretty boring to be honest, Mom," when asked how the class science experiment went.

Figuring he was just in a bad mood that evening, Jesse's father waited until the weekend to ask how he was enjoying getting to know his new classmates. Even more telling that something was seriously wrong, Jesse responded, "Michael acts like a $#*&!!"

This withdrawn attitude and profanity came as a complete to shock to Jesse's parents. Where had their son heard this kind of language? Why was he disengaging from the class? Were his peers the problem? Conscious of not wanting to over-react, they agreed that closely monitoring the situation was the best course of action for the time being.

Then the family iPad started going missing from the usual spot on the kitchen counter. They searched high and low one night, only to find it back on its stand in the morning.

Comment: For a more in depth look at the effects porn has on the brain watch the following video series: This Is Your Brain On Porn
This presentation is not an argument against pornography. It was created for anyone who has a porn addiction, or wants to understand pornography addiction.

Science teacher Gary Wilson explains the evolutionary forces behind porn's appeal, how the brain changes in response to super-normal stimulation, what makes today's porn different from static porn of the past, and what you need to know to regain your sense of direction if you're hooked on porn.
Also listen to The Health & Wellness Show: The Death of Intimacy: Porn and the Ponerization of Sex


Big Pharma presses factory farm antibiotics even as deadly superbugs rise

The U.S. wants to fight superbugs by targeting one of the world's biggest markets for antibiotics: farms.

Big pharma has other ideas.

Even as the industry prepares to comply with new U.S. Food and Drug Administration efforts to limit antibiotic use in American livestock, it is marketing the drugs to U.S. veterinarians while continuing to expand sales elsewhere around the world. Bacteria resistant to antibiotic drugs, or superbugs, are a growing problem particularly in hospitals and claim an estimated 700,000 lives annually. Scientists say there is an intimate link between the health of the planet's livestock and that of the human population.

"If some of the biggest responsible parties - namely the companies making the products - are still selling the antibiotics in other countries, it just underscores that this has to be a change that happens across the entire world," said David Wallinga, senior health official and physician at the National Resources Defense Council. "And the companies bear a big responsibility for that approach."

Comment: Read more about the abuse of antibiotics in factory farmed animals and the rise of 'super bugs':


Possible explanations for why you feel tired all the time

You're in bed by 11, having had a busy, productive day. After a full night's sleep you wake up naturally and feel exhausted. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. According to a recent survey of over 20,000 people by researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands, about 30 percent of visits to doctors involve complaints about being tired all the time. But what are really behind the problems associated with fatigue?

Some 20 percent of people in the US report having experienced fatigue intense enough to interfere with living a normal life. This hits us in our pockets, too: workers who are unproductive because of fatigue cost US employers more than $100 billion a year.

It's perhaps surprising, then, that we are only now beginning to work out what fatigue actually is. Until recently, daytime tiredness was presumed to be nothing more mysterious than simple physical exhaustion or feeling the need to sleep -- the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 35 percent of people are short on sleep. Combine that with the fact that tiredness is subjective and therefore difficult to measure, plus the subject falls somewhere between studies of the body and mind, and it's small wonder fatigue has largely escaped scientific scrutiny.

Comment: There may be more to adrenal fatigue than the author acknowledges: The science of adrenal fatigue & how to overcome it


DEA temporarily reverses kratom ban

In a stunning reversal, the DEA has withdrawn its proposal to ban kratom and temporarily suspended efforts to make it a Schedule 1 drug. The move comes after an impassioned Internet-based protest by a decentralized network of advocates and activists who contend the southeast Asian plant has tremendous medicinal value. While not a permanent ruling, the reversal is extremely unusual for the government agency, which is known for aggressive enforcement of its drug policies.

DEA spokesperson Melvin Patterson confirmed that the intense public reaction fueled the decision. "That was eye-opening for me personally," he said."I want the kratom community to know that the DEA does hear them. Our goal is to make sure this is available to all of them."

The suspension will allow for an extended timetable for public feedback and further analysis. This will include an evaluation of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A small team of government scientists will now determine whether Americans are allowed to use a curative herbal remedy that has been safely ingested for thousands of years.

Comment: Protecting Big Pharma profits: The DEA aims to make kratom a schedule 1 drug


Breasts have their own microbiome that could influence cancer risk

You've probably heard that every human on Earth has a unique set of bacterial colonies living in their gut, and this 'microbiome' has been linked to everything from stoke and chronic fatigue risk, to your ability to control your appetite and weight.

What you might not be aware of is the fact that bacteria also live in women's breast tissue, and new research has found evidence that a person's unique breast microbiome can either prevent or promote the growth of breast cancer.

It's thought that just 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are hereditary, meaning there are many different factors that can contribute to a person's risk, including age, weight, race, and previous cancer treatments.

Interestingly, since the 1960s, studies have found that pregnancy and breastfeeding are both associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, with women who haven't had a full-term pregnancy after the age of 30 exhibiting a higher risk than those who have.

More recently, scientists have attempted to find a biological cause to explain this link, and have suggested that the bacteria present in breast milk could play a role in protecting the mother from developing breast cancer. At that time, there was no evidence of bacteria in the actual breast tissue.

In fact, until just two years ago, scientists had assumed that breast tissue was entirely sterile - meaning it contains no bacteria whatsoever.

Comment: See also: