Category: Cooking & Cuisine

Body Horrors Talks Disease & Society on Skeptically Speaking

By Rebecca Kreston | July 8, 2013 10:05 am

This past May I had the pleasure to chat with Desiree Schell of the radio and podcast show Skeptically Speaking about how infectious diseases and parasites can shape society for an episode examining the impact of science and medicine on specific communities. Over at their website, you can download the hour-long episode “Community Specific Science” featuring myself, Danielle Lee and Dr. Joe Henrich and hear more about how science journalism and the social sciences are investigating the ways in which the livelihoods and health of certain groups – delineated by ethnicity, culture or religion  – are affected by scientific research and medicine. Lee speaks for the first third of the episode on the state of science coverage in media that serves minority audiences, while Henrich finishes the show with his research on cultural outliers, those societies not generally considered Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, or Democratic – what Dr. Henrich refers to as WEIRD – and the state of behavioral research.

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Microbial Misadventures: Exploits in Botulism & Pruno In Our Prison Population

By Rebecca Kreston | May 23, 2013 12:59 pm

Microbial Misadventures is a recurring series on Body Horrors looking at instances and incidents where human meets microbe in novel and unusual circumstances that challenge our assumptions about how infections are spread. 

I am partial to the odd tipple and, as a resident of the licentious, enabling city that is New Orleans, I’m fortunate to be adequately supported in my booze-seeking ways by the high number of bars and restaurants within stumbling distance of my front porch. But what to do for those of us prohibited from indulging in one of the world’s greatest mood modulators, for those of us, say, incarcerated in America’s prison-industrial complex? In that case, American ingenuity and tenacity wins, always: become a smalltime craft brewer and make your own.

A Gram stain of Clostridium botulinum type A. The spore-forming, soil-dwelling bacterium produces a nerve toxin, causing the rare, paralytic illness known as botulism. There are seven types of botulism toxin, classified alphabetically A through G; only types A, B, E and F cause illness in humans. Image: CDC/ Dr. George Lombard.

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A Season of Hemorrhagic Fevers

By Rebecca Kreston | November 23, 2012 6:50 pm

Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been bedeviled by viral hemorrhagic fever outbreaks this year. Since the summer, Ebola and Marburg have appeared throughout the two verdant countries killing dozens of people.

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Body Horrors Published in Digital & Analog!

By Rebecca Kreston | September 17, 2012 8:34 pm

My name, Rebecca Kreston, in yellow on the lovely cover of Scientific American’s “The Best Science Writing Online 2012” edited by Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer Ouellette.

At this very moment, I’m holding a copy of the “The Best American Science Writing Online 2012” that includes my article on Alaskan Natives, botulism and fermenting practices on page 173! The article “This Ain’t Yo Momma’s Muktuk: Fermented Seal Flipper, Botulism, Being Cold & Other Joys of Arctic Living” was selected among 721 other submissions and is published alongside 51 other knock-out articles in the sixth annual anthology of the best science writing online. Not bad odds, eh? I’ve been writing this blog for just over a year and a half now and I consider it be a privilege to be included in the ranks of some truly accomplished science journalists and bloggers. A big thank you is owed to the editors of the anthology, Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer Ouellette, for selecting me.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Bacteria, Cooking & Cuisine, Culture

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener: A Marijuana-Borne Salmonella Outbreak

By Rebecca Kreston | September 13, 2012 5:49 pm

At the very beginning of the year 1981, the United States saw an unusually large boost in Salmonella infections across the country. Incidences of the food-borne illness had risen by nearly 20% from the previous year, surprising health officials not only with the unexpectedly high number of cases but its odd timing during the winter season.

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Oy Vey!: Pig Tapeworm in the Orthodox Jewish Community

By Rebecca Kreston | August 19, 2012 5:00 pm

A few months back, Carl Zimmer published a short article on the startling widespread prevalence of neurocysticercosis; the larval infective form of the pig tapeworm Taenia solium that just so happens to infect the human brain. Check it out, but beware!, you will be learning about a parasite that gives unwelcome deep tissue massages in your gray matter and you will see photographic evidence of it.

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Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About Cockroaches

By Rebecca Kreston | May 9, 2012 4:08 pm

Amongst its many epicurean, architectural and otherwise louche charms, New Orleans has another infamous, uncelebrated one: a problematically vibrant cockroach population. Every summer (oh, let’s be honest here: they’re here spring, summer and fall), the German brown cockroach can be seen snatching its way around your house, flitting on sidewalks at dusk, and intimidating the locals.

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Of Warts & Men: Meat-Handlers Infected with Human Papillomavirus 7

By Rebecca Kreston | October 17, 2011 1:10 am

Every profession seems to have its own tailor-made occupational hazard. Veterinarians suffer bites and scratches, office workers struggle with carpal tunnel syndrome, anxiety torments professional graduate students and so on. A few years ago, I was stunned to hear that butchers, fish-mongers and those intimately involved in the meat-handling trade (please don’t read into that any more than is necessary) are more likely to be infected with a certain strain of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Odd, huh? And kind of gross.

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Revenge of the Fishball: The Magnificent Fish Tapeworm

By Rebecca Kreston | September 26, 2011 5:03 pm

You’re complaining of having nightmares about your teeth falling out? I dream of intestinal colonization with a 30 foot tapeworm. Everyone’s got their own hang-ups and quite frankly the largest parasite of man, the freak of nature Diphyllobothrium latum, unnerves me. What’s not to dislike? The longest lifespan of any human parasite and the jaw-dropping lengths it can reach are just a few of its charms.

An unfragmented fish tapeworm excreted after injection of amidotrizoic acid. Arrow identifies the scolex. Inset shows magnification of the proglottids. Click for source.

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This Ain’t Yo Momma’s Muktuk: Fermented Seal Flipper, Botulism, Being Cold & Other Joys of Arctic Living

By Rebecca Kreston | August 14, 2011 8:36 am

Does anyone else have an inordinate fear of canning jams or pickling veggies? Every time I read an article espousing the brine-laden wonders of canning your own home-grown vegetables, I think, “how hard could this really be? I can do this!”. And then I hear the niggling voice in the back of my head that whispers, “but what if you get botulism?”  And then I mutter in response, “maybe I’ll just buy my own autoclave.” Or not.

Inuit men taking a tea break during a seal hunt. Image: Dr. John Tyman. Source: Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. Click for source

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Body Horrors

Body Horrors looks at the history, anthropology and geography of infectious diseases and parasites.

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