(Eye) Trouble in Paradise

By Rebecca Kreston | February 29, 2016 8:50 pm

Conjunctivitis, that infamous, sticky-itchy-oozy infection of the eye, can strike anywhere and anyone. For the most part, however, pink eye sticks to its preferred domain, afflicting youthful targets in schoolyard haunts where the infection spreads from dirty little hand to once-clean little eye with the tenacity and enthusiasm of wildfire. Though wholly reliant on direct inoculation to the eyeball, it is easily transmitted, whether by the sticky digits of children unfamiliar with good hygiene or via errant eye gunk inadvertently smeared on a communal surface.

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Half of the World Has Herpes

By Rebecca Kreston | February 28, 2016 8:43 pm

In fact, just over a half of the world has herpes.

Over the course of the last year, the WHO released two articles exploring the prevalence of herpes infection worldwide and offering some hard numbers for an often overlooked viral infection. The WHO study uses the most recent estimates from 2012 and is the first attempt to calculate and identify the preponderance of herpes in the global population (1). What they find is that herpes is dang near everywhere and infects dang near everyone.

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The Elephants in the Outbreak

By Rebecca Kreston | January 31, 2016 7:08 pm

They are considered the most noble creature to grace Earth. They have massive brains, complex forms of communication, the ingenuity for tool use, and the capacity to express emotions, including grief and empathy. Yet, as impressive as they are in size and majesty, elephants can still be felled by the most human of ailments: tuberculosis.

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The Psychic Energizer!: The Serendipitous Discovery of the First Antidepressant

By Rebecca Kreston | January 27, 2016 8:41 am

The early twentieth century was a period of frenetic drug development, a seemingly endless series of pharmaceutical and medical discoveries: antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, chemotherapeutics to battle cancers, and barbiturates to tranquilize anxieties, among many others. A huge number of these revolutionary medical treatments were discovered in the first half of the 1950s, an unprecedented era of advances in chemistry yielding a pharmacopoeia that would transform disease and the practice of medicine.

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Brazil Cautions Women to Avoid Pregnancy over Zika Threat

By Rebecca Kreston | December 30, 2015 11:08 am

Authorities in Brazil have recently issued an unusual and unprecedented announcement to women: don’t get pregnant, at least not just yet. Amidst an intractable outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, public health authorities in Brazil are highly suspicious of an unusual surge of cases of microcephaly among newborn children.

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Canine Rabies Imported into America

By Rebecca Kreston | December 28, 2015 10:10 am

This past spring, a street dog and her puppy were captured in Cairo, Egypt. Her vaccination certificates were forged, and she was shipped to the United States by an animal rescue organization in a shipment that included seven other dogs and 27 cats. Days later, following  her placement in a Virginian foster home housing several other dogs, this rescue developed the frank signs and symptoms of rabies, and she was quickly euthanized.

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Syphilis, My Dear Watson

By Rebecca Kreston | November 30, 2015 9:00 pm

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous characters in English literature, revered by fans of mystery from Victorian London to the present day, where he is still celebrated for his keen eye, wealth of knowledge, and aptitude for deductive reasoning. Indeed, Holmes has grown in status from a protagonist in a magazine serial to a genuine pop culture icon; his adventures with Dr. Watson have been featured in fifty-odd short stories and four novels and over 220 films and television shows since his creation by the Scottish physician, ship’s surgeon, and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1).

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HIV, the New Chronic Illness

By Rebecca Kreston | November 24, 2015 4:57 pm

Just thirty-odd years ago, a HIV diagnosis was a death sentence. Advances in pharmaceuticals and in our understanding of the mechanisms of HIV infection mean that today it is a manageable, chronic disease on par with diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. People with HIV are living longer, and a graph recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that in the United States the average age at death from HIV infection has dramatically increased since 1987. (1)

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Halloween Horrors from the Archives

By Rebecca Kreston | October 31, 2015 5:45 pm

Halloween is my favorite time of year, and my obsession with the queer and supernatural wonders of the natural world – namely horrifying parasites and bizarro infections – regularly overflows into the Body Horrors blog.

So in celebration of All Hallows’ Eve, a night of masquerade and devilry, I present a small selection – no small task, trust me! – of the more sinister and spine-tingling articles from the Body Horrors archives. All tricks, no treats! Enjoy.

A leprosy patient from 1899. Image: Frank R. Keefer. Source: National Library of Medicine

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Something Fishy in the Food Chain

By Rebecca Kreston | October 25, 2015 8:27 pm

The Pacific broad tapeworm thrives in the guts of the sea lions that frolic in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, has been identified in the preserved poop of Peruvians mummified some five millennia ago, and is now making its way to seafood-loving Europeans through the briny conduits of the world-wide commercial fish trade.

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

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