Friday, February 11, 2011

Infectious Diseases in our Readers' Countries

Red Rainbow Boulia
Flooding of the Burke River in Queensland, Australia
photo by Sunrise on Seven
What do the following countries have in common?  Australia, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Venezuela.  The Febrile Muse has had visitors from these 18 countries. Our histories and climates are different, and our countries are affected by different organisms.  However, being human and needing to make sense of our experience is a shared quality. The beauty that can arise from our concerns, fears, persistence, and endeavors is incredible.   To thank past readers, I would like to highlight some recent infectious disease-related photography, illustrations and music that have come from our countries.  If you know of more work that I can highlight, please let me know.

Currently, many of our countries are highly impacted by water washing soil and animal microorganisms into our daily lives. In Haiti over 3500 people have died due to cholera, and the infection has spread to the Dominican Republic (and other countries due to travel).  Flooding in Australia is leading to soil organisms [Burkholderia pseudomallei  (melioidosis)]  and Enterococci  causing disease.  Increased mosquito breeding grounds also result from flooding.  Brazil and Australia are seeing an increased incidence of Dengue fever (not to be confused with Dengue hemorrhagic fever). There have been over 3000 cases of dengue fever in Brazil, with a few deaths.  Health officials are urging stronger mosquito control measures.
Image:Chikungunya virus photo - togaviridae.png
Chikungunya virus
from Citizendium; unknown illustrator

Dengue fever is also seen in Egypt, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, American Samoa, and Australia, along with other countries with tropical climates.  Increased amount of mosquitoes can also lead to increased incidence of malaria, yellow fever and chikungunya virus, just to mention a few.

Two music groups, Dengue Fever and Double R (have not been able to positively identify this artist) have brought infectious disease into their realm of creativity.  Dengue Fever is a very exciting Cambodian-American band with a haunting sound.  "Ragga Chikungunya" is catchy.  If someone could help me pinpoint the origin of it, I would appreciate it.

For other music produced by Dengue Fever view their Myspace page.

Also spread by mosquito, Chikungunya, a virus appears to be increasing in Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand.  Health officials feel that it will likely spread to some parts of Europe. The disease is not thought to be fatal, but severe arthritic pain and swelling can result.

Recent stories of food recalls and microorganisms in our food, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, have hit many of our countries.  Wide-spread safety issues are directly linked with mass-production of food.  Recent stories have emanated from Canada, US and Australia.  An illustration of Salmonella highlights its travel and invasiveness.

Domestos on the Behance Network; by Graphik Boutique

Dave Manley; The Journal-Standard 2009
Many infections can be prevented by vaccination.  Most of the countries on our reader list have been affected by Influenza, Swine flu, and the fear of the spread of avian flu to humans.  Russia, whose immunization rates are half those of other developed countries has  recently had a very difficult time controlling the spread of Influenza.  Over 90,000 people have been infected, and many schools have been closed.  Health officials are working hard to try and contain the spread.  The incidence appears to be diminishing.  A recent paper by Cauchemez and others highlights social networks of school-age children and the influence those networks have on the spread of influenza.  An interesting observation is that when schools are closed after at least 27% of children have already been infected, the opportunity to decrease the spread is missed.  Earlier closing of schools may have helped contain the spread.

Measles, due to the fraudulent yet persuasive nature of  Dr. Wakefield's studies, is increasing in many countries, and the MMR vaccination rate is low enough in some areas that herd immunity is endangered.  Many other vaccine preventable diseases are still occurring, such as polio (Russia), pertussis and pneumococcal pneumonia in California and Canada, TB in the UK (they offer BCG vaccination), and meningococcus in France.  Most of our countries are dealing with the issue of undervaccination, not just the ones mentioned.  These are only examples.

When writing this post, I initially wanted to mention each country individually.  I quickly discovered how it would appear that I was picking on them.  All of our countries are concerned with the health of our citizens, and we must work hard to support each other's efforts.  I wish you all the best, and thank you for reading.


Health Map, the CDC, and WHO

Cauchemez S., Bhattarai A, Marchbanks TL, et al. Role of social networks in shaping disease transmission during a community outbreak of 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza. PNAS Early Edition.

Next Post:  "Outbreak":  Biosafety Levels and Hemorrhagic Fever

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Human Papillomavirus: Driving Ms. HeLa, Henrietta Lack's Cells

Cervical Cancer Virus 3
Amy E. Fraser
8” x 10” Acrylic Painting on 140#, Acid Free, Archival Watercolor Paper

A real person behind a hideous cancer. A real person with family and friends, and a reporter that cared to tell their story, with compassion.  This is the story of Henrietta Lacks.  It's also the story of many women and men affected by human papillomavirus-related infections and cancers.  HeLa cells, how Henrietta is known to most life scientists, are one of the easiest cell lines to grow in cell culture, yet her real full-bodied story was difficult and took years to tell. Driven by human papillomavirus [HPV], Henrietta's cells grew rapidly in her.  Her cervical cancer progressed quickly, and in 1951, she died.  Her family had many difficulties after she died--personal and HeLa cell-related.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksDriven by curiousity and lack of research oversight in those days, some of her cancer cells were taken from her without her knowledge.  Driven by HPV, her cells continue to this day to live in many thousands of labs around the world.

Driven by curiosity, seeded by "Henrietta Lacks" written on the blackboard in her high school biology class,  Rebecca Skloot was determined and succeeded in telling Henrietta's story.  The whole story begins in childhood  and extends to nearly present day; “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" was published by Crown Publishing in February 2010.  Rebecca Skloot has also set up The Henrietta Lacks Foundation to help Henrietta's family, and families like hers.

File:Papilloma Virus (HPV) EM.jpg
HPV from Wikipedia
There are over 100 different varieties of HPV.  Some haven't yet been linked to clinical conditions.  Some cause warts on hands and feet and don't spread easily.  Others are spread sexually and can cause genital warts [mainly HPV-6 and HPV-11] in men and women.  The higher risk, aggressive types of HPV are also spread sexually, and cause 5% of all cancers worldwide.  The most common HPV-related cancer is cervical cancer, like Henrietta's, but HPV can also cause anal, penile, vulva, vaginal, or oral cancers.  There are now two vaccines that can prevent HPV-16 and HPV-18 [Cervarix and Gardasil] and genital warts [Gardasil].

In order for HPV to establish infection in cells, it needs to bypass cell-mediated immunity [CMI].  CMI is one of the first lines of defense in the body against many infections--various immune cells and their chemical helpers attack invading organisms, sometimes permanently destroying the invaders.  Henrietta likely had diminished CMI due to her syphilis [another story] and likely received repeated HPV infection from her husband.  Either of these, or both, would allow the HPV to replicate competently within her cervical tissue.  Once an infection is established, HPV can then eventually alter cells, converting them to cancer cells.  Henrietta had extensive, invasive cervical adenocarcinoma--a very aggressive form of cervical cancer.

Henrietta had some early signs of cervical cancer, but like many people who don't trust the medical establishment or are afraid of the what-ifs, she didn't seek treatment until the bleeding and pain persisted.  She felt that there was a knot in her womb. She eventually went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.  What is incredible about her HPV-driven cells [HPV was not known at the time] was the rate at which they grew.  She had a baby in September of 1950, and no abnormalities in her cervix were noted at that time or at her 6-week postpartum follow-up appointment.  Only three months later was her tumor found to be very large, purple, shiny, and very delicate.  It bled easily.  Henrietta underwent radium therapy [standard at that time], but her cancer grew throughout her body.  She left a husband and many children.  The baby was Deborah, a key person in the whole story.

At the beginning of this post I placed a hauntingly beautiful painting by Amy E. Fraser.  Many people think of art inspired by infectious diseases to be plague related or from the past.  Yes, history is fascinating, absolutely, but infectious diseases are all around us currently [more on that in an upcoming post], and serve as a driving force or inspiration for artists and writers in our contemporary world.  Ms. Fraser has graciously allowed me to show this painting.  She has other HPV-inspired work on her website along with other exalted beauties.

For more information about HPV infection in women and men, please see the following:

Shop Indie Bookstores
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...