Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eaten Alive!

-->Since it’s Halloween, let’s discuss the fact that you are being eaten alive, every second of every day.

It’s common knowledge that the average human body consists of more microorganisms than it does human cells, but no one ever talks about the symbiotic relationship that we’ve developed with each species that inhabits our tissues. Surely, when you think about bacteria and other microbes living on (or in!) you, your first thought is the microbes that live in your guts. But, this symbiotic relationship we’ve developed with other microbes extends much farther than your digestive tract. In fact, your human microbiome covers your entire body, from your skin to your inner digestive tract, in your mouth, on your scalp, everywhere!

Here’s a list of some of the most common human-inhabiting microbes that live amongst your tissues, day in and day out.

1. Demodex folliculorum

Demodex folliculorum is a type of parasitic mite that lives ON YOUR FACE. As we know with other species, mites love to have something on which to cling, so Demodex folliculorum will most likely be found around the hair follicles on your face. If you are thinking “but I wax my entire face!”, here’s a list of where Demodex folliculorum love to live:
  • nose hair
  • eyebrowns
  • eyelashes
  • the tiny hair that covers your entire face, but is most commonly on your cheeks and forehead (which my mom used to lovingly call “peach fuzz”).
Demodex folliculorum also like to live in your pores. They can be found on other parts of your body, too, but the face region is the most common. Now, don’t hurry to the nearest sink to wash your face. Demodex folliculorum are mostly harmless, and is classified as commensal, which means they benefit from consuming your dead skin and sebaceous gland tissue cells. Since Demodex folliculorum infestation is relatively common, they are considered a part of your normal skin fauna.

In the last 10 years or so, dermatologists have theorized that a heavy infestation of Demodex folliculorum may be the cause of rosacea in later years in life. 

2. Spirochaetes spp.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “…but a dog’s mouth is supposedly really clean!” as a dog licks their face. First off, did you know that dogs consider cat feces a delicacy? Secondly, I’d love to believe that dogs have some secret antimicrobial property that allows them to cure all ailments, but let’s be realistic. We know that magical property only exists in unicorns.

Mouths are pretty disgusting places, regardless of what species you are. For humans with periodontal diseases (such as gingivitis or other oral inflammatory infections), Spirochaetes spp. are levels are elevated. 

The Spirochaetes spp. belong to a bacterial phylum that have double membranes (diderm). They are most commonly long coils, and live in those hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. To reproduce, they undergo asexual transverse binary fission, producing two identical cells.

If you have good oral hygiene practices, then you should have nothing to worry about with Spirochaetes spp. They will be found in your mouth no matter what. The only time Spirochaetes spp. can become a problem is if you have periodontal diseases, which can lead to an active infection.

3. Candida albicans
Candida albicans is a common species of yeast that lives in and on your body. You depend on Candida albicans for digestion, as it exists as a part of our normal gut flora.  Yet, sometimes overgrowth can occur, causing candidiasis. 

Candidiasis can rear its ugly head in many anatomical locations. We most commonly hear about yeast infections affecting the female reproductive system, but yeast can inhabit your body in many different areas. 

Yeasts like to live in warm moist areas, so oral tissues are another common location to see a yeast infection. Extreme cases can cause thrush on the tongue. Candidaisis can also occur in your ocular tissues (eyes), and occasionally on the skin. 

I'm keeping this post short because it's my favorite day of the whole year. Halloween is a great time for scientists because we get to put our creative nature into costumes!  If this post wasn't scary enough for you, feel free to check out my post from last Halloween

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I worked as a health educator on a college campus for a few years, and the stories some students told me about their experiences with sex ed in high school were classic. Sadly, about 1/3 of the students I encountered had never had proper sex education; either their parents opt-ed out of having their children be a part of such classes, or their educational institution failed to offer such crucial lessons. What I'm saying is 1/3 of the incoming freshman I taught had no knowledge of basic sex 101, no knowledge of their bodies, and no knowledge of the sex-crazed world they were about to be thrust into (was that pun intended?). I don't know about you, but this makes me scared and sad. But it also made me love my job (my boss, however, was an entirely different story). 

I was raised in the public school environment, and I am proud to say that I experienced too much sex education. No, I don't mean that in a sleazy way. The first time I remember being mandatorily immersed in proper school-run sex education was in the 4th grade. Being from a genetically-strong Italian family, you'd think I would be close to "blossoming into a woman" (barf.), like the other awkwardly prepubescent girls in my class, but that was a gene that was not active in my little bean-pole of a body. I was built like the boys in my class, and I had no intention of that ever changing. But, despite my ignorance to "the change" which would later ruin my teen years and cause me to discover feminism, I found myself learning anyway. To this day, one particular story continues to haunt me. 

It was an overcast day on the playground of this California public elementary school ground. My class was outside, proudly displaying our homemade solar ovens, and anxiously waiting for the magic of science to cook the little nuggets of hot dogs that were rationed out between groups. My teammate and I constructed our solar oven out of cheap construction paper that seeped green ink into the hot dogs that sat idly in our little oven (elementary school teachers of the world: HOW IS THIS SANITARY?! Answer: it's not). One of the boys in my class dared me to eat one of the green hot dogs, and even though i had given up meat years before on my own will, I succumbed anyway, because I was not, and would never be afraid of science. Upon eating the green nugget of slimy meat, our teacher blew a whistle and instructed the boys to play while the girls came into the classroom to watch a movie. "Was it a Disney movie? were we being rewarded? Those boys are so smelly," we all giggled, because that was before girls knew how to be catty and mean. 

To our horror, we discovered that it was not a Disney movie and we were actually being punished. While the boys ran around on the playground and farted on each other, we were being forced to watch short films with such titles as "Your first period" and "Accepting Change: A Puberty Story" (I made those up). I sat in the back of the class, and began to feel my palms get sweaty as I heard the glorious benefits of using pads. But then, things turned bad. 

I was going to barf. 
Was I going to barf because I was scared of puberty? 
I'm going to barf. 
Was I going to make it to the bathroom in time?
Am I going to barf?

My first act of defiance against an authority figure was running out the door as my teacher yelled that I could not be excused. I ran to the first garbage can I saw, and promptly threw up. When I was finished spewing my guts out, I realized that all of the boys from my class had stopped running to watch me. One boy yelled "She's puking 'cause they are watching movies about people doing it!" and everyone laughed. I had no idea what "doing it" meant, but I didn't care because I was going to be excused for the rest of the day to lay around and watch Aladdin, so clearly, I had won.

In fifth grade, after we were segregated by gender and taught about using tampons and having crushes, the boys all asked if I puked again. 

I would like to take this moment to say that, thanks to Facebook, I now know that I am one of the few remaining people from my middle school and high school classes that does not have kids. That's the benefit of throwing up in front of boys at a young age: no one wants to knock you up.

Anyway, why am I telling you this incredibly awkward tale from my childhood? Well, not only has congress been sprinting to restrict access to care for females in the United States, but one particular STI has been all over the news lately. 

Gonorrhea, caused by gram-negative bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is here to stay, and it's not taking no for an answer. N. gonorrhoeae are motile bacteria which use type IV pili, which work to retract to pull the attached substrate towards the organism (kinda like the "hookshot" that Link uses to reach distant ledges in Legend of Zelda games). Additionally, some strains of N. gonorrhoeae extracellularly express Opa proteins, which can competitively bind to certain immune response receptors and down regulate the development of an adaptive immune response.

People who recognize the hookshot reference have probably spent more time playing Zelda than actually having sex. This may possibly be another reason why I didn't get knocked up during college.

Incidence of drug-resistant infections of gonorrhea have risen (as have drug-resistant infections of everything lately), and apparently the American public is SHOCKED. This particular article states that "the [World Health Organization] blames the misuse of antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics, antivirals, and antimalarials for the formation of new types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that resist current treatments", and while I know that's part of the case, I am also convinced that this particular issue of drug-resistant gonorrhea, especially in the United States, could have been prevented with adequate education. 

Not only is gonorrhea one of the most prevalent bacterial STIs in the United States (309,314 cases in 2010, which is actually down 16% from 2006), second only too Chlamydia (1.3 million cases in 2010, which has risen 24% since 2006), its also incredibly easy to prevent with safer sex techniques. When I say safer sex techniques, I'm not only referring to the use of a barrier method (condoms, dental dams, gloves, etc.), but to getting tested (and treated, if necessary) regularly and talking openly with your partners about sexual history and test results. If more people got tested regularly, the appropriate treatments would be administered at earlier stages of the infection, making it easier to treat, and the probability of transmission would drop dramatically. If more people were honest with their partners about getting tested, the number of cases each year would also decrease dramatically. But, that's too difficult.

A public health attempt at reducing gonorrhea infection rates during WW2. Doesn't she look like Carmen Sandiego?
Here's another link that's not usually made: since cases of undetected and untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia are rampant, its no surprise that a lot of couples are finding it hard to become pregnant. Thanks to the lack of education at early ages, a lot of people think gonorrhea is "no big deal", but it can cause infertility if an infection is left untreated. 

The tricky fact of gonorrhea is that an infection can be present without showing the tell-tale symptoms of burning during urination, vaginal discharge, fever, having a "cold" that never seems to go away, or a sore throat. Females, due to our internal organs, have the special ability to present symptoms internally, which makes them harder to detect (especially if you are afraid to look at your own vagina). 

So, if some infections don't show any symptoms, why is this a problem if some strains of gonorrhea are now drug-resistant? There are a few answers to this question:

1. People will continue to spread it, and those few individuals who are responsible enough to get tested and treated regularly will have a harder time finding effective treatment options. This is especially sad since current gonorrhea incidence rates have been reported at historically low levels.

2. Treatment regimens will start to become pretty intense, and much more costly. The days of gonorrhea being considered treatable with a regular antibiotic are coming to an end, and some health care providers may start to consider antibiotic cocktails, which are not only annoying but also costly. 

3. Symptoms that are rarely seen, with the exception of severe infections that are left untreated, will start to become more common. Infertility is one, caused by salpingitis (scarring of the fallopian tubes) and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Other symptoms can include spreading of the infection to the joints and heart valves, as well as meningitis. 

4. If pregnancy does occur in infected women, it can be passed to the baby during birth, which will raise the rates of infections in younger populations. 

Now, before I end this incredibly lengthy post, I'd also like to bring your attention to the fact that THE PLAGUE IS BACK!

Oh shit, wrong sign. (Credit Denver Westword Blogs)
I have to admit, I'm pretty excited about this since I'm heading to Oregon this weekend. Who knows, maybe I'll get lucky (with the plague, that is)!

Let it be known that 100% of the credit for the title of this blog post goes to my partner, who is actually funnier than I am. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Interlude Continues

Boy howdy, if I haven't received loads of encouragement! As I stated in my last entry, I've had to take some time away from writing blog entries so I could wrap up a few major projects. Since that post, I've received tons of emails wishing me luck, and others saying "I hope you will return to writing when you finish!" So, a gigantic thank you to everyone who wished me well in my time away from Under the Microscope.

Yet, my time apart is not completely over. I'm currently in San Diego for a collaborative work project with The J. Craig Venture Institute, and when I return to the Bay Area, I will be quickly hopping on a plan for a few weeks for a much needed vacation. I will try to write in the meantime, but promises are always futile.


I drove to San Diego instead of flying, partially because I wanted to bring my bike with me, and partially because I wanted some time alone to think. I spent a lot of time listening to old podcasts from Radiolab, which got me thinking about future blog posts. Trying to decide what to write about next is troubling for me, believe it or not. Writing is not a natural habit for your truly, unless its in a lab notebook. I can remember all of my major writing accomplishments throughout my personal history, as they were few and far between. In the seventh grade, I chose to write my literary research paper on the bubonic plague, narrated by the only unaffected living thing in the town: a tree. Oh, twelve-year-old me, you were so dark, so profound! I had clearly been listening to too many records by The Cure. The next was my Advanced English research paper that I chose to do on Bram Stoker, and other historical works which focused on vampires. If I would have known, at age sixteen that Twilight would be a thing in future times, well, I would have been a rich little idiot.

Anyway, I struggle with deciding on future topics for Under the Microscope. There are too many species, too many diseases, too many, too many, too many! But listening to one old Radiolab podcast in particular reminded me of why I write. I highly suggest you dedicate an hour to listening to this show, titled Parasites, from 2009.

Carl Zimmer has always been a role model of mine (ok, I'll admit it, I have a crush), as he often takes the side of the parasite. Not only is this rare, but it's exactly the standpoint that I've always taken. Think about it: humans are, without a doubt, the most advanced life form of which we know, yet we can easily be challenged and occasionally defeated by "lesser" life forms. Parasites, some of which are even single celled organisms, bacteria, and viruses, which aren't even considered to be "alive"! Sure, we've evolved and developed habits and methods to limit our exposure and risk of such encounters, but they don't always work.

This show about parasites always makes me laugh when I listen to it because people always ask me if I've ever heard of Jasper Lawrence, or "that guy that sells worms". I never really know how to react, because I do applaud Mr. Lawrence for taking his medical care into his own hands (or should I say gut?) and I am totally happy that shows like Radiolab have made that sort of science accessible to everyone... but starting your own business off of it is a little sketchy. Mr. Lawrence keeps a blog associated with his business, wherein he describes his family life and his allergies. There is one entry where he discusses the risks associated with obtaining hookworms in the wild (ie, naturally), but it's basically just a review of wikipedia pages.

So, maybe I should talk about hookworms? I've written previous entries on tapeworms and other types of parasitic nematodes, but I can't recall an entry that specifically focused on hookworms.

Ascariasis and infections by Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus are pretty harmless, and while uncommon in the United States, it is highly prevalent in other regions of the world. You often find prevalent hookworms in areas where modern plumbing is unavailable, and human feces is used in fertilizers. Poop everywhere!

The filariform larvae of A. duodenale and N. americanus cause infection by burrowing into the skin, typically around the feet or ankles when exposed in shallow waters or muddy areas where infected feces is present. In instances where feces is used for fertilizer, Ascaris eggs can be ingested with fruits and vegetables that are not thoroughly washed.

Once in the body, the adults attach to the lining of the small intestine and feed on blood and protein sources. There are very few symptoms associated with a hookworm infection, and many people are unaware of infections that they've had for years! If an infection is particularly heavy, the individual can experience anemia and protein deficiency.

What's amazing about these creatures is that they've phenotypically adapted to their ideal environments. They may be blind and deaf, but there are many different types of hooks and "teeth" that allow them to anchor themselves to one tissue surface for years. I've always imagined the following nerd references when studying hookworms and tapeworms, but what can I say, I'm totally unprofessional.

Credit: Dan Meth

In the real world (sighhhhh), hookworm "mouths" usually have one row of teeth, like this:

This photo is entirely not scary if you imagine it's singing opera.

I should say that I've always approved of the Hygiene Hypothesis, as I was raised in an area where many people suffer from seasonal allergies, and I do not! Maybe I'm just biologicaly supreme, or maybe it's because I did have my own run-ins with a few parasites at young ages. Either way, this theory is commonly centered around the ability of your system to produce a specific types of antibodies (IgE) that are associated with allergic reactions and helminth diseases (parasitic worms).

While that is all I have time for today, I want to end by saying, once again, that I will update as much as possible. Also, I'd like to send out magical vibes to Carl Zimmer, in hopes that he might agree to have lunch or dinner (or tea!) with me when he is in San Francisco in October. Maybe?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Microscopic Intermission

I've been receiving quiet a few emails lately asking if I'm going to continue writing or if I've died in the lab. Thanks for the concern! My answers are yes and no, respectively.

I'm in the process of wrapping up two giant research projects, and scrambling to get the papers together for maybe a publication or two (OH PLEASE LET IT HAPPEN). So, I hope you'll excuse my brief blogging absence while I spend every waking moment dedicated to these projects. I wanted to find a way to display my anguish on this blog when a fellow colleague of mine sent this to me. I thought it was so hilarious that I laughed a great big laugh. This laugh was so great, that the other people around me were temporarily convinced that I had finally snapped and my proverbial marbles were spewing all over the floor.

Credit goes to Electron Cafe:

I'm currently at the OH HEY, THIS MAKES SENSE phase. 

In other news, I walked around looking as if I had peed my pants yesterday due to an unfortunate altercation with the ice machine. I'll be back before you know it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hearts A'flutter with Infection

I admit, I'm a total sucker for Valentine's Day. I'm pretty sure this has something to do with my childhood, since my mother's favorite holiday is Valentine's Day. She made it her mission to make Valentine's Day as big as Easter, right down to getting festive baskets full of heart-shaped candies and whatnot.

What I also love about it is the imagery. It's the one day of the year when mainstream culture romantically fetishizes an internal organ! How sexy is that?

Did you know that in one day, the force of your heart pumping causes your blood to travel approximately 12,000 miles? That's four times the distance across the United States, from one coast to the other.

The heart is an amazing organ. It's, quite literally, the lifeblood of your existence, pumping nutrients and oxygen to every bit of your body, working with the lymphatic system to circulate immune system cells, keeping you alert. But the heart is also a vulnerable place. Although we mostly hear about parasites of the GI tract, there are many other organisms that see our circulatory system as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

If you think about it, the circulatory system and heart provide the perfect environment: tons of nutrients (see: snacks), tons of oxygen, a comfortable temperature (like a sauna full of blood) and hardly any competition.Who wouldn't like that?

Since this is a post for Valentine's Day, I'd like to tell you about the best of the best. Please keep in mind that there are thousands of things that can find their way to your heart and eat you inside out. These are just some of the highlights.

Protozoan parasites:
Leishmaniasis is typically seen to affect the spleen, liver and bone marrow during a visceral infection (as opposed to the cutaneous infection that causes lesions and boils), but it can also find it's way to your heart and cause damage there. There are about 500,000 new cases of visceral leishmaniasis every year, but they are all dependent on the local sand fly population, which acts as the vector for the disease.

Visceral leishmaniasis results in the inflammation of the infected organs. If not treated, the swollen organs may become non-functioning, which can result in organ failure and death.

T. cruzi, the cause of Chagas Disease, has shown high cardiotropism that is unmatched by other parasitic organisms. This flaggelated protozoa has the ability to "swim" or move throughout your system.

Not a sea slug, but just as cute?
Once settled in a comfortable area (filling the void of your broken heart), your heart will begin to swell with the inflammatory response. After trying to kill off the invading organisms, cellular damage and fibrosis occurs, making the likelihood of heart failure very high.

This is your heart on Chagas Disease.

Worms and things:
Schistosomiasis, also known as Snail Fever, is a parasitic worm that causes a chronic condition in adults, and impairs cognitive development in children. Early stages of Schistosoma development, the immature worm feeds on red blood cells. While it mostly affects the liver, the worms occasionally can get turned around and burrow into the heart tissue. Schistosomiasis has a very low mortality rate, but is very devastating. 

D. immitis is the very well known "Heartworm". We mostly hear about heartworms in our pets, but they can definitely infest humans, albeit rarely. The heartworm doesn't become an adult until it has settled into the pulmonary artery. Before that, it's transmitted from host to host by it's vector, the mosquito.

Dog heart.

Echinococcosis happens to be one of my most favorite parasites. Echinococcosis infects mostly mammals, including humans, and is transmitted directly through the accidental consumption of a cyst or egg form. While mostly found in the liver, up to 25% of cases are found in organs like the heart, brain, kidneys and less commonly, lungs. But this worm is special. Echinococcosis is also known as hydatid disease, from the formation of hydatid cysts.

Hydatid cyst, single and ready to mingle.

The worm develops it's eggs into a collection of "egg sacs" or bubbles within a tissue. These sacs have multiple compartments of eggs, and have the ability to grow very large and very numerous. They are strong enough to survive the host's environment, but delicate enough to be very tricky to remove during surgery. If a cyst bursts, the patient can go into anaphylactic shock (similar to an appendix bursting).

On a sappy note, I started this blog almost 2 years ago because I needed an outlet. I was talking too much about the dangers of the world. My friends and family were tired of hearing about my research or the latest in disgusting discoveries (and still, my dad seems to be the biggest fan of my blog!). Even worse, I was ruining dates! You can always tell how the rest of the date is going to go when you mention that you may have been handling active HIV earlier that day in your lab, or you have volunteered your time to look at poop samples from the county. My favorite was the date that said, "I mean, I like nerdy girls, but I kinda just meant girls in glasses."

As of now, I'm miles ahead of where I was 2 years ago, both in my career and my life in general. To be honest, I never really thought that my life would involve any sort of writing, other than the to-the-point articles of my great discoveries in science (I say, as if I'm Marie Curie or Barbara McClintock). What I'm trying to get at with this uninteresting rant is THANK YOU, dear readers, for taking an interest in my low-bar jokes and nasty photos. I hope this blog has, and will continue to, help you as much as it has helped me.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Common scientific myths that are regularly exploited by mass media

I'm a gmail user, and I have my iGoogle news widget set to show me all the "health" related news (if you've seen this setting, then you understand why I use parentheses with the word health). There is always at least one laughable article each day. While this is funny, it's also really scary.

I mean, around the time of the listeria outbreak in cantaloupe, there were 1,600 articles a day that clearly stated "OMG DON'T EVER EAT CANTALOUPE EVER AGAIN!" Was that necessarily helpful? Is that considered informed reporting? Not everyone wants to read scientific articles for accurate information. I mean, I don't even want to read them (that was a lie). Scientific writing is different. It's blunt and bland, lacking any decoration. But, it's also very important.

So, on Friday, I sat down at my desk at work and opened up my browser to see a particular article that lit a fire under my butt faster than a bunsen burner attached to a leaky gas valve (insert fart joke here). Everything about it was wrong, and it scared me! So, I decided to round up a few myths about recently popular science topics.

Myth #1: Just about everything you've ever heard about HIV or AIDS from mainstream media.
If you know anything about me, you'll know that this is my biggest pet peeve (well, that and chewing with your mouth open, but I digress). Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, mainstream media has disregarded scientific progress and facts when reporting on the matter. We've heard everything from "AIDS is a gay disease" to "the government created HIV to scare the American public into submission", and every idiot thing you can think of to fit in between. My favorite is "HIV isn't real".

...oh, right. Why don't you tell that to the 43,000 people, in the United States alone, that were diagnosed with new HIV infections in 2009.

The article that actually inspired this blog entry ['HIV was invented as the cause of AIDS to get research money' claims radio host] can pretty much be summed up in this video. Need I comment on this?

Last year, news of a research breakthrough exploded all over the world. "Finally! Scientists have cured a man of AIDS!" It was everywhere, but it's not exactly...oh, what's the word I'm searching for...reasonable? Yeah, that's it! Bone marrow transplants are difficult and expensive. You must have a very specifically matched donor to avoid any complications (ie- rejections or immune responses to the foreign matter).

The concept behind the bone marrow transplant was based on the delta32 mutation. Discovered in 2005, the delta32 mutation allows a fraction of the population of Europe to show signs of immunity towards HIV-1 infection, but not all types of HIV-1 infection. Viral tropism allows for different strains, or variants, of the virus to use different co-receptors that are naturally expressed on the host's cells, primarily T-cells. CCR5 and CXCR4 are the two co-receptors that are primarily used for access to the host cell. These co-receptors are also used to elicit a cell-mediated immune response. Due to viral tropism, different strains utilize different co-receptors for viral entry into the host cell. That is, HIV-1 strains that use CXCR4 don't necessarily need CCR5 co-receptors for entry. Therefore, individuals who have the delta32 mutation are not 100% immune.

People are all too quick to jump on the opportunity to say "We've done it! We've cured AIDS!" We saw this in the dawn of medicinal cocktails, and we'll see it again. But, the magnitude of this disease is so great, that the types of breakthroughs we are making right now are not satisfactory enough. We cannot feasibly give every HIV-positive person a bone marrow transplant, but we can turn to the micro-science behind the theory of why this works. We can't look at HIV medication, because they are expensive, extensive and not available to everyone, but we can look at making more affordable and readily available drugs. It's one thing to be blanketly hopeful; it's another to be realistic.

Myth #2: Food poisoning is limited to meat products.
This is an easy one. The probability of getting a food-borne illness does increased when livestock involved (POOP, EVERYWHERE!), but also has to do with the fact that most people don't effectively cook their meat. Let's face it, there is poop covering everything on this planet, whether it's from humans, animals, or insects. That is why we have immune systems.

This is something I hear a lot from people, because I'm vegan. "Have you read Fast Food Nation? Did it scare you into your dietary choices?" Just stop it. It's not about any book or any food-borne pathogen. We've gotten to the point to where our food is so mass-produced and unproportionally regulated that we are bound to run into problems, no matter what we choose to put in our mouths.

Interestingly enough, wikipedia has a very extensive list of food-borne illnesses, listed chronologically by year. Some of the deadliest, actually have been in cantaloupe, peanuts, spinach, bean sprouts, green onions and apple juice. By all means, take this into account, but don't let it scare you away from the ever important "green group" on the food pyramid (or plate, or whatever you want to go by).  Take actions into your own hands, and look at where you are getting your food from, and how you are preparing it. I've already written about the horrors of food (and feel free to refresh your memory!), and I'll probably do it again.

Myth #3: Immunizations will give your child autism.
Oh, Jenny McCarthy, you gorgeous idiot. I thought this issue was left behind with the early 2000's, but apparently I was wrong.

According to facebook, everyone I know is pregnant right now, and everyone is posting about issues like "is breastfeeding wrong?" or "does Baby Einstein really work?" Sure, whatever. I'm all for people trying to decide what is best for their child, and using whatever resources are available to them to do so. But, one of my friends started posting videos (this one in particular) about the horrors of vaccines, and stated that she was trying to decide what to do for her newborn (while logically consulting youtube).

Instead, why don't you start with the CDC's take on Vaccines and Autism. A scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that "the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines an autism." The CDC supports the IOM conclusion. Also, here is an article from 2007, titled Vaccines and Autism, by Dr. Brown, that talks about immunizations from a medical perspective. Both the medical and scientific communities reject Jenny McCarthy's claims that vaccines cause autism.

Nevermind that the first vaccination demonstration in 1798 would lead to the eradication of smallpox in 1980. Or more recently, nevermind the fact that polio has almost been eradicated in India due to vaccinations. Oh, I get it, you're worried about what vaccines will put in your child's body, but you'll feed them McDonalds. That makes sense.

I understand they hysteria of wanting to do what's best for your child, but I will never understand taking medical advice from a model (oh wait...she was "Playmate of the Year" in the 90's, so that's like getting a doctorate, right?), or from youtube.

Let's talk about health the health of children around the world.

There are plenty of other myths out there that I'd be happy to discuss. Just send me an email with your requests.

Also, my belated apology for not writing more frequently. I've been working very hard lately to get two grants, and things are starting to pay off (literally and figuratively!).