Login

The Body Scientific

Is H5N1 influenza a doomsday virus, as some would have us believe?

The Body Scientific
rhk2@columbia.edu

The papers have been full of articles over recent months about a doomsday influenza virus called H5N1 that has been created by scientists. The New York Times (Jan. 7), the Economist and other papers are thundering about looming calamity, and this column was about to do the same. But in a moment of sense I decided to visit my friend and colleague, Vincent Racaniello. Dr. Racaniello is the Higgins professor of microbiology at Columbia, the author of an important virology textbook and host of the podcast “This Week in Virology.”

Back to nature: the benefits and dangers of raw milk

The Body Scientific
rhk2@columbia.edu

I have a friend who speaks of raw milk from a farm in the Alps in the rhapsodic language that the French normally use for wine:  “It was fresh from the cow, full of cream and it smelled of the flowers in the meadows.” Tempting, certainly. There is, however, a case for caution.

Back to nature: the benefits and dangers of raw milk

The Body Scientific

I have a friend who speaks of raw milk from a farm in the Alps in the rhapsodic language that the French normally use for wine: “It was fresh from the cow, full of cream and it smelled of the flowers in the meadows.” Tempting, certainly. There is, however, a case for caution.

The flu is with us again, but maybe not forever

The Body Scientific
rhk2@columbia.edu

Two impressive articles in Science magazine caught my eye a few weeks ago. They suggest that it is possible to make a vaccine that will work against all flu viruses and will not have to be changed every year.

The flu is with us again, but maybe not forever

The Body Scientific

Two impressive articles in Science magazine caught my eye a few weeks ago. They suggest that it is possible to make a vaccine that will work against all flu viruses and will not have to be changed every year.

What do science and sausage have in common?

The Body Scientific
rhk2@columbia.edu

With the Dow in turmoil and Congress in disarray, it may seem odd to plan for the future, but American optimism is like a spring, and mine is getting pretty tightly coiled, so let’s think of constructive things to do.  

I leave economics, the dismal science, as Thomas Carlyle called it, to others. Good luck to them. There are optimistic (non-dismal?) forms of science.

Science and sausage

The Body Scientific
rhk2@columbia.edu

With the Dow in turmoil and Congress in disarray, it may seem odd to plan for the future, but American optimism is like a spring, and mine is getting pretty tightly coiled, so let’s think of constructive things to do.  

I leave economics, the dismal science, as Thomas Carlyle called it, to others. Good luck to them. There are optimistic (non-dismal?) forms of science.

E. coli outbreak, Germany, 2011

The Body Scientific

In 1897, an epidemic of dysentery occurred in Japan. Ninety thousandpeople were affected and a staggering 30 percent of them died.

Dr. Kiyoshi Shiga discovered the bacterium, now named Shigella dysenteriae, that caused the disease. The discovery allowed Dr. Shiga to trace the infection to its source, which was contaminated water, and stop the epidemic.

Dr. Shiga showed that the bacteria secrete a toxin, now called shigatoxin in tribute to his important work. We have since learned a lot about shigatoxin, including what the molecule looks like.

Could chestnut forests return?

The Body Scientific

We are assailed by microbial invaders. Whether it is a flu virus or the fungus of Dutch elm disease, all noxious invaders have a common property: They come from far away to infect a native population of people or plants that have not evolved ways to resist.

William Welch, and what a Norfolk cemetery tells us

The Body Scientific

I like cemeteries. It may seem morbid, but I do. Norfolk’s cemetery is a fine and private place. But to a student of infectious disease, it is a stone-marked history of wrenching loss and medical helplessness.

I found the graves of young women of the 19th century. One was dead at 23. Childbirth probably took her or puerperal fever in its aftermath. Tuberculosis, too, could carry off a young adult.