Think twice about hooking up: STD rates are at an all-time high. Worse, the latest STD making the rounds could literally make your genitals rot off. Donovanosis, also known as granuloma inguinale, is a sexually transmitted infection that turns a person’s genitals into flesh-eating ulcers. It can also infect the mouth, nose, and chest.
The disease has typically been reported in warm, humid regions including India, southern Africa, central Australia, and the Caribbean, but cases have also appeared in cooler climates. The CDC records about 100 cases in the U.S. each year. This summer, the U.K. saw a rash of cases as well.
A new study has identified many metropolitan and rural areas across the United States that are now in greater danger of preventable disease outbreaks due to low vaccination rates in children.
Eighteen states allow parents to opt out of vaccines and immunizations for “religious or philosophical” reasons (non-medical exemptions, or NMEs), and every state allows exemptions for children who have compromised immune systems. The new study confirms that large segments of parents are exercising their exemptions, resulting in a growing population of citizens unprotected from childhood diseases that were once virtually eradicated.
The most feared viruses are those for which medical science has not yet developed a treatment, cure or preventive vaccine. Often, such viral agents have only been recently discovered and emerged as an outbreak in a particular region of the world. This is the case for the Nipah virus (NiV), which has claimed the lives of at least nine people in India this year.
Nipah virus was first discovered in Malaysia in the late 1990s when an outbreak of the virus struck approximately 265 people. People became sick after physically interacting with pigs in the area, with symptoms manifesting as brain inflammation.
Eat an armadillo? Sure—if you live in Brazil, Tennessee, or other parts of the world where the armored creature is just another source of protein. Armadillo is an uncommon, but not unheard of part of many people’s diet. It is said to taste similar to chicken. Hunters capture wild armadillos, and some people also raise the animals in captivity like pigs, fattening them up on household scraps. But there’s a compelling case for leaving the strange creature alone.
Researchers have found a link between armadillos and a disease that has mostly disappeared in many parts of the world: leprosy. In a study published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers found that 62 percent of the nine-banded armadillos sampled in Brazil’s western state of Pará showed signs of exposure to the bacterium that causes leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease. They also found that people who eat nine-banded armadillo meat had higher concentrations of leprosy antibodies in their blood. (The team offered free treatment to those found to have the disease.)
Each year, the epidemiology community keeps a close eye on the flu, a virus that is famous for mutating and changing in its severity and ability to spread. This year is an especially auspicious year for contemplating influenza: 100 years ago, the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 killed millions of people around the world. Studying these viruses can alert the medical and scientific communities in time to stop such an outbreak from devastating humanity again.
However, studying viruses can be a tricky business. In 2014, University of Wisconsin flu experts created a “mutant” version of the 1918 flu virus, and discovered that strains of the original 1918 version still exist in the environment. Since even the strictest lab protocols can’t promise that such a virus won’t escape, this development sparked debate which prompted the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to issue a moratorium on continued studies on infectious diseases. Scientists argued that if we don’t study viruses, we won’t understand how to combat them when they inevitably occur in human and agricultural populations.
Our best medicines are losing their power. Since the 1940s, antibiotics have stopped infections from turning deadly, saving millions of lives around the world. Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, surgery was more dangerous, now-curable diseases like STDs and tuberculosis killed millions, and a paper cut could be fatal. However, overuse and misuse of these drugs have led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of “superbugs.” Older types of antibiotics have been rendered useless by these powerful bacteria, compelling researchers to develop new generations of stronger varieties. Now those newer drugs are losing their effectiveness as well, and the World Health Organization has raised the alarm: We are running out of cures.
“Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO. “There is an urgent need for more investment in research and development for antibiotic-resistant infections including TB, otherwise we will be forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”
As glaciers melt around the world, secrets and mysteries that remained frozen in time have been uncovered and solved. In some cases, this involves the gruesome discovery of well-preserved human bodies revealed by the receding ice.