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Just the Facts

Oldest HIV Case

A plasma sample taken from an adult man in 1959, in what is now Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, has been shown to be the oldest known infection with HIV-1, the virus that is dominant in the global epidemic, according to David Ho of Rockefeller University. It appears that HIV began in the African population not long before 1959.

Mad Cow in Mexico?

Mexican authorities questioned in January whether a case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in a Mexican woman might have been caused by her eating U.S. beef. The CJD case was reportedly the first in that country.

A 53-year-old Scottish woman who died of lung cancer was a donor for eye tissues that were transplanted into three other people. British authorities reported in December that her autopsy later showed that she had Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a condition transmissible from nerve and eye tissues.

More than ten cows with an unspecified nervous system disorder ended up being sent to a renderer, according to testimony from Mike Engler at the Oprah Winfrey trial in January. Engler is the son of Paul Engler, owner of one of the largest cattle feeder operations in the U.S. The testimony raised concerns about diseased body parts ending up as animal feed, since undiagnosed brain disorders are considered potential warning signs for mad cow disease. Engler denied that the animals’ symptoms indicated mad cow disease.

From Our Hope-You’re-Not-Eating-When-You-Read-This Department

It looks like turkey farmers regularly ingest fecal bacteria from their birds and spread them to their friends and contacts. Scandinavian researchers collected fecal samples from turkeys at 47 farms, and from 47 turkey farmers, 48 turkey slaughterers, and 188 healthy people living in the vicinity. They tested for a specific strain of enterococci bacteria that were resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin. And there they were, in 50 percent of samples from turkeys, 39 percent of samples from turkey farmers, 20 percent of samples from turkey slaughterers, and 14 percent of the area residents.

van den Bogaard AE, Jensen LB, Stobberingh EE. Vancomycin-resistant enterococci in turkey and farmers. N Engl J Med. 1997;337:1558-1559.

A Vegetarian Voice in Cuba

Cuba Update of November-December 1997 profiles the work of Cuban cancer surgeon Gilberto Fleites, M.D., a leading voice for cancer prevention in that country and a strong advocate for vegetarian diets. What led him to change his diet? Dr. Fleites says, “A couple of years ago, I met Andrew Nicholson, an American doctor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. He taught me about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. At the same time, my wife was struggling with a health condition that could be alleviated by a vegetarian diet. We arrived at a point where it was the best choice for both of us.”

Campylobacter Becomes an Epidemic

About two-thirds of chickens carry a bacterium called campylobacter. Although not as well-known as salmonella, it causes 2 million human illnesses annually, of which about 500 are fatal.

What do you do with a few million tons of poultry manure?

Plant poinsettias in it, say scientists at the University of Maryland who have developed 18 varieties of compost made from chicken manure, yard debris, and “biosolids,” in hopes of keeping manure out of the Chesapeake Bay. Unless carefully treated, chicken manure carries salmonella, campylobacter, and other infectious organisms.

Baboon Marrow Recipient Says People Not Ready for Xenografts

Jeff Getty, who received baboon bone marrow in December 1995, said that public reaction against cross-species transplants is strongly against such procedures. At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Getty described the revulsion with which others had reacted to the experiment. “We’re not ready to have part-human, part-animal people walking around,” he said. Doctors had attempted to infuse baboon bone marrow as a supply of resistant white blood cells. The cells were promptly rejected.

Getty felt well for several months after the procedure, but his condition has gotten worse, and he has begun taking experimental antiviral medications.

Dolly May Not Be What She Seems

Ian Wilmut, one of the scientists who cloned Dolly, acknowledged February 13 that there is a chance Dolly is not a clone of an adult sheep after all. It turns out that the cells used to produce Dolly came from a pregnant sheep, and Wilmut says it is possible that she grew from a fetal cell inadvertently mixed into the cells. She would still be a clone, but a clone of a fetus rather than of an adult sheep.

Folic Acid Versus Depression

People suffering from depression often are low in folic acid, a B-vitamin found in vegetables and beans, according to psychiatrist Jonathan E. Alpert of Harvard Medical School. Folic acid also helps prevent neural tube defects in babies and reduce homocysteine levels that appear to increase risk for heart disease. Meat and dairy products are very low in folic acid.

Spring/Summer 1998

Spring/Summer 1998
Volume VII
Number 2

Good Medicine

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