Sunday, January 29, 2017

Staph and Penicillin, what a story!!

Radiolab did a story on Penicillin, how it was discovered in 1928 accidentally.  The petri dishes were left out over the weekend and when the lab assistant gathered them up one dish was spotted with multiple dead zones.  Something had killed the staphylococcus.  Voila, Penicillin.  It was not until 1944 that Penicillin was ready to be used.  Unfortunately it was resistant to staph with a year or so.   The search for other penicillin commenced until today because of resistance, we only have one or two drugs capable of taking down MRSA.

Next Radiolab interviewed two women from England; one is a microbiologist who likes to play Vikings etc as a hobby and the other is a historian who specializes in Vikings and who likes microbiology as a hobby.  These two hooked up, compared hobbies and decided to conduct some research.  They found a 1000 year old book, sort of a herbalist book with cures and etc.  They had a nice digital copy to read in Old English, one of the two ladies was expert in Old English.  The books was called Bald Leach. (name of the author I think).  They eliminated most recipes that promised to purge the devil and narrowed their search to perhaps obtainable ingredients.  They found one recipe that ended, "The best medicine". It was a recipe for curing wens, or stys in the eye, which was caused by staph aureus.  Ah HAH!  They decided to assemble the ingredients to make the concoction.  First item was garlic and first ingredient was related to onions so they used onion as the second ingredient.  Third ingredient called for ox bile.  Apparently it is not as uncommon as you might think and they were able to obtain a supply of ox bile.  Last ingredient was wine.  They deduced that they would use a winery near where the book was originally written.  The last thing called for it to be mixed in a brass kettle.   They didn't have a brass kettle and threw in a copper penny which was a near equivalent.

Next came chopping and much mashing in mortar and pestle.  Next part of the recipe was to cover the mixture for 9 days.  They explained that medieval recipes had to provide a length of time to process ingredients and if it called for four Hail Mary's, that was roughly the equivalent of 20 minutes.  Because.  There.  Were.  No.  Clocks.  y'see.

After nine days the mixture was put on  simulated wounds smeared with staph.  They checked back the next day and 99.99% of the staph was dead, dead, DEAD.  They couldn't believe it.  They re-ran the experiment again and again.   Same result.  Discussion held, why did this recipe fall into disuse.  They conjectured that the staph grew resistant, the mixture no longer worked, so fell into disuse.

This raises an interesting question if a non penicillin mixture can kill staph in the 21st century, after being inactive for hundreds of years, is it possible for penicillin to be left fallow for a few years to let the resistant organisms die out then cycle the older penicillin back into use?  Anybody out there trying this?  After all it takes 10 years and a billion dollars to manufacture another drug.

I do not know if there is any follow up to the Sty treatment but seems like some homeopathic outfit would jump all over this yeah?

And, I know for a fact that MRSA can be literally scrubbed from a wound in skin wound cases and this works topically only.  The thought of someone scrubbing my infected wound with a dilute mixture of bleach makes my skin crawl, but if it works, better than having MRSA eat yer face.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Things places are famous for....

Yet another Radiolab enlightening me in the evening.

This one was about the island of Guadalupe which is located about 400 miles east of Puerto Rico.
The reporter visited and interviewed several different people.  One couple were farmers their main crop was watermelons. They have a chronic problem.  Their watermelons have been attacked.  The reporter was showed these gigantic water melons weighing between 20 and 25 lbs.  Several of them had a small round hole in the side about two inches across.   The insides were completely empty.
Each year they lose about one third of their crop. The raiders are raccoons.  They put up electric fences and the raccoons learned to lean a branch against the wires to cross the fence.  They set out a large metal trap cage.  The cage disappeared.  They found the cage in the jungle partially destroyed.  The raccoons had stolen the trap.  When asked if they would shoot or poison the raccoons the couple recoiled in horror.  Oh no, they couldn't kill a protected mammal.

In 1911 the curator of mammals of the Smithsonian received a box from Guadalupe containing the body of a raccoon.  The scientists examined the raccoon and discovered that it was significantly different from the North American raccoon so they called it a new species.  France governs Guadalupe so they declared the Guadalupe raccoon a protected species.  The Guadalupe peoples were proud of this and the raccoon appears on their stamps, on all sorts of tourist stuff.  There is a National Park that features the raccoon and they are every where.  The French go about freeing captured raccoons every once in a while. 

In 2004 the present curator of mammals of the Smithsonian took another look at the Guadalupe raccoon and determined that it was a juvenile and probably not a new species.  They did DNA test just in case and sure enough the Guadalupe raccoon is identical to the North American raccoon.  The locals still protect their raccoons regardless of new species identity or not.  And the scientist did give the opinion that if the current population of raccoons stay isolated on Guadalupe they had the potential to evolve into a distinct species but that probably would not show up very soon.

The only other native animal to Guadalupe are the bats.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ted talks

Last night I listened to the Ted talk and the topic was the five senses;
1.  Hearing.  A woman was encouraged to put musical tones to the signals from the universe.   The song for a gamma ray blast was a surprisingly sprightly tinkly tune.  This application apparently yields valid data for other scientists.

2.  Sight.  A young man was diagnosed at age 13 with a degenerative retinal disease and he was blind by age 25.  He went through all sorts of rehab and he decided on his own to embrace the blindness, he was quite remarkable to listen to.

3. Taste.  A scientist is studying gene's trying to locate the gene for the taste of fat, so if successful there will be six senses.

Unfortunately I tend to nod off during some of these podcasts and I may have to go back and review.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday morning writing about stuff I have listened to on Podcasts.

I woke early this morning and the local NPR station was not on the air so I fired up the Kindle and selected Podcast and perused my many choices.

I decided to listen to An American Life hosted by Ira Glass.  This one was a sort of a conversation about the difficulty of describing something you see that really isn't there.  He interviewed a young man, well young compared to me, who had recently had laser surgery to correct some defect in his retina.   As a result of the laser treatment he began to notice a sort of defect.  He would see a spot that looked kind of black, sort of iridescent green and between he and Ira they could not come up with a good description of this visual anomaly.  Maybe an ophthalmologist could have helped.

Then the conversation branched out to some one who had posted something about multiple sclerosis.  He received an email from a woman in Ohio who said that she had multiple sclerosis but she had some physical characteristics similar to a Canadian Olympic athlete.  The MS patient told of her story of how she was not diagnosed properly and her research into various genetic typed of MS.  She had hit a dead end in her research, doctors kept telling her she could not have a certain type of rare MS because only males got it and she could not have a rare genetic lipo protein disorder either.  The Canadian athlete had always had musculature where in her skin outlined faithfully every vein and cut of muscle on her body.  She did not seem to have a fat layer and because she was so well muscled she was always being tested for drugs when she did not use the drugs in any way, shape or form.  Eventually the two women began exchanging email etc.  The basic thing they had in common was the feeling that they had genetic anomalies where one woman was debilitated and the athlete was overly developed.  Eventually a French geneticist was found who agreed to do some testing.  Results were that the Ohio woman had both the genetic MS and the Lipo protein genetic defect, her 23 pairs of DNS had one letter off all the G's were C's which caused the two defects.  The Canadian athlete had the genetic defect, one gene location removed that made her over developed.  Also the Canadian woman was called by the doctor who warned her that she could only eat salad.  She was one hamburger away from a fat embolus stroke due to her cholesterol level. 

Then the last part of the pod cast was submitted by a comedian who was describing her girlfriends mother trying to explain a joke and laughing so hard that it was impossible to tell the joke.  Basically the joke was about Paris Hilton.  Her interior joke that she could not articulate was this.
"Why would anyone name their child after a hotel chain?"
"Oh, I know, the same people who would name their child after a famous city in France."
You had to be there, is was pretty funny.

So the entire theme was how difficult it is to explain something that you don't quite have a grasp on.
Welcome to my life, the grasp is slippery at best sometimes.  Have a nice Sunday.

Oh yes, about yesterday.  I haven't listened to much  red hot feminist rhetoric, boy those ladies were fired up yesterday and to be horribly honest, the chants of the black rapper ladies, I really needed some subtitles, cuz I'm an aging white baby boomer who had only ever liked Salt N Pepper and En Vogue...if I actually spelled the names correctly.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Too bad you don't earn college credits for listening to Radiolab.

Was scrolling through past offerings of Radiolab and saw one entitled "The Buries Bodies Case".
Hmm not  normally my cup of tea.

In 1974 Three teenagers and a girl pitched a tent in a forest in the Adirondacks.  Some man dressed as a ranger type rousted them out of their tents.  He told him he had killed before.  He marched two kids off into the woods and made them take turns tying each other up.  He went back for the other two.

The three kids could hearing something happening.  The killer had stabbed the first kid five times in the chest.  They became very scared and got out of the ropes and ran.  He caught one of the boys and made him lie down in a ditch.  Pretty soon the other two kids   brought back the law.  The killer got up and ran off into the woods.   They discovered the boy tied up to the tree dead.  Huge man hunt.   People were so scared they left camping supplies where they were and left the area.  As a result the killer could pick and choose survival supplies.  They finally apprehended this guy and he was assigned a lawyer.  The Lawyer didn't want to do it, but it was a small country and the judge appointed the Lawyer as defense.  The lawyer wanted to go for guilty due to insanity to get him into a mental facility because he was fairly nuts.  At one point the killer confessed to his defense attorney that he had killed two local girls and told them where they were buried; one was in a cemetery and one was down a mine shaft.  The lawyer went out and actually located the one in the mine.  Now he was really stuck due to client/lawyer confidentiality.  He asked for a plea deal with  prosecution so he could shed some light on the missing girls, but they would not cut a deal.  So he was still stuck with knowledge of where those girls were and could not share that information.  So they put on the stand and got the killer to tell his entire life story and it was disgusting; all sorts of abuse, rapes, etc.  During testimony the missing girls finally came to light.  So at long last those other unrelated crimes to this charge was finally brought to light and the families had some closure.  The killer was given maximum prison term and sent away.  The aftermath of all this was that the Defense attorney was brought up on all sorts of Grand Judy, Ethics investigation.  He actually had a heart attack during this period.  Ultimately the grand jury found that the Defense Attorney had acted correctly.  If you take law classes at any University in America this case is studied for Ethics.