Fungi, measles, Chairman Mao, and more…


Fungi from the gut can promote cancer in the pancreasYou may have heard the strange theory of Tullio Simoncini that cancer is a fungus. Obvious nonsense. But while cancer may not actually be a fungus, it is intriguing to find fungus may have a role in promoting cancer. Mouse studies show the fungal microbiome can is in contact with the pancreas and a particular species promotes pancreatic cancer progression. Treatment of the mice with antifungal agents inhibit tumour growth. And this is not just an irrelevant mouse study because that same species of fungus is found in human pancreatic tumours. This could point to a new therapy for one of the hardest to treat cancers with a very poor prognosis.

Vaccines in the News: The good, the bad, and the imminent loss of our measles elimination status: In 2000, the United States was declared free of endemic measles infections. Things have changed as of late. When I wrote about the 2019 measles outbreaks in May, we had already broken a record more than 2 decades old. We topped 1,000 cases within a couple weeks of that post and are currently at 1,243 with 12 new cases last week. It does appear to be slowing down at least. According to an August announcement by the WHO, four countries have lost their measles elimination status because of recent outbreaks. These include Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece, and most recently the United Kingdom. Up next appears to be the United States. In order to achieve this dubious distinction, there only needs to be one additional case in October that is linked to the ongoing outbreaks in New York City and Rockland County. Just one case.

Is this study legit? 5 questions to ask when reading news stories of medical research: In observational studies, where researchers observe differences in groups of people, it can sometimes be difficult to disentangle the relationship between variables. The highest level of evidence regarding causality comes from double-blind placebo controlled randomised controlled trials (RCTs). This experimental type of study, where people are separated into groups to randomly receive either an intervention or placebo (sham treatment), is the best way we can determine if a something causes disease. However it, too, is not perfect. Although other types of studies in humans play an important role in our understanding of health and disease, they may only highlight associations that are not indicative of causal relationships.

Chinese activists protest the use of traditional treatments – they want medical science: “In China, traditional Chinese medicine has the same status in the health system as modern medical science. This has led thousands of science activists to protest that the state neglects its duty to treat its citizens with evidence-based medicine.”

E-cigarettes, smoking and health: For those wanting to read more widely about the evolving evidence on e-cig /vaping use, safety and quit-smoking effectiveness, here is a thorough Australian (CSIRO) review published last year.

Chairman Mao invented Traditional Chinese Medicine: This is a fascinating history of how TCM was given new life under Mao.

Great Moments in Health and Science

The Development of Modern Toothpaste. Toothpastes designed to remove stains (often to the detriment of health) have existed since the ancient Egyptians and contained ingredients such a lead, acid and ground bones. Modern toothpastes protect teeth as well as reduce stains.