Could A Malaria Vaccine Be On The Way?

The UK drug company GlaxoSmithKline is applying for regulatory approval of the world’s first malaria vaccine, the BBC reports.

The move comes after tests that the company said were promising. For the past several years, GlaxoSmithKline has conducted tests of its vaccine on almost 15,500 children in seven African countries. The company reports that 18 months after vaccination, there was a 27 percent reduction in malaria cases in infants aged 6-12 weeks and a 46 percent reduction in children aged 5-17 months.

Now it’s applying to the European Medicines Agency to start marketing the vaccine. GlaxoSmithKline’s research was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the company says it will make the vaccine affordable for poorer nations.Ninety percent of the world’s malaria cases are in the poorer regions of sub-Saharan Africa where the vaccine was tested. Globally, malaria kills 800,000 people a year. It’s also a major hazard for adventure travelers. While antimalarial pills are generally effective, they can have serious side effects. A vaccination would go a long way to easing the burden on people who choose to visit the tropics.

Approval for the vaccine could come in 2014. Unfortunately, the percentages the company is quoting do not indicate that it will be as effective as many of the vaccines we are used to. Other measures are still needed like the education of the public of the dangers of standing water and the need to use mosquito netting. More innovative methods for fighting the disease like infecting them with bacteria are also being studied.

Hopefully GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine will be just the first generation of a series of improving vaccines that will one day relieve the world of a dangerous disease.

Korean Rice Wine Uses Shocking Ingredient in the Name of Medicine

Warning: this video is graphic and is most likely going to make you lose your appetite — or any desire for a glass of rice wine.

A recent video from VICE documents the making of Korean Children’s Feces Wine which is, alarmingly, a real thing. With real feces. The wine is a traditional treatment that’s nearly obsolete in modern Korean medicine. But VICE found a doctor who still believes in the wine’s health benefits and makes it himself. In order to make the drink, a child’s feces has to be procured through an “open-minded” mother, as the doctor explains in the video.

I can’t help but think about the urine-marinated eggs sold in Dongyang, China; the fact that some people eat foreskin; and all the other gross and weird food from around the world. All of these stories have made me completely against trying any food if I don’t know what’s in it. I had the unfortunate timing of watching this video while eating my lunch. Be sure you don’t repeat my mistake.

‘This Is The Place Death Delights To Help The Living’

The horrors of war and the medical techniques used on the wounded in the battlefield are incomprehensible to those of us who have never donned a soldier’s uniform. The National Museum of Health and Medicine, also known as the Army Medical Museum, puts these realities into context.

Founded during the Civil War as a center for medical study of gunshot wounds, amputations and other physical maladies, the museum was tucked away on the grounds of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., from 1971 until 2011. When the Walter Reed Center outgrew its facilities, a new building was built for the National Museum of Health and Medicine next to the Silver Spring, Maryland, annex of Fort Detrick. Its official opening was May 21, 2012.

(Warning: Some readers may find the images in this gallery quite gruesome. View at your own risk!)While this medical museum is small, housing only three galleries, its exhibits on skeletons, brain damage, disease and military medicine from the Civil War era to the present day are engaging, if not disconcerting. There are displays of baby skeletons; cross sections of parts of bodies to expose muscle tissue; a leg and a scrotum affected by elephantiasis; stillborn conjoined twins preserved in formaldehyde; a complete brain and spinal column, also preserved in a liquid solution; remains plucked from the battlefields of Antietam, Manassas, and Fredericksburg; and numerous bullets and bits of shrapnel. There are more than 500 bullets and pieces of shrapnel in the Civil War collection alone.

There are famous, or infamous, exhibits here, most notably the bullet that John Wilkes Booth used to kill Abraham Lincoln and the steamer trunk used by Dorothea Dix, who supervised the Union nurses during the Civil War. A recent addition to the collection is Trauma Bay II, the concrete slab that was the “primary resuscitation bay in the Emergency Department of the U.S. Air Force Balad Theater Hospital” in Iraq.

Although the displays that reference known historical figures do put these exhibits into context, it is the everyday soldier, who was injured, maimed, or died in war, whose sacrifices helped advance military medicine as we know it today. As stated in one of the displays, “This is the place death delights to help the living.”

London’s surgery museums are frightening and fascinating

Ah, the good old days! Everything was so simple a hundred years ago, so stress free. No television, no Britney Spears, no threat of global warming or nuclear war. Life was better then.


Cities choked on coal smoke, people starved on the streets, terrorists blew up innocent people, and the medicine, well. . .

While London has dozens of museums that can tell you about the past, two museums in particular tell you about the hard facts of life more than any other. The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret and the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons give you eye-popping tours through the “good” old days of surgery and medicine.

The Old Operating Theatre is exactly that, Britain’s only intact 19th century operating theatre. Dating to the days before anesthetic and before surgeon’s thought it might be help to wash their hands, it’s a sobering reminder of what our great-great-grandparents had to endure when they got sick. The theatre was in use from 1821 to 1862 and survived only because it got sealed off and forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1957.

The theatre was where surgeons and medical students watched the best doctors of the day cut off limbs, trepan skulls, and perform other operations. Beside the operating theatre, there is a large space reserved for displays of early medical techniques and instruments. Behold the glorious cervical dilator, a multipronged monstrosity that did just what it promised! Or the bone saw, which in the hands of a skilled surgeon could cut through a leg in less than a minute. Or the leeches, which were actually quite effective at getting rid of bruises by sucking the blood out of you.

%Gallery-128964%But it’s not all horror tales. These were primitive days, to be sure, yet doctors really did try to help their patients and herbal medicine was quite advanced. Also, there were innovative minds like Dr. Joseph Lister, who realized that disinfectant could help reduce fatalities after surgery, and Nurse Florence Nightingale, who made huge advances in hospital cleanliness to make patients healthier and happier.

The museum chronicles the efforts of doctors, nurses, apothecaries, and midwives. It’s literally crammed with artifacts and displays and an interested visitor can easily spend a couple of hours here.

An equally fascinating and full museum is the Hunterian Museum. Located in the Royal College of Surgeons, it houses a huge collection of preserved human and animal specimens. If you’ve ever wanted to know what a hernia looks like from the inside, this is where to find out. You can also see the large intestine of a crocodile, Charles Babbage’s brain, an artificially deformed skull from ancient Egypt, and the bones of the Irish giant Charles Byrne.

The main draw are the medical specimens of almost every imaginable malady. To actually see what so many people get is a revealing experience. Upstairs are displays of the history of surgical techniques. Unlike the Old Operating Theatre, this museum takes you right up to the modern day and there are some graphic films of operations such as the removal of a brain tumor and an enlarged prostate. Much of this museum is not for the faint of heart, but while I was watching the brain surgery in horrified fascination one brave little ten-year-old girl plopped down next to me and sat through the whole thing. I warned her off the stereoscopic views of First World War facial injuries, though.

While the “eewww, gross” element to both of these museums is certainly present, they are both very well presented and worth the time of any visitor who wants to learn more about issues that will, sadly, affect them sooner or later. It’s strange that these two museums aren’t better known. I highly recommend them both.

Junkie steals 100-year-old morphine, doesn’t get high

There’s nobody quite as determined or stupid as a junkie.

Maybe it’s hard to buy a hit on the streets of Cashmere, Washington, or maybe this particular junkie was short of cash. In any case, someone with a craving for drugs broke into the Cashmere Historic Museum and Pioneer Village and made off with a bottle of morphine pills dating back to World War One.

A doctor interviewed by the Wenatchee World newspaper said that the century-old pills would have long since lost their potency and wouldn’t have any effect at all, good or bad.

The intruder left a trail of destruction in his or her wake, as junkies usually do. Museum officials found a broken fence, a broken door, and a trashed display case. The case was a rare original from a period doctor’s office dating to 1890. Volunteers are now cleaning up the office so they can reopen it to the public.

This isn’t the first time the museum has been broken into. Its historic saloon has been burgled a couple of times by drunks looking for booze. There’s no alcohol in the saloon, and the folks at the Cashmere Historic Museum and Pioneer Village may want to rethink having real medication on display in their doctor’s office, even if it hasn’t been able to get anyone high since Burroughs was in short pants.

[Morphine cure ad c.1900 courtesy Mike Cline via Wikimedia Commons]