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LEEUWENHOEK: SCIENTIST WHO SAW ‘ANIMALCULES’

Anthony van Leeuwenhoek and animalcules drawings
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and a drawing of animalcules

 

Some discover their aptitude for science by natural curiosity, which causes them to investigate their surroundings. In doing so they find many hidden secrets that only curiosity like theirs could have revealed. However, an inquisitive nature alone doesn’t make one a scientist. Explorers, adventurers, reporters, and criminal investigators all lead lives based on it too.

Something special happens when curiosity is coupled with an empirical mind. That combination begins to approach the scientific method. The only thing left is to provide a record of findings so that other scientists can attempt to falsify the results.

 

Scientist By Nature

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek did all of this and more. He used the scientific method to unearth the existence of previously unseen organisms, and he was in regular correspondence with the Royal Society in London, discussing his findings.

Leeuwenhoek was a businessman by trade, but a scientist by nature. His skill in grinding glass allowed him to produce single-lens microscopes that could magnify over 200 times. 

On 17th September 1683, Leeuwenhoek was the first to report the existence of bacteria seen through his microscopes. He called them little “animalcules”.

He achieved clearer and brighter images than any of his scientific fellows would achieve for centuries. This led to doubts and questions about the certainty of what he claimed to have seen.

It wasn’t until 1981 that Leeuwenhoek’s original specimens at the Royal Society were successfully photographed. Even this was done using one of his surviving microscopes. This finally dispelled the lingering disbelief that he indeed saw what he claimed. 

 

The Father Of Microbiology

Leeuwenhoek had 112 of his 200 letters published in the journal of the Royal Society. He was one of the journal’s most prolific writers, touching on many aspects of biology and even mineralogy. 

However, Leeuwenhoek’s greatest delights and findings were in the field of microbiology. His discoveries are still informing the discipline and being proven true today, especially his reports on bacteria.

 

The Importance of Bacteria

The world is now very aware of the presence and importance of bacteria. Some bacteria can be harmful, but most are beneficial.

We know that bacteria are used to treat some of the foods we love like yogurt and cheese. We know about the use of bacteria for preserving foods in fermentation and pickling. 

However, we also know bacteria are responsible for food spoilage or poisoning in some cases. Pathogenic bacteria may be transmitted in some foods which can cause food poisoning. For example, the CDC warns that soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk carry a greater risk of causing a Listeria infection.

The importance of bacteria to humans is also seen in medicine and other industries. Bacterial infections and antibiotic remedies are now well known but bacteria have been put to use for a host of other purposes, such as microbial leaching of precious metals in mining.

 

Real-life data for microbiology studies

Just like Leeuwenhoek, modern students of microbiology can use real-life data. Lecturers like Dr. Monika Oli teach microbiology students using GIDEON because of its vast dataset and a versatile toolkit. She knows it gives meaningful context to their studies.

At the time of writing, the GIDEON database includes 1,766 pathogenic bacteria, 154 mycobacteria, and 130 yeasts and algae. And the database is updated daily! 

Look out for GIDEON’s upcoming beta release on 30th September. It has a brand new Lab module, designed in collaboration with microbiologists from 26 countries, don’t miss your chance to check it out!

Streptomyces – the smell of life

The Mall in Central Park, New York City in late autumn on rainy day
The Mall in Central Park, New York City in late autumn on a rainy day

 

Did you know that humans can detect the smell of wet soil 200,000 times better than sharks sense blood? [1] It appears our olfactory abilities are not that bad after all, at least when it comes to finding potential sources of food. Petrichor, the term to describe the scent was coined in 1964, by scientists I. Bear and R.G. Thomas, meaning “petros” – stone and “ichor” – the blood of the gods [2] in Greek.

Divine or not, Streptomyces is a genus of over 800 bacterial species and subspecies responsible for the earthy smell of Autumn we know and love. But could it be that our innate senses are drawn to wet dirt for more reasons than farming? 

 

Could eating dirt cure the plague?

That is yet to be tested, but Streptomyces are certainly fit for more purposes than poetic walks after the rain. They are the most important source of antibiotics [3].

What is an antibiotic? By definition, it is a substance produced by one organism that is capable of inhibiting the growth or destroying other organisms  – a direct translation from Greek would be ‘anti-life’. In nature, this yields Streptomyces a competitive advantage. Astonishingly, they are responsible for nearly two-thirds of natural antibiotics [4].

For instance, Streptomyces griseus produces Streptomycin, the first antibiotic against tuberculosis, and a drug of choice against the agent of Plague Yersinia pestis, along with other 28 pathogenic bacteria species [5].  Streptomyces avermitilis helps keep parasites in check with its potent avermectins, and Chloramphenicol – a drug effective against 92 pathogens, is produced by Streptomyces venezuelae.

Streptomyces glaucescens under a microscope
Image of Streptomyces glaucescens. Courtesy of Tobias Kieser, John Innes Centre

 

Mavericks of the Streptomyces family

Although these species are not considered to be important agents of infection, it is worth noting that not all Streptomyces bacteria are friends of humanity, however. Two rebels, Streptomyces somaliensis and Streptomyces sudanensis go against the grain by infecting people’s feet with actinomycotic mycetoma.

First described as ‘Madura foot’ in 1842, the disease is thought to date back to the Byzantine period and typically presents as cutaneous and subcutaneous tissue swelling, thickening, or painless nodule involving feet 80% of the time [6].

Mycetoma global distribution map
Mycetoma global distribution map, GIDEON. Dark blue color indicates recent reports of autochthonous cases.

 

Although bacterial mycetoma is endemic throughout the tropical world, S. somaliensis and S. sudanensis are only found in Eastern Africa, as names indicate. In other parts of the world, S.albus has been known to occasionally rear its head [7] in skin infections, although such occurrences are very rare. 

And here’s the most fascinating fact – a distant ‘cousin’ of these pathogens, Streptomyces cattleya is an effective carbapenem used to treat Streptomyces spp. infections. A family feud in all its glory!

 

Why are bacteria named as fungi?

Streptomyces are about 450 million years old. Despite being a genus of bacteria, they are misleadingly suffixed with ‘-myces’, which stands for ‘fungi’ in Greek. This is because the first known example of the species contained branching filaments [8], a characteristic common to fungi.

Other actinobacteria, such as Mycobacteria and Actinomyces bear similar morphological features and thus carry a badge of mushroom in their names. Mycoplasmata – elusive gram-unidentifiable bacteria called ‘fungus form’, were named so by A. B. Frank in 1889. He thought ‘the “infection threads” of the organism were hyphae, and he knew of no hyphal-forming bacteria’ [9].

 

Want to learn more about Streptomyces? Try GIDEON ebook Guide to Medically Important Bacteria, 20% off on our website.

Interested in Mycetoma? Take a look at Mycetoma: Global Status

References:

[1] H. Campbell, “Geosmin: Why We Like The Smell Of Air After A Storm”, American Council on Science and Health, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.acsh.org/news/2018/07/28/geosmin-why-we-smell-air-after-storm-13240. [Accessed: 11- Sep- 2020].

[2] I. BEAR and R. THOMAS, “Nature of Argillaceous Odour”, Nature, vol. 201, no. 4923, pp. 993-995, 1964. Available: 10.1038/201993a0 [Accessed 11 September 2020].

[3] K. Chater, “Streptomyces”, Brenner’s Encyclopedia of Genetics, pp. 565-567, 2013. Available: 10.1016/b978-0-12-374984-0.01483-2 [Accessed 11 September 2020].

[4] A. Hasani, A. Kariminik and K. Issazadeh, “Streptomycetes: Characteristics and Their Antimicrobial Activities”, International Journal of Advanced Biological and Biomedical Research, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 63-75, 2014. Available: http://www.ijabbr.com/article_7033_7733c8235876d7ba635f6c831a916648.pdf. [Accessed 11 September 2020].

[5] “Streptomycin”, App.gideononline.com, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://app.gideononline.com/explore/drugs/20910. [Accessed: 11- Sep- 2020].

[6] V. Lichon and A. Khachemoune, “Mycetoma”, American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, vol. 7, no. 5, pp. 315-321, 2006. Available: 10.2165/00128071-200607050-00005 [Accessed 11 September 2020].

[7] M. Martin, A. Manteca, M. Castillo, F. Vazquez and F. Mendez, “Streptomyces albus Isolated from a Human Actinomycetoma and Characterized by Molecular Techniques”, Journal of Clinical Microbiology, vol. 42, no. 12, pp. 5957-5960, 2004. Available: 10.1128/jcm.42.12.5957-5960.2004 [Accessed 11 September 2020].

[8] K. Chater, “Streptomycesinside-out: a new perspective on the bacteria that provide us with antibiotics”, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 361, no. 1469, pp. 761-768, 2006. Available: 10.1098/rstb.2005.1758 [Accessed 12 September 2020].

[9] C. Krass and M. Gardner, “Etymology of the term Mycoplasma”, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL of SYSTEMATIC BACTERIOLOGY, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 62-64, 1973. Available: https://www.microbiologyresearch.org/docserver/fulltext/ijsem/23/1/ijs-23-1-62.pdf. [Accessed 12 September 2020].

Mosquito: more than a bug

Anopheles mosquito sucking blood
Anopheles mosquito, a vector of Malaria

 

In one half of the world, the mosquito is seen to most as a minor annoyance, but for others, mosquitoes are synonymous with disease, pain, and death. Today is the World Mosquito Day and the perfect reminder of the devastating impact of such diseases as MalariaZika, and various kinds of Encephalitis for which mosquitoes are a major vector.

Malaria – a headline disease

Malaria is the headline disease associated with mosquitoes and it was on this very day in 1897 that Sir Ronald Ross discovered that female mosquitoes can transmit malaria between humans. This was a major breakthrough in tackling the disease, yet despite significant progress, over 100 years on it is still the cause of tens of thousands of deaths every year, with annual case numbers on a steady incline.

Worldwide Malaria cases graph Worldwide Malaria deaths graph

‘Bad Air’ of the ancients

Malaria dates back thousands of years. Ancestral evidence found in 30-million-year-old amber shows that mosquitoes plagued humans from the earliest civilizations. It started having a significant impact on human survival roughly 10,000 years ago at the start of agriculture, and even Cleopatra is reputed to have slept under a mosquito net – though likely to avoid bites in general, rather than a preventative measure for the disease. Given the disease’s age, it is no surprise it has been referenced under many different names, such as Roman Fever and ‘Bad Air’ (Mal Aria), from which the modern name is derived.

A brief history of drugs

The most effective early drug was centered around Quinine, known since the 16th century and made from ground cinchona “fever” tree bark. Successfully synthesized in the early 20th century, it is the precursor to such drugs as Chloroquine. The revolutionary Methylene Blue – first synthetic antimalarial – was developed by Heinrich Caro. It helped differentiate between blood cells and the nuclei of malarial parasites. In a world without advanced microscopes, this was a significant breakthrough in identifying the disease.

Prevention is better than cure

The prevalence of the disease led to many efforts to try and prevent infection, but it wasn’t until Sir Ross proved the female mosquito as the vector in 1897 that targeted efforts could be made in limiting contact to mosquitoes, along with improving medicines. Nowadays, mosquito nets, insect repellents, and regular anti-insect medicines are commonplace in homes across the globe. The killing of mosquitoes was even cited as a selling point for the ill-fated insecticide DDT.

The United States was certified as “malaria-free” by the World Health Organisation in 1970, but even so over 1,000 cases are reported every year, virtually all imported from other countries.

Malaria cases in United States graph

While it is a preventable and curable disease, it is worth taking extra protection measures when traveling to high-risk areas, such as central Africa or India. A combination of symptoms such as headache, back pain, chills, sweating, myalgia, nausea, vomiting can be unpleasant, to say the least!

Malaria worldwide endemic distribution map

 

Get 50% off Malaria: Global Status 2020 ebook

Interested in learning more? Love a good deal? In addition to this spotlight blog we are offering 50% off our latest Malaria: Global Status ebook, which is a fantastic opportunity to get access to the up-to-date distribution map, global and country statuses, and a more detailed breakdown of the epidemiology. Use coupon code ‘mosquito‘ at the checkout. The promotion ends on 27th August.

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter,  Facebook, and LinkedIn. We’ve got exciting updates about our new interface!

COVID-19 Case Series: Publishing Trends in High-Incidence Countries

Written by GIDEON co-founder, Dr. Steve Berger

Medical publishing has been significantly influenced by this year’s events. An unfortunate side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an explosion of professional publications dealing with every possible aspect of the disease. Innumerable studies dissect the clinical features, epidemiology, imaging characteristics, and risk factors of a series of patients treated in hospitals or clinics.

The GIDEON database collates all case series dealing with COVID-19 that have been cited in PubMed. These numbers do not include drug trials and disease prevalence surveys. 1,316 relevant series have been cited by PubMed as of August 13, published from 55 (28.2%) countries and dependencies which report the disease. Seven hundred and eleven series were published from China, encompassing 185,280 individual patients. The total number of COVID-19 cases reported by China to that date was 84,756. In other words, 2.19 Chinese patients appear in case series – for every 1 patient that is actually reported!

China alone accounts for 54.0% of all published case series, despite the fact that only 0.041% of the World’s cases were reported by that country. In part, these numbers might reflect the fact that “publishable data” were already accumulating in China before significant numbers were reported elsewhere, or delays that might be inherent in the publishing cycle itself. Other factors could include the relative numbers of clinical staff and institutions involved in research and publishing from any given country. Nevertheless, the unusually high number of case studies reported by China is difficult to explain. Assuming that “double-publication” can be discounted, large groups of patients are clearly “recycled” through multiple studies. From an epidemiological standpoint, this practice could actually contribute to the quality of data, since multiple studies of a given patient cohort can serve as excellent control groups for one another.

In the following bar graph, I’ve contrasted the ratio of published case series / reported cases among high-incidence countries. A pie graph contrasting the relative proportion of total case series from individual countries is also presented.

Publishing trends: number of published case series per 100,000 reported COVID-19 cases

* Cumulative data to August 13, 2020

Publishing trends: percentage of case series published by high incidence countries pie chart

Blog reproduced in ProMED https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7680036

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Testing the new GIDEON – what did clinicians say?

Testing new GIDEON app on different devices

It is GIDEON’s mission to provide robust support to clinicians, microbiologists, and educators that interface with the infectious diseases field. As such, consulting with our users when developing the product is paramount to ensuring GIDEON continues to meet their expectations. On 12th August GIDEON closed its last alpha testing round, dedicated to gathering feedback on the brand new ‘Diagnose’ module. Medical experts from 26 countries have explored the new interface and shared their thoughts on what works and what can be improved.

WHAT IS ALPHA?

Alpha is an early release of a major product upgrade. Our first alpha testing round was focused on displaying our extensive database in a brand new ‘Explore’ module. The second one was geared towards clinicians who may use GIDEON in Point-of-Care settings to diagnose infectious diseases.

HOW DID IT GO?

The comments were overwhelmingly positive. Here are some of them:

I just had a look and I am blown away both diagnosis modules. They are fantastic!

The product speaks for itself.

Having tried and tested each of the modules, GIDEON does a good job in making it quick and easy for a healthcare professional to access accurate and up to date information and that is the beauty and success of GIDEON.

The look and feel are great.

GIDEON remains an outstanding and easy to use, up to date resource. Commendable. Well done.

We are so grateful for all the positivity as well as constructive criticism – it will make the product better for everyone.

WHAT’S NEXT?

A full beta release is currently planned for mid-September. It’s the same GIDEON data that you know and love, but like you’ve never seen before! The beta will include our brand new Lab module, designed to assist microbiologists. Check out a sneak-peek below:

GIDEON Lab module displayed on a landscape white iPad

Sign up for beta release and receive 1 month of access to the new GIDEON for free!

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What is ME – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?

Tired person with a wind up attached to the back

 

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is a little-understood, female-biased [1] illness. It is estimated that up to 90% of people with the condition go diagnosed [2] and about 25% of sufferers are severely ill [3]. In recognition of the profound physical and psychological impact this disease has on its victims, August 8th has been designated as a Severe ME Awareness Day.

What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)?

The disease is best known for a state of extreme and unremitting fatigue. A range of additional symptoms may suggest the presence of an infectious disease: myalgia, nausea, cognitive disturbance, “flu-like” symptoms, sore throat, palpitations, headache, and insomnia [4]. In severe cases of ME, the patient may be bed-ridden and lose the ability to do the simplest of tasks, such as boil eggs for lunch [5] or feed themselves [6].

Diagnosing ME

Although outbreaks of possible ME have been recorded since 1955 [7], and several studies have suggested a viral or bacterial etiology, a lack of coherent understanding of etiology and pathogenesis makes the diagnosis of ME particularly difficult. Symptoms may persist for years [8] and patients in general practice settings may be sent from one specialist to another until all other potential disorders (notably Lyme disease [9] [10]) are discounted. Since most patients with ME are ultimately referred to Infectious Diseases specialists, GIDEON lists the condition in its database, allowing clinicians to run a side-by-side comparison with similar diseases.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis and Lyme Disease comparison table

 

Treatment to improve the quality of life of ME patients demands significant changes in lifestyle, such as creating a quiet, environment to help reduce the effects of hypersensitivity [11, 12].

There is currently no known cure for this condition. A variety of drugs are currently under review, including Metformin and Momordica charantia extract [13]. Newer diagnostic techniques include a nanoelectronics-blood-based diagnostic biomarker [14].

Follow us on Twitter,  Facebook, and LinkedIn for more content like this.

References:

  1. McGrath, S. (2018). Analysis of data from 500,000 individuals in UK Biobank demonstrates an inherited component to ME/CFS. ME/CFS Research Review. Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://mecfsresearchreview.me/2018/06/11/analysis-of-data-from-500000-individuals-in-uk-biobank-demonstrates-an-inherited-component-to-me-cfs/.
  2. What is ME/CFS? | Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) | CDC. Cdc.gov. (2018). Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/me-cfs/about/index.html.
  3. What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)?. #MEAction. (2020). Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://www.meaction.net/about/what-is-me/.
  4. Myalgic encephalomyelitis. gideononline.com. (2020). Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://app.gideononline.com/explore/diseases/10405.
  5. Foggy Friends Where ME/CFS Sufferers Unite Forums – Anna – The M.E Years. Foggyfriends.org. Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://www.foggyfriends.org/forum/content.php/151-Anna-The-M-E-Years.
  6. Price, N. (2020). [Image]. Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://25megroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/N-Price-.jpg.
  7. Royal Free Hospital. (1957). An Outbreak of Encephalomyelitis in the Royal Free Hospital Group, London, in 1955. PubMed Central (PMC). Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1962472/.
  8. Foggy Friends Where ME/CFS Sufferers Unite Forums – Members Stories. Foggyfriends.org. Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://www.foggyfriends.org/forum/content.php/9-Member-Stories.
  9. Cottle, L., Mekonnen, E., Beadsworth, M., Miller, A., & Beeching, N. (2012). Lyme disease in a British referral clinic. QJM105(6), 537-543. https://doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hcs003
  10. Patrick, D., Miller, R., Gardy, J., Parker, S., Morshed, M., & Steiner, T. et al. (2015). Lyme Disease Diagnosed by Alternative Methods: A Phenotype Similar to That of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Clinical Infectious Diseases61(7), 1084-1091. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/civ470
  11. Comhaire, F., & Deslypere, J. (2020). News and views in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS): The role of co-morbidity and novel treatments. Medical Hypotheses134, 109444. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2019.109444
  12. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) – Treatment. nhs.uk. (2017). Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfs/treatment/#medication.
  13. Severely Affected Patients | Clinical Care of Patients | Healthcare Providers | Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) | CDC. Cdc.gov. (2019). Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/me-cfs/healthcare-providers/clinical-care-patients-mecfs/severely-affected-patients.html.
  14. Esfandyarpour, R., Kashi, A., Nemat-Gorgani, M., Wilhelmy, J., & Davis, R. (2019). A nanoelectronics-blood-based diagnostic biomarker for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences116(21), 10250-10257. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1901274116

Vaccines save lives

Little girl receiving a vaccine

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) and this year vaccines and immunology are probably on many more people’s minds than usual – for obvious reasons. While medical professionals and researchers work tirelessly on developing and testing a COVID-19 vaccine (amongst others), let’s briefly remind ourselves how far we have come in such a brief segment of human history.

224 years, 40 vaccines

The first vaccine, developed in 1796 for smallpox, was not put into mass production until many years later – but was a monumental breakthrough in Medicine. It took almost another 100 years before the next vaccines were developed for cholera, rabies, tetanus, typhoid fever, and bubonic plague – at the end of the 19th century. All were developed at great personal risk to the scientist developing the agent, with each saving millions of lives.

Another 34 vaccines have been developed during the 20th and 21st centuries, although some of those are not yet in mainstream production. The most recent of the latter, for Ebola, will hopefully curb ongoing outbreaks. It is incredible to think that although only 40 vaccines have been developed so far in our history, yet these alone have saved millions, if not billions, of lives. Despite their success, only one of the vaccines has succeeded in completely eliminating the disease: Smallpox.

What goes into a vaccine?

Each of us can expect to receive between 9 and 12 varieties of vaccines in our lifetimes, depending on background and travel; and each plays a huge part in preventing significant outbreaks both at home and abroad. Immunization often begins at birth, and, in the case of the influenza vaccine, we will continue to receive doses until we move on from this world. But what actually goes into a vaccine?

You can receive some vaccine doses in the form of a syrup or tablet, however, most are delivered through an injection (other methods are in development), with each dose containing a weakened or killed portion of the disease microbe it is designed to prevent – by teaching your immune system to recognize and neutralize the infecting agent. In most cases, the process is completed over several small, safe doses – often over several years. While vaccines, like any drugs, can have side effects, these are generally minor and resolve in a day or two.

Why is it important?

Our co-founder and resident doctor, Dr. Steve Berger, summarized the importance of vaccines as follows: “Vaccines continue to save millions of lives and have prevented untold misery to the human species. Although the effectiveness of individual vaccines may vary, and most may cause occasional side effects, the cost of non-vaccination – in both death and suffering – will always be much higher.” And if you would like to learn more, head over to the dedicated pages which deal with vaccines at the websites of CDC and WHO, both of which include handy resources and interesting data to explore this subject further.

Events of this past year have painted us a picture of what the world could be like if vaccines hadn’t been developed or weren’t widely administered. The protection they offer us all has been a catalyst for building cities, economies, and international travel and commerce, without the fear of suffering from a major disease. It is always worth remembering how your body is trained to fight diseases and how you can help it out by following clean and safe practices – and being sure to get that flu jab in months to come…

 

Read more in Guide to Vaccines and Globulin Preparations ebook, currently 20% off.

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter,  Facebook, and LinkedIn. We’ve got exciting updates about our new interface!

Coronavirus effect on other diseases

People in protective clothing disinfecting the area

 

The effect of coronavirus on the economy and our daily lives has been huge. COVID-19 has rightly dominated government and organization policies, social life, and media headlines so far this year – but are other diseases getting the right attention?

Neglected diseases

The World Health Organization maintains a department dedicated to the research and treatment of Neglected Tropical Diseases. These conditions are considered “neglected” by mainstream Medicine by virtue of a relative lack of impact and presence in Western countries.

In January 2020, GIDEON listed 360 generic infectious diseases in humans – of which eighteen were classified as neglected by W.H.O. 

That month, a new disease was added, to a new total of 361. In only a few short months, COronaVIrus Disease 2019appears to have lead to the neglect of all other conditions.

Why we shouldn’t lose sight of Ebola

A few years ago, Ebola became a household word for much of the world’s population. An outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 resulted in over 28,000 cases – and 11,325 deaths. During this event, several individuals with Ebola arrived in Western Europe and the United States, and many in the professional and lay community warned of a potential disaster should the disease spread beyond Africa.

During 2018 to 2020, a subsequent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo numbered 3,463 cases and 2,280 deaths. Few realize that a concurrent epidemic of COVID-19 in this same country had already involved 8,249 cases and 193 deaths as of July 18. In other words, the number of deaths due to Ebola was twelve-fold the number due to COVID-19. Although the Ebola outbreak ended in April, yet another outbreak began in this same country on June 1 – with 49 cases and 20 deaths as of July 14.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Democratic Republic of Congo has also reported outbreaks of plague, measles, and monkeypox. “Not every cough is COVID“, wrote GIDEON co-founder Dr. Stephen Berger in a recent Healio article.  The message is clear – COVID-19 must not result in the neglect of already-neglected diseases.

See our previous post ‘Ebola, forgotten but not gone

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter,  Facebook, and LinkedIn. We’ve got exciting updates about our new interface!

National Picnic Month and how to enjoy it amid COVID-19

Young friends having barbecue picnic in the nature, playing guitar, playing badminton, enjoying sunny July month outdoors

Did you know July is National Picnic Month? It was a pleasant surprise for us too! 

Summer picnics are a fantastic way to spend time with the family, enjoying beautiful parks and weather – but as we all know this year is different. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still very a much threat to much of the country, but don’t you worry, we’ve put together our top 5 helpful tips for staying safe while still making the most of your local recreational spaces. So before you pack that hamper, take a few minutes to learn how you can stay safe and be prepared.

1. Keep it outside

This might seem an odd piece of advice for a picnic, but you can never guarantee the weather, so if your picnic gets rained off you may be tempted to take the family indoors.

Bars, restaurants, cafes, and halls make it extremely difficult to socially distance and even in the case where special arrangements have been made by the establishment, close interaction with staff or other patrons is almost unavoidable. Couple this with recirculated air, or worse no ventilation at all, it is a prime area for spreading diseases through contact or inhalation.

Dr. Stephen Berger advises opting for a table outside when dining out, or a spot that is “large, open, and ventilated.”

2. Respect your personal space

It’s hard to imagine spending time with friends and family without sharing a hug, throwing a ball around, or shaking hands. Just think about the number of times you’d normally be in close or direct contact with family friends – sharing food, passing out plates or napkins, handing out drinks; you simply can’t take that risk in the present climate. Respect your own social space and that of others and avoid direct contact with anyone outside your household, even if you know and trust them. Symptoms can take weeks to manifest if they do at all, so remain cautious while out and about or hosting visitors. And remind your kids to not run off too far and to be careful with what they touch.

3. Location, Location, Location!

With certain areas, cities being more greatly affected than others at the moment, check the situation in your area and use your best judgment. Those most at risk, the elderly, and suffers from chronic diseases, the safest option is remaining at home and making the most of any personal gardens.

This may seem cruel when you may not have had the opportunity to see family and friends for a long while and open, clean air and spaces seem the perfect place to reconnect, but please seriously consider your own situation and that of your surrounding areas – the price could prove severe.

4. Don’t forget your face mask

Even though picnics are mostly about food and drink, please take your face mask with you. It can be awkward when eating and drinking, but nonetheless protects you significantly when walking through crowded areas – of course, keep your distance as much as possible as well.

One way to make wearing a mask more fun is to decorate your mask for the occasion, and could be a great way to encourage the kids to keep the masks on! Avoid using paints or anything that will drastically affect the absorbency of your mask – felt tips or chalks should be perfect – or pin on decorations!

5. Keep it clean

The safest way to approach anything you didn’t bring with you is to consider it is dirty or even contaminated, and either wipe it clean before you use it or immediately wash your hands after using it. This may seem extreme, but you cannot see any traces of a virus left behind from someone else and anyone could have a virus without showing symptoms, so it is better to be safe than sorry. You have the benefit of controlling what you bring on a picnic, so make sure you have enough of what you need, so you can dine and play worry-free. Be prepared for longer queues as well, especially toilets.

Hopefully, the weather holds in your area and you do get to head outside for some well-earned relaxation, snacking in your local park and we are certain that by following these tips, and your own best judgment, you will still be able to have a fun and relaxing day and we certainly hope you do!

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How to safely visit loved ones during COVID-19

Family wearing face masksSince COVID-19 arrived, there has been a constant stream of concern and curiosity about how to safely visit loved ones during the pandemic. Can I give them a hug? Should we enjoy a meal together? Are my elderly grandparents off-limits? 

GIDEON Founder, Dr. Stephen Berger, shares with Livestrong what to consider before planning an in-person visit with family and friends. 

First, it is important to acknowledge that keeping yourself safe is just as important as keeping those whom you are visiting safe.   

Secondly, realize that not everyone has obvious symptoms who may be carrying the virus. “It is possible to be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19,” Dr. Berger told Livestrong.

Ideally, both you and those you are going to be with would isolate for 14 days prior to your get-together—especially if you each have already ventured outside your home. 

Make sure to have a frank talk with friends and family beforehand about any symptoms experienced or previous exposure to the virus, and do not feel guilty about rescheduling if there are any concerns. 

Dr. Berger also reminds us that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states those who are over 65 years and who have underlying health issues should avoid group gatherings altogether. He says the risks far outweigh the benefits of a visit. 

Some tips to help best protect you and your loved ones as you make plans to meet include:

  • Keep gatherings to a limited number of people.
  • Select somewhere outdoors, preferably a private setting like a backyard, where you can maintain a safe social distance of six feet apart. 
  • If meeting somewhere in public, try to keep touching of any objects or surfaces to a minimum, then avoid touching your face, and disinfect hands immediately afterward.  
  • Also, while in public, avoid using restrooms as much as possible. 

Dr. Berger also says to be sure and wear a mask, but remember that even masks have limitations because “extremely small particles, including the virus itself, might pass through the spaces that allow air to pass.” Evidence suggests that is essential to adhere to a combination of multiple, safe practices (mask-wearing, handwashing, social-distancing, etc.) to protect yourselves and loved ones from spreading the virus to each another. 

You can read the entire article in Livestrong here.

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