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In this post I want to address disease control opportunities for EIS officers, many of which are detailed in “Inside the Outbreaks: One of the first things we learned about on joining the EIS was John Snow’s determination that an outbreak of cholera in London was attributable to contamination of the water from the Broad…

The Power of Comparison

Steve Schoenbaum writes: In his blog this week, Mark Pendergrast challenges someone/anyone to take on explaining the differences between case-control studies vs. cohort studies. As an EIS officer, back in late May/early June 1968, I did a case-control study as part of the investigation of a common source outbreak of hepatitis in Ogemaw County, Michigan,…

Why would anyone do this work?

What is it that drives people to public health in general and to EIS in particular? Public health is notorious for being the lowest paid medical specialty of all. In addiiton, when you work to prevent diseases and injuries you don’t have identified patients the way you do when you are treating patients. So why…

That’s a Wrap!

Hard to believe it’s already been two weeks, but the Microcosm edition of the ScienceBlogs Book Club has come to an end. Please stay tuned in this spot for news about future installments of the Club. If you have any comments or suggestions about what you’d like to see in the future, or how we…

Dear Prudence

I think Carl gets right to the heart of the issue both in this online conversation and in his book. “Are we really just getting started thinking about this stuff?” he asks. In some cases, it seems that regulators are forcing researchers to go to near-impossible lengths to ensure safety despite no conceivable risk. (Hillman’s…

It is a little weird to think of engineered bacteria living in your mouth or your gut, fighting cavities or Crohn’s disease. I’ll admit I feel a twinge just thinking about it. But is that because I have some intuition of the risks of ingesting such creatures? I doubt it. I think it’s just focusing…

Horizontal Gene Transfer

Back in the 1970s, a scientist named Ananda Chakrabarty received the first patent for a genetically modified lifeform, an oil eating “Superbug” from the bacterial strain Pseudomonas putida. The feat was doubly hailed as a major step in bioremediation and a travesty of nature. In the long run, Chakrabarty’s Superbug was a failure. It was…

Where’s the Line?

Yikes. Carl, how am I ever going to get that “parahuman” image out of my head! I get your point. This image evokes the abhorrent reaction that early critics had against the idea of tinkering with any life, even “mere” E. coli. Most people start to squirm when the transgenics concerns animals, especially when it…

Imagine that mad scientists defied nature and violated the barriers between species. They injected human DNA into non-human creatures, altering their genomes into chimeras–unnatural fusions of man and beast. The goal of the scientists was to enslave these creatures, to exploit their cellular machinery for human gain. The creatures began to produce human proteins, so…

Chemistry vs. Biology

Carl, of course, is right in that it wasn’t long ago that biologists scoffed at the idea of bacteria being more than bags of chemistry. Carl’s thoughtful reply to my question included what, for me, is the best distillation of what virus’s “are.” He writes, “So viruses may or may not be alive, but they…