Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Faces falling off, skulls unearthed and Mormons to the rescue--UPDATED

Is that just a pimple on your nose or is your face going to fall off?—The flesh-eating bug is loose and getting more dangerous. Once restricted to hospitals, Staphylococcus aureaus has spread to places like schools, gyms, stadiums and your home. We reported on it before, now the Los Angeles Times, in a pretty gory story, has taken up the subject. The lede is a woman who thought she was bitten by a spider and the tiny wound turned into an absolute horror. The staph infection was once controlled by the antibiotic methicillin, but widespread use of that drug has produced a resistent strain of the bug (MRSA), and what it does ain't pretty. Moreover, there is no good substitute treatment. As the Times points out, not enough people are paying attention, in part because there is no requirement that these infections be reported to the CDC. There are estimates that five years go, there were 120,000 cases and it has undoubtedly grown worse since then. About 1% of us carry the resistent-strain around in our noses. Players on the St. Louis Rams got it, drug users in San Francisco get it regularly, Hillary Swank got it in a Brooklyn GM while training for Million Dollar Baby. Pay attention baby.

UPDATE: From the Associated Press Thursday.
North Carolina health officials are investigating the death of a woman who died last week of a flesh-eating bacteria three days after accidentally jamming her hand in a wheelchair while working at a nursing home. Nursing assistant Sharron Bishop, 44, died Feb. 27. A doctor said a rare flesh-eating bacteria may have entered her body through a thumb injury and she turned from healthy to fatally ill.

We're not in Kansas any more, Toto. Thank God we're in Utah—Kansas remains the Know-Nothing State. Even Utah has more sense. In a move that surprised some, the Utah House of Representatives shot down a bill that would have challenged Darwin in the state's public schools. The vote wasn't even close, 46-28, and this in a legislature made up largely of Mormons. Stephen H. Urquhart, the majority whip, said he didn't think God had an argument with science. The bill, called the Origins of Life Bill, would have required teachers to issue a disclaimer saying that not all scientists agree with evolution, which is largely nonsense, and that the state doesn't endorse evolution, which apparently isn't true either. The bill was gutted and then demolished. No more Utah jokes. For a while.

Get me the head of Nicolaus Copernicus—It's over there. Maybe. Archeologists, working in Frombork, Poland, may have found Nick's skull. It turns out that Copernicus, who died in 1543, was buried near Frombork, but no one knows where. Recently, the Washington Post reported, archeologists digging beneath the cathedral there found a skull of a man about 70 with a broken nose. Copernicus died at about the age 70 and had a crooked nose. Reconstruction of the head from the skull shows a man who looked something like the portraits of Copernicus. Testing DNA from the skull with living survivors would solve the uncertainty, but Copernicus had no children. Instead, the archeologists are going to hunt for the skeleton of his uncle, the former bishop of Warmia, who also is buried around there someplace. Copernicus' book, positing that the Earth traveled around the sun, not the opposite, was banned by the Catholic Church until 1835 and no one from Kansas was involved.

Oh, the dude whose picture is on top? Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin. You wanted a face falling off?

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