Monday, June 20, 2011

Guillain-Barre: An Unknown Taking Down the Healthy Or A Worsening Chronic Infection?

A recent story on ex-quarterback Danny Wuerffel getting Guillain-Barre Sydrome has been in the news recently.

In looking at his symptoms, he came down with a stomach virus, and now is at 50% muscle strength.  Not only is this terrifying, it leads to the thought that none of us is safe. 

For anyone living in a box, Guillain-Barre has historically been associated with vaccinations.  More recent re-analysis of previous studies poo-poo any possible association, but have a look at the 1978 original study:  "that the risk of Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome among individuals receiving immunization against influenza A/New Jersey is 7.3 times the risk among the nonvaccinated."  (Adv Neurol. 1978;19:249-60.)

It is a miniscule risk, and shouldn't deter anyone from vaccination for that reason alone, but the association makes sense if one thinks about the fact that the virus is often simply weakened, not entirely dead.  In a very few susceptible individuals it may spark an autoimmune cascade. 

The truth is that we've got a pretty good idea of what is causing this cascade.  It may vary from individual to individual, but the majority have antibodies that correspond to both an infectious agent and their own neural tissue.  A recent study (J Neurol. 2011 Apr 24. ) found that a quarter of all patients had been infected by Campylobacter jejuni.  Another recent study in China concludes:  "Our results suggest that the antecedent C. jejuni infection triggered this GBS outbreak in China." (Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2010 Aug;7(8):913-9.)  So at least 25% of patients might benefit from antibiotic treatment.  Minocycline has been used to successfully treat an animal model of Guillain-Barre.  (J Cell Mol Med. 2009 Feb;13(2):341-51. )

Currently the standard of care for Guillain-Barre involves intense rehabilitation, IV antibodies, and exchanging plasma for patients.  All of these may be effective only if the body does not continue to generate antibodies from an ongoing infection.

For individuals without medical resources (and that is more and more people here in the U.S.) there are preliminary studies on the effect of ginger, licorice, calendula, and fenugreek.  (Phytother Res. 2010 May;24(5):649-56.)

It shouldn't take a celebrity case to bring the standard of care of this illness in line with the most recent research. 


Saturday, June 18, 2011

What I Eat: How to Blow Your Mind and Reframe How You Think About Diet.

I love this book!  It's a coffee table picture book, full of exotic meals and strange locales.  But it's arranged by daily calorie intake from 800 to 12000 calories a day.  If you ever wanted visual proof that caloric intake does not correlate to weight, here's your evidence.  We've got people starving themselves and staying fat, while thin people eat twice the calories (and no, they aren't all bike messengers). 

It was $40 at Barnes and Noble, but I paid full price because I wanted it to look over and because I couldn't remember the title before.  It's a fairly stunning rejection of the west's sacred cow of calorie counting. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Looking Glass Wars: Alice's "Real" Life.

I have two Boston friends for whom Alice was not only an inspiration, but I think a big part of their marriage.  So I plodded through the Looking Glass Wars, book 1, and skipped the second one to move onto book 3.  Evidently nothing happens in book 2, because I pretty much feel like I missed a chapter starting book 3. 

The initial book was fascinating because it worked on how to combine Alice's real life with her Wonderland life.  I learned a few things about her life that I didn't know, but I'm sure Aliceophiliacs would understand.  But by the end of the first book Wonderland Alice has created a double of herself in the real world, creating no need to continue her double life.  I would have found it much more interesting to have her forced to go back and forth. 

But I plan to finish the series out of honor to my friends and because I did indeed become interested in Alice as a person.  So for those of you looking for a remix and remaster of Alice in Wonderland, this is a great read.