All posts by bonita

Hospitals can hurt you?

I remember hearing about something like this before and found it both ironic and slightly disturbing. Some patients who were admitted into hospitals ended up acquiring these infections they did not have when they went in. This happens in about 5% of hospital patients in the U.S. (or around 2 million cases a year). These hospital acquired infections (HAI) kill around 90,000 people a year. This can be quite disturbing since many of us picture hospitals as these clean sanitary places with everyone wearing masks and gloves for protection. These infections are caused by viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens. The idea here is that hospitals are essentially a gathering place for all of these diseases. There are 3 categories of risk factors for acquiring HAI.

“Iatrogenic risk factors include pathogens that are present on medical personnel hands, invasive procedures (eg, intubation, indwelling vascular lines, urine catheterization), and antibiotic use and prophylaxis. Organizational risk factors include contaminated air-conditioning systems, contaminated water systems, and staffing and physical layout of the facility (eg, nurse-to-patient ratio, open beds close together). Patient risk factors include the severity of illness, underlying immunocompromised state, and length of stay.”

With these people being in so close a proximity to each other, it makes it easier for the pathogens to move around and therefore infect more people quickly. These people will also be exposed to pathogens they may not have gotten if they did not go to the hospital. It’s actually kind of strange really. Hospitals were developed to try to help people as efficiently as possible, but they do have their problems. I’ve helped out at a hospital before and worked on ambulances. They work very hard to make sure everything is as sanitary as possible for both the patients and staff. However, it is still possible for pathogens to get around. I guess it just shows how persistent (and annoying) they can be.

Evolution of Psychology

I posted something about psychology before, but never got into too much detail about it. I did my presentation today about anxiety disorders and we also talked a little bit about personality disorders. During class we talked about the new DSM-V for mental disorders. The development of this book is particularly interesting to me because it shows how time, people, and society changes our views on mental disorders. It was not long ago that homosexuality was diagnosed as a mental disorder and has now been removed. The reason I find this manual so fascinating is because it looks into the cognitive side of medicine and not focussing on biology alone. I know this is a biology class, but mental disorders and psychotherapy fit into medicine as well.

With the new book out, there has been some new changes that have sparked controversy among the field. One of them is the constantly changing criteria for illnesses, new illnesses added or removed, and just things being reorganized. However, this manual does have to evolve has new information is found and societal views change. Like I stated before, homosexuality was classified as an illness and is now removed. Medicine and medical practices have been updated regularly as new information is found so it stands to reason that the DSM change as well.

I suppose one of the biggest issues with mental disorders are they are hard to define and people have different ideas on causes and who has it and who doesn’t. I believe this statement from NIMH director Thomas Insel said it best:

“The weakness is its lack of validity. Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. In the rest of medicine, this would be equivalent to creating diagnostic systems based on the nature of chest pain or the quality of fever.”

The proposed definitions for psychiatric disorders in the new manual were too broad and ignore smaller disorders that were lumped in with a larger diagnosis. Although one could argue that pinning down a disorder is hard on it’s own. One person may say you have this, but when you go to someone else, then you get a completely different diagnosis. There are few clear cut lines in mental illness, which is why I believe more research needs to be done. While some may think mental illness like depression are just something you can get over, this is not true and to fully understand it means we must learn more about illnesses and maybe improve the DSM to help with diagnosis.

Technology and the Future of Medicine

During my Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy class we talked about the future of medicine and one of the things they talked about that I found really cool was 3D printing. 3D printers are becoming more and more common and are starting to be used to create artificial limbs and organs. One of the things they mentioned that I found amazing was 3D printing a skull for a woman who suffered from a thickening of the skull. The doctors printed out a 3D skull and surgically replaced her thickening skull. This happened in the Netherlands about 3 months ago and I was absolutely amazed. I heard 3D printing can be used to create artificial limbs and even organs, but replacing a skull was new to me. The operation was a success and the woman is doing fine.

Another new technology that can be used for medicine is google glass. Google glass has suffered controversy because of privacy concerns and there’s no doubt that there are still concerns like this when it it used for medicine. The application of google glass for medicine include pulling up medical records, augmented reality in surgical settings and automated personal heath care. For augmented reality in surgical settings, surgeons can pull up a virtual overlay of the patient’s body to look at critical structures during surgery, thereby possibly reducing the rate of surgical errors. It can also be used as a teaching tool to show medical students what surgery looks like from the surgeon’s point of view. It can also be used to call up other medical experts for help during a surgery. Like I stated though, this technology does have drawbacks like privacy concerns and distracting the surgeon since they are essentially using one eye to see records during surgery.


Biology Vs. Psychology

Biology is usually seen as a respected science. It uses labs and scientific methods to understand how diseases work and are passed on, but biology can’t always find the exact reason for all illnesses. For example, cancer is caused by unregulated cell growth due to some sort of mutation. This is can be seen through DNA testing. But what about mental illnesses? These illnesses cannot always be described strictly by biology. Yes, it could be some sort of mutation or brain imbalanced, but it doesn’t take into consideration cognitive thinking and behaviors. It’s like the nature vs. nurture debate. For mental illnesses, I believe a combination of biology and psychology is important, and yet psychology isn’t even recognized as a science in some schools. You can’t even get a BS in psychology at Emory. I think psychology can be recognized as a treatment for illnesses. People do go to psychiatrists and/or psychologists for help and it does seems to help some people.

Hamiltonian Medicine Discussion

This article talks about Hamiltonian Medicine, which centers on the roles of genetic relatedness in human health and disease and represents the application of basic social-evolution theory, from interactions involving kinship, to core issues in medicine such as pathogens, cancer, optimal growth and mental illness. The 3 domains it incorporates are microbes or cancer cells within humans, genes expressed in humans, and human individuals. I feel that Hamiltonian Medicine is a great way to see and understand how evolution and medicine can work hand-in-hand. I enjoyed how they included that human social interactions, especially among relatives while individuals are young, appear to represent among the most potent and pervasive determinants of mental health throughout the lifespan, both directly and through gene-by-environment interactions. Sometimes I think people assume social interaction and mental health fall strictly under psychology, and I know some people who don’t think there’s any connection between psychology and biology, when this this is not true. Mental health can also be affected by genes and brain function, while social interaction with others has evolved into our society. Humans have not evolved to be solitary creatures. We require interactions with other people to remain healthy. Therefore, the relationships with people who are close to us, especially while young, can have a big impact on our health.

Human Pheromones

I finally got around to finding the paper on human pheromones. I didn’t get the exact paper about the women and their husband’s t-shirt, but this had more experiments done on it. The second article is a scientific article about human pheromone and the impact it has on sexual attraction and social behaviors in general. This article also seems to support that we do have pheromones that can subconsciously impact us. I found these article really interesting. When are attracted to someone, their pheromone is almost unnoticeable, yet the experiments in the articles seem to suggest smell has a larger impact on our decisions than we thought. Scent does have a large influence on us though. The scents that you can smell consciously can actually bring out memories faster than most other senses. I guess the subconscious scents can have an effect too.