Pigs, Health and Novel Viruses

It’s been two months since I posted. I guess what is known as ‘the holidays’ got in the way. Plus, I’ve been writing other material, mostly on Steemit. I seem to get involved in a research topic and don’t come up for air until I’m satisfied with the result. It’s called perseverance, and it’s a good trait because quality results. But it does preclude other engagements.

So, in the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of my most significant posts from the last two months. One of these, Radioactive Pigs, Wild Pigs, Sick Pigs: The Trouble with Pigs Today published in November, looked at pigs.

Common Warthog, Phacochoerus africanus – adult and juvenile, cousin of domestic pig

I happen to like pigs. As a matter of fact, no bacon, or pork of any kind, has been on my plate for many years. But even if you don’t like pigs, these animals warrant your attention.

As I wrote in that blog: It is estimated that there are two billion domesticated pigs in the world. They are not only a source of nutrition for billions of people. They are also a reservoir for disease. Today, with the novel corona virus spreading across the globe, this is worthy of note. Pigs are not blamed for the current disease outbreak. This one may have originated in bats (although the jury is still out on that). However, pathogens from pigs have leapt across the species barrier in the past, and we should be mindful of the risk.

One way to be mindful, is to insure the health of animals in our care. If animals are sick and harboring pathogens, those pathogens are just a small step away from us. Entry may be through the food chain or through contact.

Today, pork prices are kept low because of factory farming. This involves pumping the pigs with antibiotics to keep down a level of infection in quarters so crowded that pigs do not even have room to turn around. Pumping pigs full of antibiotics increases antibiotic resistant pathogens. These antibiotics will not work any longer for the pigs. They will also not work for humans.

Not only that, but the antibiotics pool in the large waste lagoons that balloon out from the pig habitats. The lagoons are a kind of microbial soup, in which antibiotics and microbes coexist. In that coexistence, microbes ‘learn’ to recognize antibiotics and evolve to defend against them. This evolution strengthens the microbe and weakens our ability to fight them when they invade our bodies.

There is so much more in my blog that might be of interest. How, for example, radioactive pigs manage to wander around Eastern Europe and Japan. Why many areas in the world are troubled by what seems to be an invasion of feral hogs.

It’s probably unseemly to recommend my own blog, but this one was really chock full of information. If you’ve got a few moments to spare (alright, it will take a little longer than a few moments) check out the blog.

Thanks for reading. I’m going to look at my reading feed here and see what I’ve been missing.

A very late, Happy New Year to all ūüôā

Florence Nightingale’s Clean War

The picture shows Florence Nightingale tending to soldiers at Scutari during the Crimean War. Credit:Wellcome Images

Florence Nightingale is known world-wide as a nurse. She has been called The Angel of the Crimea and The Lady with the Lamp. In using these phrases, people take note of Nightingale‚Äôs compassion and service to humanity.¬† Often missed is her essential mission of cleaning up.¬† A battle for good hygiene, medical and otherwise, was at the heart of Florence Nightingale‚Äôs work.¬† In this week’s headlines we read about yet another antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is spreading across the globe. Overuse of antibiotics is at least partly to blame, but there is also an overlooked aspect to this threat: poor hygiene.

Modern medicine relies so heavily on treatment, anti-virals and antibiotics, that the role of prevention is often underplayed.  However, as Florence Nightingale knew, prevention is the first and best step in infection control. We may be facing a future that resembles the past, one in which infection rages unchecked with only our natural immunity and supportive care as a defense.

This is the environment in which Florence Nightingale honed her nursing skills. The nineteenth century had precious little to offer in the way of cure.  Florence Nightingale realized that the war against disease could be won in this context only if infection itself could be avoided.

Today, perhaps the clock is turning backwards.¬† Perhaps we, who have been spoiled by the easy access to cure, should return to the wisdom of a great nurse from the nineteenth century.¬† Clean up; wash hands: prevent the spread of disease.¬† This is the first and most effective step toward maintaining good health. It’s an old lesson, taught by a dedicated nurse.

We would do well to listen.

Florence Nightingale, Nurse Pioneer is one of the books offered in Rhythm Prism’s Skill-Building series¬† for young readers.