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Laura Kahn

Laura H. Kahn

Articles by Laura H. Kahn

3 February 2008

Stethoscopes belong in museums

Laura H. Kahn

A common criticism of today's high cost of medicine is that physicians rely too often on advanced technologies such as CT scans and MRI machines to make diagnoses. Much of the overuse is blamed on perverse insurance-industry incentives that pay for these costly services.

13 January 2008

Public health lessons from virtual game worlds

Laura H. Kahn

It's challenging to model disease spread during epidemics. Simple mathematical models such as the "general epidemic" model make assumptions about constant population size, homogeneous mixing, and constant recovery rates, but can only go so far in predicting an outbreak's severity (See "Mathematical Modeling of Epidemics").

6 January 2008

The growing number of immunocompromised

Laura H. Kahn

It's estimated that about 10 million people in the United States (3.6 percent of the population) are immunocompromised. But that's likely an underestimate because it only includes those with HIV/AIDS (diagnosed and undiagnosed), organ transplant recipients, and cancer patients; there's a sizable population that takes immunosuppressive drugs for other disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

16 December 2007

The scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Laura H. Kahn

Ever since Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have kept simple cuts, scratches, and abrasions from becoming severely infected and prevented diseases such as pneumonia, scarlet fever, and tuberculosis from becoming a death sentence. However, antibiotics contain a serious downside: Their overuse and misuse has contributed to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE), and extreme drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-Tb).

12 November 2007

Why evolution should be taught in public schools

Laura H. Kahn

Understanding evolution is critical to confronting the twenty-first century's microbiological challenges. We need to educate the next generation of scientists to give them the tools to develop novel treatments against antibiotic resistant bacteria, emerging viruses, and other deadly microbes. They need to understand how these microbes develop and change, which requires an understanding of evolution.

17 October 2007

The sewer: Guardian against disease

Laura H. Kahn

After recently crossing the Atlantic Ocean to spend a year abroad in Paris, I decided to visit the one museum that commemorates a human achievement that trumps Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Eiffel Tower combined in terms of its impact on quality of life--sewage systems. Paris is one of the few cities that celebrates its sewer with a museum. Hidden and generally taken for granted, underground sewers allow large megacities to grow and flourish.

16 September 2007

Children: The bioterrorists we love

Laura H. Kahn

Given their aversion to cleanliness and a dislike for hygiene, kids play a major role in spreading disease such as influenza.

19 August 2007

The spread of mosquito-borne diseases

Laura H. Kahn

There are approximately 2,500 mosquito species in the world, but a mere fraction of them feed on human blood. Of this fraction, only the females are vampires, as they require blood to nourish their eggs. When she's ready to lay these eggs, which usually number in the hundreds, the female typically does so on a small, still body of water. In some mosquito species, she creates little rafts for the eggs. They float until they hatch as tiny larvae a few days later. Like butterflies, they eventually turn into pupae, which ultimately metamorphose into the insects we know.

8 July 2007

The end of vaccines?

Laura H. Kahn

Ever since Edward Jenner first scratched cowpox pus into the arm of an eight-year-old boy in an attempt to render him immune to smallpox in May 1796, there has been debate and controversy over the procedure. Vaccination, which Jenner derived from the Latin word "vaca" meaning "cow," was preceded by the practice of "variolation" in which dried pus from an individual recovering from smallpox was scratched into the arm of someone naïve to the disease--usually a child. "Variolus" means "pus-like material."

13 June 2007

Pathogens on a plane

Laura H. Kahn

A hollow tube 30,000 feet in the air filled with people sneezing, coughing, and talking while breathing recirculated air provides the perfect environment for disease transmission.

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