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Where's the Beef?

You can't fingerprint cows, so how do you trace them to stop the potential spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease? Optibrand Ltd. in Fort Collins, Colo., has developed a device that captures the image of a ruminant's retinal vascular pattern and uses a global positioning system to log date, time, and location. The computer-searchable retinal images are "as unique as fingerprints in humans," marketing director John Cravens told Indications. About 200 people attended a Capitol Hill demonstration of the technology on a red angus cow, said Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for Sen. Wayne Allard (R.-Colo.). Sen. Allard, a veterinarian whose constituency includes agriculture and ranching interests, is understandably keen on bringing bovines online and scanned the cow's eyes several times. "The cow was very well behaved," Ms. de Rocha told Indications.

What a Gas

Microbiologic diagnosis of infectious diarrhea can take days. Seeking a faster method, researchers in Bristol, England, explored the characteristics of the resulting flatus. They extracted gaseous compounds in stool samples from 35 subjects with diarrhea and 6 healthy controls (Gut 53[1]:58-61, 2004). Known causes of diarrhea were Clostridium difficile (six subjects), Campylobacter species (five), rotavirus (five), small rounded structured virus (nine), adenovirus (five), astrovirus (two), and giardiasis (three). The researchers found commonalities in the gaseous compounds related to specific diseases and concluded that the approach was faster and less expensive than conventional testing. Evidently the research, unlike the subject matter, has the sweet smell of success.

This Device Sucks

Snakebite first aid devices that perform suction without incision don't work, according to California researchers who tested one model on simulated snakebites--with mock venom--in eight volunteers. The Sawyer Extractor pump was used for 15 minutes to extract fluid at the site of the "bite." Along with bloody fluid, it extracted a clinically insignificant 0.04%-1% of the "venom" (Ann. Emerg. Med. 43[2]:181-86, 2004). Worse, "applying the device can increase local tissue damage, as well as worsen the situation of a snakebite victim by wasting valuable time," they said. An editorial in the same issue put it this way: "Snakebite Suction Devices Don't Remove Venom: They Just Suck."

Wake-Up Call

In terms of noise, some hospitalized patients might as well be sleeping at a construction site. Nurses at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, Minn., put noise dosimeters in three patient rooms during a night shift without the staff's knowledge. Two nurses also slept in the thoracic surgery ward, with typical equipment operating (Am. J. Nurs. 104[2]:40-48, 2004). Dosimeter readings peaked in the morning at 113 A-weighted decibels (which gauge sound as perceived by the human ear), roughly equivalent to a chainsaw or jackhammer. After the nurses took some steps to reduce noise, the peak noise during the shift change was 86 dB(A). "Permanent hearing loss usually does not occur unless one is exposed to sound levels of 85 dB(A) or greater, 8 hours per day for many years." the researchers said. That may not be an issue for patients. but it does not bode well for nurses.

Coffee Cats

Coffee connoisseurs are worried about the impact of SARS. To combat the disease in China, authorities have slaughtered thousands of civet cats, believed to be SARS vectors. It's not known whether Indonesian civets spread SARS, but these cats play a key part in producing kopi luwak, or civet coffee, which reportedly sells for up to $150 a pound. The cats eat the ripest coffee berries, the fruit of which breaks down in their digestive tracts before they expel the beans. Workers wash the beans and roast them to produce coffee with purported aphrodisiac properties, and a distinct odor and flavor that's "good to the last dropping." Some aficionados dismiss civet coffee as a scam or novelty product, yet its mystique has led two Canadian entrepreneurs on the trail of coffee produced with the help of African civets, which may not carry the SARS virus. And Henry Harmon, owner of an Indonesian coffee shop chain, said in the press that the drink is real, but he won't sell it: "It has a nice, romantic--well, semiromantic--twist to it, but I'd be worried about product liability lawsuits."
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Article Details
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Author:Berger, Joanne M.
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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