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Uncovered Cough And Sneeze Help Spread Nasty Disease

Posted 8 June 2016 by Kausik Datta

Achoo! Feel like a sneeze or cough coming on? Cover it in a cloth or tissue paper, or even your sleeves, and wash your hands, admonishes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — and for good reasons, too! Microbial pathogenic agents of a variety of respiratory illnesses, both viral [ranging from the common cold (rhinovirus); influenza (orthomyxovirus); parainfluenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and human metapneumovirus (all paramyxoviruses); severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-Coronavirus)] as well as bacterial [such... Read more

Is It Responsible For Journalists To Promote Unscientific Superstitious Nonsense?

Posted 6 June 2016 by Kausik Datta

It all started with a silly article that had landed in my inbox on Friday morning via the platform called 'Medium'. The lede of the article in the Pacific Standard magazine by Elena Gooray asked: How do you beat a curse? It caught my eye even in the middle of an eye-roll. I wish it hadn't. Because inevitably I caught the sub-lede: A practiced Santa Barbara psychic weighs in on Lil B’s so far effective curse against basketball superstar Kevin Durant. And... Read more

Keep Calm and Know Your Fever (Before You Reach for That Medicine)

Posted 13 May 2016 by Kausik Datta

Growing up in the Eastern part of India, I was subject to a most peculiar cultural phenomenon known as "ThanDa lege jaabe" (ঠাণ্ডা লেগে যাবে in the vernacular, translated as: You'll catch a cold). This odd concept, most beloved of the mothers in that region and handed down generations after generations, would teach them that any vagary of the sub-tropical weather — sun, rain, autumnal zephyrs, wet and foggy riparian winters, and everything in between — was liable to cause... Read more

Of Serious Concern: Drug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii in Treated Wastewater

Posted 15 April 2016 by Kausik Datta

Currently one of the most common disease-causing bacterium in the world, Acinetobacter baumannii, for sure, is a nasty bug — an emerging nosocomial (hospital-associated) pathogen, being increasingly observed in serious conditions requiring intensive care (including ventilator-associated pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, wound infection and urinary tract infection). Unfortunately for patients, particularly immune-suppressed ones, this bug is now known to be extensively drug resistant (XDR; resistant to most antibiotics including carbapenems, with the exception of two drugs of last resort, colistin and tigecycline),... Read more

PLOS ONE Meta-analysis on Acupuncture in Pain Management Spins Out Undue Recommendations

Posted 9 April 2016 by Kausik Datta

Science communicators are no strangers to spin in the reporting of scientific studies, especially in Press Releases. This is a favorite tactic of aficionados and researchers alike in the so-called 'complementary and alternative medicine' (CAM), which includes acupuncture — a pre-scientific therapeutic modality originating in ancient China with roots in medical astrology and ignorance of human anatomy and physiology. I have earlier written several times on an issue that I continue to find rather perplexing: when it comes to publishing... Read more

Failure as a Necessary Step in Drug Development (Tip of My Hat to David Kroll)

Posted 9 March 2016 by Kausik Datta

The Forbes magazine has an impressive line-up of columnists; I follow many of those who write on the sciences and healthcare-related topics. One of them is Dr. David Kroll, a pharmacologist by profession and passionate, long-time science communicator. His column yesterday had especial interest for me; in it, David took the example of Dr. Derek Lowe—a pharmaceutical industry scientist who's also a prolific and erudite blogger—who was apparently his inspiration for starting his own blog, and mentioned an intriguing thing Dr. Lowe had said... Read more

Communicating Science via Images: Power and Responsibility

Posted 18 February 2016 by Kausik Datta

There is no denying the fact that visual representations —photos, graphics, and video— play a significant role in telling a story and conveying a concept. Even if the adage from early twentieth century, "a picture is worth a thousand words", may have lost its charm a bit in this age of easy digital image/video manipulation, it's not difficult to imagine why images and illustrations would have a tremendous impact in the communication of complex content, such as science communication. As... Read more

Bovine Blackguards, A Profound Potboiler

Posted 3 February 2016 by Kausik Datta

Having been born and growing up in India, the land of the sacred cow, I am no stranger to this domesticated, quadrupedal ungulate of the subfamily Bovinae, genus Bos. It's difficult not to have respect for an animal whose scientific name already proclaims it to be the boss, and I am culturally well-conditioned ('well-done', one might say) to accord an immediate reverence to this multi-faceted (not to mention, delectable) animal. After all, Gau-mata, or Cow the Mother, is an enduring... Read more

Nanoparticles in Homeopathic Dilutions? More Like, Wishful Thinking. Or Magic Pixie Dust.

Posted 24 January 2016 by Kausik Datta

Those who read my regular posts (Yes, that rare breed of people...) are amply aware that I am no fan of pseudoscience and quackery, as well as the relentless invasion of quackery into academia, leading invariably to scientifically implausible, nonsensical "research", for which Dr. Harriet Hall had aptly coined the term "Tooth Fairy Science" several years ago over at Science Based Medicine. You could measure how much money the Tooth Fairy leaves under the pillow, whether she leaves more cash... Read more

Foreign-born Biomedical Researcher in the United States, a Tale of Woe

Posted 5 November 2015 by Kausik Datta

It has been more than two years since I wrote about a tale of woe, the sad reality of being a non-immigrant biomedical researcher in the US. I chronicled the travails of my wife, who - even with a STEM PhD from a top-tier medical school in New York - was facing the murky uncertainties associated with doing science on a visa in the US. That uneasy disquietude still continues to haunt her; even though her Green Card application has been submitted, nothing is certain... Read more