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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

Sympathetic Practitioner, the Secret Weapon of Homeopathy and Other Alt-Med Modalities

Posted 23 October 2015 by Kausik Datta

Last month, PLOS One published a study which held significant interest for me; as a long time sufferer from acid reflux (which is currently reasonably controlled by regular use of a PPI - Proton-pump inhibitor - class of prescription antacid), I was curious to dive into this Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) study from Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston, in which the investigators observed that Patient-Provider Interactions Affect Symptoms in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) as well as dyspepsia and other acid-reflux... Read more

Perception of Effectiveness of Homeopathy and Other Alternative Medicine Relies on Placebo Effect

Posted 11 October 2015 by Kausik Datta

The world of alternative medicine - nowadays more fashionably known as complementary and integrative medicine (CIM), replacing the erstwhile CAM (A = alternative) - encompasses a wide range of practices. Some of these practices involve physical motion of parts or whole of the body, such as massage, Yoga, and Tai Chi; if one subtracts the dollops of mysticism, especially of Eastern origin, that have come to be associated with these practices, one finds that they perform much of the same... Read more

2015 Nobel to Traditional Chinese Medicine Expert is a Win for Evidence-based Pharmacognosy

Posted 7 October 2015 by Kausik Datta

Yesterday, on October 5, 2015, one half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to scientist and pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou (alternatively, Tu Yo Yo, 屠呦呦 in Chinese), for her discovery of the anti-malarial Artemisinin. (The other half went jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura, for their discovery of a novel therapy for roundworm infection.) Professor Tu, 84, has the rare distinction of being the first native Chinese Nobel Laureate in Medicine. She was born... Read more