Messing With No. 2

It’s not often that medical science seems nuttier than its alternative.  On Respectful Insolence, Orac dismisses the enema as a cure for all ills, writing that the “liver, colon, and kidneys” are specialized to remove toxins, and you won’t “become chronically ill if you don’t shoot water up your butt periodically to wash the poop out.”  On the other other hand, “bowel lavage” played an important role in a new study of patients infected by Clostridium difficile, which can cause chronic diarrhea and even death.  But critically, after flushing the patient’s poop out, researchers put someone else’s poop back in.  These “fecal infusions” proved remarkably effective at clearing the infection and restoring a healthy and diverse population of bacteria in the colon.  Vital gut bacteria are necessary to overall well-being, but they can be injured by antibiotic treatment, or say, washing out your intestine every time you get a headache.

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Working to End HIV

Could HIV soon follow in the footsteps of smallpox and polio?  On The Pump Handle, Sara Gorman says that recent research has “allowed political figures such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to proclaim that the phenomenon of a generation without HIV/AIDS is within reach.”  But no vaccine has proven effective at curtailing HIV infection, and a new prophylactic called Truvada could select for drug-resistant versions of the virus.  On ERV, Abbie Smith explains that researchers have traced the origin of HIV to a single population of chimpanzees in West-Central Africa, thanks to “3108 samples of monkey poop.”  Chimps elsewhere carry similar loads of immunodeficiency virus, but their variants are not fit to infect humans.  Until we can stop HIV, can we slow it down without further enhancing its fitness?