Tag: microbiology

Bioethics Blogs

A Reflection on Blood Donation Policy in Canada

Landon J. Getz reflects on the current sexual abstention period within Canada for blood donations by men who have sex with men.

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Driving through Halifax during pride week, I noticed a Pride advertisement on the back of a city bus. It noted a headline from a Global News article titled: Canada’s limitations on gay blood donations ‘ridiculous’: HIV researchers. Currently, in Canada, men who have sex with men are prohibited from donating blood if they have had sex with a man in the year prior to their donation. Even though many LGBTQ advocates and HIV researchers are saying this deferral period on blood donation by men who have had sex with men is ‘ridiculous,’ Canadian Blood Services and Health Canada do not seem to agree. Approximately one year ago, the current 1-year deferral period policy replaced a 5-year deferral period. The anniversary of this policy change marks an opportunity to reflect on Canada’s blood donation policy and what it means for the LGBTQ community.

Historically, bans, deferral periods, and restrictions on blood donation by gay/bisexual men have been rooted in fear of harming patients by exposing them to contaminated blood. HIV was discovered in 1983, and from there new methods of diagnosis were discovered. Unfortunately, this did not stop HIV-infected blood from entering the blood supply, leading to what is known today as the “Tainted Blood Scandal.” Consequently, roughly 2000 Canadians were exposed to HIV via blood products in the early 1980s. However, a lack of policy and proper diagnostic testing procedures played important roles in this problem.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Snapshots of Life: Fighting Urinary Tract Infections

Source: Valerie O’Brien, Matthew Joens, Scott J. Hultgren, James A.J. Fitzpatrick, Washington University, St. Louis

For patients who’ve succeeded in knocking out a bad urinary tract infection (UTI) with antibiotic treatment, it’s frustrating to have that uncomfortable burning sensation flare back up. Researchers are hopeful that this striking work of science and art can help them better understand why severe UTIs leave people at greater risk of subsequent infection, as well as find ways to stop the vicious cycle.

Here you see the bladder (blue) of a laboratory mouse that was re-infected 24 hours earlier with the bacterium Escherichia coli (pink), a common cause of UTIs. White blood cells (yellow) reach out with what appear to be stringy extracellular traps to immobilize and kill the bacteria.

Valerie O’Brien, a graduate student in Scott Hultgren’s lab at Washington University, St. Louis, snapped this battle of microbes and white blood cells using a scanning electron microscope and then colorized it to draw out the striking details. It was one of the winners in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2016 BioArt competition.

As reported last year in Nature Microbiology, O’Brien and her colleagues have evidence that severe UTIs leave a lasting imprint on bladder tissue [1]. That includes structural changes to the bladder wall and modifications in the gene activity of the cells that line its surface. The researchers suspect that a recurrent infection “hotwires” the bladder to rev up production of the enzyme Cox2 and enter an inflammatory state that makes living conditions even more hospitable for bacteria to grow and flourish.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

From My Students Most of All

By Zev Leifer

The Talmud (Taanis 7a) quotes Rabbi Chanina who declared that, “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues and most from students.”  There is a tendency amongst educators, in general and more so, I suspect, amongst medical educators (given their many years of training and vast experience) to take a top-down approach.  This approach assumes that we have a contractual relationship wherein “I have the knowledge and we are here so that I can share it with you”.

In contrast, the digital age has humbled many of “our” generation since the best advice when faced with a new piece of digital equipment or software, is to “ask a ten-year old” (even an anonymous ten-year old).  But our students?!  I submit that example is a challenge – to ego and to the “Central Dogma of Education” that information flow is unidirectional.

I would like to share some of my experiences teaching digital pathology, to perhaps update that notion…

For the past 35 years I have been teaching Pathology Lab at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine.  For most of that time, the classical techniques of diagnostic pathology – analyzing a glass slide of a tissue slice to determine if normal or pathological, or pathological to what extent – has been by looking at the slide in a microscope.  Now the world has changed.  For the professional pathologist and, by extension, for the aspiring pathology student, it is all digital.  The slide is digitized and, with appropriate software, made available on the computer which acts as microscope.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – December 2016, Part I by Livia Garofalo

Here is the first part of our December article roundup. Three journals have special issues this month (abstracts in the post below):

Enjoy reading (and what’s left of the holidays)!

American Anthropologist

The Contingency of Humanitarianism: Moral Authority in an African HIV Clinic

Betsey Behr Brada

One consequence of the recent expansion of anthropological interest in humanitarianism is the seeming obviousness and conceptual stability of “humanitarianism” itself. In this article, I argue that, rather than being a stable concept and easily recognizable phenomenon, humanitarianism only becomes apparent in relation to other categories. In short, humanitarianism is contingent: it depends on circumstance and varies from one context to another. Furthermore, its perceptibility rests on individuals’ capacity to mobilize categorical similarities and distinctions. One cannot call a thing or person “humanitarian” without denying the humanitarian character of someone or something else. Drawing on research conducted in clinical spaces where Botswana’s national HIV treatment program and private US institutions overlapped, I examine the processes by which individuals claimed people, spaces, and practices as humanitarian, the contrasts they drew to make these claims, and the moral positions they attempted to occupy in the process. More than questions of mere terminology, these processes of categorization and contradistinction serve as crucibles for the larger struggles over sovereignty, inequality, and the legacies of colonialism that haunt US-driven global health interventions.

Scripting Dissent: US Abortion Laws, State Power, and the Politics of Scripted Speech

Mara Buchbinder

Abortion laws offer a point of entry for “the state” to intervene in intimate clinical matters.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Perspectives in learning; Incorporating discussion materials and activities on ethics into science curriculum.

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has released over 60 educational resources that can be used as tools to teach students, researchers, clinicians, and other professionals to recognize and address ethical aspects of their work and understand how deliberation can inform ethical decision-making. These resources draw from the Bioethics Commission’s reports, and while all reports produced to date have been topic-specific, bioethics education and improving bioethics literacy has been a constant thread throughout the Bioethics Commission’s work.

The Commission’s most recent report, Bioethics for Every Generation, outlines a variety of models that can be used to teach ethics, and emphasizes that ethics education is about preparing students how to think ethically, rather than what to think. Bioethics for Every Generation also emphasizes that ethical questions and topics can be incorporated into existing courses, such as biology, chemistry, social studies and history courses, among others.

Frank Strona, the Bioethics Commission’s Senior Communications Analyst and Adjunct Faculty with National University’s Department of Health Sciences recently had an opportunity to sit down and interview Steven Kessler, Instructor of Biology and Microbiology at Santa Rosa Junior College in Petaluma, CA and former Visiting Fellow with the Bioethics Commission, discusses how incorporating bioethics into his science curriculum has affected his students and his work as a science educator.

FRANK STRONA: Tell us about how you have used bioethics to enhance traditional science education.

STEVEN KESSLER:  I incorporate bioethical issues into my traditional science classes in a number of ways.  The most satisfying way is to spend an entire class period delving deeply into one or two (if they are related) issues. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Conference Report: Ludwik Fleck’s theory of thought styles and thought collectives – translations and receptions by Sandra Lang

Ludwik Fleck’s theory of thought styles and thought collectives – translations and receptions

March 10th – 11th 2016

Wrocław, Poland

Organizing committee: Paweł Jarnicki (Project Science Foundation and Ludwik Fleck Centre at Collegium Helveticum); Martina Schlünder (Ludwik Fleck Circle and Max Planck Institute for the History of Science); Ohad Parnes (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science); Rainer Egloff (Ludwik Fleck Centre at Collegium Helveticum) and Sandra Lang (Ludwik Fleck Centre at Collegium Helveticum and TU Munich Graduate School).

Introduction: Aims of the conference

When Ludwik Fleck published his book Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache. Einführung in die Lehre vom Denkstil und Denkkollektiv in 1935, the initial reception did not extend beyond a handful of reviews. After Thomas Kuhn “re-discovered” Fleck and initiated the English translation (Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact) with an international collective around Robert K. Merton in 1979, a broader reception slowly emerged in the English-speaking world. A German re-edition appeared in 1980. Further translations into Italian (1983), Polish (1986), Spanish (1986), Swedish (1997), Russian (1999), French (2005) and Portuguese (2010) followed. Fleck has grown popular, a fact the conference reported on here paid tribute to by historicizing and reflecting on various aspects and forms of his ideas, and their development in different languages and in distinct (inter-)national scholarly contexts.[1] A central aim of the conference was to investigate the paths which the reception and translation of Ludwik Fleck’s works have taken and to elaborate issues to be aware of in future translations. The organizing committee was proud to welcome a large number of the translators and editors of Fleck’s work such as Nathalie Jas (French), Stefano Poggi (Italian), Mariana Camilo de Oliveira (Brasilian-Portuguese) and Mauro Condé, all of whom who offered first-hand insights to the circumstances and challenges connected to the processes of translation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Storage and stockpiling as techniques of preparedness: Managing the bottlenecks of flu pandemics by Frédéric Keck

In the last twenty years, influenza has been considered by global health experts as a model for the emergence of new pathogens from animal reservoirs. In the logic of zoonoses, human disease is the tip of the iceberg constituted by a wide circulation of viruses – often asymptomatic – in animals; it is often described as an “evolutionary dead-end”. As the influenza virus is composed of a single-stranded segmented RNA, it mutates and reassorts between birds and pigs before spreading to humans and causing pandemics. The regularity of flu pandemics – 1918, 1957, 1968, 2009 – is explained by that the fact that the seasonal flu is replaced regularly by new flu viruses to which humans have no immunity. Consequently, to prepare for the emergence of new flu viruses, events whose probability cannot be calculated but whose consequences are catastrophic, samples have been stored and vaccines have been stockpiled, as if the iceberg of the animal reservoir could be visualized and controlled in the fridges where humans conserve live and attenuated viruses. Storage allows public health authorities to identify a new virus as it emerges by comparison with circulating viruses, and then to raise alarm from this early warning signal. Stockpiling provides a quick immunization of the population considered as having priority in the exposure to the new virus.

I am interested in storage and stockpiling as techniques to plan and visualize the mutations of flu viruses in the ordinary work of global health, in contrast with the extraordinary management of health crises. While stamping out the animal reservoir and vaccinating the human population are techniques used during the emergence of new flu viruses, storing samples and stockpiling vaccines is practiced before and after the emergence, as part of ordinary surveillance work.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Jeffrey Kahn Named Next Director of Berman Institute

Following a national search that began in November, Johns Hopkins University has named Jeffrey P. Kahn the next Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, effective July 1.

 

The Berman Institute leverages an expert faculty from across the schools of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, Arts and Sciences, and Advanced International Studies to identify and address key ethical issues in science, clinical care, and public health, locally and globally.

 

Since 2011, Kahn has served as the Robert Henry Levi and Ryda Hecht Levi Professor of Bioethics and Public Policy and the deputy director for policy and administration at the Berman Institute. He is also a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

 

“Jeff is an outstanding colleague with a record of excellence as a scholar, teacher, and public commentator on some of the most challenging ethical issues of our time,” said Robert C. Lieberman, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “His myriad skills, strengths, and accomplishments have made him enormously successful in his previous roles and in his current role as deputy director, and they will serve him well in the years ahead as the next director of the Berman Institute. Johns Hopkins is fortunate to have Jeff assume this new leadership role.”

 

Kahn will succeed Ruth Faden, who founded the Berman Institute in 1995. Faden announced in September that this academic year would be her last as director after 20 years in the role. She

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Notes from the field: Critical Juncture at Emory

by Lindsey Grubbs
Early in April, Emory University hosted the third iteration of Critical Juncture. This annual(ish) graduate-student-led conference focuses on intersectionality, examining interconnecting dynamics of systems of oppression including racism, sexism, ableism, and classism. This year’s conference, while maintaining a broader focus on the complexities of identity and oppression, took as its theme “representations of the body”: which bodies are, and perhaps more importantly which are not, represented in science, politics, the arts, and the academy, and what forms do these representations take?
From its beginning, the conference has links to neuroethics at Emory. One of the co-founders of the conference, Jennifer Sarrett, was a past Neuroethics Scholars Program Fellow. This year, I—one-time managing editor of this blog and current intrepid neuroethics blogger—served as one of the co-organizers.


The focus at this year’s conference was on increasing opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement. The disciplinary backgrounds of our organizational team made this possible: we had one doctoral student in English and bioethics (me), one in public health (Ilana Raskind), a third in microbiology and molecular genetics (Kellie Vinal), and (now Dr.) Jennifer Sarrett stepped in as faculty mentor from the Center for the Study of Human Health. We arranged for a variety of presentation and conversation formats in the hopes of inspiring more cross-talk and examination: seminars with established thinkers at Emory, a poster reception with flash talks (and plenty of food and drink), and interdisciplinary panels arranged, when possible, with an eye to disciplinary diversity. For example, one panel brought together speakers from the medical school, English, history, and Behavioral Science & Health Education to tackle intersections of race, gender, and medicine.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Cool Videos: Another Kind of Art Colony

As long as researchers have been growing bacteria on Petri dishes using a jelly-like growth medium called agar, they have been struck by the interesting colors and growth patterns that microbes can produce from one experiment to the next. In the 1920s, Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish biologist who discovered penicillin, was so taken by this phenomenon that he developed his own palette of bacterial “paints” that he used in his spare time to create colorful pictures of houses, ballerinas, and other figures on the agar [1].

Fleming’s enthusiasm for agar art lives on among the current generation of microbiologists. In this short video, the agar (yellow) is seeded with bacterial colonies and, through the magic of time-lapse photography, you can see the growth of the colonies into what appears to be a lovely bouquet of delicate flowers. This piece of living art, developing naturally by bacterial colony expansion over the course of a week or two, features members of three bacterial genera: Serratia (red), Bacillus (white), and Nesterenkonia (light yellow).

This video, which is among the winners in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2015 BioArt competition, is the collaborative effort of Mehmet Berkmen, an NIH-supported scientist at New England BioLabs, Inc., Ipswich, MA, and artist Maria Peñil of Beverly, MA. The two met by chance about five years ago at a local eatery, and Berkmen introduced Peñil to the creative possibilities of agar art. An accomplished engraver, photographer, and sculptor, Peñil liked what she saw and began volunteering in Berkmen’s lab to learn how to culture bacteria and master this microbial medium with its variability in growth rates, color, and texture.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.