Results tagged “Jessica Snyder Sachs” from Jessica Snyder Sachs, Science Writer

Biodiversity and Health

Thanks to Mark Wexler, my longtime editor at National Wildlife, for one of the most interesting assignments in the 15 years I've been writing for him. "A Dose of Diversity" shines a spotlight on the scientists documenting a clear link between reduced biodiversity and the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases such as West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and many others. It's the cover story in this month's issue

Can flu vaccine prevent heart attack?


While researching an immunology story for Discover magazine, I just ran across an interesting study in the New England Journal of Medicine: "Influenza Vaccination and Reduction in Hospitalizations for Cardiac Disease." 

The fascinating part for me (immunology nerd that I am) is the finding that when someone has the flu, the immune system's infection-fighting response directly promotes arterial inflammation and plaque in a way that can trigger heart attack and stroke.

Meanwhile, it turns out that cardiology researchers have been giving flu vaccine to men with established cardiovascular disease in placebo-controlled studies. The result: Those who got the genuine flu jab were half as likely to die of heart attack over the next six months than were those who got the placebo.  

In fact, researchers are suggesting that the protection from flu vaccination might be due to more than flu prevention. Vaccination may, in fact, generate an immune response that helps clear away artery-clogging plaque.  

At the same time, they're acknowledging that tinkering with immune responses can have unexpected--and not always welcome--results. Stay tuned ...

H1N1 Journal at iVillage

For the duration of the flu season, I will be blogging and fielding questions on all things influenza for NBC's The first post is on public hesitation about getting vaccinated against H1N1.

In addition I'll be contributing a variety of related content--slideshows, articles, and the like-- at iVillage's See you there.Sick with flu.jpg

The (Swine) Flu Stops Here

woman-child-temperature-157.jpgThanks to my longtime Parenting editor Robert Barnett for bringing me on board his freelance team for's iVillage, where he is now the top health editor. My first post is on protecting yourself from H1N1 while caring for a sickie at home. Here's the link.

Good Bugs Fight Bad Bugs in the ICU


The care of the critically ill is full of Catch-22s. Mechanical ventilators deliver life-saving oxygen to failing lungs. But the same intubation introduces bacteria to cause ventilator-associate pneumonia. Worse, in a hospital setting, those bacteria often include some of the world's nastiest, drug-resistant pathogens. In an effort to beat back this threat, nurses wash out patients' mouths with the potent antiseptic chlorhexidine. But that, in turn, tends to ipe out all the patient's mouth bacteria--both good and bad--opening up territory for more drug-resistant hospital bugs to move in. Even scarier hospital, strains of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are proving increasing resistant to this disinfectant

Now, in the spirit of "if you can't beat 'em ...," doctors at Sweden's Lund University Hospital are deliberately inoculating their patients with "good germs." Specifically, anesthesiologist Bengt Klarin and colleagues are swabbing the mouths of critically ill, intubated patients with a well-studied strain of Lactobacillus plantarum--a normal resident of healthy mouths and the active ingredient in sauerkraut and many other fermented foods.

The probiotic bacteria prevented infection as well as did standard disinfection with chlorhexidine. Using L. plantarum also avoided such common chlorhexidine side effects as mouth irritation and potentially deadly allergic reactions the researchers report.

Here's the full report, in last month's issue of Critical Care. 

Vaccine Controversies

gary_taxali_op-ed_link.jpgWell, there's nothing like writing an article on early childhood vaccines (in this month's Parenting magazine) to kick this blog back into action with a small flood of feedback. First, thanks to those of you motivated enough to find my website and share your thoughts.

We all know that universal vaccination is a subject where emotions run high on both sides. Still, I get disheartened by the flamethrowers (thankfully in the minority) with their accusations than anyone pro-vaccination is on the payroll of Big Pharma or anyone less-than-enthusiastic about vaccinating their children is an idiot.

I'd like to appeal to the most passionate among you to remember--or at least consider--that people on both sides of this issue have the well being of our children at heart.

In the 15 years I've been writing about vaccines, I've found that the strongest advocates of their use are hospital pediatricians who've watched tiny patients die of vaccine-preventable diseases--sometimes literally in their arms. Please consider that these experiences--not avarice--are the driving force behind many careers dedicated to developing new and more effective vaccines.

And those of you who belittle parents wary of vaccines, please consider that they don't feel that their fears are being adequately investigated. It's good to see the CDC ramping up research on rare adverse events with an aim to someday identifying that one in ten thousand or one in a million child at elevated risk of an adverse reaction.

Finally and without belaboring the point, I'd like to make clear that I've never taken payment or favors from industry or the CDC. (Yes, this is response to some of the nastier emails I've received.) Indeed, last year I reluctantly resigned an editorial position with a highly respected medical publisher because I ended up having to work a little too closely with industry sponsors. I was never asked to write anything false or misleading. But as an independent journalist covering controversial issues, I felt I could not afford the association. Believe me, my bank account reflects that such principles extract a cost!

Thanks to Gary Taxali for permission to reprint his illustration, which previously accompanied the op-ed Nice Shot! in The New York Times.