Medicine and Health

As superbug problem mounts, drug companies slash antibiotics research

By Guy Charron, 11 September 2004

Infectious disease specialists have drawn a causal link between an alarming rise in the number of Quebec hospital patients becoming infected with and dying from Clostridium difficile—a bacterium resistant to standard antibiotics—and government budget-cutting. As the World Socialist Web Site previously reported, researchers studying the C. difficile pandemic in Quebec have linked the bacteria’s spread to the unsanitary environment created by decaying infrastructure, patient overcrowding, and reduced staffing. [See “Canada: budget cuts have contributed to spread of super-bug”]

Canada: meatpackers profit from BSE crisis

By David Adelaide, 23 August 2004

A recently released report by Alberta’s auditor general reveals that the major meatpacking companies reaped windfall profits from Canada’s BSE crisis, while the social cost of the crisis fell onto cattle producers, including small farmers and farm workers, and the public treasury.

Britain: new findings point to larger outbreaks of vCJD “mad cow disease”

By Trevor Johnson, 18 August 2004

UK scientists are upwardly revising their estimates of the number of people likely to die from new variant CJD (vCJD, also known as “mad cow disease”). It follows the death of a second patient, who contracted the disease after a blood transfusion [1].

BSE/Mad Cow Disease crisis provokes trade war

By Paul Mitchell, 2 August 2004

The spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, has provoked a trade war in cattle and beef products.

Polio epidemic threatens Africa

By Trevor Johnson, 31 July 2004

The global rate of polio infection declined in recent decades to the point where the disease was almost eradicated. This year, the disease has experienced a resurgence, as basic health care collapses in large parts of Africa and in other poor countries around the world.

Anger at International AIDS Conference over Bush administration’s policies

By Carol Divjak, 29 July 2004

More than 17,000 delegates, including scientists, health officials, policy makers and activists, gathered from July 11 to 17 at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok. What dominated the agenda was not so much the latest scientific research but the failure of the major powers, especially the US, to provide the resources needed to deal with the rapidly spreading AIDS epidemic.

Huge funding shortfall for global AIDS epidemic

By Trevor Johnson and Chris Talbot, 26 July 2004

The UNAIDS report released at the fifteenth International AIDS Conference last week shows that there is an escalating shortfall in the funding required to deal with the global spread of AIDS.

Scientists identify a gene that may block HIV

By Perla Astudillo, 6 May 2004

Scientists at the Harvard Medical School in the United States have identified a human gene, known as TRIM5-alpha, which is capable of preventing the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from replicating inside cells. While the discovery, announced in February, is unlikely to lead to any immediate medical breakthrough, it is an important step in understanding the life cycle of HIV and has the potential to enable the future development of a drug to block HIV infection.

US blocks UN proposal to combat obesity

By Barry Mason, 9 February 2004

Obesity is one of the major causes of non-communicable disease. Worldwide there are around 300 million obese people with another 750 million considered overweight—approximately one sixth of the world’s population. In May 2002 the World Health Organisation was mandated to prepare a report on the virtual “epidemic” of obesity that is concerning health workers around the world.

Asian bird flu threatens to trigger worldwide epidemic

By John Roberts, 6 February 2004

The current outbreak of avian influenza—popularly known as bird flu—in a number of Asian countries is looming as a major international health crisis. It has potentially catastrophic human and economic consequences. While the full story is yet to be established, it is already clear that economic backwardness, government cover-ups and an inadequate system of international monitoring and response have all played a part in enabling the emergence and spread of the disease.

Eastern Europe faces HIV-AIDS epidemic

By Richard Tyler, 12 December 2003

The reintroduction of the free market into the former Eastern Bloc countries has unleashed a health catastrophe.

UN International AIDS Day report reveals growing pandemic

By Ann Talbot, 2 December 2003

Five million people were infected with HIV this year. This is a record number of new infections and indicates that the global AIDS epidemic is continuing to worsen.

Bush’s AIDS appointee spells out corporate agenda

By Chris Talbot, 9 October 2003

Randall Tobias, ex-Ely Lilly CEO and a member of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), was confirmed as head of the Bush administration’s Emergency Plan for AIDS by the US Senate last week.

International governments hold back stem cell research

By Paul Mitchell, 12 August 2003

Governments across the world are holding back stem cell research and its promise of revolutionising healthcare. Pressure from religious organisations and anti-abortion campaigners has forced many governments to introduce legislation to limit vital research.

US and Europe renege on AIDS pledges

By Richard Tyler, 22 July 2003

Pledges made by US president George W. Bush and European Union Commission president Romano Prodi to each provide $1 billion for the global fight against AIDS were proved worthless last week.

Hormone replacement therapy: Study reveals increased dementia risk

By Joanne Laurier, 4 June 2003

Postmenopausal women over the age of 65 using combined hormone therapy face significantly increased risks of dementia and strokes, according to new findings from a sub-study of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The research, part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) and reported in the May 28 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that older women taking Prempro, the most commonly used form of estrogen plus progestin, were twice as likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, than their placebo-taking counterparts.

The science and sociology of SARS

Part 2: Science, internationalism and the profit motive

By Joseph Kay, 13 May 2003

The outbreak of a new virus responsible for what is known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) raises a number of scientific, medical and social problems. Thanks in part to the quick response and collaborative effort of a team of international scientists, the virus has remained fairly well contained. However, it has infected 7,000 people worldwide and has killed over 500. It is still an enormous health risk in China, and there is still the possibility of an international epidemic that would have devastating consequences.

The science and sociology of SARS

Part 1: Viruses and the nature of present outbreak

By Joseph Kay, 12 May 2003

The outbreak of a new virus responsible for what is known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) raises a number of scientific, medical and social problems. Thanks in part to the quick response and collaborative effort of a team of international scientists, the virus has remained fairly well contained. However, it has infected 7,000 people worldwide and has killed over 500. It poses an enormous health risk in China, and there is still the possibility of an international epidemic that would have devastating consequences.

WHO report: alarming increase in cancer rates

By Joanne Laurier, 26 April 2003

Global cancer rates are expected to increase 50 percent by the year 2020, according to the latest report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO). The 351-page study, titled World Cancer Report, begins by explaining that 10 million people developed malignant tumors and 6.2 million died from the disease in the year 2000.

Ebola outbreak in the Congo

By Barry Mason, 27 February 2003

On February 19 the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva confirmed that an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever in the Cuvette Ouest region of northwest Congo-Brazzaville, near its border with Gabon, was due to the Ebola virus.

Bush uses AIDS funding as an instrument of foreign policy

By Barry Mason, 18 February 2003

US President George W. Bush announced $15 billion to fight HIV and AIDS in his State of the Union address on January 28. The proposed funds are to be spent in the African countries of Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Also included are the two Caribbean countries Guyana and Haiti.

US blocks cheap drugs for undeveloped world

By Barry Mason, 17 January 2003

World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on the provision of generic drugs to underdeveloped countries broke down as the United States, on behalf of the major pharmaceutical companies, blocked agreement at the last minute.

UN fund says money running out to fight AIDS

By Barry Mason and Ann Talbot, 11 November 2002

The Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria has announced that unless donations double it will have to stop processing grant applications because requests for help have outstripped the money available.

Alarming breast cancer rates in northern California county

By Joanne Laurier, 31 October 2002

Women in northern California’s Marin County are presently being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at a rate approximately 40 percent higher than the officially recorded national average. In this affluent community the recorded incidence of the disease among white women aged 45 to 64 has increased by 72 percent during the last decade. Diagnoses of breast cancer for the entire female population climbed by 37 percent in the county during the last decade, compared with a 3 percent increase for the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Do cellular phones represent a health risk?

By Joanne Laurier, 11 July 2002

A major study carried out by scientists in Finland suggests that radiation from mobile phones causes changes to the brain. Professor Darius Leszcynski headed up the two-year program at Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

Human organs: the next futures market?

By Joanne Laurier, 26 April 2002

Recent advances in human tissue transplantation have created an exploding commercial industry for the purpose of supplying hospitals and clinics with transplantable human tissue. The business of processing and storing human tissue used to treat a myriad of medical problems operates largely outside of any governmental control.

Britain: Report highlights BSE danger from infected sheep

By Barry Mason, 21 January 2002

The risk to humans developing variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) could be far greater if the brain-wasting disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) has entered the sheep population. This was the conclusion of a study published in the British science magazine Nature on January 10.

South African government to appeal against AIDS drug verdict

By Barry Mason and Chris Talbot, 27 December 2001

The South African government is to appeal a court decision instructing it to make the drug Nevirapine universally available in order to prevent maternal transmission of the HIV virus. It is appealing to the Constitutional Court, the country’s highest legal body, against the right of a judge to set government policy.

AIDS epidemic grows unchecked

By Barry Mason, 8 December 2001

The United Nations (UN) has just issued its latest AIDS epidemic update. It is now 20 years since the immunodeficiency syndrome that came to be known as AIDS was first reported. In that time the disease has wrought death and debilitation across the planet. According to the UN in that 20 years more than 60 million people have been infected with the AIDS virus. Worldwide it is the fourth largest killer, whilst in sub-Saharan Africa it has become the foremost cause of death. The report states that in the year 2001 there are 40 million people living with the disease, five million people became infected and three million people died as a result of AIDS.

Britain: Government suppresses report showing hospital patients face danger from Human BSE

By Paul Mitchell, 29 November 2001

The Labour government has suppressed a damning report into the procedures used by hospitals to prevent the spread of the incurable brain-wasting disorder variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).

Britain: Labour government accused of cover-up over BSE experiments

By Paul Mitchell, 26 October 2001

Farming and Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett has been accused of seeking to suppress how vital experiments concerning the safety of British lamb and mutton were botched-up. Scientists had hoped to determine whether deadly Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE) has infected British sheep.

Britain: Big increase in human form of "Mad Cow Disease"

By Paul Mitchell, 11 September 2001

The incidence of variant Creutzfeldt Jacobs Disease (vCJD)—the human form of “Mad Cow Disease”—has increased 20 percent in the UK since last year. In his announcement last week, Professor James Ironside, head of the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, said that instead of “a flat line, we are now seeing an upward trend that has been sustained for the past four quarters”. The total number of cases could vary between several hundred and 150,000, he added. Professor Ironside’s unit has released figures showing there are now 106 confirmed or probable cases of vCJD, the fatal and incurable brain wasting disorder in the UK. Most scientific opinion now accepts that the disease is probably related to eating beef infected with BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), or “Mad Cow Disease”.

Sleeping Sickness rampant in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Barry Mason, 7 September 2001

The recent announcement that the Microsoft Gates Foundation has donated $15 million to fund research into sleeping sickness has only served to highlight the abysmal response by pharmaceutical companies and Western governments to a disease that is now affecting millions in Africa.

Diabetes: a major new health problem

By Leanne Josling, 21 August 2001

According to various studies and statistics, diabetes has become the fourth leading cause of death in most developed countries and will be one of the most challenging health problems worldwide in the 21st century.

TB poses growing international health threat

By Barry Mason, 19 July 2001

Tuberculosis, or TB, poses a growing threat to world health. According to an article in the New Scientist magazine, it is estimated that a third of the world’s population carry the disease, but nine out of ten do not show symptoms. It infects one person every four seconds. Eight million people a year develop the disease, of which three million die. According to the charity TB Alert, by 2050 there will be five million deaths a year from the disease. Many of its victims are young.

A "modest proposal" from tobacco giant Philip Morris

By Joanne Laurier, 19 July 2001

In a move that cries out for a response from a master satirist on the order of Jonathan Swift, Philip Morris, the New York-based tobacco giant, recently handed the government of the Czech Republic a study arguing that the Czech state had benefited from “health-care cost savings due to early mortality” resulting from smoking. According to the company-commissioned study, premature deaths from cigarettes saved the Czech government between 943 million koruna and 1.19 billion koruna (between $23.8 million and $30.1 million).

World Health Organisation says BSE is a major threat

By Paul Mitchell, 6 July 2001

Scientists last month warned that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease, “has joined AIDS as a major health challenge facing the world.” A conference organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) concluded with a call for governments to “strongly consider” testing for BSE in cattle used for human consumption and imposing a worldwide ban on meat and bonemeal cattle feed (MBM).

Australian jury finds passive smoking causes cancer in landmark legal case

By Kaye Tucker, 12 May 2001

For the first time anywhere in the world, an employee has successfully sued an employer after contracting cancer as a result of passive smoking. Former bar attendant Marlene Sharp, 62, was awarded $466,000 in damages after a four-person jury in the New South Wales Supreme Court found that the Port Kembla RSL club in Wollongong had been negligent and breached its duty of care.

BSE / "Mad Cow Disease" spreading in Spain

By Vicky Short, 7 May 2001

Forty-three animals infected with BSE, or “Mad Cow Disease,” have so far been registered in Spain. According to official information provided by the department of agriculture and fisheries, 33 of these are concentrated in the north-west area of Galicia. The others are in Asturias/Basque Country (6 cases), Barcelona (2) and the Balearic Islands (2). The cases were reported between November 22, 2000 and April 3 this year.

New report suggests link between power lines and risk of childhood leukemia

By Kaye Tucker, 31 March 2001

For decades controversy has persisted about the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by the transmission of electricity through power lines. Now an independent advisory group to Britain's National Radiation Protection Board (NRPB) has released a wide-ranging review of relevant scientific research. The group's chairman, Sir Richard Doll, was the first scientist to link cigarette smoking with lung cancer more than 30 years ago,

Oxfam reports show adverse health impact of drug patents on developing countries

By Chris Talbot, 3 March 2001

A series of recent reports on pharmaceutical drugs in the third world by the British charity Oxfam highlight the adverse health impact patent laws are having on developing countries. In the drive to maintain and increase their huge profits, Western drug companies are putting vital medicines beyond the reach of a growing and vast proportion of the world's population.

Growing concern about "Mad Cow Disease" in the US

By Joanne Laurier, 2 February 2001

More than 1,200 head of cattle in Texas were quarantined last week for fear of exposure to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as “mad cow disease”. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating whether the feedlot eaten by the cattle contained meat-and-bone meal made from other ruminant animals. St. Louis-based Purina Mills Inc. confirmed that its feed mill in Gonzales, Texas manufactured the questionable feed.

"Economy-class syndrome" a major health threat

Airlines fail to warn of the dangers of DVT

By Kaye Tucker, 26 January 2001

Last November Emma Christoffersen, aged 28, from Newport, South Wales, collapsed in the arrival hall of Heathrow airport after flying to England from Australia. She later died. A post mortem revealed the cause of death to be pulmonary embolism. “We were told she died from sitting in the cramped seat of a jumbo jet for such a long time,” her mother told the media. “I'd never heard of the condition ... I don't want other parents to go through what we have endured and that is why I want to give this warning about the danger of flying.”

BSE/"mad cow disease" crisis spreads throughout Europe

By Richard Tyler, 23 January 2001

Cases of BSE have now been identified in 10 of the 15 European Union (EU) countries, as well as Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which are not members. Although incidences are still relatively few in number, the discovery of the disease across the continent has had a dramatic effect on beef consumption, which has fallen by 27 percent across the EU.

United Nations AIDS report confirms worst epidemic in history

By Chris Talbot, 4 December 2000

An estimated three million people will have died of AIDS in 2000, the highest annual figure yet recorded. 500,000 of these were children. Although 2.4 million of the total deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa, the latest UNAIDS and World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics also show serious increases in the number of HIV infections in countries that are part of the former Soviet Union, as well as in South and South-East Asia. The UNAIDS/WHO report was timed to appear for World AIDS day, December 1.

Deadly Ebola outbreak spreads in Uganda

By Chris Talbot, 21 October 2000

Deaths from Ebola, one of the most deadly viruses known to man, now total 41 in Uganda. 17 new cases were reported in a 24-hour period up to October 18. The first instances of the disease were reported at one of the hospitals in Gulu, a town in northern Uganda, where three nursing students died. Both hospitals in Gulu, already overstretched and under funded, are now attempting to deal with the disease with assistance from World Health Organisation (WHO) experts.

BSE inquiry delivers report as scientists raise fresh concerns about "mad cow disease"

By Paul Mitchell, 3 October 2000

The inquiry into the BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) crisis set up by Labour shortly after coming to office in 1997 sent its final report back to the government yesterday. It covers the period from the first recognised outbreak of “mad cow disease” in the mid-1980s up to March 20 1996—when the previous Tory government first admitted a direct link between BSE in cattle and a new variation of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the brain-wasting disorder in humans.

Hormones in the environment: how the facts were covered up

By Paul Mitchell, 20 September 2000

Every male fish in some European rivers shows pronounced female characteristics, according to Professor Alan Pickering of the Natural Environment Research Council. Speaking to the British Association's Festival of Science in London earlier this month, Pickering said, "We are finding this problem right across northern Europe, it is clearly widespread."

Britain: Ritalin ban recommended for children under five years of age

By Liz Smith, 9 September 2000

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), an independent watchdog that rules on the appropriate use of drugs, is to recommend that Ritalin should not be given to children under five years of age. Whilst it may still be prescribed for older children, there will be clearer definitions of the conditions for its use.

AIDS in Africa: an indictment of an outmoded social order

By Fred Mazelis, 16 August 2000

The 13th International Conference on AIDS, held in Durban, South Africa last month, highlighted the social catastrophe unfolding on the African continent. The meeting took place in the country with the largest number of people infected by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, on the continent that is home to 70 percent of the world's HIV-infected population.

Britain: Deaths from Human BSE reveal "statistically significant rising trend"

By Richard Tyler, 20 July 2000

Two more deaths in the last fortnight have brought to 69 the total number of fatalities in the UK from variant Cretzfeld Jakob Disease (vCJD). So far this year 14 people have died from this brain-wasting disorder related to BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) or Mad Cow disease, equalling the 1999 total. Another seven are known to be currently suffering from this incurable disease, also known as Human BSE.

UN report on AIDS paints a picture of devastation-Part 2

By Paul Scherrer, 18 July 2000

The United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) report on AIDS paints a picture of devastation in Africa and warns of catastrophe in many other regions of the world, yet offers no solution to this raging epidemic.

UN report on AIDS paints a picture of devastation—Part 1

By Paul Scherrer, 17 July 2000

The United Nations and World Health Organization report on AIDS paints a picture of devastation in Africa and warns of catastrophe in many other regions of the world, yet offers no solution to this raging epidemic.

Renewed fears that BSE/Mad Cow Disease can pass from one generation to another

By Barry Mason, 12 July 2000

Britain's Agricultural Minister confirmed in parliament last month that a calf had been born with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease. The animal was born after August 1, 1996, when extra control measures on animal feed containing mammalian meat and bone meal had been implemented, supposed to eradicate the incidence of BSE.

CIA says Africa's AIDS epidemic is a "national security" issue

By Barry Mason, 21 June 2000

A recent speech by US President Bill Clinton indicates that the major powers are increasingly approaching the AIDS crisis in Africa, Asia and the former Soviet Union as a security issue, rather than a public health problem to be tackled by curative and preventative measures.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis threatens millions

By Debra Watson, 16 May 2000

The super-deadly strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis that killed 500 people in New York City in the early 1990s are now turning up in alarming numbers in the underdeveloped countries.

Obesity: a curable epidemic

By Leanne Josling, 29 April 2000

Obesity has become a global pandemic affecting the lives and health of millions of people, according to the World Health Organisation. It is an accelerating social problem in industrialised countries and is also growing in the former colonial world.

British doctors fear mother has passed human BSE disease to baby

By Keith Lee, 17 March 2000

Doctors in Britain are concerned that a 24-year-old mother has passed on the fatal human form of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or “mad cow disease”) to her baby, now four months old.

Gene therapy trials shut down at University of Pennsylvania following patient death

By Tom Bishop, 13 March 2000

The promising field of gene therapy was rocked by the September 17, 1999 death of 18-year-old patient Jesse Gelsinger. Gelsinger had volunteered to participate in a gene therapy trial for the rare genetic disease ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTC) at the Institute for Human Gene Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (Penn). On January 21 the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shut down all gene therapy trials at the institute.

Promising new insights into early cancer growth

By Perla Astudillo, 3 March 2000

In a significant advance in cancer research, US scientists have pioneered a new technique to record the earliest stages of a tumour's development. Using microscopic pictures, Duke University scientists recorded the tumour's early growth through glass “windows” placed in the sides of live mice. The results showed that tumours began to sprout blood vessels—a process known as angiogenesis—at a much earlier stage than previously thought.

Risk of Mad Cow Disease growing throughout Europe

By Paul Mitchell, 15 January 2000

A single cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease, could expose up to 400,000 people to the risk of infection according to the European Union's Scientific Steering Committee (SSC). This is the worst case scenario presented in the Committee's report Human Exposure Risk via Food with respect to BSE.

Study finds "indisputable" link between BSE/"Mad Cow Disease" and CJD in humans

By Barbara Slaughter and Harvey Thompson, 29 December 1999

A team of scientists working on the link between Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or “Mad Cow Disease”) and the degenerative brain condition found in humans, (new) variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD or vCJD), have made a significant breakthrough. The research, which has been carried out by doctors in Scotland and the US, found that the infectious agents, or prions, that cause both BSE and vCJD produced exactly the same disease characteristics when injected into laboratory mice.

Despite new treatments, world AIDS deaths continue to rise

Wide disparity seen between rich and poor nations

By Paul Scherrer, 10 December 1999

Despite declining death rates in the United States and Western Europe, 2.6 million people worldwide will die this year from AIDS, more than in any previous year. Since the epidemic began in the late 1970s, AIDS has claimed the lives of 16.5 million people.

Mad Cow Disease inquiry reveals how British government protected pharmaceutical companies at expense of public health

By Paul Mitchell, 9 December 1999

Most attention during the crisis surrounding Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as Mad Cow Disease, has focused on the risk of eating beef. However evidence to the ongoing British government BSE Inquiry shows how the potentially greater risk from the use of cow by-products in vaccines and other medicines was covered up.

New York City reports outbreak of West Nile virus

By Andrea Peters, 7 October 1999

Scientists in the New York metropolitan area have identified the presence of a viral strain never before seen in the Western hemisphere, West Nile virus. Initially believed to be an outbreak of St. Louis Encephalitis, illness resulting from the virus has been responsible for the deaths of at least five people in New York, four of them city residents. There are currently a total of 37 confirmed cases in humans.

Shift work and ill-health

By Leanne Josling, 6 September 1999

A growing number of workers in Australia are required to work shifts, particularly night and rotating shifts, despite mounting evidence of the safety dangers and risks to health involved. Nearly one million workers are affected today—one in seven—an increase of some 100,000 over the past six years.

UN reports reveal global growth of drug abuse

By Steve James, 28 August 1999

Two recent reports by the United Nations Drugs Control Programme (UNDCP) provide an insight into the global spread of drug abuse. "Global Illicit Drug Trends" was compiled from questionnaires sent to national governments requesting information on drug seizures by police and customs officials. "The Drug Nexus in Africa" was drawn out of information forwarded by drug control agencies in 10 African states. In the language of statistics, they provide an overview of the scale and depth of drug use internationally. The African report in particular sheds some light on the social, economic and political origins of drug taking.

Australian schoolgirl contracts HIV via blood transfusion

By Kaye Tucker, 13 August 1999

The tragic news of a young girl infected with HIV via a blood transfusion has exposed serious problems in blood screening procedures in Australia. The girl, a primary school student, was given a transfusion during surgery at a major children's hospital in Melbourne. It is the first reported case of such an infection since blood products began being tested for HIV in 1985.

What is involved in the Genetically Modified Food debate?

By Chris Talbot, 9 August 1999

Hardly a week goes by in Britain without headlines related to genetically modified (GM) food, usually opposed to it. This week the Church of England decided that growing GM products in field tests on its land was unethical. Last week the aristocrat leader of Greenpeace, Lord Melchett, was arrested and jailed over night for leading a group who trashed a field full of GM crops which was part of government field tests. Britain was the one country where the big corporations manufacturing GM seeds, Monsanto, Novartis, etc., had hoped for a favourable response to give them a lead into the rest of Europe.

TB on the rise in Britain

By Barry Mason, 22 July 1999

The growing incidence of tuberculosis in Britain has prompted the formation of a campaign group, TB Alert. TB is caused by a bacterial infection, which can affect any part of the body, but most usually the lungs. The bacterium gradually destroys the tissues in which it is in contact. In TB of the lungs the infected person will develop a persistent cough which progressively gets worse. The coughing can often cause blood vessels to rupture and the person will cough up blood. It is accompanied by a gradual loss of weight, listlessness and high temperature. The bacteria are transmitted through the air, and so are is quite contagious, but the infection is usually caught only by living in close contact with an infected person.

AIDS is number one killer worldwide: Zimbabwe is worst hit country

By Barry Mason, 29 June 1999

AIDS is now the number one killer disease worldwide, ahead of malaria and tuberculosis. In 1998, four million people in sub-Saharan Africa became infected with HIV, joining approximately 34 million people affected worldwide. Since 1981 approximately 47 million people have contracted HIV, of which 14 million have died.

US pharmaceutical companies reap huge profits from AIDS drugs

By Debra Watson, 5 June 1999

The international financial crisis and growing world inequality dominated much of the roundtable discussion at the 1999 Annual World Health Assembly (WHA 1999). The World Health Organization (WHO) held its fifty-second annual meeting in May in Geneva, Switzerland. The AIDS roundtable included discussion by health ministers concerning the exorbitant cost of drug cocktails for AIDS patients in poor countries. “WHO should lobby for medicines. If technology is available, no one should be denied it,” said J. Kalweo, Minister of Health from Kenya.

Safety of genetically modified food questioned

Interview with gene scientist, Dr Arpad Pusztai

By Paul Mitchell, 3 June 1999

The British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (STC) has been investigating the nature of scientific advice to government. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the subject of its first report, published this month.

US study establishes link between dioxin and cancer

By Perla Astudillo, 1 June 1999

A recent study published in the journal of the US National Cancer institute provided conclusive evidence of the direct relationship between industry and the cancer-causing effects of the chemical dioxin. Generally ignored by the mainstream press, the study revealed that many thousands of workers in the US chemical industry died of all types of cancer-related illness as a result of exposure to the dioxin known as 2,3,7,8-tetrachorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD).

Cancer and social life

Review of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment, by Sandra Steingraber

By Joanne Laurier, 13 May 1999

Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment, by Sandra Steingraber, Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts, 1997

Genes that kill malignant skin cancer cells

By Kaye Tucker, 28 April 1999

Is it possible that our own genes hold the key to finding new ways to fight cancer? Researchers at London's Brunel University think so. In February, they announced the discovery of two new genes that dramatically halt the growth of malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer. It is hoped that by unlocking the secrets of how these genes work, scientists will be able to develop new ways to treat this deadly disease.

Further evidence that chemical crop sprays cause adverse health effects

By Paul Mitchell, 17 April 1999

Recent scientific research has pointed again to the far-reaching health effects of chemicals such as pesticides and weed killers. The results are published in New Scientist magazine. In an article, "It's raining pesticides", Stephan Müller and Thomas Bucheli of the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science show that rain water often contains pesticides above the limits allowed in drinking water. It is already well known that crop sprays drain into rivers and underground supplies, but the Swiss scientists say they can also evaporate from fields and become absorbed into clouds. The highest concentrations of such pollutants are found in the first rainfall after long dry periods.

Human BSE, nvCJD

Statistics point to increased incidence of brain-wasting disease in Britain

By Barry Mason, 23 March 1999

A research letter published in the Lancet medical journal points to a possible increase in the rate of people dying from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), a fatal brain-wasting disease also called Human BSE.

On the origins of HIV

5 March 1999

Dear Editor,

In row over genetically modified food

Blair defends billionaire cabinet member

By Richard Tyler, 24 February 1999

Labour's close ties to big business are central to the ongoing row over genetically modified food. The storm that unfolded last week focussed on the role of Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science.

Origins of HIV virus identified

Impact of the pandemic continues to worsen

By Barry Mason, 19 February 1999

A recent article in the scientific magazine Nature explains that the main type of human immunodificiency virus, HIV-1, which causes AIDS, originates in a subspecies of chimpanzees from equatorial West Africa. The February 4 report details the work carried out by a group of researchers at the Department of Medicine and Microbiology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham led by Feng Goa. Monkeys carry viral infections similar to HIV, called simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV).

International scientists raise concerns over genetically modified food

British Labour government rushes to defend biotech industry

By Keith Lee and Richard Tyler, 17 February 1999

The Labour government has been rocked by a dispute over the possible health dangers posed by genetically modified food. Last week 20 scientists from 13 countries issued a memorandum supporting their colleague Dr. Arpad Pusztai's research into the possible harmful effects of genetically modified (GM) food.

Wollongong steelworks pumps out dangerous dioxins

Report confirms Workers Inquiry findings

By Peter Stavropoulos, 10 February 1999

BHP's Wollongong steelworks has been identified as Australia's largest source of emissions of dioxins--highly toxic chemicals that have been linked to birth defects and cancer, including lymphoma and leukaemia. A report by the environmental group Greenpeace cites estimates by the state Environmental Protection Agency that the Port Kembla complex releases 29 grams of dioxins into the air each year, with the greatest concentration in the sinter plant. BHP's Newcastle plant is the second highest source--emitting 24 grams a year.

Britain: new Food Standards Agency no occasion for restored confidence

By Jean Shaoul, 5 February 1999

The government has announced legislation setting up a Food Standards Agency to "protect public health and rebuild the public's trust in the machinery for handling food issues". Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, said, "This new, independent agency is good news for consumers. It will separate the different--and potentially conflicting--interests of food producers and food consumers."

A promising breakthrough in cancer research

By Perla Astudillo and Peter Symonds, 28 May 1998

New research by US medical scientist Dr Judah Folkman into the effect of two drugs, angiostatin and endostatin, on mice may prove to be a significant breakthrough in treating a broad range of cancers in humans.

A new type of breast cancer drug

By Kaye Tucker, 26 May 1998

At the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr Angelo Bianco announced the results of clinical trials, demonstrating the effectiveness on a new type of anti-cancer drug, Herceptin, in fighting advanced breast cancer.

Industry link to leukaemia and cancer confirmed

Australian Workers Inquiry answers government challenge

By Mike Head, 7 April 1998

Following a challenge by a state government agency, the Workers Inquiry into the leukaemia and cancer crisis in the Australian steel city of Wollongong has issued comprehensive new figures confirming a close relationship between cancer and industrial pollution.

International Labour Organization study

US provides least maternity support in industrialized world, Australia and New Zealand among worst providers

By David Walsh, 19 February 1998

A new study conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that the United States, Australia and New Zealand are the only industrialized nations that do not provide paid maternity leave and health benefits by law.

The libel action against Oprah Winfrey

US agribusiness attempts to silence debate on BSE

By Julie Hyland, 10 February 1998

The $12 million defamation suit brought by Texas cattle ranchers against talk show host Oprah Winfrey and one of her guests, Howard Lyman, is reaching its conclusion. The case, which is being heard in Amarillo, Texas, centers on comments made during Winfrey’s April 15, 1996 show that discussed the “mad cow” epidemic in Britain. Mad cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, became epidemic in Britain's herds in the 1980s.