Student goes blind after keeping her contact lenses in for six months and microscopic bug eat her eyeballs

A student in Taiwan who kept a pair of disposable contact lenses in her eyes for six months has been left blinded after a microscopic bug devoured her eyeballs.

The tiny single-cell amoeba ate away at undergraduate Lian Kao’s sight because she didn’t take out and clean the contacts once during that time.

According to a warning issued by doctors the case was a particularly severe example of a young person under pressure who did not take the time to carry out basic hygiene on their contact lenses

As well as being regularly cleaned, contact lenses should also be removed when swimming and washing.

The general advice is to avoid wearing contacts for more than eight hours a day.

Yet apparently 23-year-old Kao had even kept her contact lenses in at all times, even at the swimming pool.

Medics were horrified when they removed the contact lenses to find that the surface of the girl’s eyes had literally been eaten by the amoeba that had been able to breed in the perfect conditions that existed between the contact lens and the eye.

The director of ophthalmology at Taipei’s Wan Fang Hospital, Wu Jian-liang, said: ‘Contact lens wearers are a high-risk group that can easily be exposed to eye diseases.

‘A shortage of oxygen can destroy the surface of the epithelial tissue, creating tiny wounds into which the bacteria can easily infect, spreading to the rest of the eye and providing a perfect breeding ground.

‘The girl should have thrown the contact lenses away after a month but instead she overused them and has now permanently damaged her corneas.’

He said that she had been diagnosed with acanthamoeba keratitis, which although rare was always more common in the summer.

He confirmed and spoke about the girl’s case as a way of urging others to be more careful if they had to use contact lenses.

The problem is the condition can build up over several years – it’s only when it gets to an advanced stage that contacts wearers become aware of a problem, as that’s when it will cause red, irritated eyes, by which time it may be too late.

Acanthamoeba bugs stick to contact lenses and can then burrow their way through the cornea, causing acute pain.

It’s only at this stage that a sufferer would be aware they had a problem.

Prescription drugs may be able to treat the bug in the early stages, but specialists say it is very difficult to get rid of. In serious cases, the patient needs a corneal transplant but these have a high failure rate, resulting in sight loss.

Other steps to prevent the infection include never swimming or using a hot tub or shower when wearing contacts.

Each year, infections cause around 6,000 cases of a severe eye condition known as microbial keratitis – inflammation and ulceration of the cornea that can lead to vision loss.

Contact lens wearers are at a higher risk, since bacteria can get trapped in the lenses.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2687477/Student-goes-blind-keeping-contact-lenses-six-months-microscopic-bug-EATS-eyeballs.html#ixzz37dnGxTKv

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Neuroscientist Says NIH Funding Squeeze Causing ‘Crisis’ in Biomedical Enterprise

By Jeannie Baumann

Many scientists now spend more time scrambling to raise money for their work than actually doing the research because of the erosion of NIH funding over the last decade, the president of a biomedical research university said during a June 18 congressional briefing.

Mark Tessier-Lavigne said the 25 percent decline in the National Institutes of Health’s purchasing power has led to grants being funded at historically low rates, causing promising young scientists to leave the field altogether and threatening the future of the biomedical research workforce.

“The financial squeeze has triggered a crisis in the biomedical research enterprise,” according to Tessier-Lavigne, who is president of the Rockefeller University in New York and investigates how neural circuits in the brain form during embryonic development. “Renewing NIH funding is an essential investment, not just for our health, but also for our economy.”

Tessier-Lavigne was the main speaker at the Capitol Hill briefing, “Paying Dividends: How Federally Funded Biomedical Research Fuels the Pharmaceutical Industry in the U.S.,” which was organized by the Coalition for the Life Sciences and theCongressional Biomedical Research Caucus as part of the 2014 caucus briefing series.

The key point of Tessier-Lavigne’s presentation—that scientific opportunity has never been greater while federal funding for basic research is at a low—has been echoed, especially by NIH Director Francis S. Collins when testifying before lawmakers in both the House and the Senate.

“We live in a golden age of biological research, of disease research, and of drug discovery that’s been enabled by a revolution in the biosciences that’s occurred over the past 40 years, thanks to the development of very powerful technologies,” said Tessier-Lavigne, citing as examples recombinant DNA, gene sequencing, human genetics and imaging. “We can now tackle disease systematically and that is enabling systematic drug discovery.”

The research ecosystem requires early investment through NIH funding to academia to yield the treatments and cures from the pharmaceutical industry, Tessier-Lavigne said.

“There’s a division of labor,” he said. “Most of the scientific discovery that leads to the insights that are built upon are made in academia, in research labs, in research institutes, in universities supported by the NIH. At the other end of the spectrum, industry—mostly large pharmaceutical companies and large biotech companies—are responsible for making the drugs and taking them through human clinical trials.”

Tessier-Lavigne has worked at both ends of the spectrum, serving as chief scientific officer at biotechnology company Genentech before taking over at Rockefeller. He rejected the idea that drug companies could take on funding the basic research. The cost and time lines of drug discovery and development are already too great, he said.

“To make a drug, to get a drug approved there’s huge attritions,” he said. The process starts with targeting 24 projects, and scientists try to make drugs to fight them that yields on average about nine drug candidates that make it into clinical trials.

“But of those nine, only a single one will make it over the finish line as an approved drug,” he said.

That drug-making process takes an average of 13 years, including five years to make the drug candidates and eight years to get to clinical approval. Including failures, he estimated those costs at anywhere between $2 billion to $4 billion per drug.

“So companies that do this are already struggling to succeed just at this. There are no more resources to fund the ferment back here that leads to the identification of new knowledge. The companies can’t do it and they won’t do it,” he said.

“Couldn’t we just rely on other nations to generate the basic knowledge and then industry here could continue to do the translational work?” Tessier-Lavigne asked rhetorically.

“Well, that’s not how it works. Industry wants its R&D [research and development] sites to be located next to the sites of innovation. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

Over the past 30 years, Tessier-Lavigne said, there has been a “massive” transfer of industry from Europe to the U.S. because of the prominence of the U.S. biomedical enterprise.

“If we don’t maintain, sustain our investment in our basic biomedical enterprise, industry will pick up and move to the other sites,” he said, adding that countries like China are where these companies will move, taking jobs with them.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), co-chairman of the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus, also mentioned that the U.S. may lose its position as the leader in R&D.

“We still lead in terms of patents and overall research, but China is about to eat our lunch,” said Speier, whose district includes the Bay Area and Genentech’s headquarters. “In fact, China has just about eclipsed Japan now in terms of research and within the next 10 years, it is anticipated that they will indeed overcome us in terms of research and development. And that would indeed be a tragic set of circumstances.”
Action Plan

Tessier-Lavigne proposed an action plan that primarily involves gradually restoring NIH funding in absolute dollars to its 2003 level—the final year of a five-year doubling. Since the 2003 doubling, the NIH’s budget has remained flat at about $30 billion. Collins has said that his agency would have about a $40 billion annual budget if the NIH had continued to receive the steady, 3 percent increases it received from the 1970s onward.

Restoring funding to the 2003 levels would relieve the squeeze on existing programs so scientists can focus on their work as well as stimulate new initiatives to accelerate progress and open new areas of discovery, Tessier-Lavigne said.

At the same time, the academic sector has a responsibility to make sure it spends these dollars effectively while developing a pipeline of new talent. And all stakeholders—academia, the NIH, disease foundations and the private sector—must ensure research discoveries are effectively translated into new therapies and cures.

The next congressional briefing is scheduled for July 16 on the advances and potential of embryonic stem cell research, withLawrence Goldstein, director of the University of California, San Diego, Stem Cell Program.

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

U.S. Patent Office has canceled trademarks belonging to the Redskins football team, saying they are offensive to Native Americans

In a decision released Wednesday, the office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that “these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans.”

The Patent Office said it will continue to treat the patents as though they are valid while the team appeals the decision. The team has two months to do that, and the whole process could take years.

In the meantime, the Redskins can continue using the logos.

But the decision, if upheld, would make it harder for the team to claim ownership of its brand. If it wants to go to court against a counterfeiter making T-shirts with the team’s logo, for instance, it will be harder to show that the organization owns the brand. The team will have to illustrate that they have always used the logos, rather than relying official trademark registrations.

The decision came in response to a suit brought by five Native Americans.

“We are extraordinarily gratified to have prevailed in this case,” said Alfred W. Putnam, Jr., Chairman of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, which represented the five men and women.

The board also canceled the registrations in 1999, but a federal judge overturned that decision in 2003, saying there was no proof that the name was disparaging at the time of registration. Some of the patents date back to the 1960s.

Thanks to Pete Cuomo and Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/18/news/companies/patent-office-redskins/index.html

U.S. health care system ranks lowest in international survey

The U.S. spends more money on health care compared with other industrialized countries, but Americans still get the least bang for their buck — and many still don’t have access to care — according to a report just published by the Commonwealth Fund. The report from the private health care research foundation examined data on expenditures, delivery and access to health care services among 11 industrialized countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S.

Overall, the U.K. and Switzerland were rated highest for factors that included quality, access, efficiency and equity of health care. The U.S., Canada and France overall ranked lowest. The U.S. was found to perform worst in areas concerning cost of care, efficiency, equity and overall health of its citizens, even though health care expenditures were highest per capita compared with the other 10 countries in the report.

In 2011, the U.S. spent $8,508 per capita in health care expenditures, compared with $3,405 per capita in the U.K., which was the country with the highest ranked health care system overall.

“Although the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country and has the highest proportion of specialist physicians, survey findings indicate that from the patients’ perspective, and based on outcome indicators, the performance of American health care is severely lacking,” write the authors in the report. “The nation’s substantial investment in health care is not yielding returns in terms of public satisfaction or health outcomes.”

For quality of care assessment, the authors ranked countries in categories such as effectiveness, safety and coordination of care. Norway and Sweden performed lowest overall for these factors, while the U.K., Australia and Switzerland were rated highest.

Though the U.K. scored best in most categories, the country ranked second worst after the U.S. in terms of the health of its residents. This was based on factors such as adult and infant mortality rates, receptiveness to medical services and life expectancy at age 60. Citizens of France, Sweden and Switzerland were found to be healthiest overall.

The authors of the report note that the U.S. stands apart from other industrialized countries because it does not offer universal health insurance, meaning lower income individuals often don’t have sufficient access to health care — especially preventive medicine — compared with other countries.

However, universal health care has its drawbacks. In Canada, for example, health care may pose little financial burden but this often means patients must wait longer for needed services.

Though the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. has improved access to medical services for many in this country, researchers say is still too early to tell if these new health care policies will improve the overall health of Americans.

“These results indicate a consistent relationship between how a country performs in terms of equity and how patients rate other dimensions of performance: the lower the performance score for equity, the lower the performance on other measures,” the authors write in their report. “This suggests that, when a country fails to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, it also fails to meet needs for the average citizen.”

The report, now in its fourth year, used data from the Commonwealth Fund 2011 International Health Policy Survey of Sicker Adults; the Commonwealth Fund 2012 International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians; and the Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey. The report from 2013 is based on surveys of more than 20,000 adults about health care experiences in their respective countries. Additionally, the researchers incorporated data from the World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/u-s-health-care-system-ranks-lowest-in-international-survey/

Spectacular fin whale breach a rare sight in Strait of Gibraltar

Fin whales are the world’s second-largest whale species and can measure 80-plus feet and weigh as much as 70 tons. Because of their immense size, they rarely breach, which makes the photo accompanying this story all the more striking.

The image was captured May 22 in the Strait of Gibraltar from aboard a vessel operated by the Spanish conservation group CIRCÉ (Conservation, Information et Recherche sur les Cétacés).

CIRCÉ posted the image and video to its Facebook page last week. The video footage shows two of three breaches—the first at 3 seconds and the second at 1:15—and reveals a cetacean that is leaping almost completely free of the water.

Fin whales, second in size only to blue whales, are incredibly sleek and can swim at bursts of up to 23 mph, which helps explain how this particular whale was able to make like a surface-to-air missile in the Strait of Gibraltar.

It’s unclear why the whale jumped, just as nobody is 100 percent certain why any of the smaller species of whales sometimes breach.

Humpback whales are famous for breaching, along with other surface behavior that could possibly represent a form of communication. Some scientists theorize that gray whales breach in an attempt to shake lice from their skin.

But fin whales, like blue whales, typically do not break the surface in a breaching behavior.

“It’s a very rare behavior,” said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a California-based whale researcher. “It’s rarely observed and even more rarely captured on camera. If one does happen to breach, what are the chances that you’re going to be ready with a camera?”

Schulman-Janiger runs the ACS-L.A. Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project from the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County.

Fin whales, for the past several years, have been spotted feeding in nearshore waters off Southern California. In the project’s 31 years, volunteers have seen only a handful of fin whale breaches. That includes a phenomenal display last month, when one or possibly two fin whales breached 20-plus times.

The fin whale, named because of a prominent dorsal fin far back on its body, feeds predominantly on shrimp-like krill and schooling bait fish. The whales are found worldwide but are considered an endangered species, numbering about 40,000 in the Northern Hemisphere and 15,000 to 20,000 in the Southern Hemisphere.

The amazing photo of the Strait of Gibraltar breach inspired many comments on the CIRCÉ Facebook page, mostly in Spanish, but with some English-language commentary such as “Good grief. Imagine the splash!” and “Raw power… totally impressive.”

Another commenter asked, “Is this for real?,” and others also thought it might have been Photoshopped. Were it not for the supporting video footage, these would have been valid observations.

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/nature/post/spectacular-fin-whale-breach-a-rare-sight/

Bee Deaths May Have Reached A Crisis Point For Crops

by Dan Charles

According to a new survey of America’s beekeepers, almost a third of the country’s honeybee colonies did not make it through the winter.

That’s been the case, in fact, almost every year since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began this annual survey, six years ago.

Over the past six years, on average, 30 percent of all the honeybee colonies in the U.S. died off over the winter. The worst year was five years ago. Last year was the best: Just 22 percent of the colonies died.

“Last year gave us some hope,” says Jeffrey Pettis, research leader of the Agriculture Department’s Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.

But this year, the death rate was up again: 31 percent.

Six years ago, beekeepers were talking a lot about “colony collapse disorder” — colonies that seemed pretty healthy, but suddenly collapsed. The bees appeared to have flown away, abandoning their hives.

Beekeepers aren’t seeing that so much anymore, Pettis says. They’re mostly seeing colonies that just dwindle. As the crowd of bees gets smaller, it gets weaker.

“They can’t generate heat very well in the spring to rear brood. They can’t generate heat to fly,” he says.

Farmers who grow crops like almonds, blueberries and apples rely on commercial beekeepers to make sure their crops get pollinated.

But the number of honeybees has now dwindled to the point where there may not be enough to pollinate those crops.

Pettis says that this year, farmers came closer than ever to a true pollination crisis. The only thing that saved part of the almond crop in California was some lovely weather at pollination time.

“We got incredibly good flight weather,” Pettis says. “So even those small colonies that can’t fly very well in cool weather, they were able to fly because of good weather.”

Pettis says beekeepers can afford to lose only about 15 percent of their colonies each year. More than that, and the business won’t be viable for long. Some commercial beekeepers are still in business, he says, just because they love it.

“It’s just something that gets in your blood, so you don’t want to give up. [You say,] ‘OK, it’s 30 percent this year; I’ll do better next year.’ We’re very much optimists,” he says.

Beekeepers have a whole list of reasons for why so many colonies are dying. There’s a nasty parasite called the Varroa Mite, which they can’t get rid of. There are also bee-killing pesticides. And there are just fewer places in the country where a bee can find plenty of flowering plants that provide nectar and pollen.

That was especially true this past year. The same drought that left Midwestern corn fields parched and wilting also dried up wildflowers and starved the bees.

That was a natural disaster. But May Berenbaum, who chairs the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says that most of the changes in the landscape are the result of people’s decisions about what to do with their land.

“I just wish there were more incentives for people — not just farmers — to plant a more diversified landscape that provides nutritional resources for all kinds of pollinators,” she says. “Plant more flowers! And be a little more tolerant of the weeds in the garden.”

More controversial is the role of pesticides. Some beekeepers and environmentalists are calling for tighter restrictions on the use of one particular class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Europe is about to ban some uses of these pesticides. But U.S. farmers and pesticide companies are opposed to any such move here, and the Environmental Protection Agency says it’s not yet convinced that this would help bees very much.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/05/07/181990532/bee-deaths-may-have-reached-a-crisis-point-for-crops

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Last Supper: Centipede Dies Eating Way Out of Snake Belly

A Serbian herpetologist was out snake-tagging in Macedonia when she came across a bizarre find: A young viper, with a centipede’s head poking out of its abdomen.

It took Ljiljana Tomovic 10 seconds to figure out what it was: The snake had swallowed the centipede, which had then tried to cut a path to freedom … by eating its way out.

Some time during its violent dash, the centipede died. Perhaps the snake’s venom kicked in — that’s Tomovic’s best guess.

The island of Golem Grad in Macedonia’s Lake Prespa, where the pair were found, is also known as “Snake Island” and for good reason: it’s crawling with snakes, lizards and tortoises. Adult vipers chow down on small rodents, leaving the younger crowd to snack on centipedes.

It seems this time “the young snake gravely underestimated the size and strength of the centipede,” Tomovic, biology professor at the University of Belgrade, and her colleagues write in a brief report.

After dissolving (or digesting) the snake’s bones and gut the centipede was wearing its skin like a cloak. “We found that only the snake’s body wall remained — the entire volume of its body was occupied by the centipede,” Tomovic and co. write in Ecologica Montenegrina.

Some centipede species are equally cavalier and ferocious. They’ll lunge into battle with animals many times their size like mice and snakes. The foot-long Amazonian giant centipede hunts and eats bats.

Tomovic doesn’t know of any other centipede that has eaten its way out. “It’s possible that this situation is not so uncommon, just we did not have opportunity to see it until now,” she told NBC News via Skype.

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/weird-science/last-supper-centipede-dies-eating-way-out-snake-belly-n80071

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

More than 10 percent of emergency room visits involving energy drinks result in hospitalization

More than 10 percent of emergency room visits by people age 12 or older for problems involving energy drinks are serious enough to result in hospitalization, the federal government warned this week.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said that 20,783 people visited emergency rooms in 2011 for difficulties involving the high-caffeine drinks, which are heavily marketed to youths and young adults. Eleven percent of them were hospitalized.

The data showed that 12 percent of people who had consumed only the energy drinks were hospitalized, while eight percent of those who had consumed an energy drink in combination with alcohol or drugs needed in-patient care. The total number of emergency room visits involving the beverages doubled between 2007 and 2011.

The flavored drinks — which include the brands Red Bull, Monster Energy and the smaller 5-Hour Energy shots — can contain as much as 500 milligrams of caffeine, which is five times as much as a typical cup of coffee and 10 times as much as a 12-ounce cola, according to SAMHSA. Ingesting that amount can cause health problems such as insomnia, racing heartbeat and increased blood pressure, the agency said in a bulletin issued March 13.

Even as their sales have soared, the drinks have been linked to “marijuana use, sexual risk taking, fighting, smoking, drinking and prescription drug misuse” among college students, the agency reported in 2013.

In 2012, the New York Times reported that the Food and Drug Administration had received 13 reports of deaths over the previous four years that cited the possible involvement of 5-Hour Energy and five fatalities that mentioned the possibility of Monster Energy being involved. A year ago, a group of physicians, researchers and public health experts urged the Food and Drug Administration to protect children and teens by restricting the amount of caffeine in energy drinks.

Energy drink companies have said that their products contain about the same amount of caffeine as strongly brewed coffee. Energy drinks and shots are usually sold as dietary supplements or food products, which don’t have caffeine limits. Other ingredients in energy drinks, such as taurine and ginseng, aren’t regulated by the FDA.

Studies have set different limits for the amount of caffeine an adult can safely consume, ranging from 2oo to 400 milligrams a day. More than 200 milligrams can be dangerous for children and adolescents, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against giving energy drinks to children.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/03/19/more-than-10-percent-of-emergency-room-visits-involving-energy-drinks-result-in-hospitalization/

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

As World’s Kids Get Fatter, Doctors Turn to the Knife

Daifailluh al-Bugami was just a year old when his parents noticed that his lips turned blue as he slept at night. It was his weight, doctors said, putting pressure on his delicate airways.

Now Daifailluh is 3, and at 61 pounds he is nearly double the typical weight of a child his age. So the Bugamis are planning the once unthinkable: To have their toddler undergo bariatric surgery to permanently remove part of his stomach in hopes of reducing his appetite and staving off a lifetime of health problems.

That such a young child would be considered for weight-loss surgery—something U.S. surgeons generally won’t do—underscores the growing health crisis here and elsewhere in the Middle East. Widespread access to unhealthy foods, coupled with sedentary behavior brought on by wealth and the absence of a dieting and exercise culture, have caused obesity levels in Saudi Arabia and many other Gulf states to approach or even exceed those in Western countries.

While solid national data are hard to come by, some experts say that obesity has turned into a serious health problem for Saudi children, with an estimated 9.3% of school-age youths meeting the World Health Organization’s body-mass-index criteria for obesity, according to research published in 2013 in the Saudi Journal of Obesity. About 18% of school-age children in the U.S. were considered obese in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Daifailluh’s doctor, Aayed Alqahtani, is a leading advocate of a radical approach to the problem. Patients travel to him from across the country and the Gulf region. Over the past seven years, he has performed bariatric surgery on nearly 100 children under the age of 14, which experts on the procedure believe is the largest number performed by one doctor on young children.

Dr. Alqahtani’s work is being watched amid a global debate about the appropriate age for bariatric surgery. In the U.S., the minimum is generally considered 14. The World Health Organization, in a 2012 report on pediatric bariatric surgery, concluded that there is a dearth of data available on the long-term outcomes of the procedure in children and that a “conservative approach” is necessary until long-term studies are conducted.

Bariatric surgery has been embraced as an effective and relatively safe procedure for morbidly obese adults. The concern with children revolves mostly around nonsurgical risks, such as how the abrupt change in nutrition could affect long-term brain development and sexual maturation.

Dr. Alqahtani says the decision to operate on Daifailluh is a difficult one because of his age. But after nearly two years of consultation with the clinic, Daifailluh’s obesity-related medical problems haven’t gotten any better. “We should not deprive our patients from bariatric surgery based on their age alone,” the surgeon says. “If they have [medical] conditions that threaten their lives, then we should not deny the bariatric surgery.”

The worsening obesity problem here also is manifesting itself in other ways. Some 20% of the Saudi adult population has Type 2 diabetes, a condition linked to obesity, according to the International Diabetes Federation, compared with 8.3% in the U.S., according to the CDC. The cost of diabetes treatment in Saudi Arabia is expected to rise to $2.4 billion in 2015, more than triple that spent in 2010, according to a recent study in the Journal of Family and Community Medicine.

Obesity, particularly among women, has become rampant across much of the Middle East, particularly in oil-rich Gulf nations. In Kuwait, almost half of adult women are considered obese, while 44% of Saudi women and 45% of Qatari women meet the criteria, according to the International Association of the Study of Obesity. Experts says Saudis, in particular, are more likely to carry certain genes linked to obesity.

Saudi lifestyle and parenting practices may exacerbate the problem, according to doctors at weight-loss clinics. Nannies or cooks are often employed, so parents may not know what their children are eating. Saudis often are coaxed to eat large quantities of food when visiting relatives and friends.

In Riyadh, physical activity is limited, particularly for girls, and high temperatures and few green spaces make walking difficult. School gym classes generally take place just once a week. Western-style fast food is abundant, particularly at the air-conditioned malls frequented by children and families.

Bariatric surgery has become an accepted treatment among obese Saudi adults and is paid for by the government. An estimated 11,000 bariatric surgeries were performed on Saudis in 2012, according to Dr. Alqahtani.

The surgery, of which there are several types, generally reduces the size of the stomach and, with some techniques, rearranges the digestive path to bypass much of the intestines. Some types are reversible but generally considered less effective. After the surgery, patients must eat very small meals—ideally for the rest of their lives. Many studies have shown that adults, on average, lose over 50% of their body weight after surgery.

Increasingly, youngsters are heading to the operating room here, where parents see no other options. These days, Dr. Alqahtani performs surgery on three to four youths a week.

“I have seen in my clinic patients who cannot sleep lying down—they sleep sitting—because of sleep apnea, and their age is 10 years, sometimes 5 years,” says Dr. Alqahtani, a professor in the college of medicine and an obesity specialist at King Saud University.

Pediatric surgeons in the U.S. say they also are facing demands from families to operate on younger patients. Thomas Inge, surgical director of the Surgical Weight Loss Program for Teens at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says he will be operating on a 12-year-old later this month. He says that as younger and younger children are referred for consideration of surgery, care teams will need to carefully weigh the pros and cons.

Evan Nadler, a pediatric surgeon at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is considering doing the operation on two young children. He and the family of a 7-year-old D.C. boy have agreed that surgery likely is the best option, he says. The family of an 8-year-old from the Middle East has decided to wait until their daughter is older and can better understand the surgery, he says.

Many doctors say they aren’t ready to follow Dr. Alqahtani yet. Kirk Reichard, chairman of the pediatric-surgery committee for the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, notes that there are no data to show that surgery doesn’t affect young children’s long-term sexual maturation or cognitive functioning. The brain, particularly in growing children, is sensitive to nutrition and needs enough energy to mature properly. Nutrition also has the potential to affect hormones linked to sexual maturation.

Dr. Alqahtani says he has seen evidence of normal growth following the procedure in his under-14 patients, many of whom are now four years postsurgery.

“We will certainly use his experience to inform us in some ways, but [Dr. Alqahtani’s work] won’t take the place of trials,” says Dr. Reichard.

One of the main criticisms from some weight-loss experts about performing the surgery on those under 14 is that changes in diet and exercise can prevent further weight gain. In addition, says Dr. Reichard, “there are a lot of other therapies short of surgery that can be helpful in managing” related medical conditions.

Saudi Arabia’s Dr. Alqahtani says he requires his child patients to enroll in a weight-loss program for at least six months because patients able to lose even a bit tend to have better outcomes after surgery. But he says that by the time families come to him, their children have such substantial health problems it is generally too late for diet and exercise alone.

Dr. Alqahtani was trained as a surgeon at McGill University in Montreal and at a minimally invasive surgery center in Denver. When he returned home to Riyadh in 2002, he says, he was inundated with pediatric patients so obese they were suffering from advanced stages fatty liver disease, diabetes and sleep apnea, a disorder in which patients repeatedly stop breathing for short periods during sleep—all diseases typically not seen until middle age.

Om Abdullah Asiri says she tried to help her 11-year-old son lose weight by restricting his eating at home. But he would eat fast food while out with his friends and plays videogames for hours on end, she says. “I can’t control him outside the home,” she says.

He grew to 250 pounds. His body-mass index—a calculation that uses weight and height to estimate percentage of body fat—was 61. A BMI of 40 or above is the most severe obesity category, according to the World Health Organization.

Ms. Asiri traveled with her son, Abdullah, from their home in Abha, more than 600 miles south of Riyadh, to see Dr. Alqahtani for the operation. Lying on a hospital bed the day before his surgery, Abdullah said he is “happy and ready” for the surgery.

His mother says surgery is the best solution for Abdullah, who has high blood pressure, fatty liver, hip pain and severe sleep apnea. Afterward, he won’t have a choice but to eat better, she says. “The surgery will make him change.” She says he dreams of playing soccer with his friends.

The procedure Dr. Alqahtani performs is called the gastric sleeve, which slices off a portion of the stomach but leaves the rest of the digestive tract intact. It is gaining in popularity because of its good weight-loss results and minimal side effects. The operation, conducted through tiny incisions in the abdomen, takes him just 30 minutes.

One recent morning, he operated on a 20-year-old, two 17-year-olds, a 12-year-old, then Abdullah, who was then 10.

Complications can include bleeding in about 10% of cases, and leaking and blood clots in 1% to 2%. Dr. Alqahtani says he has had only two leaks in 1,700 cases, neither in children.

Dr. Alqahtani says each of his pediatric patients has lost at least some weight, and nearly three-quarters have lost more than 50% of their initial body weight. Abdullah has lost close to 50 pounds since his surgery about two months ago, according to his 29-year-old brother, Ahmad.

Dr. Alqahtani says about 90% of his patients have seen medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension clear up, according to a paper scheduled for publication in the journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases. He published outcomes on 108 children in the peer-reviewed Annals of Surgery journal in 2012.

Recovery involves a six-week transition diet starting with clear liquids and puréed food. Patients eventually can resume solid foods at much-reduced quantities. At first, patients feel full after just 1 to 2 spoonfuls of food, though they gradually can eat more as their stomachs stretch.

Some bariatric-surgery experts have raised questions about whether children are capable of maintaining the restrictive lifetime diet after surgery or whether they will sabotage the procedure when they become teenagers and have a greater autonomy to eat what they want. Some experts question whether parents should make such a drastic and permanent decision for a child.

The decision has been excruciating for the family of Daifailluh, the toddler from Ta’if. Daifailluh was referred to Dr. Alqahtani’s clinic about two years ago after difficulty breathing sent him to the intensive-care unit at a hospital in his hometown. Doctors there determined the toddler was seriously overweight. His mother, Hessa Salem al-Bugami, says she tried to improve his diet but didn’t have good guidance until she came to Dr. Alqahtani’s clinic, a trip of nearly 500 miles from Ta’if. “I feel like I failed,” she says.

At first, the family wanted Daifailluh to lose weight without the operation. Ms. Bugami says her son has always had an “open appetite” and never refuses food. She says she feeds him brown bread and boiled chicken and rice, and limits his portions, hiding the rest of the food. But his obesity hasn’t improved, she says.

Daifailluh will cry and sometimes throw temper tantrums when he wants food, she says. She has tried distracting him with toys, locking the two of them in a room to play for so long she ended up missing her own meal.

“When he starts crying, it’s hard not to give him any of the food, to make the crying stop,” she says. “I feel like I work really hard, but it’s just too much on me.”

Daifailluh, who was hospitalized again for pulmonary problems, is waiting for a surgery date, which will come if he gets final medical clearance from Dr. Alqahtani.

The entire family is worried about the surgery, particularly the effects of anesthesia and whether the surgery will reduce his appetite too much. Ms. Bugami also worries that her son will regain the weight when he leaves the house eventually and is no longer under her watch.

But that is a concern for another day. “Right now is the most scary situation,” she says.

Write to Shirley S. Wang at shirley.wang@wsj.com

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304851104579360992538215578?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304851104579360992538215578.html

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Reality show snake-handling preacher dies — of snakebite

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By Ashley Fantz, CNN

A Kentucky pastor who starred in a reality show about snake-handling in church has died — of a snakebite.

Jamie Coots died Saturday evening after refusing to be treated, Middleborough police said.

On “Snake Salvation,” the ardent Pentecostal believer said that he believed that a passage in the Bible suggests poisonous snakebites will not harm believers as long as they are anointed by God. The practice is illegal in most states, but still goes on, primarily in the rural South.

Coots was a third-generation “serpent handler” and aspired to one day pass the practice and his church, Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name, on to his adult son, Little Cody.

The National Geographic show featured Coots and cast handling all kinds of poisonous snakes — copperheads, rattlers, cottonmouths. The channel’s website shows a picture of Coots, goateed, wearing a fedora. “Even after losing half of his finger to a snake bite and seeing others die from bites during services,” Coots “still believes he must take up serpents and follow the Holiness faith,” the website says.

In February 2013, Coots was given one year of probation for having crossed into Tennessee with venomous snakes. He was previously arrested in 2008 for keeping 74 snakes in his home, according to National Geographic. Tennessee banned snake handling in 1947 after five people were bitten in churches over two years’ time, the channel says on the show site.

On one episode, Coots, who collected snakes, is shown trying to wrest a Western diamondback out of its nook under a rock deep in East Texas. He’s wearing a cowboy hat and a T-shirt that says “The answer to Y2K – JESUS.”

The pastor is helped by his son and a couple of church members.

“He’ll give up, just sooner or later,” one of the members says. “Just be careful. Ease him out.”

The group bags two snakes, which a disappointed Coots says hardly justifies the trip to Texas.

“Catching two snakes the first day, ‘course we’d hoped for more,” Coots says in the video. “We knew that the next day we was gonna have to try to hunt harder and hope for more snakes.”

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/16/us/snake-salvation-pastor-bite/index.html?c=homepage-t

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.