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Dec 26 2012

Still Angry But Here are Some Results…

So It’s been more than a week since I started asking people two questions… And here are some answers…

1. What is the Most Common Genetic Disorder?

The Most common disorder in humans was an interesting question. It’s a question that most people who live in western nations get wrong because of the accessibility of treatment. It is a condition that is often “fetishised” and many people have taken to wearing the treatment prescription as a fashion statement.

To suffer from it has traditionally been a sign of weakness. Peter Parker’s Spider Bite cures it. Superman claims to have this problem when he hides as Clark Kent. To have it is a mark of “nerdiness” because of an old issue with the disease (Modern methods of detection do not require patient interaction. But prior to this it was highly subjective…) where if left untreated would cause children to become introvert, anti-social and read more books and generally lose early coordination development. The clumsy nerd stereotype is nothing without the humble spectacles… Glasses.

The disease of Myopia is genetic. It is the most common genetic disorder in the world. It’s just that glasses are cheap and readily available so most of us don’t realise how bad this issue is. However to many people this is a disease. And it is one of the major causes of correctable vision loss.

2. How do Shoes Save Lives?

A lot of people say “cuts” and “tetanus”. You have to remember that most people throughout history have not worn shoes. Our doggies don’t wear shoes and manage just fine. Our cats really cannot wear shoes, not without being incredibly pissed off, confused and very clumsy.

To realise it we have to realise that sometimes you are killed in little ways. Why is hookworm so bad? We have plenty of things living inside with little to no ill effect? What’s wrong with a few hookworms? What’s wrong with ascarias? The two of these are the biggest parasites of human beings…

Hookworms are pretty tiny, between 5 – 11 mm… Ascaris is however a pretty big worm. They can reach between 15 to 30 cm in length (they can infect humans in some stages through contact with feet because we keep touching our feet and can easily bring the eggs into the house and infect tonnes of people. They aren’t as pro-active as hookworms which actively burrow through the skin on your feet…).

The hook worm and round worm consume blood. Unlike the tapeworm which just eats food they actively require blood. Now each one may not drink that much blood per day but they drink a sizeable amount… If you combine that with the already low dietary iron of indians (Western standards of anaemia aren’t used because the Indian average lies well inside the anaemic band) and vegetarian diets in particular you create a massive tax on the RBC production resulting in increased anaemia. A lot of people in India seem to have intractable anaemia that improves after a bout of amoebic dysentery because the drug used kills the worms too. In fact a single high dose of albendazole is often given with regularity to kill any infestation.

A complex solution is the proper disposal of human faeces. A simple one is the usage of shoes.

Oh and both hook worm and ascaris can kill you. Inflammation of the lung leading to exudate and pneumothorax. One of the things they can do is do something similar to what Ed suffered from (In India that’s what our go to diagnosis for fluid of unknown aetiology) is. That’s because the worms enter the blood as larva and pop out through the lungs, crawl up and are swallowed. Ascaris especially is prone to being sneezed out. Oh and sometimes you discover the worm the hard way (It’s why stool samples are always taken.). When you do surgery without rhythm (and with general anaesthesia) you attract the worm which comes boiling out of the mouth because the general anaesthesia irritates them.

In chronic and severe infestations ascaris can cause the knotting of the small intestine and obstruct it causing gangrene and bowel rupture leading to peritonitis and death.

These are diseases that we have made extinct, or not a problem any more so we don’t realise how difficult life is for people who don’t have these two things we consider basic. If you want to see what people face? Just do the glasses thing. Take them off… Walk around and think how weird your life would be without such a fashion item that is necessary. Then think about the people across the globe who never ever get the chance to get one. It is estimated that 70% of India would not be able to afford one. Around similar figures for Africa.

It’s why people like Orbis are so important. If you wish to put an atheist spin on it they cure more blind people than Jesus. Jesus may have washed the feet of his apostles but you can protect the lives of people through the simple gift of shoes.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Susannah

    I have seen a little girl (10 or so) sneezing up a great number of large ascaris worms. She was very sick, had come to Mexico City from her back-country village to see a doctor.

    I never associated ascaris with bare feet, rather with general lack of sanitation, and grossly polluted water. But I see your point.

  2. 2
    Avicenna

    The eggs can survive a fair while under places like nails and it is awfully easy to get it into your house if you don’t be careful…

    It’s a pretty widespread parasite. And yes you can sneeze out worms… Always fun…

    Enjoy your Christmas readers!!!

  3. 3
    serena

    For Christmas this year I got new glasses, new boots and a flu shot. Truly, I am grateful for these modern comforts ^_^

  4. 4
    The Phytophactor

    Let’s not get sloppy about the use of the term “disorder”, a genetic or nutritional medical condition, and the term “disease” caused by a disease organism. They shouldn’t be interchangeable.

  5. 5
    Valde

    You know what royally pissed me off?

    Some assholes had the gall to suggest that the reason myopia persists is because of *socialism*.

    Yes, b/c of socialism in early hunter gatherer and farming societies, people with myopia were not just killed outright, and now the human race is afflicted with a bunch of people needed glasses. All because of fucking socialism, and how dare we treat those weaker than us with any sort of compassion.

    Fucking right wing fucktards they piss me off!@!!

  6. 6
    acerbas

    “The disease of Myopia is genetic. It is the most common genetic disorder in the world. It’s just that glasses are cheap and readily available so most of us don’t realise how bad this issue is. However to many people this is a disease. And it is one of the major causes of correctable vision loss.”

    An utterly silly statement. If myopia were genetic the human species would have perished a long time ago. Hunters would not have been able to read the spoor and spear the game upon which survival depended. Myopia is a disease of civilization, specifically education and reading. My vision was fine up until age 6 when I was taught to read and became addicted to reading. I would even read by flashlight under the bedcovers at night. Pretty soon I had severe myopia. My brother, who preferred outdoor activities, never developed it. If you do an epidemiological study you will find that myopia is prevalent in societies in which education is valued and a key to success, and not in rural, agrarian societies. Stupid, stupid premise and conclusion, totally devoid of empirical evidence.

  7. 7
    jufulu

    @6 acerbas. Citation pls.

  8. 8
    Valde

    @acerbas

    wow, your anecdotal evidence has convinced me! And I am sure it will convince geneticists too!

  9. 9
    Avicenna

    An utterly silly statement. If myopia were genetic the human species would have perished a long time ago. Hunters would not have been able to read the spoor and spear the game upon which survival depended. Myopia is a disease of civilization, specifically education and reading. My vision was fine up until age 6 when I was taught to read and became addicted to reading. I would even read by flashlight under the bedcovers at night. Pretty soon I had severe myopia. My brother, who preferred outdoor activities, never developed it. If you do an epidemiological study you will find that myopia is prevalent in societies in which education is valued and a key to success, and not in rural, agrarian societies. Stupid, stupid premise and conclusion, totally devoid of empirical evidence.

    Myopia shows a very strong genetic link and runs in families. It is however multifactorial so doesn’t follow mendellian genetics.

    In addition you fail to understand how genes survive… In fact you may have mentioned a reason for the trigger of specialisation. People with poor eyesight could have gone into tool manufacture and learnt skills that were vital for a “tribe” to exist. And you have to remember that humans are pretty social and take care of our weak… Someone has to MAKE the damn spear… And yes early myopics may have straight up “died”. But later particularly after we invented lenses myopia gave it’s sufferers a behaviour quirk that made them useful.

    Reading doesn’t cause your children to get myopia, myopia makes your children read. Vision is vital to play and if your vision is afflicted then from birth you do not develop in the same way. You avoid vision games and prefer coordination games. You prefer things that don’t move about because you struggle to deal with it. In short? You read books more. Because you can visualise things by correcting the focal length of the book…

    Do you know what causes Myopia? Large eyeballs. High length in particular. Most of the refraction in your eye is done by the surface of the eye rather than the lens. Having a long eyeball causes myopia and no amount of “reading” will cause it to occur. Particularly since I can show you millions of myopics who cannot or do not read books.

    No amount of reading will make your eyes grow longer…

  10. 10
    unnullifier

    I heard the “Myopia is a disease of civilization” myth when I was a child. At the time I accepted it as truth; however in retrospect it seems more plausible that it was just yet another variation of the myth that the “real” cause of our health problems is our modern life style.

  11. 11
    Fanty

    I remember hearing that inadequate exposure to sunlight during childhood years results in elongated eyeballs, which people in China cite as the reason why there’s a big near-sightedness epidemic in there. But I don’t know, not every study you hear about is correct so maybe that was wrong.

  12. 12
    vakibs

    I don’t think it is modern civilization per se, but the shift to an agricultural civilization has substantially altered the genetic makeup of humans. People who were previously eating a diet full of iron and vitamins (meat, roots, nuts and fruit) have shifted to a mostly monocultural source of nutrition. It has been chronicled that this made people shorter than in the previous ages. It also probably made them more disease-prone.

    Similarly, modern inventions in the food industry such as preservatives, growth hormones, sugar additives, artificial colorants etc. have also altered the dietary nutrients that are consumed by people. It is not necessarily for the worse, sometimes it may be for the better. But the science of nutrition is surprisingly little researched even in today’s age. We will surely know better in the times to come.

  13. 13
    anne mariehovgaard

    I am seriously myopic (-8 glasses), but I think I would still be a valuable member of a stone age tribe: my memory for events and verbal material is very, very good. I could be their almanac/library/instruction manual/teacher ;)

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