Two unrelated items today from the Washington Post struck a personal note
First, Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who started a milblog (the Sandbox) to help get the troops blogging overseas more stateside exposure, released a collection by the same name today (War Dispatches to Doonesbury.) I haven't seen it yet, but it should read like a good epistolary novel, except it's true.
I have had the pleasure of corresponding with one or two of the soldier contributors, and if you haven't already done so, you might find the book or the site of interest. Slate online magazine also carries the Sandbox feature.
Second, disturbing studies of new drug-resistant strains of the Staph bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), were published today (Drug-Resistant Staph Germ's Toll Is Higher Than Thought.) Statistics show that MRSA kills more people annually in the U.S. than H.I.V-AIDS, Parkinson's disease, emphesema or homocide.
Coincident with the news, a friend was diagnosed and sent to a nearby VA hospital with MRSA, to spend several days on an antibiotic IV drip. These bacteria are resistant to traditional "first-line" antibiotics, and can only be treated with vancomycin, the current antibiotic of last resort.
"'This is a significant public health problem. We should be very worried,' said Scott K. Fridkin, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC.
"It's really just the tip of the iceberg," said Elizabeth A. Bancroft, a medical epidemiologist at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health who wrote an editorial in JAMA accompanying the new studies. "It is astounding."
"MRSA, which is spread by casual contact, rapidly turns minor abscesses and other skin infections into serious health problems, including painful, disfiguring "necrotizing" abscesses that eat away tissue."
Drug companies have not been swift to develop new antibiotics because the financial incentive is not there.
Another bacterium (Streptococcus pneumoniae) has also become drug-resistant, and researchers "attributed its resistance to a combination of the overuse of antibiotics and the introduction of a vaccine that protects against (ear) infection."
My friend had just finished spending several weeks in the waters off of our coast, waters with a high human fecal content, sadly. I won't be testing the waters anytime soon.