Monthly Archives: October 2011

Should I get the flu vaccine this year?

Although, the 2011-2012 combination in the flu vaccine, is the same as the 2010-2011, an effective way you can protect yourself against a flu virus infection is through vaccination.

The Flu Virus

However, current vaccination approaches rely on achieving a good match between circulating flu virus strains and the isolates included in the vaccine formulation.  The recommendation is made by the World Health Organization  collaborating centers. Such a match is often difficult due to a combination of factors, one being that the recommendations are made six months prior to the initiation of the flu season, and the flu viruses are constantly undergoing change.

What if the formulation of the vaccine this year is the same as the previous year? The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advice that for optimal protection it is safest to get vaccinated against the flu every year. The CDC recommends all people above six months get vaccinated annually; especially the young and the elderly and gives information specific to the 2011-2012 season, including the vaccine formulation, which is exactly the same as the 2010-2011 combination, but is different from the 2009-2010 and earlier combinations. Some non-vaccinated people got quite ill and weak for a very long time in the fall of 2009 from what could have been the H1N1 flu. The vaccinated people apparently were protected or only had mild flu-like symptoms and lost little productive time.

Get vaccinated annually: A article by a Globe staff, Deborah Kotz, gives a simple explanation why one needs to get immunized annually in spite of the same combination of strains in the vaccine. If you are naturally infected by the flu virus, your body can retain that immune memory for a life-time. On the other hand, when you are vaccinated by the same flu virus, your body’s immune memory becomes weaker over time, and we do not know currently whether you will have an appropriate immune response if infected next year.

According the CDC, certain people should get advice on whether they should get vaccinated; especially those with egg allergy or latex allergy.

If you have an egg allergy:

A Scientist Cultivating the Flu vaccine in Live Eggs - A labor intensive effort

When you have to make a decision about getting a flu vaccine, which is the vaccine currently grown only in egg in most countries, then you should seriously consider medical supervision because you may have options. They are rather limited in the USA versus Europe and I have detailed current strategies in a previous article on flu vaccination and egg allergy.  The options in Europe are quite different from those currently available in the USA. You may also read “Next generation of flu vaccines coming of age: Cell – based technology may replace egg – based flu vaccines“, by Teddi Dineley Johnson.

What is the combination in the 2011-2012 flu Vaccine? There is an international effort to create that single, life-time flu vaccine, but until then the vaccine combination will need to be reassessed every year. The 2011-2012 combination in the flu vaccine, which is the same as the 2010-2011,  is:

A/Cal/7/2009 (H1N1) – like

A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2) – like

B/Brisbane/60/2008 – like antigens

If you have a latex allergy: There is both the traditional injection version and a new, intradermal version vaccine available this year.  If you have a latex allergy you may want to take advice and choose a latex free version. The package insert says that the dermal version prefilled syringe tip caps (Fluzone) may contain natural rubber latex to which you may have an allergic reaction if you are allergic to latex. The intradermal version is specially designed to not hurt at all, unlike a needle in the arm version, which many find painful. Either way, your choice of vaccination this year will have the same combination of flu virus.


Filed under Flu, Health

Ginger – 5 reasons why you should include it in your daily diet

Cranberry sauce with Ginger - A Whole Foods suggested Recipe

Zingiber officinale or ginger is native to Asia, where it has been known to have been used by cultures over four thousand years.  In Asia it is a popular accompaniment to most meal plans or used as a cooking spice. Scientists have shown the presence of several volatile oils and pungent phenols and are researching the active ingredients for traditional therapies. Click here for hundreds of photographs of ginger rhizome, the flowering plant and illustrations (although some are of animals and people named ginger).

A Ginger Rhizome at the Grocery Store

GINGER RESEARCH – 5 major health benefits

The ginger rhizome extracts could reduce bacterial load (Gaus et. al., 2009); have strong anti-oxidative activity (Kikuzaki & Nakatani, 2006); and have potential anticancer agents (Miyoshi et. al., 2003), especially gastric cancer chemo-prevention (Gaus et. al., 2009). Ginger extracts have strong inhibitory effects on COX-2 enzyme activity, an enzyme responsible for inflammation and pain (Tjendraputra et. al., 2001).


Ginger has been used fresh or as a dried powder. The rhizome of the plant holds the active ingredients used in traditional therapies. The fresh rhizome is the form in which ginger is sold and it is used in Asia in hot, boiling teas which probably assists in extracting the active ingredients. Herbalists supply it as extracts, tinctures, capsules and oils. For more information on the biology, and volatile and non-volatile constituents of ginger visit the University of Maryland Medical Center site which includes ginger on its list of top ten foods that prevent inflammation.

Alpinia purpurata - Hawaiian Red Ginger plant in the field

Ginger has been traditionally used to treat:

The common cold; Motion sickness; Chemotherapy nausea; and Inflammation.

It is so easy to include a little amount of ginger in your daily diet. Doing so may prevent some inflammation from bacteria, and pain and certain types of cancer. Below we include examples of how different people all around the world are doing so.


Please, visit the sites below with links for the ginger recipes by different authors, several creative and delicious international ones from our wordpress community:

1) Hot tea – soothing

Add slices of fresh ginger to boiling water and continue to boil for two minutes, add favorite tea bag or loose tea and steep following directions one to nine minutes. Visit this amazing Boston tea site for ginger teas.

2) Alcoholic – delightful

Visit Aimee’s site for a ginger mojito.

3) Fabulous chicken meal – great for hungry men.

Tested by brothers and made by a loving sister.

4) Healthy fruit sauce – tested by busy graduate student.

Uses a teaspoon of dried ginger in a apple-pear sauce.

5) A mouth-watering apricot chicken recipe.

Uses ginger powder and incorporates caramelized figs.

6) A fish recipe – ginger glazed salmon.
Utilizes the juice of fresh ginger.

7) The classic gingerbread man.

A recipe that makes lots of ginger cookies using ginger powder.

8) An amazingly beautiful chicken soup for the common cold.

9) Apple peel, jalapeno, ginger jelly – Wow!

A creative young man came up with this clever “Keep the doctor away” sweet, spicy and HOT recipe that you can keep in a jar.

10) A delicious chocolate cake with ginger by ‘Eatmeetswest’ is simply delicious.

This cake makes it easier for the young creator of this AWESOME recipe to cope with those Australian winters.

The main ingredient is ginger and this recipe uses a generous helping of it! The photos and step by step guide are so helpful on this site.

11) The cranberry sauce with ginger sauce recipe from Whole Foods.
Perfect, for family fall gatherings like Thanksgiving, or a year – round recipe for sour and spicy good times.

GROWING GINGER – at home :

According to a ginger enthusiast in Hawaii, it is not too complicated to grow ginger at home. It would be fun to try it to have a constant fresh supply at home.

Hawaiian Ginger - 5 days after leaves noticed on planting

Hawaiian ginger - One month after sprouting


Filed under Health, Medicinal spice, Spice

Swimming in the Ocean may be healthier than your swimming pool

Cold water swimming: An internal medicine specialist, Dr Walter Bortz, at Stanford University School of Medicine recommends the European tradition of saunas and cold water swimming after training for it. He cites Darwin’s, “…of the Indians of Tierra del Fuego, bobbing up and down in the iceberg – Laden waters of the Magellan Passage”.

Health benefits of swimming in ocean water

Polio virus 1 is spread by water.  So, what about ocean water swimming? Apparently, ocean water inactivates the polio virus.  A researcher showed that marine (ocean) water reduces or inactivates the polio virus in 5-6 days at 24 degree centigrade.  This ocean water was from the gulf of mexico.  However, since the researcher did not specifically advertise the Gulf of mexico, I doubt if the researcher would gain by increasing health tourism to the ocean in that area.

Polar Bear Participants about to enter the ocean

A Polar Bear Enthusiast

In all likelihood, ocean water from any region of the world should have the same inactivating effect on polio virus 1 and perhaps similar viruses.  We have heard about the healing ocean water of Bath, England; and the healing ocean water of Barbados. Other researchers have been trying to understand how ocean water inactivates water pathogens like the polio virus but they are still searching for answers with papers like “Potentiation of virucidal activity of sterilized natural water“. Suffice to summarize that scientists fail to understand so far what makes sea water so dangerous for what humans would consider pathogens, safe for other micro-flora, and hence, safe for humans to swim.

Now, why is it considered healing to swim in ocean water or breathe the ocean air?Again, scientists have no explanation. However, they have been trying to re-create the communal baths of ancient Rome and India in our modern, chlorinated swimming pools. Largely, they have been successful with the disinfection provided chlorine. However, chlorine does not remove all human pathogens. Mycobacterium species can evade chlorine. Also, chlorine is used in lower doses in drinking and swimming water nowadays, than when it was first introduced to lower other health risks from high exposure to chlorine related secondary products.

Polar Bear members in the Frigid Waters

So, what about chlorination of drinking water? It was highly controversial when it was introduced in drinking water to rid it of pathogens. Most city water is now made safer to drink with chlorination although environmental safety guides have recommended adding a filter to remove fluoride and lead from old pipes.

Australia, since 2006, has asked residents to collect rain water to carry them through drought conditions. This has been the norm in India even until the 19th century with no known adverse issues; and probably was used in other ancient cultures, which I am unaware of. The Maharaja of Jaipur, of India had a simple but effective rain water collecting system that ran throughout his palace, on the ground. I recently visited in 2006 and was impressed that such an extensive but simple solution to water shortage occurred in the 19th century in a country labelled “under-developed” by the Western world.

Rain water: Floods and heavy rain is causing havoc among residents all over the world with global warming. I wonder if any country other than Australia has made it a policy to collect rain water for house – hold purposes. With global warming and rising water levels it makes sense to catch the millions of gallons of rain water before it hits the ground and is considered a nuisance. I am surprised even modern India is ignoring it’s own ancient art of storing rain water. Australian scientists have started studying the presence of pathogens in rain water collected from roof-tops and are concerned about bird feces and other issues.

The problems that Australia has with collecting rain water will obviously be worked out. However, unless one begins to see the obvious health benefits and advantages of swimming in natural, healthier ocean water over chlorinated swimming pools, we cannot begin to make our children healthier than our grandparents. In addition, with growing populations we need more water. An obvious solution is to look at the clouds and collect rain water directly in each house-hold through modern systems that engineers can innovate to collect and “sterilize” for individual houses or small communities.

Links to consider: On Dr Walter Bortz’s recommendation, you may want to consider becoming a member of the ‘Polar Bears Club‘ located around the world.

Also, you may want to research methods to conserve rain water. Join the ‘Rain water harvesting‘ committee.

Related Articles
Destroying the Holy river Ganges with a Dam before we have understood the healing properties of this river
Are we less healthy than our Grandparents?


Filed under Health

Food Allergy and the CD 14 gene

Dr. Sanna Goyert, armed with a PhD from New York University in 1983, proceeded to devote her laboratory in New York city to find a cure for sepsis, a severe immune reaction to a bacterial infection that was deadly if not intervened aggressively. In less than a decade, she discovered the human CD 14 gene and history was made! She has published over 100 research papers, holds 2 major patents licensed to companies finding cures, and has been awarded the prestigious Stohlman Scholars award from the Leukemia Society of America. Now, why would a scientist be rewarded by the Leukemia Society, after discovering the CD 14 gene and how might cells clear severe bacterial infection faster in the absence of the CD 14 gene? Why is the human CD 14 gene so important? That is the story I am attempting to tell here.

Paris hosted an international workshop in 1982 to classify the different types of white blood cells based on their cell surface molecules, which were named CD (Cell Differentiation). Today, in 2011 more than 320 CDs have been documented. The CD classification is often used to associate a cell with a certain immune function, and yet, only a few of them have been characterized. Generously funded research led to the discovery of the most notorious function of a white blood surface molecule, CD 4; it is the molecule to which the HIV (virus) binds, along with a second molecule, to gain entry into the human body. The important function of recognizing the sepsis bacterium by CD 14, came from research done in Dr Goyert’s lab.

The CD 14 molecule has been extensively researced for two decades. Although, CD 14 became less trendy, Dr Goyert remained devoted to the gene that she had discovered in 1988, and persisted in trying to understand how CD 14 gets a job done. Dr Hubertus Jersmann, of the University of Adelaide, Australia surmised that the CD 14 molecule is found in low amounts in many different cell type surfaces in addition to the white blood cells. Such cell types include the gingivis cells, the gut or intestinal cells, the islet cells of the pancreas and the spermatozoa. CD 14 is recognized as the first PAMP receptor discovered, where PAMP represents “Pathogen Associated Molecular Pattern”. In 1990, CD 14 was characterized as the PAMP receptor for bacterial endotoxin (LPS).

Most people today are aware of at least one child who is allergic to a certain type of food. This surprises many of the older generation when everybody ate everything without being “allergic”. It becomes impossible to complain about the inconvenience of accommodating a child or adult who might be allergic to the menu of choice. How do you continue to complain when a child with anaphylactic shock to peanuts or another food is rushed to the emergency room because of the menu? How do you not become more accommodating when you hear of a teenager dying from eating in a restaurant, assuming that the menu is “peanut free” or free of known allergens?

But why is this happening? Now, we are beginning to notice a pattern and there are three modes of action:

1) An immediate search for a cure;

2) An immediate need for policy to accommodate the increasing number of children, (and now teens and adults who were children a decade ago) who are allergic to a growing list of allergens;

3) A scientific race to find the culprit or environmental trigger or genetic markers or a combination of factors that may lead to food allergy; a race to find the genetic markers that protect an individual from an allergic reaction to the same combination of culprit factors.

Here, I will discuss the genetic markers that appear to increase or perhaps, decrease the risk of food allergy. We do not understand the role of these genetic markers or why they are selectively responding to an unknown factor or a combination of factors to produce an allergic reaction. I am absolutely certain that this genetic marker alone does not cause the child to become allergic. It is however, one of the factors and may hold clues to an environmental or another unknown trigger. It is also important to learn which genetic markers are protecting the non-allergic population from the same culprit triggers. This allergic reaction may range from mild to deadly. Please, alert me by commenting here if you hear of an update.

There are nine most common allergens known today and many less common or rare allergens. A good place to begin as a service provider or care giver to help understand an allergic child or adults is the 30 page educational guide published by the United States Department of Agriculture in “Food Allergy and Intolerance Resource List, December 2010“.

Why are some people allergic to egg? The 2011 to 2012 flu seasonal vaccine in the USA is manufactured only in eggs, although Europe has introduced egg – free vaccination. This denies most people in the world who are allergic to egg an opportunity to artificially protect themselves against the flu virus. In an earlier article, I have discussed the properties of the flu virus and the vaccines currently in development. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, egg allergy is one of the nine common allergens in 2010.

One gene that is being associated with allergy is the CD 14 gene. It is on chromosome 5 of humans in the 5q23-31 region. There are several interesting facts about this CD 14 gene. It has been cloned and the gene has two exons (protein coding regions). It has a membrane bound form called mCD 14 and a plasma shredded form called sCD 14. The sCD 14 level in plasma increases during inflammation (allergic reaction) and infection by a pathogen. The gene has several known polymorphisms (mutations) of which one, at position -159 of the promoter region that regulates the production of this gene, is of particular interest. Position -159 of CD 14 gene, is associated in some people with allergies. Position -159 together with -1619 correlated with a decrease in lung function when farmers with mutations of the CD 14 gene where exposed to endotoxin. Influence of genes and environment on allergic reactions has been reviewed by Dr. Kondo, a researcher in Japan, which unfortunately, I could not read, and researchers at University of Arizona. Dr Vercelli at Arizona says that it is the task of functional genomists to figure out what is the potential role of CD 14 in the progression of an allergic disease. He is of the opinion that the environment is likely to play an essential role.

The CD 14 gene plays a role in diseases other than allergy. The Alzheimer’s amyloid peptide binds to CD 14, implicating it in the disease progression of the aging microglia cells of the brain. In the Chinese population, a single base change in the CD 14 regulatory region of the gene (-260 C/T polymorphism) can contribute to a higher risk of getting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Level of mutated CD 14 (-260 T/T) in gingiva cells is associated with severe periodontal disease in Dutch. A polymorphism in CD 14 is associated with Crohn’s disease. In a South Korean population, patients with Tuberculosis were more likely to carry the CD 14 (-159 T/T) polymorphism. Turkish scientists have found elevated levels of CD 14 in Brucellosis, a bacterial disease. Elevated levels of CD 14 are found in tuberculosis. There was no obvious role of CD 14 in arthritis produced by the lyme bacterium in Germany.

How can you help in food allergy research? You can do it in several ways but the one that I would suggest that might make a major difference is if you can show the scientists working on this field that they are our heros. For a scientist, your encouragement is like the “wind beneath the wings”. For example, you could send Dr Sanna Goyert an email showing her you care about the impact her research has made towards allergy research. Her email: Write to influencers and request that Dr Goyert should be showered with awards. Please, note that this is a woman scientist. Then, find other scientists working on allergy and encourage them in your own unique way. Write to Dr Kondo ( in Japan, Dr Hubertus Jersmann at the University of Adelaide, Australia, Dr M L Laine in Netherlands, and Dr Vercelli at University of Arizona and encourage them to find the role of CD 14 and the environmental trigger in allergy progression. You could also write to companies encouraging their scientists to find a cure. Your support counts to a dedicated allergy researcher. The technology exists today to solve this disease puzzle. Together, we can beat this modern scourge of allergy.


Filed under FAT free diet, Health