January 4th, 2016

A Riddle, the 2015 Clinical Trial of the Year, and a Guaranteed Laugh for All ID Doctors

Things quiet on this end recently from me due to various circumstances. but here are three ID-related (sort of) things worth sharing — enjoy if you haven’t seen them already.

Let’s start with a riddle:

  1. What animal is responsible for the most human deaths a year?human deaths
    Readers of Bill Gates’ blog will think this is old news, but not everyone has seen that incredibly cool graphic. (Me, for example.)

    There’s zero chance I would have gotten this riddle right, even with several hours to think about it, and even with all the Zika news buzzing around (word choice intentional). Makes one think that the CRISPR projects targeting these nasty pests — so long, malaria? — are on to something, though inevitably there will be downstream consequences.

    If asked, I’d have put humans first by a long shot, then maybe something like bears, which don’t even make the list, then perhaps crocodiles (still pretty scary, though not much of a threat in New England, and only one-tenth as deadly as snails). Not octupuses (which I’ve learned is the correct plural, emphatically not octupi). Or rabbits.

    And who knew Gates was such a book fiend? Impressive.

  2. The most controversial clinical trial of 2015.

    It came late in the year, so you might have missed it. From The Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, here’s the full title:boo boo trial
    Now you have no excuse. RTFA, as they say.You can imagine that this study has generated quite a bit of discussion at our family’s Journal Club, which consists of a pediatrician (my wife), an ID doctor (me), and my dog Louie, who by the graphic displayed in #1 above is the 4th most dangerous animal in the world. Easy to believe by looking at this ferocious picture.

    Louie was his usual taciturn self when we discussed this paper, while my wife strongly objected to the conclusion that maternal kisses don’t help cure minor boo-boos. Meanwhile, I’m wondering what kind of wound irrigation they used — low, medium, or high pressure — and whether they used prophylactic cefazolin, or vancomycin, or perhaps something that covers oral flora.

  3. The funniest ID-related cartoon of 2015. Nothing else even comes close.

(H/T to David Paltiel for the boo-boo study.)

8 Responses to “A Riddle, the 2015 Clinical Trial of the Year, and a Guaranteed Laugh for All ID Doctors”

  1. Loretta S says:

    I would have guessed humans, too, I think, although mosquitoes would have been high on my list. That graphic certainly puts “Shark Week” in perspective.

    500 people killed by hippos every year? Who knew? The dog rabies statistics are horrifying. And utterly preventable, as we know by the success of rabies vaccination programs in countries like the US.

    Loved the cartoon. And the photo of Louie. More Louie in 2016!

  2. Nick Bakalar says:

    Bees kill about 50 people a year in the U.S. alone. And in the U.S.,(and probably many other industrialized countries) I’d guess that’s more than are killed by mosquitoes. You could also make an argument in favor of deer. Although I can’t prove it, I’m pretty sure that car accidents involving deer kill more people than do elephants, lions, sharks and hippopotamuses combined!

    Louie looks ferocious. I’m staying away from him.

    • Paul Sax says:

      Nick, this is an excellent point about deer. Time for a new graphic!


    • Todd Carlson says:

      I agree with the issue of deer. They are as prevalent in my town as crows, and have no fear of people / cars.

  3. John Brooks says:

    SMACK is a fantastic name for that clinical trial. Reminds me of another of my favorites: SPANC aka the Study of the Prevention of Anal Cancer.

  4. That human number is only global homicides. Hospital medical errors are purported to kill 400,000 people per year in the U.S. alone.


  5. It should be noted that the maternal kisses trial is a hoax. While it may be obvious for some readers, some were fooled in thinking it was real.

    I think it should have been not published without a disclaimer, since it appears on a respectable scientific journal.


  6. Mike says:

    Mosquitoes don’t kill, the viruses they carry do the killing. People kill way more than what is given in the chart, like in workplace accidents or through poverty.

HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

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