23 September 2022

self limiting viral infection

Last Friday, a week ago today, I sat down with a colleague for a short work thing, masked in our specially air filtered conference area of course, and I felt this annoying scratch in my throat and immediately my mind said, oh hello, long time no see. Next morning my voice was gone, something R found hilarious, initially. I took a test, no covid, and went back to bed. Things progressed from there and to cut a long story short, several more tests, incl. a negative PCR, confirmed that one of these pesky common and garden upper respiratory infection viruses has come for a lengthy visit. 

And it has been a noisy week. While I have no voice, still, I am barking the house down with coughing.  It has been such a long time since I had something like that. A self-limiting viral infection. 

There used to be time in my life when I would search for the cause, the source, the why and the why now and why me. But the last couple of years have shown that viruses really don't give a damn about our feelings, they take any opportunity out there and we are such great targets after all. Viruses, they just want to have fun. Or in other words, they want to survive too. So, I hibernated for the week, hid under the blankets and read, listened to audio books, watched Italian crime series, slept in between coughing fits, drank thyme tea with honey, ate some soup, and so on, as you do.

Anyway, on Sunday, I will wrap myself in warm layers, doze in the car for a few hours while R drives us to a cute little house with a thatched roof just below the big sand dunes in a village in North Holland and hopefully, I shall be able to make it up the stairs to the top of said dunes to let the sea air clear my head for the next couple of days. That's the plan.

This here is an ultrasound image of a fetus, aged somewhere between 32 and 36 weeks, after the mother had eaten kale.

And here, we see the same fetus after the mother ate some carrot.

This is what science can show us. If you want to read about the research, the how and the why and what these two food groups have to offer for the future of humankind and kale growers especially, klick here(Both images: FETAP (Fetal Taste Preferences) Study/Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab/Durham University/PA)

And here is a poem that tells us where we are in the bigger planetary picture, incl. viruses.


O for God’s sake
they are connected

They look at each other
across the glittering sea
some keep a low profile

Some are cliffs
The bathers think
islands are separate like them

Muriel Rukeyser


NewRobin13 said...

I hope you are feeling better and that the trip to the cute house in North Holland will be wonderful. The fetus photos are so funny and interesting. Beautiful poem too. Take care there and have a safe and good journey.

am said...

Good to hear that your viral cold symptoms are on their way out and that soon you and R will be at the ocean in Northern Holland. Would love to see photos of the ocean.

O my goodness! At first I thought those fetus photos were photoshopped. I am imagining a fetus who prefers kale to carrots or likes both equally (-:

"All mothers gave written informed consent." I assume they were paid well, too. I wonder if fetuses smile or frown, depending upon what music their mothers listen to. I wonder what else makes them smile or frown. I can't stop wondering about the possibilities!

Love the "O for God's sake" poem. Thank you so much, Sabine.

Sabine said...

I am surprised that you assume that the mothers were "paid well" and I wonder what makes you to think this is the case.
I have edited medical research findings for 20+ years and would like to point out three things:

1. These research findings are published in a so-called scholarly journal which involves the peer review process. I have written about peer review here: https://interimarrangements.blogspot.com/2021/07/not-back-to-normal.html.

2. The research was carried out in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration on ethical principles in medical research, which I have also written about in the above mentioned post from July 2021.

3. All funding must be declared in the publication of research findings, including any financial rewards provided to study participants - above minor amounts such as transport costs, but almost always even these amounts will be declared by the authors. You find the funding declaration in the published report, close to the end: "This study was undertaken as part of a doctoral thesis funded by the Turkish Ministry of National Education. The funder has not had any role in the study protocol, recruitment, analysis, or preparation of the article". I would become suspicious if the carrot growers association or a pharmaceutical company intending to develop carrot capsules for pregnant mothers was involved. But even that would have to be declared.

I often come across skepticism regarding the validity of medical research in all the years that I have been working for the medical faculty. Surely, I am often told, all this is financed by the pharmaceutical industry! They are all in each other's pockets. I have expressed my own doubts in some cases (all were unfounded) and of course, there have been atrocious breaches of the ethical code and the funding principles. But it is not something that happens often or even on a regular basis. If anything, the reviewing process has become more and more stringent over the years.

To come back to this research: I doubt that the university of Durham, UK, which is a publicly owned research facility, or indeed the Turkish Ministry of National Education (which I suspect only paid a small salary for a limited time period or maybe a stipend) would have provided funds beyond the bus fare for the 100 participating mothers.

Pixie said...

I agree with the fetuses, carrots over kale:)

Hope you're feeling better soon and a holiday in North Holland sounds nice.

And the bathers are no more separate than the islands are. Thank you for the poem.

Barbara Rogers said...

Oh I do hope you feel better by the sea. Sounds great, especially if you have sunny days.

am said...

Once I read the research findings, I had no doubt that the findings were legitimate, but my first impression was a skeptical one. Thank you for the link to your post about the peer review process and for defining what ensures the validity of medical research. I look to you for trustworthy information.

Here in Washington State, researchers often put out calls for people to volunteer for medical research and include financial incentives that may include cash or gift cards that I would consider being paid well for volunteering. My comment stemmed from my limited knowledge of the ethics surrounding people who volunteer for medical research. Reading your comment and looking at the website below helped me understand what I didn't understand before.


ellen abbott said...

The sea should fix you up, at least mentally if not physically. I saw those pictures. My question was how soon after the mothers ate the carrots or kale did the reaction occur? Because wouldn't the food have had to enter the bloodstream for the fetus to be able to react to it?

Sabine said...

It's explained in the actual publication. The mothers were asked not to eat anything with carrot and/or kale for a set time before testing and were then given a capsule with either kale or carrot in powdered form and the image was taken after a fixed time to allow the capsule to reach the small intestine and to dissolve.

Sabine said...

Comparable reactions were recorded under the same study conditions in all participanting fetuses, which in science terms means it was reproducible and not anecdotal, EG a once off thing.

Sabine said...

There's an interesting twitter thread by one of the researchers answering many questions.


Ms. Moon said...

I think they should have tested the fetuses with kale and doughnuts. Or pizza and broccoli.
Of course I'm just kidding.
Kale can be rather bitter. It is definitely an interesting study.
Now. You enjoy the sea shore, the air, the sights, the sounds, and hopefully, you will feel better soon.

Steve Reed said...

I love kale. For what that's worth.

Sorry about your virus. We have lots of non-Covid things going around our school at the moment, too. Hello, autumn!

Roderick Robinson said...

It's almost impossible not to think of viruses as being our equals (even, perhaps, superior) on the tree of living things. I mean, not only are some of them capable of delibilitating, even killing, us, they appear to incorporate a sense of intelligent malice that would see them imprisoned for long periods if they turned out to be subject to The Rule of Law. They attack us, we fight back, and - after the expenditure of enormous amounts of time and money - we think we've got them in a stranglehold only to find they've evolved into a variant which is proof against our horribly expensive solutions. Of course, to impute malice is to anthropomorphise them; they, like us, want to continue living and to ensure that their offspring do also. You can't really blame the little bastards. But at least we don't have to love them.

37paddington said...

I hope the sea air is doing its magic, and that you are cozy and well looking out at the sand dunes.