Friday, 7 December 2007

It's not what it used to be

As a busy term comes to a close, I hope to find more time for this blog now.

A couple of weeks ago my PhD supervisor, Donald Gillies, came to speak to our Reasoning group about Popper and induction. Knowing my interest in psychosomatic medicine, he brought me the details of a paper which had interested him:
Hallee JT, Evans AS, Niederman JC, Brooks CM, Voegtly JH: Infectious mononucleosis at the United States Military Academy. A prospective study of a single class over four years. Yale J Biol Med 3:182-195, 1974.
This is not available online, but a follow up is:
Psychosocial Risk Factors in the Development of Infectious Mononucleosis, S. Kasl, A. Evans, J. Niederman
It concludes:
Psychosocial factors that significantly increased the risk of EBV [Epstein-Barr virus] infection being expressed as clinical IM were: 1) having fathers who were "overachievers" (occupational status exceeding own educational level, or wife's education, or her occupational status); 2) having a strong commitment to a military career; 3) ascribing strong values to various aspects of the training and of military career; 4) scoring poorly on indices of relative academic performance; 5) having strong motivation and doing relatively poorly academically.
I was just thinking how university students might be good subjects for a similar study. However, tangible sexual behaviour seems to be the sole focus of today's researchers. In
A cohort study among university students: identification of risk factors for Epstein-Barr virus seroconversion and infectious mononucleosis. Crawford D H et al., Clin Infect Dis. 2006, Aug 1;43(3):276-82,
The authors conclude:
Our findings suggest that acquisition of EBV is enhanced by penetrative sexual intercourse, although transmission could occur through related sexual behaviors, such as "deep kissing." We also found that EBV type 1 infection is significantly more likely to result in IM. Overall, the results suggest that a large EBV type 1 load acquired during sexual intercourse can rapidly colonize the B cell population and induce the exaggerated T cell response that causes IM. Thus, IM could, perhaps, be prevented with a vaccine that reduces the viral load without necessarily inducing sterile immunity.
One day I'll write a book on changes in medical research.

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