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Health Talk Recommends: Average American male’s body compared to bodies of men from other nations

The average American’s expanding waistline may be old news, but seeing what this really means in a line-up against four other countries is quite an eye opener.

For visual evidence, check out this visualization from artist Nickolay Lamm. In his representation, four average male bodies from four countries are put side by side. The result? America’s obesity epidemic is clearly visible. According to Lamm, the images, which recently ran in HuffingtonPost, were created in hopes of putting a mirror in front of the American people.

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How to detect a virus

Today on Health Talk, we’re talking virus detection: how scientists come to suspect a new virus and the steps they take to develop a test to confirm their suspicions.

Developing the first test for a new virus is a laborious process, one with which University of Minnesota assistant scientists Sunny Sonnabend and Lindsey Raymond in the U of M’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory are intimately familiar. These two scientists are part of the U of M College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) team behind the nation’s first porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) rapid detection test, unveiled earlier this year.

Here’s what it takes to develop a test like no other:

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New grant will allow U of M researchers to advance new diagnosis & treatment methods for meningitis

Researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine have received a $3.2 million grant to examine new cost-effective approaches for diagnosing and treating meningitis. The University will partner with Uganda’s Makerere University on the effort.

In the first of two programs supported by the new grant, University of Minnesota researchers will employ a tiered approach to diagnosing meningitis, employing a strategic approach that eliminates a full battery of testing when a more limited panel of stepwise testing can confirm infection.  The project will also explore new diagnostic tests for meningitis due to tuberculosis (TB).

The grant will also support a new clinical trial to test the antifungal properties of sertraline (Zoloft), an antidepressant with possible anti-fungal properties in mouse models. Because Zoloft went off patent in 2006, the medication could present a cheaper alternative in the fight against cryptococcal meningitis.

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Health Talk Recommends: Solving a Viral Mystery

In September, we posted the first Health Talk piece dedicated to MERS, or what was then described as “a new SARS-like illness that has been confirmed in two people thus far.”

At that time, the message from most experts was simple: we need to know more, and we need to anticipate the next steps of the virus.

Since the first cases of MERS were reported, the virus has sickened 77 people, killing 40 of them according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And many initial questions have been answered, such as how the virus spreads.

But one question remains: where did MERS come from?

Yesterday, New York Times writer Denise Grady published a story that highlighted the search for the origin of MERS. It’s an interesting read and does a good job of profiling the unique challenges of diseases that originate in animals before making the “jump” to humans.

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National HIV Testing Day: Take the Test, Take Control

Today, almost all people across the country are encouraged to do something that may seem scary, but could save lives: Get tested for HIV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other national and local entities across the country have recognized June 27 as National HIV Testing Day, an annual campaign to encourage people of all ages to “Take the Test, Take Control.”

Why is it so important to have an annual day set aside to recognize HIV testing?

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Middle East coronavirus, is there reason to be alarmed?

In just a few months, concern around a new virus in the Middle East, a coronavirus known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) – has escalated quickly, sparking fears among some public health experts that the virus may pose a substantial threat to the entire world.

Though the name Middle East Respiratory Syndrome may sound harmless – perhaps even bland – the virus represents a very serious potential health problem.

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