Finding comfort in science

I’ve been very hard on myself this past week about Bella and so I took some time last night to do some research into the disease the vet diagnosed her with. He said it was proliferative ileitis which is a bacterial infection in the intestines thought to be caused by the bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis. It also afflicts horses and pigs. In hamsters it has a very high morbidity and is commonly referred to as wet tail although in the scientific literature they make a distinction between wet tail and proliferative ileitis as general diarrhoea is sometimes referred to as wet tail but it does not have the same dire consequences.

I discovered a recent paper published in June of this year in the Journal of Small Animal Practice which studied the clinical records of more than 16,000 hamsters in the UK. Wet tail is listed as the most prevalent disorder in Syrian hamsters and the median age of death for all hamsters was 1.75 years.

Science often tells us things we don’t want to know like the impact of burning fossil fuels on our climate. But it can also be reassuring and help us understand more about the world we live in and also how to solve the many problems we face.

There are lots of nasty pathogens like Lawsonia intracellularis that cause immense pain and suffering to the organisms they infect. Once such organism is schistosomiasis which is a parasitic worm that infects humans in tropical regions. It causes abdominal pain, blood in the urine, and problems peeing. Fortunately it’s easily treated with a tablet. The SCI Foundation in the UK are running an appeal to provide deworming treatments for children like Abdallah in the video below. A £50 donation will buy treatment for 150 children so it’s probably one of the most cost-effective charitable donations you can make in terms of the cost-benefit ratio.

You can donate via the radio 4 appeal.

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