Sex superbug, Could Be ‘Worse Than AIDS’

May 6, 2013
Sex superbug, gonorrhea
The ‘superbug’ was first discovered in Japan
and some health officials have said it could rival AIDS
Sex superbug,Health officials are warning that two cases of a so-called ‘sex superbug’ have been confirmed in Hawaii.
Hawaii News Now reports that the ‘sex superbug’ is a resistant strain of gonorrhea. The ‘sex superbug’ called H041 was first discovered in Japan in 2011. It spread to Hawaii, and has now surfaced in California and Norway.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked Congress for $50 million to find a new antibiotic to treat the drug-resistant strain of the disease. The first case in the nation was identified in a young woman in Hawaii in May 2011.
Peter Whiticir with the State Department of Health says advisories have been sent to physicians and health care providers around Hawaii to be on the lookout for the resistant strain of gonorrhea.
Doctors are warning that an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhoea, now considered a superbug, has the potential to be as deadly as the AIDS virus
Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection in North America.  
‘This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly,’ Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine told CNBC.
Nearly 30 million people have died from AIDS related causes worldwide, but Christianson believes the effect of the gonorrhea bacteria is more direct. 
‘Getting gonorrhea from this strain might put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days,’ Christianson said. ‘This is very dangerous.’ 
In a briefing on Capitol Hill last week, William Smith, executive director of the National Coalition for STD Directors, urged Congress to target nearly $54 million in immediate funding to help find an antibiotic for HO41 and to conduct an education and public awareness campaign. 
Although no deaths from HO41 have been reported as yet, experts say avoiding the disease completely is the best course of action. 
‘People need to practice safe sex, like always,’ Christianson said. ‘Anyone beginning a new relationship should get tested along with their partner. 
‘The way gonorrhea works, not everyone knows they have it. And with this new strain it’s even more important than ever to find out.’
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that has been known since medieval times. Sometimes known as ‘the clap,’ the infection can result in painful sores and genital discharge, and is associated with ectopic pregnancies and sterility in both men and women. 
Left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to a host of complications including pelvic inflammatory diseaseinfertility, and blood stream infections. 
It also raises the risk for HIV because the lesions permit the AIDS-causing virus easier access to the bloodstream.
Gonorrhea is especially common among people between the ages of 15 and 24.
The disease became curable in the 1940s when penicillin and otherantibiotics were introduced. Since then, the medical world has created more new drugs that killed the ever-mutating gonorrhea bacteria.
On a state-by-state basis, pockets of the U.S. are seeing giant spikes in the disease. Utah saw a 74 percent rise in gonorrhea cases in 2012, with the trend continuing into the first few months of this year. 
In Minnesota, cases rose 35 percent in 2012, according to the state’s department of health, and according to the latest statistics from the CDC, ‘During 2010–2011, 61% (31/51) of states, plus the District of Columbia, reported an increase in gonorrhea rates.’
Cephalosporin, the last available class of antibiotics recommended for the treatment of gonorrhea, has been failing worldwide and there is the very real prospect that all types of gonorrhea will soon become untreatable. 
Professor Cathy Ison, head of the National Reference Laboratory for Gonorrhoea in the U.K. told the BBC last week: ‘There is a possibility that if we don’t do something then it could become untreatable by 2015.’

 Sex superbug news Via dailymail

Ed Koch Vs. Larry Kramer

February 3, 2013
( the playwright Larry Kramer, who never forgave Mr. Koch for his handling of the AIDS crisis while he was mayor.
“Before he moved in, I saw him with one of the building managers in the hallway, and I put two and two together that they were showing him an apartment,” Mr. Kramer said. “I screamed at the top of my lungs: ‘Don’t move in here! There are people here who hate you!’ ”
Mr. Kramer said he received a stern phone call from Rudin management that afternoon. And Mr. Koch moved in. As the two men lived on opposite sides of the building, they did not run into each other often. One day in the mailroom, however, Mr. Koch reached to pet Mr. Kramer’s dog, and the playwright snatched him away.

This is What happens in a POLITICAL PARTY OF FEMINISTS and the cultural LEFT

April 24, 2012

Rebecca Burgin, a long-time former girlfriend of former North Carolina Democratic Party executive director Jay Parmley, told The Daily Caller that she believes Parmley infected her with HIV. ( Parmley resigned on April 15 amid sexual harassment allegations from a former young male staffer. Burgin, a 29-year-old Oklahoman, has shared her story with TheDC, including the revelation that Parmley’s lawyer offered her health coverage, paid for by the Democratic National Committee, to manage her illness. She ultimately declined that offer, fearing it would constitute insurance fraud. Parmley, she said, abandoned her a few months later. On April 13, TheDC first exposed allegations, leveled in December by former North Carolina Democratic Party communications staffer Adriadn Ortega, that Parmley showed him a picture of a penis, gave him unwanted shoulder rubs and made apparent sexual advances toward him. Ortega also alleged that Parmley discussed with him in detail his past sexual activity, including “solicit[ing] sex from gay websites.” Parmley’s ex-girlfriend Rebecca Burgin told TheDC that Parmley forever changed her life by making her HIV-positive. She’s worried, she said, that Parmley may have done to someone else what he did to her. “My motivation for talking to you was that I have read the articles, I have read the letter [that Ortega sent to Parmley detailing sexual harassment allegations] and everything like that,” Burgin said. “And after Jay and I broke up, the biggest concern that I had was, ‘what if this happened to somebody else? Would he do this to someone else?’ … My biggest concern is for anybody else that has had a relationship with him that he did not tell.” Burgin told TheDC that she believes Parmley “prey[s] on” younger adults like her and Ortega. “When Jay and I met, I was 20 and he was 32,” she said. “To me, it seems to be a pattern, potentially… The unnerving thing to me is that it looks like he uses his position of authority to prey on younger adults.” Burgin said she doesn’t know when or how Parmley contracted HIV. The World Health Organization reports that while patients often have flu-like symptoms a few months after they are first infected, HIV “may remain dormant and asymptomatic for years until it surfaces suddenly.” Parmley served as national president of the Young Democrats of America from 1999 to 2001, then becoming executive director and chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party until 2005. It was during this period that he and Burgin dated. In 2005 he left Oklahoma to become a Mississippi state liaison to the Democratic National Committee under chairman Howard Dean, during the former Vermont governor’s 50-state strategy campaign. He took a similar role in South Carolina in 2007, and became executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party in 2009. In May 2011, the North Carolina Democratic Party hired him as its executive director. While Parmley led the Oklahoma Democratic Party, he also taught politics courses at Oklahoma City Community College. “He taught like one or two classes per semester,” Burgin said. “I met him — I was a student in college and he was my American Government professor,” she told TheDC in a phone interview. “Upon completing that class, we started dating. We dated for a little over three years.” “January 2, 2004, was our first date,” she recalled. But in July 2005, Howard Dean recruited Parmley and he was on his way to Mississippi.
This could be your daughter!

Butterball Sued By EEOC For Harassment, Firing Of HIV-Positive Employee

December 11, 2011

hey… what is in the turkey stuffing?
(h/t  PulpArk)

(US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission PRESS RELEASE 12-1-11) Turkey Company Violated Federal Disability Law, Agency Charged – GARNER, N.C. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today that Butterball, LLC, a Garner, N.C.-based turkey processing company, violated federal law by subjecting an employee to a hostile work environment based on the fact that she has Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and firing her because of that disability.
According to the lawsuit, Butterball subjected Tracy Montgomery to harassment throughout her employment in October and November 2009. Specifically, three of Montgomery’s co-workers expressed to her on a daily basis that they did not want to touch her or work with her because she is HIV-positive. The three employees also referred to Montgomery using derogatory names to describe her HIV status. The EEOC further alleges that Montgomery complained to her supervisor about the harassment on a daily or near-daily basis, but the harassment persisted. Butterball’s plant manager was also aware of the harassment after conducting a meeting with Montgomery and one of her co-workers to address an altercation that the co-worker provoked. However, the next day, the plant manager fired Montgomery.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees with disabilities from being harassed, fired, or from other employment decisions based on disabilities that are covered under the act, such as HIV. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Butterball, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:11-cv-00685) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary damages for Montgomery as well as certain injunctive relief.
“Harassment that targets a person with an ADA-covered disability, is just as much a violation of federal law as harassment based on a person’s race, color, gender, age, religion, or national origin,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “HIV/AIDS has always been a sensitive health issue, and an employer has no excuse for failing to intervene when an employee complains of vicious harassment based on her HIV status.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Tina Burnside added, “Employees have the right to work in an environment free from harassment, and Title VII prohibits both harassment and firing an employee because of her disability.”
President Barack Obama has charged federal agencies to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which includes addressing and preventing employment-related discrimination against people living with HIV.This case serves as an example of how the EEOC will strongly enforce federal laws to ensure that qualified people are not wrongfully deprived of an opportunity to earn a living simply because of their HIV status.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at

Nephew admits he can’t prove Arafat was poisoned

November 11, 2011

(EOZ) Yasser Arafat’s nephew and former “foreign minister” Nasser al Kidwa has been a broken record for years – always saying he was on the verge of proving Arafat was poisoned by Israel, and promising to be able to prove it Any Day Now.
He promised that he would release the French medical report translated to Arabic, and somehow this was considered news.

Nasser al Kidwa

Al-Qudwa says the report will answer “many questions,” as it is the Palestinian people’s right to get a clear answer about how Arafat died. The document has not previously been seen in Arabic.
The report by French doctors describes a platelet disorder and speculates on its cause, al-Qudwa says. The doctors ruled out cancer and an acute infection, he told Ma’an.
A third possibility was poisoning, al-Qudwa says, but the records show that doctors were unable to conclusively determine what poison, if any, was in Arafat’s system.
“We have said that it is poisoning,” he hinted.

There are many conditions that result in low platelet counts – including AIDS.
Anyway, this “news” – and Kidwa’s allegations – are a bit old. From the New York Times, November 23, 2004:

Yasser Arafat’s death remained a mystery Monday when his nephew said he could not rule out that the Palestinian leader had been poisoned.
Two hours after receiving his uncle’s medical records, 558 pages long, from the French authorities, Nasser al-Kidwa told reporters that according to the files no trace of any known poison had been found in Arafat’s body.
But he insisted that a “question mark” remained over the exact cause of Arafat’s death Nov. 11 in Paris and was likely to remain for some time.
“We don’t have proof that it was a case of poisoning, and we don’t have proof that it wasn’t,” Kidwa, the Palestinian envoy at the United Nations, said at a news conference in the French capital.
While he stressed that Palestinian officials trusted the French doctors who treated Arafat during his last 12 days and accepted that toxicology tests ruled out any known poisons, Kidwa refused to exclude the possibility that other, unknown substances played a role in Arafat’s death.
“I am not asserting anything, but we are not in a position to exclude anything,” he said.
This is in contrast to comments from the Palestinian foreign minister, Nabil Shaath, who said the night before Arafat died at the Percy Military Training Hospital outside Paris that doctors had ruled out poisoning “completely.”
Kidwa said the truth about Arafat’s death was not just a matter for one person or one family, but for all Palestinians.
“The Palestinian people have the right to know,” he said, pledging to share the medical report with the Palestinian leadership “as soon as possible.”
When Arafat arrived in France for treatment at the end of October, his aides disclosed that he had a low count of platelets, which aid blood clotting, and a high count of white blood cells. They later revealed that the Palestinian leader suffered a brain hemorrhage that sent him into a coma.
Medical experts say the low platelet count makes hemorrhages more likely, but it is unclear what condition caused Arafat’s platelet count to be low in the first place. A wide range of illnesses, from cancer to liver disease, could be consistent with such a condition.

And today, even with all the press rehashing things we knew for seven years, Palestine Todayreports:

Kidwa said during a ceremony last night to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the death of Arafat, “We renew our conviction of the responsibility of” Israel “for poisoning Arafat, but we recognize we have failed to get a definitive answer.”

So expect to see identical news stories next year, and the year after….

no comment from me

Israel Importing Russian Prostitutes with AIDS to West Bank to Infect Palestinians

June 16, 2011

…it would be stupid to inject your prostitutes with HIV because what goes around… comes around. The Russians have not exactly shown bias between Muslims and Jews. Just look around the Haaretz newspaper office. Let me tell you about ’em RUSSIAN whores!

The Zionist regime [Israel] wants to spread the HIV virus among Palestinian workers to the Palestinian nation. Schahed Saad, secretary general of the Palestinian workers’ union said the Zionist regime [Israel] had imported 150 HIV infected prostitutes from Russia to the West Bank in hopes of them infecting Palestinian workers. (h/t Silke)

Update: It seems that this libel is not entirely new. 
In fact
, on March 11, 1997, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission charged that “
The Israeli authorities infected, by injection, 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus during the years of the intifada.” Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. commission at the time was Yosef Lamdan. Lamdan condemned the accusation and said: “The Palestinian observer has never had a reputation for accuracy and integrity, but today he has surpassed himself. This is a blatant barefaced lie, an absolute and total libel. The product of a sick and infected mind.” 

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics recently held a seminar in which they discussed the fact that Palestinians were at risk of getting HIV “due to their daily contact with Israelis.”

In related news, Israeli scientists have developed a method that wipes out HIV infected cells without affecting the healthy ones. 

New York – AP IMPACT: Ugly US Medical Experiments Uncovered

February 27, 2011
In this Feb, 1966 picture, Solomon McBride, second right, a medical administrator of Holmesburg Prison's human research, questions a test subject at the facility in Philadelphia. The prison made extensive use of inmates for medical experiments. Shocking as it may seem, government doctors once thought it was fine to experiment on disabled people and prison inmates. (AP Photo/The Urban Archives - Temple University)

In this Feb, 1966 picture, Solomon McBride, second right, a medical administrator of Holmesburg Prison’s human research, questions a test subject at the facility in Philadelphia. The prison made extensive use of inmates for medical experiments. Shocking as it may seem, government doctors once thought it was fine to experiment on disabled people and prison inmates. (AP Photo/The Urban Archives – Temple University)

New York – Shocking as it may seem, U.S. government doctors once thought it was fine to experiment on disabled people and prison inmates. Such experiments included giving hepatitis to mental patients in Connecticut, squirting a pandemic flu virus up the noses of prisoners in Maryland, and injecting cancer cells into chronically ill people at a New York hospital.


Much of this horrific history is 40 to 80 years old, but it is the backdrop for a meeting in Washington this week by a presidential bioethics commission. The meeting was triggered by the government’s apology last fall for federal doctors infecting prisoners and mental patients in Guatemala with syphilis 65 years ago.

U.S. officials also acknowledged there had been dozens of similar experiments in the United States — studies that often involved making healthy people sick.

An exhaustive review by The Associated Press of medical journal reports and decades-old press clippings found more than 40 such studies. At best, these were a search for lifesaving treatments; at worst, some amounted to curiosity-satisfying experiments that hurt people but provided no useful results.

Inevitably, they will be compared to the well-known Tuskegee syphilis study. In that episode, U.S. health officials tracked 600 black men in Alabama who already had syphilis but didn’t give them adequate treatment even after penicillin became available.

These studies were worse in at least one respect — they violated the concept of “first do no harm,” a fundamental medical principle that stretches back centuries.

“When you give somebody a disease — even by the standards of their time — you really cross the key ethical norm of the profession,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics.

Some of these studies, mostly from the 1940s to the ‘60s, apparently were never covered by news media. Others were reported at the time, but the focus was on the promise of enduring new cures, while glossing over how test subjects were treated.

Attitudes about medical research were different then. Infectious diseases killed many more people years ago, and doctors worked urgently to invent and test cures. Many prominent researchers felt it was legitimate to experiment on people who did not have full rights in society — people like prisoners, mental patients, poor blacks. It was an attitude in some ways similar to that of Nazi doctors experimenting on Jews.

“There was definitely a sense — that we don’t have today — that sacrifice for the nation was important,” said Laura Stark, a Wesleyan University assistant professor of science in society, who is writing a book about past federal medical experiments.

The AP review of past research found:

—A federally funded study begun in 1942 injected experimental flu vaccine in male patients at a state insane asylum in Ypsilanti, Mich., then exposed them to flu several months later. It was co-authored by Dr. Jonas Salk, who a decade later would become famous as inventor of the polio vaccine.

Some of the men weren’t able to describe their symptoms, raising serious questions about how well they understood what was being done to them. One newspaper account mentioned the test subjects were “senile and debilitated.” Then it quickly moved on to the promising results.

—In federally funded studies in the 1940s, noted researcher Dr. W. Paul Havens Jr. exposed men to hepatitis in a series of experiments, including one using patients from mental institutions in Middletown and Norwich, Conn. Havens, a World Health Organization expert on viral diseases, was one of the first scientists to differentiate types of hepatitis and their causes.

A search of various news archives found no mention of the mental patients study, which made eight healthy men ill but broke no new ground in understanding the disease.

—Researchers in the mid-1940s studied the transmission of a deadly stomach bug by having young men swallow unfiltered stool suspension. The study was conducted at the New York State Vocational Institution, a reformatory prison in West Coxsackie. The point was to see how well the disease spread that way as compared to spraying the germs and having test subjects breathe it. Swallowing it was a more effective way to spread the disease, the researchers concluded. The study doesn’t explain if the men were rewarded for this awful task.

—A University of Minnesota study in the late 1940s injected 11 public service employee volunteers with malaria, then starved them for five days. Some were also subjected to hard labor, and those men lost an average of 14 pounds. They were treated for malarial fevers with quinine sulfate. One of the authors was Ancel Keys, a noted dietary scientist who developed K-rations for the military and the Mediterranean diet for the public. But a search of various news archives found no mention of the study.

—For a study in 1957, when the Asian flu pandemic was spreading, federal researchers sprayed the virus in the noses of 23 inmates at Patuxent prison in Jessup, Md., to compare their reactions to those of 32 virus-exposed inmates who had been given a new vaccine.

—Government researchers in the 1950s tried to infect about two dozen volunteering prison inmates with gonorrhea using two different methods in an experiment at a federal penitentiary in Atlanta. The bacteria was pumped directly into the urinary tract through the penis, according to their paper.

The men quickly developed the disease, but the researchers noted this method wasn’t comparable to how men normally got infected — by having sex with an infected partner. The men were later treated with antibiotics. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, but there was no mention of it in various news archives.

Though people in the studies were usually described as volunteers, historians and ethicists have questioned how well these people understood what was to be done to them and why, or whether they were coerced.

Prisoners have long been victimized for the sake of science. In 1915, the U.S. government’s Dr. Joseph Goldberger — today remembered as a public health hero — recruited Mississippi inmates to go on special rations to prove his theory that the painful illness pellagra was caused by a dietary deficiency. (The men were offered pardons for their participation.)

But studies using prisoners were uncommon in the first few decades of the 20th century, and usually performed by researchers considered eccentric even by the standards of the day. One was Dr. L.L. Stanley, resident physician at San Quentin prison in California, who around 1920 attempted to treat older, “devitalized men” by implanting in them testicles from livestock and from recently executed convicts.

Newspapers wrote about Stanley’s experiments, but the lack of outrage is striking.

“Enter San Quentin penitentiary in the role of the Fountain of Youth — an institution where the years are made to roll back for men of failing mentality and vitality and where the spring is restored to the step, wit to the brain, vigor to the muscles and ambition to the spirit. All this has been done, is being done … by a surgeon with a scalpel,” began one rosy report published in November 1919 in The Washington Post.

Around the time of World War II, prisoners were enlisted to help the war effort by taking part in studies that could help the troops. For example, a series of malaria studies at Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois and two other prisons was designed to test antimalarial drugs that could help soldiers fighting in the Pacific.

It was at about this time that prosecution of Nazi doctors in 1947 led to the “Nuremberg Code,” a set of international rules to protect human test subjects. Many U.S. doctors essentially ignored them, arguing that they applied to Nazi atrocities — not to American medicine.

The late 1940s and 1950s saw huge growth in the U.S. pharmaceutical and health care industries, accompanied by a boom in prisoner experiments funded by both the government and corporations. By the 1960s, at least half the states allowed prisoners to be used as medical guinea pigs.

But two studies in the 1960s proved to be turning points in the public’s attitude toward the way test subjects were treated.

The first came to light in 1963. Researchers injected cancer cells into 19 old and debilitated patients at a Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in the New York borough of Brooklyn to see if their bodies would reject them.

The hospital director said the patients were not told they were being injected with cancer cells because there was no need — the cells were deemed harmless. But the experiment upset a lawyer named William Hyman who sat on the hospital’s board of directors. The state investigated, and the hospital ultimately said any such experiments would require the patient’s written consent.

At nearby Staten Island, from 1963 to 1966, a controversial medical study was conducted at the Willowbrook State School for children with mental retardation. The children were intentionally given hepatitis orally and by injection to see if they could then be cured with gamma globulin.

Those two studies — along with the Tuskegee experiment revealed in 1972 — proved to be a “holy trinity” that sparked extensive and critical media coverage and public disgust, said Susan Reverby, the Wellesley College historian who first discovered records of the syphilis study in Guatemala.

By the early 1970s, even experiments involving prisoners were considered scandalous. In widely covered congressional hearings in 1973, pharmaceutical industry officials acknowledged they were using prisoners for testing because they were cheaper than chimpanzees.
Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia made extensive use of inmates for medical experiments. Some of the victims are still around to talk about it. Edward “Yusef” Anthony, featured in a book about the studies, says he agreed to have a layer of skin peeled off his back, which was coated with searing chemicals to test a drug. He did that for money to buy cigarettes in prison.

“I said ‘Oh my God, my back is on fire! Take this … off me!’” Anthony said in an interview with The Associated Press, as he recalled the beginning of weeks of intense itching and agonizing pain.

The government responded with reforms. Among them: The U.S. Bureau of Prisons in the mid-1970s effectively excluded all research by drug companies and other outside agencies within federal prisons.

As the supply of prisoners and mental patients dried up, researchers looked to other countries.

It made sense. Clinical trials could be done more cheaply and with fewer rules. And it was easy to find patients who were taking no medication, a factor that can complicate tests of other drugs.

Additional sets of ethical guidelines have been enacted, and few believe that another Guatemala study could happen today. “It’s not that we’re out infecting anybody with things,” Caplan said.

Still, in the last 15 years, two international studies sparked outrage.

One was likened to Tuskegee. U.S.-funded doctors failed to give the AIDS drug AZT to all the HIV-infected pregnant women in a study in Uganda even though it would have protected their newborns. U.S. health officials argued the study would answer questions about AZT’s use in the developing world.

The other study, by Pfizer Inc., gave an antibiotic named Trovan to children with meningitis in Nigeria, although there were doubts about its effectiveness for that disease. Critics blamed the experiment for the deaths of 11 children and the disabling of scores of others. Pfizer settled a lawsuit with Nigerian officials for $75 million but admitted no wrongdoing.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general reported that between 40 and 65 percent of clinical studies of federally regulated medical products were done in other countries in 2008, and that proportion probably has grown. The report also noted that U.S. regulators inspected fewer than 1 percent of foreign clinical trial sites.

Monitoring research is complicated, and rules that are too rigid could slow new drug development. But it’s often hard to get information on international trials, sometimes because of missing records and a paucity of audits, said Dr. Kevin Schulman, a Duke University professor of medicine who has written on the ethics of international studies.

These issues were still being debated when, last October, the Guatemala study came to light.

In the 1946-48 study, American scientists infected prisoners and patients in a mental hospital in Guatemala with syphilis, apparently to test whether penicillin could prevent some sexually transmitted disease. The study came up with no useful information and was hidden for decades.

The Guatemala study nauseated ethicists on multiple levels. Beyond infecting patients with a terrible illness, it was clear that people in the study did not understand what was being done to them or were not able to give their consent. Indeed, though it happened at a time when scientists were quick to publish research that showed frank disinterest in the rights of study participants, this study was buried in file drawers.

“It was unusually unethical, even at the time,” said Stark, the Wesleyan researcher.

“When the president was briefed on the details of the Guatemalan episode, one of his first questions was whether this sort of thing could still happen today,” said Rick Weiss, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

That it occurred overseas was an opening for the Obama administration to have the bioethics panel seek a new evaluation of international medical studies. The president also asked the Institute of Medicine to further probe the Guatemala study, but the IOM relinquished the assignment in November, after reporting its own conflict of interest: In the 1940s, five members of one of the IOM’s sister organizations played prominent roles in federal syphilis research and had links to the Guatemala study.

So the bioethics commission gets both tasks. To focus on federally funded international studies, the commission has formed an international panel of about a dozen experts in ethics, science and clinical research. Regarding the look at the Guatemala study, the commission has hired 15 staff investigators and is working with additional historians and other consulting experts.

The panel is to send a report to Obama by September. Any further steps would be up to the administration.
Some experts say that given such a tight deadline, it would be a surprise if the commission produced substantive new information about past studies. “They face a really tough challenge,” Caplan said.

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