Take this quick medical pop quiz: which of the following conditions would you prefer to have during your next stay in hospital? A. Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) bloodstream infection; or B. a heart attack?

I am guessing most non-medical readers voted for the Staph option and, if my experience is anything to go by, the majority of medical readers will have also made a microbial choice.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which emerged in humans last year in the Saudi Arabian peninsula, causes severe respiratory disease, with a mortality rate of 35 percent. No specific therapy is currently available. 

Passive immunization, a procedure where you inject a former patient's antibodies into a new patient to fight the disease, has been used in the past, including last year in a small number of cases of Ebola, but in the case of MERS, few former patients are available to donate antibodies. Additionally, their antibody titers are often too low, and many former patients are not healthy enough to donate.
Antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could rise by 67 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. What will that mean for the effectiveness of antimicrobials in humans?

Five countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - will experience a growth of 99 percent in antibiotic consumption, compared with an expected 13 percent growth in their human populations over the same period. In the United States, antibiotic consumption in animals represents is the overwhelming majority of total antimicrobial sales.
Most people would be horrified if they went to a restaurant bathroom and saw the chef not bother to wash his hands after using the toilet. It's a good thing raw milk fad health buyers do not understand cow milking for the same reason.

A new review finds that consumers are nearly 100 times more likely to get foodborne illness from drinking raw milk than they are from drinking pasteurized milk, which is a lower figure than the Centers for Disease Control, which puts that number at 150X. Though a tiny fraction of milk drinkers risk consuming the raw kind, the raw kind accounts for over 50 percent of milk-related foodborne illness.
Effective tuberculosis control in India needs political will and commitment. Unless this happens, TB will continue to be India's silent epidemic and a death sentence for poor people, warns consultant physician and public health specialist, Zarir Udwadia in BMJ.

20 years ago it was widely believed that India was successfully on its way to controlling its alarming tuberculosis (TB) epidemic yet India still has 2.2 million new cases and more than 300,000 deaths each year. Economic numbers are a guess at best but in the article he claims losses of $23 billion. At the heart of this crisis is the failure of India's Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) to engage and monitor the country's large and unregulated private sector, argues Udwadia. 
A medieval cesspit in the old city of Jerusalem has revealed the presence of a number of ancient parasite eggs, which gives researchers a glimpse into the nature and spread of infectious diseases in the Middle East during the 15th century. 

Scientists found evidence of six species of intestinal parasites in the 500-year-old latrine, which included large quantities of roundworm and whipworm, both spread by fecal contamination of food and probably endemic to the region dating back to human evolution out of Africa. Two of the parasites detected, Entamoeba dysentery and fish tapeworm, were common in northern Europe in the medieval period, but either very rare or almost completely absent among the populations of the medieval Middle East.
Two of the four known groups of human AIDS viruses (HIV-1 groups O and P) originated in western lowland gorillas, according researchers who conducted a comprehensive survey of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in African gorillas.

HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, has jumped species to infect humans on at least four separate occasions, generating four HIV-1 lineages -- groups M, N, O, and P. Previous research from this team found that groups M and N originated in geographically distinct chimpanzee communities in southern Cameroon, but the origins of groups O and P remained uncertain.
If you ask doctors what the biggest myth about the flu is, they will tell you that it's people thinking they have the flu. Flu-like illness can be caused by many pathogens, and most people don't go to the doctor for it, making it difficult to assess how often people really have.  

Older and young people are more susceptible but adults over the age of 30 only catch flu about twice a decade, according to a new paper.  The immune system responds to flu viruses by producing antibodies that specifically target proteins on the virus surface. These proteins can change as the virus evolves, but we keep antibodies in the blood that have a memory for strains we've encountered before.
In 2008, President Obama suggested vaccines might be causing autism. In 2009, during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, there was quickly a vaccine shortage, because the government refused to allow adjuvants, to boost vaccine effectiveness and use less raw material, or multi-dose vials, because they contained a preservative anti-vaccine believers claimed caused autism. 274,000 Americans were hospitalized.

Credit: L. Sabetelli / Wellcome, CC BY

The Black Death struck Europe in 1347, killing 30-50% of the European population in six violent years.

It wasn’t a one-off epidemic: it signaled the start of the second plague pandemic in Europe that lasted for hundreds of years and only slowly disappeared from the continent after the Great Plague of London in 1665-1666.