Health Notes: Student’s desire to help inspires bone marrow drivesWhen he was a teenager in China, Bingshuo Li wanted to register as a bone marrow donor, but his parents objected.
By: Compiled by John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
When he was a teenager in China, Bingshuo Li wanted to register as a bone marrow donor, but his parents objected.
“It was just a lack of knowledge,” Li said. “I could not do it until I came here to the United States.”
Specifically, Li was a student at the College of St. Scholastica in 2008 when he registered with DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow donor center. He knew that if his bone marrow was a match for a patient with a blood cancer, such as leukemia, he had the potential to save that person’s life.
Then a funny thing happened. Noting that Li was a college student, DKMS contacted him and said they didn’t have many donors from Minnesota colleges. Would he care to organize a drive at Scholastica?
Li did, and bone marrow drives followed in the fall of 2008 and 2009. In 2010, students in the Multicultural Pharmacy Student Organization at the University of Minnesota Duluth staged a drive at UMD. Last year, students from Scholastica’s Rotaract Club joined the MPSO in sponsoring three drives in one week, at St. Scholastica, UMD and the Miller Hill Mall.
In those four years, Li said, more than 3,000 potential donors were registered. Of those, 13 have provided bone marrow transplants to cancer patients. Overall, one out of every 120 people who register proves to be a match, Li said. On the other hand, six out of 10 patients who need a transplant never get it.
This year’s drive is sponsored by the MPSO and Scholastica’s All Abilities Club. Bone marrow registration will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at two locations:
Li, now 24 and a research associate at UMD, said interest has spread to the Twin Cities via pharmacy students there who are sponsoring a drive.
The campaign has grown, Li said, because regardless of cultural differences “we all share the same value: love and empathy.”
Registration takes a few minutes to complete a form and provide a swab from the potential donor’s cheek. Potential donors must be between 18 and 55 and in good general health, a news release from DKMS said. After registration, the potential donor’s name and tissue typing information are listed on a registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. The registry is checked for a match for any patient in need of a bone marrow transplant in the world.
Flu goes batty
The good news is that a new influenza virus discovered in Guatemalan fruit bats isn’t a present threat to humans.
The bad news is that someday it could be, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The influenza A virus has been detected in yellow-shouldered bats, the first flu virus in bats, a CDC news release said. It can’t affect humans, because it lacks the genetic properties of human influenza viruses.
But here’s the catch: Influenza viruses can swap genetic information when two or more land in the same cell. It’s complicated, and in the case of the bat influenza, a third kind of animal — such as a pig or cow — would be needed for it to be a potential threat to humans.
But every pandemic in the 20th century was caused by an influenza virus that started out in animals and eventually gained the ability to infect humans. For that reason, the bat virus needs to be monitored, the CDC said.
The virus was studied by a CDC team working with the University of the Valley of Guatemala. Their research was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Binge drinking decried
Binge drinking can mess up your life in a variety of ways, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in its Feb. 29 Healthbeat.
Researchers say about one in six adults is a binge drinker — meaning five or more drinks in a session for men and four or more for women. Make that about one in five adults in Minnesota and one in four adults in Wisconsin, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report based on 2010 data.
The Healthbeat quotes Dafna Kanny of the CDC: “There are short- and long-term effects of binge drinking, such as motor vehicle crashes, risky sexual behaviors and interpersonal violence. Over time, binge drinking increases the risk of other serious health problems, including cancers, heart disease and liver failure.”