Return to Home Page

May 18, 2012

Studying Stool Samples

The first and only time I’ve had to shit in a cup was at the CIWEC clinic in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was nearly ten years ago and, as a newbie traveler, I didn’t yet have experience with dysentery—the awfulness of things exploding, simultaneously, out of nearly every orifice.  When the friendly doctor asked me to “provide a stool sample,” something clicked in my mind. Of course. That’s how they diagnose these illnesses: they need to examine your turds.

These days I’m no longer an amateur when it comes to stomach bugs, and if I’m traveling to a high-risk place like Nepal or India, I treat my Ciprofloxacin pills with the same care as my passport.  Because the stuff works like magic, and I never, ever want to give another stool sample.

I’ve been so pre-occupied with the fear of shitting in a cup that I haven’t given much thought to the doctors on the other end—the ones who look at what’s inside the cup.  Until recently, that is. I came across a fascinating book, called “Travel Medicine: Tales Behind the Science,” featuring stories from heroic doctors who have dedicated their lives to studying stool samples.

Aside from learning new facts (“a shaken stool sample creates the sound of a marble rolling around”) and that diarrhea doctors have a sense of humor (one sent a crushed Baby Ruth bar mixed with water and red-streaked strips of paper towels to the lab for identification), there are true tales of medical discovery here. Like the story of the doctors at the CIWEC clinic, who, back in the 1980s, repeatedly observed an unidentified particle in patients’ stools that co-occurred with a sudden onset of cramps, diarrhea and nausea, followed by severe anorexia and fatigue. After six years of research, it was determined that they had found “the first new intestinal protozoal pathogen discovered in 70 years,” now known as Cyclospora.

If you’re interested in reading more about traveler’s diarrhea and obscure travel-related illnesses, check out the Journal of Travel Medicine, which publishes six issues a year.  Articles include individual case studies—such as “Leptospirosis in a French Traveler Returning From Mauritius,” “Transient Facial Swellings in a Patient With a Remote African Travel History,” and “Perniosis in a Long-Distance Cyclist Crossing Mongolia”—as well as reports of large-scale surveys, like “Incidence and Impact of Travelers’ Diarrhea Among Foreign Backpackers in Southeast Asia: A Result From Khao San Road, Bangkok.”

My favorite article? The cleverly titled “New England Souvenirs,” which, as you may imagine, does not involve a shot glass embossed with the Boston skyline.

Posted by | Comments (0) 
Category: General

Leave a Reply

Main

Bio

Books

Stories

Essays

Video

Interviews

Events

Writers

Marco

Paris

Vagabonding.net

Contact


Vagabonding Audio Book at Audible.com

Marco Polo Didnt Go There
Rolf's new book!


Vagabonding
   Vagabonding

RECENT COMMENTS

Csaba Hajdú: Loved it

rsol: You remind me of my own such experiences. When I was a child, we lived in a...

feedback on buying cialis online from MD price: Shiver me timbers, them’s some...

discount cialis online no prescription: I’m shocked that I found this info so...

tolvajok: Spot on with this write-up, I actually feel this web site needs much more...

Carrie: Oh yes definitely agree that there are some charming things that really do make...

Rene: Nice blog! Even I have been planning for a World tour, and my wife and I...

Raymond: Thanks Jess! :)

Best cheap protein powder: If you desire to increase your know-how just keep visiting...

jcp thousand oaks hair salon: At Supercuts, our designers are a few of the finest been...

SPONSORED BY :



CATEGORIES

TRAVEL LINKS

ARCHIVES

RECENT ENTRIES

What adults can learn when traveling with their parents
Vagabonding Case Study: Kristin Addis
Korea’s no-man’s land
Pros and Cons of Off-Peak Europe Travel
Vagabonding Case Study: Jennifer Doré Dallas
“Authenticity” is often a pointless fetish for travelers
Traditional Christmas in Europe
Being vegetarian on the road
Teen travel- more than being “thankful for what you have”
Vagabonding Field Report: Sharing a Simple Meal with a Humble Family


Subscribe to this blog's feed
Follow @rolfpotts