The Week That Wasn't: Keto and the Flu, Human Cyborg, Duvet Disease

Donavyn Coffey

November 22, 2019

This week the Internet was inundated with tales of how keto kicks the flu, duvet-derived disease, and a scientist declaring himself the world's first cyborg. But you won't find the same headlines on Medscape. Here's why.

Keto Kicks the Flu

A low-carb, high-fat diet can protect mice against influenza A virus, according to a study published in Science Immunology. Mice that spent 7 days on a ketogenic diet before being infected with the flu showed less weight loss and were more likely to survive than mice on a typical high-carb chow diet.

A genetic analysis showed the lung tissue from mice fed the keto diet had more of a certain kind of T cell. To test their findings, the researchers fed the keto diet to mice genetically engineered to lack those T cells, and the protective effect against the flu was lost.

"Harnessing the beneficial effects of [the keto diet] through γδ T cells [gamma delta T cells] may therefore offer a potential previously unrecognized avenue for influenza disease prevention and treatment," the study authors write.

It's important to note, however, that influenza is far more severe in mice than humans. So much so, that this study used a special strain of mice that are genetically more resistant to the flu. But without any human data, it's still far too early for clinicians to recommend that patients adopt a keto diet for extra protection against the flu.

Scientist Declares Himself a Cyborg

Peter Bowman Scott-Morgan, PhD, suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but he's using his expertise in robotics to fight back. Recently, he underwent a series of surgeries intended to sustain his quality of life and called himself the "world's first full cyborg."

"Now replumbed as a cyborg, four tubes will keep me alive long after I become fully paralysed (apart from my eyes, which will still move). My body's sole function will then be to sustain my brain," Scott-Morgan tweeted.

He's referring to his respirator, feeding tube, catheter, and colostomy bag. He also had his larynx removed to eliminate the risk of saliva building up in his lungs. All of his speech is now synthetic.

After almost a month in the intensive care unit, Scott-Morgan tweeted that he's doing well. According to his website, Scott-Morgan hopes this "experiment of his life" will find ways to apply cutting-edge technology so people with extreme disabilities can still thrive. While we of course wish Scott-Morgan the best, it's too early to tell if this audacious plan could inform how clinicians care for patients with ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders. We would want to see peer-reviewed evidence on multiple cases like Scott-Morgan's (or as he likes to call himself, Peter 2.0) before we cover this story.

Duvet-Derived Disease

A UK man developed a respiratory condition that was ultimately traced back to his bedding. A case published in BMJ Case Reports said the 45-year-old man, a nonsmoker, endured dizziness, fatigue, and malaise for 3 months before being diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection in November 2016.

But by December he had taken 14 days off of work and simply moving room-to-room left him breathless. His doctor referred him to a respiratory clinic. That's when the patient revealed that he and his wife had recently purchased a feather duvet and pillows. The patient was eventually diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis caused by "inhalation of organic dust from duck or goose feathers found in duvets and pillows."

The most common type of the condition is "bird fancier's lung," but this was a rare subgroup of hypersensitivity pneumonitis called "feather duvet lung." The authors suggest that doctors ask patients with respiratory symptoms about feather exposure in addition to inquiring about pets. While this was an interesting and drastic case, it doesn't change how physicians should diagnose or treat a patient with similar symptoms, so we decided not to cover it. But here's more if you want to learn about diagnosing and treating hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

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