Clean Up Before Listening Up

By Scott LaFee

January 23, 2019 6 min read

Next time you see a doctor and watch him wash his hands before the exam, maybe ask if he'll give his stethoscope a thorough scrub as well. A recent study adds more evidence that these listening devices are repositories for all kinds of bacteria.

Researchers examined 20 reusable scopes and 10 unused disposable scopes in a hospital intensive care unit. All of the used scopes were found to house thriving bacterial communities, including species that might cause infections in people.

Researchers then tested the scopes after various cleaning methods, including what providers usually do when scrubbing them down. In the latter case, only two of the 20 got as clean as new stethoscopes.

Body of Knowledge

Your brain functions on the same amount of power as a 10-watt light bulb. But before you start feeling too bright, that's less than a refrigerator bulb.

Get Me That, Stat!

Fentanyl is the drug most frequently associated with 2016 overdose deaths, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report and the latest data. That's a change from 2011, when oxycodone topped the list, with heroin replacing it from 2012 to 2015.

More than 63,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2016, a figure that has risen since. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is most typically prescribed for treating severe pain, such as in advanced cancer cases.

Stories for the Waiting Room

Tomatoes are good for you, rich in vitamins C and K, potassium, folate and the antioxidant lycopene. They're tasty but, well, also kind of bland. But perhaps not forever.

Eleven million years ago, tomatoes diverged evolutionarily from their cousins, the peppers. But they still possess the genetic machinery to make capsaicinoids, the molecules that make peppers characteristically hot. Researchers in Brazil and Ireland say new gene editing techniques could be used to turn that genetic machinery back on, creating a new breed of spicy tomato.

And maybe one day, a BLT with some belt.

Doc Talk

Pillow-positive: Patients who are regularly admitted into hospitals for prolonged stays, with no apparent physiological problem. It's joked that they arrive at the hospital with their own favorite pillows.

Phobia of the Week

Peniaphobia: Fear of poverty

Life in Big Macs

One hour of running at a pace of 10 minutes per mile burns 680 calories (based on a 150-pound person), the equivalent of 1 Big Mac. Of course, if you're running to a McDonald's, the whole exercise seems kind of pointless.

Never Say "Diet"

The Major League Eating record for green chile stew is 1.3125 gallons in six minutes, held by Gideon Oji.

Best Medicine

A man wasn't feeling well, so he asked his wife to take him to the emergency room. After examining him, the ER doctor took his wife aside and said: "Your husband's heart is in a much-weakened state. I'm afraid he won't survive long unless you treat him like a king, which means being at his beck and call, 24/7. He should not exert himself in any way."

On the way home, the husband asked his wife what the doctor told her.

"He said it looks like you probably won't make it."


"The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat." — Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Medical History

This week in 1988, the compound tretinoin, otherwise known as Retin-A, got a boost when a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said the anti-acne drug could also reduce wrinkles caused by exposure to the sun. Today, Retin-A-based skin care products is a multimillion-dollar market.

Med School

Q: How many centenarians are there in the world?

A: In 2012, the United Nations estimated there were roughly 312,000 people worldwide who were 100 years old or older, but with life expectancy increasing almost everywhere, that number has undoubtedly grown. Japan leads with more than 67,000, the greatest number of known centenarians of any nation in 2017. In fact, the current holder of "oldest known person alive" belongs to Kane Tanaka of Kazuki, Japan, who was born in 1903 and is 116 years old.

Last Words

"Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline? French fries!" — James French (1936-1966). French was serving a life sentence in an Oklahoma prison when he murdered a cellmate, apparently to compel authorities to execute him. He shouted his last words to members of the press in attendance to witness his execution.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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