Cutting-edge science and long-pondered questions explained in plain English. Bad science gutted. Great science extolled.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sometimes, Grey's Anatomy Makes Me Crazy

You know, I like Grey’s Anatomy. It’s an interesting show with some astonishingly good writing about character and complex issues, not to mention some lovely, funny zingers. However, I’m getting a little tired of them screwing up the science and the medicine in service to the story.

On last night’s rerun on the season opener of Grey’s Anatomy, McDreamy and Whats-his-face are quarantined in the locker room because they might have been exposed to the Bubonic Plague. This is unrealistic for a variety of reasons.

First, Bubonic Plague is only moderately transmissible. Rather than having the index case (patient) present with enlarged lymph nodes (buboes,) they should have given him Pneumonic Plague, which is spread by aerosolized droplets by coughing or sneezing. That’s much scarier.

Second, the plague’s etiologic agent is a bacteria, specifically, by Yersinia pestis, a gram-negative rod-shaped bacteria. It can be easily cured by an antibiotic. They wouldn’t have quarantined them; they would have prescribed a broad-spectrum antibiotic like Zithromax (azithromycin, also “Z-Pac,”) or Gentamycin. There was no reason to lock them in a little room until unspecified “tests” were performed to clear them, except for storyline reasons.

Even better: monkeypox, a zoonosis that is a monkey analog of smallpox, which has been rarely transmitted between humans. Or Ebola. Because viruses can’t be cured by antibiotics, they’re much scarier.

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