Sunday, April 8, 2012

2000AD Prog 1778 - A medical review

Spoiler alert! Mild spoilers for the Judge Dredd story from Prog 1778 ahead. You have been warned.

In the current Judge Dredd storyline Day of Chaos: Eve of Destruction the Mega-City authorities are wrestling with the effects of the Chaos organism which has been released into the general population by infected Sov City agents. The Judges have introduced a curfew to prevent the bug from spreading, and are asking citizens to report any suspicious symptoms so that infected people can be identified, quarantined and treated. In this scene from prog 1778 a television reporter is following a Justice department medic team as they arrive at the home of a family who have noticed that Grannie is unwell.

The Judges have developed a quick test for the Chaos bug. Coming up with a screening test for a medical condition is harder than you might imagine, and every test has to be considered critically for two key points. Firstly, how many patients with the disease does the test miss out i.e. false negative tests, this is referred to as the test's Sensitivity. Secondly, how many patients without the disease test does the test say do have it i.e. false positives, this is referred to as the Specificity of a test. An ideal test would have 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity, so it wouldn't miss any patients who have the disease nor would it indicate someone had it when they actually didn't. In the real world it is quite hard to develop such a perfect test and this can be quite problematic when you are going to base treatment decisions on the results.

In Mega-City One the implications of a positive test are even more critical. The Judges know what the reporter does not, that there is no current treatment for the Chaos bug, and that it is almost universally fatal. And bearing in mind some of the plans for dealing with the infected that the Justice department are considering it is a good job that the mouth swab test is described as "highly specific and extremely accurate". I am assuming that accurate in this context means sensitive. I hope so. The young boy on this page is going to be a lot less excited if he turns out to be a false positive.

The confusion between a virus and a protozoa continues. The contents page in this prog calls the Chaos bug "a deadly virus". However let us be generous and assume that the Sov-Judges' captured scientist created a virus which has some of the properties of the Toxoplasma Gondii organism it is based on. It is far fetched but just about acceptable in the science fiction future of the 22nd century. Meanwhile John Wagner's use of convincing medical jargon continues to impress so this episode is going to get a highly specific 4.5 out of 5 medic-droids.

Despite all the talk of tests and fairly grim disposal methods for the infected there is no prospect of a successful treatment for the Chaos organism yet. I'm hoping that the microbiologist Professor Lucas Wyant reappears at some stage to help Dredd save the day but the Day of Chaos is almost upon Mega-City.


  1. You should do an item about Nikolai Dante's amazing ability to recover from serious injuries! In the last story arc he was stabbed in the chest but made a speedy recovery. His internal organs must be made out of granite. :)

  2. Good point. I need to get to grips with the whole Nikolai Dante storyline first. His weapons crest gave him some healing powers but presumably they should have disappeared when the crest was removed?

  3. I guess he's too cool to kill.:)