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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1111
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Bacteria in saliva may help diagnose pancreatic cancer

    Even bacteria present in a person's saliva can help doctors identify pancreatic cancer and other pancreatic diseases, a promising study indicates.

    Patients with pancreatic cancer have a different and distinct profile of specific bacteria in their saliva compared to healthy controls and even patients with other cancers or pancreatic diseases, researchers claimed.

    "The findings suggest that ratios of particular types of bacteria found in saliva may be indicative of pancreatic cancer," said Pedro Torres from San Diego State University in the US.

    Patients diagnosed in the early stages of pancreatic cancer have a five-year survival rate of 21.5 per cent.

    Unfortunately symptoms do not appear until after the cancer has become untreatable in the vast majority of cases, Torres cautioned.

    In the study, Torres and his team compared the diversity of saliva bacteria across 131 patients, 63 female and 68 male.

    Of these patients, 14 had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, 13 with pancreatic disease, 22 with other forms of cancer and 10 disease free.

    Results showed that patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had higher levels of two particular oral bacteria, Leptotrichia and Campylobacter.

    Those with pancreatic cancer also had lower levels of Streptococcus, Treponema and Veillonella form of bacteria.

    We may be able to detect pancreatic cancer at its early stages by taking individuals' saliva and looking at the ratios of these bacteria, Torres told the gathering at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology recently.


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  2. #1112
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Found: Drugs to slow down advent of fatal lung disease

    For the first time, researchers have found drugs that can slow the decline of people with a fatal lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Studies of two experimental drugs were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented on Sunday in San Diego at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society. The drugs did not make patients better, but definitely slowed the rate at which lung function got worse.

    The odds of death increase as lung function decreases, so researchers hope that by stabilizing it, the drugs will prolong survival. But it is too soon to tell. The disease causes scarring of the lungs, making it harder and harder to breathe. At least 80,000 Americans have it. Half of patients die in three to five years. An editorial accompanying the studies called the results "a major breakthrough for patients", but also cautioned that questions remained about how long the drugs would work and whether they would help people with severe disease.

    So far, there had been no drugs that could do anything other than relieve symptoms like coughing. "There's been nothing," said Gary Hunninghake, the author of the editorial and a lung specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "That will now change. For a lot of patients this is going to be pretty exciting."


  3. #1113
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Getting fish drunk doubles its swim-speed

    A single zebrafish, exposed to alcohol, not only doubles its swim-speed among its "sober" peers, but also increases the speed of the whole group, a new study has found.

    New findings by researchers at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering are helping to unravel the complex interplay between alcohol and social behaviour and may lead to new therapies for mitigating the negative impacts of alcohol use and abuse.

    A team led by Maurizio Porfiri devised an original method that would allow for detailed tracking of a single, alcohol-exposed zebrafish amid a school of "sober" peers.

    The research team posited that an individual's response to alcohol would vary based on the presence or absence of unexposed peers.

    What they did not anticipate, however, was the remarkable effect the alcohol-exposed fish would have on unexposed shoalmates.

    Porfiri and his colleagues designed an experimental procedure in which a single zebrafish was exposed to four concentrations of ethanol in water, ranging from zero to high.

    Following exposure, the fish was released into a group of untreated zebrafish.

    A custom tracking algorithm allowed the researchers to follow for the first time individual fish throughout the experiment as well as analyse group behaviour.

    Previous studies show alcohol exposure affects zebrafish locomotion - at low concentrations, fish tend to swim faster, and as the dose increases, swimming typically slows. Alcohol can also negatively impact the school's cohesion.

    In Porfiri's trials, the single exposed zebrafish showed changes in locomotion when observed alone consistent to those predicted by independent studies in the past.

    In a group setting, however, the zebrafish behaviour was remarkably different: Fish exposed to intermediate or high alcohol concentrations nearly doubled their swimming speeds, suggesting that the presence of peers had a substantial impact on social behaviour under the influence of alcohol.

    Most remarkably, the unexposed fish also modulated their behaviour and swimming speeds differentially in the presence of a shoalmate exposed to different levels of alcohol.

    "These results were very surprising. It is clear that the untreated fish were matching the swimming speed of the alcohol-exposed fish, and this correlation was especially strong at an intermediate level of alcohol exposure. At very high or low levels, the influence decreases," said Porfiri.

    Porfiri believes that one explanation for the high-speed swimming of the exposed individual may be hyper-reactivity to an enriched environment - ?the tank containing shoalmates.


  4. #1114
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    What do you want in a spouse? Genetic similarity may help

    He leaves the toilet seat up, prefers old Japanese monster movies to romantic comedies and fancies mixed martial arts over ballet. So what do you have in common with your husband?

    More than you may think.

    People tend to choose spouses who have similar DNA, according to scientists who reported on Monday the results of a study exploring the genetic resemblance of married couples.

    The researchers examined the genetic blueprints of 825 US married couples and found a significant preference for a spouse with DNA similarities across the entire human genome.

    The study compared this affinity for husbands or wives with similar DNA makeup to the well-established and strong tendency of people to marry mates with similar educational levels.

    The researchers found that the preference for a genetically similar spouse was about a third as strong as the preference for a spouse with comparable education.

    The 1,650 people studied in the research were non-Hispanic, white men and women born between the 1930s and 1950s who were taking part in a broader US government-funded study involving health and retirement.

    "We do know in some sense that people prefer genetically similar spouses because we know that people tend to date and marry within their own racial and ethnic groups. We worked really hard in this study to not just replicate that fact," said researcher Benjamin Domingue of the University of Colorado's Institute of Behavioral Science, who led the study. "We eliminated racial variability and tried to control for ethnic variability. And we still find a preference for genetically similar individuals," Domingue added.

    The researchers measured genetic similarity by comparing 1.7 million individual DNA building blocks, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, in the study participants. They compared the genetic makeup of the married couples to other randomly chosen people of the opposite sex in the same pool of study participants.

    Domingue said the actual mechanism for a person being drawn to another person's genetic similarities is probably complicated and multifaceted - "just a whole host of things," he noted.

    The researchers noted that people usually pick spouses with similar backgrounds and characteristics in addition to education, including race, religion, age, income and body type. Genetic similarity can be added to the list, they said.

    "For example, people clearly care about height in picking partners. To the extent that tall people marry other tall people, that is going to result in genetic similarity among spouses. But it is difficult to know whether height or genes is driving this decision," Domingue said.

    The researchers said it would be interesting to see the results of similar studies involving other populations including additional races, interracial spouses and gay couples.


  5. #1115
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    How olive oil helps prevent hypertension

    esearchers have said that a diet that combines unsaturated fats with nitrite-rich vegetables, like olive oil and lettuce, could help protect you from hypertension.

    The Mediterranean diet typically includes unsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts and avocados, along with vegetables like spinach, celery and carrots that are rich in nitrites and nitrates.

    When these two food groups are combined, the reaction of unsaturated fatty acids with nitrogen compounds in the vegetables results in the formation of nitro fatty acids.

    The study, supported by the British Heart Foundation, used mice to investigate the process by which these nitro fatty acids lower blood pressure, looking at whether they inhibited an enzyme known as soluble Epoxide Hydrolase which regulates blood pressure.

    Mice genetically engineered to be resistant to this inhibitory process were found to maintain their high blood pressure despite being fed the type of nitro fatty acids that normally form when a Mediterranean diet is consumed. However, nitro fatty acids were found to lower the blood pressure of normal mice following the same diets.

    Thus, the study concludes that the protective effect of the Mediterranean diet, combining unsaturated fats and vegetables abundant in nitrite and nitrate, comes at least in part from the nitro fatty acids generated which inhibit soluble Epoxide Hydrolase to lower blood pressure.

    The findings have been published in the journal PNAS.


  6. #1116
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Is your airconditioner giving you the flu?

    The sick building syndrome (SBS) is back to haunt Kolkata in the middle of a scorching summer.

    Even as the mercury has been pushing 40 degrees, viruses spread by AC plants across offices and residential complexes in Kolkata are triggering a rash of infections earlier than expected. If you are suffering from a cough-cold and fever, the heat is not as much to blame as, perhaps, the ACs at your home and office. The change-of-season fever usually strikes in July, but this early bout of flu is a handiwork of SBS, say experts.

    Sick building syndrome can be caused by inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants from indoor or outdoor sources, or biological contaminants. Bacteria, molds, pollen and viruses can lurk in AC and cause SBS.

    Air-conditioners are the biggest trigger for prolonged viral attacks in the city, says paediatrician Shantanu Ray, adding that viruses and bacteria often flourish inside AC ducts. "Children are easy victims since they have lower immunity. There is a growing tendency to keep doors and windows shut throughout the day. It doesn't allow the germs to escape from an air-conditioned room," Ray said.

    Six employees of a private firm that had to shut down its office after a severe bout of SBS two years ago, have again fallen prey to a viral attack. "This is a clear case of SBS and it's obviously been spreading from one employee to another. Some buildings are SBS-prone. This firm had its AC plant cleaned after a dozen employees fell sick in 2012. But it seems the viruses are back," said preventive medicine specialist Debashish Basu who is treating some of the employees.

    A study by physicians reveals that less than 40% offices in Kolkata have proper ventilation. It also shows that people working in cramped, air-conditioned offices are more vulnerable to bacterial infections. "An analysis of attendance records showed that such employees took more sick leave, which peaked at the turn of the season. This proves a direct link between SBS and viral attacks," Basu said. "I felt it could not be a coincidence so I visited the office. It was not just poorly ventilated, but the AC was faulty and the ducts were unclean. The source of the disease was quite obvious," he said.

    Unclean AC ducts are often the source of viral attacks, said architect Anjan Datta, adding that technology upgrade has managed to control such attacks. "Negative ionization is now used in AC plants to retain the freshness of circulating air and prevent virus intrusion. Use of nets to prevent germs is also common. But unfortunately, these preventive aspects are often overlooked," he said.

    It is SBS that is responsible for recurrent and prolonged viral attacks in Kolkata, believe experts. Last year, there were at least five such outbreaks (which is unusual) and could be linked to poor ventilation and air circulation systems, they pointed out.


  7. #1117
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Prostate cancer may be sexually transmitted

    Prostate cancer could be a sexually transmitted disease caused by a common infection passed on during intercourse, scientists are claiming. Research by the University of California found a sex infection called trichomoniasis supported cancer growth when a team of scientists tested human prostate cells in a laboratory.

    Trichomoniasis is the most common non-viral sexually transmitted infection and is understood to have infected an estimated 275 million people around the world.

    Infected men can experience pain during urination and thin white discharge from the penis. In women, the infection may trigger soreness and itching around the vagina and a change in discharge, although half of all men and women show no symptoms at all.

    The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), discusses how the STI could make men more vulnerable to cancer. However, Cancer Research UK has said it is too early to add prostate cancer to a list of other cancers caused by infections.

    This research follows a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2009, which found a quarter of men with prostate cancer showed signs of trichomoniasis and were more likely to have advanced tumours.

    A team led by professor Patricia Johnson found the parasite responsible for causing trichomoniasis, Trichomonas vaginalis, produces a protein that in turn promotes the growth and progression of benign and cancerous prostate cells.

    The authors say more research should look into developing their findings as the cause of prostate cancer remains unknown and their study is not a definitive link between the STI and cancer of the prostate.

    Nicola Smith, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, told the BBC: "This study suggests a possible way the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis could encourage prostate cancer cells to grow and develop more quickly. But the research was only done in the lab, and previous evidence in patients failed to show a clear link between prostate cancer and this common sexually transmitted infection. There are still no known lifestyle factors that seem to affect the risk of developing the disease - and no convincing evidence for a link with infection."


  8. #1118
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Warning! Your mobile phones could cause allergic reactions

    Researchers have claimed that despite efforts to control allergen release in phones, many phones on the market release levels of metals, such as nickel and chromium, which are sufficient to induce allergic contact dermatitis (ACD).

    In the article, a team of researchers led by Jacob Thyssen, MD, PhD, Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte (Hellerup, Denmark), Loma Linda University School of Medicine (Loma Linda, CA), and University of Arizona College of Medicine (Phoenix, AZ), review the current literature on mobile phone dermatitis in both children and adults. Nickel sensitization is common in children, resulting in ACD prevalence levels of up to 33 per cent.

    This information is important for practitioners, particularly when evaluating patients with dermatitis of the face, neck, hands, breast, or anterior thighs-common places exposed to cell phones.

    The authors provide important diagnostic tips for practitioners and strategies to raise awareness of nickel- or chromium-induced mobile phone ACD.

    The study has been published in the journal Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmon


  9. #1119
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Experiments could cause deadly bird flu pandemic, scientists warn

    Scientists have created a new and highly contagious form of bird flu that could trigger a deadly global pandemic if accidentally unleashed, according to concerned researchers.

    The new strain was created to better understand how to combat the deadly virus but researchers at Harvard and Yale universities in the US argue the risk of the virus escaping the laboratory is too great.

    The most dangerous strain of bird flu, H5N1, started spreading in Asia in the late 90s and has killed more than 300 people and millions of poultry.

    According to the World Health Organisation, the mortality rate of the disease is 60 per cent and the only thing that has stopped a previous pandemic is the fact it is very difficult to pass from person to person and instead results from contact with infected birds.

    But a new strain has been created that would be far more infectious for humans.

    The laboratory-created virus has been changed to pass between ferrets, the closest model for human transmission.

    The report, written by epidemiologists Marc Lipsitch, from Harvard, and Alison Galvani, from Yale, argues that the change would be applicable to experiments with smallpox and Sars.

    Writing in journal PLOS Medicine, they calculated that if 10 laboratories conducted experiments on the altered strains for a decade, there would be 20 per cent risk of the infection escaping and starting to spread.

    "Part of what makes H5N1 so deadly is that most people lack an immunity to it," Lipsitch told Harvard Magazine.

    "If you make a strain that's highly transmissible between humans, as the Dutch team did, it could be disastrous if it ever escaped the lab."

    He argued that the precedent had already been set by the swine flu outbreak from the 1970's onwards, which is thought to have originated from a laboratory accident that released a strain preserved from the 1950s.

    Lipsitch and his colleagues are pushing for change to research practices to stop the creation of more contagious forms of deadly diseases, even in controlled environments, to reduce the risk of pandemics.

    The attempted publication of the creation of a report on the creation of the highly infectious bird flu strain prompted a row among scientists and government agencies in 2012.

    The US national science advisory board for biosecurity eventually approved the report's release after initially blocking it over fears the information could be used in biological warfare.


  10. #1120
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    An 'internal' bra for perfect shape

    A new form of plastic surgery promises to deliver "firm, young-looking breasts that keep their shape over time" by implanting bra-shaped 'silicone slings' underneath the skin. The procedure - which has been approved in the EU but is currently under review in the US - takes 45 minutes, with surgeons inserting silicon cups underneath the breast tissue and anchoring them to the bones of the rib cage with titanium screws.

    Orbix Medical, the company that developed the technology, says that it offers an alternative to breast reduction surgeries with "minimal scarring" but can also replace the 'unsustainable' results offered by traditional breast-lifts .

    The first clinical trials were carried out in Belgium in 2009 and over 50 procedures have since been performed throughout Europe, with the 'internal bra' gaining its CE mark certifying it for sale in Europe. The Sun reports that in the UK the procedure might become free to NHS patients who are scheduled for breast reductions or who are suffering from breast cancer . When performed at London's Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital the operation cost 6,000 - approximately 1,000 more expensive than traditional breast implants.

    However, surgeons are warning that the operation has not yet been common practice for long enough to determine any possible "side effects" . "There is a need for clinical trials with adequate numbers and follow ups to prove the efficacy and safety in the long term," professor Kefah Mokbel of the London Breast Institude said.


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