20th Jun 2014, 12:48 PM #1201
Re: Health Bulletin
British university makes antibiotic resistance breakthrough
Scientists at a British university have claimed a breakthrough in the race to beat the global health threat of antibiotic resistance.
In research that could pave the way for an entirely new class of drugs to combat highly resistant "superbugs", the scientists say they have found the "Achilles heel" of a major group of bacteria which includes E.coli and other potentially deadly species.
Antibiotic resistance - the process whereby bacteria evolve resistance to the drugs we use to treat them - is regarded by most experts as one of the gravest threats facing mankind, ranking alongside climate change and global terrorism. In Europe there are already estimated to be 25,000 deaths per year as a result of drug-resistant infections.
Developing new forms of antibiotics is seen as one of the key avenues for combating the threat. Now scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) say that they have discovered a way in which drugs could attack the cell membrane of one of the three major bacteria groups, known as gram negatives.
The membrane acts as a defensive barrier against attacks by the human immune system and antibiotic drugs. Exactly how the membrane is formed has not been well understood until now, but the new findings reveal how a crucial set of molecules called lipopolysaccharides are involved.
Scientists at UEA's Norwich Medical School believe that if drugs could be developed to target these molecules, then membranes could not form, leaving the bacteria cell exposed to the body's own immune system.
They also said that, because the drugs would not need to enter the bacteria itself, the bacteria may not be able to develop resistance, halting the evolution of superbugs.
Prof Changjiang Dong, who led the research, which is published in the journal Nature tomorrow, said that the discovery provided "the platform for urgently needed new generation drugs".
However, the method will have to be tested on infection-causing bacteria, and would only work on gram negative bacteria, a group which includes E.coli and other potentially deadly superbugs such as Klebisella pneumoniae, which has infected hundreds of patients at UK hospitals in recent years.
"We should be excited about this research, because we are in a situation where we need to look at every possible [treatment] target we can come across," said Mark Fielder, professor of microbiology at Kingston University. "What we need to do is take it forward and try it against clinically relevant organisms."
However, he said it was not clear whether bacteria could evolve resistance even to the new generation of drugs.
"I think because [the new drugs would be] attacking such a vast area of the organism, the potential for mutation might be slowed, but I don't think we could ever say it won't evolve," he said. "It is another step forward, another piece in our armoury to overcome the organisms. The more we understand, the better chance we have."
21st Jun 2014, 01:22 PM #1202
Re: Health Bulletin
New facial recognition tool to help find missing kids
A new facial recognition tool can help find missing children by rapidly matching the pictures of kids with their biological parents.
The tool could be useful to law enforcement and families in locating missing children, researchers said. A team from the University of Central Florida started the project with more than 10,000 online images of celebrities, politicians and their children.
"We wanted to see whether a machine could answer questions, such as 'Do children resemble their parents?' 'Do children resemble one parent more than another?' and 'What parts of the face are more genetically inspired?'" Graduate Student Afshin Dehfghan said.
"As this tool is developed I could see it being used to identify long-time missing children as they mature," said Ross Wolf, associate professor of criminal justice at UCF.
Wolf said that facial recognition technology is already heavily used by law enforcement, but that it has not been developed to the point where it can identify the same characteristics in photos over time, something this technology could have the capability to do. Dehghan is studying how factors such as age and ethnicity affect the resemblance of facial features.
The computer can focus on indicators people may not find as significant — such as the left eye, the chin and parts of the forehead, said researchers. By designing an algorithm to focus on specific features, the research team converted the photos into a checker-board of patches and extracted tiny snapshots of the most significant facial parts.
21st Jun 2014, 06:05 PM #1203
Re: Health Bulletin
New treatment for ovarian cancer developed
Researchers claim to have developed a new treatment for ovarian cancer that can increase the rate of tumour shrinkage and prolong the time until cancers recur.
Doctors at the University of Arizona Cancer Centre at St Joseph's Hospital said the new treatment can improve response rates (increase the rate of tumour shrinkage) and delay cancer progression.
"Trebananib is a first-in-class peptide-Fc fusion protein (or peptibody) that targets angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels into cancerous tumours) by inhibiting the binding of both angiopoietin 1 and 2 to the Tie2 receptor," researchers said.
This is very different mechanism of action than other agents that also effect angiogenesis by inhibiting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) such as bevacizumab, they said.
Researchers said Trebananib does not increase the risks of hypertension and bowel perforation like bevaciuzmab, but still has a similar impact on tumour shrinkage and delaying cancer progression.
A randomised clinical trial added trebananib or placebo to standard chemotherapy (weekly paclitaxel) among 919 women with recurrent ovarian cancer patient from 179 sites in 32 countries.
The trial, dubbed TRINOVA-1, was run by Professor Bradley J Monk who directs the Division of Gynaecologic Oncology at the University of Arizona Cancer Centre at St Joseph's in Phoenix.
"This is an exciting new targeted medication in treating recurrent ovarian cancer. Recurrent ovarian cancer is almost always fatal and new treatments are desperately needed," said Monk.
"TRINOVA-1 also showed that angiogenesis is a complex process in oncology and many new targets like angiopoietin 1/2 will allow us to more effectively inhibit the growth of new blood vessels that are necessary for cancer growth, metastases and progression.
"If we can stop cancers from growing by choking off their blood supply, we can help our patients feel better and live longer," Monk said.
Amgen, the manufacturer of trebananib has not yet filed this agent with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but has enrolled two other ovarian cancer phase III trials that have not yet had reported results.
The study appears in the journal Lancet Oncology.
22nd Jun 2014, 10:30 PM #1204
Re: Health Bulletin
Antidepressant use by pregnant women could lead to obesity and diabetes in children
Researchers have revealed that women who take antidepressants during pregnancy could be predisposing their infants to type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life.
The study finds a correlation between the use of the medication fluoxetine during pregnancy and an increased risk of obesity and diabetes in children.
Currently, up to 20 per cent of woman in the United States and approximately seven per cent of Canadian women are prescribed an antidepressant during pregnancy.
Study's senior investigator Alison Holloway, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at McMaster University, said obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children is on the rise and there is the argument that it is related to lifestyle and availability of high calorie foods and reduced physical activity, but our study has found that maternal antidepressant use may also be a contributing factor to the obesity and diabetes epidemic.
Their study does not suggest women should avoid taking antidepressants during pregnancy, only that there may be risks associated with antidepressants that haven't been previously identified, Holloway says.
22nd Jun 2014, 10:31 PM #1205
Re: Health Bulletin
Simple blood tests can save hepatitis patients
Blood tests can save more than 80 percent hepatitis C patients and over 60 percent hepatitis B patients when combined with proper prevention and treatment, say experts.
The tests are usually performed to detect current or previous viral hepatitis infections, to determine how contagious a person is by verifying their viral load, and to monitor a person who is being treated for viral hepatitis.
"The knowledge about these tests is important, keeping in mind the fact that majority of hepatitis patients come to know about the disease at a stage when it is irreversible," said Samir Shah, founder trustee of National Liver Foundation (NLF), Mumbai.
The National Liver Foundation (NLF) is a voluntary, non-profit organisation promoting awareness and prevention of liver diseases in India.
There are some tests to check the severity of hepatitis B infection as well as health of your liver.
"The hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) test shows whether you can easily pass HBV to others and the antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) test detects whether you are immune to HBV.
"The antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) test determines whether you have had or currently have a hepatitis B infection," explained Shah, head of the department of hepatology, Global Hospitals, Mumbai.
In a similar manner, Hepatitis C infection can also be detected by just undergoing few tests.
There are more than six different genotypes, and detecting hepatitis C genotype will help you determine the type and length of treatment.
23rd Jun 2014, 12:50 PM #1206
Re: Health Bulletin
Doctor, hospital liable for anaesthesia overdose death
Case Study: Chandrani Sarkar was due for delivery in the first week of August 2004. She was residing with her husband, Uttam and was to go to her maternal home in Tura for delivery. Hence Uttam visited a local hospital, Tura Christian Hospital, which assured him of all facilities. On July 31, Chandrani was admitted to the hospital in an absolutely normal state. On August 9, the hospital said a normal delivery would not be possible and Chandrika was taken to the operation theatre for a caesarian delivery. Uttam was told after an hour that the operation was successful and Chandrika had given birth to a baby boy. But Chandrika remained unconscious due to anaesthesia and Uttam was told she would regain her senses soon. But when that did not happen after five hours, she was shifted to the ward. Chandrika remained unconscious that night and died the following morning. The hospital allowed Uttam to take Chandrika's body after he cleared the bill of Rs 11,485.
Uttam later discovered that the hospital neither had a qualified anaesthetist nor did it bring one. Instead, a paediatrician had administered anaesthesia, resulting in an overdose that led Chandrika into a coma. Though she failed to regain consciousness, the hospital neither offered any special care nor did it shift her to ICU. She was only given oxygen Accusing the hospital, the gynaecologist and the paediatrician of negligence, Uttam filed a complaint before the Meghalaya state commission.
The hospital and the doctors argued that if Uttam had really felt there was any negligence, he would have asked for a post-mortem. Instead, he filed a complaint after two years as an afterthought to extract money. They said it was not wrong for a general practitioner to administer anaesthesia in an emergency case. Since Chandrika had developed complications suddenly, no fault could be attributed to anaesthesia administration by the paediatrician, who was trained.
The commission observed that it was an admitted fact that the hospital did not have a qualified anaesthetist. No proof was produced to show that paediatrician Dr Editha Momin was trained in administering anaesthesia independently. An anaesthetist from the civil hospital was called belatedly after Chandrika had gone into an anaesthetic coma. The commission concluded that anaesthesia administration by the paediatrician was professional misconduct amounting to negligence.
The commission expressed displeasure that a hospital, claiming to be a Christian, religious, non-profit institution that helps poor people should try to cover up its negligence by making reckless allegations against Uttam. In its February 7 order, the commission observed that Chandrika had died at a prime age of 26. Her husband was deprived of the love and company of his wife, for which he was awarded a compensation of Rs 3 lakh and an additional Rs 1 lakh for mental agony. The newborn was also deprived of mother's love, care, protection and pleasure, for which a further amount of Rs 4 lakh was awarded. The total amount of Rs 8 lakh was ordered to be paid along with 6% interest from January 12, 2006, in three months, and any delay in payment would attract 9% interest.
Conclusion: Doctors and hospitals must ensure they do not play with lives of patients. Only qualified and trained persons must be employed.
23rd Jun 2014, 01:12 PM #1207
Re: Health Bulletin
Stress leading to TB in young professionals
Stress-related health problems are no strangers to young professionals, but a new guest has found its way to the list-tuberculosis.
The infectious disease often conjures images of a lined and gaunt face and an emaciated body, but the bacteria is striking early and, increasingly, young professionals are the victims. "At least 60% of the patients I see work in sectors that involve a lot of stress, with the IT sector comprising a large chunk. Many of them are between 18 to 30 years old," said Dr Manjula Datta, former deputy director of National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT), who has also been practising.
Doctors attribute the reasons for the uptick to stress and unhealthy eating patterns which weaken the immune system. "The prevalence of TB among this group is yet to be studied in detail, but there are in-depth studies to show that stress, especially chronic stress, affects the immune system, making the person susceptible to infections," said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director of NIRT. "While HIV has often been associated to a weak immune system that makes it conducive for TB bacteria, erratic eating patterns, smoking and alcohol also makes the body predisposed to the infection," said Dr Swaminathan. She said the closed environment young professionals work in only furthers transmission.
Studies show that chronic stress results in sustained changes in the body, such as increased blood pressure, for instance, which over time can result in damaged arteries and heart disease. The continuous increase in stress hormones can also result in suppression of the immune system's white blood cells, leading to an increased risk of infections.
While TB in the lungs — the infectious form — is still relatively low among this group, doctors say they are falling victims to lesser known versions of the disease that strike the stomach, heart, spine, lymph node and the bone. This makes sufferers less likely to think they have TB, and also makes right diagnosis elusive. "As a result, many of them are either overdiagnosed or not diagnosed with TB at all," said Dr Swaminathan. She cites the case of uterine TB, which causes infertility. "The woman is immediately put on fertility treatment without receiving treatment for TB. This is a worrying trend," said Dr Swaminathan.
In many of the cases, the culprit is latent tuberculosis, which lies dormant in people, but later becomes active after the immune system is weakened. Most of these patients come with complaints of low-grade fever and weight loss along with low appetite. "They usually report first to physicians and when they don't respond to treatment they are referred to specialists. Many are in denial mode when tests confirm they have TB. They often go for a second or third opinion," said social scientist Beena Thomas, who works with TB patients.
About a third of the world's population has latent TB, says the World Health Organization (WHO), and roughly 10% of those go on to develop the highly-infectious active form of the disease.
24th Jun 2014, 01:14 PM #1208
Re: Health Bulletin
Soon, a pacemaker that matches heart beats with breathing
A revolutionary new pacemaker that synchronizes the heart rate with breathing is now being built. The device is being developed by the universities of Bath and Bristol.
Pre-clinical trials suggest the pacemaker gives a 25% increase in pumping ability, which is expected to extend the life of patients with heart failure. It is hoped that this technology can also be applied to brain research, including prosthetics , and potentially to stimulate the rebuilding of nerves following a stroke.
Julian Paton from the University of Bristol said, "We've known for almost 80 years that the heart beat is modulated by breathing but we have never fully understood the benefits this brings. The generous new funding from the British Heart Foundation will allow us to reinstate this natural occurring synchrony between heart rate and breathing and understand how it brings therapy to hearts that are failing."
Currently, the pulses from pacemakers are set at a constant rate when fitted which doesn't replicate the natural beating of the human heart. The new device makes use of synthetic neural technology to restore this variation of heart rate with lung inflation and is targeted at patients who have suffered heart failure.
The device works by saving heart energy, improving its pumping efficiency and enhancing blood flow to the heart muscles itself. The research team has already patented the technology.
24th Jun 2014, 01:21 PM #1209
Re: Health Bulletin
Mobile radiation not harmful, health experts and doctors
A group of health experts and doctors have come together on the same platform to dispel fears of harmful effects of radiation from mobile phones and towers.
As part of an awareness campaign by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the experts have assured mobile phone users that radiation does not affect the health of a person.
In a video series which would soon be uploaded on YouTube, Dr Bhavin Jankharia, Mumbai-based eminent radiologist and president of the Indian Radiology and Imaging Association, said, "Mobile tower radiation is inherently a type of radiation that we believe does not produce any kind of significant harm to humans."
He said that the entire issue began when some people made some co-relation between an incidence of cancer and telecom towers without any basis.
Various environmental groups, NGOs and activists in India have voiced their concerns over adverse health affects from Electromagnetic Field (EMF) emissions from antennas on cell towers and mobile phones.
This has led to opposition against setting up of mobile phone towers on buildings by various resident welfare associations in cities.
Among others, a Bollywood actress has also become a part of these protests as she has started a 'reduce EMF radiation' campaign.
"All scientific research has found no health effect," telecom industry body COAI's director general Rajan S Mathews told PTI.
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)'s chemical sciences professor R V Hosur said, "Non-ionising radiation such as mobile emission causes only local change in temperature depending on the extent of use".
Indian American oncologist Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, said if there is a link between EMF and cancer then "it must be occurring through a mechanism that lies outside anything that we know about the standard mechanisms of carcinogenesis".
"One would have to invent a novel mechanism of carcinogenesis in order to understand how radiation in that part of the spectrum can cause cancer," said the author of the Pulitzer prize winning book, 'The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer'.
Noted brain-tumour specialist Dr Rakesh Jalali of the Tata Medical Centre said, "The RF (radio frequency) waves used in the mobile phone technology are probably at the lowest end of the electromagnetic spectrum and does not cause any DNA kill".
In an advisory issued in September 2013, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had said that studies so far provide no indication that environmental exposure to radio frequency fields, such as from base stations, increases the risk of cancer or any other disease.
"Scientists have reported other health effects of using mobile phones including changes in brain activity, reaction times and sleep patterns. These effects are minor and have no apparent health significance," it said.
Dr Rajesh Dixit of Tata Medical Centre, who is leading a study on effect of mobile emissions on human health in Mumbai, also agreed saying there is not enough evidence proving mobile phones cause cancer in humans.
Experts claim unborn babies also do not get affected if pregnant women are exposed to radiation.
Professor Michael Repacholi, ex-EMF project co-ordinator for WHO, pointed out that the penetration depth of EMF is only 1-2 mm, so it never gets close to the foetus in any significant amount to cause any damage.
24th Jun 2014, 04:22 PM #1210
Re: Health Bulletin
What powers our heart and lungs?
The process that serves as a way to power computer memory chips, display screens and sensors is seen in a protein found in human hearts, lungs and arteries, organs that repeatedly stretch and retract.
Ferroelectric switching, a response to an electric field in which a molecule switches from having a positive to a negative charge, happens in the biological protein elastin, the study showed.
This switching process in synthetic materials serves as a way to power computer memory chips, display screens and sensors.
"When we looked at the smallest structural unit of the biological tissue and how it was organised into a larger protein fibre, we then were able to see similarities to the classic ferroelectric model found in solids," said Jiangyu Li, professor at University of Washington in the US.
The researchers used small samples of elastin taken from a pig's aorta and poled the tissues using an electric field at high temperatures.
They then measured the current with the poling field removed and found that the current switched direction when the poling electric field was switched, a sign of ferroelectricity.
They did the same thing at room temperature using a laser as the heat source, and the current also switched directions.
Then, the researchers tested for this behaviour on the smallest-possible unit of elastin, called tropoelastin, and again observed the phenomenon.
They concluded that this switching property is "intrinsic" to the molecular make-up of elastin.
The study appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.