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  1. #1251
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Soon, a brain implant to help restore memories

    US military researchers announced on Wednesday they have awarded $40 million toward developing a new kind of brain implant that may help restore memories in wounded soldiers and civilians. The work represents a major scientific leap forward, but experts said many hurdles remain before it can be shown to work in people, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) said.

    The hope is that some day, a wireless, implantable device will bridge gaps in the injured brain and make it easier to remember basic events, places, and context — known as declarative memories.

    This kind of recall can be lost in traumatic brain injury, which has affected 270,00 US military service people since 2000 and touches 1.7 million US civilians each year.

    "Our vision is to develop neuroprosthetics for memory recovery in patients living with brain injury and dysfunction," said Justin Sanchez, program manager of the Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program at Darpa. "Those service members have paid the ultimate price in service of our nation, so it our great responsibility to try to come up with new and innovative — not only scientific but medical — approaches that can help repay some of that debt," said Sanchez.

    Darpa said it was carefully weighing the ethics of such experiments, and is consulting with a panel of neuroscience experts about potential pitfalls associated with the research.

    "It is risky, which is very typical of Darpa," said Geoffrey Ling, director of Darpa's Biological Technologies Office. The work is part of a four-year programme that supports President Barack Obama's Brain Initiative, a $100 million effort. The latest DARPA awards give up to $22.5 million to a team of scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, up to $15 million the University of California, Los Angeles, and $2.5 million to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

    Medtronic, the medical device technology company, was to contribute with a "cost-sharing effort", said Sanchez, but details on that were not immediately available. Any new neuroprosthetic device will be first tested on patients with epilepsy who have also suffered memory loss as a result of their condition and who are already implanted with electrodes as part of their treatment, researchers said.


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  2. #1252
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Bangalore scientists break bacteria's resistance to antibiotics

    Ever wondered why doctors increase the dosage of your medicine even when the nature of infection is the same as the previous time? This happens because infection-causing bacteria have mechanisms that resist drugs, just like our bodies resist bacteria.

    However, these bacteria have today become so resistant to antibiotics that even increased dosage is having little effect.

    While the international research community has pondered over many options to overcome this, a team of Bangalore-based scientists has developed a novel way to attack these bacteria, which gives the organisms little chance of developing resistance.

    "The alarming growth of antibiotic resistant superbugs (bacteria) has become a major global health hazard... Our research, the findings of which is awaiting an international patent, breaks the bacteria in a non-traditional way, affecting their ability to adapt or develop resistance," said Dr Jayanta Haldar, who along with his team of three from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research has developed the antibiotic. The other three scientists are Venkateswarlu Yarlagadda, Padma Akkapeddi and Goutham B Manjunath.

    "Antibiotics today attack different processes of bacteria. And, due to reckless overuse of drugs, bacteria, through mutations, develop ways of resisting the medicines ... Our antibiotic attacks the cell membrane, the Achilles' heel of bacteria, killing their ability to adapt," Haldar said.



    He said: "Take for instance, an office, where electricity, telephones, furniture and computers are required for effective functioning. However, if any one of them is damaged, it can be repaired. This is exactly how bacteria can repair the damage caused by currently available antibiotics. On the other hand, if the building is demolished, then the complete functioning of the office is stalled as it cannot be repaired easily. Our antibiotic works by destroying the bacterial cell membrane, which is difficult to repair."

    Stressing their invention will hardly add any extra cost to the existing treatment, he said: "The most challenging part was to make sure our antibiotic is non-toxic to humans."

    The team has already patented the molecule that targets the bacterial cell membrane directly. Also, a patient would not require multiple dosage of the same medicine as this invention leads to more effective drugs.

    Taking it to market

    The team has filed for patent for its invention in India, US, Australia, Canada, Europe and South Korea, which will automatically make the news of the invention available globally.

    "Now, we are on the look-out for pharmaceutical industries that would like to hold clinical trials and market the drug," Dr Jayanta Haldar said.

    The team has already tested the formulation in its lab. Tests on animals (mice) have also proved successful.


  3. #1253
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Full moon night reduces sleep by 20 minutes?

    Next time when your grandmother tells you a folklore as you try to sleep on a full moon night, tell her to cut short as you are going to lose some sleep owing to the effect of lunar cycle on your brain.

    Researchers have found that people actually sleep 20 minutes less when the moon is full.

    "Participants slept an average of 20 minutes less and had more trouble falling asleep during the full moon phase. However, the greatest impact on REM sleep (during which most dreaming is believed to occur) appeared to be during the new moon," said Michael Smith from Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

    Based on a study of 47 healthy adults aged 18 to 30, the results support an earlier theory that a correlation between sleep and the lunar cycle exists.

    "The brain is more susceptible to external disturbances when the moon is full," Smith added.

    A Swiss research study conducted last year showed that the full moon affects sleep.

    The findings demonstrated that people average 20 minutes less sleep, take five minutes longer to fall asleep and experience 30 minutes more of REM sleep.

    "There may be a built-in biological clock that is affected by the moon, similar to the one that regulates the circadian rhythm," researchers said.

    Re-analysis of the data showed that sensitivity, measured as reactivity of the cerebral cortex in the brain, is greatest during the full moon.

    Greater cortical reactivity was found in both women and men whereas only men had more trouble falling asleep and slept less when the moon was full, said the paper that appeared in the journal Current Biology.


  4. #1254
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Developing dengue vaccine shows 88.5% success

    The first dengue vaccine candidate (CYD-TDV) to reach phase 3 clinical testing has shown 88.5% efficacy after three doses against dengue haemorrhagic fever, according to new research published in The Lancet.

    Once administered CYD-TDV also provided 67% protection against dengue-associated hospitalization.

    Researchers found that the vaccine gave low protection (35%) against DENV 2 strain but more than 75% protection against DENV 3 and 4 and 50% against DENV 1.

    The vaccine was generally well tolerated. A total of 647 serious adverse events were reported, 402 (62%) in the vaccine group and 245 (38%) in the placebo group.

    Overall the vaccine has shown moderate protection (56%) against the disease in Asian children.

    This phase 3 trial took place in dengue-endemic areas across five countries in Asia, a region that accounts for over 70% of the global dengue burden. The study involved 10,275 healthy children aged 2 to 14 years who were randomly assigned to receive three injections of the CYD-TDV vaccine (6851) or a placebo (3424) at zero, six, and 12 months which was followed for up to 2 years.

    The researchers recorded 250 dengue cases more than 28 days after the third injection-117 in the vaccine group and 133 in the placebo group demonstrating an overall protective efficacy of 56.5%.

    Lead author Maria Rosario Capeding from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in the Philippines said, "Our results suggest that vaccination with CYD-TDV can reduce the incidence of symptomatic dengue infection by more than half and importantly reduced severe disease and hospitalizations. This candidate vaccine has the potential to have a significant impact on public health in view of the high disease burden in endemic countries."

    Annelies Wilder-Smith from Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore said, "Perhaps the most interesting finding was that efficacy after at least one dose was almost as high as that after three doses. Because three doses 6 months apart is an inconvenient and costly immunisation schedule to scale up in national programmes, the question of whether sufficient efficacy can be achieved with a lower number of doses deserves further assessment."


  5. #1255
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    C-section babies have weaker immunity: Study

    Children delivered by Caesarean section may have lower number of cells that strengthen the immune system than kids born by natural birth, a new study has found.

    Researchers from the University of Copenhagen scrutinized the impact of birth on the development of the immune system in a study of newborn mouse pups.

    The study shows that pups delivered by Caesarean section developed a lower number of cells that strengthen the immune system, said Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology.

    Newborns delivered by natural birth are exposed to more bacteria from the mother than those delivered by Caesarean section.

    According to a research hypothesis called the hygiene hypothesis, the newborn baby's immune system in this way learns to distinguish between its own harmless molecules and foreign molecules.

    In the experiment, pups delivered by Caesarean section showed a lower number of cells of a type that plays an important role in preventing reactive immune cells from responding to molecules from the body itself, from the diet and from harmless intestinal bacteria.

    Autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, Chrohn's disease and allergy are precisely characterised by an over-reaction by the immune system.

    The researchers then looked for signs of development of type 1 diabetes in pups delivered by Caesarean section, but found none.

    The next step is to study whether the pups are predisposed to other autoimmune diseases and then to test the theses in clinical trials.

    The experiments on mice may give us an idea of what would be interesting to study in more detail in clinical trials, so that in the long term, we may be able to develop methods for strengthening the immune system in newborns who are predisposed to autoimmune diseases, said Professor Axel Kornerup Hansen, Department of Veterinary Disease Biology.

    The findings were published in Journal of Immunology.


  6. #1256
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Older polio vaccine re-introduction could help fight against it: Study

    A study by Indian and British scientists has found that re-introducing a polio vaccine that fell out of favour in the 1960s could hasten eradication of the crippling disease.

    The study by Imperial College, London, and the Christian Medical College, Vellore, to be announced on Friday suggests that the Injected Polio Vaccine (IPV) which is rarely used today could provide better and longer lasting protection against infection if used in combination with the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV).

    The study involved 450 children from a densely populated urban area in Vellore, all of whom had received OPV as part of a standard vaccination programme. Half of the children were given a dose of the injected vaccine and half given nothing. One month later, the children were given a "challenge" dose of the live oral vaccine to simulate re-infection.

    Their stools were tested after seven days to see if the virus was present, specifically the two remaining serotypes of the virus which are resisting eradication - serotype 1 and serotype 3. In the children who had received the IPV, the researchers found that 38% fewer had serotype 1 and 70% fewer had serotype 3 compared to those who had not been given the injected vaccine.

    "Because IPV is injected into the arm rather than taken orally it's been assumed it doesn't provide much protection in the gut and so would be less effective at preventing faecal transmission than OPV," said Dr Jacob John from the Christian Medical College who led the study. "But we found that where the children already had a level of immunity due to OPV, the injected vaccine actually boosted their gut immunity," he added.

    "Our findings show that an additional dose of the injected vaccine is more effective at boosting immunity against infection than the oral vaccine alone," said Nick Grassly, professor of vaccine epidemiology at Imperial College London.


  7. #1257
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Many diabetics don’t adhere to dietary plans, expert says

    Only a small portion of diabetics adhere to the dietary plan as advised by their physicians and the level of carbs in their diet is higher than the recommended levels, says endocrinologist Dr Shashank R Joshi of Lilavati Bhatia Hospital.

    Delivering the Dr Rema Mohan lecture during the Dr Mohan's International Diabetes Update-2014 that was inaugurated on Thursday, the doctor said his team conducted a STARCH study to assess the dietary carbohydrate content among the Indian diabetics and found that the carb intake, especially in the form of polished white rice, was high in India which was a major cause of diabetes.

    "Carbohydrate constitute 64.1 % of total energy from diet in diabetic population, which is higher than recommended and only 38% of diabetics stuck to their diet regime," he said.

    Another study titled INTERHEART which was led by Dr Shashank showed that South Asians had a lower daily intake of fruits and vegetables than people from 47 non- South Asian countries and less than four percent of the South Asian consume minimum daily recommendation of fruit and vegetables due to cost constraints.

    The doctor also elaborated on the link between obesity and diabetes and said 46% of Type 2 diabetes patients are overweight or obese. "There is increased risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and CVD in with increasing obesity and prevalence of complication is 2.7 to 3.7 times higher in overweight with diabetes," he said. A 10% reduction in body weight reduces disease risk factors.



    With a staggering number of 65 million people suffering from diabetes in the country and 77 million of them being pre-diabetic, making a clean break from the sedentary lifestyle and focusing on a healthier diet is the need of the hour, said Dr Mohan.

    "The third phase of the INDIAB study will be completed in a couple of years and it would help us understand the prevalence of the disease across India," he said.

    Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University vice-chancellor Dr V Shanta Ram, Dr Samuel Dagogo-Jack, president-elect of American Diabetes Association and Dr Gojka Roglic, Medical Officer-in-charge of WHO's Diabetes Programme participated in the programme along with delegates from several countries.


  8. #1258
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Rise in daily temperature leads to rise in kidney stones: Study

    Climate change - synonymous to rising temperatures and sea water levels has now been found to be doing serious harm to human health.

    For the first time, increase in daily temperatures has now been found to rocket the number of patients seeking treatment for kidney stones.

    A research team has now found a link between hot days and kidney stones in 60,000 patients in several US cities with varying climates.

    "We found that as daily temperatures rise, there is a rapid increase in the probability of patients presenting over the next 20 days with kidney stones," said study leader Gregory E Tasian from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

    The study team analyzed medical records of more than 60,000 adults and children with kidney stones between 2005 and 2011 in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, in connection with weather data.

    As mean daily temperatures rose above 50 F (10 C), the risk of kidney stone presentation increased in all the cities except Los Angeles.

    The delay between high daily temperatures and kidney stone presentation was short, peaking within three days of exposure to hot days.

    Tasian said: "Higher temperatures contribute to dehydration, which leads to a higher concentration of calcium and other minerals in the urine that promote the growth of kidney stones."

    A painful condition that brings half a million patients a year to US emergency rooms, kidney stones have increased markedly over the world in the past three decades. While stones remain more common in adults, the numbers of children developing kidney stones have climbed at a dramatically high rate over the last 25 years.

    The study team also found that very low outdoor temperatures increased the risk of kidney stones in three cities: Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia. The authors suggest that as frigid weather keeps people indoors more, higher indoor temperatures, changes in diet and decreased physical activity may raise their risk of kidney stones.

    The researchers argue that the number of hot days in a given year may better predict kidney stone risk than the mean annual temperature. Atlanta and Los Angeles share the same annual temperature (63 F, or 17 C), but Atlanta has far more hot days than Los Angeles, along with nearly twice the prevalence of kidney stones.

    The authors note that other scientists have reported that overall global temperatures between 2000 and 2009 were higher than 82% of temperatures over the past 11,300 years. Furthermore, increases in greenhouse gas emissions are projected to raise earth's average temperatures by 2 to 8 F (1 to 4.5 C) by 2100.

    "Kidney stone prevalence has already been on the rise over the last 30 years, and we can expect this trend to continue, both in greater numbers and over a broader geographic area, as daily temperatures increase," concluded Tasian adding "With some experts predicting that extreme temperatures will become the norm in 30 years, children will bear the brunt of climate change."


  9. #1259
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Clear differences between organic and non-organic food, study finds

    It is now official - fruits and vegetables grown organically are up to 69% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown crops.

    The largest study of its kind by an international team of experts led by Newcastle University in UK analysed 343 studies into the compositional differences between organic and conventional crops and found that a switch to eating organic fruit, vegetable and cereals - and food made from them - would provide additional antioxidants equivalent to eating between 1-2 extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

    The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition on Saturday also shows significantly lower levels of toxic heavy metals in organic crops.

    Cadmium, which is one of only three metal contaminants along with lead and mercury for which the European Commission has set maximum permitted contamination levels in food, was found to be almost 50% lower in organic crops than conventionally-grown ones.

    The study, funded jointly by the European Framework 6 programme and the Sheepdrove Trust, found that concentrations of antioxidants such as polyphenolics were between 18-69% higher in organically-grown crops.

    Numerous studies have linked antioxidants to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers. Substantially lower concentrations of a range of the toxic heavy metal cadmium were also detected in organic crops (on average 48% lower).

    Nitrogen concentrations were found to be significantly lower in organic crops. Concentrations of total nitrogen were 10%, nitrate 30% and nitrite 87% lower in organic compared to conventional crops.

    The study also found that pesticide residues were four times more likely to be found in conventional crops than organic ones.

    Newcastle University's professor Carlo Leifert who led the study said "This study demonstrates that choosing food produced according to organic standards can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals.

    Professor Charles Benbrook, one of the authors of the study and a leading scientist based at Washington State University, explains "Our results are highly relevant and significant and will help both scientists and consumers sort through the often conflicting information currently available on the nutrient density of organic and conventional plant-based foods".

    Professor Leifert added "The organic vs non-organic debate has rumbled on for decades now but the evidence from this study is overwhelming - that organic food is high in antioxidants and lower in toxic metals and pesticides. But this study should just be a starting point. We have shown without doubt there are composition differences between organic and conventional crops, now there is an urgent need to carry out well-controlled human dietary intervention and cohort studies specifically designed to identify and quantify the health impacts of switching to organic food".

    This is the most extensive analysis of the nutrient content in organic vs conventionally-produced foods ever undertaken and is the result of a ground-breaking new systematic literature review and meta-analysis by the international team.

    The findings contradict those of a 2009 UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) commissioned study which found there were no substantial differences or significant nutritional benefits from organic food.

    The FSA commissioned study based its conclusions on only 46 publications covering crops, meat and dairy, while Newcastle led meta-analysis is based on data from 343 peer-reviewed publications on composition difference between organic and conventional crops now available.


  10. #1260
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Massive blow: 'Miracle girl' cured of HIV as a baby is suffering from virus again

    A four-year-old girl who had emerged as the beacon of hope for the global fight against AIDS, when she was cured of HIV after being born to an infected mother has now been found with "detectable levels of HIV".

    In a massive blow to scientists, the child known as the "Mississippi baby" who when put on antiretroviral therapy (ART) within 30 hours of birth was cured last year by halting the formation of hard-to-treat viral reservoirs — dormant cells responsible for reigniting the infection in most HIV patients within weeks of stopping the therapy has now been found to have been re-infected after more than two years of not taking ART.

    "Certainly, this is a disappointing turn of events for this young child, the medical staff involved in the child's care, and the HIV/AIDS research community," said NIAID director Anthony S Fauci. "Scientifically, this development reminds us that we still have much more to learn about the intricacies of HIV infection and where the virus hides in the body".

    A routine clinical care visit earlier this month has revealed that the child has detectable HIV levels in the blood (16,750 copies/mL). Repeat viral load blood testing performed 72 hours later confirmed this finding (10,564 copies/mL of virus).

    Additionally, the child had decreased levels of CD4+ T-cells, a key component of a normal immune system, and the presence of HIV antibodies — signals of an actively replicating pool of virus in the body.

    The child was again started on ART. Genetic sequencing of the virus indicated that the child's HIV infection was the same strain acquired from the mother.


    Delegates pray for individuals that have perished due to HIV-AIDS at the 31st International AIDS Candlelight Memorial in Manila (Getty Images)

    The child continues to receive medical care, treatment and monitoring from Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who has been involved in the child's care since birth.

    Researchers say they will now work to better understand what enabled the child to remain off treatment for more than two years without detectable virus or measurable immunologic response and what might be done to extend the period of sustained HIV remission in the absence of ART.

    "The fact that this child was able to remain off antiretroviral treatment for two years and maintain quiescent virus for that length of time is unprecedented," said Deborah Persaud, professor of infectious diseases at the John Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore and one of the two pediatric HIV experts involved in the ongoing analysis of the case. "Typically, when treatment is stopped, HIV levels rebound within weeks, not years".


    Quilts embroidered with the names of AIDS victims (Getty Images)

    "The case of the Mississippi child indicates that early antiretroviral treatment in this HIV-infected infant did not completely eliminate the reservoir of HIV-infected cells that was established upon infection but may have considerably limited its development and averted the need for antiretroviral medication over a considerable period," said Dr Fauci.

    "Now we must direct our attention to understanding why that is and determining whether the period of sustained remission in the absence of therapy can be prolonged even further."

    HIV first sprung its head over 30 years ago and has till now infected over 34 million people worldwide.

    Finding a vaccine against HIV has been a daunting challenge.

    The UN estimates that 330,000 babies were infected in 2011. This is apart from more than three million children living with HIV around the world.

    In India, more than 14,000 children got infected in 2011, which accounted for 13% decline compared to 2009. The number of estimated deaths among children (0-14 years old) due to AIDS was 10,213 in 2011.

    In India, children accounted for 7% of an estimated 21 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS in 2011. Around 40% (8.16 lakh) of them were women, who are likely to pass on the virus to their children.

    The baby in question was born prematurely in a Mississippi clinic in 2010 to an HIV-infected mother who did not receive ART medication during pregnancy and was not diagnosed with HIV infection until the time of delivery. Because of the high risk of HIV exposure, the infant was started at 30 hours of age on liquid, triple-drug antiretroviral treatment. Testing confirmed within several days that the baby had been infected with HIV. At two weeks of age, the baby was discharged from the hospital and continued on liquid antiretroviral therapy.

    The baby continued on antiretroviral treatment until 18 months of age, when the child was lost to follow up and no longer received treatment. Yet, when the child was again seen by medical staff five months later, blood samples revealed undetectable HIV levels (less than 20 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (copies/mL)) and no HIV-specific antibodies. The child continued to do well in the absence of antiretroviral medicines and was free of detectable HIV for more than two years.

    "The prolonged lack of viral rebound, in the absence of HIV-specific immune responses, suggests that the very early therapy not only kept this child clinically well, but also restricted the number of cells harboring HIV infection," said Katherine Luzuriaga, professor of molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

    A Global Plan on HIV has two main targets for 2015: a 90% reduction in the number of children newly infected with HIV and a 50% reduction in the number of AIDS-related maternal deaths. The Plan focuses on the 22 countries which account for 90% of new HIV infections among children which includes India.


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