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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1261
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    How good you are in solving complex mathematics could be in your genes

    Around half of the genes that influence how well a child can read also play a role in their mathematics ability, say scientists from University of Oxford and King's College London who led a study into the genetic basis of cognitive traits.

    While mathematics and reading ability are known to run in families, the complex system of genes affecting these traits is largely unknown.

    Scientists looked at the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) to analyze the influence of genetics on the reading and mathematics performance of 12-year-old children from nearly 2,800 British families.

    Twins and unrelated children were tested for reading comprehension and fluency, and answered mathematics questions based on the UK national curriculum.

    The information collected from these tests was combined with DNA data, showing a substantial overlap in the genetic variants that influence mathematics and reading.

    Dr Oliver Davis from UCL Genetics said: "We looked at this question in two ways, by comparing the similarity of thousands of twins, and by measuring millions of tiny differences in their DNA. Both analyzes show that similar collections of subtle DNA differences are important for reading and Maths."

    Professor Robert Plomin from King's College London who leads the TEDS study said,"This is the first time we estimate genetic influence on learning ability using DNA alone. The study does not point to specific genes linked to literacy or numeracy, but rather suggests that genetic influence on complex traits, like learning abilities, and common disorders, like learning disabilities, is caused by many genes of very small effect size."

    The study also confirms findings from previous twin studies that genetic differences among children account for most of the differences between children in how easily they learn to read and to do Maths.

    Scientists said that children differ genetically in how easy or difficult they find learning and we need to recognize and respect these individual differences. Finding such strong genetic influence does not mean that there is nothing we can do if a child finds learning difficult - heritability does not imply that anything is set in stone - it just means it may take more effort from parents, schools and teachers to bring the child up to speed.

    Dr Chris Spencer from Oxford University said,"We're moving into a world where analysing millions of DNA changes, in thousands of individuals, is a routine tool in helping scientists to understand aspects of human biology. This study used the technique to help investigate the overlap in the genetic component of reading and Maths ability in children. Interestingly, the same method can be applied to pretty much any human trait, for example to identify new links between diseases and disorders, or the way in which people respond to treatments."


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  2. #1262
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Prevalence of TB reduces, says WHO

    As per WHO estimations, prevalence of Tuberculosis per lakh population in India has reduced from 465 in the year 1990 to 230 in year 2012. Tuberculosis mortality per lakh population has reduced from 38 in the year 1990 to 22 in year 2012.

    According to the WHO report released recently the estimated proportion of Multi-Drug Resistant TB cases is not increasing. It is less than 3 percent among new TB cases and between 12-17 percent among re-treatment TB cases. However, the detection of MDR-TB cases has been increasing due to availability of more diagnostic facilities for MDR TB and coverage of the entire country by management of Drug Resistant TB in the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP), between 2007 and 2013.

    With effective anti-TB Drug regimens administered under the globally acclaimed DOTS strategy, RNTCP has been consistently achieving more than 85 percent treatment success rates among New Smear Positive Patients since the year 2001.

    The anti-TB drug regimens used for treatment of MDR-TB under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme are formulated by National experts in accordance with WHO Guidelines. The treatment outcomes among MDR-TB patients are comparable with Global outcomes.

    The first-line drugs used for new TB cases under RNTCP are a combination of Rifampicin, Isoniazid, Ethambutol and Pyrazinamide, administered as standardized treatment regimen. Injection Streptomycin is an additional drug given to re-treatment cases.


  3. #1263
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Gas from farts can help battle disease

    The thought may make your stomach churn, but scientists claim that the gas which makes farts smell of rotten eggs could be used to help tackle conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer's. The gas behind the putrid stench is known as hydrogen sulphide, and is toxic in large quantities.

    But researchers claim that if dosed correctly, the gas can help tackle diabetes, strokes, heart attacks and dementia. Professor Matt Whiteman, of the University of Exeter Medical School, explained that when cells become stressed by disease they produce tiny quantities of hydrogen sulphide. This is because the gas helps sustain mitochondria, the powerhouse of a cell, and in turn keep the cell alive. If this process does not happen, the cells die.

    Experts at the University have harnessed the power of this process by designing a new compound (AP39). "[AP39] slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria. Our results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive," Professor Whiteman said.

    Attempting to prevent or reverse damage to mitochondria is vital to treating a variety of conditions such as stroke, heart failure, and dementia Mark Wood of Biosciences, at the University of Exeter, said: "Although hydrogen sulphide is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas, it is naturally produced in the body and could be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases."

    The study linked to the findings suggests that pre-clinical trials of the method are promising. Lab models of cardiovascular disease show that if AP39 is administered, more than 80% of the powerhouse mitochondria cells survive under otherwise highly destructive conditions


  4. #1264
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Porn addiction affects brain-like drug addiction: Study

    Porn addiction triggers same brain activity in people as if they are on drugs, significant research reveals.

    People with compulsive sexual behaviour — an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviour which they are unable to control — behave in the same way as patients with drug addictions, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge in Britain.

    "The patients in our trial were people who had substantial difficulties controlling their sexual behaviour and this was having significant consequences for them, affecting their lives and relationships," explained Valerie Voon from the department of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge.

    In many ways, they show similarities in their behaviour to patients with drug addictions, he added.

    During the study funded by the Wellcome Trust, 19 participants were shown a series of short videos featuring either sexually explicit content or sports while their brain activity was monitored.

    The researchers found three brain regions — ventral striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate and amygdala — were more active in the brains of the people with compulsive sexual behaviour.

    These are the regions that are also particularly activated in drug addicts when shown drug stimuli.

    Patients with compulsive sexual behaviour showed higher levels of desire towards the sexually explicit videos.

    Excessive use of pornography is one of the main features identified in many people with compulsive sexual behaviour.

    Voon and colleagues also found a correlation between brain activity and age -- the younger the patient, the greater the level of activity in the brain in response to pornography.

    According to Voon: "It's important to note the findings could not be used to diagnose the condition or provide evidence that porn is inherently addictive."

    The study appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.


  5. #1265
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    A search for 100 hypodermic needles in nature's haystack

    Scientists across the nation are working to harness microorganisms (bacteria) to develop a slew of newer drugs with antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancerous, anti-diabetic and other specialized properties for human use. The molecules produced by these bacteria could also be used to produce a variety of biotechnological products, like enzymes.

    The multi-institutional research involving nine institutes since 2008 is being coordinated from the city-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri). The effort has screened 2.5 lakh bacteria from various environmental niches, including wet land ecosystems, insect guts, hot springs, river sediments, marine isolates, Eastern and Western Ghats, mangroves and organisms called extremophiles (which can thrive in extreme environments).

    Over six years, 500 potent cultures have been identified for their anti-infective properties, 3,800 with anti-cancerous, 5,600 with anti-diabetic and 4,000 with anti-inflammatory properties. "This requires expertise of many types and hence the involvement of so many institutions. This is only the first phase of the project, and such a magnitude of collections and screening across therapeutic areas has been done for the first time in the country," said Neeri director Satish Wate.

    Head of environmental genomics division at Neeri, Hemant Purohit, who is the project coordinator, told TOI that the Rs 51 crore first phase has been funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of central government (Rs 29 crore) and Piramal Enterprises Limited (PEL), the pharma industrial partner (Rs 23 crore).

    "Though we are far from development of new drugs, as a new drug molecule takes anything from 10-15 years, this has been one of the most exciting projects for all those involved. The huge project has been implemented by nine scientists and 36 research students from different national universities under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), with state universities also a part of it," said Purohit.

    The project aspires to achieving the daunting task of developing a catalogue of 100 molecules with new scaffolds, which may need filing of patents. The process required huge infrastructure and manpower and scientific processes. Total 22 lakh assays were conducted to develop a protocol. It took three years to collect the 2.5 lakh bacteria after which only 7.5 lakh extracts were prepared from them and of these only 18,000 were founded to possess novel activities. Purohit informed that the team has completed the gene-sequencing (ribosomal RNA) of all the 18,000 bacteria shortlisted only 2,200 were actually picked up for further testing their potential as future drugs.

    The project was made possible through M K Bhan and Renu Swarup the former secretary and adviser of on the concept of Amit Ghosh, former director of Institute of Microbial Technology Chandigarh. The characterization of molecules and understanding their structural chemistry is being monitored by committee and chaired by Prof P Balaram, the director of Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Arun Balakrishnan, the senior vice president of PEL is coordinating from industry side.

    The institutes which participated in collection of bacteria from different environmental niches included the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) in Pune, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi, University of Delhi, Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar, Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development in Imphal and National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in Goa.

    The process

    Collection of 2.5 lakh bacteria by nine institutions

    7,000 extracts made from them

    Each subcultured on 30 different growth media

    Preparing three extracts from each bacterium (total 7.5 lakh)

    Checking each of these for four desired therapeutic activities using benchmark molecules as reference

    18,000 'hits' selected for having better activities than benchmark molecules

    22,000 extracts prepared from them

    Developing 100 molecules as drug molecules

    Role of Piramal enterprises

    Piramal Enterprises Limited (PEL) is an established player in the industry with well equipped laboratories. The High Throughput Screening department of PEL hastened the process of screening by reducing the screening period from conventionally 10-15 days to just two days. All assays were conducted by PEL using a robotic platform.

    Larger gains

    * As a spin off, a new national facility was created, the Microbial Culture Collection (MCC) headed by Y Shouche

    * DBT funded MCC is affiliated to National Centre for Cell Science, Pune, and is now an affiliate member of the World Federation for Culture Collections

    * NCCS group has also stored bacteria from this project, establishing a repository of 1.5 lakh catalogued bacteria

    * Storage facility will be starting point for pharma industries to screen for novel scaffolds for other different biological activities, that can be moved forward into development stage of drug discovery

    * Facility could cater to screening programmes for other biological activities

    Future plans

    Developed molecules will be further tested using animal, cell line models or clinical trials

    Pharmaceutical industry can unearth other drug molecules from repository


  6. #1266
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    India is the world’s largest consumer of antibiotics

    India has emerged as the world's largest consumer of antibiotics, with a 62% increase in use over the past decade.

    'Global Trends in Antibiotic Consumption, 2000-2010', a study by scientists from Princeton University, has found that worldwide antibiotic use has risen by 36% over those 10 years, with five countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) — responsible for more than three-quarters of that surge. Among the 16 groups of antibiotics studied, cephalosporins, broad-spectrum penicillins and fluoroquinolones accounted for more than half of that increase, with consumption rising 55% from 2000 to 2010.

    During this period, India's antibiotic use went up from eight billion units (2001) to 12.9 billion units (2010).

    The study quantifies the growing alarm surrounding antibiotic-resistant pathogens and a loss of efficacy among antibiotics used to combat the most common illnesses. It confirms an increasing resistance to carbapenems and polymixins, two classes of drugs long considered the last resort antibiotics for illnesses without any other known treatment.

    "Indians consume around 11 antibiotic tablets per year," Ramanan Laxminarayan, one of the authors of the study, told TOI. "That's five days of antibiotics for every person in the country, which is more than the Chinese or Brazilians. An average Chinese popped seven antibiotic pills a year. However, both India and China's numbers are lesser than the Americans who on average pop 22 antibiotic pills a year. The paper confirms that global use of antibiotics is surging and specially in India."

    Laxminarayan said that was both good news and bad news. "It means that more Indians are able to access antibiotics, which are particularly important for those who previously died of easily treatable infections," he said. "However, the massive increase in use, both appropriate and inappropriate, is leading to increases in drug resistance. Antibiotic use is the single most important reason for resistance. Also use of last resort drugs like carbapenems has gone up significantly in India, and it is difficult to justify why such powerful antibiotics are being use so much more frequently."



    Laxminarayan said it had to be remembered that before we had antibiotics, it was pretty easy to die of a bacterial infection. "And we're choosing to go back into a world where you won't necessarily get better from a bacterial infection," he said. "It's not happening at a mass scale, but we're starting to see the beginning of when the antibiotics are not working as well."

    Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England and chief scientific adviser for the Department of Health, London, said: "This paper breaks new ground with the comparative antibiotic consumption data by country of the first decade of the 21st century. There is a direct relationship between consumption and development of antibiotic resistance, so the data is key for us all developing a 'National Action Plans Against Antimicrobial Resistance' as set out in the World Health Assembly Resolution in May."

    The study noted that the use of antibiotics tended to peak at different times of the year, corresponding in almost every case with the onset of the flu season. In the northern hemisphere, for example, consumption peaked between January and March, while in the southern hemisphere it peaked between July and November. One notable exception was India, for which usage peaked between July and September, correlating with the end of the monsoon season.


  7. #1267
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Major diabetes, cardiac drugs to become up to 35% cheaper

    In a move that has surprised and shaken the industry, prices of widely-used expensive anti-diabetic and cardiac medicines will reduce by as much as 35% over the next few weeks, with the drug pricing regulator, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), deciding to bring them under price control.

    In a rare invocation of a lesser-used provision in the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO), NPPA has fixed the prices of 108 formulation packs of 50 anti-diabetic and cardiovascular medicines. What makes the development significant is that NPPA has fixed prices of those medicines which are not listed under the national list of essential medicines (NLEM). Prices of 652 drugs under NLEM were fixed by the government last year under DPCO 2013.

    The drugs that will become cheaper include Gliclazide, Glimepiride, Sitagliptin, Voglibose, Amlodipine, Telmisartan and Rosuvastatin, Heparin and Ramipril.

    The move will mean savings for patients prescribed expensive chronic therapies.



    With this list, the total market of cardiac medicines under price control, including the earlier ones, stands at 58%, while 21% of the anti-diabetic market comes under the purview. Around Rs 5,500 crore of the pharma market will be impacted, with the range of prices being reduced from 10-15% to as high as 35%, with the average reduction around 12%.



    The provision, Paragraph 19 of DPCO, 2013, authorizes the NPPA "in extraordinary circumstances, if it considers necessary so to do in public interest, fix the ceiling price or retail price of any drug for such period as it deems fit".

    The notification to fix prices of these medicines, which are non-scheduled formulations, was issued on July 10: "...wherever the maximum retail price (MRP) of the brand of a particular formulation exceeds 25% of the simple average price, the same will be capped at the 25% level".

    Simply put, if the price of a drug brand exceeds the simple average price in that therapy group by 25%, or the price at which a new drug is launched for the first time is higher than the most expensive brand existing in the group, NPPA would initiate the process of fixing a price cap.



    The move which surprised many in the pharma industry, has "shaken its confidence'' and it is "examining all options''. When contacted, the industry body Indian Pharma Alliance's secretary general D G Shah said the NPPA has "gone beyond essentiality as a criterion, and into policy-making and price fixation, making the NLEM redundant".

    According to the notification, NPPA has also acted on drugs where there is a "huge inter-brand price difference in branded-generics/off-patent drugs, which is indicative of a severe market failure, as different brands of the same drug formulation, including the off-patent drug, which are identical to each other in terms of active ingredient(s), strength, dosage, route of administration, quality, product characteristics, and intended use, vary disproportionately in terms of price".

    "And whereas market failure alone may not constitute sufficient grounds for government intervention, but when such failure is considered in the context of the essential role that pharmaceuticals play in the area of public health, which is a social right, such intervention becomes necessary, especially when exploitative pricing makes medicines unaffordable and beyond the reach of most and also puts huge financial burden in terms of out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare", the notification says.

    The regulator says that the new law allows NPPA to fix and revise price caps of drugs in public interest and this clause applies to both drugs which are part of the NLEM and those outside of it.

    Recently, NPPA, under its newly-appointed chairman Injeti Srinivas, decided to monitor prices of all drug brands in critical therapies like cancer, HIV, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and tuberculosis. These could be also medicines which are part of chronic treatments and exorbitan


  8. #1268
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    Re: Health Bulletin




  9. #1269
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists make human blood and all its components in lab using stem cells

    The ability to make human blood in the lab including all the different types of cells in them has taken one giant leap.

    A team of researchers led by University of Wisconsin-Madison stem cell scientist Igor Slukvin have cracked the elusive code to turn stem cells into human blood. They discovered two genetic programs responsible for taking stem cells and turning them into both red and white cells that make up human blood.

    The method developed can produce blood cells in abundance. For every million stem cells the researchers were able to produce 30 million blood cells.

    The factors identified by Slukvin's group were capable of making the range of human blood cells including white blood cells, red blood cells and megakaryocytes commonly used blood products.

    Slukvin said the finding is important as it identifies how nature itself makes blood products at the earliest stages of development.

    "This is the first demonstration of the production of different kinds of cells from human pluripotent stem cells," Slukvin said after referencing the proteins that bind to DNA and control the flow of genetic information which ultimately determines the developmental fate of undifferentiated stem cells.

    During development blood cells emerge in the aorta, a major blood vessel. There blood cells including hematopoietic stem cells are generated by budding from a unique population of what scientists call hemogenic endothelial cells.

    The latest breakthrough identifies two distinct groups of transcription factors that can directly convert human stem cells into the hemogenic endothelial cells, which subsequently develop into various types of blood cells.

    "By overexpressing just two transcription factors we can in the laboratory dish reproduce the sequence of events we see in the embryo where blood is made," Slukvin said.

    Researchers believe that while the new work shows that blood can be made by manipulating genetic mechanisms, the approach is likely to be true as well for making other types of cells with therapeutic potential, including cells of the pancreas and heart.


  10. #1270
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Smell, eye tests may detect Alzheimer's early

    While scientists are closer to developing a blood test to predict the onset of Alzheimer's disease, Indian-origin professor Davangere Devanand and other researchers have found our eyes and sense of smell could well hold the key to detecting the disorder early in a cheaper and easier way.

    A decreased ability to identify odour might indicate the development of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease, while examinations of the eye could indicate the build-up of beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer's in the brain, the findings of four research trials showed.

    "In the face of the growing worldwide Alzheimer's disease epidemic, there is a pressing need for simple, less invasive diagnostic tests that will identify the risk of Alzheimer's much earlier in the disease process," said Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations, Alzheimer's Association.

    Early detection is essential for early intervention and prevention, when new treatments become available, Snyder noted.

    Clinically, at this time it is only possible to detect Alzheimer's late in its development, when significant brain damage has already occurred.

    Beta-amyloid protein is the primary material found in the sticky brain "plaques" characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

    In a study led by Devanand, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Centre in the US, researchers investigated a multi-ethnic sample of 1,037 non-demented elderly people in New York City and found that in 757 subjects who were followed, lower odour identification scores on a smell identification test were significantly associated with the transition to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

    "Odour identification deficits were associated with the transition to dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and with cognitive decline in cognitively intact participants, in our community sample," Devanand noted.

    In a separate study researchers found that amyloid levels detected in the retina were significantly correlated with brain amyloid levels as shown by PET (Positron emission tomography) imaging.

    The results of the studies were reported Sunday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.


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