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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1831
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Most people on anti-depressants don't need them

    More than two-thirds of people taking anti-depressant drugs may not actually suffer from depression, claims a new study.

    The US-based study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that 69 per cent of people taking anti-depressants did not meet the criteria for major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression.

    "Many individuals prescribed anti-depressants may not have met the criteria for mental disorders," the researchers were quoted as saying.

    "Our data indicates that anti-depressants are commonly used in the absence of clear evidence-based indications," the researchers noted.

    Anti-depressants are also prescribed for other psychiatric disorders. But the researchers found 38 per cent of those taking the drugs did not meet the criteria for obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia or generalised anxiety disorder either, Daily Mail reported.

    The researchers used data from the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) Study Wave 1 (1981) through Wave 4 (2004-2005) and assessed lifetime prevalence of common mood and anxiety disorders among participants who reported current anti-depressant use.

    They also examined factors associated with current anti-depressant use.


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  2. #1832
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Brain protein can help curb binge drinking

    A new study has proposed that a naturally-occurring protein in the brain can act to suppress binge alcohol drinking.

    The researchers at University of North Carolina School used a series of genetic and pharmacological approaches where they identified how a compound in the brain, Neuropeptide Y (NPY), could suppress this dangerous behavior.

    Thomas L Kash, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of pharmacology and psychology and a member of UNC's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, asserted that they found that NPY acted in a part of the brain known as the extended amygdala (or bed nucleus of the stria terminalis) that they know is linked to both stress and reward. This anti-drinking effect was due to increasing inhibition (the brakes) on a specific population of cells that produce a 'pro-drinking' molecule called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF).

    Study co-author Todd E Thiele, PhD, professor of psychology at UNC and a member of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies said that identification of where in the brain and how NPY blunts binge drinking, and the observation that the NPY system was compromised during early binge drinking prior to the transition to dependence, were novel and important observations.

    Thiele added that what particularly exciting was that these findings suggested that restoring NPY may not only be useful for treating alcohol use disorders, but may also protect some individuals from becoming alcohol dependent.

    The study is published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.


  3. #1833
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Antibiotics to insulin: Key drugs to cost 4% more

    Essential medicines including insulin, hepatitis injection, anti-diabetes drugs, antibiotics and some of the cancer medicines have become costlier by 3.8% starting April 1. The hike could be significant as some of these drugs are already expensive.

    The government has allowed pharmaceutical companies to raise prices of 509 formulation packs, in line with the annual increase in the Wholesale Price Index (WPI).

    The latest price hike also applies on condoms, which are part of the list of essential medicines — prices of which are capped by the government.

    "As confirmed by the Economic Adviser (Ministry of Commerce & Industry), the annual increase in the WPI works out as 3.849% during the calendar year 2014 over the corresponding period in 2013," NPPA said in a latest office memorandum. The regulator added, a notification has already been issued for price revision from April 1.

    The list of 509 medicines include Alpha Interferon injection used to treat hepatitis B and C as well as certain types of cancer, carboplatin injection also used for cancer treatment, fluconazole capsules indicated for fungal infections, among others.

    This is the first time that government has allowed a hike in prices of medicines ever since BJP came to power at the Centre. In fact, the hike has its roots in the drug pricing policy which mandates an annual revision of ceiling prices of regulated pharmaceutical products based on the WPI.



    The government directly caps prices of a total of 348 essential medicines based on the simple average of all medicines in a particular therapeutic segment with sales of more than 1%. Besides, the government also regulates prices of all other medicines and companies are allowed to hike prices of such drugs only up to 10% in a year.

    Recently, many medicines were also found missing from the market following stringent regulatory measures. While the government has of late made attempts to expand the span of price control and even include medical devices. However, industry experts argue price regulation is not the ideal way bring down prices. Instead government needs to find a middle path for balancing regulation with viability, industry executives said.


  4. #1834
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Sex offenders 'are influenced by the genes of their brothers and fathers': Study

    Men are up to five times more likely to commit a sex crime than the average male if they have a brother or father who has also been convicted of a serious sexual offence, the largest study of its kind has shown.

    A survey of 21,566 men convicted of rape and other sexual crimes in Sweden between 1973 and 2009 has revealed a strong genetic component to sex offending which appears to play a significant influence on the risk of close male relatives going on to commit a sex crime, researchers said.

    The study found that about 2.5 per cent of the brothers or fathers of criminals convicted of sexual crimes are themselves convicted of similar crimes - compared to 0.5 per cent of the general male population who become convicted sex offenders.

    Scientists said the findings should not be used to excuse sex offending, to restrict the freedom of the male relatives of sex offenders, or to suggest that there are genes for rape or paedophilia. However, they believe the results could lead to better prevention strategies for the sons or brothers of known sex offenders.

    "If interventions can be provided that are not harmful, this is an opportunity....We're not saying you should lock up the brothers of sex offenders, because there is a very small proportion of brothers who go on to offend," said Seena Fazel, professor of forensic psychiatry at Oxford University.

    "We are definitely not saying that we have found a gene for sexual offending or anything of that kind. What we have found is high quality evidence from a large population study that genetic factors have a substantial influence on an increased risk of being convicted of sexual offences," Professor Fazel said.

    "It tells us something about why if we take two sets of brothers whose backgrounds look identical [and] one set has a higher risk of sexual offending than the other, a large proportion of this difference is likely to be due to genetic factors," he said.

    Future studies may discover the genes that influence the risk of sexual offending, and if they do it is likely that these genes are "mediators" of aberrant behaviour rather than contributing directly to the cause of offending, Professor Fazel explained.

    The study was possible because of the detailed registers kept in Sweden on convicted sex offenders and their relatives. The scientists looked at offending in the sons, brothers, half-brothers and cousins of men who had been convicted of any sexual crime over the 37-year period, including adult rape and child molestation.

    By comparing fathers with sons, and full brothers with paternal half-brothers, who are usually reared in separate families by two different mothers, and maternal half-brothers, who are normally brought up together by the same mother, the scientists were able to tease out the relative influence of shared environment and shared genes on the risk of sexual offending.

    This suggested that about 40 per cent of the difference in risk seen between brothers and fathers of convicted sexual offenders and brothers and fathers of those without a similar conviction is due to genetic factors. In other words the heritability is 40 per cent while the rest of the risk is due to shared environmental factors, which can include anything from medical complications during birth and child sexual abuse, to upbringing and family background.

    "Importantly, this does not imply that sons or brothers of sex offenders inevitably become offenders too...Just because something is genetically determined, it does not mean that we cannot use the environment to change it," said Niklas Langstrom, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and lead author of the study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

    "But although sex crime convictions are relatively few overall, our study shows that the family risk increase is substantial. Preventive treatment for families at risk could possibly reduce the number of future victims," Professor Langstrom said.

    Rajan Darjee, a consultant forensic pathologist in Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, said that it is interesting but not surprising to find a strong genetic component to sexual offending.

    "Genes influence brain development, and brain functioning underpins psychological functioning, so it should not be surprising to find that genetic factors play a role in sexual offending," Mr Darjee said.

    "The fact that genes play such a role does not mean that a person is less responsible for their offending of that offending is inevitable in someone at higher genetic risk, it just emphasises that genes are an important part of a complicated jigsaw," he said.

    "We should not interpret the findings of this study to indicate that any male relative of a sexual offender is going to commit a sexual offence so they should be put under special restrictions. We cannot know who will or will not commit sexual offences in this way," Mr Darjee added.

    The researchers accept that a major limitation of their study is that it only focused on men who were convicted of sexual crimes and ignored the estimated 80 per cent of sexually abusive acts that are never reported to the police, or the offences that did not result in successful prosecutions.

    However, one of the strengths of the study is that it represented the more severe end of the sexual offending spectrum and did not have to rely on the inherent bias of self-reported cases of sexual abuse, the scientists said.

    Violent crime in the genes?

    The suggestion that sexual offending has a strong genetic component is broadly in line with other research indicating a similar inherited link with violent crime. Although researchers do not suggest there are "genes for rape", there is some evidence that certain, defined genetic traits may be linked to extreme violent behaviour.

    Last year, researchers in Finland suggested that between 5 and 10 per cent of severe violent crime in that country could be attributable to two genes, each of which can modify the activity of the brain in different ways.

    However, the important point was that many people carry these gene variants and are not violent. You may inherit a genetic predisposition, but it is possible to control its influence.


  5. #1835
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Pluck 200 hair to grow 1,200 new ones!

    In a good news for men facing incessant hair loss, researchers have discovered that by plucking 200 hair strands in a specific pattern and density, they can induce up to 1,200 replacement hairs to grow!

    Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) have demonstrated this on a mouse. "It is a good example of how basic research can lead to a work with potential translational value," said lead researcher Cheng-Ming Chuong.

    "The work leads to potential new targets for treating alopecia, a form of hair loss," he added.

    The study began a couple of years ago on the premise that hair follicle injury affects its adjacent environment, and that this environment in turn can influence hair regeneration.

    Based on this knowledge, the researchers reasoned that they might be able to use the environment to activate more follicles.

    To test this concept, they plucked 200 hair follicles, one by one, in different configurations on the back of a mouse.

    When plucking the hair in a low-density pattern from an area exceeding 6 mm in diameter, no hair regenerated.

    However, higher-density plucking from circular areas with diameters between 3-5 mm triggered the regeneration of between 450 and 1,300 hair strands, including ones outside of the plucked region.

    The team showed that this regenerative process relies on the principle of "quorum sensing", which defines how a system responds to stimuli that affect some, but not all members.

    In this case, quorum sensing underlies how the hair follicle system responds to the plucking of some, but not all hair.

    Through molecular analyses, the team showed that these plucked follicles signal distress by releasing inflammatory proteins, which recruit immune cells to rush to the site of the injury.

    These immune cells then secrete signalling molecules such as tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-I), which, at a certain concentration, communicate to both plucked and un-plucked follicles that it's time to grow hair.

    The results were published in the journal Cell.


  6. #1836
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    When work and sleep conflict, work wins

    There are a lot of advantages to earning more money, but getting a good night's sleep may not be one of them.

    It turns out that, in general, the more money people make, the less they sleep. That's been true for decades in the United States, and in other countries as well. On average, adults earning the highest incomes — around $98,000 for a family of four — sleep 40 minutes less than people in the lowest-income families. And among short sleepers — those in the bottom 10% of nightly rest — high-income people are overrepresented, according to the government survey that sleep researchers trust most.

    Sleeping too little is really bad for your health. Researchers have demonstrated that, for most people, sleeping less than six hours a night results in cognitive impairment. In general, the factor that seems the most closely tied with how much sleep people get is how much they work.

    People who work two jobs sleep the least of anyone, according to a recent study, and are most likely to be in the bottom 10% of sleepers, sometimes called "short sleepers."

    Consider the Great Recession: Americans slept the most during 2009, 2010 and 2011, when unemployment was high. That probably wasn't because stress was low or attitudes about sleep were healthier — it was because fewer people were working. "The major determinant of short sleep is actually work," said Mathias Basner, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's medical school, who has studied short sleepers. "People who work a lot of hours are much more prone to be short sleepers." That the rich sleep less is the dominant theory. Yet a recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seems to cut against these longstanding findings. In a chart published last week in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report, researchers found people earning less than the federal poverty level were more likely than any other income group to say they slept less than six hours.

    Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin and the Royal Holloway University of London, has an economic theory about why the equation between income and sleep appears to be so tight: The more you can earn, the more worthwhile it may seem to sacrifice sleep for work. People earning the lowest incomes are not all the same. Some people work a lot of hours for low wages and stitch together multiple jobs; others may work only part-time or not at all. These two groups of low-income people tend to show very different sleep patterns. nyt news service


  7. #1837
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Childhood stress triples diabetes risk

    Experiencing serious life events in childhood such as death or illness in the family, divorce or separation can triple the risk of developing type 1 diabetes, scientists have found.

    Swedish scientists aimed to examine whether psychological stress in terms of experiences of serious life events, along with parental perception of parenting stress and lack of social support, during the child's first 14 years of life, may be a risk factor for developing type 1 diabetes (T1D).

    Family psychological stress was measured via questionnaires given to the parents assessing serious life events, parenting stress, parental worries and the parent's social support.


  8. #1838
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Want to keep your heart healthy? Be grateful

    Being grateful is associated with better mood, higher quality sleep and less inflammation in patients with asymptomatic heart failure, according to a new research. Recognizing and giving thanks for the positive aspects of life can result in improved mental, and ultimately physical health in patients with asymptomatic heart failure, researchers said.

    "We found that more gratitude in these patients was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health," said author Paul J Mills, professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego. Gratitude is part of a wider outlook on life that involves appreciating the positive aspects of life. It is also commonly an aspect of spirituality, said Mills. Mills and colleagues examined the role of both spirituality and gratitude on potential health markers in a study involving 186 men & women.


  9. #1839
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Mumbai opens heart for tot, scores India’s first baby valve-switch operation

    When Wardha resident Anita Wakekar spent a night under a tree near KEM Hospital in Parel with her severely ailing 18-day-old boy, she set off a chain-reaction of goodness that enveloped CM Devendra Fadnavis's wife Amruta and several city hospitals and doctors.

    On the fourth day that 'Baby of Anita' spent in Mumbai, he had undergone a novel heart surgery performed on a child for the first time in India, that too at no cost to the family.

    Doctors said it's a marvel that a child, whose heart was malformed, managed to breathe till the surgery. "It was an eight-hour surgery on a grape-sized heart that involved switching his valves and adding a tube to normalize his aortic arch,'' said cardiac surgeon Dr Suresh Rao, from Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, Andheri.

    But the main highlight of Anita's baby's story is that Mumbai has a large heart. The boy, born on February 21 in Wardha, was moved to Nagpur 10 days later and then to Mumbai for treatment. First the BPL family couldn't find a bed, then a doctor who would handle the case. Word reached the CM's wife, who set off a chain of doing good. On April 8, the baby left hospital, a robust 3kg in weight.



    After the boy was found to be unwell, Anita's husband Pravin's brother, who lives in Nagpur, brought the family to Mumbai on March 7, but they found no NICU (neo-nate intensive care) bed. Doctors in ICUs near Parel began calling up each other for an NICU bed for the baby, but the family got one only the next morning at Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central. "I slept with my baby under a tree that night. He clearly needed help breathing but he bravely persevered," said Anita, who holds a BPL ration card. The Nair Hospital team too told the parents that they couldn't operate on the child and would help arrange a transfer.

    Around the same time on March 8, the chief minister's wife Amruta was in Wadia Hospital to inaugurate a human milk bank. "I got a call from a party worker in Nagpur saying this child was too unwell and needed surgery immediately," she told TOI. "We keep getting such requests, but every active politician and his family are familiar with the drill. We must remember that it is the right of people to get treatment,'' she added.

    She asked Wadia Hospital CEO Dr Minnie Bodhanwala to help facilitate the child's transfer to a hospital that could operate on the boy. "As we are in the process of setting up a heart unit, we know about doctors specializing in this sphere. So we called up Kokilaben Hospital, which was willing to help,'' said Dr Bodhanwala. Anita and her son were moved to the Andheri hospital on March 9, where the operation took place next morning. "The child's aortic valve was 3mm in diameter, less than half the usual size. Moreover, the arch of his aorta was incompletely formed,'' said Dr Rao. The only solution was to perform a surgery called the Ross-Konno surgery, which had been performed on grownups but never in underweight neonates in India.

    "As it was the only way, we began by replacing his malformed aortic valve with his pulmonary valve," said Dr Rao. This 'switch' is done because the pulmonary valve, which closes the lower right chamber of the heart, doesn't witness 'heavy traffic' or blood pressure. The aortic valve, on the other hand, closes off the lower left chamber and witnesses high blood flow and pressure. The space of the pulmonary valve was taken by a synthetic conduit or valve. As the child had an incomplete aortic arch, the doctors had to use a synthetic tube to recreate it.

    On April 8, when Anita and her son left the hospital, he weighed almost 3kg. "The doctor asked us to return in a month for a follow-up. We also realize that our son will need another surgery when he is five years old," said Pravin.

    Incidentally, although Mumbai is the health destination for adult heart operations, it has lagged behind southern cities in pediatric heart operations. There are now six hospitals in the city and its suburbs offering pediatric heart surgeries, most have come up in the last five years. Moreover, pediatric surgeries cost a lot and parents are invariably too young to have adequate savings to fund them. Kokilaben Hospital executive director Dr Ram Narain said, "We manage to offer free surgeries to at least 20-25% of the children referred to us with the help of funders and government help.'' For Anita, the Mumbai experience has been a great one. "We got good help,'' she said.


  10. #1840
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Improve air to better kids’ lung function

    When we read about Delhi being the most polluted city in the world, many of us are horrified. We worry about the damage being done by pollutants to our children's health—if it can ever be undone. Well, the United States has managed to do just that.

    A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows how government action to curb pollution in Southern California from 1994 to 2011 has helped improve children's lung function.

    The researchers tracked lung function of children from public schools in five most polluted locations in Southern California—Long Beach, Mira Loma, Riverside, San Dimas and Upland. They took repeated measurements of the children's ability to breathe as they grew from the age of 11 to 15 years.

    The results show that, as air quality improved, the number of children with abnormally low lung function fell by over 4%—from 7.9% (1994-1998) to 6.3% (1997-2001) and 3.6% (2007-2011). The lung growth of the subjects got better by over 10% during the study period.

    "Till date, we only conjectured that pollution impacts lung function of healthy people. This study provides clinching evidence. But, on the brighter side, it gives us hope that the crisis can be overcome by adopting stringent measures," said Dr Arup Basu, chest specialist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. Southern California faced acute crisis on account of air pollution in the 1980s, thanks to a large motor vehicles feet and industries.

    "The local government came up with strong laws—still the world's most stringent. It adopted the first coordinated air pollution control programme. Their vehicles are well-maintained and best quality fuel is used... In California, even 40 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic metre is considered hazardous, but average presence of such pollutants in Delhi is 150-200 micrograms," said Dr Sundeep Salvi, director of the Pune-based Chest Research Foundation.

    The number of motor vehicles in India, a major contributor to air pollution, has gone up from 37.2 million in 1997 to over 100 million. "National Green Tribunal's order banning all diesel-run vehicles older than 10 years in Delhi is a welcome step. The government should ensure 100% enforcement of the order and immediate steps should be taken to improve public transport," said a senior doctor at All India Institute of Medical Sciences.



    He added that cases of chronic bronchitis, allergies, persistent cough and inflammation of airways have gone up in the last few years. "People who smoke are at a double risk. Many smokers—aged 25-30 years—who come to us have the lung function of a 70-year-old," the doctor said.


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