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Health Bulletin


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  1. #2111
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Take 10 grams of tamarind a day, keep fluorosis away

    In what could be good news for lakhs of fluoride-affected people in the country, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) here has found that consumption of 10 grams of boiled tamarind a day can help prevent skeletal fluorosis and dental fluorosis. There are about 230 fluoride-affected districts in 22 states where lakhs of people suffer from the crippling diseases.

    Lab experiments at the NIN on eight groups of mice have showed positive results of the consumption of tamarind. The exact results with details will soon be published in a reputed journal. The experiments were conducted on eight groups of Vistar rats.

    "Consumption of the 10 gms of boiled tamarind per day results in excretion of fluorosis from the body. In South India, tamarind is a key ingredient of sambar or dal. However, lately people are substituting expensive tamarind with tomatoes. People should not give up intake of tamarind in one form or another to fight fluorosis," NIN's senior deputy director Arjun Khandare of the Food and Drug Toxicology Centre told TOI.

    In fluoride-hit villages in the country, skeletal fluorosis is cause of extreme physical deformity. The fluoride which enters the body system when ground water is consumed, or used for cooking, results in dental fluorosis as well. Though the only solution would be to provide clean drinking water, there is a mechanism to to remove fluoride content from water. However, over the years scientists at the NIN have been working on how consumption of tamarind prevents fluorosis. In the latest experiments on rats, scientists tried to completely understand how exactly tamarind works in flushing out the fluoride content from the body.

    A few years ago, students of a hostel were served boiled tamarind as part of their meals after the scientists were certain of the positive effects of tamarind. The government had also decided to supply tamarind to all the hostels in the fluoride-affected villages in Andhra Pradesh.

    A 'national programme for prevention and control of fluorosis' (NPPCF) has been taken up by the Union ministry of health and family welfare. Initially 100 districts were identified to take up surveillance, diagnostic services and health management there. This was extended to a total of 230 districts across the country because it was realized that the problem was huge.


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  2. #2112
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Researchers suspect a new dengue strain


    There may be a new strain of dengue this time causing all the havoc, researchers suspect. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has tested 50 samples and found growth of a new strain in some of the samples, a senior official in the health ministry told TOI.

    "We have asked AIIMS to conduct further testing and ascertain the results," the official said, after a review meeting on Dengue.

    The ministry has again called for a meeting with AIIMS officials and doctors to review the specific issue of strains. AIIMS is expected to submit its final findings by end of this week, the official said.

    According to an expert, if there is a new strain it may be a reason for concern because then more people will be impacted by it. "A known strain is not so dangerous because those who are already attacked by them are less vulnerable to the same one. But, they will still be vulnerable to the new one," said Dr KK Aggarwal, secretary general, Indian Medical Association.

    So far, India has been hit by Den 1, Den 2 , Den 3 and Den 4.

    However, estimates show there is a significant rise in the cases of Dengue this year. Over 1500 cases have been registered this year, with at least five deaths. Though officials maintain there was a forecast of more number of cases this year, there is panic among patients running high fever.

    The government is constantly reviewing situation and measures to control the menace. Even as health ministry officials and doctors maintain that mere fall in platelet count does not indicate dengue, the Delhi Health Department has ordered all government blood banks to stock adequate quantity of the blood product and also directed private blood banks to ensure their availability at nominal rates. The move comes in the wake of spiraling demand for platelets across the city.

    The Centre has also asked hospitals to ramp up facilities and beds for Dengue patients.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Doctors unsure but papaya a hit for dengue treatment


    Are papaya leaf extracts a potential treatment for dengue patients suffering from a sudden fall in platelet count? Researchers may be unsure about this, but that has not stopped thousands of patients from trying the home remedy.

    Many pharmaceutical companies are selling papaya extracts in chewable tablet form to cash in on its popularity. While the raw form of papaya leaf extracts can be made at home or bought from the market at anywhere between Rs 100 and Rs 200 per glass, a bottle of tablets costs up to Rs 1,000.



    "My wife had dengue last month. I gave her three glasses of juice extracted from papaya leaves daily, which helped reduce the loss in platelet count. It works wonders," said Suman Verma, a resident of East of Kailash.

    According to an article published in Indian Pediatrics journal by two doctors from Maulana Azad Medical College, the therapeutic effects of extract of papaya leaves are presumed to be due to several active components such as papain, chymopapain, cystatin, L-tocopherol, ascorbic acid, flavonoids, cyanogenic glucosides and glucosinolates.




    "These are antioxidants that reduce lipid peroxidation, exhibit anti-tumour activity and immune modulatory effects. Animal studies suggest that papaya leaf extracts have potential therapeutic effect on disease processes...and may cause increased platelet and red blood cell counts," the article says. They have called for commissioning of human trials to provide scientific evidence for or against papaya leaves.

    "I do not endorse the use of papaya extract for dengue treatment. But I do not stop my patient from consuming them either. It has some positive effects and it should be put through scientific research for validation," said a senior doctor.



    Another AIIMS doctor added that platelet count tends to increase automatically in two to three days after a steep fall in most cases. "It is possible that the positive effects being attributed to extract of papaya leaves are actually a result of the natural recovery process of the body," he said.


  4. #2114
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Indian-American scientist uses sound waves to control brain cells

    In a first, an Indian American researcher from Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California has developed a new way to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle and other cells using ultrasonic sound waves.

    Dubbed as sonogenetics, the new technique has some similarities to the burgeoning use of light to activate cells in order to better understand the brain.

    "Light-based techniques are great for some uses. But this is a new, additional tool to manipulate neurons and other cells in the body," informed ," Sreekanth Chalasani, assistant professor in Salk's molecular neurobiology laboratory.

    The new method - which uses the same type of waves used in medical sonograms - may have advantages over the light-based approach - known as optogenetics - particularly when it comes to adapting the technology to human therapeutics.

    In optogenetics, researchers add light-sensitive channel proteins to neurons they wish to study.

    By shining a focused laser on the cells, they can selectively open these channels, either activating or silencing the target neurons.

    Chalasani and his group decided to see if they could develop an approach that instead relied on ultrasound waves for the activation.

    "In contrast to light, low-frequency ultrasound can travel through the body without any scattering," he noted.

    "This could be a big advantage when you want to stimulate a region deep in the brain without affecting other regions," adds Stuart Ibsen, post-doctoral fellow in the Chalasani lab.

    So far, sonogenetics has only been applied to C. elegans neurons.

    "The real prize will be to see whether this could work in a mammalian brain," Chalasani pointed out.

    His group has already begun testing the approach in mice.

    "When we make the leap into therapies for humans, I think we have a better shot with noninvasive sonogenetics approaches than with optogenetics," he emphasised in a paper appeared in the journal Nature Communications.

    Chalasani obtained his PhD from University of Pennsylvania. He then did his post-doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr Cori Bargmann at the Rockefeller University in New York.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Prosthetic hand restores sense of touch in 28-year-old

    A 28-year-old paraly sed man in the US has become the irst person to "feel" physical sensations through a prosthetic hand directly connected to his brain, US defence researchers have claimed. Paralysed for more than a decade due to a spinal cord injury , the man could even identify which mechanical finger was being gently touched, researchers said.

    The advance, made possible by neural technologies developed un der US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency's Revolutionising Prosthetics points to a future in which paralysed people will not on y be able to manipulate objects by sending signals from their brain to devices, but also be able to sense precisely what those devices are to uching. "By wiring a sense of touch rom a mechanical hand directly in o the brain, this work shows the po ential for seamless bio-technologi cal restoration of near-natural unction," said DARPA programme manager Justin Sanchez.

    Electrode arrays were placed onto the man's sensory cortex, the brain region responsible for identi ying tactile sensations such as pressure. In addition, the team pla ced arrays on his motor cortex, the part of the brain that directs body movements. Wires were run from he arrays on the motor cortex to a mechanical hand developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

    That gave the man the capacity to control the hand's movements with his thoughts.

    Then, breaking new neurotechnological ground, the researchers went on to provide him the sense of touch. The mechanical hand contains sophisticated torque sensors that can detect when pressure is being applied to any of its fingers, and can convert those sensations into electrical signals. The team used wires to route those signals to the arrays on the man's brain.

    In the first set of tests, in which researchers gently touched each of the prosthetic hand's fingers while the man was blindfolded, he was able to report with nearly 100% accuracy which mechanical finger was being touched, said Sanchez.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    15 cases of rare cancer detected, a first in Rajasthan


    Mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused only by asbestos and asbestosis exposure has been detected for the first time in Rajasthan. As per mine labour protection campaign (MLPC), 15 such cases have been reported in Ajmer while 62 are suspected.

    Mesothelioma is the cancer of lung and abdomen and is associated with exposure to asbestos fibers dust and other carcinogens. It is a notified disease, under Section 25 of the Mines Act, 1952. The disease is largely incurable and increasing rampantly in the state.

    Adding woes to the mine workers, Rajasthan state pollution control board (RSPCB) said that they do not have adequate manpower to monitor and control pollution causing these diseases, in the mines and allied units.

    Meanwhile, new cases of silicosis are being diagnosed every day though about 1,700 silicosis victims are waiting for their certificate from pneumoconiosis board, Jaipur alone.

    "Four patients have succumbed to their death in Nagaur where 91 silicosis victims have been certified. In Bhilwara, 71 silicosis patients are waiting for their monetary relief, while 5 have already died without receiving any assistance," said Rana Sengupta, managing trustee of MLPC.

    He added that pneumoconiosis diseases are not restricted to mines only. It is far more widespread. "In Ajmer and Pali district, hundreds of former asbestos workers are suffering from TB like symptoms while in Jalore district, a worker grinding stone in flour mill has been diagnosed with silicosis."

    Civil societies working for mine workers feel that there is an immediate need to constitute the pneumoconiosis boards across the 33 districts so that diagnosis and certification of pneumoconiosis diseases is accelerated.


  7. #2117
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Government to allow injectable contraceptive for women?


    The government may soon introduce an injectable contraceptive for women under the national family planning programme. The country's top drug advisory body has approved the use of Deoxy Medroxy Progestrone Acetate (DMPA) and recommended its inclusion in the government programme.

    Though the proposal has garnered acceptability in the health ministry, it is awaiting a final official nod from the ministry.

    "We have given in-principle approval. But the cost for inclusion in the national programme has to be worked out," an official said.

    DMPA, an injectable drug that prevents pregnancy for three months, is injected into the arm or buttock muscle. The drug has a female hormone which helps prevent the egg from being released from the ovary.

    While the health ministry was contemplating expansion of the basket of contraceptives for women for at least the last ten years, it failed to take a final call on inclusion of the injectable drug because of opposition from certain quarters, mainly women activists. Those opposing the move cited safety concerns such as menstrual irregularity, amenorrhea and de-mineralization of bones as a result of its long term use. Besides, some have also raised concerns about increase in risk of breast and cervical cancer due to its prolonged use.

    However, the Drug Technical Advisory Body (DTAB) — the top most advisory body on health — recommended inclusion of the drug in the national family programme during a high-level meeting with the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).

    Generally, on matters related to drugs, DTAB's recommendations are accepted by the health ministry.

    If implemented, injectable DMPA would be the sixth contraceptive to be given free of cost. Currently, the government offers five birth control options — female sterilization, male sterilization, IUD, condoms and pills — free of cost under the national family planning programme.

    The DTAB's approval to the injectable contraceptive has been welcomed by those advocating women's reproductive rights. A coalition of 32 non-governmental organizations, under the banner of 'Advocating Reproductive Choices' including Population Foundation of India has welcomed the decision.

    The coalition has also offered to help the government with technical support to introduce the drug under the national programme.


  8. #2118
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Shrimp has lower cholesterol than egg: Study

    Medical practitioners and dieticians have for long recommended adults to stay away from eating shrimps as it is considered high in cholesterol. Now, a study shows, to the non-vegetarians' delight, that the traditional wisdom may be flawed.

    A study by Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture recommends that healthy individuals should have a moderate quantity of shrimps as part of their daily diet as the cholesterol in it is not as bad as it was presumed. In fact, the study says, shrimps have low saturated fatty acids, moderate levels of cholesterol and low lipid levels and high levels of protein compared to other meat.

    Besides containing macro and micro minerals including calcium, phosphorus and selenium, shrimps are also found to be a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) required for a healthy diet. Head of cardiology department, Government Medical College Hospital, Dr Kannan said the study shows that healthy individuals can have a small quantity of shrimps. "As for heart patients, we would still recommend small fish as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids," the doctor said.

    Scientists analysed the nutritional composition of 100g of tiger shrimps and white shrimps. Saturated fatty acids which increases blood cholesterol was found to be low in shrimps (0.25mg/100g) compared to other meat like chicken, mutton, beef, pork and even egg. The level of dietary cholesterol in shrimps (173mg/100g) is lower than in of egg which is 400mg/100g .

    The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends less than 300mg/ day of dietary cholesterol for healthy individuals and less than 200mg/ day for diabetics. 100g of shrimps provide less than the recommended cholesterol. The lipid (fat) levels in shrimp were found to be around 1.15g/100g, which is the lowest compared to other meaty food.

    Senior scientist J Syama Dayal said that about 32% shrimp lipid has polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), a healthy fat that can improve blood cholesterol levels as well as decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. While a healthy diet should have a PUFA/SFA ratio of at least 0.54 and above, shrimps provide more than 1.9. Shrimps also provide vitamins A, D, E, B12 and B3. It also has astaxanthin, a potent natural antioxidant. With 80% of its dry matter having protein, shrimps can provide 87% of the total energy needed for the body.

    While the study recommends moderate quantity of shrimp for healthy individual to benefit from its vital nutrients, it suggests that those with clear risk of CVD and diabetics may, however, avoid it.


  9. #2119
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Rapid diagnostic kits for testing dengue may be banned


    The health ministry is mulling a ban on rapid diagnostic kits for testing dengue following feedback from many government hospitals, including AIIMS, and experts that in many cases the test reports are turning out to be false alarms.

    "We strongly discourage people from using rapid diagnostic kits, which are easily available. These kits are generating up to 50% of false 'positives' for dengue and spreading panic. These are not reliable at all," a health ministry official said.

    He said the ministry has called a meeting of stakeholders to take a final call on putting restrictions on sale of these kits. "We are evaluating to ban the kit if necessary," the official said. The health ministry has recommended use of antibody dengue tests and NS1 antigen, which are available for free at government hospitals.

    It is also concerned about high prices of such rapid tests. Earlier this week, the ministry issued advisories to the Delhi government, asking it to keep a close watch on overcharging of patients for tests. On Wednesday, the government capped prices of antibody test and NS1 at Rs 600.

    Officials in the health ministry are also of the opinion that a lot of patients are being misguided about platelet count and their transfusion. "Platelet transfusion is not required unless it is a very serious case or there is bleeding," the official said, adding dengue patients must take a lot of fluid to avoid dehydration.

    While the government's move to cap price of antibody and NS1 test kits have been opposed by many private labs and hospitals, the health ministry's proposal to ban rapid diagnostic kits is likely to face resistance. The guidelines for treatment of dengue issued under the National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme also recommend use of only NS1 and antibody test to detect the virus.

    The health ministry also wrote to Delhi government to step up fumigation measures and use Tamifos to cease breeding of dengue mosquitoes in stagnant water.

    On Wednesday, the director-general health services said the Centre had alerted the city government of a surge in dengue in March itself and also held meeting with senior officials. However, authorities in the capital seem to have failed in their efforts to control the menace.


  10. #2120
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Natural defence against HIV discovered

    Scientists have discovered a new natural defence against HIV infection in the form of a protein that prevents the deadly virus from replicating.

    "In earlier studies, we knew that we could interfere with the spread of HIV-1, but we couldn't identify the mechanism that was stopping the process," said Yong-Hui Zheng, Michigan State University (MSU) associate professor and co-author of the study.

    "We now know that ERManI is an essential key, and that it has the potential as a antiretroviral treatment," said Zheng.

    Antiretroviral treatments are not vaccines; they simply keep HIV in check in low levels in the body.

    While it could be decades before an ERManI-based treatment can be prescribed for HIV-1 patients, these results provide a strong path for future research involving human cells, and later, clinical tests.

    The next steps will be to test if HIV resistance can be promoted by increasing ERManI levels, said Zheng, who worked on the study with scientists from the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Georgia.

    Most viruses have viral envelopes, or protective skins, that comprise similar building blocks of the host the pathogens are trying to infect.

    On the surface of the envelope, there are viral glycoproteins, known as Env spikes, which act as valets, leading viruses to binding sites that allow infections to spread at the molecular level.

    They serve as a key of sorts that gives viruses entry into the host to begin spreading.

    Zheng's lab was the first to show that HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein biosynthesis can be specifically inhibited by ERManI, which is a host enzyme to add sugars to proteins.

    By identifying ERManI as the target that slows the spread of HIV-1, the team showed a target in which future natural therapies can be developed.

    More than 1.2 million people in the US have HIV. In China, doctors diagnosed 104,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS in 2014. The number of infections is rising, though overall the country still has a low rate of infection.

    Currently, there is no cure for HIV-1; once patients have it, they have it for life. While there are antiretroviral therapies available, they can only prolong life, albeit dramatically, but they cannot cure the disease.

    Current drug treatments have to be taken for a lifetime, which causes side effects and many other issues, Zheng said.

    "We see a way to treat this disease by helping the body protect itself," he said.

    The study was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.


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