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Saturday, 4 June 2011

Indian Council of Medical Research says No need to panic over WHO report on mobiles

A day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of the possibility of mobile phone handsets causing cancer, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Thursday that there was “no reason to panic” as a study conducted in the Western countries could not be extrapolated on the Indian population.
“The people are genetically different, the technology in India is different, so are the environmental conditions,” R.S. Sharma, a senior scientist of the ICMR and chief coordinator of the ICMR's study on health impacts of radiation from mobile phone towers and cellular phones, told The Hindu.
He said the ICMR would examine the WHO's report and also go through the findings of its own ongoing study before reaching a final conclusion.
However, an ongoing study of radiation from mobile phone towers and cellular phones at Jawaharlal Nehru University has found that the exposure to radiation could adversely affect male fertility and cause health hazards by depleting the defence mechanism of cells.
Though these findings were based on experiments on male rats, Jitender Behari, professor of JNU's School of Environmental Sciences and lead researcher for the government-funded project, told The Hindu earlier this year that the health implications were relevant to human beings, too. He and his team are conducting tests on Wistar rats or lab rats, mainly focussing on two aspects of radiation — its effect on the reproductive system and on the general health, including tumour promotion and genotoxic effects (causing damage to DNA).
The study has shown that the use of cellular phones adversely affects the quality of semen by decreasing sperm count, motility, viability and morphology, thus contributing to male infertility. Similarly, microwave radiation may alter the level of antioxidant owing to the free radical formations, Dr. Behari's experiment concluded.
In January this year, a high-level inter-ministerial committee called for revision of radiation norms to suit Indian conditions and environment in the wake of serious concerns at electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone towers and handsets.
Source:The Hindu
Installation of towers
The committee called for strict restrictions on the installation of towers near high-density residential areas, schools, playgrounds and hospitals.
Recommending the use of hands-free and earphone technologies, the committee said these technologies could minimise the contact of head with the phone. Stating that the radio frequency exposure limits in India could be lowered to one-tenth of the existing level, the committee pointed out that India's hot tropical climate, the low body mass index and the low fat content of an average Indian, compared to European countries, and the high environmental concentration of radio frequency radiation may place Indians at a high risk of adverse effect, and the level of susceptibility of an average Indian may be different.
India now follows the WHO-approved International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines. But Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Russia have adopted stricter guidelines.
Though the Department of Telecommunications has fixed Rs. 5 lakh in penalty for each mobile phone tower emitting radiation above the prescribed norms, it has failed to implement these guidelines.
Last year, its Telecom Engineering and Resource Monitoring Cells started a campaign to ask all tower operators to give self-certification. But it is yet to get full compliance report from them. There are more than 5.6 lakh towers in the country, and the number could go up to seven lakh in the next couple of years owing to the rapid expansion of mobile telephony.
The Ministry of Commerce has decided to notify that imported handsets should bear self-certification by manufacturers that they meet radiation standards. Indian manufacturers have also been asked to follow similar guidelines.
However, the lack of awareness among users of the dangerous levels of radiation emitted by handsets has been a major cause for concern.

Hasty antibiotic use for E. coli:WHO warning

The World Health Organization is warning people not to take antibiotics if they get sick in the E. coli outbreak that began in Germany last month.
Anti-diarrhea medication isn't recommended either, as it stops the bacteria from quickly leaving the body, the United Nations health agency said.
WHO epidemiologist Andrea Ellis said use of either treatment "can actually make the situation worse." That's because killing toxin-producing bacteria, such as the ones responsible for this outbreak, can actually cause them to release more toxins.
But Ellis told reporters in Geneva on Friday that doctors treating infected patients can prescribe antibiotics in specific cases.
The outbreak caused by a very rare strain of E. coli bacteria is still resulting in new illnesses as the search for the source continues.
German health officials recorded 199 new cases in the past two days. That brought the total of those infected in the last month to more than 1,700 in Germany alone.
The WHO said that as of May 31, nine other European nations have reported a total of 80 people sick, most of whom had recently visited northern Germany.
"All these cases except two are in people who reside in or had recently visited northern Germany during the incubation period for the infection -- typically 3 to 4 days post-exposure -- or in one case, had contact with a visitor from northern Germany," the WHO said in a statement.
In all, 18 people have died, making it the deadliest ever E. coli outbreak. It's also the third-largest, well behind the 1996 Japanese outbreak that sickened more than 9,000.
Among the ill are 520 who are suffering from a life-threatening complication called HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome), which can cause kidney failure or death.
The German government decided on Friday to set up a national task force to hunt down the source of the outbreak, which remains a mystery.
While suspicion has fallen on raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce as the source of the germ, researchers have been unable to pinpoint the cause.
The investigation so far has found that people who have fallen ill have reported they had a tendency to eat more raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. But it was not clear if any of these foods are actually the source.
The World Health Organization has said the strain involved in this outbreak was a rare one. It's been seen in humans before, but never in this kind of outbreak.

Personalized Medicine Redefines How Docs Treat Cancer

Imagine a world in which cancer isn't diagnosed according to where it is found on the body but according to genes found in the tumor itself. Patients with skin cancer, colon cancer and parathyroid cancer, for example, might be reclassified as "B-Raf mutation" patients and be treated with the same mutation-specific drugs. Instead of receiving breast cancer-specific chemotherapy, a breast cancer patient might join those with ovarian, uterine and cervical cancer to receive drugs targeted at inhibiting the PIK3CA mutation found in their tumors.
This paradigm shift may seem revolutionary, but more than a thousand patients have already been treated this way by researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.In the largest study of its kind, researchers enrolled more than 1,150 cancer patients in phase I clinical trials to test the effectiveness of genetically targeted drug therapies -- an approach known broadly as personalized medicine. The results of these clinical trials will be presented today at the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago. The trial patients have bladder, breast, cervical, colorectal, gastric, liver, lymphoma, lung, melanoma, ovarian or any number of other cancers, but cancer location didn't necessarily determine their treatment. Patients were treated according to which of 12 known genetic mutations researchers found in their tumors. For instance, a patient in a trial for the PIK3CA mutation might include those with ovarian, cervical, uterine or breast cancer.
In a world used to dividing up cancers by body part and assigning colored ribbons accordingly, the gene approach to treatment marks a fundamental change in the way we even think about cancer.
"We classify cancers according to where they start, but each cancer is probably many types of cancer. The bigger picture is what are the genetic abnormalities that make that cancer grow. We've known about these mutations for a long time, but it's only recently that we have new drugs to target [them]," says Dr. Gerald Falchook, assistant professor in the department of investigational cancer therapeutics at MD Anderson.
The concept of genetically personalized cancer treatment has been a goal among cancer researchers for years, but the MD Anderson trial offers hope that widespread use of these kinds of treatments are within reach."Traditional treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy, are one size fits all. All lung cancer patients might receive the same type of chemotherapy," says Falchook.
Last Resort Results in De Facto Cure
For Casey Carleton, 32, of Bartelsville, Okla., four traditional treatments, including chemo, radiation and surgery, had failed to stop the progression of his melanoma, which had spread from his skin to his lungs in 2008. He was given a 35 percent chance of living to see 2010.
As a "last resort," Carleton signed up for the MD Anderson trial in January 2010, where his cancer was treated not specifically as melanoma but as a "B-Raf" mutation cancer. He received an experimental drug that might also be taken by other B-Raf patients with colon cancer or parathyroid cancer. Unlike the harrowing chemo and surgery he had undergone in the past two years, his tailored treatment consisted of two pills, three times a day. Within two weeks, the remaining tumor in his lung had shrunk by 50 percent. At 16 weeks, he was officially in remission.
"It was such a relief. I didn't know if I was going to see my youngest son's first birthday, and now he's three. I get to keep going, coach softball, be with my kids," Carleton says. "For me, so far, this is a cure for my melanoma."
While this approach can be effective, it ravages the patient's body by attacking all of a patient's cells in hopes of killing the cancer.
Genetically targeted therapy, on the other hand, isolates the abnormal proteins within the cell that only occur in the cancerous tumor itself. "This has led to the development of drugs that are less toxic than traditional chemotherapy," he says. And for patients with identifiable genetic mutations, this type of treatment can be effective when nothing else has worked. Carelton's wife Mary Ann is a little more cautious about the outcome: "Every nine weeks he goes in for scans to make sure it's still working. We call it 'scanziety' whenever those trips come up. For now, we live our lives nine weeks at a time and hope that he's one of the lucky ones that are cured for life."

Personalized Cancer Treatment Takes Another Step Forward

The MD Anderson trial is part of a general movement toward personalized, genetically based cancer treatment. Over the course of the past few years, a number of studies have investigated the advantages of treating cancer according to genes instead of according to site.In 2009, Massachusetts General Hospital began one of the most ambitious programs in personalized medicine when they sought to map the genetic fingerprint of the tumors of nearly all new cancer patients. They tracked 110 genetic abnormalities on the 13 major cancer genes, and used this information to tailor-make treatment cocktails, ideally avoiding the expensive, side effect-laden hit-or-miss approach that had been the standard of cancer care for decades.
The MD Anderson program takes this approach a step further by testing new genetically targeted drug therapies in a clinical trial environment. Though the results so far are more "proof of principle rather than proof itself," says Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, the findings are nonetheless promising.
This is "the future" of cancer care, says Dr. Stefan Gluck, clinical director of the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at the University of Miami.

The trials' positive results come with several caveats, however. Not every cancerous tumor has an identifiable mutation that would make such a targeted approach possible. Within the trial published today, of the 852 patients enrolled, only 354 had one or more actionable gene mutations. 

The Future of Cancer Medicine?

Carleton's case highlights the miraculous results that can occur when just the right drug is matched to just the right patient. While this is the ultimate goal of personalized medicine, the science isn't quite there yet.For instance, only half of melanoma patients have the B-Raf mutation, and even among those who do, some don't respond as well to the drugs as Carleton because their cancers might consist of a dozen other unknown genetic mutations. To put it in perspective, all of the patients in the MD Anderson trials were in a similar situation to Carleton: Multiple traditional cancer therapies had failed and they were at the end of their rope. When treated with drugs targeted to their specific genetic abnormalities, about one in three had a good response. For patients with those abnormalities who received traditional treatment, only one in 20 had a good response.Even for those who qualify for this approach, "most advanced cancers still don't respond probably due to the presence of multiple genetic abnormalities that contribute to resistance to the treatment given," says Dr. Richard Schilsky, deputy director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Chicago. "That said, the approach is much more promising than just pulling something off the shelf for a patient with advanced cancer."
Courtesy:abcnews Health

A natural antibiotic:Andrographis peniculata.

Long before modern medicine came out with the magical powers of antibiotics, ancient Indian systems of medicine including Ayurveda and Unani have benefited from Kalmegha, a natural antibiotic.Kalmegha is technically called Andrographis peniculata. The herb is also called Kalpanath and Kiryat. Kalmegha is bitter in taste and unpalatable. But it has a myriad medicinal properties including its ability to fight leprosy, boost immunity, kill bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, control fevers of various origins including malarial and typhoid, keep the stomach in good health, and provide relief from haemorrhoids.Of late, research has been taken up on the medicinal properties of Kalmegha. The studies were centered around Kalmegha’s ability to kill cancer cells, reduce upper respiratory tract infections etc. There are also claims of Kalmegha improving the immunity in people living with HIV/AIDS.
Note: Those allergic to certain herbs should avoid them.
Disclaimer: Consult a professional before trying herbal formulations at home.
Source:Deccan Chronicle

Neurocognitive Disorder Called Dyscalculia may be the Issue in Students Who Struggle With Math

A new paper by University of Minnesota and British researchers says that students who struggle to learn mathematics may have a neurocognitive disorder that inhibits the acquisition of basic numerical and arithmetic concepts.Called developmental dyscalculia, the disorder affects roughly the same number of people as dyslexia but has received much less attention (and research funding). The paper by University of Minnesota Educational Psychology assistant professor Sashank Varma and his British colleagues that shines a light on the causes of and interventions for dyscalculia will be published Thursday, May 27 in the journal Science.
The paper, "Dyscalculia, From Brain to Education," documents how scientists across the world have used magnetic resonance imaging to map the neural network that supports arithmetic. Through this process, they have discovered abnormalities in this network among learners with dyscalculia.
These findings have the potential to lead to evidence-based interventions for dyscalculia, Varma says. "Knowledge about what parts of the brain we use while learning mathematics is spurring the design of new computer learning environments that can strengthen simple number and arithmetic concepts," he explains. The paper envisions future research where neuroscientists, psychologists and educational researchers collaborate to offer a productive way forward on the important question of why some children struggle with learning mathematics. 


Chinese Medicine Qigong To The Relief of Cancer Patients

Cancer patients could stand to benefit from Quingong , a form of traditional Chinese medication- it is a 5000-year-old combination of gentle exercise and meditation. 
Those practicing it experienced significantly higher wellbeing levels, improved cognitive functioning and less inflammation compared to a control group, new University of Sydney research has found.Dr Byeongsang Oh, a clinical senior lecturer at the Sydney Medical School who led the study, said the reduced inflammation in patients who practiced medical Qigong, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, was particularly significant. 
"Several studies have indicated chronic inflammation is associated with cancer incidence, progression and even survival," says Dr Oh, who will present his findings to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in Chicago next week. 
"Patients who practiced medical Qigong experienced significant improvements in quality of life, including greater physical, functional, social and emotional wellbeing, and enhanced cognitive functioning, while the control group deteriorated in all of these areas," Dr Oh says. 
He also found the patients in the medical Qigong group reported increased satisfaction with their sex lives. 
The study involved 162 patients, with those assigned to the medical Qigong group undertaking a ten-week program of two supervised 90-minute sessions per week. They were also encouraged to practise at home every day for at least half an hour. 
The mean age of participants in this study was 60, with ages ranging from 31 to 86 years. The most common primary cancer diagnosis among participants was breast cancer (34 percent) followed by colorectal cancer (12 percent).



Friday, 3 June 2011

Indian herbs as medicine takes root in Uganda

A team of medical experts and investors from India are in Uganda making feasibility studies about establishing a college on herbal medicine, the Ayurvedic College.Dr Abbas Shihab, one of the experts, who has been operating a herbal medical clinic in Ntinda, says the team has been working with investors to make use of the available herbal resources to prevent and cure malaria, high blood pressure and diabetes. Under the project codenamed “Bringing Excellence in Ayurveda to Uganda”, the team will conduct research, sensitization and capacity building.The Ayurvedic College will be attached to a local university yet to be identified. Ayurvedic medical science has been practised in India for over 6,000 years, with a reported 70% of the population still dependent on it. The practice was approved by WHO as a health science and has since spread to the rest of the world, including UK, Europe and USA, where the California College of Ayurveda is of great benefit to the locals.

Inroads for Uganda

For about two years now, a group of Indian doctors has been operating such a clinic in Ntinda, the AyrHome (U) Ltd, using local herbs to treat patients. Today, the clinic is working with the Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratories in Wandegeya to lobby government so that the project could be implemented in the country.
Dr Grace Nambatya, Director of Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratories, says a memorandum of understanding with the Ayurveda Group is in the offing.
“I know and approve of what these people are doing. We are in touch and I have been referring some patients to them.
“I do appreciate that Indians are advanced in this area and are organized. We shall give the necessary support because they will promote the advancement of herbal medicine for our benefit,” Dr Nambatya.
Dr Abbas Shihab, a graduate from India with a Bachelor of Ayurvedic  Medicine  and  Surgery (B.A.M.S)  says they study anatomy, physiology, pathology and carry out  diagnosis, investigations  with conventional  methods including laboratory investigations, X-ray, CT scans and MRIs  but offer Ayurvedic medicine to the patients.
“We use special oils with powder or paste to make our medicines which are in form of tablets and capsules. We also make an effective mosquito repellent using the herbs available in Uganda,” he says.
At the clinic, there is a specialized wooden steam bath where patients sit on a chair but keep their heads out.
“A human head is delicate. It is not supposed to get exposed to high temperatures for more than 10 minutes. That is why our steam bath is made in such a way while the rest of the body is submerged in the box,” Dr Shihab says.
The other common diseases handled at the clinic include joint, back and neck pains, arthritis, sciatica, paralysis, spine and disc related problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies, asthma, sinusitis and stress.
The clinic also manages cancer and HIV/AIDS problems and offers various types of massage (rejuvenated, general and medicated bath) plus healthcare programmes such as rejuvenation therapy, relaxation stress management, slimming, body purification and immunization/ longevity treatments.


Princess Rosemary Kirungyi, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for more than three decades, attests to the healing powers of the Ayurvedic treatment.“When I first visited the AyurHome and consulted Dr Shihab, he, unlike others I had visited, promised to cure my rheumatoid arthritis completely. He advised that since I had spent long with the condition, I should use both the conventional medicine and Ayurvedic treatment.”Another beneficiary is Susan Uzoigwe of Travelog Ltd, who says when she visited the AyurHome Clinic with neck and back problems, she was given a herbal massage treatment and advised to do some exercises. With the rejuvenation therapy, she has since reduced her weight from 99kgs to 84kgs.
Yet, AyurHome wasn’t the pioneer in this field. Years ago when Dr Nambatya, the first Ugandan woman with a PhD in medicinal chemistry, started a campaign to promote herbal medicine in the country, she was, according to local media reports, “looked at with suspicion and shunned as a witch”.
At the time, Ugandans had little knowledge about the use or effectiveness of herbal or traditional medicine which, according to medical reports, was developed in India centuries ago.
Today, Dr Nambatya is a leading researcher and promoter of herbal medicine and, together with the Indian research experts, she hopes to empower local communities with income-generating projects like organic farming to produce the essential herbs.
Source:The Observer

German Catholic Doctors Offer Homeopathic 'Gay Treatment'

The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD) is outraged. Following news reported this week by the online magazine Telepolis that the Union of Catholic Physicians (UCP) has been offering homeopathic "Therapy Options for Homosexuality" on their website, the advocacy organization called the suggestion an "insult," and an "impertinence" that showed "a lack of respect for homosexuals and bisexuals."
The religious association, which calls itself the "voice of the Catholic medical community," writes on its website that while "homosexuality is not an illness," a host of treatments are available to keep such "inclinations" at bay. Possibilities include "constitutional treatments with homeopathic tools … such as homeopathic dilutions like Platinum," "psychotherapy," and "religious counseling." Among homeopathy's controversial treatments are the prescription of "Globuli," tiny pills that consisting mostly of sugar.
"We know about a number of people with homosexual feelings who find themselves in a spiritual and psychological emergency and suffer greatly," UCP head Gero Winkelmann told SPIEGEL in a written statement. "If someone is unhappy, ill or feels they are in an emergency, they should be able to find options for help with us."
But the doctor, who runs a private practice with an emphasis on homeopathy in the Bavarian town of Unterhaching, also stressed that the UCP website had not been recently updated, "because the issue is not particularly topical at the moment."
As for the scientific basis of the treatments offered by the UCP, Winkelmann listed "medical-psychotherapeutic, philosophical and theological literature," the "minority views of psychotherapists," the "teachings of the Catholic church, the Holy Scripture," and the "homeopathy of Samuel Hahnemann," the German physician credited with creating the practice.
'Dangerous' and 'Laughable'
But touting ineffective medication for nonexistent suffering is unacceptable, the LSVD said. "The offerings are dangerous," said spokeswoman Renate Rampf. "They use the insecurities of homosexual or bisexual young people and their parents." Such "laughable" therapeutic ministrations are problematic because they can be "destabilizing," she said.
"All serious experts agree that sexual orientation is already evident in early childhood," she added.
But Winkelmann defended the treatments, saying his organization's intentions were not meant to "injure or pressure" anyone, but to express a "position and medical opinion" to interested parties.
The UCP website includes a testimonial from a southern German gay man who writes that he had been happy to find that the organization believed "that changing homosexual tendencies was possible" because finding a therapist to undertake such a task had been difficult. "Unfortunately the widespread opinion among psychotherapists is that homosexuality is inherent and unalterable," he writes.
While the UCP says it does not represent official Catholic policies, the Church continues to grapple with its approach to homosexuality. Just last month Cologne Archbishop Joachim Meisner withdrew the religious teaching privileges of prominent publicist and pedagogue David Berger after he revealed his homosexuality and criticized the Catholic stance on the issue. The church declared that the teacher could "no longer credibly give Catholic religion lessons on behalf of the Church."
Though Germany's Protestants tend to take a more liberal approach to homosexuality, conservative members of the church also continue to raise opposition to gay-friendly policies. In 2009 some 30 pastors from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia wrote an open letter to condemn statements made by the church's state president Alfred Buss. "The practice of homosexuality is not consistent with God's creation," said the letter to online news portal Der Westen. Those who discredit therapy for homosexuality deny people "who suffer from homosexual feelings the help to change," the letter continued.
Meanwhile the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its International Code of Diseases on January 1, 1993. The move brought the "19th century to an end for gays and lesbians 90 years too late," said the LSVD at the time. But perhaps they rejoiced too soon.
Source:SPIGEL online International 

East Meets West as Traditional Korean Medicine Goes Modern

Yang-yeong-si market in Seoul, KoreaFor the past 600 years, Koreans have gone to Yang-yeong-si market in Seoul to acquire herbal remedies and seek out advice and treatment for their illnesses.  
There is more than just ginseng being offered in the 1,000 shops in Yangyeong-si. Here, health professionals and patients alike seek out roots, grains, branches and leaves - as well as more exotic ingredients, such as dried insects and deer antlers - for traditional treatments.
Kim San-gu has been running this herbal pharmacy for a quarter of a century.  He sells about 300 different types of remedies, preparing most of them on site.  In recent years, Kim acknowledges, business has slackened."These days, people tend not to trust Korean medicine so much because they see Western medicine as so advanced," said Kim.  "They prefer to go to hospitals instead of using Korean medicinal herbs. But there are many cases where Western medicine is ineffective and people get cured only after using traditional Korean medicine." 

The first Chinese medical books came to Korea about 1,100 years ago. After that, Korean medicine grew and evolved, putting the emphasis on treating patients in a distinctive manner rather than just focusing on the symptoms of specific diseases.
A few kilometers from the old market, Korean medicine is continuing to evolve.  At the Jaseng Hospital of Oriental Medicine, which specializes in spinal disorders, Austrian native Raimund Royer is among the licensed doctors of traditional medicine who combine the Eastern methods, such as acupuncture, with modern technology.
"…we have MRIs, we have X-rays, we have CT scans, we have blood tests. So for the diagnosis, we utilize these kinds of methods. But for treatment itself, we are relying on the traditional way. So I think it's a very good and maybe future-pointing kind of approach to combine, to integrate both the Western diagnostic system and the traditional treatment system," said Royer.   
This hybrid approach is creating a renewed interest in traditional medicine among South Koreans. It is also attracting the attention of Western medical professionals, looking for alternatives to surgery and powerful pharmaceutical drugs.

30 years after first AIDS cases, hope for a cure

Timothy Ray BrownSunday marks 30 years since the first AIDS cases were reported in the United States. And this anniversary brings fresh hope for something many had come to think was impossible: finding a cure.The example is Timothy Ray Brown of San Francisco, the first person in the world apparently cured of AIDS. His treatment isn't practical for wide use, but there are encouraging signs that other approaches might someday lead to a cure, or at least allow some people to control HIV without needing medication every day."I want to pull out all the stops to go for it," though cure is still a very difficult goal, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious DiseasesFor now, the focus remains on preventing new infections. With recent progress on novel ways to do that and a partially effective vaccine, "we're starting to get the feel that we can really get our arms around this pandemic," Fauci said.Nearly 30 million people have died of AIDS since the first five cases were recognized in Los Angeles in 1981.About 34 million people have HIV now, including more than 1 million in the United States.About 2 million people die of the disease each year, mostly in poor countries that lack treatment. In the U.S. though, newly diagnosed patients have a life expectancy only a few months shorter than people without HIV. Modern drugs are much easier to take, and many patients get by on a single pill a day.But it wasn't that way in 1995, when Brown, an American working as a translator in Berlin, learned he had HIV. He went on and off medicines because of side effects but was holding his own until 2006, when he was diagnosed with leukemia, a problem unrelated to HIV. Chemotherapy left him so sick he had to be put into a coma to allow his body to recover."They didn't know if I'd survive that," Brown said.Dr. Gero Huetter, a blood cancer expert at the University of Berlin, knew that a transplant of blood stem cells (doctors used to use bone marrow) was the best hope for curing Brown's cancer. But he aimed even higher."I remembered something I had read in a 1996 report from a study of people who were exposed to HIV but didn't get infected," Huetter said.These people had gene mutations that provide natural resistance to the virus. About 1 percent of whites have them, and Huetter proposed searching for a person who also was a tissue match for Brown.But transplants are grueling. Huetter would have to destroy Brown's diseased immune system with chemo and radiation, then transplant the donor's cells and hope they would take hold and grow. Many cancer patients die from such attempts and Brown wasn't willing to risk it.His mother, Sharon Brown of Seattle, agreed."Before I knew he had HIV I used to have nightmares about it," and gambling on a transplant to try to cure it didn't seem smart when the cancer seemed to be in remission, she said.Several months later, the return of leukemia changed their minds.Brown discussed the transplant with his boss "and she said, `wow, this is amazing. Because you have leukemia, you could be cured of HIV.'"A registry turned up more than 200 possible donors and Huetter started testing them for the HIV resistance gene. He hit pay dirt at No. 61 — a German man living in the United States, around 25 years old.Brown had the transplant in February 2007. A year later, his leukemia returned but HIV did not. He had a second transplant in March 2008 from the same donor.Now 45, Brown needs no medicines, and his only health problems are from the mugging he suffered two years ago as he returned home one night in Berlin. Brown was knocked unconscious, required brain surgery and therapy to walk and talk again, and doesn't have full use of one arm. He moved back to the United States in December."He's now four years off his antiretroviral therapy and we have no evidence of HIV in any tissue or blood that we have tested," even places where the virus can lie dormant for many years, Huetter said.Brown's success inspired scientists to try a similar but less harsh tactic: modifying some of a patient's infection-fighting blood cells to contain the mutation and resist HIV. In theory, this would strengthen the immune system enough that people would no longer need to take HIV drugs to keep the virus suppressed.Scientists recently tried this gene therapy in a couple dozen patients, including Matthew Sharp of suburban San Francisco. More than six months later, the number of his infection-fighting blood cells is "still significantly higher than baseline," he said.It will take more time to know if gene therapy works and is safe. Experiments on dozens of patients are under way, including some where patients go off their HIV medicines and doctors watch to see if the modified cells control the virus.The results so far on the cell counts "are all wonderful findings but they could all amount to nothing" unless HIV stays suppressed, said Dr. Jacob Lalezari, director of Quest Clinical Research in San Francisco who is leading one of the studies.The approach also is not practical for poor countries."I wouldn't want people to think that gene therapy is going to be something you can do on 33 million people," said Fauci.Other promising approaches to a cure try new ways to attack the dormant virus problem, he said. They hinge on getting people tested and into care as soon as they become infected.Fauci's institute has boosted money for cure research, and the International AIDS Society, a professional organization for those who work in the field, has added finding a cure to its strategic plan."There are paths forward now" to a day when people with AIDS might be cured, said Dr. Michael Horberg, a member of President Obama's HIV/AIDS council and vice chairman of the HIV Medicine Association, doctors who treat the disease. "But it's not tomorrow, and it's not today."


EU to amend customs laws as per promise in WTO, India studying proposal

In accordance with the earlier assurance to India, the European Commission is planning a new customs regulation to bring in more clarity to the issues like wrongful seizure of generic drug shipments in transit. But the draft regulation has not changed any existing rules, sending apprehensions among the public interest organisations.
Though the new legislation may not exactly address the concerns raised by India on the issue of seizures, sources in the Commerce Ministry said it was too early to make a comment on the development as the legislation was still under process.
According to the fact sheet released by the European Commission, “the concern was expressed by certain Members of the WTO, Members of the European Parliament and NGOs about the impact of such detentions on the trade in legitimate medicines.” The new proposal will clarify the procedure of customs regulation and the detention and destruction procedures would be made clearer.
The Commission had claimed that the new regulation will replace regulation 1383/2003 and would address the concerns of India and Brazil, in particular by providing clarification and increasing legal certainty.
However, when contacted by Pharmabiz, a senior official in the Commerce Ministry said the proposed legislation was still under process and “India would study it in detail first.” “We are still discussing the issue of seizures with the EU after we took up the issue with the World Trade Organisation. We hope that new legislation will have clear clauses to avoid wrongful seizures in the future,” he said.
In 2008, shipments of legitimate generic medicines from India transiting through Europe were detained by customs authorities on charges of IP rights infringement, prompting widespread criticism from India and the developing countries, apart from many public interest groups. European Commission had assured to make improvements to its law.
The draft proposal would now go to the European Council and the European Parliament for their comments. The Act will come into force only after both the council and the Parliament ratify the same.

Compound in Green Tea Helps Fight Autoimmune Disease

Time and again studies have stressed the health benefits of drinking green tea. Now researchers have discovered a compound in green tea which is potent enough to fight autoimmune disease.
They found that the compound increases the number of 'regulatory T cells' that play a key role in immune function.
This may be one of the underlying mechanisms for the health benefits of green tea, which has attracted wide interest for its ability to help control inflammation, improve immune function and prevent cancer. 

Though pharmaceutical drugs are available that perform similar roles and have been the subject of much research, they have problems with toxicity. A natural food product might provide a long-term, sustainable way to accomplish this same goal without toxicity, said the researchers.
"This appears to be a natural, plant-derived compound that can affect the number of regulatory T cells, and in the process improve immune function," said Emily Ho, an LPI principal investigator and associate professor in the OSU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.
"When fully understood, this could provide an easy and safe way to help control autoimmune problems and address various diseases," she said.
In this study, OSU scientists did experiments with a compound in green tea, a polyphenol called EGCG, which is believed to be responsible for much of its health benefits and has both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer characteristics.
They found it could cause a higher production of regulatory T cells. Its effects were not as potent as some of those produced by prescription drugs, but it also had few concerns about long-term use or toxicity.

Actual Attacks of Migraine may be Prevented by Looking Out for Forewarning Symptoms

As many as one-third of migraine sufferers experience forewarning symptoms before an attack, which experts say might create an opportunity for intervention and prevention, says a new study. 
"Migraine is for many people a lightning storm that starts hours or day similar to gathering clouds before the storm, followed by the thunderous pain of the migraine headache ," said migraine scientist Purdy.
Symptoms are often easily recognized by patients and can include mood changes - a sense of sadness or euphoria - fatigue, problems with concentration, yawning and pallor, increasing sensitivity to light and sound and a general feeling that the attack is about to begin, he said.
" In some ways, it's very much like the PMS that many women report before their menstrual period," said Purdy
Treatment during this phase of an attack, especially with triptans , has been shown to be effective with some patients.
"We found that headache prevention is possible when a triptan is administered during the premonitory period. And those that did occur appeared to be milder," said scientist Werner J. Becker.
Triptans are a class of drugs that constrict bolld vessels in the brain  and relieve swelling that is associated with migraine pain .
The scientists discussed the findings at the annual scientific conference of the American Headache Society this week.


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Coral Trout Could Face The Heat From Global Warming

More evidence to show that climate change  is wreaking havoc on the globe – coral trout, a valuable fishery species, could be under long-term threat. Australian scientists are basing their conclusion on the basis of behavioural changes found in small changes  such as damselfish.James Cook University’s Professor Philip Munday recently discovered that ocean acidification  specifically declines in pH caused by the addition of carbon dioxide (CO2), led to significant behavioural changes in damselfish and anemone fish, which left them open to predation.
Researchers from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and JCU had already found that many coral reef fishes  would be vulnerable to environmental and habitat changes due to climate change .
“Coral reefs are extremely vulnerable to sustained and ongoing climate change, mainly because of the temperature sensitivities of reef-building corals,” the project’s chief investigator, JCU’s Dr Morgan Pratchett said.
"But climate change not only threatens the corals that build reefs, but the animals that live on coral reefs, including many different fishes.”
Professor Munday said increased ocean acidification interfered with the ability of small prey fishes to distinguish potential predators through smell.
“The effects of ocean acidification on the behaviour of reef fishes are much more striking than any of us had thought possible,” he said.
Dr Pratchett said the evidence showed it was high time for greater understanding of how climate change impacted on fisheries species, such as coral trout.


Study Finds Even Moderate Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency may Lead to Age-related Diseases

Scientists have found that even moderate deficiency of the vitamins and minerals required for life may lead to age-related diseases. 
Scientists from the Nutrition and Metabolism Center at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, California showed that damage caused due to lack of vitamins and minerals accumulates over time and leads to age-related diseases.Joyce C. McCann, a co-author of the study, and colleagues tested whether selenium-dependent proteins that are essential from an evolutionary perspective are more resistant to selenium deficiency than those that are less essential. 
They discovered a highly sophisticated array of mechanisms at cellular and tissue levels that, when selenium is limited, protect essential selenium-dependent proteins at the expense of those that are nonessential. 
They also found that mutations in selenium-dependent proteins that are lost on modest selenium deficiency result in characteristics shared by age-related diseases including cancer, heart disease , and loss of immune or brain function. 
The study was published online in the FASEB Journal.


Health Ministry Finally Gives the Nod for Gory Images on Cigarette and Beedi Packs

Come December and cigarette, beedi and chewable tobacco packets will feature gory images warning the users of potential dangers of using the products.The Union Health Ministry finally confirmed on Saturday that tobacco products will contain pictorial warnings on the packages and has already selection four images depicting a man suffering from lung and oral cancers . The health ministry also said that the images will be rotated every two years and hoped that they will provide a strong deterrence against consuming tobacco.
The Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had recently spoken about the alarming rise in the number of lung and oral cancer cases related to tobacco use , especially among those who chew tobacco.
“As there is high prevalence of smokeless tobacco use in the country and the consumption is more among the lower socio-economic class with low levels of literacy, it is hoped that strong pictorial warnings will definitely dissuade tobacco users  from consuming tobacco products”, Azad said.
It is estimated that more than nine lakh people die every year due to tobacco related diseases while over a quarter of billion people across the country use various forms of tobacco products.


Brit Adults Spend Nine Whole Days in a Year Worrying

A new study has outlined that the average Briton spends nearly 36 minutes every day worrying, which is equal to nine whole days every year.
The high cost of living, feeling 'stuck in a rut' and body weights are the most common causes for concern, the survey of 2,000 people aged between 18 and 65 found.However, weight-gain is more of a concern than debt, health or job security, according the survey.
Four in ten are stressed about debt, a quarter are concerned they are 'not living life to the full' and one in five is troubled about family members falling ill.
One in ten said they felt stressed for more than two hours a day, while one in two worry so much it has affected their health.
"People are wasting far too much time stressing about things," the Daily Mail quoted a spokesman from the Everyman Campaign, which carried out the study, as saying.
A massive 86 per cent of those surveyed said women worry more than men. One in five is bothered about house prices and the risk of cancer, and one in six is worried about pensions and heavy workloads.
Other issues to make the list included ageing parents, being judged by others and ticking biological clocks.


Low-carb, High-fat Diets Safe for Heart: Study

People who are overweight and obese and are looking to shed some pounds can go ahead with low-carbohydrate and high-fat-diets, as these diets don't cause harm to arteries. suggest studies. 
"Overweight and obese people appear to really have options when choosing a weight-loss program, including a low-carb diet  and even if it means eating more fat," says the studies'' lead investigator exercise physiologists Kerry Stewart, Ed.D.
Stewart, a professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercie physiology  at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart and Vascular Institute, says his team''s latest analysis is believed to be the first direct comparison of either kind of diet on the effects to vascular health, using the real-life context of 46 people trying to lose weight through diet and moderate exercise . The research was prompted by concerns from people who wanted to include one of the low-carb, high-fat diets, such as Atkins , South Beach and Zone, as part of their weight-loss program, but were wary of the diets'' higher fat content.
In the first study, scheduled to be presented June 3 at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Denver, the Hopkins team studied 23 men and women, weighing on average 218 pounds and participating in a six-month weight-loss program that consisted of moderate aerobic exercise and lifting weights, plus a diet made up of no more than 30 percent of calories  from carbs, such as pastas, breads and sugary fruits. As much as 40 percent of their diet was made up of fats coming from meat, dairy products and nuts. This low-carb group showed no change after shedding 10 pounds in two key measures of vascular health: finger tip tests of how fast the inner vessel lining in the arteries in the lower arm relaxes after blood flow has been constrained and restored in the upper arm (the so-called reactive hyperemia index of endothelial function), and the augmentation index, a pulse-wave analysis of arterial stiffness.


WHO: E. coli outbreak caused by new strain

The E. coli bacteria responsible for a deadly outbreak that has left 18 dead and sickened hundreds in Europe is a new strain that has never been seen before, the World Health Organization said Thursday.Preliminary genetic sequencing suggests the strain is a mutant form of two different E. coli bacteria, with aggressive genes that could explain why the Europe-wide outbreak appears to be so massive and dangerous, the agency said.Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the WHO, told The Associated Press that "this is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before."She added that the new strain has "various characteristics that make it more virulent and toxin-producing" than the many E. coli strains people naturally carry in their intestines.So far, the mutant E. coli strain has sickened more than 1,500 people, including 470 who have developed a rare kidney failure complication, and killed 18, including one overnight in Germany, the country hit hardest by the outbreak.Researchers have been unable to pinpoint the cause of the illness, which has hit at least nine European countries, and prompted Russia on Thursday to extend a ban on vegetables to the entire European Union.Kruse said it's not uncommon for bacteria to continually mutate, evolving and swapping genes. "There's a lot of mobility in the microbial world," she said. Kruse said it was difficult to explain where the new strain came from but said strains of bacteria from both humans and animals easily trade genes, similar to how animal viruses like Ebola sometimes jump into humans."One should think of an animal source," Kruse said. "Many animals are hosts of various types of toxin-producing E. coli." Some scientists suspect the deadly E. coli might have originated in contaminated manure used to fertilize vegetables.Previous E. coli outbreaks have mainly hit children and the elderly, but the European outbreak is disproportionately affecting adults, especially women. Kruse said there might be something particular about the bacteria strain that makes it more dangerous for adults.But she cautioned that since people with milder cases probably aren't seeking medical help, officials don't know just how big the outbreak is. "It's hard to say how virulent (this new E. coli strain) is because we just don't know the real number of people affected."Nearly all the sick people either live in Germany or recently traveled there. Two people who were sickened are now in the United States, and both had recently traveled to Hamburg, Germany, where many of the infections occurred.British officials announced four new cases, including three Britons who recently visited Germany and a German person on holiday in England.German officials have warned people not to eat lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. To avoid foodborne illnesses, WHO recommends people wash their hands before eating or cooking food, separating raw and cooked meat from other foods, thoroughly cooking food, and washing fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw. Experts also recommend peeling raw fruits and vegetables if possible.Fearful of the outbreak spreading into Russia, the country on Thursday extended its ban on vegetable imports to all of the EU. Russia had banned fresh imports from Spain and Germany on Monday.Lyubov Voropayeva, spokeswoman for the Russian Agency for the Supervision of Consumer Rights, told the AP the Russian ban has been imposed immediately and indefinitely. No fatalities or infections have yet been reported in Russia.The agency's chief Gennady Onishchenko told Russian news agencies that this "unpopular measure" would be in place until European officials inform Moscow of the cause of the disease and how it is being spread."How many more lives of European citizens does it take for European officials to tackle this problem?" he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.The EU argued the Russian ban was disproportionate. Frederic Vincent, a spokesman for the EU's Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli, said Thursday that the European Commission would write to Russia to demand further clarification.One expert said the fact the strain is new may have complicated the response to the outbreak. "Officials may not have had the correct tests to detect it, which may explain the initial delay in reporting," said Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in England.He said the number of new cases would likely slow to a trickle in the next few days. The incubation period for this type of E. coli is about three to eight days, and most people recover within 10 days."Salads have a relatively short shelf life and it's likely the contaminated food would have been consumed in one to two weeks," Hunter said.But Hunter warned the outbreak could continue if there is secondary transmission of the disease, which often happens when children are infected. The disease can be spread when infected people don't take proper hygiene measures, like bathing or hand washing.The United Arab Emirates issued a temporary ban on cucumbers from Spain, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. State news agency WAM said the Gulf nation's Minister of Environment and Water issued the order based on information "from international food safety agencies and news reports."Meanwhile, Spain's prime minister slammed the European Commission and Germany for early on singling out the country's produce as a possible source of the outbreak, and said the government would demand explanations and reparations.Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told Spanish National Radio that the German federal government was ultimately responsible for the allegations, adding that Spain would seek "conclusive explanations and sufficient reparations."The outbreak is already considered the third-largest involving E. coli in recent world history, and it may be the deadliest. Twelve people died in a 1996 Japanese outbreak that reportedly sickened more than 9,000, and seven died in a 2000 Canadian outbreak.

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