Testing It Up

WHO issues warning about HIV

Failure to provide adequate HIV services for key groups  of people will threaten the global progress on the HIV response, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned. WHO flag

The WHO identifies these key groups as:

  • men who have sex with men,
  • people in prison,
  • people who inject drugs,
  • sex workers, and
  • transgender people.

These particular groups of people are the most at risk of HIV infection, yet they are also the least likely to have access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. In many countries, they are left out of national HIV plans, and discriminatory laws and policies are also major barriers to access for them.

The WHO’s warning came with the release of the report “Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations”, in the lead-up to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, starting on July 20.

The guidelines outline steps for countries to reduce new HIV infections and increase access to HIV testing, treatment and care for these five aforementioned ‘key populations’.

They include a comprehensive range of clinical recommendations but, for these to be effective, WHO also recommends that countries remove the legal and social barriers that prevent many people from accessing services.

To read the entire WHO news release about the issuance of the report, click here.

July 18, 2014 at 10:56 am Comments (0)

Physician calls for quicker process for approving epilepsy medication

The United States needs a faster process for approving medication, particularly epilepsy medication, Dr. Nathan Fountain said in a post for Kevin MD.medicine

Fountain said he sees about two patients per year die from complications due to epilepsy while new, potentially life-saving treatments are stalled in the long, arduous process of approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the two organizations that have to provide final regulatory approval of new medicines.

Fountain said  there is no time limit on the scheduling process, which is in place to help prevent drugs with the potential for abuse from getting into the wrong hands while ensuring patients who need them have access to them. But the time it takes for drugs to get approved by the DEA has progressively gotten longer after they receive approval by the FDA. The amount of time has gone from 49 days in the period of 1997-1999 to 237 days in the period 2009-2013 according to a published analysis. This is an average of nearly eight months; and sometimes it takes more than a year for approval.

Fountain has joined with the Epilepsy Foundation in support of the Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act (H.R. 4299), which would provide needed clarity and predictability to the DEA review process and help ensure innovative treatment options are made available to patients who need them by setting a 45-day deadline for the DEA to schedule new medicines as recommended by the FDA.

“This problem applies to all drugs reviewed by the DEA and particularly for conditions that are in urgent need of avoiding unnecessary delays,” Fountain said.

July 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm Comments (0)

Secure texting could save hospitals thousands

Secure text messaging could save the average U.S. hospital $358,598 a year in time savings, reveals a new report conducted by the Ponemon Institute.texting

The time savings would be gained by eliminating pagers and streamlining patient admitting processes, emergency response team efforts and patient transfer workflows. Inefficient communications in those three workflows, industry wide, costs $11 billion annually.

“The research reveals that providers believe there are more effective methods of communication that can improve patient care and reduce costs,” Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, said.

Pagers — a technology that many people don’t even realize is still around — remain the hospital technology of choice.

“Paging is time consuming and error prone, and it takes clinicians away from their patients,” Lynne Dunbrack, research vice president for IDC Health Insights, said. “Secure text messaging can address these challenges by pushing communications, alerts and notifications to their mobile devices wherever they are.”

The move to saving time and being more efficient with communication is already underway, with healthcare institutions nationwide striving to boost communications and eliminate inefficiencies using mHealth tools.

A New Jersey medical center has tapped a smartphone application to improve communications and gain greater efficiencies in patient care and treatment time, as staff was losing about 15% of their daily work shift to time spent trying to reach physicians and 24-hour delays between a consult request and surgeon notification of the request. What’s more, a Harvard Innovation Lab startup developed an app featuring a messaging function that lets staff send and share HIPAA-compliant messages regarding patients.

Additionally, a large homecare agency is using tablets and gaining greater efficiency by clinicians to better communications and teamwork by mobile caregivers.

July 14, 2014 at 1:23 pm Comments (0)

New post gives parents much needed information on Spice

Synthetic marijuana has been a scourge for years now and a recently published post gives parents the definitive information they need to know about this dangerous drug.Spice

The information contained in the article includes the effects of the drug, several statistics about its usage and tips about how parents can protect their children from abusing the drug.

The tips include:

  • Communicate with your teen.
  • Make your position clear.
  • Check in frequently.
  • Look for signs of use.
  • If necessary, seek help.

To read the full Parent’s Guide to Spice, click here.

July 11, 2014 at 11:54 am Comments (0)

Study Shows 1 in 5 High School Seniors Have Tried Hookah

About 18% of high school seniors, or one in five, have tried smoking tobacco through a hookah pipe, a new study has found.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Clare on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Ryan Clare on Flickr

The study, performed by New York University researchers, involved data from the Monitoring the Future nationwide study, which follows teens’ behaviors, values, and attitudes. Of the almost 15,000 kids aged 18 involved in the study, 5,540 were questioned about their hookah use between 2010 and 2012.

Researchers also found that “students of higher socioeconomic status appear to be more  likely to use hookah,” said Dr. Joseph Palamar, assistant professor of population health at NYU Langone Medical Center, in a press release. “Surprisingly, students with more educated parents or higher personal income are at high risk for use. We also found that hookah use is more common in cities, especially big cities. So hookah use is much different from cigarette use, which is more common in non-urban areas.”

Traditionally from the Middle East, hookah involves smoking flavored tobacco from a large water pipe. It’s become increasingly popular in North America and other parts of the world, in part, because it’s believed to be less harmful to the body — the tobacco is considered to be milder. However, that’s not entirely the case because hookah smokers tend to take more puffs in one session, resulting in similar, if not worse effects than smoking.

In New York City, hookahs have become popular, appearing in clubs, increasingly numerous hookah bars, and pretty much wherever someone with a hookah pipe wants to bring it. Among the general population, hookah use has increased by as much as 123%, co-author of the study Dr. Michael Weitzman said. But although they come with similar health risks — respiratory illness, herpes, heart disease, and some cancers — consistent use isn’t such an issue.

“Use tends to be much different from traditional cigarette smoking,” Palamar said in the release. “Right now it appears that a lot of hookah use is more ritualistic, used occasionally — for example, in hookah bars, and not everyone inhales.”

However, the researchers warned that people who begin using hookah may eventually turn to vape pens or e-cigarettes, which also sport a wide range of flavors while remaining mysterious in terms of health effects. Educating the public, and especially the youth, about how smoking hookah isn’t completely harmless may be the experts’ best bet.

July 7, 2014 at 11:16 am Comments (0)

Scientists Discover New Activator Molecule for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer has become one of the most common causes of fatalities in women, despite the discovery of HER2 as a cancer identifier. This time, a new discovery might lead to a more effective targeting of breast cancer cells.

breast cancerScientists from the Breast Cancer Campaign in UK have identified a molecule named alpha-v-beta-6 as an agent that promotes breast cancer. The researchers said that by targeting this particular molecule, spreading of cancer cells may be diminished or altogether stopped. In addition, this newly discovered molecule was found in about 40 percent of tumors extracted from HER2-positive breast cancer patients.

Researchers believe that attacking this newly discovered molecule could be the key to preventing breast cancer and to enhancing the patient’s response to first-line cancer drugs. “The results of this pre-clinical study suggest that targeting the αvβ6 molecule may enhance the effectiveness of Herceptin – and that a combination treatment could be effective for patients where Herceptin alone has not worked,” said the study authors in a news release.

Pre-clinical studies were conducted on mice in order to test an antibody called 264RAD that blocks the cancer-marking molecule. Results showed favorable results on mice that were administered both 264RAD and Herceptin combined, with the tumors completely gone.

July 7, 2014 at 12:29 am Comments (0)

Scientists use brain chip to help paralysis patient move again

Doctors are a step closer to giving paralysis patients control over their own bodies again thanks to a brain chip and accompanying equipment that processes their thoughts and stimulates their limbs to move. spine

Doctors, engineers and scientists recently completed a successful test of the chip, which involved implanting it into the brain of Ian Burkhart, who broke his neck in a swimming accident in 2010 and has been paralyzed from the elbows down ever since. The chip is connected to a small, metal silo that sits outside the head and that, in turn, is connected to a series of electrodes that are applied to Burkhart’s arm.

During the test, Burkhart looked at a digital arm on a screen and envisioned moving it. The chip picked up the impulses from his brain and channelled them through the wiring and moved the hand on the screen, as well as his own hand via the electrodes connected to his arm.

During the test, Burkhart was able to open and close his hand, curl his fist toward himself and briefly hold a spoon.

Essentially, the equipment read Burkhart’s thought impulses and translated them into electronic impulses that moved his hand.

The technology, dubbed the Neurobridge, was invented by the nonprofit research organization Battelle and tested on Burkhart at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Centre in Columbus by engineers Nick Annetta and Chad Bouton, the project leader; Drs Ali Rezai, who had performed the surgery, and Jerry Mysiw, the rehab specialist who recruited Burkhart to the project; and Burkhart’s father, Doug.

The engineers at Battelle hope that this successful test will one day lead to sleeves that will slide over paralyzed limbs, headbands that will do the work of a brain chip and smartphones doing the work that the computer did during Burkhart’s test.

July 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm Comments (0)

Scientists hopeful that human gut cells can create insulin

Scientists from Columbia University Medical Center in New York City are hopeful that cells residing inside the human gut can be retrained to produce insulin.diabetes in older adults

For people with type 1 diabetes, their body’s natural insulin-producing cells, known as pancreatic beta cells, are destroyed by their immune system, meaning they cannot produce their own insulin.

Insulin-producing cells have been created before using stem cells, but these cells do not yet fully function like natural insulin-producing cells, the Columbia research team explained.

However, by simply turning off a particular gene, the Columbia scientists were able to convert cells in the human gut into cells that make insulin. They said the findings suggest that it may be simpler to reeducate existing cells than to replace the cells lost in type 1 diabetes using stem cell technology.

“People have been talking about turning one cell into another for a long time, but until now we hadn’t gotten to the point of creating a fully functional insulin-producing cell by the manipulation of a single target,” study senior researcher Dr. Domenico Accili, a professor of medicine at Columbia, said in a university news release.


June 30, 2014 at 11:52 am Comment (1)

Chemical Yields Environment-Friendly Medicine Production

The manufacture of drugs involves the use of precious metals such as silver, which are not only costly but also wasteful. After production of medicines, some of these metals may result in dangerous by-products that affect the pristine quality of the environment.

medicineResearchers from the Queen Mary University of London were able to create a new chemical that replaces the industry-standard drug manufacturing process metals. According to a press release, the university’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences discovered that a compound labeled as TMA may be activated with a positive charge as a replacement for silver in the drug making process.

According to lead author Dr. Igor Larrosa, the industry’s current use of silver and other metals are not only expensive, but also harmful to the environment. “The cost of using large amounts of precious metals is a major bottleneck for industrial applications,” said Dr. Larrosa. “We have found that for a significant amount of processes, silver can be replaced with a simple organic molecule. In the future, this discovery could lower costs for patients and customers as well as minimising the environmental impact during production processes of fine chemicals.”

June 28, 2014 at 7:30 pm Comments (0)

Tanning Booths, Sunbeds Linked To Higher Risk Of Skin Cancer

Be careful about achieving that tanned summer look, because it might cause you skin cancer in the future.

tanning bedA recent study released in the Pediatrics journal revealed a link between frequent use of tanning stations and early onset of skin cancer in young adults and teenagers. Tanning booths and sunbeds make use of lamps that emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which may cause skin cancer development if the individual is frequently exposed.

Study lead author Margaret Karagas of Dartmouth’s Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center said through a news item that the findings suggest high risk for youth, especially because of their engagement in indoor tanning. According to the study, cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) have increased in number not only in the U.S. but all over the world. The main reason behind this development is tanning booths and sunbeds use lamps that have 10-15 times stronger UV radiation than noontime sun.

The study also discovered that the majority of the patients diagnosed with BCC were exposed to indoor tanning, with roughly 40% of the BCC found on the torso region.

As an addendum to the study, the proponents also conducted a survey to check the prevalence of tanning stations near places where young people frequently stay. The results of the survey showed that about 3 in 4 high schools are proximate (i.e. within 2 miles) to a tanning salon, while more than 20% have convenient access to indoor tanning facilities.

June 24, 2014 at 7:01 pm Comments (0)

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