Testing It Up

Latest Ebola Outbreak in Africa Heightens Risk of Entering U.S. Soil

Once the cause of a widespread pandemic in the 90s, the Ebola virus is rearing its ugly head once again as news of its latest outbreak in some African regions has spread across social media networks. The latest information, according to a news release, is that two U.S. health care workers in Liberia have been infected with the deadly virus.

ebola virus africaSeveral reports revealed the outbreak of the Ebola virus not only in the confines of Liberia, but also in its neighboring regions in Guinea and Sierra Leone. U.S. officials and health experts are already looking into the possibility of the virus reaching U.S. shores.

Johns Hopkins University professor Dr. Diane Griffin, who heads the university’s molecular microbiology and immunology department, expressed concern due to the accessibility of infected persons through air travel.

“The biggest risk is that an infected person gets on an airplane and flies to the United States,” said Griffin.

However, she dismissed this scenario, saying that precautionary measures and quick identification can prevent the spread from happening.

“The risk to the general population, especially outside of Africa, is essentially nonexistent,” Griffin added.

The latest Ebola outbreak in West Africa has so far claimed more than 600 people and infected more than a thousand.

July 28, 2014 at 7:23 pm Comments (0)

Run Your Way to Longer Life, Says Study

Running as a way to extend your life? While that may seem farfetched to some people, a new study reveals the truth behind this idea.

runningResearchers from Iowa State University discovered that people who engage in running just 5 minutes a day tend to live three years longer than those who don’t run. Lead researcher Dr. D.C. Lee, who also functions as assistant professor of kinesiology in the university, said that small victories like this can do a lot for health.

“We can get significant mortality benefits by running even 30 to 60 minutes per week, which is below the recommendations by the World Health Organization and the US government,” said Lee via Yahoo! News.

Another surprising revelation was the fact that people who ran less than 50 minutes a week were found to have better mortality profiles than those who engage in longer running durations. The results of the study seem to prove that spending just a short time running can already reap many health benefits. “This study encourages inactive people to participate in more physical activity including running,” Lee added.

The study revealed that people who run are 30 percent less likely to die early. In addition, runners have 45 percent less likelihood of developing cardiovascular conditions. The data used by the study was harvested from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, which focused on running behaviors, runner demographics, and health profiles.

[ Image source ]

July 28, 2014 at 7:02 pm Comments (0)

Scientists Devise a Way to “Snip” HIV from Immune Cells

For the first time ever, researchers have succeeded in removing HIV from infected human cells.

When HIV infects a human cell, the virus integrates its own DNA into that cell. Researchers have found a way to use a “guide RNA,” or gRNA to hunt HIV’s genetic material and pair it with an enzyme called a nuclease. When this enzyme is paired with the virus’ DNA, it acts to snip it out of the cell. The cell then repairs itself, leaving it free of the virus. HIV

The process succeeded in removing the virus from various types of immune cells that HIV typically targets, including microglia, macrophages and CD4 cells.

The researchers, who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, hope that the technique may be used as part of a treatment, cure or vaccine for the virus.

The gRNA was built from 20 nucleotides, which are the basic building blocks of the genetic code. Researchers had to ensure that it did not wind up integrated into the cell’s genome, and to make sure this didn’t happen, the researchers constructed it from sequences that do not appear in the coding sequences of human DNA, helping avoid any cell DNA damage.

“This is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for [HIV],” study co-lead researcher Kamel Khalili, PhD, professor and chair of the department of neuroscience at Temple University in Philadelphia, said in a release.

A next step is to find a way to deliver the therapy to every infected cell. Also, because of HIV’s vast capacity to mutate, therapies may need to be tailored to a person’s particular viral gene sequences.

July 28, 2014 at 8:08 am Comments (0)

Prenatal Smoking Leads To Higher Risk of Child ADHD

A recent study has linked the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children to mothers who smoked during their pregnancy.

pregnant-woman-smoking-150Researchers from the Denmark’s Aarhus University released the study via the Pediatrics journal on July 21. Dr. Jin Liang Zhu, an epidemiology assistant professor in the university and the lead author of the study, said that smoking has long been known to be a factor for pregnancy-related complications and a number of abnormalities in infants. This time, the new study focuses on ADHD as one of the risks of smoking while pregnant.

According to Zhu via a news release, components of cigarette smoke may cause abnormal brain development in the fetus. Some of the harmful chemicals include nicotine, as well as carbon monoxide as a by-product of the smoke.

However, the study does not discount the possibility of other factors that may have caused the link between children’s ADHD and their mothers who smoke. For one, members of families with ADHD patients were found to have more likelihood to engage in smoking, hence the higher probability of mothers to light a cigarette.

July 23, 2014 at 7:08 am Comments (0)

Study: Fish Oil Compound May Protect Brain From Alcohol-Related Damage

Drinking too much alcohol? Fish oil may help retain your brain’s normal functioning.

fish oil capsuleA recent study conducted by researchers from Illinois’ Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine showed how a particular fatty acid found in fish oil may reduce brain damage caused by alcohol ingestion. The breakthrough ingredient — called omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid — was found to reduce damage of brain cells by up to 90 percent.

Dr. Michael Collins, one of the study authors, said that fish oil is unlikely to harm humans, and can instead protect the brain. “Fish oil has the potential of helping preserve brain integrity in chronic alcohol abusers,” said Collins in a news release.

Experiments were conducted on brain cells of adult rats, with the cells exposed to four times the maximum legal limit for blood alcohol concentration. One of the two groups of brain cells was infused with the omega-3 fish oil fatty acid.

Despite the remarkable difference between the two test groups, the study authors recommend more related studies in order to support their initial findings. Furthermore, the authors believe that the results should not be misconstrued as a way for chronic alcohol users to abuse alcohol just because they can pop a capsule of fish oil to neutralize the damaging effects of alcohol. “We don’t want people to think it is okay to take a few fish oil capsules and then continue to go on abusing alcohol,” Collins added.

July 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm Comments (0)

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)

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