Testing It Up

Blood Test Accurately Predicts Alzheimer’s

A newly developed blood test can predict with 90% accuracy if a healthy person will develop mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease within three years. Alzheimer's disease

The study about the new test, published March 9 on the website of the journal Nature Medicine, says it could lead to treatment strategies for Alzheimer’s earlier, when therapy would be more effective at slowing down or completely preventing the onset of symptoms.

The test identifies likely candidates for the disease by identifying 10 lipids in the blood that point to the onset of Alzheimer’s. It could be ready for use in clinical studies in another couple of years, the researchers said, and it also has the potential for other diagnostic uses.

“Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder,” said Dr. Howard J. Federoff, the study’s corresponding author and a professor of neurology and executive vice president for health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

There is no cure or effective treatment for Alzheimer’s. Worldwide, about 35.6 million individuals have the disease and, according to the World Health Organization, the number will double every 20 years to 115.4 million people with Alzheimer’s by 2050.

March 11, 2014 at 6:32 am Comments (0)

Stroke Risk Decreased By Regular Vitamin C Intake

Remember what your mother used to say about Vitamin C being a health booster? Results of a newly released study seem to support your mom.

vitamin c from orangesResearchers from France’s Pontchaillou University Hospital released a study that showed a link between Vitamin C intake and a decreased likelihood of stroke. Lead study author Dr. Stephane Vannier said in a news article, “Our results show that Vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study.”

While not yet published in a public journal, the study is set to be discussed in full detail at the upcoming Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Philadelphia by April of this year.

The research involved a comparison of Vitamin C levels in two groups — stroke patients and healthy individuals. Results showed that while more than half of the total respondent population registered low Vitamin C levels, most of these individuals came from the group of stroke patients.

The study, however, does not confirm a direct causality between Vitamin C deficiency and a higher risk of stroke. The research team recommends more studies to delve into further details, especially on how the vitamin could lower the risk of developing stroke. Dr. Vannier infers that Vitamin C could have played a key role in regulating a person’s blood pressure, thereby reducing the likelihood of having a stroke.

Stroke remains one of the leading causes of fatality in the U.S., according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

February 17, 2014 at 6:01 pm Comments (0)

Hospitals Often Don’t Follow Own Infection Prevention Checklists, Study Finds

Even though most hospitals have checklists in place to ensure people don’t get infections while they are there, a new study has found that many hospitals eschew their own infection prevention measures. drug addiction in nurses

The study, done by Columbia University and published in the American Journal of Infection Control, reviewed policies to prevent infections in 1,653 intensive care units (ICU) at 975 hospitals across the United States. Researchers found that preventive checklists for bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia don’t meet adequate standards for safe health care, and that some hospitals don’t have any checklists at all.

Not following or having these infection prevention protocols in place costs hospitals $33 billion annually and results in 100,000 patients suffering preventable infections, the researchers say.

“Every hospital should see this research as a call to action,” study leader and Centennial Professor of Health Policy at Columbia Nursing, Dr. Patricia Stone, said in a statement. “It’s just unconscionable that we’re not doing every single thing we can, every day, for every patient, to avoid preventable infections.”

These infection prevention checklists can range from hand washing information to information on how often a patient’s catheter should be changed.

Nine out of every 10 hospitals in the study did have such protocols, but often didn’t follow them. Three-quarters of the ICUs in the study had checklists for patients on ventilators to help prevent pneumonia infections but only about half of the hospitals with checklists actually followed them. Patients with urinary catheters fared even worse, with less than a third of hospitals having bedside protocol for preventing catheter-associated urinary tract infections and among those hospitals that did have the protocol, it was followed less than 30% of the time.

“Hospitals aren’t following the rules they put in place themselves to keep patients safe,” said Stone. “Rules don’t keep patients from dying unless they’re enforced.”

The research team suggest hiring someone whose sole job is to make sure hospital staff follows the rules that are set out. More than a third of hospitals in the study had no such employee on staff.

An alternative would be for hospitals to use electronic monitoring systems that act as an honest broker for bedside staff. These systems keep tabs on which parts of the checklist have been fulfilled and which haven’t and also issue hospital staff “report cards” based on how thoroughly they follow the checklist. They have shown success in prior studies to increase hand washing rates, among other positive outcomes.

“We’ve come a long way in understanding what causes healthcare-associated infections and how to prevent them,” Stone concluded. “This study shows we still have a long way to go in compliance with well-established, life-saving and cost-saving measures that we know will lower infection rates.”

February 6, 2014 at 8:42 am Comments (0)

CDC Pushes People to Get Tested for Colorectal Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is urging people to get tested for colorectal cancer.colorectal cancer

This month, the CDC released statistics about colorectal cancer and the lack of testing happening in the country:
  • About 90% of people live 5 or more years when their colorectal cancer is found early through testing.
  • About 1 in 3 adults (23 million) between 50 and 75 years old is not getting tested as recommended.
  • 10% of adults who got tested for colorectal cancer used an effective at-home stool test.
  • About 23 million adults have never been tested
  • The people less likely to get tested are Hispanics, those aged 50-64, men, American Indian or Alaska natives, those who don’t live in a city, and people with lower education and income.
  • People with lower education and income are less likely to get tested.
  • About 2 of every 3 adults who have never been tested for colorectal cancer actually have a regular doctor and health insurance that could pay for the test. Providers and patients do not always know about or consider all of the available tests.

Colorectal cancer ranks second only to lung cancer as the second leading cancer killer of men and women in the US. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends three colorectal cancer screening tests: colonoscopy, stool tests (guaiac fecal occult blood test-FOBT or fecal immunochemical test-FIT), and sigmoidoscopy.

The CDC states that people are more likely to get tested if they are able to choose the test they prefer and that, while doctors typically recommend a colonoscopy, many people would rather perform a test at home.


November 6, 2013 at 6:34 am Comments (0)

Cervical Cancer Prevention Improved Through HPV Screening Instead Of Pap Test

Two tests can help anyone avoid development of cervical cancer: a human papillomavirus (HPV) screening and a Pap test. Now, a recent study recommends one over the other.

cervical cancerExperts in the field of cervical cancer research led by Italian epidemiologist Dr. Guglielmo Ronco recommends the HPV-based screening for cervical cancer prevention, as opposed to cytology-based pap tests. A study conducted by Ronco and peers involved four random trials within Europe to compare the accuracy of the two tests in detecting cancer of the cervix, according to a news item. Over 175,000 females between the ages of 20 and 64 were included in the research, wherein the respondents were monitored from the day they were tested until an average of 6.5 years.

While both tests succeeded in cervical cancer detection for the first few years since the test administration, the proponents of the study discovered that after 2.5 years, HPV screening was up to 70 percent more accurate than pap tests.

Published in the online journal The Lancet, the research was presented to a panel of cervical cancer experts and medical professionals. According to the study authors, HPV screening should be conducted “from age 30 years and extension of screening intervals to at least 5 years.”

The two tests have different approaches to cervical cancer protection. Pap tests involve extraction of cells from the cervix and examining them through a microscope for potential abnormalities. Meanwhile, HPV screenings involve detection of the human papillomavirus in the extracted cervical cells.

November 4, 2013 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

New App Allows Eye Exams to be Performed Anywhere with a Smartphone

Smartphones have replaced so many gadgets already, so why not optometrists’ instruments?healthy eyes

The Peek Vision app enables roving doctors to give patients a full eye exam using only their smartphones.

Developed at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine by members of the International Centre for Eye Health, the app uses smartphones’ cameras, flashlights and display to check how the eyes react to stimuli, while doctors can also track the progress of separate patients and also easily keep a record of their geolocation.

This allows doctors in rural or low-income areas to deliver eye care to citizens in a mobile and inexpensive way, checking patients’ abilities to see color, test for long and short-sightedness, and also detect the presence of cataracts and other eye conditions.

The team are currently carrying out research to ensure the app is accurate enough for medical purposes. A release date and price has yet to be announced.

October 29, 2013 at 5:54 am Comments (0)

Most People Not Told by Physicians About Risk of Over-diagnosis of Cancer

The majority of people being screened for cancer are not being made aware of the potential for over-diagnosis and over-treatment due to their cancer screenings, a new study has found.prostate cancer screening

While cancer screenings can detect the disease at an earlier stage when it is more treatable and easier to combat, the screenings can also detect cancers that never progress and become dangerous. Detection of these slow-growing cancers can result in unnecessary surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, researchers in Germany warn.

In a study published in the Oct. 21 online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine, researches found that only 9.5 percent of the 317 U.S. men and women ranging in age from 50 to 69 years who participated in the study were told about the possibility of overdiagnosis and overtreatment by their doctor. The study consisted of an online survey to find out how many of the participants had been told by their doctor about the possibility of overdiagnosis and overtreatment. They were also questioned about how much overdiagnosis they would tolerate when deciding to undergo an initial or follow-up cancer screening.

Fifty-one percent said they were unprepared to start a screening that results in more than one overtreated person for every one life saved from cancer, study authors Odette Wegwarth and Gerd Gigerenzer, of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, noted in a journal news release.

The study also showed, however, that almost 59 percent of the participants said they would continue to undergo the routine cancer screening they already receive — even if they learned that the test results in 10 overtreated people for every one life saved from cancer.

“The results of the present study indicate that physicians’ counseling on screening does not meet patients’ standards,” the study authors concluded.


October 22, 2013 at 5:59 am Comments (0)

NIH Starts Tests to See if Vitamin D Could Prevent Diabetes

Vitamin DThe National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded a study to research if a vitamin D supplement helps prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in adults who have prediabetes and who are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The study is taking place at about 20 study sites across the United States.

The study, dubbed D2d, will run multiple years and include about 2,500 people. It aims to verify whether a daily dose of 4,000 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D can help prevent people who have prediabetes from developing into full-on cases of type 2 diabetes. The typical adult intake of vitamin D is 600-800 IUs per day, but 4,000 is deemed appropriate for clinical research by the Institute of Medicine. People with prediabetes have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.

Vitamin D interests researchers so much because based on observations from earlier studies, they speculate that vitamin D could reduce the diabetes risk by 25 percent. The study will also examine if sex, age or race affect the potential of vitamin D to reduce diabetes risk.

“This study aims to definitively answer the question: Can vitamin D reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes?” said Dr. Myrlene Staten, the study’s project officer at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of NIH. “Vitamin D use has risen sharply in the U.S. in the last 15 years, since it has been suggested as a remedy for a variety of conditions, including prevention of type 2 diabetes. But we need rigorous testing to determine if vitamin D will help prevent diabetes. That’s what D2d will do.”

Half of the participants in the study will receive vitamin D while the other half will receive a placebo. Participants will have check-ups for the study twice a year, and will receive regular health care through their own health care providers.

The study will be double-blinded, so neither participants nor the study’s clinical staff will know who is receiving vitamin D and who is receiving placebo. The study will continue until enough people have developed type 2 diabetes to be able to make a scientifically valid comparison between diabetes development in the two groups. This will likely take about four years.

October 21, 2013 at 5:39 am Comments (0)

Government shutdown wreaking havoc on important medical research

Medical research is being set back and could end up costing thousands of extra dollars thanks to the government shutdown.

The shutdown will likely mean that thousands of mice used in research on diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes will die prematurely, wasting the research that was ongoing with them and costing thousands of dollars to replace once research can get back up and running again. mice cancer

Federal research centers including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will have to cull some of the mice to prevent overcrowding while other specifically genetically modified lines of mice will die on their own because they must be constantly monitored by scientists. Many NIH researchers have been banned from their own laboratories due to the shutdown and therefore cannot do the necessary monitoring, scientists from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore told National Public Radio (NPR). While the school is not affected by the government shutdown, NPR talked to scientists there who have experience with brief government shutdowns in the past. NIH research scientists are not doing media interviews.

The loss of transgenic mice (mice that have genes that cause them to develop versions of human diseases) is especially bad because one of these mice can cost thousands of dollars to replace and some simply cannot be replaced.

“I’m sure it’s chaos at the NIH for anyone doing mouse experiments,” says John Hopkins researcher Roger Reeves, who was affected by a government shutdown in the 1980s at a government run lab.

To maintain a colony of transgenic mice, every new pup must have its DNA tested by a highly trained researcher. Although laboratories may still have animal care staff who are still allowed into the labs, they would not be able to do the necessary testing on the mice, meaning NIH scientists probably had to choose which mice would be sacrificed during the shutdown.

If the shutdown goes on for too long, entire lines of mice will have to be eliminated and have the embryos frozen to be revived later. Reviving a line of mice like this can take months and cost thousands of dollars, Reeves says.


October 11, 2013 at 5:50 am Comments (0)

Novartis launches Retina App for World Sight Day

To mark World Sight Day today, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has launched a Facebook app that allows users to experience what it would be like to have a retinal disease and the vision loss that would accompany it.

protect your eyesThe app has been launched as part of the Set Your Sights campaign to raise awareness of vision health.Users of the application will be presented with a fully tailored video experience, using their own photos and friends on Facebook, that shows a highly realistic view of what their life with retinal disease could be like.

The launch will be supported with social conversations on Facebook and Twitter, providing the retinal disease community with relevant information on life, their passions and the condition.

The Set Your Sights campaign was launched in response to the World Health Organization’s 2020 Vision Report, which asserts that nearly 80% of global blindness is preventable if managed correctly and encourages people to directly engage with vision-loss and experience what it means to live with a sight-diminishing condition.

“As the global leader in the field of retinal disease, Novartis is proud to support World Sight Day by creating further dialogue among people living with low vision conditions and the wider community, generating an environment of understanding and tolerance,” said David Epstein, Head of the Pharmaceuticals Division of Novartis Pharma AG. “This is an important initiative in the pharmaceutical environment, reflecting our focus to always put the patient first. Novartis is leading the industry, not only with our medicines, but by boldly experimenting with new technologies to re-define how the pharmaceutical industry engages people with their health.”

October 10, 2013 at 6:01 am Comments (0)

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