Friday, June 29, 2012

More US Women Having Children With Different Biological Fathers

Twenty percent of US mothers have children with different biological fathers, a study presented at the Population Association of America meeting revealed today. Cassandra Dorius, from the University of Michigan Institute of Social research added that mothers of multiple children of different biological fathers tend to be less educated, under-employed, and have lower incomes.

Meaning: Multiple partner fertility defined as having children with more than one partner.

When Dorius examined patterns in families with more than two children, she discovered that 28% of them had different birth fathers. "It's pervasive.", Dorius added.

Dorius and team gathered data from almost 4,000 women who had been interviewed face-to-face several times over nearly three decades. First interviews took place in 1979 when participants were aged between 14 and 22 years. Data was gathered regarding their education, employment, ethnicity, family characteristics, and custody status.

Dorius said that having multiple fathers had consequences for both the children and the mothers - they tend to be disadvantaged compared to other mothers in the country. A mother whose children had different biological fathers tends to spend approximately three times longer in poverty during adulthood, and had about 1 to 2 years less formal education than other females.

Because of the greater number of variables for both the mother and the children, Darius said this type of family structure tends to be more stressful.

Dorius said:

"Everyday decisions are more complex and family rules are more ambiguous. Families need to figure out who lives with whom and when, who pays for things like clothing, who is responsible for child support."

This is the only study to look at a wide section of the community. Previous ones concentrated on very young mothers or those located in inner-cities.

Although a considerable number of such families have lower incomes, they exist in every socioeconomic level. 43% of women who have children from more than one biological father were married when they had their first child.

Dorius said:

"What is unique about the data is that I found that women of all levels of education, income, and employment have children with more than one man."

The study revealed that:
  • 22% of Caucasian mothers have had children with more than one father
  • 35% of Hispanic mothers have had children with more than one father
  • 59% of Afrcian-American women have had children with more than one father
Dorius said:

"While these women tended to be poorer than others to begin with, their whole lifetimes continue to be disadvantaged"

It appears that young women are more likely today to opt for motherhood before even considering marriage. As this trend is fairly recent, nobody really knows what effect it may have on the mothers and the children.

The figures in this study show a much higher incidence of mothers with children with different birth fathers than previous studies - it should be more accurate because it lasted much longer.

Source: Population Association of America annual meeting, April 1, 2011, Washington, D.C.
Continue to Read more ...

New HIV Infections And AIDS Deaths Drop To Lowest Levels Globally

Globally, the number of new HIV infections as well as deaths related to AIDS have dropped to their lowest levels since the epidemic reached its peak, according to a new report issued by UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS), titled 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report. The authors state that this has been a game-changing year for worldwide fight against AIDS.

In comparison to 1997, the rate of new HIV infections has dropped by 21%, while AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 21% since 2005.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said:

"Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response. We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere."

According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS, 6.6 million of the 14.2 million individuals who are eligible for treatment in developing nations had access to antiretroviral therapy last year, i.e. 47% of the total. This represents 1.35 million more people than the year before.

The report also reveals that HIV treatments are having a considerable impact on bringing down new HIV infection numbers, according to some early signs.

Botswana as an example

The patterns of sexual behavior in Botswana have stayed pretty much the same since 2000. In 2000 less than 5% of HIV-positive individuals had access to treatment, compared to over 80% since 2009.

The number of newly diagnosed HIV infections has fallen by over 2/3 since the end of the 1990s. According to reliable data, current rates of new HIV infections in the country are between 30% to 50% lower than they would have been had antiretroviral therapy not been available.

People infected with HIV who are being treated with antiretroviral medications have virtually undetectable levels of HIV, meaning their chances of transmitting HIV to uninfected sexual partners are considerably lower.

UNAIDS cited recent studies which showed that HIV transmission among couples can be up to 96% lower if the infected person is being treated with antiretrovirals.

Global numbers

At the end of 2010:
  • Between 31.6 million and 25.2 million individuals lived with HIV globally
  • Between 2.4 million and 2.9 million new infections were reported worldwide in 2010
  • Between 1.6 million and 1.9 million people died from an AIDS-related illness in 2010 globally
HIV-positive individuals are living for much longer, while the number of people dying every year because of an AIDS-related illness is falling, thanks to antiretroviral therapy and its lifesaving effects.

New HIV-infections

SubSaharan-Africa - The new HIV infection rate worldwide has either gone down or stabilized, the authors informed. Rates have fallen by 27% in sub-Saharan Africa since 1997, when the epidemic was at its peak. In South Africa there has been a 27% fall.

The Caribbean - compared to 2001, new annual infection rates have fallen by a third. In Jamaica and the Dominican Republic there has been a 25% drop during the same period.

South and South-East Asia - new HIV infection rates fell by over 40% between 2006 and 2010. The rate in India went down by 56%.

Where rates continue to rise

The battle is far from over, the authors explain. In Oceania, the Middle-East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, the number of new HIV infections continues to rise. In the rest of the world (parts not mentioned so far) rates have remained stable.

Why have rates dropped?

People's changing sexual behaviors have also helped bring down the new HIV infection rate, especially among young individuals. Examples include:
  • Sexually active people having fewer sexual partners
  • The use of condoms has increased considerably
  • People seem to be becoming sexually active later
Out of 24 countries with a national HIV prevalence of at least 1%, 21 of them have seen prevalence fall. In Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Congo and Burkina Faso prevalence has fallen by over 25% during the over the last decade.

Without changes in people's sexual behavior in Zimbabwe over the last 20 years, there would have been 35,000 extra infections every year.

More circumcisions are also thought to have contributed to falling new HIV infection rates. After voluntary circumcisions were scaled up in Nyanza province, Kenya, rates dropped significantly. If 20 million males are circumcised throughout Eastern Europe and Southern Africa, a further 2.4 million new HIV infections could be averted by 2015.

400,000 children in developing nations are not HIV positive because of increased access to antiretroviral medications which began in 1995. In 2010, about 48% of all HIV-positive pregnant mothers had access to effective therapy to prevent their child from becoming infected.

New high-impact, evidence-based, high-value strategies

A new framework for AIDS investment, mapped by UNAIDS, focuses on evidence-based, high-value and high-impact strategies.

Sidibé said:

"The investment framework is community driven not commodity driven. It puts people at the centre of the approach, not the virus."

UNAIDS says this new investment approach should achieve spectacular results:
  • 12.2 million or more new HIV infections would be prevented, of which 1.9 million would have been children (between 2011 and 2010)
  • The number of AIDS-related deaths would be 7.4 million lower during the same period
The new framework focuses on six vital program activities:
  • Concentrated interventions for high risk groups, such as sex workers, the clients of sex workers, individuals who inject drugs, and men who have sex with men
  • Focusing on children so they do not become infected
  • Programs which focus on sexual behavior change
  • The promotion and distribution of condoms
  • Care for those living with HIV, and support
  • Voluntary male circumcision in countries with a high HIV rate
It is also important to reduce stigma, improve respect for human rights, create a protective legal environment, and capacity-building for community based organizations.

In order to do all this, funding needs to be increased to between $22bn and $24bn in 2014. About $15 billion was available for AIDS response in developing nations. Donor funds have dropped, mainly because there is less money to give away; many developed countries are experiencing economic difficulties.
Continue to Read more ...

11-Hour Day Raises Heart Disease Risk By 67% Compared To 8-Hour Day

If you work 11-hours a day average you will probably earn more than your 8-hour a day colleagues, but your risk of developing heart disease will be 67% higher, European researchers reveal in a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine. The researchers believe doctors should include data on a patient's working hours when listing risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking status, total body weight, diabetes, and blood pressure.

Professor Mika Kivimäki, from University College London, and team gathered data on over 10,000 British civil servants since 1985 (Whitehall II Study). 7,095 of them had no symptoms of heart disease, angina and no medical histories of heart disease at the start of the study, they were all full-time working men and women - the researchers focused on these people.

They gathered data on heart disease risk factors, such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, age, smoking status and diabetes. Participants reported on their daily schedules, including how many hours they worked on an average weekday - including work brought home. 11-year follow up data was gathered and analyzed, including how many had heart attacks and developed other cardiovascular diseases, results of medical screenings which occurred every five years, health records and hospital data.

They found that by adding how many hours an individual generally worked each week to their list of risk factors, it was easier for doctors to predict heart disease risk - a 5% improvement in their prediction rate.

Doctors commonly use the Framingham risk model to determine an individual's risk for developing coronary heart disease over a ten-year period. This risk model includes several factors, including blood pressure, smoking status, lipid levels, etc., but no psychological factors, such as workplace stress.

Kivimäki said:

"We have shown that working long days is associated with a remarkable increase in risk of heart disease. Considering that including a measurement of working hours in a GP interview is so simple and useful, our research presents a strong case that it should become standard practice. This new information should help improve decisions regarding medication for heart disease. It could also be a wake-up call for people who overwork themselves, especially if they already have other risk factors."
Continue to Read more ...

Drug Resistant Microorganisms Getting Out Of Control Worldwide

Experts from Europe and WHO (World Health Organization) say a considerable number of infections are becoming harder to treat because of drug resistance; treatments are getting longer and more costly, and much more life-threatening. WHO urges governments, doctors, scientists, industry and civil society to take urgent and determined action to stem the spread of drug resistance.

European experts say antibiotic-resistant infections are occurring at a rate that outstrips our ability to fight them with current medications. In the European Union over 25,000 patients die annually from drug-resistant infections that even our latest antibiotics cannot destroy.

WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, said:

"The message on this World Health Day is loud and clear. The world is on the brink of losing these miracle cures. In the absence of urgent corrective and protective actions, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, kill unabated."

WHO proposes a policy package to address drug resistance, which should include:

  • The development and implementation of a thorough, well financed national plan
  • Enhance surveillance and laboratory capability
  • Make sure access to vital and top quality medications is uninterrupted
  • Promote and regulate proper use of drugs
  • Improve infection prevention and control
  • Encourage research and development, and innovation for new tools
We have done this before, WHO explains, with such diseases as leprosy, gonorrhea, syphilis and TB (tuberculosis). However, as drug resistance grows and spreads relentlessly, those discoveries and medications that followed them are at risk of being useless.

Microorganisms naturally acquire resistance to medications designed to destroy them, it is a biological phenomenon. The bugs with the resistant gene thrive, become more dominant still, and eventually the medication has no effect. Drug resistance thrives on improper use of infection-fighting medicines, such as misuse, underuse and overuse of drugs.

A number of diseases are developing resistance

There were over 440,000 new cases of multidrug resistant-tuberculosis in 2010. Drug-resistant TB has become a growing problem in 69 countries.

Even the latest generation of drugs are becoming less effective in treating malaria. Gonorrhea and shigella are becoming harder to treat.

The number of hospital-acquired infections that are hard to treat is growing rapidly. In the modern world, where people travel across the globe continuously and rapidly, microorganisms spread everywhere in a short time.

Resistance to antiretroviral drugs for HIV positive patients is also emerging.

Dr. Chan said:

"On this World Health Day, WHO is issuing a policy package to get everyone, especially governments and their drug regulatory systems, on the right track, with the right measures, quickly. The trends are clear and ominous. No action today means no cure tomorrow. At a time of multiple calamities in the world, we cannot allow the loss of essential medicines - essential cures for many millions of people - to become the next global crisis."

Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO Stop TB Department, said:

"WHO has established many initiatives to understand and address drug resistance over the last decade, particularly in relation to some of the world's most deadly infectious diseases. Those measures must now be further strengthened and implemented urgently across many diseases and across many sectors. New collaborations, led by governments working alongside civil society and health professionals, if accountable, can halt the public health threat of drug resistance."

We can all contribute

In order to address the growing problem of drug resistance, civil society, health care professionals and other groups can contribute significantly.

Pharmacists and physicians should dispense and prescribe only the best medications for a particular patient, rather than routinely going for the best-known or newest drugs.

Patients need to learn that demanding antibiotics may not be the most appropriate approach.

Health care professionals can have a considerable impact on stemming the spread of infection in hospitals and other health care facilities.

Antibiotics are used in animal feed production, which contribute to more drug resistance. There should be close liaison between professionals who work in agriculture, human health and animal health.

Experts say that about half of all global antibiotic production is used to promote the growth of animals and prevent and treat sickness. A huge pool of drug resistant microorganisms have emerged in animals, which can eventually be transferred to human beings.

More research and development into new diagnostics and medications should be achieved through greater partnerships between industry and governments. Less than 5% of all current R&D products in the pipeline are antibiotic medications.

Scientists at Cardiff University, Wales, say new strains of resistant bacteria have been found in New Delhi in the public water supply. This is the first evidence of the environmental spread of NDM-1, an organism only found in hospitals. The scientists say urgent action is needed to stop the global spread of new strains.
Continue to Read more ...

Bariatric Surgery Does Not Extend Life Expectancy Among Older Obese Males

Severely obese older men who undergo bariatric surgery do not have a lower risk of death, researchers from Durham VA Medical Center, N.C. reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). There are two main types of bariatric surgery - gastric bypass, which is a permanent reduction in the size of the stomach, or gastric banding, a band is inserted and restricts the size of the opening from the esophagus to the stomach.

The authors wrote as background information:

"Obesity incidence has stabilized after decades of rapid increases, whereas the prevalence of patients with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35 increased 39% between 2000 and 2005, the prevalence of severe obesity (BMI greater than 40) increased 50%, and the prevalence of superobesity (BMI >50) increased 75%.

Obesity is difficult to treat, and bariatric surgery is the most effective means to induce weight loss for the severely obese. Consequently, obesity surgery rates rapidly increased in tandem, To date, no study to our knowledge has examined the long-term survival of high-risk patients who underwent bariatric surgery."

Matthew L. Maciejewski, Ph.D., and team wanted to find out whether bariatric surgery might be linked to reduced mortality among mainly older high-risk men at 12 Veterans Affairs medical centers. They gathered data on 850 veterans. They had all undergone bariatric surgery between January 2000 through December 2006. They were aged 49.5 years (average) and had an average BMI of 47.4. They were compared with 41,244 controls who had not undergone surgery, average age 54.7 years with a BMI of 42 (average) from the same Veteran Affairs medical centers.

All of them were followed-up until December 2008.

Below are some highlighted data from their findings (crude mortality rates):
  • 1.29% (11) of the 850 who had undergone surgery died within 30 days of the their operation
  • After 1 year 1.5% of the bariatric surgery patients died, versus 2.2% of the controls
  • At 2 years 2.2% of the bariatric surgery patients had died, versus 4.6% of the controls
  • At 6 years 6.8% of the bariatric surgery patients died, compared to 15.2% of the controls
Before adjustments were made, bariatric surgery was linked to lower mortality. However, when they included 1,694 propensity-matched patients in further analysis, using a statistical approach to compare patients who appear to be "similar" in many ways, except for one of the matched patients having undergone the bariatric surgery, bariatric surgery was found not to reduce mortality significantly.

The scientists wrote:

"Our results highlight the importance of statistical adjustment and careful selection of surgical and nonsurgical cohorts, particularly during evaluation of bariatric surgery according to administrative data. Previous studies claiming a survival benefit for bariatric surgery had limited clinical information to conduct detailed risk adjustment or matching.

The survival differences between the bariatric surgery and control groups were modest in most previous studies, so the beneficial effects of surgery may have been attenuated if adjustment for confounders had been possible. We demonstrated that risk adjustment with regression analysis resulted in a significant association of surgery and survival that was reduced when equivalence in baseline characteristics improved via propensity matching in this high-risk patient group."

Even after being told that mortality is unlikely to be significantly altered after bariatric surgery, many patients may still go for it, because of the resulting weight loss, fewer co-existing illnesses and improved quality of life, the authors added.
Continue to Read more ...

Multaq (Dronedarone) Has Higher Death, Stroke And Heart Failure Risk For Patients With Permanent Atrial Fibrillation, FDA Warning

Patients with permanent atrial fibrillation who take Multaq (dronedarone), an antiarrhythmic medication, have double the risk of death and double the risk of being hospitalized for heart failure or developing stroke compared to those on a placebo, the FDA announced after the evaluation of a clinical trial. The trial was halted early because of these findings.

Multaq was originally approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for a different, but related use. Its approval was based on a previous (ATHENA) study in which the medication was linked to a lower risk of death when compared to placebo.

This latest study, called PALLAS, was looking at the benefits of Multaq for individuals with permanent atrial fibrillation aged 65+ years. Researchers were specifically looking out for reductions in unplanned cardiovascular hospitalization or death from any cause, as well as major CV (cardiovascular) events. Examples of major CV events include cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, or systemic arterial embolism. PALLAS stands for Permanent Atrial Fibrillation Outcome Study Using Dronedarone on Top of Standard Therapy.

The FDA wants to determine what the implications might be of the PALLAS results with regard to Multaq's approved use - patients with paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation (non-permanent atrial fibrillation).

If you are currently taking Multaq for non-permanent atrial fibrillation you should discuss your medication therapy with your doctor, do not stop taking it without consulting him/her, the FDA said.

The FDA is also telling doctors not to prescribe Multaq for those with permanent atrial fibrillation.

In January this year the FDA issued a Drug Safety Communication about some cases of uncommon but serious liver complications in patients taking Multaq.

According to the FDA, patients should:
  • Talk to their doctor about continuing Multaq for paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation. They should not stop without talking to their doctor first.
  • Direct any questions or concerns regarding Multaq with their doctor.
  • Inform the FDA MedWatch program of any side effects they may experience. Telephone number 800-332-1088.
According to the FDA, doctors should:
  • Not prescribe Multaq to individuals with permanent atrial fibrillation.
  • Stay informed about the FDA's current ongoing evaluation of Multaq. The Agency is evaluating how the PALLAS preliminary results might impact on Multaq therapy for those with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, persistent atrial fibrillation, or atrial flutter.
  • Be aware that the PALLAS study results are preliminary ones.
Continue to Read more ...

CDC Swoops On Smallpox Scab In Historical Society Exhibition

A "Bizarre Bits" exhibit put together at the Virginia Historical Society included an original 1876 handwritten letter which had what looked like a smallpox scab attached to it. A government scientist who attended the exhibit became so concerned that the scab might transmit smallpox infection that he alerted the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The CDC promptly sent two representatives clad in surgical gowns and gloves to carefully remove the scab from the display case, seal it in bio-bags and take it back to headquarters for testing.

Dr. Levengood, President of the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) said the scab, which was light brown, crumbling and about the size of a fingernail, attracted a great deal of attention when people came to the exhibit. Levengood added that when displaying the letter with the scab they had no idea it might pose a health hazard, and had only thought of it as a weird item.

The CDC explained that it was simply following procedures when there is a public health concern about something unusual.

Lee Shepherd, VHS vice-president, said of the letter and scab:

"It was certainly interesting, and a little bit out of the ordinary, but you'd be surprised at some of the things we get around here."

The 130-year-old letter was written by a Richmond man and posted to his father in Charlottesville. It gives us a small glimpse of the first steps in immunization.

Quotes from the letter:

"Dear Pa. . . The piece I inclose is perfectly fresh and was taken from an infant's arm yesterday. . . Dr. Harris says the inclosed scab will vaccinate 12 persons, but if you want more, you must send for it. I will pin this to the letter so that you cannot lose it as you did before."

It was not until the 1940s that the smallpox injection vaccine became widely available. Beforehand, smallpox scabs would be rubbed onto the skin with the hope of developing immunity. The expectation was that the individual would get a mild infection and be protected for life. Unfortunately, the subsequent infection was often very severe, as was the case with Benjamin Franklin's son, who died of smallpox after having scabs rubbed onto his skin in 1736.

The smallpox vaccination campaign eventually managed to eradicate the disease in 1980. Only two live samples exist in secure laboratories today, one in the USA and the other in Russia. After smallpox was eradicated WHO (World Health Organization) asked all countries worldwide to destroy their smallpox laboratory stocks or securely send them to the two laboratories mentioned above. Although it appears everybody cooperated properly, we have no compelling proof of this. Consequently, some people are concerned that hidden stashes could one day be used by bioterrorists.

WHO is currently debating whether the two labs should destroy their smallpox stocks or continue with research? While some experts worry about an accidental leak, resulting in new outbreaks, others say that the only way to respond to a bioterrorist attack is to continue with research, which would mean preserving current stocks. Whatever WHO decides is academic anyway, because the USA and Russia can choose to ignore the recommendations - they are not binding.

Although the smallpox virus is tough and can survive for several months and even years, most experts say it is highly unlikely a period of 130 years poses any risk to human health.

Historians believe smallpox emerged in humans approximately 10,000 BC. The pustular rash found on the mummified body of Pharaoh Ramses V of Egypt is the first physical evidence of probable smallpox. At the end of the 18th century smallpox is thought to have killed at least 400,000 people in Europe - between 20% and 60% of infected people died (80% of infected children died). According to the WHO, between 300 and 500 million people died in the 20th century from smallpox. Out of 15 million people estimated to have become infected with smallpox in 1967, two million died.
Continue to Read more ...

Exercise May Encourage Healthy Eating Via Brain Changes

Exercise may encourage healthy eating by changing parts of the brain that influence impulsive behaviour, according to a new review of the available literature by researchers from Spain and the US published in Obesity Reviews. The researchers conclude that in a society where we are surrounded by temptations and triggers that facilitate over-eating and excess, the part of the brain responsible for "inhibitory control" undergoes "relentless strain" (they note it has limited capacity anyway), and doing exercise on a regular basis enhances it.

"By enhancing the resources that facilitate 'top-down' inhibitory control, increased physical activity may help compensate and suppress the hedonic drive to over-eat," they write.

Obesity has been rising at an alarming rate in Spain in recent years, so much so that in some parts of Spain, the proportion of the population that is obese is higher than that in many parts of the United States, the country traditionally considered as having the highest obesity rates in the western world.

Also, in line with other countries in the Mediterranean, Spain has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe.

Co-author Dr Miguel Alonso Alonso, a Spanish neurologist working at the Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the US, told the press on Wednesday that many studies suggest "physical exercise seems to encourage a healthy diet. In fact, when exercise is added to a weight-loss diet, treatment of obesity is more successful and the diet is adhered to in the long run".

However, in order better to inform and improve current approaches and treatments for obesity, he and his co-authors, from the US and Spain, thought it might be useful to bring together what these "somewhat disparate, yet interrelated lines of literature" may have to say about the neurological underpinning of the link between exercise and weight loss.

"Designing effective weight-loss interventions requires an understanding of how these behaviours are elicited, how they relate to each other and whether they are supported by common neurocognitive mechanisms," they write.

There is evidence that regular physical exercise changes the working and structure of the brain. From their review, the researchers conclude these changes seem to support the idea that regular exercise improves the results of tests that measure the state of the brain's executive functions, and increases in connections in the grey matter and prefrontal cortex.

One of the brain's executive functions is "inhibitory control" which helps us keep check on impulsiveness, or to suppress inadequate, excessive or inappropriate behaviour toward a goal.

The researchers conclude that regular practice of physical exercise, in time, produces a "potentiating effect" on the brain's executive functions, including the ability for inhibitory control, and this helps us "resist the many temptations that we are faced with everyday in a society where food, especially hypercaloric food, is more and more omnipresent".

Exercise also brings other benefits, such as making the brain more sensitive to physiological signs of fulness. This helps not only to control appetite, but it also modifies the "hedonic" response to food stimuli, say the researchers. Thus the benefits of exercise occur in the short term (these affect metabolism) and in the long term (these affect behaviour).

Alonso Alonso and colleagues suggest it is important that social policies help and encourage people to practise sport and engage in physical exercise, whether at school, in urban settings, or daily life, with the help of public transport, pedestrianized areas and sports centres.
Continue to Read more ...

Supa Dupa Fly Missy Elliott Battles Graves' Disease, What Is It?

Melissa Arnette "Missy" Elliott, who is 39 years old, has been battling Graves' disease for the past three years. She said she realized she had a problem while driving, when she lost control of her muscles. Elliott went on to suffer other symptoms, including hair loss and mood swings. The disease, which affects the autoimmune system and thyroid gland can be severe, but what is it really?

Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in children and adolescents, and usually presents itself during early adolescence. It has a powerful hereditary component, affects up to 2% of the female population, and is between five and ten times as common in females as in males. Graves' disease is also the most common cause of severe hyperthyroidism, which is accompanied by more clinical signs and symptoms and laboratory abnormalities as compared with milder forms of hyperthyroidism. About 25-30% of people with Graves' disease will also suffer from Graves' ophthalmopathy (a protrusion of one or both eyes), caused by inflammation of the eye muscles by attacking autoantibodies.

Elliott explains her symptoms further:

"I couldn't write because my nervous system was so bad. I couldn't even use a pen. I was trying to put my foot on the brake, but my leg was jumping. I couldn't keep the brake down and almost crashed."

The disease typically begins gradually, and is progressive unless treated. If left untreated, more serious complications could result, including bone loss and fractures, inanition, birth defects in pregnancy, increased risk of a miscarriage. Graves disease is often accompanied by an increase in heart rate, which may lead to cardiovascular damage and further heart complications including loss of the normal heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation), which may lead to stroke.

Elliot's condition improved after she underwent radiation therapy, and spent more time at the gym:

"I'm 30 pounds lighter because I've been exercising. My thyroid is functioning, so I haven't had to take medication in about nine months, but you live with it for the rest of your life."

There is no "natural" way to "cure" Graves' disease. For instance, although there are no specific foods that will change thyroid function, the healthier, nutritionally dense foods consumed, the better the body will be able to fight against infection and further insult.

Equally, many of the treatments like acupuncture, exercise, meditation, and various mind-body therapies may provide comfort measures and relief, but are not a substitute for standard medical treatment. There are many studies of other auto-immune diseases that indicate that the more input and control a patient has in their care, the more rapid their recovery will be.

In a particular case, George H. W. Bush, U.S. president, developed new atrial fibrillation and was diagnosed in 1991 with hyperthyroidism due to the disease, and treated with radioactive iodine.

Barbara Bush also developed the disease about the same time, which in her case produced severe infiltrative exopthalmos. Scientists said that the odds of both George and Barbara Bush having Graves' disease might be 1 in 100,000 or as low as 1 in 3,000,000, presuming that the disease was independently caused.
Continue to Read more ...

Columbus Brought Syphilis Back From The New World

According to an article published in the current Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, new research is showing that the origin of Syphilis can be traced definitively back to Columbus crew. It appears that European skeletons thought to show evidence of the disease prior to 1492, when Columbus set sail, are misleading and that the disease did not exist prior to the explorer's return.

"This is the first time that all 54 of these cases have been evaluated systematically ... The evidence keeps accumulating that a progenitor of syphilis came from the New World with Columbus' crew and rapidly evolved into the venereal disease that remains with us today."

The appraisal was led by two of Armelagos' former graduate students at Emory: Molly Zuckerman, who is now an assistant professor at Mississippi State University, and Kristin Harper, currently a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University. Additional, authors include Emory anthropologist John Kingston and Megan Harper from the University of Missouri.

Zuckerman says that :

"Syphilis has been around for 500 years ... People started debating where it came from shortly afterwards, and they haven't stopped since. It was one of the first global diseases, and understanding where it came from and how it spread may help us combat diseases today."

Christopher Columbus on Santa Maria in 1492.
The Santa Maria in 1492 - Evidence points to Columbus bringing back syphilis from the New World

The debate of the origin of Syphilis is very similar to the modern day debate about the origin of the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Nonetheless, new research appears to show that it was the byproduct of the meeting of two previous separate populations. The pathogen was exchanged and began to adapt, in a typical Darwinian natural selection evolution, becoming the disease that still exists today, and prior to antibiotics was considered fatal and caused the suffer terrible symptoms.

The documented case of syphilis in Europe dates back to 1495, and one theory is that the disease mutated to survive in the new European hosts who were used to a colder climate.

Armelagos, a pioneer of the field of bioarcheology, didn't believe the idea when he first heard the Columbus theory for syphilis. He recounts :

"I laughed at the idea that a small group of sailors brought back this disease that caused this major European epidemic."

However, as they researched the issue further, publishing a paper in 2008, all the evidence continued to point to the Columbus sailors as the origin. What baffled researchers were skeletons with evidence of syphilis that dated from pre 1492 that kept cropping up.

One of the symptoms of the disease is known as caries sicca. It is characterized by pitting and swelling of the long bones and pitting on the skull.

Police investigators often use the premise that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, and that certainly appears to be the case here. The problem was not the skeletons or the symptoms they preserved, but the dating of them.

People who eat a lot of sea food, where "old carbon" has come up from depths in the ocean, can throw off radio carbon dating by hundreds of years, so researchers looked at the collagen levels to establish the level of sea food consumption in the skeletons, to be certain that the so called "pre Columbus" skeletons were in fact pre Columbus. It appears that the dating of them was wrong, and there is no longer any solid evidence for Syphilis prior to 1492.

Zuckerman concludes :

"The origin of syphilis is a fascinating, compelling question ... The current evidence is pretty definitive, but we shouldn't close the book and say we're done with the subject. The great thing about science is constantly being able to understand things in a new light."
Continue to Read more ...

Malaria Vaccine A Game Changer

Scientists at Oxford University say they have developed a vaccine against the malaria parasite, and shown it to be effective against all the most deadly strains.

Lead researcher Dr Sandy Douglas of the University of Oxford says:

'We have created a vaccine that confirms the recent discovery relating to the biology of RH5, given it can generate an immune response in animal models capable of neutralising many ... and potentially all strains of the P. falciparum parasite, the deadliest species of malaria parasite.

This is an important step towards developing a much-needed vaccine against one of the world's major killers.'

The team, led by Dr Simon Draper, with colleagues from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Kenyan Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Programme in Kilifi, Kenya, have published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. Just a month ago they reported finding the weak spot in the malaria parasite that could provide the keyhole for vaccine development.

Malaria is primarily a problem in Africa where it frequently kills children and pregnant women. Estimates point to nearly one million deaths per year. The most deadly form P. falciparum accounts for nine out of ten of the deaths. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, funded by the founder of Microsoft as well as Warren Buffet, has made the battle against Malaria one of its primary goals.

Although researchers have come with a variety of novel ideas, including genetically modifying male mosquitoes so they are infertile, it is thought that vaccination would be the most cost effective and simplest way of eradicating the disease from the human population.

Although Malaria was a problem in the Americas, huge efforts by the military in the 1940s and 50s, primarily spraying with DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), a powerful insecticide, put an end to the disease. However DDT has since been banned in the US due to its accumulation in the food chain, and its effect on wildlife and possible cancerous effects on humans.

Although DDT is still used, experts tie the resurgence of malaria to multiple factors, including poor leadership, management and funding of malaria control programs; poverty; civil unrest; and increased irrigation. Unfortunately, a vaccine for Malaria has not been easy or quick to develop, as Professor Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, explains:

'Vaccines against malaria are notoriously difficult to develop because the parasites' antigens the target of vaccines tend to be genetically so diverse. The RH5 antigen doesn't show this diversity, making it a particularly good target for a vaccine to exploit.

Our next step will be to begin safety tests of this vaccine. If these prove successful, we could see clinical trials in patients beginning within the next two to three years.'

In South Africa, cessation of DDT use was directly correlated with an increase in malaria occurrence and there are advocates pushing for DDT to make a come back. Obviously, it is going to be far more effective if the team and Oxford have a vaccine alternative in place.
Continue to Read more ...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts