Measles Virus Proves Deadly Against Cancer

Measles Virus Proves Deadly Against Cancer


Stacy Erholtz receives a test to confirm she's in remission from myeloma after receiving a novel virotherapy in this screenshot from a Mayo Clinic video.

Stacy Erholtz receives a test to confirm she’s in remission from myeloma after receiving a novel virotherapy in this screenshot from a Mayo Clinic video.

A new study has, for the first time, demonstrated that a specific kind of virotherapy can infect and kill cancer in humans, leaving healthy cells unharmed.
The study, conducted by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, involved just two patients, both of whom received a “single intravenous dose of an engineered measles virus (MV-NIS) that is selectively toxic to myeloma plasma cells,” researchers said.
Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells in the bone marrow and causes skeletal or soft tissue tumors. It is rarely cured.
The therapy brought about a complete remission in one of the patients, while only improving the second patient.
“This is the first study to establish the feasibility of systemic oncolytic virotherapy for disseminated cancer,” said Dr. Stephen Russell, a Mayo Clinic hematologist, and first author of the paper and co-developer of the therapy in a statement. “These patients were not responsive to other therapies and had experienced several recurrences of their disease.”
In an interview with VOA, Russell called viruses “the last untapped bioresource as destructive bioagents against cancer.”
The two patients in the trial were given enough measles virus to vaccinate 100 million people. In a video about the treatment, Mayo doctors say the modified measles virus makes cancer cells join together and “essentially explode.”
The therapy also may boost the patient’s immune system, allowing it to “mop up” any remaining cancer, they said.
Using re-engineered viruses to fight cancer, also known as oncolytic virotherapy, is nothing new, dating back to the 1950s, according to the Mayo Clinic. But, according to researches, this study provides the “first well documented case of a patient with disseminated cancer having a complete remission at all disease sites after virus administration.”
Good results with this kind of therapy have been seen with rodents, but this is the first time success has been reported in a human being. However, remission was only achieved in one of the two patients.

Mixed results for patients
The other patient did not respond as well. Nonetheless, by using a sophisticated imaging technique, doctors were able to tell that the virus had targeted cancerous cells.
Russell said he and his colleagues found the difference in reaction between the two patients “puzzling,” but had some theories about why.
He said the patient who’d gone into remission had less myeloma in her body and that the second patient’s cancer was in a “very advanced state” with “massive tumors in the legs and abdomen.”
Another theory was that the second patient had more tumors in the muscles.
“If we’d treated her earlier, we’d have done better, Russell said, adding that they might also have seen better results at a higher dose.
There were negative side effects, he said, such as severe flu-like symptoms almost immediately upon dosing. Despite that, one patient called the side effects “trivial,” compared to other treatments they’d received, according to Russell.
William Phelps, Director of the Preclinical and Translational Cancer Research Program at the American Cancer Society, said the study is exciting because it shows efficacy with humans.
“Viruses are very good at disseminating throughout the body,” he said, adding that they’re also adept at hunting, detecting and infecting metastatic tumors.
Another advantage of using viruses is that they’re mutable, said Phelps.
“We can make a lot of changes to change what cells they infect,” he said. “We can change their payloads to specifically kill cancer.”
According to an editorial accompanying the paper, Dr. John C. Bell of the Centre for Innovative Cancer Research in Ottawa, Canada, described the findings as a “benchmark to strive for and improve upon.”
When asked if the study had implications for other types of cancer, Russell answered with an emphatic yes.
“There’s no real reason why it can’t work on other cancers,” said Bell, adding that cancer provides the “perfect substrate” for viruses because they’re metabolically active, fast growing and, “don’t know how to turn off.
“Once the virus gets in there, it can just move,” he said. “There are a lot of reasons they’re happier growing in cancer.”
More trials are planned.
“We want to take this virus and test it much more efficiently in a larger group to determine how often it works,” said Russell.
According to the Mayo Clinic, more of the MV-NIS therapy is being manufactured for a larger, phase 2 clinical trial later this year.
Phelps said his one concern about the study was that the two patients did not have any antibodies for measles, making them very rare because most people have been vaccinated against or had the measles.
One possible next step is “trying to engineer the virus so that it wouldn’t be neutralized by your antibodies,” said Phelps. “Intuitively, you should be able to do that.”
Russell believes that what this study has proved is valuable and can be built upon.
“We recently have begun to think about the idea of a single shot cure for cancer, and that’s our goal with this therapy,” he said.

The findings appear in the peer-reviewed journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Report Says Health Workers Are Targets (Listen to audio report)

Report Says Health Workers Are Targets (Listen to audio report)


A Pakistani health worker gives a polio vaccine to a child in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, May, 2014. Pakistan’s health minister says the country is taking extra ordinary measures to meet the new situation it is going to face after polio travel restriion

A Pakistani health worker gives a polio vaccine to a child in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, May, 2014. Pakistan’s health minister says the country is taking extra ordinary measures to meet the new situation it is going to face after polio travel restriion

Listen to audio report

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Health workers are frequently becoming targets in countries undergoing conflict or civil unrest. A new report says since 2012, hundreds have been attacked in dozens of countries.Human Rights Watch and the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition jointly issued the report called Under Attack.

Joe Amon, HRW’s health and human rights director, “Well, there’s been an increasing number of attacks against health workers, against patients and against health facilities. And this is occurring really globally. We’ve seen it in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. And it’s really something that needs broader attention and really a vigorous response.”
The attacks include the killing of 70 polio vaccination workers in Pakistan and Nigeria. The report also accuses opposition forces in South Sudan of shooting patients, as well as looting and burning hospitals and clinics in Bentiu, Malakal and Bor.
“It’s clear that in some cases people are deliberately targeting health workers. They’re seen as providing care to the opposition, instead of being seen as neutral medical providers. In other cases they may be in a crossfire, but it’s interrupting and really destabilizing critical health services for civilians in these settings,” he said.
The report listed dozens of attacks, killings and abductions of health workers in Afghanistan. It said the country now has a shortage of qualified women providing medical care.
Amon dave other examples of growing danger. 
“We’re also seeing attacks in Turkey and Bahrain, for example, doctors being arrested and detained for providing care. It’s a phenomenon that’s of real concern. And I think the severity of the attacks is also increasing.”
The attacks have caused some hospitals and clinics to shut down.
“In some cases, yes,” said Amon,  “In Somalia and Central African Republic, that’s definitely occurred. And when that happens, it can leave thousands of people without any access to health care at all.”
The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders closed its hospital in the northern CAR town of Boguila. That followed an attack on April 26th.  Sixteen civilians were killed, including three of the group’s employees.
The Human Rights Watch official said a number of things can be done to protect health workers.
“One is we need more information when attacks occur. We need to get better security for health workers in these places. Countries that have criminalized the provision of care to protesters need to repeal those laws. And there needs to be general respect for the idea that medical providers are providing care without regard to politics — and that they should be left out of conflict settings and not targeted at all.”
Amon said the international community can also do more.
“Next week, ministers [of] health from around the world are meeting in Geneva. And one of the things they’ll be looking at is a resolution from two years ago that they passed to do more on this issue — to do more surveillance of the issue and to do more response for it. I think clearly the Human Rights Council, the ministers of health from these countries, the WHO, other agencies, can say that this is a real priority. These kinds of attacks undermine the basic security of access to health care that people need,” he said.
The health ministers will meet from May 19th through the 24th.

Foreign Doctors, Nurses in Saudi Arabia Could Take MERS Global

Foreign Doctors, Nurses in Saudi Arabia Could Take MERS Global


Countries reporting new MERS cases, 2014, May 13 update

Countries reporting new MERS cases, 2014, May 13 update

 — The biggest risk that Middle East Respiratory Syndrome will become a global epidemic, ironically, may lie with globe-trotting healthcare workers.
From Houston to Manila, doctors and nurses are recruited for lucrative postings in Saudi Arabia, where MERS was first identified in 2012. Because the kingdom has stepped up hiring of foreign healthcare professionals in the last few years, disease experts said, there is a good chance the MERS virus will hitch a ride on workers as they return home.
“This is how MERS might spread around the world,” said infectious disease expert Dr Amesh Adalja of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
It can take five to 14 days for someone infected with MERS to show symptoms, more than enough time for a contagious person to fly to the other side of the world without being detectable.
Healthcare workers “are at extremely high risk of contracting MERS compared to the general public,” Adalja said.
The threat has attracted new attention with the confirmation of the first two MERS cases in the United States. Both are healthcare workers who fell ill shortly after leaving their work in Saudi hospitals and boarding planes bound west.
About one-third of the MERS cases treated in hospitals in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah were healthcare workers, according to the World Health Organization.


Despite the risk, few of the healthcare workers now in, or planning to go to, Saudi Arabia are having second thoughts about working there, according to nurses, doctors and recruiters interviewed by Reuters.
Michelle Tatro, 28, leaves next week for the kingdom, where she will work as an open-heart-surgery nurse. Tatro, who typically does 13-week stints at hospitals around the United States, said her family had sent her articles about MERS, but she wasn’t worried.
“I was so glad to get this job,” she told Reuters. “Travel is my number one passion.”
So far, international health authorities have not publicly expressed concern about the flow of expatriate medical workers to and from Saudi Arabia.
“There is not much public health authorities or border agents can do,” said infectious disease expert Dr Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota. “Sure, they can ask people, ‘did you work in a healthcare facility in Saudi Arabia,’ but if the answer is yes, then what?”
Healthcare workers are best placed to understand the MERS risk, Osterholm said, and “there should be a heightened awareness among them of possible MERS symptoms.”
Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the Department of Homeland Security responded to questions about whether they were considering monitoring healthcare workers returning to the United States.

Soaring demand  

In the last few years, the number of expatriates working in Saudi Arabia has soared, said Suleiman Arabie, managing director of Houston, Texas-based recruiting firm SA International, with thousands now working in the kingdom.
About 15 percent of physicians working in the kingdom are American or European, and some 40 percent of nurses are Filipino or Malaysian, according to estimates by recruiters and people who have worked in hospitals there.
The majority of U.S.-trained medical staff are on one- or two-year contracts, which results in significant churn as workers rotate in and out of Saudi medical facilities.
The Saudi government is building hundreds of hospitals and  offering private companies interest-free loans to help build new facilities. Its healthcare spending jumped to $27 billion last year from $8 billion in 2008. Building the hospitals is one challenge, staffing them with qualified personnel is another.
Arabie’s firm is trying to fill positions at two dozen medical facilities in Saudi Arabia for pulmonologists, a director of nursing, a chief of physiotherapy and scores more.
Doctors in lucrative, in-demand specialties such as cardiology and oncology can make $1 million for a two-year contract, recruiters said.
Nurses’ pay depends on their home country, with those from the United States and Canada earning around $60,000 a year while those from the Philippines get about $12,000, recruiters said. That typically comes with free transportation home, housing, and 10 weeks of paid vacation each year. For Americans, any income under about $100,000 earned abroad is tax-free, adding to the appeal of a Saudi posting.
One Filipina nurse, who spoke anonymously so as not to hurt her job prospects, told Reuters that she was “willing to go to Saudi Arabia because I don’t get enough pay here.” In a private hospital in Manila, she made 800 pesos (about $18) a day.
“I know the risks abroad but I’d rather take it than stay here,” she said. “I am not worried about MERS virus. I know how to take care of myself and I have the proper training.”
None of Arabie’s potential candidates “have expressed any concern” about MERS. Only one of the hundreds of professionals placed by Toronto-based medical staffing firm Helen Ziegler & Associates Inc. decided to return to the United States because of MERS, it said, and one decided not to accept a job in Jeddah she had been hired for.
Recruitment agencies in Manila have also continued to send nurses to the kingdom since the MERS outbreak, said Hans Leo Cacdac, the head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. The government advises that returning workers be screened for MERS, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said this week.
Expat healthcare workers now working in Saudi Arabia feel confident local authorities are taking the necessary steps to combat the spread of MERS in hospitals.
“Just today they came and put up giant posters in our hospital on MERS,” said Dr Taher Kagalwala, a pediatrician originally from Mumbai who works at Al-Moweh General Hospital in a town about 120 miles from Tai’f city in western Saudi Arabia
“I have not heard of or seen any healthcare workers looking to leave their jobs or return to their countries because of the MERS panic. If it was happening, there would have been gossip very soon.”

Study Quantifies That People Are Living Longer

Study Quantifies That People Are Living Longer


Elderly people dance on a street during the International Day of Older Persons in Sao Paulo's Avenida Paulista, Brazil

Elderly people dance on a street during the International Day of Older Persons in Sao Paulo’s Avenida Paulista, Brazil

 — A new report by the World Health Organization finds people are living longer. Theorganization’s annual statistics report shows people are living an average six years longer than they did in 1990.

The World Health Organization report finds low-income countries have made the greatest progress, with  average life expectancies rising by nine years between 1990 and 2012.  

WHO Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems Director Ties Boerma attributes the improvements to major successes in the health-related Millennium Development Goals.   

“Child mortality is down 47 percent since 1990. Maternal mortality is 45 percent down since 1990. HIV, TB, malaria all have seen major reductions in new infections and in deaths,” said Dr. Boerma. “But we also have to acknowledge that many countries will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals … so much more action is needed.”  

The World Health Statistics 2014 surveys 194 countries. The data show women all over the world live longer than men and the gaps in life expectancy between rich and poor countries persist.  It says declining tobacco use is a key factor in helping people live longer in several countries.

The top six countries where life expectancy from birth has increased the most are Liberia, Ethiopia, Maldives, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Rwanda.   

The report cites Iceland as the top-ranked country for life expectancy among men, which is just over 81 years.  Japan comes out on top for women, who live until age 87.  On the bottom of the scale, the report finds life expectancy for both men and women is still less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan countries.

The leading causes for years of life lost are ischaemic heart disease, pneumonia, and stroke, followed by preterm birth complications, diarrheal diseases and HIV/AIDS. The report says infectious diseases and related conditions are the major causes of more than 70 percent of premature deaths in 22 African countries.  

Meanwhile, it finds non-communicable diseases and injuries account for more than 90 percent of years of life lost in 47 high-income countries.

Boerma told VOA that spectacular progress has been made in countries where strong government leadership promotes health services.

“One lesson though is that if the political unstable situation resolves, we have seen in many countries a catch-up, really fast progress. Examples: Liberia, which is now our fastest progressing country, Rwanda, but also Cambodia.”

Boerma noted that such practices as good delivery care for women, family planning and immunizations are aiding the progress.

US Physicians Hail Use of HIV Drug for Prevention

US Physicians Hail Use of HIV Drug for Prevention


US Physicians Hail Use of HIV Drug for Prevention

US Physicians Hail Use of HIV Drug for Prevention

Physicians who work with HIV patients are hailing a new federal recommendation that .  Proponents say that could transform AIDS prevention from reliance solely on condoms to a regimen that includes the anti-retroviral drug.

The number of new HIV infections in the United States has stubbornly remained steady at 50,000 a year.  Public health officials have advocated the use of condoms almost exclusively for preventing the spread of the virus.  It is mostly transmitted by young, homosexual men who do not use condoms.

So doctors who treat patients infected with the AIDS virus are applauding the new federal recommendation that the antiretroviral drug Truvada be used to contain the spread of HIV and protect uninfected individuals.

Richard Elion is clinical research director at Washington, D.C.’s Whitman Walker Clinic.  

“To have a biological prevention is incredibly important to people who do not have lifestyles exactly as they should.  So, I think it is a valuable addition in the fight against HIV and to push us toward the day when we will have an AIDS-free generation,” said Elion.

Studies have shown that Truvada is 99 percent effective in preventing HIV infection.  At Whitman-Walker, doctors have prescribed the drug to about 170 patients, although they, and public health officials, continue to recommend that condoms be used in conjunction with the drug regimen.  Generic versions of Truvada are made in India, and it has become the mainstay of AIDS treatment in poor countries.

Some doctors denounce the widespread use of the drug as encouraging promiscuity.  But Elion says it is a small, vocal minority that is against using the antiretroviral drug for HIV prevention.

“It really bothers me when I see people who object to people being offered an additional tool, not the only tool, but an additional tool to prevent HIV,” he said.

In the United States, almost half of those who take Truvada are women.  The drug is recommended as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, for those at high risk of infection, including people who have sex with bisexual partners, gay men who do not use condoms and IV drug abusers.

Currently, those who prescribe Truvada for HIV protection in the U.S. are primarily doctors working with AIDS patients, like Elion.   But he hopes in time family doctors will see the value of making it available to those who are at high risk for infection with HIV.

Anti-Depressant May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Anti-Depressant May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

This undated image provided by Merck & Co., shows a cross section of a normal brain (R) and one of a brain damaged by advanced Alzheimer's disease

This undated image provided by Merck & Co., shows a cross section of a normal brain (R) and one of a brain damaged by advanced Alzheimer’s disease

U.S. researchers say a common anti-depressant drug appears to slow the growth of brain plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Clusters of a protein called amyloid beta are thought to trigger the development of the neurodegenerative disease.

All people produce amyloid beta, or A-beta. But the protein is overproduced and not sufficiently eliminated in those with Alzheimer’s disease. So, rather than being swept away normally, A-beta forms clumps in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers.

Previous work by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University in Missouri suggested the anti-depressant drug citalopram, which goes by the brand name Celexa, could affect the amount of A-beta that is produced.

Yvette Sheline is a professor of psychiatry at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Sheline led two sets of experiments with the anti-depressant. One experiment involved a group of mice genetically bred to have brain plaques.

Two months after the rodents were given citalopram, Sheline says researchers used a microscope to see what was happening to their plaques.

“And what we showed was a dramatic drop in both the number of new plaques that develop and much less growth in the existing plaques,” said Sheline.

The drug had no effect on existing mouse plaques.

Researchers also conducted a human trial involving healthy individuals, ages 18 to 50. Writing in the journal Science Translational Medicine, investigators noted a 38 percent reduction in concentrations of amyloid beta in the brain and spinal fluid of those given a single dose of Celexa. Also, the treated volunteers produced less A-beta protein.

“Whether that leads to actually delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s disease is a whole different question. But we do have a mechanism for decreasing the amyloid concentration,” said Sheline.

Sheline said the next step is to enroll healthy, older adults in a study to see whether treating them with the anti-depressant drug for two weeks reduces production of amyloid beta for a longer period of time.

WHO: Deadly MERS Virus Very Serious, but Not Emergency

WHO: Deadly MERS Virus Very Serious, but Not Emergency


Muslim pilgrims wears surgical masks to help prevent infection from a respiratory virus known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May, 2014.

Muslim pilgrims wears surgical masks to help prevent infection from a respiratory virus known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May, 2014.

 — The World Health Organization says the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus is of serious concern, but falls short of being a public health emergency.   

The virus, which causes coughing, fever and sometimes fatal pneumonia, has been reported in more than 500 patients, mainly in Saudi Arabia, and has spread to neighboring countries, as well as in a few cases to Europe, Asia and the United States. It kills about 30 percent of those who are infected.

A WHO emergency committee agrees the sharp rise in the number of MERS cases since March is of serious concern. WHO Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda said the committee reviewed the available information, though, and decided the virus does not constitute a public health emergency.

“We see more cases, but we do not see increased evidence for person-to-person transmissibility. And so, that was the major reason for why they said we do not think this meets a public health emergency of international concern right now,” said Fukuda.

Most recent cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus have occurred in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A majority of those infected were in hospitals.  

A World Health Organization mission recently visited hospitals in Saudi Arabia and found care practices in many facilities were sub-standard, with overcrowding in emergency rooms. It says these factors can lead to more infections.

The committee recommends urgent prevention and control practices, and more studies to identify risk factors to help combat the spread of the disease.  

It also urges people who are going to mass gatherings, such as the Haj in Mecca be made aware of the risks and of what they can do to protect themselves from getting MERS.

Another recommendation is to support vulnerable countries. Fukuda says sub-Saharan Africa is especially vulnerable.

“We know, in many of those countries the level of surveillance is relatively low. And, these are countries for whom some of those basic capacities are lower than they are in a number of other countries. But, also these are countries in which you will have many pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia. So, there are a combination of factors there,” he said.

Among the 500 confirmed MERS cases, a handful have been found in Asia, Europe and the United States. All the infections are among people who contracted the infection in the Middle East. Fukuda said there is no evidence these infections have led to sustained transmission.   
International fear about the new virus has grown in recent weeks with a surge in cases detected in Saudi Arabia, where 495 people have been infected – 152 of whom have died – since the virus first emerged in 2012.
Scores of other MERS cases have also been detected in other countries throughout the Middle East region, and there have been at least eight cases imported into seven further countries, including Malaysia, Lebanon and the United States.
Dutch health authorities said on Wednesday that a man returning to the Netherlands from Saudi Arabia had been admitted to hospital there with MERS.
Saudi Arabia, which has been at the epicenter of the MERS outbreak since the virus was first identified in September 2012, has been criticized by the WHO for failing to implement basic hygiene and infection control measures in hospitals – allowing the virus to spread in clusters of health workers.

ILO: More Than 800 Million Women Lack Maternity Protection

ILO: More Than 800 Million Women Lack Maternity Protection


Women march with their children to demand longer maternity leave, San Jose, Costa Rica

Women march with their children to demand longer maternity leave, San Jose, Costa Rica

 — A new report by the International Labor Organization finds the large majority of women workers, at least 830 million, does not have adequate maternity protection and continue to face discrimination in the labor market.

Despite progress in maternity protection, ILO officials say motherhood remains a handicap for far too many working women.

ILO Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch Chief Shauna Olney says almost 80 percent of the 830 million women who lack maternity protection are in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

“The report also shows that some groups of workers, often female-dominated, are excluded entirely from protection in law and practice,” she said. “We look at self-employed women, migrant, domestic, agricultural, casual and temporary workers, as well as indigenous and tribal workers.”

The ILO has passed three conventions since 1919 that aim to protect pregnant and nursing mothers against health hazards at work, provide paid maternity leave, and protect women against discrimination and dismissal in relation to maternity. It says 66 out of 185 countries and territories have adopted at least one of these conventions.

The report also sees a gradual shift towards maternity leave periods that meet or exceed the 14-week ILO standard.

It finds only three countries in the world — the United States, Papua New Guinea and Oman — do not provide mandatory payments during maternity leave, but provide the right to voluntary unpaid maternity leave.

The ILO says the vast majority of countries explicitly prohibit discrimination during pregnancy and leave.

Report author, ILO Maternity Protection and Work-family Specialist Laura Addati, told VOA that society loses when it does not provide maternity protection.

“In terms of the consequences for societies that many women, one out of five of those who do not have access to family leave declare that their leave choice is to drop out of the labor force,” she said. “This is an enormous waste of talents in terms of productivity and the role and contribution that women can make to society.”

Addati also says working parents should have access to affordable child care services so women can return to work productively once their maternity leave ends.

The report says many countries are also taking measures to support working fathers, calling leave provisions for fathers most common in developed economies, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In most instances, employers bear the full cost of benefits related to maternity and paternity leave.

The ILO recommends nations move away from employer liability and pay for maternity and paternity benefits through social insurance or public funds and social care services. It says taking this monetary weight off employers would promote non-discrimination at work.

Study: Schistosomiasis Treatment Better with Snack

Study: Schistosomiasis Treatment Better with Snack

Biopholaria Glabrata snails, the intermidiate hosts of the Schistosoma mansoni worms, University of Georgia Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, Athens,

Biopholaria Glabrata snails, the intermidiate hosts of the Schistosoma mansoni worms, University of Georgia Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, Athens,

Treatment for the parasitic illness schistosomiasis is more effective if children have a snack before receiving the drug praziquantel.

That’s the finding of a study conducted in Uganda’s Jinja district by researchers from Makerere University in Kampala. They worked with students at 12 primary schools. In addition to an educational message about the parasite, children at some of the schools were given donuts and mango juice prior to treatment.

Four weeks later, stool samples were collected from a random sample of 1,284 youngsters to test for the presence of schistosome eggs. Researchers report in the journal PLOS Medicine that children who ate something before getting the medicine had half as many eggs in their stool as those at non-snack schools.

Because food improved uptake of the drug, researchers also found a lower intensity of infection with the parasite S. mansoni in those who snacked. In addition, the youngsters who ate reported fewer side effects from the drug.

Experts say schistosomiasis is second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic illness. It primarily affects the urinary tract and intestines. Chronic infection can lead to kidney disease, bladder cancer or infertility.

According to the World Health Organization, some 250 million people received preventive treatment with praziquantel in 2012 and 42 million were treated for infection. Ninety percent of cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, although clusters of infection are seen in tropical and sub-tropical regions in Asia and the Middle East. Because children are most vulnerable to infection, the WHO recommends mass treatment campaigns of school children with praziquantel.

The parasitic worm is carried by freshwater snails and the disease is often contracted through bathing or swimming. The worms burrow into the tissues of internal organs after gaining access through the skin.

Recycled Blood Better than Banked Blood

Recycled Blood Better than Banked Blood


Blood units ready for storage are seen

Blood units ready for storage are seen

Blood salvaged and reused on a patient undergoing heart surgery appears to be healthier than blood obtained from a blood bank, according to a new study.
Steven Frank, MD, and a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found that the more blood from a blood bank a patient was given, the more there was red blood cell damage.
This, researchers said, “renders the cells less flexible and less able to squeeze through a body’s smallest capillaries and deliver oxygen to tissues.”
For patients who were given five or more units of blood bank blood, the damage to the cells was evident “for at least three days after surgery.”
This, the researchers say, could increase the risk of “hospital-acquired infections, longer hospital stays and increased risk of death.”
“We now have more evidence that fresh blood cells are of a higher quality than what comes from a blood bank,” said Frank, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins in a statement.
“If banked blood, which is stored for up to six weeks, is now shown to be of a lower quality, it makes more sense to use recycled blood that has only been outside the body for one or two hours,” he added. “It’s always been the case that patients feel better about getting their own blood, and recycling is also more cost effective.”
Blood salvaging or recycling first become used commonly during the HIV/AIDS crisis, but even though the blood supply is much safer now, Frank says the focus should be on salvaging because “fresher blood is better.”
The process of salvaging blood involves a machine called a cell saver. Blood collected from a patient undergoing surgery is collected and washed of fat and other unneeded tissue. Then the machine separates the red cells, which are given back to the patient.
Researchers said using recycled blood is more cost effective than using blood from a bank.
The American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), an international non-profit association representing individuals and institutions involved in the field of transfusion medicine, called the study another part of the “transfusion medicine puzzle.”
“It’s clearly a viable alternative treatment,” said AABB’s Eduardo Nunes, senior director of standards, advocacy and patient blood management, adding that with some patients, most notably those who have experienced trauma, transfusions are the only viable option.
“Even though it’s a small study, it suggests the benefit of avoiding a transfusion if it can be,” said Nunes. “There do seem to be changes to what happens to banked blood over a long enough time.”

The Hopkins study was small, and focused only on 32 patients undergoing cardiac surgery. Twelve of the patients were given only their own recycled red blood cells, while 10 were given their own blood and fewer than five units of banked blood and 10 received some of their own blood and more than five units of banked blood.
Each was given a blood test before, during and after surgery to check how well the blood was carrying oxygen.
The researchers said that the more blood the patient received from a blood bank, the poorer the blood’s capability to carry oxygen was. In patients who received only their blood, the blood cells performed normally “right away.” Those who received the most bank blood had not recovered full blood function three days after surgery.
“If something is bad for you, a little bit might be OK, but a lot of it is much worse,” Frank said. “It turns out that blood is more like milk, which has a relatively short shelf life, than a fine wine, which gets better with age.”
Blood salvaging is not an appropriate procedure for all surgeries, Frank said. Some hospitals are not always staffed with the right personnel to run the equipment, he said. But more importantly, not all surgeries cause enough blood loss to warrant the use of a cell saver.
Frank said he would recommend using recycled blood in any procedure in which a doctor might give one or more units of blood.
The process could have major benefits in the developing world, Frank said in an email to VOA, citing the greater risk of HIV or hepatitis transmission.
“There is also a huge shortage of blood in these countries,” he said. “If there were only the resources to purchase the equipment to make blood salvage more available, then this technology would be more widely utilized.”
Frank said the next step to making blood salvaging more widespread is to raise awareness among doctors about what surgical procedures “yield enough of this higher quality recycled blood to outweigh the costs of using the device.”
“This appears to be any procedure where one or more units of blood will be required for transfusion,” he said. “Blood salvage, or recycling is common in cardiac surgery but is underutilized in most other surgical specialties. Orthopedics, vascular, trauma, and transplant surgeries are those that benefit most outside of cardiac surgery.”
The study appears in the June issue of the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.

Over 1,200 get degrees atDow University of Health Sciences DUHS convocation

Over 1,200 get degrees atDow University of Health Sciences DUHS  convocation

Karachi: The Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) held its fifth convocation on Sunday to give away degrees, medals and shields to more than 1,200 graduates in different disciplines at the university’s Ojha Campus.

The degrees were conferred on MBBS, BDS, nursing and medical technology graduates as well as postgraduates of 2013 and 2014 batches.

Sindh Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed was the chief guest at the convocation attended by the faculty heads, DUHS academic council members, doctors, paramedics, students and their parents, besides dignitaries.

Dr Sagheer Ahmed, also the pro-chancellor of the university, said the day of convocation was a thirst-quenching occasion for all students and their parents alike. He told the graduates that they had chosen a profession which was meant to serve the humanity irrespective of patients’ caste, creed or faith.

DUHS Vice Chancellor Prof Masood Hameed Khan said that since its establishment, the university had produced 7,382 undergraduates and 1,190 postgraduates in all disciplines of medical and allied sciences.

Earlier, the minister distributed medals, certificates and shields to the position-holders.

Call to delete outdated matter from textbooks

Call to delete outdated matter from textbooks

Karachi: Outdated stuff from education courses must be deleted from one to matriculation classes and modern practical-based education system should be introduced across the country for achieving real development and progress, said TechLabx/Mamdani Incorporation CEO Essa Mamdani in a statement on Sunday. Our education system is not much effective as now a days the main focus of teachers is on making grades of students rather than providing proper education that must be delivered. The teachers compel students to remain busy in race to win and they have even forgotten the real motives of education. This pressure makes the syllabus much heavier to be handled by a student, he said. Mamdani said the courses should be reduced by as per memory capacity of students. The load should be reduced in such a manner that the syllabus must be completed within given time, while funfair activities should be the part of education. He said that funfair activities would help students to learn more efficiently and reduce those subjects from the syllabus, which make no sense and add such subjects that could help the students in their practical life. As we talk about the teachers in schools, it is also mandatory to raise voice here that as the world is transforming to modernism, we should also make efforts to match courses at par with it. Mamdani said: Unfortunately in Pakistan, students just, after completing matriculation get jobs to educate students that create lack of proper education to the students. They do not make their proper plan to complete the courses within the time given. It makes the students exhaust in the last days before examination. He said unfortunately, education system of Pakistan had made the students a machine to copy and paste. It means to copy from notebook to their minds, and paste it directly to their examination sheets without even understanding that specific topic. Such education is of no use that makes the student addicted to spoon-feeding. Students are getting much more impractical. It is imperative to reduce burden of courses from students and ensure them provision of practical-based education based, Mamdani concluded.

Liaquat Medical College holds second convocation – Liaquat National Hospital & Medical College

Liaquat Medical College holds second convocation –  Liaquat National Hospital & Medical College

Karachi: Eighty-three medical graduates of the Liaquat National Hospital & Medical College were awarded the MBBS degrees by the Vice Chancellor of Karachi University Prof Dr Muhammad Qaiser at a colourful ceremony held at the Convention Centre Auditorium on Saturday.

This group is the second class (2013), graduating for the MBBS degree of the Liaquat National Medical College established in August 2007.

The ceremony was witnessed by the proud parents of the medical graduates, members of the governing body of Liaquat National Hospital, dignitaries and faculty members, dressed in the traditional regalia, and senior management staff.

The highlight of the ceremony was the Wajid Ali Shah Medal for Best Graduate (Best Overall Academic Performance Over Five Years), which was awarded to Dr Fawad Shahid along with a cash award of Rs 350,000.

This award has been introduced in the memory of (late) Wajid Ali Shah who was the founder President of the Liaquat National Hospital.

Dr Fawad Shahid was also awarded the merit award for the 1st position for Final Year MBBs. Dr Faiza Hassan received the merit award for 2nd position and Dr Arsalan Ahmed Abro received the merit award for the 3rd position.

These merit awards were presented by Vice Chancellor KU Prof Dr Muhammad Qaiser and included a cash award of Rs 100,000, Rs 75,000 and Rs 50,000, respectively.

Besides, special awards were presented to Dr Rehan Rais who received the Medical Director’s Medal for Best Male Graduate, presented by Dr Salman Faridi, Medical Director of the Liaquat National Hospital & Medical College and to Dr Maria Tariq Siddiqui who was awarded the Dean’s Medal for Best Female Graduate by Prof Dr Amir Ali Shoro, Dean & Principal of Liaquat National Medical College.

Syed Shahid Ali, President LNH governing body, congratulated the graduates for their accomplishments and urged them to remain committed to their profession.

Dr Salman Faridi advised the young doctors to look at themselves as “healers” rather than just doctors. He told the graduates that the LNH&MC Alumini Association has been established which would enable them to keep in touch with their alma mater and classmates.

He shared his vision of seeing them as future custodians of the institution holding leadership positions at the hospital and medical college, which should also be part of their career goals.

Five new universities demanded for Karachi

Five new universities demanded for Karachi

Karachi: Karachi urgently needs five new universities, two new medical colleges and 50 additional colleges to cater growing needs of education. Former Karachi mayor Naimatullah Khan Advocate has said that the city faces problems in education sectors, as its educational institutions are not increasing as per increase in population. He said the city urgently needs to new general universities, one information technology university, one engineering university and one university for women in the government sector. Khan said the city also needs 2 new medical colleges and at least 50 new intermediate colleges in the government sector. He said the system of government schooling should be improved purging them from political interference. He said Karachi also faces serious healthcare issues and to mitigate them at least two new tertiary-care hospitals of at least 1000-bed each should be established in the city in government sector. He also recommended one emergency healthcare centre and one cardiac centre in each town of Karachi.