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Aug 31
Flu transmitted before symptoms appear: Study
Flu virus can be transmitted even before the appearance of their symptoms as experiments with ferrets (European polecat) have shown, according to a study.

If applied to human, it suggests that people pass on flu to others before they know they are infected, making it very difficult to contain epidemics.

Knowing if people are infectious before they have symptoms is important to help authorities plan for an epidemic, but it has been difficult to establish this from data collected during outbreaks, the journal Public Library of Science ONE reports.

Previous research using math models estimated that most flu transmission occurs after the onset of symptoms, but some happens earlier.

The flu strain used in the study was from the 2009 swine flu pandemic, which killed almost 300,000 people worldwide. It is the first to investigate this question experimentally in an animal model. Ferrets are commonly used in flu research because they are susceptible to the same virus strains and show similar symptoms to humans.

Ferrets with flu were put in contact with un-infected ferrets for short periods at different stages after infection. Transmission occurred before the first symptom.The researchers found that ferrets were able to pass on flu to others just 24 hours after becoming infected themselves. The animals did not suffer from fever until 45 hours after infection and began sneezing after 48 hours.

Wendy Barclay, professor from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London and study co-author, said: "This result has important implications for pandemic planning strategies. It means that the spread of flu is very difficult to control, even with self-diagnosis and measures such as temperature screens at airports.

"It also means that doctors and nurses who don`t get the flu jab are putting their patients at risk because they might pass on an infection when they don`t know they are infected," added Barclay, according to an Imperial College statement.

The results are consistent with earlier studies which found that sneezing is not necessary to transmit flu -- droplets of virus are expelled into the air during normal breathing.

Kim Roberts, who is now based at Trinity College Dublin and led the study said: "Ferrets are the best model available for studying flu transmission, but we have to be cautious about interpreting the results in humans."

Aug 31
Phone therapy helps some with marijuana dependence
Telephone therapy may help people dependent on marijuana kick the habit, a new study from Australia suggests.

Researchers found that almost twice as many users significantly cut back on marijuana following four hour-long phone counseling sessions compared to those who were put on a treatment waiting list.

Knowing therapy may work over the phone could help extend treatment to people in remote areas where in-person therapy is hard to come by, according to Peter Gates, from the University of New South Wales, and his colleagues.

Phone therapy might also be the preferred option for some marijuana users who would rather be more anonymous when receiving counseling, they added.

"At least for these moderate cases, it seems like there's a subset of people who can benefit just as much from telephone therapy as they can from face-to-face therapy," said Alan Budney, a psychiatry professor who studies marijuana dependence at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Budney said that, as with alcohol and other drugs, marijuana use starts becoming dependence when it causes problems in a person's work, school or home life, or they've tried to quit the habit but can't.

Gates and his colleagues wrote in the journal Addiction that there's already evidence to support in-person talk therapy for marijuana dependence.

To see if that success would extend to over-the-phone treatment, they randomly assigned 160 users who'd called a marijuana information and helpline to either get four weekly counseling sessions or to be put on a wait list for phone counseling.

During therapy sessions, counselors discussed marijuana users' readiness to change their behavior, encouraged them to cut back on pot smoking and ultimately advised them on how to cope with and avoid triggers to go back to using.

Three months later, 110 of the original participants had completed the study and were interviewed again by the researchers. Thirty-nine percent of those who went through the counseling had cut their pot use at least in half, compared to 20 percent of the no-counseling group.

Users went from smoking on 22 to 23 out of the last 28 days at the start of the study to seven out of 28 days after phone counseling.

People in the comparison group also cut back, but not to the same extent: they reported smoking 13 out of the prior 28 days, on average.

Because they only had smoking data three months out, the researchers couldn't tell whether phone therapy had long-term benefits, or whether people who got counseling eventually went back to their old using habits.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with 17.4 million people reporting using it in the past month on a 2010 survey. NIDA also estimates that nine percent of people who start using marijuana will become dependent on the drug.

Budney has studied computer-based interventions for marijuana dependence, which he says could also be cheaper and more convenient than in-person therapy. But most patients can't get computer or phone therapy yet, he told Reuters Health.

"There's not a lot of that available right now - it's mostly in the testing phase."

Still, Budney said in the future computer and phone therapy "should be considered as a first-line of treatment" for marijuana dependence along with in-person talk therapy.

Aug 30
Gallstone risk 'higher among obese teenagers'
Teenagers who are overweight or obese are much more likely to develop gallstones, compared with peers of a healthy weight, US research suggests.

Healthcare providers Kaiser Permanente looked at 510,000 children aged 10-19.

The study, in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, found 766 had gallstones.

It found those who were overweight were twice as likely as those with a healthy weight to have gallstones - the rate was higher among those who were obese.

Those who were moderately obese were four times more likely to have gallstones than those with a normal body mass index, and this rose to six times for those classed as extremely obese.

A UK obesity expert said it was yet another sign that obesity-linked disorders were being seen at increasingly young ages.

Gallstones are small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder.

Often they do not cause any symptoms, but if one becomes trapped it can trigger intense abdominal pain.

They can block the passage of bile into the intestine, which in turn can cause severe damage or infection in the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas and - if left untreated - can be fatal.
'Historically rare'

Gallstone disease is linked to increased weight in adults.

The team from Kaiser Permanente looked at electronic health records of the teenagers, who were all enrolled in its Southern California Children's Health Study

There was a stronger association between weight and gallstones in girls than in boys.

Lead author of the study, Corinna Koebnick, said: "Although gallstones are relatively common in obese adults, gallstones in children and adolescents have been historically rare.

"These findings add to an alarming trend - youth who are obese or extremely obese are more likely to have diseases we normally think of as adult conditions."

National Obesity Forum chairman Prof David Haslam said the fact gallstones were being seen in obese teenagers was not surprising - but that it was worrying.

"We know there is a link between the condition and obesity. But yet again we are seeing an adult illness in young people - because of obesity.

"We have already seen Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Now it's gallstones.

"And because these conditions are coming earlier, deaths will come earlier."

Aug 30
Face yoga takes over expensive moisturisers and Botox injections
Practicing face yoga is better than expensive moisturisers or painful Botox injections for fighting wrinkles, claim fans.

Women are now turning to YouTube, books such as The Yoga Face and now an iPhone application for fresher-looking faces.

Josie Goldberg, from the Gold Coast, is a health nutritionist and said face yoga was a fun activity with great benefits.

"I tried it with a group of friends and it was great fun. We sat around in a circle pulling all these funny faces," the Daily Telegraph quoted her as saying.

"It was hilarious. I recommend everyone give it a go in a group with friends," she added.

She said her motto was to avoid chemicals or dangerous injectables, such as Botox or Restylane, for healthier, safer options.

"We are always looking for the quick fix (solutions), which are often detrimental in the long term. Techniques like this and so many others are far more beneficial in the long run," she said.

Like regular yoga, the moves are all named. The Marilyn, bumblebee or lion are all designed to turn back the ageing clock and reduce wrinkles.

Hailed the mother of face yoga, Annilese Hagen has written a book and designed an app - ifaceyoga - which is helping people across the globe to turn back the clock.

She said the response to face yoga had been outstanding.

"A lot of people do face yoga. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston are advocates and anyone who likes to look good and be healthy and natural," she said.
She said it was simple, fun and had fantastic results.

"Using yoga techniques and facial gymnastics leads to a natural lifting, brightening and toning of the facial muscles and facial appearance," she added.

Aug 29
Are you a psychopath? Scientists say it all depends on your TWEETS
Your tweets can reveal whether you are a psychopath, with the frequent use of words such as 'die', 'kill' and 'bury' among the key warning signs.

Swearing too much is also a giveaway, according to research by computer science professors and doctoral students at London's Online Privacy Foundation.

The boffins claim users' word choices indicate personality traits and their research could be used by police to identify potential threats or by bosses when hiring employees.

Chris Sumner, who heads the foundation, warned: 'People are making judgements about others based on social media. Companies even exist that will do this for you if you're hiring.
'However, almost all research says more research is needed before social media screening should be considered for use.'

Previous studies have looked at relationships between a person's mental health and their language but few have focused on social media - used by millions every day to share their thoughts and feelings with the world.

Engineering and computer science professor, Taghi Khoshoftaar, and doctoral student, Randall Wald, applied existing psychological formula to a person's writing to determine if they were psychopathic.

They used a computer programme to scan tweets - as well as looking at questionnaire answers - of nearly 3,000 volunteers and found around 1.4 per cent showed showed psychopathic tendencies.

But the research is limited, with the computer programme not able to recognise abbreviated words common on Twitter or the tone of a tweet.

Wald told US newspaper Sun Sentinel: 'It is not enough to send in the SWAT team because someone is highly rated on this.'

Aug 29
'Spare tyre' triples the risk of heart disease
People who carry a small "spare tyre" around their waist but are otherwise a healthy weight are at triple the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke, an American study has found.

Men and women who are not overweight but store most of their fat around their waist are at greater risk of heart disease or stroke than the clinically obese.

This could be because those who are overweight or obese have more weight on their thighs and hips which helps offset the problem, researchers said.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic in the United States examined the health records of 12,785 people with an average age of 44, over a 14-year period.

They recorded patients' body mass index (BMI) - their ratio of weight relative to height - as well as their waist-to-hip ratio, which signifies how much of their weight they store on their belly.

During the study, 2,562 of the patients died, including 1,138 as a result of a cardiovascular problem such as heart disease or stroke. The findings suggest that people with a normal BMI but a high waist-to-hip ratio were 2.75 times more likely to die from a cardiovascular condition than people who were normal on both scales. Even people who were clinically obese and had a high proportion of fat stored around their middle had only 2.34 times the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke compared with the healthiest group.

Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology's annual congress in Munich, Dr Karine Sahakyan said having a normal BMI "should not reassure them that their risk for heart disease is low". "Where their fat is distributed on their body can mean a lot.?.?. even if their body weight is within normal limits," she said.

Fat which accumulates between the organs in the abdomen, and causes the waistline to expand, is made of a different type of cell from that which accumulates around the legs and thighs. Cells in belly fat release chemicals that raise insulin resistance and are thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

People who are overweight and obese have more muscle mass and store some of their fat on their legs and hips, which Dr Sahakyan said was "actually protective". Slimmer people are more likely to carry extra weight on the waist, she said.

Patients with a high waist-to-hip ratio can offset their risk by exercising more and sticking to a healthy diet. Prof Peter Weissberg, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said waist-to-hip measurement was a "stronger indicator" of cardiovascular risk than BMI.

Aug 28
How an Indian Patent Case Could Shape the Future of Generic Drugs
India's rising global presence is often associated with its booming tech sector. But in many poor countries, India's role is that of a low-cost pharmacy. The country has become a leading supplier of affordable HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis medications and is the second leading provider of medicines distributed by UNICEF in the developing world. This, however, may change.

On Wednesday, the Indian Supreme Court is set to hear a landmark patent case that could limit Indian companies' right to make inexpensive copies of pricey drugs developed and patented in the U.S. and Europe. The high-profile case the first of its kind to reach India's highest court has created a sharp divide between defenders of intellectual property rights, who demand that India do more to protect patented drugs developed in the West, and international aid groups who say excessive pharmaceutical patenting stifles generic competition that makes life-saving medication accessible to patients around the world. "This case is key because the scaling up AIDS treatment around the world has come from Indian made medicines," says Leena Menghaney, manager of Doctors without Borders' access to medicines campaign in India. "If they did not exist or were not available most governments would not have ventured into starting large scale AIDS treatment programs."

At the heart of the current dispute is the breakthrough cancer drug Glivec (Gleevec in the U.S.). Novartis, the Swiss drug company that helped develop the drug, is appealing the rejection of its 2006 patent application in India. In the U.S., where patent laws make it easier to register a patent claim, a monthly dose of Glivec can cost as much $5,000. In India, locally made generics cost patients $200.

In 1970, the Indian government disallowed the patenting of drugs, paving the way for Indian pharmaceutical companies to freely produce medicines pioneered by foreign drug companies at a fraction of the cost. Today, India's pharmaceutical industry is worth $10 billion a year and is one of the nation's largest sectors. The price of HIV/AIDS treatment, a first-line combination of stavudine, lamivudine, and nevirapine, which cost patients $10,000 a year in 2000, now sells for $150 worldwide, due primarily to Indian companies' low cost manufacturing. This rush of cheap drugs, which are also produced in the U.S. and Europe, now provides medication for 80% of the 6 million people receiving treatment in the developing world today, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In 2005, as a requirement of admission into the WTO, India reenacted patent protections for intellectual property, which included medicines. The Indian patent law, however, set the bar much higher than in the U.S. "India has time and again really expressed a strong preference for public health concerns over private patent rights," says Shamnad Basheer, a professor of intellectual property law at the National University of Juridical Sciences in Calcutta. Earlier this year, the Indian patent office reasserted its preference for generic competition, stating that if a patented drug in the Indian marketplace is not made widely available at a reasonable price, then generic manufacturers are entitled to make their own versions of the drug and pay a royalty to the patent holder.

Novartis' first attempts at patenting Glivec were rejected in India because it was considered to be an updated version of an existing Novartis drug, and therefore not eligible for patent protection. To protect consumers of low-cost medicines and its pharmaceutical industry Indian patent law aims to curtail a process known as 'evergreening,' in which pharmaceutical companies make sometimes minor improvements to an old medicine, allowing them to renew their patent. Under India's tough standards, modifications that do not improve the efficacy of the drug are not eligible for extended patents.

Novartis cites modifications that make its new drug more effectively absorbed into the bloodstream, an improvement that was granted a patent in the U.S. in 2001. "All the drugs that come out from USDA are not new molecules that are formed every year," says Ranga Iyer, former head of the Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India. "They are newer versions of penicillin and other drugs. Do we call that evergreening? No. There's a lot of work going on to do that." Iyer and other critics of India's patent laws claim they are stifling innovation on new groundbreaking drugs. "If you tell an innovator to set prices low enough that everybody can afford it, how can a company recover cost?" says Iyer. "If innovation is not protected, people will not innovate."

But international pharmaceutical companies aren't the only ones innovating. Generic drug manufacturers have also pioneered new treatments, creating pediatric HIV/AIDS drugs to cater to a segment of the market in developing countries that the big global drug manufacturers tend to overlook. Breakthroughs often come from publicly funded labs making the cost of research and development not as high as it seems, says Yusuf Hamied, chairman of the Indian pharmaceutical company CIPLA. "If you look at the world's top 50 drugs being sold today, they are being marketed and sold by companies that did not invent them," says Hamied. "I respect patents. I'll pay a royalty. But I shouldn't be denied the right to produce drugs for poor people at reasonable prices."

For both proponents and critics of India's patent laws, the supreme court's interpretation will set an important precedent. Foreign drug companies see India as a growing market, but perhaps more importantly as a potential model for other developing countries' patent regulations. If the court rules in favor of Novartis' claim, aid groups worry it will set off numerous new patent claims making it impossible for India to produce cheap generics of all sorts. But the court is unlikely to lower the standard thereby granting Novartis a patent, says Shamnad Bhasheer. The Indian laws were designed specifically to favor public health interests, and the court would likely only lower the standard if it believed that innovation, particularly by Indian companies, was being stifled.

Aug 28
Family matters: Close ties boost men's mental health
Middle-age adults who have regular contact with a group of friends are psychologically better off than those who don't, but when it comes to having close ties with many family members, men benefit more than women, a new study from England says.

The results of psychological tests show that people who had regular contact with 10 or more friends at age 45 had higher levels of well-being at age 50 than those with five or fewer friends. This was the case even when education levels, employment status and previous mental health issues were taken into account.

When the researchers looked at people's relationships with family members (outside their own household), they found that men who had regular contact with fewer than 10 relatives had worse mental health than men with at least 10 close relatives. But in women, there was no link between psychological well-being and the number of family members a woman saw regularly.

While the reason women didn't seem to benefit from a greater number of close family members is not entirely clear, it may be related to the negative effects of certain family relationships, the researchers said.

Among people of both genders, those who were in a relationship with a partner had higher numbers of relatives that people saw regularly. "It is possible that negative social exchanges within women's social ties might have reduced any positive effects from [family relationships] built upon their partnership, as these have been found to be related to depression," the researchers wrote in their article, published yesterday (Aug. 22) in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The researchers looked at information from 6,500 people in England who were born in 1958, gathered as part of the National Child Development Study. Participants were asked how many friends and relatives they met up with at least once a month. They also answered questions about their education, job and partnership status, and took a psychological well-being test that scored their mental health on a scale from 14 to 70.

Results also showed that study participants tended to have more friends than family members that they saw regularly. While nearly 19 percent of men and 16 percent of women reported having no family members that they saw regularly, only 11 percent of participants reported having no friends.

People's employment status did not affect the size of their social networks, but education did. Men with more education tended to have smaller groups of both friends and family members that they were close to; women with more education tended to have regular contact with fewer family members, but had more friends.

Among participants who reported having no close friends, women's mental health suffered more than men's. However, men's well-being was also affected if they had no close relatives, whereas for women, a lack of close relatives had no effect, the researches said.

Aug 27
Green tea not just helps in weight loss but also getting rid of smoking
Green tea not just helps in weight loss but also getting rid of smoking. And to be true, it is becoming more and more popular in India with every passing day.

Green tea is more popular in China than the generally consumed tea with milk and loads of sugar in India. But as tea with milk helps us put on more and more weight, green tea has a number of benefits that help people live a healthy life.

Drink green tea to get over the nicotine urge, say Chinese researchers - and this is a finding that medical professionals in Kerala have reacted positively to.

A recent study titled 'A Revolutionary Approach for the Cessation of Smoking', published in Science China Life Sciences, a peer-reviewed open-access journal, cites how researchers used custom-developed cigarettes with components of green tea as filters in a bid to treat addiction to smoking.

Phinse Philip, a lecturer in the Community Oncology Division of the Malabar Cancer Centre, said pharmacotherapy such as nicotine replacement therapy had generally been found effective in getting smokers to give up the habit.

"A majority of users smoke as it purportedly gives them some form of relaxation. The oral intake of the amino acid L-Theanine, uniquely found in green tea, is known to have anti-stress effects and acts as a relaxing agent. The study conducted in China shows that green tea may be an alternative to quit this addictive habit," Phillip said.

Even though there has been a nationwide ban on smoking in public since 2008, it continues to be rampant in public places in Kerala, including bus stops and cinema halls.

Around 21.9 per cent of Kerala's population is addicted to smoking and in the process, makes itself vulnerable to a wide variety of diseases such as cancer, heart ailments and osteoporosis.

Thomas Varughese, head of surgical oncology and reconstructive surgery at Kochi's Lakeshore Hospital and Research Centre, said drinking green tea after quitting smoking completely could contribute to reversing the possibility of lung cancer.

"Green tea, which is rich in antioxidants, can help in restoring the oxidant/antioxidant imbalance among those who have quit tobacco-use completely, both smoking and smokeless, provided they have used it long enough to cover the impact of the period of use," said Varughese.

He also pointed out that smokers typically have low levels of vital nutrients like Vitamins C and E, zinc, calcium, folate and the Omega-3 essential fatty acid which are vital for the human body's immune system and proper metabolic activity.

"Consumption of green tea can boost the body's immune system by fighting free radicals and can reduce the risk from damage caused by toxins in cigarette smoke," Varughese added. (IANS)

Aug 27
Pong Smartphone Case Reduces Risk Of Cancer, So You Keep It Wherever You Want
Cellphones emit low frequency electromagnetic radiation which has adverse effects on human body. Though the exact results of radiation when exposed to body are not known, but the area of brain closer to the cellphone (while in use ) absorbs 48% to 68% of radiation, not only affecting health but also lowering power of transmitted signal. A company called Pong has created a unique smartphone case which reduces radiation absorption by about 95%. The case is made of a material used in construction of NASA spacecrafts and works in-hand with the cellphone's internal antenna to redirect radiations away from user's body.

The technology also helps in improving signal strength and battery life. Since most of the radiations are redirected away and least is lost in absorption by human body, they are received by the cellular towers leading to an increase in signal strength. Also most of the battery is drained in search of signals, increased signal strength by Pong cases result in an improved battery life.