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Sep 29
Update on the New Swine Flu Variant Viruses
When most people think about swine flu, they think of the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic. The H1N1 virus is thought to have come from a reassortment between influenza viruses in North American pig herds and Eurasian pig herds.

The H1N1 virus isn't what people are talking about anymore though. There is a new swine flu virus that is making the news, although fortunately this one has limited person-to-person spread, so there hasn't been any sustained spread in communities where it has been found. Instead, the H3N2 variant (H3N2v) virus is spreading from pigs to people.

So far, there have been at least 305 confirmed cases in the current influenza A (H3N2) variant virus outbreak. However, since our routine flu tests do not detect this virus, you have to wonder if there are many more cases that are undetected.

Fortunately, most cases are mild. The CDC does report however that at least 16 people have been hospitalized and there has been one death, a 61-year-old woman in Ohio. And there is always the risk that the H3N2v virus could change and start spreading from person to person more easily. That makes it important to try and protect your family from the H3N2v virus, including that your kids:

Avoid pigs and swine barns if they are visiting a state fair and they are at high risk for serious flu complications, which includes children younger than age 5 years and kids with chronic health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, or a problem with their immune system, etc.
Don't take food or drink into pig areas; don't eat, drink or put anything in your mouth in pig areas.
Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs.
Avoid contact with pigs if you have flu-like symptoms.

While an H3N2v vaccine is not available and this year's seasonal flu vaccine won't protect you from H3N2v, it can be treated with anti-viral flu medications, such as Tamiflu or Relenza. Early treatment with one of these medicines is a good idea for those who are at high risk for severe complications from the flu.

Keep in mind that even if you aren't worried about swine flu, it is still a good idea to make sure your kids wash their hands if they have contact with animals, whether it is at home or at a State Fair or petting zoo. As many parents hopefully know, since there have been multiple warnings about this over the years, farm animals and even many household pets, are notorious for their ability to spread infections, including E. coli and Salmonella.

Sep 29
Heart diseases affect more women than men in India: Study
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) affect more women than men in India and nearly two-thirds of the deaths from heart attacks in women occur among those who have no history of chest pain, said a research released here Friday.

Conducted by the Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, the study says that it is a myth that heart disease only affects older, male, rich populations as recent studies prove that Indian women are more vulnerable to coronary diseases than men.


As per the study, almost 71 percent of women in India sense early warnings of heart attacks with sudden weakness but misunderstand it as flu.

Women with hypertension suffer 3.5 times more from coronary heart disease than women with normal blood pressure. A women who smokes is in grave danger as it leads to an attack 19 years earlier than her non-smoking counterpart.

"Women need to modify their lifestyle. Our working hours are bizarre, eating habits have changed drastically. Smoking and alcohol have taken over our lives especially the dependence on processed food," Atul Mathur, Director, Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute said.

"Our physical activity has reduced radically that has resulted in obesity taking epidemic proportions. Women are ignorant of the fact that family history is another cause of heart ailments and therefore there is a need to be more careful and protective towards themselves."

According to Escorts, by 2030, it is expected that 23 million people will die from CVDs annually, women being the maximum victims.

Sep 28
Insomniacs 'risking their health' by taking sleeping pills without getting medical advice
More than half of insomniacs are risking their health by taking sleeping pills without getting medical advice.

Around 30% of people struggling to sleep have taken remedies for more than a month without talking to a doctor, and 14% for longer than six months, research by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society revealed yesterday.

But the study of 2,000 people also found that in 80% of cases there were underlying health problems, such as heart disease, that needed to be dealt with immediately.

The RPS's Neal Patel said: "If it lasts longer than a month, there will possibly be an underlying medical condition.

"It could be a mental health problem, like depression, or a physical symptom like asthma."

It is believed 25% of adults have trouble sleeping and up to 10% have insomnia.

There has been a rise in the use of pills, with NHS spending on the drugs reaching nearly 50million (euros) last year.

Some 15.3 million prescriptions were handed out in 2010/11, compared to 14.5 million in 2007/08, NHS figures show.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 76, used to buy pills over the counter and also suffered from depression.

She now uses an online programme instead and yesterday said she would never go back.

She said: "It's been a lifeline for me. I was totally dependent.

"How can you carry on life when you haven't had any sleep? I thought seriously of suicide."

Sep 28
WHO issues guidance on SARS-like virus ahead of Haj
Following the discovery of a rare and deadly virus belonging to the same family as SARS virus in a 49-year-old Qatari man, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday, urged health workers to immediately report acute respiratory infection cases.

The health advisory comes ahead of the Haj pilgrimage that begins next month. More than 2 million Muslim pilgrims are expected to flock the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The UN health body had put out a global alert on August 23 after identifying a new virus in the Qatari man who had travelled to Saudi Arabia, where another man with an almost identical virus had died.

Though no fresh cases of the new virus has been reported so far, the WHO is working closely with Saudi authorities on health measures for the Haj.

WHO`s clinical guidance to its 194 member states said that health workers should be alert to anyone with acute respiratory syndrome and requiring hospitalization who had been in the area where the virus was found or in contact with a suspected or confirmed case within the previous 10 days.

WHO said it was identifying a network of laboratories that could provide countries with expertise on coronaviruses.

"Though it is a very different virus from SARS, given the severity of the two confirmed cases so far, WHO is engaged in further characterizing the novel coronavirus," it said.

The new virus shares some of the symptoms of SARS, another coronavirus, which appeared in China in 2002, infecting over 8,000 people and killing nearly 800 before being controlled.

Saudi Arabia has assured that it has taken precautions to prevent disease spreading next month.

The WHO has so far not recommended any travel restrictions.

Sep 27
Synthetic drug shows promise in brain cancer
Researchers led by an Indian-origin investigator are testing the suitability of a synthetic cannabinoid drug - dexanabinol - for curing brain cancer. Preliminary tests show that it kills cultured cancer cells derived from many tumour types, a US report says. Additional research in Santosh Kesari's neuro-oncology lab at the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center, demonstrated the drug's anti-cancer effects in patient-derived brain cancer cell lines. Kesari is the principal study-investigator.

It could be given as a weekly intravenous infusion. More recently, researchers at e-Therapeutics, the study sponsor, showed that dexanabinol (ETS2101) kills cultured cancer cells derived from many tumour types. "In this Phase I study, we are examining the safety of multiple doses of dexanabinol, extent of penetration into the brain, and suitability for future trials. What we hope to determine is the safe and optimal dose of drug in the brain," said Kesari, according to a California statement.

Dexanabinol is a cannabinoid derivative that causes no psychotropic (altering perception or behaviour) effects. It was tested previously as a neuro-protective in patients with traumatic brain injury. During these trials the drug was found to cross the blood-brain barrier.

The blood-brain barrier has been defined by The Free Dictionary "as a physiological mechanism that alters the permeability of brain capillaries so that certain drugs are prevented from entering brain tissue, while other substances are allowed to enter freely."

Dexanabinol's potential in fighting cancer was identified through a new approach to drug discovery called network pharmacology, a way to analyze the network of proteins underlying a disease process. Network pharmacology enables scientists to seek drugs from among existing compounds, or design new molecules, that act simultaneously on a number of individual proteins to disrupt the cancer-susceptible network.

Sep 27
So that's why children love burger and chips: Fast-food logos are 'branded' on their brains, claims
Parents have long suspected their children are brainwashed by adverts on television when it comes to food.

Now new research claims the logos of companies like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Burger King are 'branded' on the youngsters' brains.

MRI scans of children's appetite and pleasure centres reveals they light up when they are shown advertising images of their favourite fast foods, according to scientists.

But when the logos were well-known brands but had nothing to do with food the same areas of the brain failed to respond.

The study will worry health chiefs because the fast-food outlets which dominate UK High Streets serve up food high in salt, sugar, fat and calories.

They appear to have tapped into the 'reward' areas of the brain which develop before youngsters learn self-control.

Researchers at at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center, divided 120 popular food and non-food brands, including McDonald's and Rice Krispies, and BMW and FedEx, reported the Sunday Independent.

They used a magnetic resonance imaging scanner which monitored changes in the blood flow that increases when the brain becomes more active.

Analysis of the tests on children, aged 10 to 14, showed there was increased activity in parts of the brain in the 'reward' centres and in driving and controlling appetite.

Study leader Dr Amanda Bruce told the Independent: 'Research has shown children are more likely to choose those foods with familiar logos.

'That is concerning because the majority of foods marketed to children are unhealthy.'

Last year children,aged six to 13, took part in research into the effect of exposure to TV ads for unhealthy food products.

The children were shown 10 advertisements for junk food and then asked to choose between three food options which were described as 'high fat, high carbohydrate', 'high protein,' and 'low energy.'

Options for high protein included items like roast chicken. The low energy ones included items like salad.

The children were then shown a series of ten advertisements for toys and presented with a similar questionnaire.

Results of the study suggest that children exposed to unhealthy food ads - as opposed to toy ads - are far more likely to show unhealthy eating preferences.

These effects were especially pronounced among study subjects who typically watched more than 21 hours of TV per week.

Sep 26
Effects of mistletoe on cancer patients to be studied in Aberdeen
Scientific trials are to test whether mistletoe can help boost the immune system of cancer patients.

The Aberdeen University pilot study will be overseen by cancer specialist Professor Steven Heys, from the university's medical school.

The study will be run jointly with Camphill Medical Practice in Aberdeen, which regularly offers cancer patients mistletoe therapy.

It will involve women with breast cancer.

Dr Stefan Geider, a GP at the Camphill practice, said some patients who have had mistletoe injections had noticed an impact on their wellbeing.

"We see an increase in energy levels, less fatigue, good appetite, better sleeping, high motivation, from my clinical experience," he said.

"From seeing patients on a regular basis, my experience is that mistletoe has, with some people - although not with all - an impact on tumour reduction."

However, he said it was important people realised that it was not a miracle cure.

"Mistletoe has to my experience helped a lot of patients tremendously, both in terms of quality of life as well as life expectancy," he said.

"But it does not work for everybody - it's not a miracle cure. We need to find out why the mistletoe works for some people, and not for others - that's why we need the trials."

Many in the medical profession do not believe mistletoe has any effect on cancer, and think it should not be prescribed, citing a lack of good quality evidence.
'Quality of life'

Cancer specialist Prof Heys said: "There isn't any evidence that mistletoe does have an anti-cancer effect, in terms of prolonging the life of patients.

"What it does do, possibly, is improve the quality of life of patients with breast cancer who are having chemotherapy.

"Therefore I think it's important to look and evaluate that and study it, in very good randomised controlled trials, conducted in a very controlled setting."

He said many of his patients were now using alternative treatments alongside traditional ones.

"A recent study we conducted last year showed that 70% of patients were taking complementary or alternative medicines," he said.

"Given that, I think it's important to be able to understand if mistletoe does have effects on quality of life so that we can present that to patients."

Sep 26
New pill made from vile fruit fights tummy flab
The drug made from a vile-tasting fruit is also a breakthrough in the war on cholesterol.

It contains concentrated juice from the intensely bitter bergamot which is used in cooking in Calabria, southern Italy. Heart experts intrigued by locals there rarely suffering coronary disease claim to have traced it to the fruit.

Analysis revealed it is packed with chemicals called polyphenols.

These work together to open up arteries and increase blood flow helping the body to burn fat more efficiently.

Tiny amounts of the juice cut blood sugar levels by a fifth in tests, boosting people's metabolisms so they carried less belly fat.

Meanwhile, the juice was found to lower artery-clogging cholesterol by almost a THIRD. And the fruit raised levels of "good" cholesterol.

The new pills, costing 42 (euros) a month and called BergaMet, are taken twice a day before a meal. They have NO side-effects unlike cholesterol-fighting statins, which can cause muscle weakness and memory loss. That means the pills could be an alternative.

Cardiologist Dr Ross Walker declared: "This pill can help people to get in better shape."

The bergamot fruit is too bitter to eat but its peel which does not have the same health benefits is used to flavour Earl Grey tea.

Sep 25
Stem cells may help in treatment of bowel diseases
Researchers have found a special population of stem cells in cord blood that has the innate ability to migrate to the intestine and contribute to the cell population there, suggesting the cells' potential to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

These cells are involved in the formation of blood vessels and may prove to be a tool for improving the vessel abnormalities found in IBD, said lead author Graca Almeida-Porada, MD, PhD, a professor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

IBD, which is characterised by frequent diarrhoea and abdominal pain, actually refers to two conditions ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease in which the intestines become red and swollen and develop ulcers.

With IBD, blood vessels in the intestine leak and contribute to inflammation

While there is currently no cure for IBD, there are drug therapies aimed at reducing inflammation and preventing the immune response. However, these therapies aren't always effective. The long-term aim of the research is to develop an injectable cell therapy to induce tissue recovery.

The work, performed while Almeida-Porada was at the University of Nevada, also involved colleagues from Indiana University School of Medicine.

The researchers studied a special population of cells, known as endothelial colony-forming cells, found in cord blood, bone marrow and circulating blood.

The finding in 1997 that the cells can contribute to blood vessel formation in adults, not just embryos, initiated the notion of using them for therapy. Studies in humans have validated the ability of these cells to improve reduced blood flow to the limbs and to treat heart diseases.

However, there have been few studies to explore the inherent biologic ability of these cells to home to different organs and contribute to tissue-specific cell populations. Evaluating their potential to migrate to the intestine was an obvious choice, said Almeida-Porada, because dysfunctional blood vessels are a hallmark of IBD.

Not only are circulating levels of vessel-forming cells reduced in patients with IBD, but a key factor in IBD progression is the development of abnormal or immature blood vessels, which leads to chronic inflammation.

The cells were injected into fetal sheep at 59 to 65 days gestation. About 11 weeks later, intestinal tissue was analysed to detect the presence of the human cells. The researchers found that the human cells had migrated to the intestine and contributed significantly to the cell population there.

"This study shows that the cells can migrate to and survive in a healthy intestine and have the potential to support vascular health. Our next step will be to determine whether the cells can survive in the 'war' environment of an inflamed intestine," said Almeida-Porada.

The researchers also evaluated the ability of the cells to home to the liver. Smaller numbers of cells reached the liver than the intestine, suggesting that new strategies would be needed to enhance the therapeutic potential for this organ.

The research has been published in the current print issue of the journal Hepatology.

Sep 25
Early Menopause Increases Risk For Heart Disease And Stroke
Women who go into early menopause are twice as probable to endure coronary heart disease and stroke.

In a recent study, published in the journal Menopause, researchers saw this connection holds true in a variety of different ethnic backgrounds and is separate from conventional cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Dhananjay Vaidya, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and leader of this study says, "If physicians know a patient has entered menopause before her 46th birthday, they can be extra vigilant in making recommendations and providing treatments to help prevent heart attacks and stroke."

Researchers have also noticed that it is important for women to avoid early menopause as much as possible. For example, smokers can reach menopause two years earlier than non-smokers, but can postpone this by quitting. Findings were seen to be the same when women began menopause early by hysterectomies. Delaying removal of the ovaries if possible, could protect more patients from heart disease and stroke by slowing the onset of menopause. When women enter menopause it is important for health providers to check them thoroughly for cardiovascular risk factors.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. Previous research has established a connection between heart disease and stroke and early menopause in white women, but has not ventured into a more diverse population. Vaidya says Hispanic and African-American women experience an earlier onset of menopause than white women.

In this particular study, Vaidya and his colleagues investigated data from 2,509 ethnically diverse women aged 45 to 84 years, starting in 2000 or 2002 and following them until 2008. Of these women, 28 percent entered menopause before the age of 46. While the risk of heart attack and stroke was doubled in this group, the real number of cardiac and stroke events that occurred was minor. Fifty women in this study suffered heart events and 37 had strokes.

Menopause is when the possibility of pregnancy ends for a woman, characterized by slowing hormonal cycles, halted menstruation and egg creation, as well as less estrogen and progesterone production. The onsets and rates of menopause are influenced by factors such as smoking, diet, exercise, and heredity.

In the past, women have often been treated with hormone replacement therapy to help with uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, such as sweating and hot flashes. Use has been limited since clinical trials have showed a correlation between the risk of heart attacks and these hormones in women. This particular study did not detect a role of HRT in early menopause.