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Nov 29
1.1 million HIV infections in children prevented: UNICEF
An estimated 1.1 million human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections among children under the age of 15 have been prevented between 2005 and 2013.

According to data released by the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF) Friday ahead of World AIDS Day, new HIV infections among children has declined by about 40 percent between 2009 and 2013, Xinhua reported.

However, the global goal of reducing the figure by 90 percent is still out of reach, the data said.

The progress has been made through providing more pregnant women living with HIV with services for the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), such as lifelong HIV treatment which can reduce the transmission of virus to babies and keep their mothers alive.

The sharpest declines took place in eight African countries, including Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, among others.

However, only 67 percent of pregnant women living with HIV in all low- and middle-income countries received the most effective treatment for PMTCT in 2013.

An estimated 190,000 children under the age of 15 died of AIDS-related causes in 2013 due to lack of treatment.

"If we can avert 1.1 million new HIV infections in children, we can protect every child from HIV but only if we reach every child," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said.

"We must close the gap, and invest more in reaching every mother, every newborn, every child and every adolescent with HIV prevention and treatment programmes that can save and improve their lives," Lake added.

Nov 28
Drinking 3-5 cups of coffee may reduce Alzheimer's risk by 20 percent
A new study has demonstrated that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee might help in lowering the risk of Alzheimer's disease by up to 20 percent.

The study showed that the number of people in Europe aged over 65 was predicted to rise from 15.4 percent of the population to 22.4 percent by 20251 and, with an ageing population, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease were of increasing concern.

Epidemiological studies have found that regular, life-long moderate coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease with the body of evidence suggesting that coffee drinkers can reduce their risk of developing the disease by up to 20 percent.

According to the study, caffeine helps prevent the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrulary tangles in the brain - two hallmarks of Alzheimer's Disease. In addition to this, both caffeine and polyphenols reduce inflammation and decrease the deterioration of brain cells especially in the hippocampus and cortex, areas of the brain involved in memory.

Dr. Arfram Ikram, an assistant professor in neuroepidemiology at Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam,said that the majority of human epidemiological studies suggested that regular coffee consumption over a lifetime was associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease, with an optimum protective effect occurring with three to five cups of coffee per day.

Nov 27
Obesity causes almost 500,000 new cancer cases worldwide yearly
In a new study, scientists have discovered that obesity leads to around 481 000 new cancer cases every year in adults, or 3.6 percent of cancers worldwide.

The burden is far higher in more developed countries, with almost two-thirds (64 percent) of these obesity-related cancers occurring in North America and Europe.

Based on the results, the researchers led by Dr Melina Arnold from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), estimate that a quarter of all obesity-related cancers in 2012 (118 000 cases) were attributable to the rising average body mass index (BMI) in the population since 1982, and were therefore "realistically avoidable".

Using data from a number of sources including the GLOBOCAN database of cancer incidence and mortality for 184 countries, Arnold and colleagues created a model to estimate the fraction of cancers associated with excess bodyweight in countries and regions worldwide in 2012, and the proportion that could be attributed to increasing BMI since 1982.

The findings reveal that obesity-related cancer creates greater problem for women than men, largely due to endometrial (womb/uterus) and post-menopausal breast cancers. In men, excess weight was responsible for 1.9 percent or 136 000 new cancers in 2012, and in women it was 5.4 percent or 345 000 new cases.

Post-menopausal breast, endometrial, and colon cancers were responsible for almost three-quarters of the obesity-related cancer burden in women (almost 250 000 cases), while in men colon and kidney cancers accounted for over two-thirds of all obesity-related cancers (nearly 90 000 cases).

In developed countries, around 8 percent of cancers in women and 3 percent in men were associated with excess bodyweight, compared with just 1.5 percent of cancers in women and about 0.3 percent of cancers in men in developing countries (low HDI).

Dr Arnold said that their findings add support for a global effort to address the rising trends in obesity. The global prevalence of obesity in adults has doubled since 1980. If the trend continued, it would boost the future burden of cancer, particularly in South America and North Africa.

The findings are published in The Lancet Oncology.

Nov 26
Recurrent cough and cold in children are signs of asthma
Children with recurrent cough, cold and wheeze should visit their physician as these are clear symptoms that the child may be suffering from asthma, a medical expert said here Tuesday.

He said that in many of the cases the asthma symptoms improve with age as the wind pipe of children grows till the age of five years, a development that makes the asthma symptoms recede.

"However, if the child continues to have recurrent symptoms till the age of 12-14 years, it is a reason to worry for the parents and the child needs serious medication for asthma," said S.K. Kabra, a senior paediatrician at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

He was delivering a public lecture on "Asthma among children" here at AIIMS.

According to AIIMS, about 120-150 children with asthma are seen every week at the paediatrics out-patient department (OPD).

Kabra said that in many of the cases the parents go for an allergy test after observing the symptoms of asthma in their children. However, it is to be understood that even the allergy test is not very effective and rather the pulmonary function test should be performed.

"Parents need to understand that if they are asthmatic, their children are also prone to suffer from asthma," added Kabra.

He also said that passive smoking, where the smoke of cigarettes, bidis and hookah is inhaled by the non-smoker, is a major cause of asthma.

"Dust present on carpets, wall hangings, air conditioners, mosquito sprays, perfumes, body deodorants and pollens should also be avoided by asthmatic children as they can be effective in prevention of exacerbation of asthma," Kabra said.

Nov 24
New method to make Ebola surveillance quicker, cheaper
A new cost-effective method to sequence genomes of the Ebola virus may lead to quicker surveillance of the disease and help West African nations rapidly and effectively track outbreaks with limited resources, finds research.

"Since the cost of preparation and sequencing is relatively low, and samples are the most precious commodity, our approach provides a great initial strategy for sequencing viral samples," said lead author Christian Matranga from the Broad Institute in the US.

Detecting viral RNA genomes in suspected fever patients helps confirm diagnoses of Ebola, and aids decisions to quarantine patients and begin tracing their contacts.

Yet sequencing viral genomes directly from blood samples holds many challenges.

Samples contain very little viral RNA and are heavily contaminated with human RNA, while hot climates cause rapid degradation of viral RNA material and biosafety measures bring further complications for handling samples.

The new method to sequence genomes of the Ebola virus, that lowers contaminating human RNA from 80 percent to less than 0.5 percent.

It was proven to work through the rapid sequencing of nearly 100 Ebola patient blood samples from the current outbreak, with a turnaround time of 10 days.

Using their improved sequencing approach, the team processed samples from 78 Ebola patients and reduced the normal length of the process threefold.

Their method also lowered costs by allowing them to sequence and assemble more viral genomes using fewer steps with a higher success rate.

The new approach could also uncover unknown strains of the virus.

The findings appeared in the journal Genome Biology.

Nov 22
Caffeine blocks cocaine's effects on women sex cycle
Caffeine, a compound found in tea, coffee and various nuts and berries may offer a new treatment option for women cocaine addicts, research shows.

Caffeine may be neuro-protective and able to block cocaine's direct effects on the oestrus cycle - a recurring period of sexual receptivity and fertility in many females.

Cocaine shifts the oestrus cycle, thereby changing a woman's estrogen levels. Caffeine can block these changes.

"This is cutting-edge work that has never been shown before. It is critical knowledge relevant to women's reproductive health," explained Patricia Broderick, professor from the City University of New York.

Women are more sensitive to the effects of cocaine and more susceptible to cocaine abuse than men.

Cocaine's ability to disrupt a woman's oestrus cycle may explain the sex differences in cocaine addiction.

The findings appeared in the Journal of Caffeine Research: The International Multidisciplinary Journal of Caffeine Science.

Nov 21
Regular BP medication doesn't heighten breast cancer risk in women
A new study has discovered that women who consume general blood pressure medication don't face increased of developing breast cancer.

The researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah, analyzed the records of more than 3,700 women who had no history of breast cancer, and who had long-term use of calcium channel blocker medications to control their blood pressure.

Researchers found only a minimal increase in risk in one study and a 50 percent reduced risk in a second, leading them to recommend the continued use of these important medications to help prevent heart attack and stroke.

Calcium channel blockers are commonly used to help prevent calcium from entering cells of the heart and blood vessel walls, resulting in lower blood pressure. Jeffery L. Anderson, MD, who led the study, said that they didn't find any robust data that calcium channel blocker medications increase a person's risk of breast cancer.

The study carefully examined data collected from more than 3,700 women ages 50 to 70 with no history of breast cancer in two Intermountain Healthcare databases. For each group, researchers had compared women who were prescribed calcium channel blocker medications to similar women who weren't prescribed the medications.

In their review of a general population medical records database, it was found that the odds of breast cancer to be 1.6 times higher by using calcium channel blockers, which was significant, but much smaller than reported by the Seattle group.

But, in contrast, in the data collected from patients treated in the Intermountain Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, a reverse relationship was found, a 50 percent reduction in risk of developing breast cancer for women who took the calcium channel blockers.

The contrasting results found in these two independent analyses led researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute to conclude that it is likely not the medication that caused the changes in breast cancer risk but other factors.

The findings will be presented at the 2014 American Heart Association Scientific in Chicago.

Nov 20
How high fibrous food can help you lose weight
A new study has revealed that dietary fiber can cause a shift in the gut toward beneficial bacteria, reducing the risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases, while the two specific functional fibers may also have the potential to assist in weight loss when made part of a long-term, daily diet.

Kelly Swanson, a U of I professor of nutrition, said that in the gut, bacteria have the capacity to do a lot of different things, such as fermenting proteins, carbohydrates, or other substrates and they have already been able to identify what bacteria are there and the changes that occur with diet.

The researchers said that now they are asking if they can change the machinery or the capacity of what functions the bacteria have. Knowing what bacteria are there may matter, but it may not matter as much as identifying their function.

It was found that what was most surprising and novel in the recent study was a shift in the Bacteroidetes:Firmicutes ratio toward more Bacteroidetes, something the researchers had not seen previously.

The new information is helping the researchers to understand more about the functional capabilities of the bacteria in the gut when these fibers are consumed as part of a regular diet.

The researchers said that the study was of particular interest to us because other research has shown that having more Bacteroidetes may be beneficial because the higher that proportion is, the individual tends to be leaner. With higher Firmicutes, that individual tends to be more obese.

They added that they don't know if there is any causality for weight loss, but studies have shown that having a higher fiber diet is protective against obesity. It's an exciting shift and helps to drive researchers to study these fibers as part of a weight loss diet.

Holscher added that the whole-genome sequencing data also revealed shifts in the functional capacity of the microbiome including modifications in nutrient metabolism and they saw that there was a decrease in genes associated with protein metabolism, which correlated with the reduced protein fermentation that occurred in the study participants' guts when they consumed the fibers.

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Nov 19
Plant-based omega-3 fatty acid is 'just as effective' as fish-based ones
A new study has revealed that plant-based omega-3 fatty acid is just as effective as fish-based ones.

A substantial amount of evidence exists supporting the heart-health benefits of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA), marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids, but much less evidence exists to demonstrate the positive effects of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.

Researcher Jennifer Fleming said that the benefits reported for EPA and DHA, which can be found in seafood and fish oil, are stronger because supplements of EPA and DHA were tested, and EPA and DHA was the only difference between the treatment and control groups.

Fleming added that in the studies of ALA, which is found in flaxseed and its oil, vegetable oils, and some nuts, there were diet differences beyond ALA between the treatment and control groups.

In reviewing existing literature on the subject, the researchers have come to the conclusion that ALA is likely just as effective in preventing cardiovascular disease as EPA and DHA have proven to be.

Researcher Penny Kris-Etherton said that their understanding of the cardiovascular disease benefits of ALA has advanced markedly during the past decade and based on the current evidence, ALA decreases CVD risk.

The study is published in Advances in Nutrition.

Nov 18
A kiss can spread more bacteria than love, here's how
Here is a piece of news worth noting for the couples as a new study suggests that kissing even for 10 seconds can transfer as many as 80 million bacteria. Shocking! Isn't it? And you thought a kiss only spreads love.

So, think twice before kissing next time as according to researchers, close physical contact during kissing involves full tongue contact and saliva exchange which leads to transfer of dangerous bacteria.

Along with researchers from Micropia - the world's first museum on microbes - in Amsterdam, Kort studied 21 couples, asking them to fill out questionnaires on their kissing behaviour including their average intimate kiss frequency.

In a controlled kissing experiment to quantify the transfer of bacteria, a member of each of the couples had a probiotic drink containing specific varieties of bacteria.

After an intimate kiss, researchers found that the quantity of probiotic bacteria in the receiver's saliva rose threefold.

They calculated that in total, 80 million bacteria would have been transferred during a 10-second kiss.

On an average, it was found that partners who kissed each other at least nine times a day shared similar communities of oral bacteria.

The study also suggests an important role for other mechanisms that select oral microbiota, resulting from a shared lifestyle, dietary and personal care habits.

The ecosystem of more than 100 trillion microorganisms that live in our bodies - the microbiome - is essential for the digestion of food, synthesizing nutrients, and preventing disease.

It is shaped by genetics, diet and age, but also the individuals with whom we interact.

With the mouth playing host to more than 700 varieties of bacteria, the oral microbiota also appear to be influenced by those closest to us.

The research was published in the open access journal Microbiome.