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Oct 22
TB tricks body's immune system to make people infectious
Tuberculosis (TB) tricks the immune system into attacking the bodys lung tissue, which makes the person highly infectious through coughing and the bacteria then spreads by aerosol droplets to other individuals, a new study says.

The researchers believe that current ideas about how tuberculosis develops in patients may be incomplete and that, in fact, infection causes autoimmunity, where the immune system reacts incorrectly to its own tissue.

"We are not disputing that the immune system mainly targets the bacteria to fight it off, but we are suggesting that there is more to the story," said lead researcher Paul Elkington, Professor at University of Southampton in Britain.

"It seems that TB tricks the immune system into damaging our own lung tissue, which therefore makes the person highly infectious through coughing and the TB then spreads by aerosol droplets to other individuals," Elkington explained.

The research team conducted a review of published studies and found evidence suggesting that an autoimmunity process develops in TB.

"There is also a group of patients who develop a range of symptoms, such as eye inflammation, joint inflammation and skin rashes, that are not explained by current TB disease concepts," Elkington said

"These symptoms are usually associated with diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, which led us to believe autoimmunity plays a key role in the TB disease process," Elkington noted.

If the hypothesis of the Southampton research team, published in the journal Trends in Immunology, is proved in further research, the discovery could have major implications for the design of new vaccines and drug treatments.

Tuberculosis kills more people than any other infectious disease, and the causative bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics used to treat the infection.

Oct 20
Stress hormone in hair can predict IVF success, says study
A study conducted by Indian-origin researcher found that elevated levels of 'stress hormone' cortisol measured in hair can predict success rate of conceiving through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).

The findings suggests that the levels of a hormone when measured in hair can significantly predict the likelihood of pregnancy in women undergoing IVF treatment.

The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

This technique provides more reliable measure of hormonal function compared to other techniques using saliva, blood and urine that measure only short term levels of the hormone.

The study provide the first proper evidence that long-term levels of cortisol, which are affected by many lifestyle factors including diet, exercise, caffeine and most notably stress, may play an important role in determining reproductive outcomes.

A total of 135 women were observed for the study, 60 per cent of whom became pregnant following IVF treatment. Eightyeight women provided hair samples and the rest submitted salivary samples for the measurement of cortisol.

After analysing both types of cortisol data, researchers found that short-term salivary cortisol measurements were not related to pregnancy but in contrast the hair cortisol concentrations were.

The findings suggest that 27 per cent of the variance in pregnancy outcome was accounted for by hair cortisol concentrations after controlling for other known factors that are linked to IVF success such as age, body mass index (BMI), number of eggs retrieved and the number of eggs fertilised.

"Researchers have been interested in the role that cortisol may play in determining reproductive outcomes for some time now, not least because cortisol is typically elevated in relation to stress," said lead researcher Kavita Vedhara, Professor at the University of Nottingham School of Medicine.

"While these results do not specifically implicate stress, they do provide preliminary evidence that long-term cortisol levels are associated with a reduced likelihood of conceiving. A range of factors are likely to account for that, stress being one possibility," Vedhara added.

Oct 19
Cheap drug for common cold can stop spread of cancer
A non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drug used for treating common cold has the potential to suppress the spread of bladder cancers as well as reduce their resistance to anti-cancer drugs in mice, Japanese researchers have found.

Bladder cancer -- the seventh most common cancer in males worldwide -- can be grouped into two types: non-muscle-invasive cancer, which have a five-year survival rate of 90 per cent, and muscle-invasive cancer, which have poor prognoses.

The latter are normally treated with such anti-cancer drugs as cisplatin, but tend to become chemo-resistant and, thus, spread to organs such as the lungs and liver, as well as bone, the study said.

The study conducted using animal model showed that injecting flufenamic acid -- a much cheaper cold drug -- into cancerous bladder cells can suppress the cells' invasive activities and restore the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs.

"The study could pave the way for medical institutions to use flufenamic acid which has unexpectedly been proven to be effective at fighting cancers," said Shinya Tanaka from Hokkaido University in Japan.

In the study, using rats the team created a xenograft bladder cancer model, and discovered a three to 25-fold increase of the metabolic enzyme aldo-keto reductase 1C1 (AKR1C1).

It was also identified for the first time that AKR1C1 enhances tumour-promoting activities and proved the enzyme blocks the effectiveness of cisplatin and other anti-cancer drugs, which can be inhibited by flufenamic acid, the researchers concluded in the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Oct 14
Smokeless tobacco products may escalate death risk in prostate cancer patients
Consumption of smokeless tobacco product `snus` on a regular basis may prove fatal to men with prostate cancer and can even lead them to the risk of premature death, suggests a new study led by researchers at Harvard University.

The findings, which are also influenced by previous studies showing increased risk of death from prostate cancer in smokers with the disease, suggest that nicotine or other non-combustion-related components of tobacco may play a role in prostate cancer progression.

Snus is a powdered tobacco product, often sold in teabag-like sachets, that is placed under the upper lip for extended periods.

Co-author of the study Kathryn Wilson, said, "Snus has been suggested as a less harmful alternative to smoking because it lacks the combustion products of smoking that are associated with cancer risk.

However, we found that men with prostate cancer who used snus were at increased risk of premature death.

"It contains nicotine but no combustion components, and has not been previously studied in relation to prostate cancer survival.

The researchers analyzed health data collected from Swedish construction workers during preventive health check-ups between 1971 and 1992, including a tobacco use questionnaire completed during each man`s initial check-up.

Of these men, 9,582 later developed prostate cancer. About half of the subjects died during the follow-up period--2,489 from prostate cancer.

Those who used snus but did not smoke had a 24 percent increased risk of dying from prostate cancer and a 19 percent increased risk of dying, as compared to those who never used tobacco. Among men whose cancer had not spread, increased risk of death from prostate cancer was three times higher than for never-users of tobacco.

Research associate Sarah Markt said, "There is some evidence from animal studies that nicotine can promote cancer progression, and snus users have high blood levels of nicotine. Snus users are also exposed to other carcinogens in tobacco even though it is a smokeless product."

Adding, "Taken together, this suggests that the health effects of smokeless tobacco products should be carefully studied by public health officials."

The study was published in the International Journal of Cancer.

Oct 12
Parental absence may lead to early smoking, drinking
Parental absence in early childhood as a result of death or relationship break-up is linked to an increased risk of children starting to smoke and to drink alcohol even before they reach teenage years, says a study.

"Associations between parental absence and early smoking and alcohol consumption may operate through a range of mechanisms, such as reduced parental supervision, self-medication, and adoption of less healthy coping mechanisms," the researchers said.

The researchers from University College London drew on data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which has been tracking the health of almost 19,000 children born between 2000 and 2002, in regular surveys.

The first of these was carried out nine months after birth, with subsequent surveys when the children were three, five, seven and 11 years old.

At the age of 11 the children were also asked whether they had ever smoked or drunk alcohol, and whether they had ever consumed enough to feel drunk.

Parental absence was defined as the 'loss' of a biological parent before the child was seven years old.

In all, the researchers had complete data for almost 11,000 children, more than one in four of whom had experienced the 'loss' of a parent by the age of seven.

Analysis of the data showed that children who had experienced parental absence before the age of seven were more than twice as likely to have taken up smoking and 46 per cent more likely to have started drinking alcohol by the age of 11.

The findings were published online in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Oct 10
Unique characteristics of autism genes may help early diagnosis
Researchers have discovered in a new study the unique characteristics of genes associated with autism that may help them distinguish from genes of other diseases, as well as help in early diagnosis.

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder which can severely impair communication and social skills.

"We are now a step closer to understanding the genes associated with autism and understanding the biological process involved in the disease," said Idan Menashe from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in in Beersheba, Israel.

"This study gives us a tool to help identify additional autism genes using the genetic signature we found. From there, we hope to be able to diagnose autism earlier," Menashe added.

The findings revealed autism genes are exceptionally long, longer than other brain-expressed genes of closely related diseases such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia.

In addition, the negative selection process in these genes was more active than in other genes. Negative selection is an evolutionary process that removes disruptive mutations from genes over generations.

On the other hand, the team did not find any indications of positive selection -- which would cause an increase in frequency until they are a factor in the population -- acting on autism genes.

"Thus, while autism susceptibility mutations are in the human genome, they only present as an autism disorder when combined with other genetic, non-genetic or environmental factors, Menashe said.

For the stuy, the team of researchers examined the sequences of more than 650 genes associated with autism.

These findings broaden the understanding about the genetic mechanisms that are involved in autism and provide new tools for the discovery of new candidate genes, the researchers said.

"Our findings suggest that autistic genes have evolved under complex evolutionary forces, which have left a unique signature that can be used to identify new ASD candidate genes," Menashe noted

The study was published in the journal Behavior Genetics.

Oct 08
Simple blood test may enhance diagnosis rate of severe liver disease
Using information collected in a liver biopsy study, researchers at Cardiff University have developed a method of determining the onset of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) through the analysis of lipids, metabolites and clinical markers in blood.

The new non-invasive method of predicting the risk of developing a severe liver disease could ensure that patients receive early and potentially life-saving medical intervention before irreversible damage is done. NASH is the most extreme form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver.

With NASH, inflammation of the liver damages the cells, potentially causing scarring and cirrhosis.Currently, the diagnosis of NASH can only be done with a liver biopsy, an invasive and costly procedure.The new research could lead to a simple blood test that could catch the onset of NASH before inflammation damages the liver.

Lead researcher You Zhou said, "Many people with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis do not have symptoms and are not aware they are developing a serious liver problem. As such, diagnosis often comes after irreversible damage is done."

"Our quicker and less invasive method of diagnosis could mean that more people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease could be easily tested to determine whether they are progressing to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, the more severe form of the disease," he added.

A healthy liver should contain little or no fat.It`s estimated that around 20 percent of people in the UK have early stages of NAFLD where there are small amounts of fat in their liver.

NASH is estimated to affect up to five percent of the UK population and is now considered to be one of the main causes of cirrhosis, a condition where irregular bumps replace the smooth liver tissue, making it harder and decreasing the amount of healthy cells to support normal functions.

This can lead to complete liver failure.Common risk factors for both NAFLD and NASH are obesity, lack of physical exercise and insulin resistance.

But if detected and managed at an early stage, it`s possible to stop both NAFLD and NASH from getting worse.

The new method of NASH diagnosis will undergo further investigation with a view to developing a simple blood test that can be used by clinicians to provide effective medical care for patients at high risk of the disease.

The study is published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Oct 07
Scientists create better blood sugar test for diabetes
US researchers have developed a more precise method for estimating average blood sugar levels that can cut diagnostic errors by more than 50 percent compared to the current widely used but sometimes inaccurate test.

"What we currently deem the gold standard for estimating average blood glucose is nowhere as precise as it should be," Xinhua news agency quoted senior investigator John Higgins at Harvard Medical School and a clinical pathologist at Massachusetts General Hospital as saying.

"Our study not only pinpoints the root of the inaccuracy but also offers a way to get around it."

Because blood sugar varies by the hour and even by the minute, doctors use the so-called A1C test as a proxy to gauge a person's average blood glucose level over the previous three months.

The A1C test measures the amount of glycated hemoglobin, glucose that sticks to hemoglobin, or oxygen carrier, inside red blood cells, which can live in the body for only three months.

The test, however, is somewhat imprecise. It can lead to identical readings for people with different average blood sugar levels. At the same time, people with similar blood sugar levels can also end up having widely divergent results.

The team found these inaccuracies stemmed entirely from individual variations in the life span of a person's red blood cells.

"Like a water-soaked sponge that's been sitting on the kitchen sink for days, older red blood cells tend to have absorbed more glucose, while newly produced red blood cells have less because they havent been around as long," Higgins explained.

To eliminate the influence of age-related variation, the team developed a formula that factors in the life span of a person's red blood cells and then compared the age-adjusted blood sugar estimates to estimates derived from the standard A1C test and to readouts of glucose levels measured directly by continuous glucose monitors.

The standard A1C test provided notable off-target estimates in about a third of more than 200 patients whose test results were analyzed as part of the research.

By factoring in red blood cell age, however, the team reduced the error rate to one in 10.

Under the new model, patients could wear a glucose monitor for a few weeks to have their blood sugar tracked as a baseline, also allowing physicians to calculate the average age of a person's red blood cells before having the monitor removed, the team said.

"Physicians treating recently diagnosed patients would immediately know what a patient's red blood cell age is," Higgins said.

"The patient's test results can then be adjusted to factor in the red blood cell age and get a result that more accurately reflects the actual levels of blood sugar, allowing them to tailor treatment accordingly."

Currently, diabetes affects more than 422 million people worldwide and knowing accurate blood sugar averages can help them better manage the disease and their risk of diabetes-related complications.

Oct 06
Caffeine consumptions may decrease risk of dementia, says study
A new study suggests that older women who consume coffee daily may have a lower risk of dementia.

The findings found that higher caffeine consumption in older women was associated with reduced risk of developing dementia or cognitive impairment.

According to a recent research, among a group of older women, self-reported caffeine consumption was associated with a 36 per cent reduction in the risk of incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up.

This level is equivalent to two to three cups of coffee per day, five to six cups of black tea or seven to eight cans of cola.

"The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications," said study's lead author Ira Driscoll.

Driscoll added, "What is unique about this study is that we had an unprecedented opportunity to examine the relationships between caffeine intake and dementia incidence in a large and well-defined, prospectively studied cohort of women".

For the study, Driscoll and her team used data from 6,467 community-dwelling, postmenopausal women aged 65 and older who reported some level of caffeine consumption.

Intake was estimated from questions about coffee, tea, and cola beverage intake, including frequency and serving size.

In 10 years or less of follow-up with annual assessments of cognitive function, 388 of these women received a diagnosis of probable dementia or some form of global cognitive impairment.

Those who consumed above the median amount of caffeine from this group (with an average intake of 261 mg per day) were diagnosed at a lower rate than those who fell below the median (with an average intake of 64 mg per day).

The researchers adjusted for risk factors such as hormone therapy, age, race, education, body mass index, sleep quality, depression, hypertension, prior cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smoking and alcohol consumption.

The findings were published in the Journals of Gerontology Series, A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

Oct 05
Your sugar-laden beverages may up risk of cancer
Love to drink that sweetened soda, or other sugar-laden fruit juices, sports drinks, energy drinks? Beware, as you can be at an increased risk of developing various cancers, a study has found.

"Recently growing evidence suggests a link between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and the risk of pancreatic and endometrial cancer, as well as the risk of colon cancer recurrence and death among cancer survivors," said Melinda Sothern, Professor at Louisiana State University Health Sciences in New Orleans, US.

Additionally, such individuals may also be at risk of developing health issues like obesity, diabetes and cardio-metabolic diseases.

As more people are surviving cancer, the consumption of added sugar will be an increasingly important risk factor.

The American Heart Association recommends a consumption goal of no more than 450 kilocalories (kcal) of sugar-sweetened beverages or fewer than three 12-ounce cans of soda per week, the researchers said.

"Although consuming added sugar is not recommended, people are not usually aware of how much sugar they get from sugar-sweetened beverages," said lead author Tung-Sung Tseng, Associate Professor of Public Health at LSU Health New Orleans.

The results of the study indicate that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption behaviour varies across cancers and may be related to age.

Intervention programs to reduce consumption of added sugar be focused on lower socio-economic status, young males, as well as cervical cancer survivors, the researchers suggested.

They also recommend that custom intervention to decrease added sugar consumption be conducted for both non-cancer individuals and cancer survivors in communities and the medical care system.

For the study, the team examined data from 22,182 adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2012 data.

The survey measured the consumption of sodas, fruit-flavoured drinks, sweetened fruit juices, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas and coffees and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

It also ascertained cancer, smoking and obesity status, as well as demographic characteristics including age, gender, race, educational level and poverty/income ratio.

For the overall study population, 15.7 per cent had high sugar intake from sugar-sweetened drinks. People with no cancer history had a higher sugar intake than cancer survivors, although this could be due to other factors including older age and gender.

The sugar intake from sugar-sweetened beverages among women with cervical cancer history was much higher (60g/day) compared to other cancer survivors who consumed only around 30-40 g/day.

The research team also found that individuals who had high sugar intake (80g/day sugar) from sugar-sweetened beverages were younger, male, black, obese, current smokers, low-income, or had education levels at or below high school.

The study is published in the journal of Translational Cancer Research.