World's first medical networking and resource portal

News & Highlights
Please make use of the search function to browse preferred content
Medical News & Updates
Aug 27
New Study Suggests The Brain Predicts What Eyes In Motion Will See
When the eyes move, objects in the line of sight suddenly jump to a different place on the retina, but the mind perceives the scene as stable and continuous. A new study reports that the brain predicts the consequences of eye movement even before the eyes take in a new scene.

The study, "Looking ahead: The perceived direction of gaze shifts before the eyes move," published in the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology's peer-reviewed Journal of Vision, asked subjects to shift their eyes to a clock with a fast-moving hand and report the time on the clock when their eyes landed on it. The average reported time was 39 milliseconds before the actual time. As a control task, the clock moved instead of the eyes, and the reported arrival times averaged 27 milliseconds after the actual time.

"We've revealed a moment in time when things are not perceived as they actually are," said lead researcher Amelia Hunt, PhD, of the University of Aberdeen's School of Psychology. "These findings serve as a reminder that every aspect of our experience is constructed by our brains."

The report suggests that the prediction is a result of remapping, where neurons involved in visual perception become active or dormant to help the brain maintain a stable visual environment despite the constant shift of images on the retina.

According to the report, "Remapping allows locations to be continuously represented across the eye movement by maintaining both current and expected locations simultaneously, facilitating the transition between the two." Hunt added: "The finding implies that we experience the predicted consequence of an eye movement as though it is actually occurring, albeit just for a moment."

Hunt said the research might lead to more investigation of the brain's ability to predict and its role in perception, as well as the link between brain activity and actual experience. The next step may be to examine under what circumstances predictive processes occur, what function they serve and to what degree they influence our perception of events, she said.

Aug 27
Swine flu cases cross 3,000 mark
The onslaught of the swine flu continued unabated with three persons, including a middle-aged woman, succumbing to the virus, pushing the countrywide death toll to 77 as 186 more contracted the infection since last evening.

The new fatalities occurred in Delhi, Bangalore and Pune as 41 more tested positive for A (HINI) influenze in the national capital where the number of cases climbed to 519.

In all, 186 fresh laboratory confirmed cases surfaced in various states as the number of those afflicted with the illness climbed to 3,095.

Usha Jain, who had tested positive for the flu and was on ventilator, passed away this morning in government-run RML Hospital in Delhi, Medical Superintendent N K Chaturvedi said.

Fortyfour-year-old Usha was a resident of Faridabad in Haryana.

In Bangalore, Siddarraju, admitted to the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases on August 21, died of the virus, health officials said adding he had also tested positive for chikungunya.

Swine flu fatalities rose to 24 in Pune, the worst-hit, with a 56-year-old man succumbing in a private hospital, Dr Ashok Laddha, Additional Director, Health, said.

Of the 77 deaths from the pandemic, Maharashtra accounts for 41 -- 24 in Pune, eight in Mumbai, five in Nashik, two in Aurangabad and one each in Dhule and Latur.

Fifteen people have died in Karnataka, seven in Gujarat, three each in Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Delhi and one each in Kerala, Goa, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Haryana.

Aug 25
Public May Refuse Pandemic Vaccine Over Safety Concerns
Parents and healthcare workers may refuse to get immunised or vaccinate their children against a pandemic virus if they believe the risks of a novel vaccine outweigh the benefits, according to research published in Emerging Health Threats Journal.

As the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic threatens to pick up speed as winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, pharmaceutical companies are racing to produce a vaccine against the novel 'swine flu' virus. The first batches of vaccine could be used to protect vulnerable populations, and to ensure the pandemic does not compromise health care availability. But immunisation in communities is most effective when enough people are vaccinated to confer 'herd immunity' on the rest of the population. Members of the public who refuse the jab for themselves or their children could compromise this wider protective effect, the researchers say.

The researchers, Natalie Henrich of the University of British Columbia and Bev Holmes at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, conducted eleven focus groups in Vancouver before the onset of the current pandemic, and asked participants how willing they would be to accept a new vaccine in the event of a pandemic.

Parents known to favour 'alternative medicine' were particularly opposed to vaccination-but even healthcare workers would be reluctant to get vaccinated against an illness perceived as mild. "Participants were very concerned that in a pandemic, a vaccine would be brought to market without sufficient testing for safety," write the researchers.

Many believed that instead, they could protect themselves against infection through personal control measures such as hand washing, social distancing, or even a good diet. While these measures are important, say Henrich and Holmes, they are not sufficient to prevent illness. This needs to be made clear to the public to ensure the vaccination campaign is successful, they stress.

It is particularly important to communicate with alternative health professionals about the benefits and risks of vaccination. "In the United States, for example, approximately 57% of the population use alternative therapies and 10% receive services from alternative health care providers," write the authors. "The influence on their patients can mean the difference between whether or not herd immunity is achieved."

Aug 25
Three Steps For Healthy Feet
We ask a lot of our feet, we take them for granted and scarcely give a thought to how best to keep them healthy until something goes wrong. In this month's Harvard Health Letter, there is a four page article about how feet work and "three steps" on how to look after them from Dr. James Ioli, chief of podiatry at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and colleagues.

Our feet provide us with a steady base on which to stand or walk, they act as levers for forward and backward and sideways moves, and they absorb shock, for instance when we run and jump the impact of landing is a force equal to many times our body weight.

Our feet do all this with just 26 bones (one less than in our hands) and 33 joints all lashed together by an intricate architecture of 100 ligaments and extrinsic and intrinsic muscles and tendons that orchestrate the movement of the feet.

The extrinsic muscles start in the lower leg, wrap in a crisscross fashion around the ankle and finish in the foot, like a kind of sock, and enables the foot to articulate in several directions.

The intrinsic muscles, which start and end in the foot itself, comprise several layers across the sole and help to form an elegant and graceful arch along the length of the foot.

When a person walks normally, the weight starts in the heel and moves to the front of the foot. The heel hits the ground first and the shock of impact is absorbed by the heel or calcaneus bones and a layer of fatty tissue beneath. Then the foot rolls forward on its outside edge and causes the plantar fascia, a band of tissue along the bottom of the foot, to stretch out.

All this happens without thinking about it, and it's only when something goes wrong, and there is plenty that can, that we become aware of how much we rely on our feet.

Some people are born with foot problems like high arches (pes cavus) or clubfoot (talipes equinovarus) and in many cases these problems can be surgically treated.

Others are born with minor defects that can become more serious as we get older and especially if we put on weight.

One problem is overpronation, where the person walks or runs on the inside of their feet. This is not uncommon and for the most part people aren't bother by it, but some can end up with a range of problems like sore knees, sore ankles, fallen arches, or inflamed and worn out foot tissue.

The opposite of overpronation, called oversupination, or walking too far onto the outside edge of the foot, can also lead to similar problems.

Another problem is flexible flat feet, which affects around 1 in 5 adults. This is when the arches in the feet flatten out under weight but then return to their normal arched shape when the weight is taken off. Again, this does not usually affect many people who have it, but it can get worse as they age, and especially if they put on weight.

Then there is a range of problems that can be described as "self inflicted" because they arise from doing things like wearing high heels and badly fitting shoes. These include hammertoes and bunions which result from squeezing toes into too-narrow shoes, and we can also damage metatarsals (the long bones of the foot before the toes) and Achilles' tendons by over use of high heels.

Many people don't realize that as they age, the ligaments and tendons in their feet stretch out, causing them to grow by a half size or even more.

Also we tend to wear shoes far beyond their replacement stage, by which time the heel is no longer held firmly in place at the back, and the sole no longer absorbs shock effectively.

The authors recommend a three step approach to keeping feet healthy:

1. WEAR GOOD SHOES: Buy low-heeled shoes that fit well and make sure there is plenty of room for your toes. Replace them regularly.
2. STAY TRIM: Too much weight on your feet wears them out, and keeping to a healthy weight will benefit the rest of your body too.
3. WALK: Not only is walking good general exercise, it strengthens and stretches the feet (and remember to change your shoes regularly).

Aug 25
World Bank pats HP for focused AIDS programme
Shimla, (PTI) : Himachal Pradesh has been praised by the World Bank for running "effective and focused" programmes to check HIV/AIDS in the state, which has witnessed a surge in the number of positive cases in the last three years.

A six-member team of the World Bank, which had toured the state recently, assessed the HIV/AIDS control measures in different parts of the state and praised the state government for running "effective and focused" programmes in this direction, Director Health Sulakshna Puri told PTI today.

The state has also won accolade from National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in this regard, Puri, who is also the Project director of the State AIDS control society, said.

Particularly impressed with the transparency in financial monitoring of the AIDS programmes in HP, the NACO said the tiny Himalayan state should serve as a "pilot site" for other states, she added.

Aug 25
H1N1 virus may remain active in winter: experts
Chandigarh: Even as suspected cases of swine flu continue to be reported, experts say it will be several months before the virus stabilises. It is likely, they add, that the virus continues to affect people in the coming winters.

According to Prof Rajesh Kumar, Head of Department of Community Medicine at PGI, cooler weather of the monsoons flares up flu and other respiratory diseases. This could be the reason, he says, for the sudden surge of cases in August.

But he is quick to add that the H1N1 virus has not shown any adherence to weather so far and is expected to continue in winters.

“At this moment it is difficult to predict how the virus will behave. But traditionally, common flu rises in autumn, spring and winters. Going by that logic, the H1N1 virus should be active in winters and stabilise only by next summers,” Prof Kumar says.

Every new virus causes epidemics. It takes time before human beings develop resistance to it, he says. “Take the case of common flu. It is also a virus but not that harmful as human beings have developed resistance to it. Once the same happens in case of H1N1, it will be like any other flu,” Prof Kumar adds.

Chandigarh’s count of cases has been 11 so far. The eight samples sent to NICD last week were tested negative and no fresh suspected cases were reported on Monday.

Central Nodal Officer satisfied with hospital arrangements

Arun Kumar, Joint Secretary-cum-Central Nodal Officer (Swine Flu), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, visited the city hospitals on Monday for assessment of their preparedness. He expressed satisfaction over the arrangements after he was apprised of the facilities being provided in the isolation wards of PGIMER-12, GMCH-32 and GMSH-16.

Aug 22
Researchers Confirm That Genes Increase Risk Of Lung Cancer In Smokers
UK researchers who searched the DNA of over 5,000 smokers and non-smokers have found more evidence that inherited genes can increase a smoker's risk of developing lung cancer and also decide the type of cancer that develops.

The study was the work of researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research and is published in the 15 August issue of Cancer Research. The lead author was Professor Richard Houlston, a Cancer Research UK funded scientist at The Institute of Cancer Research.

Houlston and colleagues conducted the genome-wide association (GWA) study in two phases.

First they scanned the genomes of 1,900 people with lung cancer and compared them to those of 1,400 people without lung cancer to find differences in DNA that were linked to an increased risk of the disease.

Then they looked for these same changes in the genomes of another 2,000 people with lung cancer and compared them to the genomes of around the same number of people without lung cancer.

They found differences in three regions of the genome, at chromosomes 5, 6, and 15, that appeared to be more common in the people with lung cancer than the people who did not have it. Some of these links were already known about before.

Houlston said in a press statement that:

"This research confirms work done at the ICR and elsewhere that has previously implicated these areas in lung cancer risk and the type that develops."

But in this study, Houlston and colleagues discovered more detail. For instance, they found that the link between chromosome 15 and lung cancer is more complex than originally thought.

Confirming that there are two sites in this location that influence lung cancer risk, they also calculated that people with one copy of each variant who smoke or used to smoke have a 28 per cent increased risk of developing lung cancer, whereas current or former smokers who carry both copies of each variant have an 80 per cent higher risk.

People who do not smoke can also carry these changes, but the risk is only higher for those who smoke.

These genetic variants are in a family of genes that are known to influence smoking behaviour and consumption of tobacco. They also play a role in cell growth and death.

Houlston and colleagues also found that the variant at chromosome 5 influenced what type of lung cancer developed. People with the variant are more likely to develop a type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) known as adenocarcinoma, which accounts for 27 per cent of lung cancer cases in the UK. It is also the most common lung cancer in non-smokers.

The variant that they found on chromosome 6 appears to influence whether the type of NSCLC that develops is either adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.

Houlston said the next step is to:

"Dig deeper to pin point which gene, or genes in these regions, cause the increased risk of developing lung cancer and how they actually trigger this increase."

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said:

"Smoking greatly increases the risk of lung cancer -- causing nine out of ten cases of the disease. This research shows that inherited genetic variation accounts for some of this risk and the type of lung cancer that develops."

"It's important to remember that smoking also increases the risk of other life-threatening diseases including heart disease, stroke and a dozen other cancers. The best thing a smoker can do to reduce their risk of lung cancer, and a range of other life-threatening conditions, is to quit," she added.

Aug 22
Expect Explosion In Swine Flu Cases, Warns WHO
Countries are warned to expect further cases and deaths as the spread of pandemic H1N1 swine flu virus speeds up, and there will come a point when case numbers will seem to explode, a World Health Organization director said on Friday.

Shin Young-soo, Director of the WHO Western Pacific region, told an assembly of health delegates meeting in Beijing that we can be certain there will be more cases and more deaths, reported the Associated Press, who quoted the director as saying:

"At a certain point, there will seem to be an explosion in case numbers."

Shin said governments must prepare their health systems, educate the public and protect the most vulnerable and they must act quickly because "we only have a short time period" to ensure that communities are made aware of how to reduce spread and how to get early treatment for severe cases.

He said developing countries are under the greatest threat because they don't have enough resources.

According to the latest WHO figures, as of 13 August, nearly 1,800 people have died from the 2009 swine flu, which reached pandemic status in June this year.

Individual cases are no longer tracked, so the total number of lab-confirmed infections, which has reached over 182,000 worldwide is likely to be a gross underestimate, said the WHO.

The Americas have reported 105,882 cases and 1,579 deaths; Europe 32,000 cases and 53 deaths; Western Pacific 27,111 cases and 50 deaths; South East Asia 13,172 cases and 106 deaths; Eastern Mediterranean 2,532 cases and 8 deaths; and Africa 1,469 cases and 3 deaths.

The WHO predicts that nearly one third of the world's population will be infected over the next two years, that is around 2 billion people.

The vast majority of cases are expected to be mild, but because of the large numbers involved, where cases are severe they are likely to overwhelm hospitals and health infrastructures, especially in poorer nations.

Experts are watching the pattern that the virus is following in the southern hemisphere in the hope of being able to anticipate how it might spread in the northern hemisphere when the flu season starts.

Unlike seasonal flu, where cases drop significantly during the summer and then resurge in the winter, the novel H1N1 swine flu has proved more resilient and is still spreading in the northern hemisphere.

However, northern countries are gearing up for a significant resurge as students and workers return from summer vacations. Vaccine makers are fast tracking production in an effort to get people vaccinated in time. Some are saying the first batches will be ready in October, but it is not clear how many doses will be available.

WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said earlier this year that pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions are two of the groups at higher risk of severe infection.

One study, by researchers in the US and Japan, has suggested that the novel H1N1 pandemic strain is more virulent than previously thought. It found that the virus infects cells deep inside the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia and in more severe cases, death, whereas seasonal flu viruses tend only to infect cells in the upper respiratory tract.

They found that the new pandemic swine flu strain spreads much more efficiently in the respiratory system than the seasonal flu virus, causing severe lesions in the lungs, more like the damage caused by other pandemic strains.

WHO and other experts have warned that the virus might also change quite suddenly, as Chan explained in June, when she announced the virus had reached pandemic status:

"The virus writes the rules and this one, like all influenza viruses, can change the rules, without rhyme or reason, at any time."

The last flu pandemic was the Hong Kong flu which globally killed around 1 million people in 1968 and 1969. It was the first known outbreak of the H3N2 strain. Seasonal flu kills around 250,000 to 500,000 people every year worldwide.

Aug 22
Ayurveda to fight flu
The health ministry indicated yesterday it wanted to add traditional ayurvedic prescriptions to its arsenal against the pandemic flu virus which has so far infected 2,401 people in India.

Traditional ayurveda and unani interventions can be used to increase immunity to fight flu-like conditions, the ministry said after consulting experts from private and public institutions and research councils of traditional medicines.

The ministry said traditional medicine interventions may be used by healthy persons and patients with mild symptoms such as cold and cough.

But patients with severe symptoms, as well as persons at high risk of developing complications, should approach government screening centres for standard management with antiviral oseltamivir and other supportive therapy.

Among the prescriptions the ministry has listed are consumption of decoctions of tulsi, turmeric and pepper each morning, avoiding cold drinks, fermented food and ice creams, and drinking hot water instead of cold water.

The ministry has also cited a number of ayurvedic and unani preparations that traditional medicine experts believe increase the body’s immunity.

A PTI report tonight put the number of deaths at 50.

A senior doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences said the ministry should initiate research on the impact of traditional interventions on flu-like illnesses.

The ministry has also asked hospitals screening patients with flu symptoms to apply triage, a battlefield and emergency practice aimed at allocating resources to patients who need it the most.

Aug 22
Back to Google News Swine flu vaccines found safe in early trials
WASHINGTON — Early indications are a new swine flu vaccine is safe and is on track to be made available to the public by mid-October, US health officials said Friday.

"There are no red flags regarding safety," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noting that a series of clinical trials were being conducted on the vaccine with results due out between mid September and late October.

Adult volunteers participated in the first of five trials starting on August 7, and only reported arm swelling or redness where they received the injection.

Encouraged by the results, health officials went ahead this week with vaccine trials on children aged six months to 17 years, Fauci told reporters.

Additional experiments on about 120 pregnant women -- who are particularly at risk of infection from the influenza A(H1N1) virus and are high on the federal government's priority list for vaccines -- are to begin in September.

Officials expect that between 4,500 and 4,600 people will eventually take part in the vaccine studies.

Between 45 and 52 million doses of the vaccine are expected to be available by mid-October, said Jay Butler, who heads the H1N1 Vaccine Task Force of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC, which had made plans to distribute the vaccine once available, has issued its final recommendations for which groups of people should receive the shot.

The priority groups include "pregnant women, children, and young adults aged 6 months through 24 years, as well as persons aged 25 through 64, who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications," he said.

Health care workers, emergency medical service workers and people who take care of infants younger than six months -- too young to be administered a vaccine, should be vaccinated, Butler said.

The novel flu strain, which the CDC says has killed 522 people and caused 7,963 hospitalizations so far in the United States, has generally continued to spread, albeit at a slower speed.

Most of the cases occurred in people under the age of 49.

New infection cases have also decreased in South America and Australia during their seasonal flu season.

Browse Archive