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Apr 21
Overcooked meat ups bladder cancer risk
In a new study, researchers found that people who ate well-done meat were twice as likely to develop bladder cancer than those who preferred it rare. Based on over 1,700 people, the findings were presented at a US cancer research conference. The risk was highest for those who ate well-done red meat like steaks, pork chops and bacon, the University of Texas team found, but even fried chicken and fish upped the risk. Three major types of cancer-causing chemicals, called heterocyclic amines, raised the risk by more than two and a half. In the 12-year study, researchers looked at how people metabolized meat, and found that having certain genes made people almost five times as likely to develop bladder cancer if they ate a lot of red meat. "These results strongly support what we suspected - people who eat a lot of red meat, particularly well-done red meat, such as fried or barbecued, seem to have a higher likelihood of bladder cancer," lead researcher Xifeng Wu told the American Association for Cancer Research.

Apr 20
Some facts about fatty liver
This Monday, observed across the world as 'Liver Day,' experts called for spending a little time talking about the organ that helps the body detox on a daily basis. The day was also an occasion to learn about how to avoid the liver plague- the fatty liver.

The liver is a 'wonder' organ, says K. Ravindranath, chairman, Global Hospitals Group. "It has a self-renewing ability, a lot of resistance and falters only when more than 80 per cent of it is damaged." The liver, then, is a vital power house that plays a vital part in the functioning of the body.

"Basically the liver is a most metabolically active organ in the body. It is said that at any given moment, 36,000 functions are being carried out in the liver, which is the biggest organ in the body," adds R. Surendran, Head, Institute of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplant.

It has a tremendous capacity to regenerate - taking only between 15 and 20 days to regrow in a normal individual, even if 80 per cent has been removed.

As such, the liver is also most resilient, as if built to withstand a lot of assaults, he explains. The problems relating to the liver can be brought under three major categories - enzyme defects that are hereditary, acute liver failure and chronic liver failure. Viral infections, drug-induced failure and alcohol consumption (since they are metabolised in the liver) mostly lead to acute liver failure, necessitating a transplant.

Chronic liver failure can be caused by lifestyle-related disorders such as diabetes or hypertension, autoimmune disorders and hepatitis B/C and D. Current lifestyles, trendy and exciting as they may be, are, however, causing a great deal of damage to the liver, Dr. Ravindranath says. "Stress, alcohol, fast food, and polluted air and water are all leading to catastrophic effects on one of the most vital organs of the body." Fatty liver is one direct result.

S. M. Chandramohan, head, Department of Surgical Gastroenterology, Government General Hospital, says that fatty liver is the commonest finding when you ask for an ultra sound of the abdomen in anyone above 40 years. People who are obese, diabetic, hypertensive, or have had a history of jaundice are more prone to a fatty liver. While alcohol consumption can compromise the liver, it is also common to find non-alcoholic fatty livers, he says.

While an ultra sound is ordered for people complaining of abdominal discomfort, there are others, who show no symptoms at all, and discover they have a fatty liver from the annual master health check-up, Dr. Chandramohan adds.

Anand Khakhar, Senior Consultant Liver Transplant & Hepatobiliary Surgery and Program Director for the Liver Transplant Program at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, says that when he joined about two years ago, he was surprised by the number of fatty liver cases reporting after a master health check-up. Over the years, the numbers have constantly been increasing, he says. They have even noticed otherwise normal people (with no other chronic conditions and not overweight) reporting with fatty liver.

"Of late, what we see in most of our livers, especially in Asia, are fatty livers - a definition given to the organ when it accumulates fat. It could lead to unnatural levels in the enzymes, presenting with the same condition that alcoholics report with.

"The medical term for this condition is Non Alcoholic Steato Hepatitis and if you do not take care, it will lead to cirhossis of the liver, and ultimately failure," Dr. Surendan adds. In fact, in the rather vibrant cadaver transplant programme of the State, about 20 per cent of the cadaveric livers are non-usable since they are fatty, he states.

Food habits and lifestyle - excessive indulgence with fatty foods, lack of exercise, untimely meals and high stress levels - are the culprits.

"We test patients who come with fatty liver for other metabolic disorders including diabetes and start treating them for those conditions. A dietician and physiotherapist will then evaluate each patient and suggest changes in diet and lifestyles. They suggest measures to get to the normal Body Mass Index; urge them to have timely meals and sleep, eat healthy food and exercise well. The best part about the fatty liver is that it is reversible. In most of the patients who follow the diet and exercise chart, the fat deposits actually disappear in the re-evaluation done after three months," Dr. Khakhar explains.

Apr 19
Bird flu: Threat persists in five countries
The deadly H5N1 avian flu virus has been eradicated in almost all the 63 countries it infected at the peak of the world outbreak in 2006, but persists in five countries and poses a continuing threat to global animal and human health.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation's chief veterinary officer, Juan Lubroth said despite the considerable success achieved against H5N1 bird flu virus, it remained in Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China.

'The progressive control of H5N1 in such countries remains an international priority,' Lubroth said.

'Though public attention shifted to the H1N1 influenza pandemic for most of 2009, H5N1 continues to be a serious menace.'

He was speaking ahead of an international conference on animal and pandemic influenza to be held in Vietnam Monday.

'We should not forget that it has killed 292 humans, killed or forced the culling of more than 260 million birds, caused an estimated 20 billion dollars of economic damage across the globe and devastated livelihoods at the family-farm level,' he said in a statement.

'As long as it is present in even one country, there is still a public health risk to be taken seriously.'

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza remains established in places where tens of millions of domestic ducks are found and there is significant industrial broiler production.

The H5N1 virus was first shown to have passed from birds to humans in 1997, during an outbreak of avian influenza among poultry in Hong Kong.

More than 90 percent of birds who get H5N1 die, and mortality among humans is also high.

Apr 17
Artificial pancreas offers diabetes hope
An artificial pancreas that can help control the havoc-wreaking diabetes causing hormones has been developed and successfully tested.

The system was developed at Boston University (BU), and consists of a blood glucose monitor and insulin pump hooked up to a laptop that runs a programme to control the levels of the important hormones insulin and glucagon. Administering insulin to a type 1 diabetes patient always carries a risk of hypoglycaemia with it. But by running an algorithm that monitors blood sugar levels and is capable of administering both blood-sugar raising and lowering hormones - glucagon and insulin respectively - this system seems to remove that risk.

Edward Damiano, from the BU department of biomedical engineering, who co-led the research team and whose son developed type-1 diabetes aged 1, explains why both hormones are important. "Large doses of glucagon are used as a rescue drug for people with severely low blood sugar,"he says. "Our system is designed to counteract moderate drops in blood sugar with minute doses of glucagon spread out throughout the day, just as the body does in people without diabetes."

The artificial pancreas was first tested in pigs in 2007, and has now being used in 11 type 1 diabetes patients for 24 hours, all given high carbohydrate meals. In six of the eleven the system controlled blood sugar successfully, while five of the patients needed a shot of orange juice to bring their blood sugar levels back to normal.

This mismatch in the first trial was adjusted by tinkering with the algorithms used in the software that control the release of the hormones and the second run was a success in all patients.

Apr 17
Vaccine hope for children's lung virus
A virus that causes wheezing and pneumonia claims the lives of up to 200,000 children worldwide each year, a study has found.

University of Edinburgh scientists found that about 3.4 million children were hospitalised after contracting respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

RSV is the single largest cause of lung infection in children.

The scientists hope the research will help contribute to the development of a vaccine against the infection.

The study, which has been published in The Lancet, confirmed that RSV - which infects most children before the age of two - usually causes mild cold-like symptoms, but can lead to serious illness in babies who are born prematurely or who have congenital heart disease.

It is the first time that the numbers of children dying globally from RSV before the age of five have been quantified.

The international team analysed unpublished data from developing countries as well as all the published medical research on RSV infection.

They found that about 33.8 million children become infected with RSV each year and that 99% of RSV-related deaths occur in developing countries.

The team hopes that by identifying the numbers affected by the virus, it can contribute to the development of a vaccine against the infection.

Dr Harish Nair, of the University of Edinburgh's department of population health studies, said: "Our greatest hope of fighting this virus is to develop a vaccine, but before we can implement an immunisation programme, we need to understand exactly how big a problem RSV poses.

"This is the first time we have gathered information on such a global scale and is the best estimate we have for the number of children dying each year from this preventable illness."

Professor Warren Lenney, spokesman for the British Lung Foundation, the only charity helping people with all lung diseases, said: "Acute Viral Bronchiolitis (RSV) is a respiratory virus which is not well known, however it is the most common reason for tiny babies to be admitted to hospital within the first year of life - across England and Wales RSV causes 20,000 babies to be admitted to hospital each year during the winter months."

He welcomed the research as indicating the size of the problem on a global scale.

Apr 16
Bill to regulate medical clinics introduced
A Bill to regulate medical clinics to ensure uniform standards of facilities and services was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

According to the statement of objects and reasons appended to the Bill, it provides for constitution of a national council consisting of representatives from the Medical Council of India, the Dental Council, the Nursing Council etc., to determine the standards for the clinics, classify them, develop the minimum standards and their periodic review, compile, maintain and update a national register of clinical establishments.

Besides, State Council will be formed in the States. Under the Bill no person could keep a clinic unless it was registered in accordance with the relevant provisions. However this would not apply to clinics of the armed forces.

Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari introduced a Bill to amend the National Institute of Technology Act, 2007, to bring all the five Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) under the Act and also give representations to the IIT in the board of National Institute of Technology (NIT) and the IISER. It will also enable the appointment procedure of the Deputy Director of NIT in line with IIT.

Apr 14
All hospitals may have to serve poor
Hospitals registered under the Companies Act may soon have to treat poor patients free of cost. The state government is contemplating an amendment to the act which offers liberty to a private hospital to charge such patients for treatment.

"Some hospitals get registration under the Bombay Public Trusts Act and avail facilities, including cheap land, from the government. Later they change their registration under the Companies Act. Once registered under this act, it is not mandatory for them to offer poor patients treatment free or at concessional rates.

To stop this there is a need to amend the act," minister of state for law and judiciary, Bhaskar Jadhav, said in the legislative council on Tuesday.

Healthcare activists, however, are sceptical about the government's powers to make purely private hospitals follow its dictat. "Companies Act is a parliamentary act. The government cannot amend the act as it does not have the power to do so," said Dr Arun Bal, president, association for consumers action on safety and health. If a hospital has not taken any concessions then it cannot be asked to treat poor patients free of cost, he added. Advocate and healthcare activist Ravi Duggal concurred.

The issue of free treatment to the poor was in the limelight a few days ago when the state legislative council decided to summon the chief executive officer of Jaslok Hospital, Manesh Masand, before it for allegedly refusing to disclose papers related to such treatment. Jaslok Hospital is registered under the Trusts Act.

Jadhav was replying to a calling attention motion raised by the Shiv Sena's Deepak Sawant over the performance of charity hospitals. Sawant alleged that the big hospitals fabricate the records of treating poor patients with the help from officials at the office of the charity commissioner.

Jadhav announced an inquiry into Sawant's allegation. "We will check the records at the hospitals since 2008 and verify whether the records were fabricated. The guilty will face action," he said.

The minister said the hospitals which do not treat poor patients free of cost will invite harsher punishment. At present, there is a provision of three months imprisonment and a fine of Rs20,000. "We will make the punishment harsher," he added.

Apr 14
Trans fats risky for women with heart disease
Trans fats, found in many packaged foods, are deadly for women with heart disease, according to a new study.

Total intake of trans-fats is associated with coronary heart disease (CHD), and recent reports in primarily male populations suggest that blood levels of specific trans isomers may have different effects on risk, particularly risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD). To examine the association between dietary intake of trans-fats and SCD, researchers analysed data on 86,762 women from the Nurses' Health Study. Coronary heart disease risk factors, including diet and lifestyle factors, were updated via questionnaires every 2 to 4 years, beginning in 1980.

Over 25 years of follow-up, a total of 317 cases of SCD occurred in the study group. It was found that females with heart disease who eat the most trans-fats (at least 2.5 percent of their daily caloric intake) were three times as likely to suffer a sudden cardiac death as compared to females who consume less than 1 percent of their calories as trans-fats.

The above findings could be attributed to the fact that trans-fats raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower good (HDL) cholesterol, which raises the risk of heart disease.

Apr 13
Skin Cancer Cure Invented
Cancer, the most dreaded disease, still does not have a permanent cure but efforts are on and miraculous inventions have also been witnessed by the World. This gives us the hope that one day this disease will have a cure.

Adding to our hopes is a group of researchers who have claimed to have found the cure for skin cancer.

A vaccine, which attacks tumour cells, not effecting the healthy cells and carries agents that boost the body's response to skin cancer, is being tested in the UK.

The vaccine till date experimented on few patients have shown positive results. It has helped some patients fully recover from melanoma, even in its advanced stages.

Dr Howard Kaufman, of Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, said: "Our study shows we may have a cure for some advanced melanoma patients and a drug which has real benefits for others.This will save thousands of lives a year."

The launch of this vaccine will be a boon for many sufferers and one of the major discovery in medical science.

Apr 13
Maternal deaths 'fall worldwide'
Maternal deaths have fallen worldwide, from about half a million a year in 1980 to less than 350,000 in 2008, according to new data.

Countries such as China are making significant progress but there have been surprising increases in others, including the US, say researchers.

UK deaths are very low, but have not fallen in the past 20 years, the study, published in the Lancet, found.

Making childbirth safe for all women has long been an international goal.

But progress in some countries has been slow.

In the latest study, a team led by the University of Washington in Seattle, looked at data from thousands of observations of maternal deaths for 181 countries between 1980 and 2008.

They estimated there were 342,900 maternal deaths worldwide in 2008, down from 526,300 in 1980.

More than half of all maternal deaths were in only six countries in 2008 - India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But some countries - including China, Egypt, Ecuador and Bolivia - had made significant progress towards achieving international goals on maternal mortality.

Lead author Dr Christopher Murray said: "There are still too many mothers dying worldwide, but now we have a greater reason for optimism than has generally been perceived."

He said finding out why a country such as Egypt has had "such enormous success in driving down the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes could enable us to export that success to countries that have been lagging behind".

Mixed progress

The picture in high-income countries is less clear. One of the most surprising findings was an increase in the number of expectant mothers dying in the US, from 12 in every 100,000 live births in 1990, to 17 in 2008.

The authors say the trend can be explained in part by changes in the way maternal deaths are recorded in the US.

In the UK, maternal mortality rates fell between 1980 and 1990, and then levelled off - which reflects the trend in most western European countries.

The rate per 100,000 live births in the UK is eight, with Germany and Spain at seven, and France at 10.

Commenting on the statistics, Cathy Warwick, General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said it was clear that around the world needless deaths can be avoided.

But she expressed concern that the UK rate - although very low - is not falling.

She added: "It is possible that this is due to increasing levels of ill health amongst pregnant women and possibly to greater numbers of older women giving birth."

Lancet editor Dr Richard Horton said there was a dramatic difference between the latest estimates and those last reported by the UN.

He added: "Two decades of concerted campaigning by those dedicated to maternal health is working.

"Even greater investment in that work is likely to deliver even greater benefits. Women have long delivered for society, and, slowly, society is at last delivering for women. This is a moment to celebrate - and accelerate."

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