EV-D68 has evolved and is spreading worldwide, a polio-like illness

Public Release: 22-Jan-2018

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

University of New South Wales

A major review by UNSW Sydney medical researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

The study, by a team led by UNSW Professor Raina MacIntyre, Director of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Epidemic Response, is published in the journal Eurosurveillance.

“In 2014, children in the US began to be diagnosed with a mystery illness that caused a polio-like paralysis,” says Professor MacIntyre.

“More than 120 children developed the condition, known as acute flaccid myelitis, in the US alone but experts were baffled as to the cause.”

That same year there were also unusually large outbreaks of infection with Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68 – a virus known since the early 1960s to cause runny noses, coughs, muscle aches, fever and difficulty breathing.

About 2280 people in the US, Canada and Europe were infected with the virus, many of them children, and their respiratory symptoms were more severe than usual.

Clusters of the paralysing illness, also mostly in children, were reported in the same regions.

“This raised the possibility of a link between EV-D68 and acute flaccid myelitis. However, the virus had never been known to cause paralysis before,” says Professor MacIntyre.

For the new study, the UNSW team analysed the scientific literature on acute flaccid myelitis. They applied the Bradfield Hill criteria – a set of nine principles developed to determine causality that are named after the two researcher who used them to settle the debate about smoking causing lung cancer.

“The scientific method Bradfield Hill used to prove that smoking caused cancer is now an accepted tool to determine causality,” says Professor MacIntyre.

“We are first to use his approach to analyse the relationship between EV-D68 and acute flaccid myelitis. Our results show that it is very likely that EV-D68 is the cause of the mystery illness and the paralysis of children.

“This link needs to be acknowledged so that public health strategies can focus on prevention of infection.

“The incidence of EV-D68 infections is increasing worldwide, and a genetically distinct strain has recently evolved. There is no treatment or vaccine for the polio-like illness caused by EV-D68, which makes it important to act quickly to stop outbreaks.”

The virus is still rare in Australia. Hygiene methods such as washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds can help prevent the spread of the virus.


Media Contacts:

Professor Raina MacIntyre: r.macintyre@unsw.edu.au

UNSW Medicine Media: Deborah Smith: +612 9385 7307, +61 478 492 060, deborah.smith@unsw.edu.au

Healthcare costs for infections linked to bacteria in water supply systems are rising


Date:  September 12, 2016

Source: Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus



A new analysis of 100 million Medicare records from US adults aged 65 and older reveals rising healthcare costs for infections associated with some disease-causing bacteria, such as Legionella, which can live inside drinking water distribution systems and household plumbing.

A new analysis of 100 million Medicare records from U.S. adults aged 65 and older reveals rising healthcare costs for infections associated with opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens — disease-causing bacteria, such as Legionella — which can live inside drinking water distribution systems, including household and hospital water pipes.

A team led by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and Tufts University School of Medicine found that between 1991 and 2006, more than 617,000 hospitalizations related to three common plumbing pathogens resulted in around $9 billion in Medicare payments — an average of $600 million a year. The costs may now exceed $2 billion for 80,000 cases per year, write the study authors. Antibiotic resistance, which can be exacerbated by aging public water infrastructure, was present in between one and two percent of hospitalizations and increased the cost per case by between 10 to 40 percent.

“Premise plumbing pathogens can be found in drinking water, showers, hot tubs, medical instruments, kitchens, swimming pools — almost any premise where people use public water. The observed upward trend in associated infections is likely to continue, and aging water distribution systems might soon be an additional reservoir of costly multidrug resistance,” said lead study author Elena Naumova, Ph.D., professor at the Friedman School and Director of the Initiative for the Forecasting and Modeling of Infectious Disease at Tufts University. “This is a clear call for deepened dialogue between researchers, government agencies, citizens, and policy makers, so that we can improve data sharing and find sustainable solutions to reduce the public health risks posed by these bacteria.”

The study was published in the Journal of Public Health Policy on Sept. 12.

State and federal oversight has ensured generally safe and good quality public drinking water in the U.S. However, premise plumbing systems — the pipes and fixtures in homes and buildings that transport water after delivery by public water utilities — are largely unregulated, which can lead to inconsistent monitoring and reporting of potentially harmful deficiencies. This is highlighted by the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where a water source change, aging pipes, and lack of corrosion control not only exposed thousands of children to elevated lead levels in drinking water, but is also thought to have triggered an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease that led to 10 deaths.

Opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens, such as the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease, Legionella pneumophila, can thrive in low-nutrient conditions and grow as biofilms on the inner surfaces of pipes. Biofilms allow these pathogens to resist disinfectants and environmental stressors, and aid in the spread of antibiotic resistance and virulent genes. As water distribution systems age, their susceptibility to contamination increases. However, few large-scale studies have examined the economic and public health burden of these bacteria.

To investigate, Naumova and her colleagues analyzed 100 million medical claims from 1991 through 2006 from the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which provides exhaustive coverage of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older. The team focused on hospitalizations related to three opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens: Legionella pneumophila, Mycobacterium avium, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause a range of serious respiratory, systemic, or localized infections, particularly in vulnerable populations such as the elderly or immunocompromised individuals.

Based on clinical diagnostic codes, reported cases for all three infections totaled 617,291, with the majority due to pneumonia caused by Pseudomonas and related bacteria (560,504). Legionnaire’s disease and Mycobacteria infections accounted for 7,933 and 48,854 cases respectively. On average, each hospitalization represented $45,840 in Medicare charges and $14,920 in payments. Antibiotic resistance, recorded in a little under two percent of cases, increased the average costs to $60,870 in Medicare charges and $16,690 in payments per case.

Over the past decade, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a substantial increase in incidence of opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens, with Pseudomonas alone accounting for 51,000 hospitalizations per year with more than 6,000 multi-drug resistant infections in 2011. The annual costs for these pathogens may now exceed a total of $2 billion for more than 80,000 cases per year, as increased antibiotic resistance leads to greater hospital charges, longer lengths of stay, and increased risk of complications. Antibiotic resistance is likely underreported, and this number is a conservative estimate for the Medicare population based on the study findings and reported data on hospitalization costs per case, says Naumova.

“While public drinking water is safe, it is clearly more safe if you are healthy than if you have medical conditions that enhance your vulnerability to infections. The risk of becoming ill from drinking water is much less than the risk of becoming ill from food, but it is not zero,” said last author Jeffrey K. Griffiths, M.D., professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. Griffiths is also former chair of the Drinking Water Committee for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board. “These infections can cause a lot of illness and cost us a lot of money, and targeted disinfection of premise piping could save us from these consequences.”

The authors caution that their data cannot draw conclusions about the percentage of infections directly caused by contaminated water. The link between aging water distribution systems and drug resistance is highly plausible, but has yet to be firmly established, say the authors. However, this study highlights the need for improved surveillance systems and targeted investigations of water-related outbreaks in order to determine the direct link between water contamination and drug-resistant infection.

A 2010 report from the national Waterborne Disease and Outbreak Surveillance System, a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, urged serious attention to be paid to the growing proportion of outbreaks associated with premise plumbing deficiencies in public water systems. However, budgets for state and federal water regulators have decreased. In 2013, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators reported that “federal officials had slashed drinking-water grants, 17 states had cut drinking-water budgets by more than a fifth, and 27 had cut spending on full-time employees,” with “serious implications for states’ ability to protect public health.”

“The Flint Water Crisis revealed many unsolved social, environmental, and public health problems for US drinking water,” Naumova said. “Unfortunately, water testing for pathogens is not done routinely; furthermore, most water tests are not accessible, are too complicated, or are too costly. Well-controlled, experimental studies of the influence of microbial ecology, disinfectant type, pipe materials, and water age, on opportunistic pathogen occurrence and persistence are needed in order to establish their relationships to drug resistance.”

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Elena N. Naumova, Alexander Liss, Jyotsna S. Jagai, Irmgard Behlau, Jeffrey K. Griffiths. Hospitalizations due to selected infections caused by opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens (OPPP) and reported drug resistance in the United States older adult population in 1991–2006. Journal of Public Health Policy, 2016; DOI: 10.1057/s41271-016-0038-8

Cite This Page:

Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus. “Healthcare costs for infections linked to bacteria in water supply systems are rising.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160912084638.htm>.

Reconstructing the 6th century plague from a victim

Public Release: 30-Aug-2016


Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford University Press)

Before the infamous Black Death, the first great plague epidemic was the Justinian plague, which, over the course of two centuries, wiped out up to an estimated 50 million (15 percent) of the world’s population throughout the Byzantine Empire—-and may have helped speed the decline of the eastern Roman Empire.

No one knows why it disappeared.

Recent molecular clues from ancient plague victims have suggested that plague may have been caused by the same bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which was responsible for the Black Death. But the geographic reach, mortality and impact of the Justinian pandemic are not fully known.

Both information from ancient hosts and bacteria could shed light on the role of plague, which has afflicted mankind for more than 5,000 years.

Now, scientists based in Germany, including Michal Feldman, Johannes Krause, Michaela Harbeck and colleagues have confirmed this by recovering the bacterial culprit from sixth century skeletons found in Altenerding, an ancient southern German burial site near Munich. The Altenerding genome dates back to the beginning of the plague.

They have generated the first high-coverage genome of the bacterial agent responsible for the Justinian plague. In addition to revealing new insights in the molecular evolution of Yersinia pestis since the Byzantine times, the new sequence shows features that could not detected due to the limitations in the coverage of a draft genome previously reported by Wagner*, including 30 newly identified mutations and structural rearrangements unique to the Justinianic strain., as well as correcting 19 false positive mutations.

“The fact that the archeological skeletons which gave these exciting insights were excavated over 50 years ago underscores the importance of maintaining well curated anthropological collections,” said author Michaela Harbeck. “We were very fortunate to find another plague victim with very good DNA preservation in a graveyard just a few kilometers from where the individual analyzed in Wagner et al. was found. It provided us with the great opportunity to reconstruct the first high quality genome in addition to the previously published draft genome.”

Three are located in genes critical to plague virulence: nrdE, fadJ and pcp genes. Their data also suggested that the strain was more genetically diverse than previously thought. How and why the pathogen reached Germany remains a mystery.

This new findings allow the authors to develop guidelines that could help improve the quality and authenticity of genomic data recovered from candidate ancient pathogens. And with plague classified as a re-emerging infectious disease in certain regions, an important historic, high-quality reference resource has been generated to offer insights into key the evolutionary changes, adaptation and human impact of plague.

“Our research confirms that the Justinianic plague reached far beyond the historically documented affected region and provides new insights into the evolutionary history of Yersinia pestis, illustrating the potential of ancient genomic reconstructions to broaden our understanding of pathogen evolution and of historical events,” said research colleague Michal Feldman. “Our reanalysis of previous datasets stresses the importance of following strict criteria to avoid errors in the reconstruction of ancient pathogen genomes.”

For the first time in history, high blood pressure is more common in lower-income countries

Public Release: 8-Aug-2016

For the first time in history, high blood pressure is more common in lower-income countries

American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report

American Heart Association

DALLAS, August 8, 2016 — For the first time in history, people living in low- and middle-income countries have a higher prevalence of hypertension – or high blood pressure – than people living in high-income countries, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

A 2010 data analysis involving more than 968,000 participants from 90 countries found that more than 30 percent of adults worldwide live with high blood pressure, and 75 percent of those adults live in low- and middle-income countries.

Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke as well as the leading preventable cause of premature death and disability worldwide. Past reports have shown that the prevalence of hypertension is increasing in low- and middle-income countries while it is steady or decreasing in high-income countries, but recent estimates of this global disparity are unknown.

In this study, researchers used sex- and age-specific high blood pressure prevalence from 131 past reports to calculate the regional and global estimates of hypertensive adults.

Researchers found:

  • In 2010, 31.1 percent (1.39 billion) of the adult population worldwide had high blood pressure, 28.5 percent (349 million) of adults in high-income countries and 31.5 percent (1.04 billion) of adults in low- and middle-income countries.
  • High blood pressure prevalence decreased by 2.6 percent in high-income countries while increasing 7.7 percent in low- and middle-income countries between 2000 and 2010.
  • In high-income countries, significantly improvements were noted from 2000 to 2010: awareness increased from 58.2 percent to 67.0 percent, treatment rates improved from 44.5 percent to 55.6 percent and control increased from 17.9 percent to 28.4 percent.
  • In low- and middle-income countries, awareness slightly improved from 32.3 percent to 37.9 percent and treatment increased from 24.9 percent to 29.0 percent from 2000 to 2010, but control worsened from 8.4 percent to 7.7 percent.

There are many reasons for these global disparities.

“Aging populations and urbanization, which is often accompanied by unhealthy lifestyle factors, such as high sodium, fat and calorie diets and lack of physical activity, may play an important role in the epidemic of hypertension in low- and middle-income countries,” said Jiang He, M.D., Ph.D., senior study author and researcher at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“Healthcare systems in many low- and middle-income countries are overburdened and do not have the resources to effectively treat and control hypertension,” He said. “In addition, because hypertension is symptomless and many people in low- and middle-income countries do not have access to screenings or regular preventative medical care, it is often underdiagnosed.”

Researchers noted that most of the world’s population is represented in the study, but more than half of the countries worldwide didn’t have data on hypertension prevalence, so there may be some inaccuracies in their regional and global estimates of adults living with high blood pressure.

“Hypertension needs to be a public health priority in low- and middle-income countries to prevent future cardiovascular and kidney disease, and associated costs to society,” said Katherine T. Mills, Ph.D., lead author and researcher at Tulane University. “Collaboration is needed from national and international stakeholders to develop innovative and cost-effective programs to prevent and control this condition.”


Co-authors are Joshua D. Bundy, M.P.H.; Tanika N. Kelly, Ph.D.; Jennifer E. Reed, M.P.H.; Patricia M. Kearney, M.D., Ph.D.; Kristi Reynolds, Ph.D.; and Jing Chen, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences funded the study.

Additional Resources:

Blood pressure images are located in the right column of this release link http://newsroom.heart.org/news/for-the-first-time-in-history-high-blood-pressure-is-more-common-in-lower-income-countries?preview=e8ebdf0933ecdf01ca9b05798d7cf32e
After August 8, view the manuscript online here.
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Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

Zika Now Found in Common House Mosquitoes– Though currently unlikely Culex mosquitoes can transmit the virus.



     (CN) — Brazilian researchers have found the “presence of the Zika virus” in common house mosquitoes in Brazil, the nation where the epidemic initially began.
     The discovery, made in the northeastern city of Recife, is the latest episode in the city’s battle with the virus. Recife has nearly one-third of all known cases of microcephaly, a congenital disorder that leads to reduced head size and potential brain damage in infants.
     Concerns over the risk of Zika in Brazil have surrounded the 2016 Summer Olympics, forcing some athletes and potential visitors to reconsider attending or skip them all together.
     While the findings could be troublesome for Brazil, a nation nearly crippled by political turmoil and its most severe recession in the past 80 years, the researchers caution that additional studies will be needed to determine whether the Culex mosquitoes can transmit Zika.
     Health officials have said that Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes can transmit the virus, but it is still unclear whether other species of mosquitoes can as well.
     In a study organized by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, researchers examined 500 mosquitoes and separated them into pools of between 1 and 10 mosquitoes. They found the virus in three pools of mosquitoes, though that does not mean they are capable of transmitting the virus.
     “The obtained data will require additional studies in order to assess the potential participation of Culex in the spread of Zika and its role in the epidemic,” the foundation said.
     Recife, a city in the impoverished state of Pernambuco, has several large slums and minimal sanitation services, which makes the northeastern city a breeding ground for Zika.
     Whether or not the Culex mosquitoes are capable of transmitting the virus is especially important for the area since the Recife metropolitan area has about 20 times more of the common house mosquitoes than Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the primary vector for Zika.
     The World Health Organization called the new research a welcome addition to the existing — and growing — body of Zika research, but also cautioned that more studies are needed to determine whether Culex mosquitoes are another vector for the virus.
     Tom Skinner, senior press officer for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also highlighted the need for additional research to confirm its findings.
     “The study would need to be replicated to have a better understanding of possible implications. Body of scientific evidence to date clearly points to Aedes being the primary vector implicated in Zika outbreaks,” he said.
     A study published this past week in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found that Culex pipiens — a different type of Culex mosquito — was not capable of transmitting Zika, leading the authors to presume it is unlikely that Culex mosquitoes can transmit the virus.
     “Although we expected that Culex pipiens mosquitoes would not be competent Zika virus vectors, our experimental verification helps exclude uncertainties surrounding the potential vectors of this emerging pathogen,” the study says.


Zika Case in Utah Baffles Health Officials – Super Zika

“The deceased patient had traveled to an area with Zika and lab tests showed he had uniquely high amounts of virus — more than 100,000 times higher than seen in other samples of infected people — in his blood,” the CDC said


     (CN) — The caregiver of an elderly Zika patient in Utah has been diagnosed with the virus, raising questions among health officials about how the virus was transmitted.
     The Utah Department of Health said Monday that the unnamed patient died after passing the virus to the caregiver, who was a family member. It is unclear whether the virus contributed to the death, although health officials said the elderly patient had an underlying condition.
     Zika is normally spread through mosquito bites, though it can also be transmitted through sexual contact. How the Utah caregiver became infected remains a mystery.
     The virus has spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean after reports Zika infections and cases of microcephaly — a disorder that leads to an infant’s head being smaller than normal, as well as potential brain damage — increased dramatically in mid 2015.
     Zika’s seeming connection to a host of different disorders and potential methods for transmission have sparked countless studies within the international community and fear among women who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant.
     Though a vaccine is still months away and only a few reliable tests are available, progress has been made into determining how the virus is connected to microcephaly and other congenital disorders.
     Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating the case from Utah, though they are not releasing much information to protect the privacy of the patient and family.
     “The new case in Utah is a surprise, showing that we still have more to learn about Zika,” said Erin Staples, a CDC epidemiologist who’s helping in the investigation. “And from what we have seen with more than 1,300 travel-associated cases of Zika in the continental United States and Hawaii, nonsexual spread from one person to another does not appear to be common.”
     Satish Pillai, the CDC’s incidence manager for the case, backed up Staples’ statement.
     “We don’t have evidence that Zika can be passed from one person to another by sneezing, coughing, by hugging or kissing,” Pillai said during a press conference.
     The caregiver’s death was is first Zika-related death in the continental United States. An elderly man from Puerto Rico died in April after contracting the virus.
     “The new case is a family contact who helped care for the individual who died from unknown causes and who had been infected with Zika after traveling to an area with Zika,” the Salt Lake County Department of Health said in a statement.
     Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, said during a new conference that the patient had an unusually high level of the virus in his blood.
     “The deceased patient had traveled to an area with Zika and lab tests showed he had uniquely high amounts of virus — more than 100,000 times higher than seen in other samples of infected people — in his blood,” the CDC said.
     The first case of female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika was reported last week by federal health officials, after a woman in her 20s contracted Zika while visiting an area experiencing active local transmission of the virus. She transmitted to a male partner after engaging in unprotected sex.

Potential Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus

Emerg Infect Dis. 2015 Feb; 21(2): 359–361.

doi: 10.3201/eid2102.141363

PMCID: PMC4313657

Potential Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus

Didier Musso,corresponding author Claudine Roche, Emilie Robin, Tuxuan Nhan, Anita Teissier, and Van-Mai Cao-Lormeau

Author information ► Copyright and License information ►

This article has been corrected. See Emerg Infect Dis. 2015 March; 21(3): 552.

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.



In December 2013, during a Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak in French Polynesia, a patient in Tahiti sought treatment for hematospermia, and ZIKV was isolated from his semen. ZIKV transmission by sexual intercourse has been previously suspected. This observation supports the possibility that ZIKV could be transmitted sexually.

Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquitoborne arbovirus in the family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus. It was first isolated in 1947 from a rhesus monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda (1). Sporadic human cases were reported from the 1960s in Asia and Africa. The first reported large outbreak occurred in 2007 on Yap Island, Federated States of Micronesia (2). The largest known ZIKV outbreak reported started in October 2013 in French Polynesia, South Pacific (3), a territory of France comprising 67 inhabited islands; an estimated 28,000 persons (11% of the population) sought medical care for the illness (4). The most common symptoms of Zika fever are rash, fever, arthralgia, and conjunctivitis. Most of the patients had mild disease, but severe neurologic complications have been described in other patients in French Polynesia (5).


The Study

In early December 2013, during the ZIKV outbreak, a 44-year-old man in Tahiti had symptoms of ZIKV infection: asthenia, low grade fever (temperature from 37.5°C to 38°C) and arthralgia. Symptoms lasted 3 days. Eight weeks later, he described a second episode of symptoms compatible with ZIKV infection: temperature from 37.5°C to 38°C, headache on days 1–3, and wrist arthralgia on days 5–7. The patient did not seek treatment, thus biological samples were not collected during the first 2 periods of illness. The patient fully recovered from the second episode, but 2 weeks later he noted signs of hematospermia and sought treatment. Because the patient had experienced symptoms of ZIKV infection some weeks before, he was referred to our laboratory in the Institut Louis Malardé, Papeete, Tahiti for ZIKV infection diagnostic testing. The medical questionnaire revealed no signs of urinary tract infection, prostatitis, urethritis, or cystitis, and the patient stated that he did not had any recent physical contact with persons who had acute ZIKV infection. We collected blood and semen samples. Direct and macroscopic examinations of the semen confirmed hematospermia. We extracted RNA using the NucliSENS easyMAG system (bioMérieux, Marcy l’Etoile, France) from 200 μL of blood and from 500 μL of semen and urine; both were eluted by 50 μL of elution buffer. We used 5 μL of RNA extracted for amplification. We tested blood and semen RNA extracts using real-time reverse transcription PCR (rRT-PCR) as described using 2 primers/probe amplification sets specific for ZIKV (3). The rRT-PCR results were positive for ZIKV in semen and negative in blood, and confirmed by sequencing of the genomic position 858–1138 encompassing the prM/E protein coding regions of ZIKV. The generated sequence (GenBank accession no. KM014700) was identical to those previously reported at the beginning of the ZIKV outbreak (3). Three days later, we collected a urine sample, then a second set of blood and semen samples. Semen and urine from this second collection were not found to contain traces of blood by both direct and macroscopic examinations. rRT-PCR detected ZIKV RNA in the semen and urine, but not in the blood sample.

We quantified ZIKV RNA loads using an RNA synthetic transcript standard that covers the region targeted by the 2 primers/probe sets. RNA loads were: 2.9 × 107 copies/mL and 1.1 × 107 copies/mL in the first and second semen samples, respectively, and 3.8 × 103 copies/mL in the urine sample.

We cultured semen and urine as described for dengue virus cultured from urine (6). Briefly, 200 μL of each sample diluted in 200 μL of 1% fetal calf serum (FCS) minimum essential medium (MEM) were inoculated onto Vero cells and incubated for 1 h at 37°C; inoculum was then removed and replaced by 1 mL of culture medium. We also inoculated a negative control (200 μL of 1% FCS-MEM) and a positive control (5 μL of a ZIKV-positive serum diluted in 200 μL of 1% FCS-MEM). The cells were then incubated at 37°C in 5% CO2 for 6 days. The presence of ZIKV in the culture fluids was detected by rRT-PCR as described.

Replicative ZIKV particles were found in the 2 semen samples but none were detected in the urine sample. This finding does not exclude the possibility that ZIKV particles were present in urine. Positive samples were not titered.



The ZIKV natural transmission cycle involves mosquitoes, especially Aedes spp. (7), but perinatal transmission (8) and potential risk for transfusion-transmitted ZIKV infections has also been demonstrated (9). Moreover, ZIKV transmission by sexual intercourse has been suggested by Foy et al. (10), who described a patient who was infected with ZIKV in southeastern Senegal in 2008. After returning to his home in Colorado, United States, he experienced common symptoms of ZIKV infection and symptoms of prostatitis. Four days later, he observed signs of hematospermia, and on the same day, his wife had symptoms of ZIKV infection. Because the wife of the patient had not traveled out of the United States during the previous year and had sexual intercourse with him 1 day after he returned home, transmission by semen was suggested. ZIKV infection of the patient and his wife was confirmed by serologic testing, but the presence of ZIKV in the semen of the patient was not investigated.

Infectious organisms, especially sexually transmitted microorganisms including viruses (human papillomavirus or herpes simplex virus), are known to be etiologic agents of hematospermia (11). To our knowledge, before the report of Foy et al. (10) and this study, arbovirus infections in humans had not been reported to be associated with hematospermia, and no arboviruses had been isolated from human semen.

We detected a high ZIKV RNA load and replicative ZIKV in semen samples, but ZIKV remained undetectable by rRT-PCR in the blood sample collected at the same time. These results suggest that viral replication may have occurred in the genital tract, but we do not know when this replication started and how long it lasted. The fact that the patient had no common symptoms of ZIKV acute infection concomitantly to hematospermia suggests that the viremic phase occurred upstream, probably during the first or second episode of mild fever, headache, and arthralgia.

The detection of ZIKV in both urine and semen is consistent with the results obtained in a study of effects of Japanese encephalitis virus, another flavivirus, on boars. The virus was isolated from urine and semen of experimentally infected animals, and viremia developed in female boars that artificially inseminated with the infectious semen (12).

Flaviviruses have also been detected in urine of persons infected with West Nile virus (WNV). WNV RNA was detected in urine for a longer time and with higher RNA load than in plasma (13). WNV antigens were detected in renal tubular epithelial cells, vascular endothelial cells, and macrophages of kidneys from infected hamsters (14), suggesting that persistent shedding of WNV in urine was caused by viral replication in renal tissue. Dengue virus (DENV) RNA and DENV nonstructural protein 1 antigen were also detected in urine samples for a longer time than in blood, but infectious DENV has not been isolated in culture. Hirayama et al. concluded that the detection of DENV by rRT-PCR was useful to confirm DENV infections after the viremic phase (6). Also, yellow fever virus RNA was isolated from the urine of vaccinated persons (15), and Saint Louis encephalitis viral antigens, but not infective virus, have been detected in urine samples from infected patients (10).

Our findings support the hypothesis that ZIKV can be transmitted by sexual intercourse. Furthermore, the observation that ZIKV RNA was detectable in urine after viremia clearance in blood suggests that, as found for DENV and WNV infections, urine samples can yield evidence ofZIKV for late diagnosis, but more investigation is needed.



We obtained written informed consent from the patient for publication of this report, and publication of data related to ZIKV infections have been approved by the Ethics Committee of French Polynesia under reference 66/CEPF.



Dr. Musso is a medical doctor and director of the Diagnosis Medical Laboratory and the Unit of Emerging Infectious Diseases of the Institut Louis Malardé, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia. His research programs target endemic infectious diseases, especially arbovirus infections, leptospirosis, tuberculosis, and lymphatic filariasis.



Suggested citation for this article: Musso D, Roche C, Robin E, Nhan T, Teissier A, Cao-Lormeau VM. Potential sexual transmission of Zika virus. Emerg Infect Dis. 2015 Feb [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2102.141363



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3. Cao-Lormeau VM, Roche C, Teissier A, Robin E, Berry ALT, Mallet HP, et al. Zika virus, French Polynesia, South Pacific, 2013. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014;20:1085–6 . 10.3201/eid2011.141380 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

4. Musso D, Nilles EJ, Cao-Lormeau VM. Rapid spread of emerging Zika virus in the Pacific area. Clin Micobiol Infect. 2014; .10.1111/1469-0691.12707 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

5. Oehler E, Watrin L, Larre P, Leparc-Goffart I, Lastere S, Valour F, et al. Zika virus infection complicated by Guillain-Barre syndrome–case report, French Polynesia, December 2013. Euro Surveill. 2014;19:7–9 . [PubMed]

6. Hirayama T, Mizuno Y, Takeshita N, Kotaki A, Tajima S, Omatsu T, et al. Detection of dengue virus genome in urine by real-time reverse transcriptase PCR: a laboratory diagnostic method useful after disappearance of the genome in serum. J Clin Microbiol. 2012;50:2047–52 and. 10.1128/JCM.06557-11 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

7. Hayes EB. Zika virus outside Africa. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009;15:1347–50 . 10.3201/eid1509.090442 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

8. Besnard M, Lastère S, Teissier A, Cao-Lormeau VM, Musso D. Evidence of perinatal transmission of Zika virus, French Polynesia, December 2013 and February. Euro Surveill. 2014;19:20751[cited 2014 Dec 17].http://http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20751 [PubMed]

9. Musso D, Nhan T, Robin E, Roche C, Bierlaire D, Zizou K, et al. Potential for Zika virus transmission through blood transfusion demonstrated during an outbreak in French Polynesia, November 2013 to February 2014. Euro Surveill. 2014;19:20771 . [PubMed]

10. Foy BD, Kobylinski KC, Chilson Foy JL, Blitvich BJ, Travassos da Rosa A, Haddow AD, et al. Probable non-vector-borne transmission of Zika virus, Colorado, USA. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17:880–2 . 10.3201/eid1705.101939 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

11. Stefanovic KB, Gregg PC, Soung M. Evaluation and treatment of hematospermia. Am Fam Physician. 2009;80:1421–7 . [PubMed]

12. Habu A, Murakami Y, Ogasa A, Fujisaki Y. Disorder of spermatogenesis and viral discharge into semen in boars infected with Japanese encephalitis virus. Uirusu. 1977;27:21–6 . 10.2222/jsv.27.21 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

13. Barzon L, Pacenti M, Franchin E, Pagni S, Martello T, Cattai M, et al. Excretion of West Nile virus in urine during acute infection. J Infect Dis. 2013;208:1086–92 . 10.1093/infdis/jit290 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

14. Tonry JH, Xiao SY, Siirin M, Chen H, da Rosa AP, Tesh RB, et al. Persistent shedding of West Nile virus in urine of experimentally infected hamsters. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2005;72:320–4 . [PubMed]

15. Domingo C, Yactayo S, Agbenu E, Demanou M, Schulz AR, Daskalow K, et al. Detection of yellow fever 17D genome in urine. J Clin Microbiol. 2011;49:760–2 . 10.1128/JCM.01775-10 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

Articles from Emerging Infectious Diseases are provided here courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Researcher warns US could see substantial impact of Zika virus

Public Release: 1-Feb-2016


Virus believed to cause microcephaly in newborns; mild flu-like symptoms in adults, children

Boston University Medical Center

BOSTON – A researcher at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) warns that Zika virus could spread quickly to and potentially within the US. The mosquito-borne virus, which is believed to cause microcephaly in infants who are exposed in utero, causes rash and flu-like symptoms in adults and children who have been infected. Zika virus dates back to 1947; however, the first well-documented outbreak in humans was not reported until 2007. An outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013 was responsible for 19,000 suspected cases, and since October 2015, nearly 4,000 cases of Zika virus-related microcephaly have been reported in Brazil. Microcephaly is abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development and a range of neurological complications. The findings are published online in advance of print in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Zika virus has been rapidly emerging in the Western Hemisphere in the last few months, and as of Jan. 22, 2016, there were 20 countries and territories in the Americas with Zika virus in circulation. Currently, it can be found in Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico, and transmission has occurred in travelers to these areas returning to non-endemic countries including the US, Canada, Japan, Western Europe, and Israel.

“At this time, we believe that Zika virus is primarily transmitted via infected mosquitoes, and therefore people living in or traveling to impacted areas are strongly encouraged to protect themselves against mosquitoes by using an effective insect repellent (containing DEET or picaridin),” said senior author Davidson Hamer, MD, director of the Travel Clinic at BMC, and professor of global health and medicine at the Boston University School of Public Health and School of Medicine. “However, there is some evidence to suggest that Zika virus could be transmitted via blood transfusion and sexual activity, so researchers are trying to determine if these are meaningful pathways to transmission.”

There is also evidence of mother-to-child transmission, which appears to be responsible for the surge in cases of microcephaly being seen in Brazil.

Hamer and his co-author, Lin Chen, MD, of the Mt. Auburn Hospital Travel Clinic, say there is substantial risk of introduction of the Zika virus in the US given the presence of the mosquito species that carry the virus, Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus, in many states. While people in the US shouldn’t panic, he said they should be aware and vigilant.

“If you are pregnant, put off travel to the endemic areas,” Hamer said. “If you absolutely must go, be sure to protect yourself against mosquitoes. For those who are not pregnant, it’s still a good idea to delay travel so that you don’t risk getting infected and transferring the virus back home – there are many unknowns about its transmission, so there is still a risk.”

In 2007, the first case was detected in a human, leading to an outbreak on an island in Micronesia. An estimated 73 percent of the island residents age 3 or older became infected, however, about 80 percent of these cases did not present significant symptoms.

Zika virus is generally mild and typically resolves itself within a week. Symptoms can include rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, headache, joint swelling, dizziness and vomiting. However, neurological and autoimmune complications have been linked to the French Polynesia outbreak, particularly development of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological illness that may result in temporary paralysis. Microcephaly has been reported in thousands of cases in Brazil, and recently in a newborn in Hawaii.

There currently is no vaccine or cure for the Zika virus.


About Boston Medical Center

Boston Medical Center is a private, not-for-profit, 496-bed, academic medical center that is the primary teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New England. Committed to providing high-quality health care to all, the hospital offers a full spectrum of pediatric and adult care services including primary and family medicine and advanced specialty care with an emphasis on community-based care. Boston Medical Center offers specialized care for complex health problems and is a leading research institution, receiving more than $119 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2015. It is the 11th largest recipient of funding in the U.S. from the National Institutes of Health among independent hospitals. In 1997, BMC founded Boston Medical Center Health Plan, Inc., now one of the top ranked Medicaid MCOs in the country, as a non-profit managed care organization. It does business in Massachusetts as BMC HealthNet Plan and as Well Sense Health Plan in New Hampshire, serving more than 315,000 people, collectively. Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine are partners in the Boston HealthNet – 13 community health centers focused on providing exceptional health care to residents of Boston. For more information, please visit http://www.bmc.org.

WHO estimates up to 4 mln infected by Zika virus in the Americas


Xinhua, January 29, 2016


Following World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision on Thursday to convene an emergency committee on the Zika virus situation, unit chief for International Health Regulations epidemic alert and response Sylvain Aldighieri said: “We expect huge numbers of infections, some detected and others undetected.”

Bruce Aylward (L), Assistant Director-General of World Health Organisation (WHO), and Sylvain Aldighieri, Unit chief for International Health Regulations epidemic alert and response of WHO, hold a joint press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 28, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

Bruce Aylward (L), Assistant Director-General of World Health Organisation (WHO), and Sylvain Aldighieri, Unit chief for International Health Regulations epidemic alert and response of WHO, hold a joint press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 28, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

Based on dengue epidemiology in the Americas and the over 2 million cases which are reported in the region every year, Aldighieri estimated that there could be “between 3 and 4 million cases of Zika infections in the Americas.”

First isolated in 1947 from a monkey in Uganda, the Zika virus was limited for decades to a narrow equatorial belt stretching across Africa and Asia, rarely affecting humans.

In 2007, the virus breached its geographical range as the first documented outbreak was recorded in the Pacific Islands.

The situation since has drastically changed. In 2015, the mosquito-borne virus was detected in the Americas with Brazil reporting its first case in May last year.

Zika infections have now been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region.

“We must use dengue dynamics as our reference point. Where you had a dengue outbreak in previous years and the mosquito aedes aegypti is still present, you have a risk of zika transmission,” Aldighieri highlighted.

According to data, only around one in four infected individuals develop symptoms which include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

“Most of the cases don’t present many clinical signs. 75 percent of patients infected by the virus will not develop any clear symptoms, or not enough to go to the clinic and see a doctor,” Aldighieri said.

Experts strongly suspect two main factors have driven the virus’ progress in the Americas according to WHO, which also explained that though a causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth defects including babies being born with abnormally small heads and other neurological syndromes has not been established.

“First, the population is totally naive in terms of immunology against this virus. The second point is that the vector is everywhere in the Americas, from southern United States to northern Argentina,” Aldighieri said.

WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward warned that though the Zika virus is currently circulating at a very high intensity in the region, gaps remain regarding the situation on the ground.

“With respect to China and Asia, at this moment we don’t have any official notification of Zika virus in that area,” he said, adding he did not know what would be the required timeframe, or indeed the feasibility, of developing a vaccine.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.


JAMA Viewpoint: Emerging Zika pandemic requires more WHO action now

“the emergence of a possible link to Guillain-Barré syndrome and neurologic birth defects (microcephaly), “

Public Release: 27-Jan-2016

O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

Credit: Georgetown University

WASHINGTON – The World Health Organization’s Director-General should convene “urgently” a meeting of International Health Regulations’ Emergency Committee to advise on the emerging Zika pandemic and galvanize global action, say two Georgetown University professors.

In their JAMA Viewpoint published online Jan. 27, Daniel Lucey, MD, MPH, and Lawrence O. Gostin, JD, of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown, explain that the WHO’s failure to act decisively early on in the Ebola crises likely cost thousands of lives, and they warn of potentially serious ramifications if more action isn’t taken immediately with Zika.

Until recently, the Zika virus was regarded as a mild disease, but the emergence of a possible link to Guillain-Barré syndrome and neurologic birth defects (microcephaly), seen in some affected countries, has elevated concern. Recent modeling of the disease’s spread “anticipates significant international spread by travelers from Brazil to the rest of the Americas, Europe, and Asia,” Lucey and Gostin write.

“The critical lesson learned from the WHO’s handling of the Ebola crises was the need for early and decisive action,” says Gostin. “Yet WHO, and even advanced countries like the United States, were caught off guard. It would be unconscionable if a lack of preparedness resulted in hundreds of unnecessary cases of Zika and potential congenital abnormalities in newborns.”

Lucey and Gostin write, “An Emergency Committee should be convened urgently to advise the Director-General about the conditions necessary to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).The very process of convening the committee would catalyze international attention, funding, and research. While Brazil, [the Pan American Health Organization], and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] have acted rapidly, WHO headquarters has thus far not been sufficiently proactive given potentially serious ramifications.”

Convening the committee “does not mean that the Director-General should declare a PHEIC,” and they point to the example of MERS where the WHO Emergency Committee met 10 times yet advised against declaring a PHEIC, while still offering guidance to Member states.

Additional recommendations outlined by Lucey and Gostin include mosquito control (removing water sources where breeding occurs, use of insecticide, etc.), health information campaigns, country-issued travel advisories, accelerated research and development of vaccines and declarations of public health.

“The international community cannot afford to wait for WHO to act,” they conclude.

Lucey, is an infectious disease specialist and a Senior Scholar at the O’Neill Institute, and adjunct professor of medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Gostin is faculty director of the O’Neill Institute. He served on the National Academy of Medicine’s Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future whose report earlier this month warned of health system deficiencies specifically in managing a pandemic disease crisis.


Click here for a list of Georgetown subject matter experts who can provide comment and context on Zika in the areas of infectious disease (clinical and molecular biology), biology, global health, maternal health and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University is the premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its mission is to contribute to a more powerful and deeper understanding of the multiple ways in which law can be used to improve the public’s health, using objective evidence as a measure. The O’Neill Institute seeks to advance scholarship, science, research, and teaching that will encourage key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil society to employ the law as a positive tool for enabling more people in the United States and throughout the world to lead healthier lives.

Virus in cattle linked to human breast cancer

Public Release: 15-Sep-2015

University of California – Berkeley

BERKELEY — A new study by University of California, Berkeley, researchers establishes for the first time a link between infection with the bovine leukemia virus and human breast cancer.

In the study, published this month in the journal PLOS ONE and available online, researchers analyzed breast tissue from 239 women, comparing samples from women who had breast cancer with women who had no history of the disease for the presence of bovine leukemia virus (BLV). They found that 59 percent of breast cancer samples had evidence of exposure to BLV, as determined by the presence of viral DNA. By contrast, 29 percent of the tissue samples from women who never had breast cancer showed exposure to BLV.

“The association between BLV infection and breast cancer was surprising to many previous reviewers of the study, but it’s important to note that our results do not prove that the virus causes cancer,” said study lead author Gertrude Buehring, a professor of virology in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “However, this is the most important first step. We still need to confirm that the infection with the virus happened before, not after, breast cancer developed, and if so, how.”

Bovine leukemia virus infects dairy and beef cattle’s blood cells and mammary tissue. The retrovirus is easily transmitted among cattle primarily through infected blood and milk, but it only causes disease in fewer than 5 percent of infected animals.

A 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey of bulk milk tanks found that 100 percent of dairy operations with large herds of 500 or more cows tested positive for BLV antibodies. This may not be surprising since milk from one infected cow is mixed in with others. Even dairy operations with small herds of fewer than 100 cows tested positive for BLV 83 percent of the time.

What had been unclear until recently is whether the virus could be found in humans, something that was confirmed in a study led by Buehring and published last year in Emerging Infectious Diseases. That paper overturned a long-held belief that the virus could not be transmitted to humans.

“Studies done in the 1970s failed to detect evidence of human infection with BLV,” said Buehring. “The tests we have now are more sensitive, but it was still hard to overturn the established dogma that BLV was not transmissible to humans. As a result, there has been little incentive for the cattle industry to set up procedures to contain the spread of the virus.”

The new paper takes the earlier findings a step further by showing a higher likelihood of the presence of BLV in breast cancer tissue. When the data was analyzed statistically, the odds of having breast cancer if BLV were present was 3.1 times greater than if BLV was absent.

“This odds ratio is higher than any of the frequently publicized risk factors for breast cancer, such as obesity, alcohol consumption and use of post-menopausal hormones,” said Buehring.

There is precedence for viral origins of cancer. Hepatitis B virus is known to cause liver cancer, and the human papillomavirus can lead to cervical and anal cancers. Notably, vaccines have been developed for both those viruses and are routinely used to prevent the cancers associated with them.

“If BLV were proven to be a cause of breast cancer, it could change the way we currently look at breast cancer control,” said Buehring. “It could shift the emphasis to prevention of breast cancer, rather than trying to cure or control it after it has already occurred.”

Buehring emphasized that this study does not identify how the virus infected the breast tissue samples in their study. The virus could have come through the consumption of unpasteurized milk or undercooked meat, or it could have been transmitted by other humans.


The University of California Breast Cancer Research Program and the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program helped support this research.

Chikungunya virus may be coming to a city near you — learn the facts

Public Release: 26-Mar-2015

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

The mosquito-borne chikungunya virus has been the subject of increasing attention as it spreads throughout South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. This painful and potentially debilitating disease is predicted to soon spread to the U.S.

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Scott Weaver, globally recognized for his expertise in mosquito-borne diseases, has been studying chikungunya for more than 15 years. Weaver and fellow infectious disease expert Marc Lecuit of the Institut Pasteur have summarized currently available information on this disease in the March 26 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Since chikungunya was first identified in1952 in present-day Tanzania, the virus has been confirmed in other African countries, Asia, The South Pacific and Europe. In Dec. 2013, the first locally acquired case of chikungunya in the Americas was reported in the Caribbean.

Continue reading “Chikungunya virus may be coming to a city near you — learn the facts”

Antibiotic effectiveness imperiled as Antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could rise by 67 percent between 2010 and 2030

Public Release: 26-Mar-2015

Antibiotic effectiveness imperiled as use in livestock expected to increase

Princeton University


Princeton University-led research found that antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could rise by 67 percent between 2010 and 2030, and possibly endanger the effectiveness of antimicrobials in humans. Pigs outpace chickens and cattle in estimates of antimicrobial consumption in countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is a consortium of 34 nations that includes the United States and most of the European Union countries. The graph measures antibiotic consumption in milligrams (bottom bar) in cattle, chickens and pork per population correction unit, or PCU, which corresponds to 1 kilogram of the respective animal. The average amount of antibiotics increases from left to right. The researchers found that pigs could consume an average 172 mg of antibiotics per kilogram of animal compared to 148 mg for chickens and 45 mg for cattle

Credit: Image courtesy of Thomas Van Boeckel, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Continue reading “Antibiotic effectiveness imperiled as Antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could rise by 67 percent between 2010 and 2030”

Common bacteria on verge of becoming antibiotic-resistant superbugs

Public Release: 25-Mar-2015

Washington University School of Medicine


Bacteria that cause many hospital-associated infections are ready to quickly share genes that allow them to resist powerful antibiotics. The illustration, based on electron micrographs and created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows one of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Credit: CDC/James Archer

Antibiotic resistance is poised to spread globally among bacteria frequently implicated in respiratory and urinary infections in hospital settings, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study shows that two genes that confer resistance against a particularly strong class of antibiotics can be shared easily among a family of bacteria responsible for a significant portion of hospital-associated infections.

Drug-resistant germs in the same family of bacteria recently infected several patients at two Los Angeles hospitals. The infections have been linked to medical scopes believed to have been contaminated with bacteria that can resist carbapenems, potent antibiotics that are supposed to be used only in gravely ill patients or those infected by resistant bacteria.

Continue reading “Common bacteria on verge of becoming antibiotic-resistant superbugs”

Swine flu in India has mutated

Public Release: 11-Mar-2015

Swine flu outbreak in India raises concern

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

CAMBRIDGE, MA — Since December, an outbreak of swine flu in India has killed more than 1,200 people, and a new MIT study suggests that the strain has acquired mutations that make it more dangerous than previously circulating strains of H1N1 influenza.

The findings, which appear in the March 11 issue of Cell Host & Microbe, contradict previous reports from Indian health officials that the strain has not changed from the version of H1N1 that emerged in 2009 and has been circulating around the world ever since.

With very little scientific data available about the new strain, the MIT researchers stress the need for better surveillance to track the outbreak and to help scientists to determine how to respond to this influenza variant.

Continue reading “Swine flu in India has mutated”

Ebola, Marburg viruses edit genetic material during infection

WASHINGTON, DC – November 4, 2014 – Filoviruses like Ebola “edit” genetic material as they invade their hosts, according to a study published this week in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The work, by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the Galveston National Laboratory, and the J. Craig Venter Institute, could lead to a better understanding of these viruses, paving the way for new treatments down the road.

Using a laboratory technique called deep sequencing, investigators set out to investigate filovirus replication and transcription, processes involved in the virus life cycle. They studied the same Ebola virus species currently responsible for an outbreak in West Africa, and also analyzed a related filovirus, Marburg virus, that caused a large outbreak in Angola in 2005 and recently emerged in Uganda. The scientists infected both a monkey and human cell line with both viruses, and analyzed the genetic material produced by each virus, called RNA.

Their results highlight regions in Ebola and Marburg virus RNAs where the polymerase of the virus (a protein that synthesizes the viral RNA) stutters at specific locations, adding extra nucleotides (molecules that form the building blocks of genetic material like DNA and RNA), thereby “editing” the new RNAs. The study found new features at a described RNA editing site in the Ebola glycoprotein RNA, which makes the protein that coats the surface of the virus. Their work also identified less frequent but similar types of editing events in other Ebola and Marburg virus genes – the first time this has been demonstrated. Because of these messenger RNA modifications, Ebola and Marburg are potentially making proteins “that we previously didn’t realize,” said Christopher F. Basler, PhD, senior study author and professor of microbiology at Mount Sinai. Continue reading “Ebola, Marburg viruses edit genetic material during infection”

A mysterious polio-like syndrome has affected as many as 25 California children, leaving them with paralyzed limbs and little hope of recovery.

– “We don’t have a final case count, but it’s probably in the neighborhood of 25 cases, all in California,” said Van Haren. The median age of those stricken is 12.

– “The younger doctors have just never seen polio,” she said. “Maybe collaborating between the younger generation and the older generation who actually went through polio will help us catch more cases.”

English: Logo of the Centers for Disease Contr...


“What’s we’re seeing now is bad. The best-case scenario is complete loss of one limb, the worst is all four limbs, with respiratory insufficiency, as well. It’s like the old polio,” said Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.

The first known case appeared in 2012.  Sofia Jarvis in Berkeley began to experience  wheezing and difficulty breathing. The  2-year-old spent days in the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital Oakland. Doctors thought she had asthma. Continue reading “A mysterious polio-like syndrome has affected as many as 25 California children, leaving them with paralyzed limbs and little hope of recovery.”

Mysterious polio-like illness found in five California children ( All Vacinated )

February 23, 2014
Countries that reported polio in 2005.
Countries that reported polio in 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
American Academy of Neurology (AAN)
Researchers have identified a polio-like syndrome in a cluster of children from California over a one-year period, according to a case report released. Polio is a contagious disease that sometimes caused paralysis. The United States experienced a polio epidemic in the 1950s, until a vaccine was introduced. The five children experienced paralysis of one or more arms or legs that came on suddenly and reached the height of its severity within two days of onset. Three of the children had a respiratory illness before the symptoms began. All of the children had been previously vaccinated against poliovirus. The children were treated but their symptoms did not improve and they still had poor limb function after six months.

Five children in California children were treated for a polio-like illness, but their symptoms did not improve and they still had poor limb function after six months. Two children tested positive for enterovirus-68, a rare virus previously associated with polio-like symptoms. No cause was identified in the remaining three children. Continue reading “Mysterious polio-like illness found in five California children ( All Vacinated )”

Bubonic plague ‘worse than Black Death’ kills 39 in Madagascar ( pneumonic plague that can kill within three days )

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 10:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 10:29pm

Agence France-Presse in Antananarivo


Bubonic plague bacteria. Photo: AFP

An outbreak of plague even more vicious than the bubonic strain dubbed the black death has killed 39 people in Madagascar, the government said on Thursday.

A government doctor said 90 per cent of the cases were pneumonic plague, a strain much more vicious than the common bubonic plague that can kill within three days, leaving little time for antibiotics to work. Continue reading “Bubonic plague ‘worse than Black Death’ kills 39 in Madagascar ( pneumonic plague that can kill within three days )”

Vivax malaria may be evolving around natural defense ( 2.5 billion people worldwide are at risk )

Contact: Kevin Mayhood kevin.mayhood@case.edu 216-368-4442 Case Western Reserve University

3 gene mutations appear to be invasion mechanisms

             IMAGE:   Plasmodium vivax has traditionally infected red blood cells of hosts in the Duffy positive blood group but Duffy negative people have been resistant.

Click here for more information.     

CLEVELAND—Researchers at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have discovered recent genetic mutations in a parasite that causes over 100 million cases of malaria annually—changes that may render tens of millions of Africans who had been considered resistant, susceptible to infection.

Peter A. Zimmerman, professor of international health, biology and genetics at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, and David Serre, a scientific staff member of the Genomic Medicine Institute at Lerner and assistant professor of genomics at Case Western Reserve, report their findings at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting today (11/15).

They and fellow researchers describe the changes in the Plasmodium vivax genome in papers scheduled to be published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Disease on Nov. 21 and Dec. 5.

To learn the functions of the mutations, and whether the parasite is evolving around a natural defense, Zimmerman and Serre have received a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health. They will begin their field study in early 2014.

“We’ve found a duplication of a gene known to enable the parasite to infect red blood cells and two possible additional components to a more complex red cell invasion mechanism,” Zimmerman said.

Researchers have long thought that P. vivax infects a person one way: a protein on the parasite, called the Duffy binding protein, latches onto a Duffy receptor on the surface of the person’s red blood cell and works itself through the membrane. People who lack the receptor are called Duffy negative and are resistant to infection.

But, during the last decade, reports of cases of Duffy negative patients with P. vivax infections have been on the rise in several parts of the world.

P. vivax has been called benign malaria because it is less lethal than malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum. But unlike its cousin, P. vivax can hide from treatment in a host’s liver and repeatedly emerge to cause relapses of debilitating headaches, nausea and fever. This chronic malaria often triggers a cycle of poverty for sufferers left unable to work for long periods. By weakening the immune system, the disease contributes to death.

The Malaria Atlas Project estimates 2.5 billion people worldwide are at risk for P. vivax malaria.

P. vivax does not grow well in the laboratory, so to try to understand how the parasite lives and operates, the researchers gathered samples from malaria patients and focused on its genome.

They found a duplication of the Duffy binding protein in half of 189 P. vivax infection samples taken in Madagascar.  Other researchers’ prior efforts to sequence the P. vivax genome missed the duplication but all indications are it’s a recent change, Serre said.

“The way we date duplications is to compare differences between the two parts: the more different they are, the older they are,” he explained. “They accumulate mutations. The two parts of this duplication have, among 8,000 base pairs, only one difference.”

Often a second copy of a gene enables an organism to outmaneuver a defense, Serre continued. “Instead of making a supergene, a duplication is simpler for nature.”

The researchers suspect the mutation is spreading from Madagascar through travelers. They found the duplication in less than 10 percent of samples from Cambodia and Sudan.

The new components found on the P. vivax genome are two proteins that closely resemble binding proteins used by related malaria parasites to enter immature and mature red blood cells. Both were present in samples from Cambodia, Brazil, Mauritania and North Korea.

The new proteins were absent in a 2008 sequencing of P. vivax, which is used as a reference genome, suggesting the developments are recent.

“Binding proteins and receptors are locks and keys,” Zimmerman said. “If the parasite has one key and there’s one lock, you may be able to block that. But if it has more keys and there are more locks, there are multiple ways in.”

The researchers say the duplication may be a cause of the growing infections among Duffy negative people, but it’s too early to tell.

Zimmerman, Serre and colleagues aim to find the answer with the newly-funded research project. They’ll begin by studying blood samples taken from 1,500 patients at each of two locations in Madagascar.

They and colleagues have great concern that a loss of resistance to P. vivax infection will now enable the parasite to travel the 250 miles across the Mozambique Channel to Africa. There, falciparum malaria is wrecking havoc on a population that has for the most part lived P. vivax-free. In some regions of the continent, 100 percent of the population is Duffy negative.

The researchers will conduct similar studies on P. vivax carrying the new proteins, in samples taken from Asia, Africa and South America.

In addition to studying patients, they plan to study the mutated parasites in the lab. Parasites that live a day or two could have enough time to invade new blood cells, but not many. Brian Grimberg, assistant professor of international health at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, is developing a scanning process that will enable the team to look through millions of red blood cells in a few minutes and spot newly infected cells. They will test the parasites in Duffy negative and Duffy positive red cells.

Zimmerman and Serre believe the work could help lead to a vaccine—that’s the overall goal. The mechanisms P. vivax uses to attach and enter a cell could be targets.


Study is the first to show higher dietary acid load increases risk of diabetes ( Up to 56% Increased Risk )

Contact: Dr Guy Fagherazzi Guy.FAGHERAZZI@gustaveroussy.fr 33-142-116-140 Diabetologia

A study of more than 60 000 women has shown that higher overall acidity of the diet, regardless of the individual foods making up that diet, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. The study, the first large prospective study to demonstrate these findings, is published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), and is by Dr Guy Fagherazzi and Dr Françoise Clavel-Chapelon, Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, INSERM, Paris, France, and colleagues.

A western diet rich in animal products and other acidogenic foods can induce an acid load that is not compensated for by fruit and vegetables; this can cause chronic metabolic acidosis and lead to metabolic complications. Most importantly from a blood-sugar control perspective, increasing acidosis can reduce the ability of insulin to bind at appropriate receptors in the body, and reduce insulin sensitivity. With this in mind, the authors decided to analyse whether increased acidosis caused by dietary acid loads increased the risk of type 2 diabetes.

A total of 66,485 women from the E3N study (the French Centre of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, a well-known ongoing epidemiological study) were followed for new diabetes cases over 14 years. Their dietary acid load was calculated from their potential renal acid load (PRAL) and their net endogenous acid production (NEAP) scores, both standard techniques for assessing dietary acid consumption from nutrient intake.

During follow-up, 1,372 new cases of incident type 2 diabetes occurred. In the overall population, those in the top 25% (quartile) for PRAL had a 56% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with the bottom quartile. Women of normal weight (BMI of 25 and under) had the highest increased risk (96% for top quartile versus bottom) while overweight women (BMI 25 and over) had only a 28% increased risk (top quartile versus bottom). NEAP scores showed a similar increased risk for higher acid load.

The authors say: “A diet rich in animal protein may favour net acid intake, while most fruits and vegetables form alkaline precursors that neutralise the acidity. Contrary to what is generally believed, most fruits such as peaches, apples, pears, bananas and even lemons and oranges actually reduce dietary acid load once the body has processed them. In our study, the fact that the association between both PRAL and NEAP scores and the risk of incident type 2 diabetes persisted after adjustment for dietary patterns, meat consumption and intake of fruit, vegetables, coffee and sweetened beverages suggests that dietary acids may play a specific role in promoting the development of type 2 diabetes, irrespective of the foods or drinks that provide the acidic or alkaline components.”

They conclude: “We have demonstrated for the first time in a large prospective study that dietary acid load was positively associated with type 2 diabetes risk, independently of other known risk factors for diabetes. Our results need to be validated in other populations, and may lead to promotion of diets with a low acid load for the prevention of diabetes. Further research is required on the underlying mechanisms.”

Wider use of statins ‘disturbing’

Wider use of statins will have minimal benefit and could needlessly expose   thousands to severe side effects, doctors warn following change in US   prescription guidelines

Wider use of statins will have minimal benefit and could needlessly expose thousands to severe side effects, doctors warn following change in US prescription guidelines

New US guidelines on statins, issued on Tuesday by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, recommend that doctors should consider prescribing the drugs to all people with at least a 7.5 per cent risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke within the next decade Photo: ALAMY

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Nick Collins

By , Science Correspondent

2:55PM GMT 14 Nov 2013

Prescribing statins to millions more healthy people would make only a minimal   difference to their average lifespan but risk exposing thousands to harmful   side effects, a leading doctor has claimed.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiology specialist registrar at Croydon University   Hospital, said he would be “disturbed” if Britain followed America   in changing prescription guidelines to widen use of statins.

There is “no doubt” that the cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce the   likelihood of heart attacks and strokes in people with heart disease, he   said, but the potential benefits of medicating millions more who are at low   risk could be dramatically outweighed by the associated harms.

Side effects experienced by up to one in five patients include severe muscle   aches, memory disturbance, sexual dysfunction, cataracts and diabetes.

New   US guidelines on statins, issued on Tuesday by the American College of   Cardiology and the American Heart Association, recommend that doctors should   consider prescribing the drugs to all people with at least a 7.5 per cent   risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke within the next decade.

US experts who drafted the new guidance said doctors had been “undertreating”   patients and that the new advice would mean “more people who would   benefit from statins are going to be on them”.

But the guidelines have also raised concerns among doctors in America, and in   Britain where current advice that statins should be prescribed to those with   a 20 per cent risk over 10 years is under review.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence has confirmed that the   same recent clinical evidence which prompted the change in US policy will   form part of its own decision, and experts believe the threshold could be   lowered.

Dr Malhotra said: “I think it is very possible that this will also happen   in Britain.

“One thing we have learned in the past decade is the considerable   influence of a very financially powerful pharmaceutical industry over   prescribing and modern medicine, and the trends suggest that this influence   will have the same kind of effect over in the UK [as in America].”

Statins, which cost the NHS less than 10p per day, have become the most widely   prescribed drugs in Britain and are currently used by an estimated six   million people.

Some experts have claimed that all over-50s should take the drugs routinely to   lower their levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and protect against   heart attacks and strokes.

Dr David Wald, a cardiologist at Queen Mary, University of London, said on Wednesday it would be “sensible” to lower the threshold on eligibility, which would be “heading towards the point where statins may eventually be offered to everyone once they reach a certain age of around 55.”

But a recent   analysis published in the British Medical Journal found that even   patients with a 20 per cent risk of a heart attack or stroke who were over   the age of 50 may not benefit from the drugs.

“This expansion of use of statins is not good for public health,”   Dr Malhotra said. “There is no doubt that for people with established   heart disease the benefits outweigh the risks, but for people who do not   have established heart disease this isn’t the case … I would be very   disturbed if the UK were to follow suit.”

Writing in the New York Times Dr John D Abramson, who co-wrote the BMJ review,   and Dr Rita F Redberg said wider use of statins “will   benefit the pharmaceutical industry more than anyone else”.

“For people who have less than a 20 per cent risk of getting heart   disease in the next 10 years, statins not only fail to reduce the risk of   death, but also fail even to reduce the risk of serious illness,” they   said.

“Instead of converting millions of people into statin customers, we   should be focusing on the real factors that undeniably reduce the risk of   heart disease: healthy diets, exercise and avoiding smoking.”



Obesity expands amid federal anti-obesity campaign


Posted By Neil Munro On 4:40 PM 11/01/2013

The national obesity rate has expanded since 2012, even as federal regulators and first lady Michelle Obama exhort the nation to slim down, eat less and exercise.

The adult obesity rate climbed from 26.1 percent in January 2011, up to 27.2 percent in late 2012, according to Gallup’s survey, released on Friday – a 4.2 percent rise in 24 months.

The jump is a surprise, partly because the obesity rate had drifted down from 26.5 percent in January 2009, to 26.1 percent in January 2011, during the recession.

For more than a decade, federal health agencies have tried to reverse the growing obesity rate. In 2000, for example, the agencies announced their goal of reducing obesity to 15 percent by 2010.

The federal takeover of the nation’s health sector via the Obamacare law is also being used by experts to tighten the nation’s girth. Health companies must include anti-fatness measures in the benefit plans they offer to the nation. The value of the mandates is unclear, but they will likely fatten revenues of professionals in the anti-fat business.

Gallup’s survey showed that the obesity rate is lower among populations that are wealthy, white, older and live on the West coast. Rates are higher among populations that are middle-aged, black, latino, poorer and who live in the south.

“The U.S. obesity rate thus far in 2013 is trending upward and will likely surpass all annual obesity levels since 2008,” the Gallup report said.

Gallup also suggested that employers regulate their employees’ weight.

“Employers can also take an active role to help lower obesity rates… The annual cost for lost productivity due to workers being above normal weight or having a history of chronic conditions ranges from $160 million among agricultural workers to $24.2 billion among professionals,” Gallup claimed.

MIchelle Obama has also tried to draft companies in her waistline-reducing agenda.

Kids’ waistlines matter because the costs of treating adults’ obesity “matter for every business in America,” she wrote in February 2013.

“We spend $190 billion a year treating obesity-related health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and a significant portion of those costs are borne by America’s businesses,” she wrote.

“We need every business in America to dig deeper, get more creative, and find new ways to generate revenue by giving American families better information and healthier choices. We know this can be done in a way that’s good for our kids and good for businesses,” she wrote.

In August, the first lady tried to claim that her “Let’s Move” campaign deserved credit for a drop in the number of obese children.

“Obesity among low-income preschoolers declined, from 2008 through 2011, in 19 of 43 states and territories studied, said a study released in August by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Today’s announcement reaffirms my belief that together, we are making a real difference in helping kids across the country get a healthier start to life,” said an August statement from the first lady.

The results were “evidence of progress,” according to her website, LetsMove.gov.

“Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by the First Lady, dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams,” according to the site.

The government-centered program does allow a role for parents.

“Everyone has a role to play in reducing childhood obesity, including parents, elected officials from all levels of government, schools, health care professionals, faith-based and community-based organizations, and private sector companies,” the site declares.

Follow Neil on Twitter


Article printed from The Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com

URL to article: http://dailycaller.com/2013/11/01/obesity-expands-amid-federal-anti-obesity-campaign/

Virtually numbed: Immersive video gaming alters real-life experience

Role-playing video games can alter our experience of reality and numb us to important real-life experiences, study finds

Spending time immersed as a virtual character or avatar in a role-playing video game can numb you to realizing important body signals in real life. This message comes from Ulrich Weger of the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany and Stephen Loughnan of Melbourne University in Australia, in an article in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, published by Springer.

The researchers studied what happens when gamers take on the role of – and identify with – a nonhuman character such as an avatar during immersive video gaming, and how it especially influences their experience of pain. Avatars often have automaton-like, robotic characteristics such as mechanistic inertness, rigidity and a lack of emotion and warmth.

Participants were asked how much time they spend each week playing video games. Their responses were then correlated with a measure of pain tolerance by counting the number of paperclips that they could retrieve from ice-cold water. In a second experiment, participants played either an immersive or a nonimmersive computer game before taking part in the same pain-resistance task. The immersive video-game players exhibited a reduced sensitivity to pain and removed significantly more paperclips from ice-cold water. They were also more indifferent to people depicted as experiencing displeasure than were the nonimmersive players.

Weger and Loughnan found that by taking on and acting from the perspective of an automaton-like avatar, people are desensitized to pain in themselves and in others. The point of view adopted during video gaming appears to have implications that extend beyond the virtual environment, into real life.

Dr. Weger points to what he sees as a misleading development: that the human–machine boundary is increasingly being blurred, either by humans entering virtual machines/robots, or by anthropomorphizing, in other words adding human qualities to animated figures and toys. Machines are being programmed to attract human inclinations, while virtual characters and robots have started to perform tasks or roles that were traditionally held by humans, such as that of robot counselling therapists. In such an environment it becomes increasingly easy and normal to regard artificial beings as being akin to human beings.

“We see this blurring as a reality of our time but also as a confused and misleading development that has begun to shape society,” says Weger. “We believe this should be balanced by other developments, for example, by working on our awareness of what it really means to be human. We should also look into how we can best make use of the beneficial applications of robotic or artificial intelligence advances, so as to be able to use our freed up resources and individual potentials wisely rather than becoming enslaved by those advances.”


Weger, U.W., Loughnan, S. (2013). Virtually numbed: Immersive video gaming alters real-life experience. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review DOI 10.3758/s13423-013-0512-2

The full-text article is available to journalists on request.

‘We’ve reached the end of antibiotics’: Top CDC expert declares that ‘miracle drugs’ that have saved millions are no match against ‘superbugs’ because people have overmedicated themselves

By  Snejana Farberov

PUBLISHED: 00:30 EST, 26  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 01:17 EST, 26 October 2013

Health crisis: Dr Arjun Srinivasan, the associate director of the CDC, told PBS' Frontline that misuse and overuse of antibiotics over the years have rendered them powerless to fight infections  

Health crisis: Dr Arjun Srinivasan, the associate  director of the CDC, told PBS’ Frontline that misuse and overuse of antibiotics  over the years have rendered them powerless to fight infections


A high-ranking official with the Centers for  Disease Control and Prevention has declared in an interview with PBS that the  age of antibiotics has come to an end.

‘For a long time, there have been newspaper  stories and covers of magazines that talked about “The end of antibiotics,  question mark?”‘ said Dr Arjun Srinivasan. ‘Well, now I would say you can change  the title to “The end of antibiotics, period.”’

The associate director of the CDC sat down  with Frontline over the summer for a lengthy  interview about the growing problem of antibacterial resistance.

Srinivasan, who is also featured in a  Frontline report called ‘Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria,’ which aired  Tuesday, said that both humans and livestock have been overmedicated to such a  degree that bacteria are now resistant to antibiotics.

‘We’re in the post-antibiotic era,’ he said.  ‘There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a  position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five  years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t.’.

Dr Srinivasan offered an example of this  notion, citing the recent case of three Tampa Bay Buccaneers players who made  headlines after reportedly contracting potentially deadly MRSA infections, which  until recently were largely restricted to hospitals.

About 10 years ago, however, the CDC official  began seeing outbreaks of different kinds of MRSA infections in schools and  gyms.

‘In hospitals, when you see MRSA infections,  you oftentimes see that in patients who have a catheter in their blood, and that  creates an opportunity for MRSA to get into their bloodstream,’ he said.

Nightmare superbug: Srinivasan said that about 10 years ago, he began seeing outbreaks of different kinds of MRSA infections, which previously had been limited to hospitals, in schools and gyms 

Nightmare superbug: Srinivasan said that about 10 years  ago, he began seeing outbreaks of different kinds of MRSA infections, which  previously had been limited to hospitals, in schools and gyms


‘In the community, it was causing a very  different type of infection. It was causing a lot of very, very serious and  painful infections of the skin, which was completely different from what we  would see in health care.’

With bacteria constantly evolving and  developing resistance to conventional antibiotics, doctors have been forced to  ‘reach back into the archives’ and ‘dust off’ older, more dangerous cures like  colistin.



Antibiotics, also known as antibacterials,  are types of drugs that destroy or slow down the growth of  bacteria.

Antibiotics are used to treat infections  caused by bacteria. Bacteria are microscopic organisms, some of which may cause  illness.

Before bacteria can multiply and cause  symptoms, the body’s immune system can usually destroy them. But if white blood  cells fail to fight off the infection, antibiotics can help.

The first antibiotic was penicillin, which  was discovered in 1928 by Scottish Professor Alexander Fleming.

Such penicillin-related antibiotics as  ampicillin, amoxicillin and benzylpenicilllin are widely used today to treat a  variety of infections.

Source: Medical News  Today



‘It’s very toxic,’ said Srinivasan. ‘We don’t  like to use it. It damages the kidneys. But we’re forced to use it in a lot of  instances.’

The expert went on, saying that the discovery  of antibiotics in 1928 by Professor Alexander Fleming revolutionized medicine,  allowing doctors to treat hundreds of millions of people suffering from  illnesses that had been considered terminal for centuries.

Antibiotics also paved the way for successful  organ transplants, chemotherapy, stem cell and bone marrow transplantations –  all the procedures that weaken the immune system and make the body susceptible  to infections.

However, the CDC director explained that  people have fueled the fire of bacterial resistance through rampant overuse and  misuse of antibiotics.

‘These drugs are miracle drugs, these  antibiotics that we have, but we haven’t taken good care of them over the 50  years that we’ve had them,’ he told Frontline.

Srinivasan added that pharmaceutical  companies are at least partially to blame for this problem, saying that they  have neglected the development of new and more sophisticated antibiotics that  could keep up with bacterial resistance because ‘there’s not much money to be  made’ in this field.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2477273/Weve-reached-end-antibiotics-Top-CDC-expert-declares-miracle-drugs-saved-millions-match-superbugs-people-overmedicated-themselves.html#ixzz2iqYvUVv8 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Women with extreme PMS will now be deemed ‘mentally ill’ following controversial revision of health manual

By  Sadie Whitelocks

PUBLISHED: 16:45 EST, 21  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 17:04 EST, 21 October 2013

Women who suffer from consistently severe  mood swings during their menstrual periods are now being diagnosed with mental  illness.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD),  sometimes referred to as ‘PMS on steroids’, is formally recognized in the fifth  edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental  Disorders.

But the decision to categorize this condition  as full-fledged disorder has divided opinion, with critics stating that it only  contributes to stereotypes about women being emotionally unstable once a  month.

The right treatment? Women who suffer from consistently severe mood swings during their menstrual periods are now being diagnosed as mentally ill 

The right treatment? Women who suffer from consistently  severe mood swings during their menstrual periods are now being diagnosed as  mentally ill


Indeed, one commentator wrote on Jezebel.com:  ‘I actually have PMDD and take birth control to help it (which does work, btw  [sic]). Personally, I do find it insulting that PMDD is lumped into the category  of psychological disorders.

‘Although I do sometimes get intensely  depressed for a short amount of time before my period, I think the physical  symptoms that accompany the emotional stuff and the fact that it’s entirely  period related should qualify it as a body problem and not a mental  one.

‘Admitting you have PMDD definitely has some  social stigma also.’

The criteria for diagnosis include  ‘marked  irritability’, ‘anger’, ‘increased interpersonal conflicts’,  ‘feelings of  hopelessnes’, ‘lethargy’, ‘insomnia’ and a ‘marked change  in appetite’ during  ‘most’ menstrual cycles.

The symptoms have to correspond with the  menstrual cycle for a minimum of  two successive months and must be truly  disruptive to a woman’s ability  to carry out her normal activities. That’s  different than in  premenstrual syndrome (PMS), where most symptoms are  ‘mild’.

‘Every revision of  the DSM causes controversy; that’s what happens when experts argue in public  about the nature of human suffering

Finally, to be diagnosed with PMDD, patients  must report that they are not  depressed all the time, only in the days leading  up to their periods.

The condition is thought to affect three to  eight per cent of women.

Advocates say it will lead to more  accessible treatment and greater understanding of the condition, but  others  argue it will add to America’s growing prescription drug abuse  problem.

Gary Greenberg, author of The Book of Woe:  The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry, wrote in The New  Yorker: ‘Every revision of the DSM causes controversy; that’s what happens when experts  argue in public about the nature of human suffering.

‘But never has the process provoked warfare  so brutal, with attacks coming  from within the profession as well from  psychiatry’s usual opponents.’

Some critics have suggested that the new  guidelines will make mental illness more common. For instance, according to the  DSM-5 those who eat to excess 12 times in  three months will be a candidate for binge  eating disorder.

Controversial: The 'bible of psychiatry' will be published on May 22  

Controversial: The latest edition of the ‘bible of  psychiatry’ came out in May

The Daily  Beast jokingly wrote: ‘[This] makes  us think twice about the last time we  devoured a pizza pie (last week) or ate  three doughnuts in one sitting  (this morning).’

And prominent names in the psychiatric  profession have highlighted the serious consequences of the revisions.

Duke University psychiatrist Allen J. Frances, who was tasked with putting together the fourth edition of the DSM  published in 1994, but did not work on the updated handbook released in May,  expressed concern over the changes.

‘A new diagnosis can be more dangerous than a  new drug,’ he told The Daily Beast.

And clinical social worker Joe Wegmann said it was based on ‘no credible  research’  and would trigger an ‘zealous binge’ of over-diagnosis.

A new section on areas that ‘need further  research’ has also been incorporated into the DSM-5.

This means that conditions including sex  addiction and internet overuse require  additional research before they can be incorporated into the official  diagnoses.

The DSM-5 was11 years in the making and was  written and published by the American  Psychiatric Association.

The first edition of the DSM – widely considered the ‘bible of  psychiatry’ – was published in 1952 and  today it influences practitioners around the world.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2470796/PMDD-Women-extreme-PMS-deemed-mentally-ill-DSM-5.html#ixzz2iQ1CXo9V Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

New and more virulent strain of HIV is spreading rapidly through Russia, claim scientists

  • The HIV subtype 02_AG/A  is spreading rapidly and is now thought to account for more than 50 per cent of  new HIV infections in Siberia
  • It is thought to be the most virulent  subtype of the virus in Russia
  • Infections have also been reported in  Chechnya, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan

By  Emma Innes

PUBLISHED: 06:42 EST, 17  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 06:51 EST, 17 October 2013

Russian scientists believe they have  identified a new and more virulent strain of HIV.

The subtype, known as 02_AG/A, is spreading  rapidly and is now thought to account for more than 50 per cent of new HIV  infections in Siberia.

The virus was first seen in the city of  Novosibirsk in 2006 and is thought to be the most virulent subtype of the virus  in Russia.

Russian scientists believe they have identified a new and more virulent strain of HIV. The subtype, known as 02_AG/A, is spreading rapidly. Image shows mature HIV virus infection 

Russian scientists believe they have identified a new  and more virulent strain of HIV. The subtype, known as 02_AG/A, is spreading  rapidly. Image shows mature HIV virus infection


It was discovered by scientists at the State  Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in Siberia, The Moscow News reports.

Natalya Gashnikova, head of the retroviruses  department at Vektor, said 02_AG/A could spread through the population much more  quickly than the current main HIV strain found in Russia.

The number of HIV positive people in  Novosibirsk has jumped from 2,000 in 2007 to 15,000 in 2012, according to  Russia’s Federal AIDS Centre and 50 per cent of the new cases have been caused  by 02_AG/A.

The newly identified subtype is not confined  to Siberia – cases have also been reported in Chechnya, in the south of Russia,  and Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

HIV can be divided into two main types –  HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is the more virulent of the two and is, therefore,  responsible for the majority of cases.

HIV-1 can also be divided into subgroups and  the newly discovered 02_AG/A is a subgroup of HIV-1.

All of the subgroups are transmitted from  person to person through the same transmission methods – including unprotected  sex and sharing needles – but some are easier to pass on than others.

02_AG/A is thought to be easier to transmit  than some other subtypes.

The virus was first seen in the city of Novosibirsk in 2006 and is thought to be the most virulent subtype of the virus in Russia 

The virus was first seen in the city of Novosibirsk in  2006 and is thought to be the most virulent subtype of the virus in Russia. It  is now thought to account for more than 50 per cent of new HIV infections in  Siberia


UN figures show that the only regions where  the number of HIV infections is increasing are Eastern Europe and Central Asia –  52 per cent of people with HIV in this area live in  Russia.

This is  believed to be partly because there  is little awareness of HIV in many  parts of Russia and because Russian school  offer very little sex  education.

The number  of new HIV infections globally  has plummeted by a third since 2001 and  more than halved among children, the  United Nations recently revealed.

Globally, 2.3 million people contracted the  AIDS virus last year – down 33 per  cent from 2001, while 260,000 children  became infected – 52 per cent  less than in 2001.

‘The annual number of new HIV infections  continues to decline with especially sharp reductions in the number of children  newly infected with HIV,’ UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe  said.

Last year, 1.6 million people died of  AIDS-related deaths, down from 1.8 million in 2011 and 2.3 million in  2005.

The report showed that 9.7 million people in  low and middle-income countries, the bulk of those infected, had access to HIV  drugs last year, compared to only 1.3 million seven years  earlier.

While the hike is impressive, it falls short  of a UN target announced two years ago to reach 15 million people by  2015.

Some 35.3 million people were living with the  virus last year – about 70 per cent of them in sub-Saharan Africa – up from 30  million in 2001.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2464403/New-virulent-strain-HIV-spreading-rapidly-Russia-claim-scientists.html#ixzz2hzqsBz5g Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

1 in 2000 Britons may carry ‘mad cow’ prion protein


“We were all supposed to die of mad cow disease!” People who accuse public health agencies of crying wolf are fond of citing the discovery, in 1996, that a cattle disease widespread in the UK causes the deadly disease vCJD in people. Despite widespread dismay at the time, there have been only 177 cases of vCJD in the country – and 51 elsewhere – to date.

The biggest survey yet, however, shows  the UK did not really dodge that bullet – it just hasn’t killed many of the people it hit. What we don’t know is how many might still die.

A study of 32,000 appendixes removed between 2000 and 2012 from British people born between 1941 and 1985 suggests that 1 in every 2000 people in the UK is carrying the abnormal protein, or prion, that causes the disease. This means as many as 31,000 people may carry the prion – twice the previous best estimate.

The researchers, mostly from the UK’s national human and animal health labs and led by Sebastian Brandner of University College London, warn that we do not know what further damage those infections may cause. In particular, there seems to have been less transmission of the prion via blood transfusions than would have been expected. The researchers are calling for development of a reliable blood test for the prion so we can make sure it is not spreading undetected.

Silver lining

Half the people infected are at particular risk: they carry the genetic form of the protein that has been found in all cases of vCJD to date. However, the researchers warn that they do not know whether such people will simply be lifelong carriers, or may one day develop vCJD. Meanwhile, other genetic forms of the prion could be affecting people in unrecognised ways.

The silver lining, says Richard Salmon, a retired neurologist who wrote an editorial accompanying the research, is that recent research shows that the vCJD prion behaves much like the pathological proteins behind a number of other diseases involving brain degeneration, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. These are huge threats to ageing populations.

“We have developed, of necessity, a huge body of expertise in studying prion diseases in Britain,” says Salmon. This knowledge could be used to study treatments for such things as Alzheimer’s. However, he fears as worries about vCJD wane, funding to maintain that expertise is waning too.

How it happened

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is caused by a misfolded protein – a prion – which accumulates in brain tissue, causing death. It is spread when susceptible animals eat tissues from infected animals that contain the prion. BSE was discovered in British cattle in 1987 and has been blamed on the widespread use of cattle remains as cattle fodder in the UK. The UK government initially claimed the prion could not spread to humans – but it was found to do so in 1996.

By that time inadequate controls meant infected beef had been in the human food chain for years, and there were fears of a mass plague of agonising, invariably fatal vCJD. Fortunately, they did not materialise, but it was unclear whether that was because the prion had not infected people or because for some reason it didn’t make them sick.

A decade ago it was discovered that the prion lodges in the appendix, offering a way to search for it in living people who have their appendix removed. Early studies suggested widespread infection was possible, but the samples were too small to be sure.

Where we are now

Now it is clear that people of all ages and across the country were widely infected, regardless of whether they had the genetic form of the prion protein associated with the disease. In fact, more people with the alternate, resistant forms were found to be carrying the prion than would be expected if its distribution was random, for reasons unknown.

“This shows we need to understand more about the natural history of the prion,” says Salmon. “Infections don’t lead to disease as readily as we originally feared, but we don’t know why, or whether these infections have a sting in their tail.”

Models suggest infected people could still develop vCJD in coming decades. Salmon worries that the prion might cause diseases in people with the resistant genotypes that do not look like classic vCJD and so could be missed. This is especially likely in older people, in whom dementia is more common and not often investigated after death.

Meanwhile we could soon discover even more precisely who was infected during the days of BSE in the UK. Tests for prions in blood are almost ready. Markus Moser, CEO of Prionics, a BSE test manufacturer in Zurich, Switzerland, says his company and the National Institutes of Health in the US have developed the eQuIC assay, which detects prions at low enough levels that “in hamster and sheep, it works as a blood test”.

It has not been validated on blood samples from people with vCJD, because these have not been made available, says Moser – but the test can detect highly diluted vCJD brain homogenates, which contain the prion, in blood.

Journal references: BMJ, DOI: 10.1136/bmj.f5675; Salmon’s editorial



Krokodil the flesh-eating drug spreads to Chicago suburbs with three cases in a week

Krokodil, which is considered more addictive that heroin, originated in Russia

Rob Williams

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Use of a a flesh-eating heroin substitute that rots the skin of addicts has now spread to a Chicago suburb, according to local media reports.

Krokodil, which is considered more addictive that heroin, originated in Russia before cases were seen in Arizona last month.

The latest reports of three cases at the Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in the Joliet suburb of Chicago, is likely to spark further fears that use of the drug, which usually kills addicts within two years, is spreading in the US.

According to NBC Chicago Dr. Abhin Singla of Presence St. Joseph Medical Center said the treatment facility this week saw three patients who said they used the drug.

The substance, which is similar to morphine, is an ultra-cheap heroin substitute that counts crushed codeine pills, gasoline, cooking oil, iodine, paint thinner and lighter fluid among its toxic ingredients.

Users of krokodil or “crocodile” can suffer horrific effects including rotting sores, gangrene and abscesses. It acquired its name because of the reptilian scaly effect it causes on human skin.

“If you want to kill yourself, (using) this is the way to do it,” said Dr. Abhin Singla, director of addiction services in Joliet.

“It’s about three times more potent than heroin, but the ‘high’ lasts only for a few hours,” Singla told the Chicago-Sun Times.

According to the newspaper a dose of crocodile costs about $8, while users pay $25 to $30 for heroin.

The average krokodil user has a life expectancy of just two to three years after they start taking the drug, and in that time they can expect their skin to turn green, scaly and fall-off as a kind of pre-death decomposition sets in.

In 2011 The Independent visited Russia to find out more about the krokodil epidemic sweeping the country. Read that article by clicking here.

U.S. Women Are Dying Younger Than Their Mothers, and No One Knows Why

While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind.
Oct 7 2013, 9:10 AM ET


The Affordable Care Act took a major step toward implementation last Tuesday with the launch of the online insurance exchanges, limping across the finish line despite three years of Republican obstruction that culminated in this week’s 11th hour attempt to dismantle the law by shutting down the federal government.

It’s easy to forget, amid the hyper-partisan controversy, that the main purpose behind President Obama’s signature health-care reform law is not to curtail individual freedom or send senior citizens to death panels, but to give more Americans access to health insurance. Whether you think the Affordable Care Act is the right solution or a dangerous step toward tyranny, it’s hard to dispute that the U.S. health-care system is broken. More than 48 million people lack health insurance, and despite having the world’s highest levels of health-care spending per capita, the U.S. has some of the worst health outcomes among developed nations, lagging behind in key metrics like life expectancy, premature death rates, and death by treatable diseases, according to a July study in the Journal of the American Medicine Association.

For some Americans, the reality is far worse than the national statistics suggest. In particular, growing health disadvantages have disproportionately impacted women over the past three decades, especially those without a high-school diploma or who live in the South or West. In March, a study published by the University of Wisconsin researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng found that in nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates actually increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period.

“I was shocked, actually,” Kindig said. “So we went back and did the numbers again, and it came back the same. It’s overwhelming.”

Kindig’s findings were echoed in a July report from University of Washington researcher Chris Murray, which found that inequality in women’s health outcomes steadily increased between 1985 and 2010, with female life expectancy stagnating or declining in 45 percent of U.S. counties. Taken together, the two studies underscore a disturbing trend: While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged U.S. life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before. The worst part is no one knows why.

(Health Affairs/The Population Institute, University of Wisconsin)

The Kindig study does note strong relationships between county mortality rates and several cultural and socioeconomic indicators. In particular, location appears to have an outsized effect on mortality rates. Counties with rising female mortality rates, marked in red, paint a broad stroke across Appalachia and the Cotton Belt, moving across to the Ozarks and the Great Plains. The Northeast and the Southwest, on the other hand, have been largely untouched.

But it’s not clear how these geographical differences play a role in mortality, or why the effect would be so much greater on women than on men. “Clearly something is going on,” Kindig said. “It could be cultural, political, or environmental, but the truth is we don’t really know the answer.”

Other researchers have pointed out the correlation between education rates and declining female health outcomes. The most shocking study, published in August 2012 by the journal Health Affairs, found that life expectancy for white female high-school dropouts has fallen dramatically over the past 18 years. These women are now expected to die five years earlier than the generation before them—a radical decline that is virtually unheard of in the world of modern medicine. In fact, the only parallel is the spike in Russian male mortality after the fall of the Soviet Union, which has primarily been attributed to rising alcohol consumption and accidental death rates.

“It’s unprecedented in American history to see a drop in life expectancy of such magnitude over such a short time period,” said Jay Olshansky, the lead author of the study. “I don’t know why it happened so rapidly among this subgroup. Something is different for the lives of poor people today that is worse than it was before.”

Education alone does not explain why female high-school dropouts are so much worse off than they were two decades ago. But researchers have used it as a proxy to determine more significant socioeconomic indicators, like access to health care and income opportunities, as well as health behaviors like smoking and obesity. Smoking in particular appears to have had a significant impact on female mortality rates, as the health consequences of previous decades of tobacco use set in. Olshansky points out that female obesity and drug abuse have risen dramatically over the past two decades, and may also play a role in mortality rates.

Researchers are hopeful that the expansion of health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act will help ameliorate some of the health risks for poor and uneducated women. But access to health insurance is only part of the puzzle—in fact, Kindig’s study found that medical care factors had no discernible impact on death rates at the county level. “Health care is far from the whole story,” Kindig told me. “More and more people are beginning to realize that the non-health-care factors are at least as important.”

In May, Jennifer Karas Montez, a social demographer who studies health inequalities, co-authored a study that was the first to investigate how quality of life might be playing a role in the early deaths of female high-school dropouts. Montez found that while smoking accounts for half of the decline in life expectancy among these women, whether or not a woman has a job is equally significant. “Women without a high-school degree have not made inroads in the labor force, especially in post-recession America,” Montez said in an interview. In fact, only one-third of women without a high-school diploma are employed, compared to half of their male counterparts, and nearly three-quarters of better-educated women. When they are employed, Montez said, it is usually in low-wage jobs that offer no benefits or flexibility. Smoking and other destructive behaviors, she added, may just be symptoms of the heightened stress and loneliness experienced by women who don’t graduate from high school.

“Life is different for women without a high-school degree than it was a few decades ago, and in most cases it’s a lot worse,” she said. “It’s really just a perfect storm.”



The Island of Doctor Moreau: What kind of monsters does US raise in Republic of Georgia

24.05.2011 бактерия отравление овощи химикат Escherichia coli микроскоп исследование лаборатория наука медицина E.coli

Photo: EPA

The presence in Georgia of a US military bio-laboratory remains an obstacle to the development of economic ties with Russia. This came as a statement by head of Rospotrebnadzor Gennady Onishchenko. In his opinion, the US military structures located on the Georgian territory are not controlled by the authorities of the Republic and are engaged in activities prohibited by conventions in the field of biology.

The Lugar Research Center is named among the most secret objects in Georgia. This center was built for the US money within the space of 5 years, and it immediately became surrounded by legends. Locals were wondering: Why does America need to allocate $ 270 million for building a laboratory in another country? Many suspect that the US spent this money for a good reason. One of the most wide-spread assumptions is that the Americans might produce biological and chemical weapons in Georgia. The great interest of the US in this institution on the Georgian territory is proved by the rank of the guests, who participated in the official opening of the center. Thus, the event was visited by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs Andrew Weber. Half of the staff of the research center consists of military specialists. In general, such a scrupulous attention on the part of the USA cannot but worry the Georgian population, former Minister of State Security of Georgia Valery Khaburdzaniya says.

“This does not enjoy the confidence of the population, because the Americans used not to show any interest in the Georgian economy, but suddenly they got interested in some kind of biological strains and are carrying out some secret operations. The fact that servicemen are working there is suspicious. It is still unknown, why servicemen are working at a civilian facility”.

All this only generates rumors: the spread of avian flu in 2011, epidemic of measles at the end of 2012, hog cholera in 2013. Residents of Georgia associate all misfortunes with the existence of the laboratory. Some mass media have even released information that the Americans were testing some viruses on the Georgian population. Today, almost no one believes the official version that the Research Center is monitoring the epidemiological situation in the Republic, Georgian political analyst Archil Chkoidze says.

“My father lives in a village. And I can say responsibly: hundreds of pigs owned by the local population die every year. And the cause of death is this very virus, which, as they say in the government, was not registered in Georgia for several years. So, I believe that we must study the origin of this virus. And it is preferable that we do it in cooperation with Russian specialists. Because both of us should know, where does this virus come from”.

Archil Chkoidze is even more suspicious of the statement of Director of the mysterious laboratory Giya Kamkamidze about the fact that African hog cholera was not registered in the country for 6 years now.

It is noteworthy that the laboratory in Georgia has supplemented the network of such institutions built by the Americans in a number of European countries, as well as in Thailand, Egypt, Kenya and other regions of the world. And it is a dark military secret, whether this network has some kind of a general purpose, or each facility solves its own specific tasks.


Good hygiene may be to blame for soaring Alzheimer’s

Modern cities and improved hygiene could be behind rising rates of Alzheimer’s in Britain and the rest of the developed world, scientists have said.

Countries where everyone has access to cleaning drinking water, such as the UK and France, have nine per cent higher Alzheimer's rates then average.

Countries where everyone has access to cleaning drinking water, such as the UK and France, have nine per cent higher Alzheimer’s rates then average.  Photo: PHANIE/ALAMY

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By Laura Donnelly and agencies

4:00PM BST 04 Sep 2013


Researchers have linked the “hygiene hypothesis” – the idea that lack of exposure to germs, viruses and parasites harms the immune system – to rising rates of dementia in richer nations.

A new study by Cambridge University compared dementia cases in 192 countries and found it was more common in those with better sanitation and less disease.

Countries where everyone has access to cleaning drinking water, such as the UK and France, have nine per cent higher Alzheimer’s rates then average.

In comparison those where less than half have access, such as Kenya and Cambodia, have a significantly lower incident rate.

Taken together, infection levels, sanitation and urbanisation account for 43 per cent of the variation in rates of Alzheimer’s between different countries, the study found.

Dr Molly Fox, from Cambridge University, who led the new research published in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, said: “The ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which suggests a relationship between cleaner environments and a higher risk of certain allergies and autoimmune diseases, is well established.

“We believe we can now add Alzheimer’s to this list of diseases. There are important implications for forecasting future global disease burden, especially in developing countries as they increase in sanitation.”

The charity The Alzheimer’s Society said the theory was interesting, but did not demonstrate the cause of the variation.

Dr James Pickett, head of research, said: ‘We have known for some time that the numbers of people with Alzheimer’s varies between countries. That this discrepancy could be the result of better hygiene is certainly an interesting theory and loosely ties in with the links we know exist between inflammation and the disease. However it is always difficult to pin causality to one factor and this study does not cancel out the role of the many other lifestyle differences such as diet, education and wider health which we know can also have a role to play.”

Experts said that although the study allowed for the fact that people live far longer in Western countries, it did not take account of the fact that such countries had better reporting systems and were more likely to document cases of Alzheimer’s disease.

In the Cambridge study, scientists looked at the link between hygiene and Alzheimer’s rates in 192 rich and poor countries. They adjusted the findings to take account of differences in birth rate, life expectancy and age structure.

Access to clean drinking water was one area said to have a high impact on Alzheimer’s rates. Countries such as the UK and France, where this is universal, had a 9 per cent higher incidence of Alzheimer’s than countries such as Kenya and Cambodia where less than half the population can access clean water.

A similar pattern emerged from comparisons between countries with low and high rates of infectious disease.

Switzerland and Iceland, with very low rates, were 12 per cent more affected by Alzheimer’s than China and Ghana, whose infection rates are high.

The more urbanised countries also experienced higher rates of Alzheimer’s irrespective of life expectancy.

In the UK and Australia, where more than three quarters of the population lived in urban areas, Alzheimer’s incidence was 10% higher than in Bangladesh and Nepal, where less than a 10th of people had their homes in towns and cities.

Previous research has shown that Alzheimer’s affects fewer people in Latin America, China and India than it does in Europe.

Even within those regions, prevalence is lower in urban than in rural areas, according to the new findings.

The hygiene hypothesis is based on the assumption that lack of contact with “dirt” in the form of bacteria and other infectious agents upsets the development of white blood cells, key elements of the immune system.

In particular, T-cells are said to be affected. T-cells have a variety of functions, including attacking and destroying foreign invaders and marshalling other parts of the immune system.

Some, known as “regulatory” T-cells, reign in the immune system when it starts to get out of control. Dysfunctional regulatory T-cells can lead to inflammation and autoimmune disorders.

Regulatory T-cell deficiency is linked to the type of inflammation commonly found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers wrote: “Exposure to micro-organisms is critical for the regulation of the immune system.”

Since the turn of the 19th century, such exposure had increasingly diminished in wealthier nations due to lack of contact with “animals, faeces and soil”.

“The increase in adult life expectancy and Alzheimer’s prevalence in developing countries is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of our time,” said Dr Fox.

“Today, more than 50 per cent of people with Alzheimer’s live in the developing world, and by 2025 it is expected that this figure will rise to more than 70 per cent.

“A better understanding of how environmental sanitation influences Alzheimer’s risk could open up avenues for both lifestyle and pharmaceutical strategies to limit Alzheimer’s prevalence.”

The hygiene hypothesis is normally thought to be most relevant in childhood, when the immune system is still developing. But in the case of Alzheimer’s, exposure to microbes across a person’s lifetime might be important, say the scientists. This is because regulatory T-cell numbers peak at various points in life, for example at adolescence and middle age.

Up to 13 surgery patients at risk from brain disease that SURVIVES sterilization after one man died during operation

  • One patient  had brain surgery in May then died in August from fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob  disease
  • Incurable  condition can survive standard sterilization
  • Up to 13  people in several states may have been exposed to the  disease

By  Daily Mail Reporter and Associated Press

PUBLISHED: 17:49 EST, 4  September 2013 |  UPDATED: 18:27 EST, 4 September 2013

Officials in New Hampshire have raised the  horrifying possibility that up to 13 people in multiple states have been exposed  to a rare, degenerative and incurable brain disease through surgical  equipment.

Authorities at the Catholic Medical Center in  Manchester said on Wednesday that they believe one person who had brain surgery  in May died of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in August.

As the faulty proteins that cause the fatal  disease can survive standard sterilization, officials have notified eight people  who had brain surgery in that time and say up to five patients in other states  could have been exposed.

Fears: Authorities at the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, have raised concerns that up to 13 people have been exposed to a rare, degenerative and incurable brain disease through surgical equipment 

Fears: Authorities at the Catholic Medical Center in  Manchester, New Hampshire, have raised concerns that up to 13 people have been  exposed to a rare, degenerative and incurable brain disease through surgical  equipment


Worries: Dr Joseph Pepe, president of Catholic Medical Center, (right) said that officials are 95 percent certain that the patient who had brain surgery at the facility then died in Worries: Dr Joseph Pepe, president of Catholic Medical Center, (right) said that officials are 95 percent certain that the patient who had brain

Worries: Dr Joseph Pepe, president of Catholic Medical  Center, (right) said that officials are 95 percent certain that the patient who  had brain surgery at the facility then died in August had the disease. It could  then have been passed on through medical equipment (left)



Authorities in New Hampshire have now  quarantined the equipment in question until an autopsy on the original victim is  complete. Some of the surgical instruments had been rented.

Dr. Joseph Pepe, president of Catholic  Medical Center, said that officials are 95 percent certain that the patient who  had brain surgery at the facility then died in August had the  disease.

While the idea of this degenerative brain  disorder being passed through contaminated equipment is terrifying, the chances  of the patients being exposed to the degenerative brain disease are  remote.

The disease has only been transmitted this  way four times, never in the United States.


Horrifying: The disease is degnerative, rare and incurable. In this photo the screen shows the incidence of CJD on a human brain (indicated with black rings round the white cells)  

Horrifying: The disease is degnerative, rare and  incurable. In this photo the screen shows the incidence of CJD on a human brain  (indicated with black rings round the white cells)


The disabling condition causes rapidly  progressive dementia, behavior changes, memory problems, loss of balance and  other impaired coordination.

It affects about one person in every one  million people per year worldwide according to the National Institutes of  Health. In the U.S there are about 200 cases per year.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2411844/Up-13-people-multiple-states-exposed-incurable-rare-brain-condition-contaminated-hospital-equipment.html#ixzz2dzG64NTT Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

‘Catastrophe’ as 114 million Chinese suffer diabetes thanks to economic boom

Shocking survey shows 11.6pc of people suffer from rampant diet-related disease, with around one third of the world’s diabetics living in China

Thursday, 05 September, 2013 [Updated: 7:42AM]

Bloomberg and Lo Wei

  • 08d8bcc4d1492d8da026f9c5d08814f6.jpg
Overweight children at a fitness camp in Wuhan. Diabetes in Asians is triggered at a lower weight than in the West. Photo: Xinhua

About 11.6 per cent of adults in mainland China, or 114 million people, suffer from diabetes, a comprehensive nationwide survey on the disease shows.

It means that almost one in three diabetes sufferers globally is in China, a development one world expert on the disease called a catastrophe. It is now more common in China than in the US, where 11.3 per cent of adults are diabetic.

The number of diabetics on the mainland shot up by 22 million, the equivalent of Australia’s population, between 2007 and 2010, according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Rapid changes in lifestyle are the key factor. American diabetics are usually overweight, but those on the mainland are not, the researchers found.

“Diabetes may have reached an alert level in the Chinese general population, with the potential for a major epidemic of diabetes-related complications, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease,” wrote the research team, led by Guang Ning from the laboratory for endocrine and metabolic diseases at the Ministry of Health.

“Poor nutrition in utero and in early life combined with overnutrition in later life may contribute to the accelerated epidemic of diabetes in China.”

The report is based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of 98,658 adults in 2010. A similar survey in 2007 pegged diabetes prevalence at 9.7 per cent, or 92.4 million adults.

Almost two-thirds of patients treated for diabetes did not have adequate blood-sugar control, the authors found. For every mainlander diagnosed with diabetes, at least two more will be unaware they have it.

“China is now among the countries with the highest diabetes prevalence in Asia and has the largest absolute disease burden of diabetes in the world,” the researchers wrote.

Dr Chan Wing-bun, clinical director of Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, said: “The most alarming part of the finding is the extremely rapid increase.”

Chan said that when a poor society becomes richer, changes in diet and lifestyle mean that many people will develop diabetes. After a while, people become health-conscious and the rate falls.

Changing diet is a factor in the increase in diabetes. Photo: AFPHe took Hong Kong as an example. The rate increased in the 1980s and 1990s, reaching about 10 per cent. But the most recent survey, conducted in 2004, saw a drop to seven per cent.

Asians have been shown to be more prone to diabetes than Westerners. Scientists have suggested that insulin cell function is weaker in Asians, said Chan.

The average body mass index, or BMI, in diabetics in the study was 23.7, compared with 28.7 in the US.

As in the rest of Asia, the young and middle-aged were most at risk, the study found. Pre-diabetes, or those on the verge of developing diabetes, was present in 40 per cent of adults aged 18 to 29, and 47 per cent among those 30 to 39.

“The alarmingly high figures for pre-diabetes are very scary,” said Juliana Chan, a professor of medicine and therapeutics at Chinese University who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. “A lot of people think diabetes is a disease that mainly affects the elderly, but we have a very unhealthy young population that may lose their ability to work in the prime of their lives, and this would also have an impact on their families and on society,” she said.

Paul Zimmet, honorary president of the International Diabetes Federation, said diabetes in China had become a “catastrophe”. He said the increase in the prevalence of diabetes in the country was “unparalleled globally”.

“The booming economy in China has brought with it a medical problem which could bankrupt the health system,” said Zimmet. “The big question is the capacity in China to deal with a problem of such magnitude.”

China’s diabetes-related medical costs were estimated at 173.4 billion yuan (HK$214 billion) a year in 2010. The rising trend has strained health services and helped fuel growth in drug sales of 20 per cent a year.

Costs are expected to skyrocket in the next 10 to 20 years as the millions of sufferers seek treatment and care for related ailments such as kidney failure, stroke and blindness.

Harry’s view

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as 114 m mainlanders hit by diabetes epidemic.

1 in 4 has alarmingly few intestinal bacteria

Contact: Oluf Pedersen oluf@sund.ku.dk 45-52-39-56-50 University of Copenhagen

All people have trillions of bacteria living in their intestines. If you place them on a scale, they weigh around 1.5 kg. Previously, a major part of these ‘blind passengers’ were unknown, as they are difficult or impossible to grow in laboratories. But over the past five years, an EU-funded research team, MetaHIT, coordinated by Professor S. Dusko Ehrlich at the INRA Research Centre of Jouy-en-Josas, France and with experts from Europe and China have used advanced DNA analysis and bioinformatics methods to map human intestinal bacteria.

-The genetic analysis of intestinal bacteria from 292 Danes shows that about a quarter of us have up to 40% less gut bacteria genes and correspondingly fewer bacteria than average. Not only has this quarter fewer intestinal bacteria, but they also have reduced bacterial diversity and they harbour more bacteria causing a low-grade inflammation of the body. This is a representative study sample, and the study results can therefore be generalised to people in the Western world, says Oluf Pedersen, Professor and Scientific Director at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

Oluf Pedersen and Professor Torben Hansen have headed the Danish part of the MetaHIT project, and the findings are reported in the highly recognised scientific journal Nature.

The gut is like a rainforest

Oluf Pedersen compares the human gut and its bacteria with a tropical rainforest. He explains that we need as much diversity as possible, and – as is the case with the natural tropical rainforests – decreasing diversity is a cause for concern. It appears that the richer and more diverse the composition of our intestinal bacteria, the stronger our health. The bacteria produce vital vitamins, mature and strengthen our immune system and communicate with the many nerve cells and hormone-producing cells in the intestinal system. And, not least, the bacteria produce a wealth of bioactive substances which penetrate into the bloodstream and affect our biology in countless ways.

-Our study shows that people having few and less diverse intestinal bacteria are more obese than the rest. They have a preponderance of bacteria which exhibit the potential to cause mild inflammation in the digestive tract and in the entire body, which is reflected in blood samples that reveal a state of chronic inflammation, which we know from other studies to affect metabolism and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, says Oluf Pedersen.

-And we also see that if you belong to the group with less intestinal bacteria and have already developed obesity, you will also gain more weight over a number of years. We don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg, but one thing is certain: it is a vicious circle that poses a health threat, says the researcher.

Take care of your intestinal bacteria

The researchers thus still cannot explain why some people have fewer intestinal bacteria, but the researchers are focusing their attention at dietary components, genetic variation in the human host, exposure to antimicrobial agents during early childhood and the chemistry we encounter daily in the form of preservatives and disinfectants.

A French research team reports a study in the same issue of Nature showing that by maintaining a low-fat diet for just six weeks, a group of overweight individuals with fewer and less diverse intestinal bacteria may, to some extent, increase the growth of intestinal bacteria, both in terms of actual numbers and diversity.

-This indicates that you can repair some of the damage to your gut bacteria simply by changing your dietary habits. Our intestinal bacteria are actually to be considered an organ just like our heart and brain, and the presence of health-promoting bacteria must therefore be cared for in the best way possible. Over the next years, we will be gathering more knowledge of how best to do this,” says Oluf Pedersen, whose research team is studying, among other things, the impact of dietary gluten on gut bacteria composition and gut function.

Towards innovative early diagnostics and treatment options

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are not just a result of unfortunate combinations of intestinal bacteria or lack of health-promoting intestinal bacteria, Oluf Pedersen emphasises. There are likely many causal factors at play. But the MetaHit researchers’ contribution opens a new universe in which we begin to understand how gut bacteria in direct contact with the surrounding environment have a decisive impact on our health and risk of disease.

-At present we cannot do anything about our own DNA, individual variation in which also plays a crucial role in susceptibility for lifestyle diseases. But thanks to the new gut microbiota research, we now can start exploring interactions between host genetics and the gut bacteria- related environment which we may be able to change. That is why it is so exciting for us scientist within this research field– the possibilities are huge, says Oluf Pedersen.

-The long-term dream is to map and characterize any naturally occurring gut bacteria that produce appetite-inhibiting bioactive substances and in this way learn to exploit the body’s own medicine to prevent the obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes, says Oluf Pedersen.


Factbox 1: Danish researchers involved

Scientists from a number of Danish research institutions and hospitals have participated in the study: Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, University of Copenhagen;  Lundbeck Foundation Center for Applied Medical Genomics in Personalised Disease Prediction, Prevention and Care (LuCamp); Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Technical University of Denmark; Hagedorn Research Institute, Gentofte; Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark; Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen; University of Aarhus; University of Aalborg; University of Southern Denmark; Research Centre for Prevention and Health, Glostrup; Hospital of Vejle.

Factbox 2: The scientific article

In the article in Nature, the MetaHit scientists demonstrate that they by testing for just a few different bacteria species – with 98 % accuracy can distinguish between people with healthy intestinal bacteria and those who lack and have unhealthy bacteria. This provides promising opportunities for predicting diseases associated with an unhealthy bacterial composition in the intestines, for example type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Cancerous cells from donor kidney linked to recipient skin cancer


Patients that receive kidney transplants have an increased risk of an invasive form of skin cancer. It is unclear if donor tissue contributes to cancer formation. In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Philippe Ratajczak and colleagues at INSERM demonstrate that donor tissue can lead to caner formation in transplant recipients. They examined tumor cells and transplant tissues from a small sample of kidney transplant patients that had subsequently developed skin squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In one patient they identified the presence of skin tumor cells that were the same genotype as the donated kidney and contained a mutation in a known cancer-causing gene. Furthermore, cells with this mutation were present in kidney biopsy samples taken at the time of transplant. As Cai-Bin Cui and David Gerber from the University of North Carolina discuss in their accompanying commentary, this case study has important implications for cancer research and clinical care of transplant recipients.

TITLE: Human skin carcinoma arising from kidney transplant–derived tumor cells

AUTHOR CONTACT: Philippe Ratajczak Inserm, Paris, , FRA bPhone: +33 1 42 38 54 28; E-mail: philippe.ratajczak@paris7.jussieu.fr

View this article at: http://www.jci.org/articles/view/66721?key=6f8e69f0c56dc67b17ec


TITLE: Donor-associated malignancy in kidney transplant patients

AUTHOR CONTACT: David Gerber UNC School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, USA Phone: 919-966-8008; Fax: 919-966-6308; E-mail: david_gerber@med.unc.edu

View this article at: http://www.jci.org/articles/view/70438?key=7a4b5b9cbc0b295d0073

1-in-5 U.S.children have a mental disorder to the extent that the child has difficulty functioning

Psychiatrists: 1-in-5 U.S.children have a  mental disorder

Published: Aug. 27, 2013 at 12:21 AM

DALLAS, Aug. 27 (UPI) –DALLAS, Aug. 27 (UPI) — Twenty percent of U.S.  children experience a mental disorder to the extent that the child has  difficulty functioning, two psychiatrists say.

Dr. Adam Brenner and Dr. Preston Wiles at the University of Texas  Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas says some early warning signs of mental  illness include:

— Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities such as spending less  time with friends, quitting sports or other extracurricular activities.

— Decline in functioning such as failing at school or no longer keeping up  with regular chores at home.

— Suspiciousness or strong nervous feelings such as spending excessive time  alone in their room, or acting as though they are “being watched.”

— Changes in sleep, appetite or personal hygiene such as staying up all  night, requiring frequent reminders to bathe or change clothing.

— Problems with concentration, memory or speech such as talking in a  disorganized or unusual way, talking too fast, or jumping between unrelated  topics.

“It is often difficult for young people who are suffering from mental illness  to be aware of changes in their thinking, feelings or behavior,” Brenner said in  a statement. “It may be a family member, friend or teacher who first notices the  signs of the illness.”

What should someone do who notices these signs in my child or teen? Brenner  says a gentle talk with the child or adolescent about your concerns may be a  good first step.

“They may already have noticed something but have been too ashamed or  frightened to discuss it,” Brenner says. “Consulting your primary care doctor or  school counselor may also be beneficial when deciding how you can best help your  child. Most importantly, if there is any concern that a person is a danger to  themselves or others, either by voicing ideas of suicide or talking about  shooting or harming others, call 911 or take the person to the nearest emergency  room for assistance.”

© 2013 United Press International, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Read more:  http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2013/08/27/Psychiatrists-1-in-5-USchildren-have-a-mental-disorder/UPI-63761377577303/print#ixzz2dFKvlnJA

Study adds lung damage to harmful effects of arsenic / lung damage comparable to decades of smoking

Contact: John Easton john.easton@uchospitals.edu 773-795-5225 University of Chicago Medical Center

A new study confirms that exposure to low to moderate amounts of arsenic in drinking water can impair lung function. Doses of about 120 parts per billion of arsenic in well water—about 12 times the dose generally considered safe—produced lung damage comparable to decades of smoking tobacco. Smoking, especially by males, made arsenic-related damage even worse.

This is the first population-based study to clearly demonstrate significant impairment of lung function, in some cases extensive lung damage, associated with low to moderate arsenic exposure.

“Restrictive lung defects, such as we saw in those exposed to well-water arsenic, are usually progressive and irreversible,” said the study’s senior author, Habibul Ahsan, MD, MMedSc, Director of the Center for Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention at the University of Chicago Medicine. “They can lead over time to serious lung disease.”

The study, conducted in Bangladesh and published early online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, adds to a growing list of arsenic-related health problems that includes skin, bladder and lung cancers, cardiovascular disease, cognitive deficits and premature death. An estimated 77 million people—nearly half of the residents of Bangladesh, the world’s eighth most populous country—live in areas where groundwater wells contain harmful amounts of arsenic.

Less is known about exposure to elevated arsenic levels from well water or foods in other parts of the world, including regions in Mexico and the United States. Researchers have recently begun to re-examine foods, such as rice syrup and apple juice, that contain more arsenic than the 10 parts per billion that is allowed in U.S. drinking water.

“It is challenging to conduct rigorous biomedical research in a place like Bangladesh that lacks the infrastructure for such projects,” Ahsan said, “but over the last 12 to15 years we have learned how to meet those challenges. We now have a large series of related findings that map out exposures and illustrate the severity of the problem.”

“Our findings reinforce the growing interest in looking more carefully at arsenic-exposure issues in the United States,” he added.

The study, coordinated by Ahsan and co-author Faruque Parvez, DrPH, of Columbia University, was the next step in the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS), a long-term Bangladesh-based project, begun in 2000 and expanded in 2006.

A nation of major rivers and low-lying plains, Bangladesh is prone to frequent floods, which, along with sanitation shortcomings, have historically contaminated the nation’s drinking water. This led to high rates of infectious disease and child mortality. In the 1960s, more than 250,000 Bangladeshi children died each year from waterborne diseases.

To protect those children, international charity organizations launched a massive humanitarian effort to provide clean drinking water. They installed roughly 10 million hand-pumped wells to bring up water from deep underground.

Nearly 20 years later, by the early 1990s, scientists realized that this well-intentioned plan had gone astray. Though the underground water was free from the bacterial contamination of surface sources, it was tainted with inorganic arsenic, a toxic element. This was “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history,” according to the World Health Organization.

The HEALS team follows about 20,000 people in Araihazar, a region of central Bangladesh, about 20 miles east of the capital, Dhaka, with a wide range of arsenic levels in drinking-water wells. Between 2005 and 2010, the researchers evaluated 950 individuals who reported respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath to HEALS clinic doctors. The researchers tested each patient’s lung function and documented his or her arsenic levels.

They divided the patients into three groups according to arsenic exposure, using two related measures: how much arsenic was in their drinking water and how much was in their urine.

Then, local physicians trained by pulmonologist Christopher Olopade, MD, of the University of Chicago, rigorously measured each patient’s lung function using a spirometer with a focus on two standard lung-function tests: forced expiratory flow (FEV1, the amount of air a person can expel in one second) and forced vital capacity (FVC, the total volume of air exhaled after fully filling the lungs).

Both measures showed that arsenic’s effects were dose-dependent. After they corrected for possible confounders, the researchers found that:

  • One-third of the participants had been exposed to the lowest arsenic levels, less than 19 parts per billion in water. They had no detectable arsenic-related loss of lung function.
  • One-third had been exposed to drinking water with a relatively low arsenic dose, 19 to 97 parts per billion. Their lung function, as measured by FEV1 and FVC, decreased slightly but was not significantly different from the group with the lowest arsenic level in water.
  • One-third were exposed to a moderate dose, more than 97 parts per billion. For this group, both spirometric variables were significantly decreased. Their FEV1 decreased by about three times as much as those exposed to 19 to 97 parts per billion and their FVC fell by about six times as much.
  • Smoking amplified the damage. About 90 percent of the men tested smoked.

“These results clearly demonstrate significant impairment of lung function associated with lower concentrations than previously reported,” Ahsan said. “Those most affected were older, thinner, less educated and more likely to use tobacco. Many of these people have limited excess lung capacity. It made a significant difference in their lives.”

“This suggests that a large proportion of the country’s population are at increased risk of developing serious respiratory disease, including COPD, bronchitis and interstitial lung disease in the future,” the authors conclude.

“This is not just a problem for South Asia,” Ahsan said. “About 13 million people in the United States get water from a private well that contains more arsenic than the legal limit. And we are becoming more and more aware that exposure through certain foods might be a bigger issue than drinking water. No comparable, large, prospective study has been done in this country.”


The National Institutes of Health funded this study. Additional authors include Maria Argos from the University of Chicago; Mahbub Yunus, Rabiul Hasan, Alauddin Ahmed and Tariqul Islam from the University of Chicago and the Columbia University Arsenic Project Office in Dhaka; Vesna Slavkovich and Joseph H. Graziano from Columbia University; Yu Chen and Stephanie Segers from New York University; and Mahmud Akter from the National Asthma Center, Dhaka.

A virus changes its stripes / human outbreak of eastern equine encephalitis

Contact: Jim Kelly jpkelly@utmb.edu 409-772-8791 University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Outbreak in Panama brought Latin America’s first human cases of eastern equine encephalitis

In the summer of 2010, the eastern Panamanian province of Darien experienced a phenomenon that had never been seen before in Latin America: a human outbreak of eastern equine encephalitis.

The mosquito-borne virus that causes the disease is found all over the Americas, and infects horses throughout its range. Human infections are diagnosed every year in North America and are taken quite seriously; they carry a 50 percent chance of mortality, and can result in lifelong neurological damage. But 2010 marked a dramatic change in the way the virus behaved in Latin America.

“Until the Darien outbreak, we had become convinced that the virus in South America was fundamentally different in its ability to infect people and cause serious disease,” said University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston professor Scott Weaver, senior author of a paper on the epidemic appearing in the August 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. “This epidemic broke that dogma’s back very quickly.”

UTMB researchers collaborated with Panamanian scientists to investigate the outbreak, testing samples from 174 patients and many horses. In the end, they confirmed 13 human cases of eastern equine encephalitis and one case of dual infection of both eastern and Venezuelan equine encephalitis.

“We saw only about a one in 10 case-fatality rate in Panama, which is low by U.S. standards,” Weaver said. “Still, if this virus has changed and become more virulent for people, we need to know, number one, is it going to spread to other parts of Latin America or number two, are other Latin American strains likely to do the same thing?”

Weaver noted that earlier studies have shown that the eastern equine encephalitis virus is common in many Latin American locations where human exposure to virus-carrying mosquitoes is high. Since the virus is constantly mutating, it’s possible that a strain like the one seen in 2010 in Panama could take hold in an ecosystem in nearby Colombia, Ecuador or the Peruvian Amazon.

“With a situation where a lot of people are being exposed to the virus, there would be the potential for a lot of new disease,” Weaver said. “So it’s important to understand what’s happening in Panama both for the Panamanians and for people all over Latin America.”


Additional authors of the paper include Jean-Paul Carrera, Sandra Lopez-Vergés, Nestor Sosa, Yamilka Díaz, Davis Beltrán, Julio Cisneros and Alex Martínez-Torres of the Gorgas Memorial Institute of Health Studies, Panama; Ivan Abadía, Elizabeth Castaño, Carmen Báez and Dora Estripeaut of the Hospital del Niño, Panama; Hector Cedeño of the Ministry of Health, Panama; Humberto Hernandez of the Ministry of Agricultural Development, Panama; and UTMB assistant professor Naomi Forrester, research scientist Eryu Wang, postdoctoral fellows Amy Vittor and Andrew Haddow, research associate Amelia Travassos da Rosa and professor Robert Tesh. Support for this research was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, Panama.

Obesity kills more Americans than previously thought

Contact: Timothy S. Paul tp2111@columbia.edu 212-305-2676 Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health

1 in 5 Americans, Black and White, die from obesity — nearly 3 times previous estimates

Obesity is a lot more deadly than previously thought. Across recent decades, obesity accounted for 18 percent of deaths among Black and White Americans between the ages of 40 and 85, according to a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This finding challenges the prevailing wisdom among scientists, which puts that portion at around 5%.

“Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe,” says first author Ryan Masters, PhD, who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “We expect that obesity will be responsible for an increasing share of deaths in the United States and perhaps even lead to declines in U.S. life expectancy.”

While there have been signs that obesity is in decline for some groups of young people, rates continue to be near historic highs. For the bulk of children and adults who are already obese, the condition will likely persist, wreaking damage over the course of their lives.

In older Americans, the rising toll of obesity is already evident. Dr. Masters and his colleagues documented its increasing effect on mortality in White men who died between the ages of 65 and 70 in the years 1986 to 2006. Grade one obesity (body mass index of 30 to less than 35) accounted for about 3.5% of deaths for those born between 1915 and 1919—a grouping known as a birth cohort. For those born 10 years later, it accounted for about 5% of deaths. Another 10 years later, it killed off upwards of 7%.

When the obesity epidemic hit in the 1980s, it hit across all age groups, so older Americans have lived through it for a relatively short period of time. But younger age groups will be exposed to the full brunt for much longer periods.

“A 5-year-old growing up today is living in an environment where obesity is much more the norm than was the case for a 5-year-old a generation or two ago. Drink sizes are bigger, clothes are bigger, and greater numbers of a child’s peers are obese,” explains co-author Bruce Link, PhD, professor of epidemiology and sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “And once someone is obese, it is very difficult to undo. So it stands to reason that we won’t see the worst of the epidemic until the current generation of children grows old.”

A New Way of Looking at a Growing Problem

This study is the first to account for differences in age, birth cohort, sex, and race in analyzing Americans’ risk for death from obesity. “Past research in this area lumped together all Americans, but obesity prevalence and its effect on mortality differ substantially based on your race or ethnicity, how old you are, and when you were born,” says Dr. Masters. “It’s important for policy-makers to understand that different groups experience obesity in different ways.”

The researchers analyzed 19 waves of the National Health Interview Survey linked to individual mortality records in the National Death Index for the years 1986 to 2006, when the most recent data are available. They focused on ages 40 to 85 in order to exclude accidental deaths, homicides, and congenital conditions that are the leading causes of death for younger people. The study builds on earlier research by Dr. Masters that found, contrary to conventional wisdom, that risk for death from obesity increases with age. The new study is also influenced by previous work by co-authors Eric Reither, PhD, associate professor at Utah State University, and Claire Yang, PhD, associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which showed significant cohort differences in U.S. obesity rates.

Obesity’s Varying Effects by Sex and Race

In the groups studied, Black women had the highest risk of dying from obesity or being overweight at 27 percent, followed by White women at 21 percent. Obesity in Black women is nearly twice that of White women. White men fared better at 15%, and the lowest risk for dying from being obese was 5%, for Black men. While White men and Black men have similar rates of obesity, the effect of obesity on mortality is lower in Black men because it is “crowded out” by other risk factors, from high rates of cigarette smoking to challenging socioeconomic conditions. There were insufficient data to make estimates for Asians, Hispanics, and other groups due to the highly stratified nature of the methodology.

In sum, by using a new, more rigorous approach, the new research shows that obesity is far more consequential than previously recognized, that the impact of the epidemic is only beginning to be felt, and that some population groups are affected much more powerfully than others.


Daniel Powers of the University of Texas at Austin and Andrew E. Burger of Utah State University also contributed to the paper.

The study, “The Impact of Obesity on U.S. Mortality Levels: The Importance of Age and Cohort Factors in Population Estimates,” was published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

Unhealthy lifestyles will see British children die before their parents

Research from British Heart Foundation warns of health problems affecting a generation, from lack of exercise to dietary issues

Adam Withnall

Monday, 12 August 2013

The unhealthy lifestyles of today’s children could see them die younger than their parents because of heart disease, diabetes and other medical conditions, a new study has shown.

In a “wake-up call” to parents, schools and the Government, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has worked with the University of Oxford to publish its first ever supplement dedicated solely to coronary heart disease statistics and causes among children and young people.

The study has found that with around 30 per cent of that group being overweight or obese, less than one in five children in the UK eating their five a day, and a minority doing recommended levels of daily exercise, the 50-year trend of reducing cardiovascular disease is set to be reversed.

BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said: “These figures are a warning that many of our children are in grave danger of developing coronary heart disease in the future if they continue to live the same lifestyle.”

And medical director Professor Peter Weissberg wrote in a foreword to the study: “Over the past fifty years there has been a substantial and unprecedented reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease in the UK. This trend could reverse if we fail to tackle the rising tide of obesity in our young people today.

The research identified a variety of bad habits which, picked up in childhood, represented a real danger going on into adult life. These including skipping breakfast, with half of 13-year-old boys and a third of girls avoiding the meal on a regular basis.

Figures also showed that half of all children have chocolates, sweets, and soft drinks every day.

“It’s pretty bleak and totally unacceptable,” Mr Gillespie told The Times.

He said: “We’ve got a generation growing up which will buck that trend and potentially they will be the generation that lives less long than the generation above them. It really is as stark as that. If that isn’t a wake-up call, then what is?”

And Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, told the newspaper: “This isn’t wishy-washy open-toed sandals stuff. If we really want to compete with India and China we need fit, healthy adults.

“We’ve got used to the idea that our children aren’t going to be as well off as us, but we haven’t got used to the idea that they won’t be as healthy,” he said.

The BHF said it was expanding its “Hearty Lives” scheme to combat the problem, committing £1.2 million in order to set up seven new community projects.

Mr Gillespie said: “The projects, run in partnership with local authorities, the NHS and non-profit organisations, will use a range of interventions to help.

”These include employing a dietitian to work with children struggling with obesity in Manchester and running weight management programmes for teenagers in Scotland.

“Through our new Hearty Lives projects we are committed to working with local communities to give young people most at risk of heart disease a healthier start in life.”



Dad’s obesity could be inherited by multiple generations

Contact: Dr. Tod Fullston tod.fullston@adelaide.edu.au 61-883-138-188 University of Adelaide

The sperm of obese fathers could increase the risk of both their children and their grandchildren inheriting obesity, according to new research from  University of Adelaide.

In laboratory studies, researchers from the University’s Robinson Institute have found that molecular signals in the sperm of obese fathers can lead to obesity and diabetes-like symptoms in two generations of offspring, even though the offspring are eating healthily.

The results of the research are published online in The FASEB Journal.

“A father’s diet changes the molecular makeup of the sperm.  With obese fathers, the changes in their sperm – in their microRNA molecules – might program the embryo for obesity or metabolic disease later in life,” says the lead author of the paper, Dr Tod Fullston, who is an NHMRC Peter Doherty Fellow with the University’s Robinson Institute, based in Dr Michelle Lane’s Gamete and Embryo Biology Group.

“For female offspring, there is an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese.  What we’ve also found is that there is an increased chance of both male and female offspring developing metabolic disease similar to type 2 diabetes.

“This is the first report of both male and female offspring inheriting a metabolic disease due to their father’s obesity,” he says.

The study also extended into the second generation of progeny, which showed signs of similar metabolic disorders, including obesity, although it was not as severe as the first generation.

Dr Fullston says even if the obese father does not show any signs of diabetes, metabolic disease similar to diabetes was being seen in two generations of their descendants.

“It’s been known for some time that the health of a mother before, during and after pregnancy can impact on her child’s health, but the father’s health during this period is often overlooked,” Dr Fullston says.

“If our laboratory studies are translatable to humans, this could be a new and as yet unexplored intervention window into the epidemic of childhood obesity.

“A focus on the mother’s health is extremely important, but we’re seeing that the father’s health is also important for conception. It’s possible that by showing additional attention to diet and exercise in the father, this could have a positive impact on his future children and grandchildren.”


Media Contact:

Dr Tod Fullston NHMRC Peter Doherty Fellow Robinson Institute The University of Adelaide Phone: +61 8 8313 8188 tod.fullston@adelaide.edu.au

Children with milk allergy may be ‘allergic to school’ : Chalk dust can contain milk protein

Contact: Christine Westendorf ChristineWestendorf@acaai.org 847-427-1200 American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

Chalk dust can contain milk protein, triggering respiratory symptoms

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL. (May 2, 2013) – Many of today’s school teachers opt for dustless chalk to keep hands and classrooms clean. But according to a study published in the May issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), this choice in chalk may cause allergy and asthma symptoms in students that have a milk allergy.

Casein, a milk protein, is often used in low-powder chalk. When milk allergic children inhale chalk particles containing casein, life-threatening asthma attacks and other respiratory issues can occur.

“Chalks that are labeled as being anti-dust or dustless still release small particles into the air,” said Carlos H. Larramendi, MD, lead study author. “Our research has found when the particles are inhaled by children with milk allergy, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath can occur. Inhalation can also cause nasal congestion, sneezing and a runny nose.”

Milk allergy affects an estimated 300,000 children in the United States, according to the ACAAI. Although it has been believed the majority of children will outgrow milk allergy by age three, recent studies contradict this theory, showing school aged children are still affected. However, 80 percent of children with milk allergy will likely outgrow it by age 16.

“Chalk isn’t the only item in a school setting that can be troublesome to milk allergic students,” said James Sublett, MD, chair of the ACAAI Indoor Environment Committee. “Milk proteins can also be found in glue, paper, ink, and in other children’s lunches.”

Even in the wake of whiteboards, overhead projectors and tablets, chalk is a classroom staple that likely won’t become extinct anytime soon. Parents with milk allergic children should ask to have their child seated in the back of the classroom where they are less likely to inhale chalk dust, advises Sublett.

“Teachers should be informed about foods and other triggers that might cause health problems for children,” said Sublett. “A plan for dealing with allergy and asthma emergencies should also be shared with teachers, coaches and the school nurse. Children should also carry allergist prescribed epinephrine, inhalers or other life-saving medications.”


If your child is sneezing and wheezing at school, you should see a board-certified allergist for proper testing, diagnosis and treatment. For more information about pediatric allergies and asthma, and to find an allergist, visit http://www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.


The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 5,700 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit http://www.AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org. Join us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Study suggests US children born outside the United States have lower risk of allergic disease

Contact: Richard Bory rbory@chpnet.org 212-523-6069 The JAMA Network Journals



A study by Jonathan I. Silverberg, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., of St. Luke’s—Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York,  and colleagues suggests children living the in the United States but born outside the U.S. have a lower prevalence of allergic disease that increases after residing in the United States for one decade. (Online First)

The cross-sectional questionnaire used for the study was distributed to 91,642 children aged 0 to 17 years enrolled in the 2007-2008 National Survey of Children’s Health. The main outcomes measured were prevalence of allergic disease, including asthma, eczema, hay fever, and food allergies.

According to the study results, children born outside the United States had significantly lower odds of any atopic disorders than those born in the United States, including ever-asthma, current-asthma, eczema, hay fever, and food allergies. Children born outside of the United States whose parents were also born outside the United States had significantly lower odds of any atopic disorders than those whose parents were born in the United States. Children born outside the United States who lived in the United States for longer than 10 years when compared with those who resided for only 0 to 2 years had significantly higher odds of developing any allergic disorders, including eczema and hay fever, but not asthma or food allergies.

“In conclusion, foreign-born Americans have significantly lower risk of allergic disease than US-born Americans. However, foreign-born Americans develop increased risk for allergic disease with prolonged residence in the United States,” the study concludes.


(JAMA Pediatr. Published online April 29, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.1319. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.jamanetwork.com.)

Editor’s Note: Please see the articles for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

The adult generations of today are less healthy than their counterparts of previous generations

Contact: Jacqueline Partarrieu press@escardio.org 33-492-947-756 European Society of Cardiology

Results from a large cohort study suggest that exposure to metabolic risks of cardiovascular disease is increasing

Sophia Antipolis, 10 April 2013. Despite their greater life expectancy, the adults of today are less “metabolically” healthy than their counterparts of previous generations. That’s the conclusion of a large cohort study from the Netherlands which compared generational shifts in a range of well established metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Assessing the trends, the investigators concluded that “the more recently born generations are doing worse”, and warn “that the prevalence of metabolic risk factors and the lifelong exposure to them have increased and probably will continue to increase”.

The study, reported today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, analysed data on more than 6,000 individuals in the Doetinchem Cohort Study, which began in 1987 with follow-up examinations after six, 11, and 16 years.(1,2) The principal risk factors measured were body weight, blood pressure, total cholesterol levels (for hypercholesterolaemia) and levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is considered “protective”.

The subjects were stratified by sex and generation at baseline into ten-year age groups (20, 30, 40, and 50 years); the follow-up analyses aimed to determine whether one generation had a different risk profile from a generation born ten years earlier – what the investigators called a “generation shift”.

Results showed that the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and hypertension increased with age in all generations, but in general the more recently born generations had a higher prevalence of these risk factors than generations born ten years earlier. For example, 40% of the males who were in their 30s at baseline were classified as overweight; 11 years later the prevalence of overweight among the second generation of men in their 30s had increased to 52% (a statistically significant generational shift). In women these unfavourable changes in weight were only evident between the most recently born generations, in which the prevalence of obesity doubled in just 10 years.

Other findings from the study included:

  • Unfavourable (and statistically significant) generation shifts in hypertension in both sexes between every consecutive generation (except for the two most recently born generations of men).
  • Unfavourable generation shifts in diabetes between three of the four generations of men, but not of women.
  • No generation shifts for hypercholesterolaemia, although favourable shifts in HDL cholesterol were only observed between the oldest two generations.


As for the overall picture, and based on the evidence of a “clear” shift in the prevalence of overweight and hypertension, the investigators emphasise that “the more recently born adult generations are doing worse than their predecessors”. Evidence to explain the changes is not clear, they add, but note studies reporting an increase in physical inactivity.

What do the findings mean for public health? First author Gerben Hulsegge from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment emphasises the impact of obesity at a younger age. “For example,” he explains, “the prevalence of obesity in our youngest generation of men and women at the mean age of 40 is similar to that of our oldest generation at the mean age of 55. This means that this younger generation is ’15 years ahead’ of the older generation and will be exposed to their obesity for a longer time. So our study firstly highlights the need for a healthy body weight – by encouraging increased physical activity and balanced diet, particularly among the younger generations.

“The findings also mean that, because the prevalence of smoking in high-income countries is decreasing, we are likely to see a shift in non-communicable disease from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer to obesity-related diseases such as diabetes. This decrease in smoking prevalence and improved quality of health care are now important driving forces behind the greater life expectancy of younger generations, and it’s likely that in the near future life expectancy will continue to rise – but it’s also possible that in the more distant future, as a result of our current trends in obesity, the rate of increase in life expectancy may well slow down, although it’s difficult to speculate about that.”

Almost third of US West Coast newborns hit with thyroid problems after Fukushima nuclear disaster

 Published time: April 03, 2013 19:56                                                                             
 A boy receives a radiation scan at a screening center in Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo / Go Takayama)

A boy receives a radiation scan at a screening center in Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo / Go Takayama)

Researchers have discovered that the Fukushima nuclear disaster has had far-reaching health effects more drastic than previously thought: young children born on the US West Coast are 28 percent more likely to develop congenital hyperthyroidism.

In examining post-Fukushima conditions along the West Coast, researchers found American-born children to be developing similar conditions that some Europeans acquired after the 1986 meltdown of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

“Fukushima fallout appeared to affect all areas of the US, and was especially large in some, mostly in the western part of the nation,” researchers from the New York-based Radiation and Health Project wrote in a study published by the Open Journal of Pediatrics.

Children born after the 2011 meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant are at high risk of acquiring congenital hyperthyroidism if they were in the line of fire for radioactive isotopes. Researchers studied concentration levels of radioiodine isotopes (I-131) and congenital hypothyroid cases to make the association.

Just a few days after the meltdown, I-131 concentration levels in California, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon and Washington were up to 211 times above the normal level, according to the study. At the same time, the number of congenital hypothyroid cases skyrocketed, increasing by an average of 16 percent from March 17 to Dec. 31, 2011. And between March 17 and June 30, shortly after the meltdown, newly born children experienced a 28 percent greater risk of acquiring hyperthyroidism.

In 36 other US states outside of the exposure zone, the risk of congenital hyperthyroidism decreased by 3 percent – a finding that researchers believe may serve as further proof that Fukushima had something to do with the unusually high results found on the West Coast.

The disease is usually rare, but can manifest into a serious condition if left untreated. Affected fetuses and children may suffer serious developmental delay – and a recent report found that 44.2 percent of 94,975 sampled Fukushima children have had thyroid ultrasound abnormalities as a likely result of their exposure to the radiation.

Americans often doubted that radiation from the meltdown would affect the US West Coast, but the latest research sheds light on alarming scientific data that indicates otherwise. Radioactive iodine that enters the human body typically gathers in the thyroid, which release growth hormones. Radiation exposure can therefore stunt the growth of a child’s body and brain. Exposure can have long-lasting effects, which scientists have studied in those who were near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant during its 1986 meltdown. Decades after the accident, a 2011 study by the National Institutes of Health found that higher absorption of I-131 radiation led to an increased risk for thyroid cancer among victims of Chernobyl radiation – a risk that has not diminished over time.

The children who were unfortunate enough to be exposed to Fukushima radiation on the US West Coast, Alaska or Hawaii could face similar risks of congenital hypothyroidism or thyroid cancer throughout their lives, although the Radiation and Health Project Researchers said they are still investigating further to see what other factors might be involved in their findings before drawing any solid conclusions about the effects of Fukushima.

110 million Americans infected with some type of STD



Wednesday, 27 March 2013


According to new data released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 19.7 million new venereal infections in the United States in 2008, bringing the total number of existing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S. at that time to 110,197,000!




The 19.7 million new STIs in 2008 vastly outpaced the new jobs and college graduates created in the United States that year or any other year on record, according to government data. The competition was not close.


The STI study referenced by the CDC estimated that 50 percent of the new infections in 2008 occurred among people in the 15-to-24 age bracket. In fact, of the 19,738,800 total new STIs in the United States in 2008, 9,782,650 were among Americans in the 15-to-24 age bracket.




By contrast, there were 1,524,092 bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States in the 2007-2008 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That means the total number of new STIs in 2008 outpaced the total number of new bachelor’s degrees by nearly 13 to 1, and the number of new STIs among Americans in the 15-to-24 age bracket outnumbered new bachelor’s degrees by more than 6 to 1.




While the CDC estimates that there were 19.7 million new STIs in the United States in 2008, data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the total number of people employed in the country actually declined by 2.9 million during that year.


The CDC said the new venereal infections contracted each year cost the nation about $16 billion.


“CDC’s new estimates show that there are about 20 million new infections in the United States each year, costing the American healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs alone,” said a CDC fact sheet.



Number of dead pigs found in Shanghai rivers rises to 16,000


Melanie Leather

Friday, 22 March 2013

A police campaign to curb the illicit trade in sick pig parts in China appears to be having little effect as the number of dead pigs recovered in the last two weeks from rivers that supply water to Shanghai now stands at more than 16,000.

The government in China’s financial hub says that 10,570 carcasses have been pulled from its Huangpu river. That is in addition to 5,528 pigs plucked from upstream tributaries in the Jiaxing area of Zhejiang province.

Authorities give daily updates assuring the public that tests show Shanghai’s water is safe, but no official has given any full explanation about the massive dumping of pig carcasses.

The dumping follows a crackdown on the illegal trade in contaminated pork.

In China, pigs that have died from disease should be either incinerated or buried, but some unscrupulous farmers and animal control officials have sold problematic carcasses to slaughterhouses. The pork harvested from such carcasses has ended up in markets. As a food safety problem, it has drawn attention from China’s Ministry of Public Security, which has made it a priority to crack down on gangs that purchase dead or sick pigs and process them for illegal profits.

Three men were sentenced to life prison in Jiaxing last November for procuring dead pigs to sell their meat, the state-controlled Southern Weekly newspaper reported. It says the men and their group purchased and slaughtered 77,000 dead pigs in a period of more than two years.
Local officials also told Southern Weekly that the city lacks enough facilities to properly dispose of dead pigs. Hog farming is a major business in Jiaxing.

Huang Beibei, a lifetime resident of Shanghai, was the first to expose the problem when he took photos of the carcasses and uploaded them onto his microblog.

“This is the water we are drinking,” Huang wrote. “What is the government doing to address this?”



Researchers link Gulf War Illness to physical changes in brain fibers that process pain

Contact: Karen Mallet km463@georgetown.edu Georgetown University Medical Center

WASHINGTON — Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) have found what they say is evidence that veterans who suffer from “Gulf War Illness” have physical changes in their brains not seen in unaffected individuals. Brain scans of 31 veterans with the illness, compared to 20 control subjects, revealed anomalies in the bundles of nerve fibers that connect brain areas involved in the processing and perception of pain and fatigue.

The discovery, published online March 20 in PLOS ONE, could provide insight into the mysterious medical symptoms reported by more than one-fourth of the 697,000 veterans deployed to the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, the researchers say. These symptoms, termed Gulf War Illness, range from mild to debilitating and can include widespread pain, fatigue, and headache, as well as cognitive and gastrointestinal dysfunctions.

Although these veterans were exposed to nerve agents, pesticides and herbicides, among other toxic chemicals, no one has definitively linked any single exposure or underlying mechanism to Gulf War Illness according to the scientists.

This is the first study to show veterans, compared to unaffected subjects, have significant axonal damage. Bundles of axons, which form the brain white matter, are akin to telephone wires that carry nerve impulses between different parts of the gray matter in the brain. The researchers found that damage to the right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus was significantly correlated with the severity of pain, fatigue, and tenderness.

“This tract of axons links cortical gray matter regions involved in fatigue, pain, emotional and reward processing.  This bundle also supports activity in the ventral attention network, which searches for unexpected signals in the surrounding environment that may be inappropriately interpreted as causing pain or being dangerous. Altered function in this tract may explain the increased vigilance and distractibility observed in veterans.” says lead author Rakib Rayhan, a researcher in the lab of the study’s senior investigator, James Baraniuk, MD, a professor of medicine at GUMC.

In this Department of Defense-funded study, the research team used a form of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) called diffusion tensor imaging. This imaging method examines patterns of water diffusion in the brain to look for changes in the integrity of white matter, which is not seen on regular MRI scans. “This provides a completely new perspective on Gulf War Illness,” says Baraniuk. “While we can’t exactly tell how this tract is affected at the molecular level — the scans tell us these axons are not working in a normal fashion.”

Although preliminary, “the changes appear distinct from multiple sclerosis, major depression, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases,” says Rayhan. “These novel findings are really exciting because they provide validation for many veterans who have long said that no one believes them.”

The results must be replicated, say its authors, but for the first time a potential biomarker for Gulf War Illness may be on the horizon as well as a possible target for therapy aimed at regenerating these neurons.

“Pain and fatigue are perceptions, just like other sensory input, and Gulf War Illness could be due to extensive damage to the structures that facilitate them,” says Rayhan. “Some of the veterans we studied feel pain when doing something as simple as putting on a shirt. Now we have something to tell them about why their lives have been so greatly affected.”


Other study co-authors include Georgetown University Medical Center researchers Benson W. Stevens, Christian R. Timbol, Oluwatoyin Adewuyi , Brian Walitt, MD, and John W. VanMeter, PhD.

Support was provided by a Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program award W81-XWH-09-1-0526. This project has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds (grant # UL1TR000101, previously UL1RR031975) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program.

The article can be access on March 20 at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0058493.

About Georgetown University Medical Center

Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis — or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical Translation and Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

U.S. autism estimates climb to 1 in 50 school-age children: 72% increase since 2007

Thu, 21 Mar 2013 00:05 GMT


* Boys four times more likely than girls to have diagnosis

* Milder cases made up much of the increase  (Adds CDC and expert interview, byline, background)

By Julie Steenhuysen

March 20 (Reuters) – As many as one in 50 U.S. school age children have a diagnosis of autism, up 72 percent since 2007, but much of the increase involves milder cases, suggesting the rise is linked to better recognition of autism symptoms and not more cases, government researchers said on Wednesday.

Overall, the telephone survey of more than 100,000 parents found about 2 percent of children ages 6 to 17 have autism, up from 1.16 percent in 2007, the last time the study was conducted.

“That translates to 1 million school age children ages 6 to 17 who were reported by their parents to have autism spectrum disorder,” said Stephen Blumberg, a senior scientist at the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who led the study.

As with prior estimates, boys were much more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls, with 1 in 31 school-age boys, or 3.2 percent, having an autism diagnosis, compared with 1 in 143, or 0.7 percent of girls, having a diagnosis.

“Boys were more than 4 times as likely as girls to have autism spectrum disorder,” Blumberg said.

He said the increase among boys accounted for nearly all of the overall increase in autism diagnoses.


The new findings differ sharply from autism data released just a year ago by the CDC, which said 1 in 88 children in the United States had autism, a spectrum of disabilities that can range from highly functioning individuals to those with severe speech and intellectual disabilities.

In general, individuals with autism struggle with difficulties in communication, behavior and social interaction.

In the current study, the researchers surveyed parents of children age 6 to 17 as part of the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health or NSCH. They compared their findings to the same study done in 2007, which found 1 in 86 children had an autism diagnosis.

The estimate from last year involved a review of medical and educational records of 8 year olds in 14 sites around the country. Data in the records were last collected in 2008, so the finding of 1 in 88 is not far off from the 1 in 86 figure in 2007, the starting point of the current study.

Blumberg said much of the increase in the estimates from the current parent survey was the result of diagnoses of children with previously unrecognized autism.

Increased awareness of autism differences in children and better detection of autism symptoms by doctors, especially in children with milder cases, likely accounts for the increased diagnoses.

“We think the improved recognition is really a recognition of autism spectrum disorders in children with previously unrecognized autism as opposed to new cases,” Blumberg said

Symptoms of autism can be seen in children as young as 18 months of age, and doctors are urged to conduct a screening for developmental delays on all children by age 2. But doctors often fail to detect mild cases of autism until children enter school, when parents become aware of their child’s troubles making friends and teachers notice differences in the child’s ability to interact socially, the team said.

“This is not saying anything about an increased risk for autism but rather that the NSCH is capturing more of the cases that had been missed previously,” said Michael Rosanoff of the advocacy group Autism Speaks.

For families, the findings mean detection of autism, particularly milder forms, is improving but could still happen earlier.

“Even mildly affected children who are in general education settings can struggle without and benefit from appropriate autism spectrum disorder services,” he said in an e-mail.

While scientists believe genetics account for 80 to 90 percent of the risk for developing autism, a growing number of studies are beginning to suggest that a father’s age at the time of conception may play a role by increasing risks for genetic mistakes in the sperm that could be passed along to offspring.

And new research by a British team found that older fathers are more likely to have grandchildren with autism, suggesting that risk factors for autism may build up over generations.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Cynthia Osterman)