Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Kit to test Zika Virus from Singapore

The test kit, which is now ready for use, costs only a few dollars to produce.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
The test kit, which is now ready for use, costs only a few dollars to produce.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
SINGAPORE: Scientists in Singapore have developed a kit that can test for the dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses all at the same time in a matter of two hours.
Now ready for use, the kit costs only a few dollars to produce and has attracted interest from other countries and even the World Health Organisation (WHO), said Dr Masafumi Inoue, a senior research scientist at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*Star) Experimental Therapeutics Centre who is part of the team that developed the kit.
The made-in-Singapore kit is among others that the WHO is interested in testing, he said.
He added that he is currently compiling clinical data for the health authority before sending the kit over for testing. If successful, it could be used by the WHO to test for the viruses.
The three mosquito-borne viruses here cause similar symptoms such as rashes and joint pain. Symptoms for the Zika virus are generally mild and go away within a week.
“It is important to quickly distinguish between the three major (and prevalent) mosquito-borne viruses here... This will not only lessen the mental stress on the patient and give the patient peace of mind, but also ensure that he or she can receive the appropriate sort of treatment and care without delay,” said Dr Inoue.
All that is required from the patient is a blood or urine sample. The genetic material of the virus is then extracted to find out what the virus is.
The detection process takes two hours, reducing the time by threefold if each of the viruses were to be tested for individually.
A*Star Experimental Therapeutics Centre's senior research scientist Masafumi Inoue (left) and research associates Gerald Yong and Karen Lee were part of the team behind the kit that can test for dengue, chikungunya and Zika at the same time.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
Dr Wong Sin Yew, an infectious diseases physician at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said early diagnosis will help in public health control efforts.
“In the case of mosquito-borne infections, it will allow the NEA (National Environment Agency) to focus on intensive vector control measures in new areas and intensify measures in large outbreak areas,” added Dr Wong.
While a similar kit has been developed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is not readily available here, said Dr Inoue.
The idea to develop the kit came about six months ago when Brazil had been hit badly by the surge in Zika cases. That was when Dr Inoue and Dr Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, senior principal investigator at A*Star’s Bioinformatics Institute, decided to work with Tan Tock Seng Hospital on this project.
“We anticipated that it was a matter of time before the Zika virus would affect Singapore,” said Dr Inoue.
Moving forward, Dr Inoue and his team hope to expand the scope of the kit to include other viruses that, together with Zika, could cause microcephaly - a condition where children are born with abnormally small heads.
An article published by the Nature journal last month cited studies showing it might not be Zika alone that causes the condition. Apart from socio-economic reasons, other factors might be at play.
For instance, a recent paper by Brazilian scientists found a correlation between low vaccination rates for yellow fever and the microcephaly clusters in Brazil.

An overwhelming majority of confirmed cases of microcephaly or birth defects of the central nervous system reported in Brazil since last November were in the north-eastern part of the country. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Teens are using medicines to commit suicide

Teens are using medicines to commit suicide
Teens are using prescription drugs for suicide.
Suicide is a leading cause of death for teens worldwide, and the odds of suicide attempts may be higher when adolescents abuse prescription drugs, a Chinese study suggests.
To explore the connection between suicide risk and misuse of prescription opiates and sedatives, researchers surveyed about 3,300 Chinese teens once when they were about 14 years old and again a year later.
Teens who said they used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons at the start of the study were almost three times as likely to report a suicide attempt a year later, and the risk was more than tripled for youth who abused opiates, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics.
“Baseline opioids misuse, sedatives misuse, and nonmedical use of… prescription drugs were positively associated with later suicidal ideation,” said lead study author Dr Lan Guo of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.
Those thoughts were more likely to turn into suicide attempts with “baseline opioids misuse and nonmedical use of any prescription drugs,” Guo added.
Less than 3 per cent of the teens reported misuse of any prescription drugs, with 1.8 per cent saying they used opiates or stimulants for nonmedical reasons and about 1 percent reporting abuse of sedatives.
suicide pills depression pixabay -824998_1280aa
it’s possible that prescription drugs may alter teens’ moods or lower inhibitions.
Overall, 17 per cent of the participants reported suicidal thoughts, and 3 percent reported suicide attempts in the survey at the end of the study.
The link between drug abuse and suicide persisted even after researchers accounted for teens who reported experiencing depression at the start of the study.
While the study doesn’t examine why abuse of prescriptions and other drugs might be linked to a greater suicide risk, it’s possible that these drugs might alter teens’ moods or lower inhibitions in a way that allows suicidal impulses to flourish, the authors conclude.
Limitations of the study include its reliance on teens to accurately report and recall both drug use and suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts, the authors note.
It’s not surprising, however, that the same teens who are prone to abusing drugs would also be susceptible to suicidal thoughts, said Dr Bernard Biermann, an adolescent psychiatry researcher at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.
“Substance abuse can be associated with causing depression and distress, but it’s also a means of self-medicating,” Biermann, who wasn’t involved in the study, said in a phone interview.
It’s essential that parents keep an eye on teens for changes in behavior that go beyond temporary moodiness to suggest a bigger problem, said Dr Benjamin Shain, a researcher at the University of Chicago and head of child and adolescent psychiatry at NorthShore University HealthSystem.
“Growing up has always been difficult and life now is even more complicated,” Shain, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Parents should take seriously severe or persistent distress and changes in behavior, such as isolation or falling grades, and bring their teen to their primary care physician or a mental health professional with any signs.”
Parents should also try to make it harder for teens to get their hands on things to harm themselves, said Dr Yolanda Evans, an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who wasn’t involved in the study.
“When possible, avoid having things readily available that teens may impulsively use to end their life,” Evans said by email. “Old narcotics or medications should be discarded (look for pharmacy take back options).” – Reuters/Lisa Rapaport

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Can Pokemon Go help you lose weight and gain health? Scientists say YES

Can Pokemon Go help you lose weight and gain health? Scientists say yes
Scientists believe that the game Pokemon Go can get people to be more active and may help fight type 2 diabetes and obesity.

A specialist diabetes researcher sees Pokemon Go – the virtual character-hunting game with millions of players worldwide – as an excellent means of tackling rising levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Pokemon Go has now piqued the interest of the medical world. The smartphone-based character-hunting craze that’s sweeping the world has caught the attention of a researcher at the University of Leicester, in Britain, specialising in international diabetes research. 
In fact, Dr Tom Yates sees the application as a potential means of tackling sedentary lifestyles and obesity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
The augmented reality mobile game has so far been downloaded 75 million times worldwide, and sees users chase Pokemon characters through the streets. The famous little “Pocket Monsters” who sprung up in the 1990s appear on users’ smartphone screens superimposed on real-world locations.

One of the main recommendations in the prevention and treatment of diabetes is regular physical exercise, totalling at least two and a half hours per week.
A previous study from the University of Leicester, published in the journal Diabetes Care, concluded that integrating five-minute breaks every half hour into inactive lifestyles during prolonged periods of sitting significantly reduced blood sugar and insulin levels. 
The breaks were used to introduce five minutes of walking or other forms of movement. Pokemon Go is an interesting solution since players can cover several kilometres without even realising.

This picture taken on July 26, 2016, shows the 'Pokemon Go' app on the screen of a smartphone, in Paris, on July 26, 2016. The virtual hunt game "Pokemon Go" is officially available in France since July 24, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas SAMSON

Pokemon Go may be able to make people more active and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
According to Dr Tom Yates, “If there is something out there which is getting people off the sofa and pounding the streets then this game could be an innovative solution for rising obesity levels. Walking is hugely underrated yet it is man’s best and the cheapest form of exercise. It’s an easy and accessible way to get active and help maintain a healthy body.”
Experts suggest this fun and non-violent game can be a good form of exercise and can be played by the whole family. However, users should take care not to let their Pokemon hunt lead to dangerous behaviour – avoiding playing while driving or crossing roads, for example, and steering clear of venturing into dark, isolated areas.
Risk factors for diabetes include genetic predisposition and family history, but above all obesity, lack of physical exercise and sedentary lifestyles.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of diabetes cases worldwide. – AFP Relaxnews

Friday, August 5, 2016

Scientists have found a new antibiotic, and it is in your nose

Scientists have found a new antibiotic, and it is in your nose
Researchers have found an antibiotic in the human nose. Photo: AFP/Istock
Biologists on the hunt for new medicines to fight a growing epidemic of drug resistance said they found an antibiotic in an unexpected place – the human nose.
The promising compound is produced by a nose-dwelling bacterium, and is able to kill a disease-causing, antibiotic-resistant superbug, they reported.
“It was completely unexpected to find a human-associated bacterium to produce a real antibiotic,” said study co-author Andreas Peschel of the University of Tubingen in Germany.
“We have started a larger screening programme and we are sure there will be many additional antibiotics that can be discovered from these sources.”
Antibiotic compounds are usually obtained from bacteria which live in the soil.
But more and more disease-causing bugs are developing resistance to existing antibiotics, turning previously minor infections into potentially deadly ones.
According to some estimates, drug-resistant bacteria may within decades be causing more deaths than cancer.
The newly discovered antibiotic cleared or improved skin infections in lab experiments, researchers say, apparently without any toxic side-effects.
The newly discovered antibiotic cleared or improved skin infections in lab experiments, researchers say, apparently without any toxic side-effects.
Resistance is caused, among other things, by doctors over-prescribing antibiotics, and patients not taking the correct doses. Some germs, including those that cause tuberculosis, can be resistant to multiple drugs. Peschel and a team examined why 30 per cent of people have Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in their nose, and 70 per cent do not.
S. aureus is one of the most frequent causes of severe bacterial infections, and claims many human lives. A strain of S. aureus has developed antibiotic resistance.
The researchers discovered that a different bacterium called Staphylococcus lugdunensis, which is more commonly found in some noses than others, produces an S. aureus-fighting antibiotic. They christened the compound Lugdunin.
In mice, the newly discovered antibiotic cleared or improved skin infections in lab experiments, the team reported, apparently without any toxic side-effects.
These were “very unexpected and exciting findings that can be very helpful, we think, for new concepts for the development of antibiotics,” Peschel told journalists ahead of the study being published by British journal Nature.
A lot more study is needed, he added.
“We are at the very beginning. The pre-clinical and later clinical development is a matter of many years and a matter of a lot of money that needs to be raised…. We will need partners from the pharmaceutical industry.”
There are more than 1,000 microbe species living in the human body, raising the possibility of many more antibiotic-producing bacteria just waiting to be discovered.
The researchers concluded that “human microbiota should be considered as a source for new antibiotics.” – AFP Relaxnews

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Your period may be linked to how long you’ll live

Your period may be linked to how long you’ll live
The years a woman starts her period until menopause can indicate her lifespan, says study.
According to new research, women who begin menstruating after the age of 12 and enter menopause after the age of 50 are more likely to live to 90 years old.
A team of researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in the US have linked female life expectancy to the length of their reproductive span.
After studying 16,000 women for 21 years, the scientists’ findings – published in the journal Menopause – show that women who started menstruating after the age of 12 and entered menopause after the age of 50 were more likely to live to 90, especially those with more than 40 reproductive years between their first and final menstrual periods.
Whatever your weight or lifestyle habits, your risk of different cancers is lowered when you exercise.
Years of fertility between the ages when menstruation starts and menopause may indicate female life expectancy.
Note that the average age of menopause is 51, but women can enter this phase of life between the ages of 40 and 55.
Dr Aladdin Shadyab and colleagues found that this group of women were at lower risk of cardiovascular disease and aged in better health, which could explain their longevity. They also tended to be non-smokers – since smoking can lead to earlier menopause – and were less likely to have a history of diabetes. Menopause generally occurs one to two years earlier in smokers than non-smokers.
A second study of 124,000 women, published in the same journal, found that late onset of menopause – after the age of 55 – increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 12%. According to the study, the risk was lowest for women entering menopause between 46 and 55 years old.
Lifestyle factors can affect the age at which women experience menopause. Improving diets, lifestyles and quality of life in Western countries have generally pushed back the age of onset.
Further studies are now required to understand how genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors can explain the link between reproductive span and life expectancy. – AFP Relaxnews