By jeremyc | August 21, 2014
In a recently issued statement, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against fake Ebola treatments and has threatened action against parties selling and promoting such treatments. The FDA also reiterated in its statement that it has not yet approved any medication to cure or prevent Ebola.
Ebola virus disease is a severe and often fatal condition that has been reported in large numbers in West Africa. The region is seeing the largest Ebola outbreak in world history at the moment. As the search for the disease’s prevent and treatment continues and the outbreak spreads farther, the FDA has noted that several products have come up claiming to prevent or cure the virus. Many of them have been offered for purchase online.
The FDA is testing one treatment called ZMapp, which has shown initial promise. However, no approved vaccine or cure exists for Ebola. The effectiveness and safety of ZMapp is still undergoing tests, so supply is extremely limited. The FDA also stated that Ebola is not a major US threat. It has asked people to immediately report any party claiming to sell Ebola treatments.
By jeremyc | August 20, 2014
The number of cases of the viral infection chikungunya has risen significantly in the Western Hemisphere in the past few months, especially in the Caribbean area. Locally transmitted cases have been identified in Florida, but CDC officially believe that the virus is not likely to cause a major US outbreak.
The CDC has reported 221 chikungunya cases in the US in 2014, but only four locally transmitted cases were found in the mainland, two of them being confirmed in the beginning of July 2014. However, the virus has spread rapidly since its first confirmed case was identified in December 2013 in the Western Hemisphere. According to the Pan American Health Organization, over 400,000 potential cases were present in late July alone.
According to CDC epidemiologist Erin Staples, MD, PhD, the virus will not likely spread in the US to the same extent as in regions outside the country, since Americans spend less time outside. She also noted that the current outbreak has been caused by the tiger mosquito, which is not common to the US.
In spite of the low case numbers within the country, the CDC has reported 584 cases as of 12 August. The patients likely caught the infection when they travelled to Central/South America or the Caribbean.
By jeremyc | August 19, 2014
According to a new study, the rates of bacterial and pneumococcal meningitis mortality have dropped in 1997-2010, a period during which efforts to treat the condition went through significant changes.
The study was led by Rodrigo Hasbun, MD, of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and focused on cases exclusively in the US.
Bacterial meningitis is a severe illness caused by several kinds of bacteria. During the 2000s, changes in the treatment and vaccination for this condition had changed in the US. For the study, data on 50,822 bacterial meningitis cases from the HealthCare Cost Utilization Project network database was analyzed.
On analysis, the researchers found that overall bacterial meningitis rates fell during the course of the study. Rates of the disease caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia, which is the most common cause, fell from 0.8 to 0.3 cases per 100,000 people. Also, rates of the disease caused by Neisseria meningitides, another common cause for the disease, fell from 0.721 to 0.123 cases per 100,000.
According to the researchers, the study’s findings support the use of proper vaccinations to combat the bacterial disease. Vaccines against this disease are a common element of routine immunization in the US, according to the CDC.
By jeremyc | August 17, 2014
A team of doctors in the US have recently completed a heart valve replacement surgery outside of the heart for the first time, rather than inside it.
The transcatheter tricuspid valve replacement surgery was performed on 31 July 2014 at the Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit. The tricuspid valve works with the other heart valves to regulate blood flow at the heart. The position of this valve in the heart makes open-heart surgery the only way of replacement in most cases.
For this surgery, the doctors used 3D modelling to build a replica of the heart of the patient beforehand. With this replica, the doctors were able to assess the exact size of the new valve required and devised a way to conduct a minimally invasive surgery.
The surgery involved the threading of a tube through a vein from the patient’s groin. The tube was used to place the replacement valve near the inferior vena cava immediately outside the heart. The new valve prevented blood leakage and the pooling of blood to the lower body and abdominal vasculature.
The patient who underwent this revolutionary surgery was turned down for an open-heart procedure because of previous medical procedures. The new surgery gave her an option that did not involve such a surgery.
William O’Neill, MD, lead physician for the procedure, said, “There are a lot of people who have damage of the tricuspid valve, and the surgery is risky, so doctors just try to give them medical therapy. They get a lot of swelling and severe liver congestion. They’re in and out of the hospital, and it really causes a lot of morbidity. So there’s a huge, unmet clinical need. Individuals with this type of valve problem now have another option.”
By jeremyc | August 16, 2014
Despite warnings regarding their health impact, sugar-sweetened sodas and beverages are still been consumed frequently by US citizens. According to a recent study, many respondents reported drinking one or more such drinks regularly every day.
The study was done by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers and covered adult respondents across 18 states. Gayathri S. Kumar, MD, of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, led the study.
Data on 13,391 US adults was acquired from the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for this study. Respondents were asked how often they drank sweetened beverages in the past 30 days. The responses were categorized as no daily consumption, less than once a day and one or more times per day.
On analysis, 26.3% of the respondents were found to have reported drinking one or more times a day. In fact, 17.1% reported drinking soda and 11.6% drank fruit drinks one or more times. Consumption rates varied with each state too, with Hawaii reporting the lowest at 20.4% and Mississippi reporting the highest at 41.4%.
People in the 18-34 years age group made up most of the regular consumers of sweetened beverages, especially sodas. Kumar and her team wrote, “Reducing [sugar-sweetened beverage] consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle might help with weight management and reduce the risk for chronic diseases among US. Adults [...] Persons who want to reduce their daily added sugar intake can consider replacing their consumption of [sweetened drinks] with healthier drinking options (e.g., water, unsweetened tea, and fat-free milk).”
By jeremyc | August 13, 2014
According to a new large-scale research study, lung, pulmonary and respiratory disease can increase the risk of developing lung cancer later on in life.
The study was led by Ann Olsson, PhD, of the International Agency for Research in Cancer in Lyon, France, and the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden. Data on 27,684 European and Canadian patients was acquired from seven studies. The researchers looked at patients with lung conditions including asthma, pneumonia, tuberculosis, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis and pneumonia were the most common diseases among the patients.
On analysis, the researchers found that emphysema and chronic bronchitis was linked to an increased later lung cancer risk in men. Male bronchitis patient had a 1.33 times greater risk of lung cancer, and those with emphysema had a 1.5 times greater risk. However, there was no link found between lung cancer and tuberculosis.
The researchers also found that patients with pneumonia, emphysema and chronic bronchitis had an increase in lung cancer risk. Patients who had all three conditions had the greater cancer risk. However, asthma patients had a decreased cancer risk.
By jeremyc | August 12, 2014
The misuse of prescription medication has been a problem in the US, and a recent study has found that rates of this misuse continue to be high and has also become acceptable among many peer groups.
The study was led by Brian Kelly, PhD, of the Department of Sociology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Surveys were conducted at common hangout points for young people between 18 and 29 years of age. The participants were asked to report any misuse of prescription pills three times in the last six months or once in the last 90 days.
The medicines were classified as stimulants, sedatives and painkillers. A total of 404 participants reported misuse of prescription drugs in the previous 90 days, and 54.7% of them were men. The researchers found that 91.6% misused painkillers, 90.4% misused sedatives and 90.8% misused stimulants.
Also, for every instance of misuse in the last 90 days, participants had a 0.9% greater chance of misusing the drug again. The number of sources of prescription drugs also significantly predicted the rate of misuse. For each extra source, the frequency of misuse increased 22.9%. The researchers wrote, “The misuse of medication is rooted in a number of mechanisms, and it has been shown to be socially acceptable among youth, where experimentation with drugs is deliberate.” Kelly said, “We found that peer drug associations are positively associated with all three outcomes. If there are high perceived social benefits or low perceived social consequences within the peer network, they are more likely to lead to a greater frequency of misuse, as well as a greater use of non-oral methods of administration and a greater likelihood of displaying symptoms of dependence. The motivation to misuse prescription drugs to have a good time with friends is also associated with all three outcomes. The number of sources of drugs in their peer group also matters, which is notable since sharing prescription drugs is common among these young adults.”
By jeremyc | August 10, 2014
Insomnia can make patients feel less focused and more tired during daytime, but a new study indicates that it may also cause back pain. Chronic back pain patients often find their condition worsens due to sleeping difficulties. Insomnia and back pain have been medically linked before, but it has not been clear whether back pain follows insomnia or vice versa.
This new study, however, has indicated that previous signs of insomnia increase the chance of healthy employed adults reporting back pain symptoms. The study was led by Maayan Agmon, PhD, and Galit Armon, PhD, of the School of Nursing at the University of Haifa in Israel.
Data on 6,578 patients enrolled in the 2003-2011 Tel Aviv Medical Center Inflammation Survey (TAMCIS) was assessed for this study. The average age was 46 years and average daily working hours were 9.6 hours. A total of 12% of the final data sample reported back pain, which was assessed based on patient interviews and medical records.
The study authors said, “Healthy working adults were almost one-and-a-half times more likely to experience back pain following insomnia symptoms or increased severity of insomnia over time.” Women most often reported back pain, but the authors could not verify that back pain predicted insomnia.
What the study revealed was that insomnia was a risk factor for back pain. The researchers advised doctors to assess patients’ medical history and inquire about insomnia when patients report back pain. They also suggested a combination treatment of both back pain and insomnia.
By jeremyc | August 9, 2014
Fast food has often been blamed for the widespread obesity in the United States, but it may not be the sole cause. According to a recent study, full-service restaurants may be just as much responsible.
The study found that full-service and fast-food restaurant goers ate more sugar, saturated fat, calories and salt than those who ate at home. Also, it found that middle-class and black adults were more likely to have a calorific increase than Hispanics, white adults and high-income people.
The study was led by Binh Nguyen, PhD, of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and Lisa Powell, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago. A total of 12,528 20-64-year-old people were part of this study. They listed what they consumed in the last 24 hours.
The results found that eating from a full-service or fast-food restaurant resulted in more salt, saturated fat and calorie consumption that eating from home. Also, those who ate from fast-food joints had more sugar per day than those who did not frequent such places. In other words, those who at from any type of restaurant consumed 200 more calories on average per day than those who ate at home.
Also, race and income play a role in calorie intake too. Black participant had higher calorie intakes than white and Hispanic people. Moreover, middle-class participants had larger calorie intake increases than high-income participants.
Nguyen said, “The United States is one of the most obese nations in the world, with more than one in three adult men and women defined as obese. Just as obesity rates rise, there’s been a marked increase in total energy consumption consumed away from home, with about one in four calories coming from fast food or full service restaurants in 2007. Our study confirms that adults’ fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption was associated with higher daily total energy intake and poorer dietary indicators.”
By jeremyc | August 7, 2014
The US FDA has warned that it has not approved the dermal filler usage of Expression and using it as such may lead to adverse effects. Injectable fillers are often used to restore the youthful appearance of skin, and one such filler is called Expression, by Enhancement Medical.
However, the FDA has noted that Expression is not approved for filling in wrinkles in the face by the FDA. It has also warned that the filler may cause side effects including pain, swelling, bruising, bumps and lumps. It wrote, “The FDA has become aware of adverse events associated with the use of Expression (also known as Expression Injectable) as a dermal filler. These events have included swelling, tenderness, firmness, lumps, bumps, bruising, pain, redness, discoloration, itching and the development of hard nodules.”
The agency has received a report of a patient who had “firm masses in the face after being injected with the Expression product, which was used as a dermal filler.” Expression contains hyaluronic acid gel. It is indicated for use as an intranasal splint to reduce swelling and bleeding in the nasal cavity post-trauma or -surgery.
Considering the risk of side effects, the FDA has recommended healthcare providers to cease the use of Expression as dermal fillers. It has further recommended consumers to only receive FDA-approved dermal injections from licensed healthcare provider.