Earlier treatment better for bipolar patients

By jeremyc | July 29, 2014

According to a recent study, bipolar disorder (BD) patients have a greater chance of responding to lithium if treatment begins early.

The study was led by Lars Vedel Kessing (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), and two definitions were used to describe early treatment. The first was after initial hospital psychiatry contact for a manic episode and the second was the beginning of a mixed or manic episode after being diagnosed with BD.

Irrespective of the two definitions, patients that received early treatment with lithium had a greater chance of responding to treatment. A total of 4714 patients were part of this study. As per the first definition, 15.2% had lithium from their first contact and 84.8% started later. After five and 10 years, the probability of a good response was 13.3% and 8.7% respectively for early starters but 6.3% and 4% respective for late starters. Thus, the risk reduced 13% when patients took lithium early. As per the second definition, the reduction in risk was 25%.

The researchers noted, “In clinical practice it is a crucial decision when to start prophylactic treatment with lithium. We have no data from randomised trials to guide this decision.” They concluded, “[T]he findings of the study may be generalised only to patients with more severe forms of mania/bipolar disorder who may have a later onset of illness [...] although we find it most likely that early intervention with lithium will also have advantages in younger samples.”

Topics: Bipolar Disorder | No Comments »

Early macular degeneration can appear at less than 44 years of age

By jeremyc | July 27, 2014

A recent study has found that early-stage macular degeneration (MD) may be seen in people as young as or older than 44 years of age. MD is an eye condition that may progress into blindness over various stages. The disease cannot be reversed, but there are some treatments available.

This particular study found that although early-stage MD may appear at less than 44 years of age, late-stage MD does not appear in people younger than 44. However, the number of advanced MD patients increases with age.

Ulrike B. Kottler, MD, and Christina A. Korb, MD, , from the Department of Ophthalmology at the University Medical Center at the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz in Germany led the study. A total of 4,340 people between 35 and 74 years of age underwent eye exams. The researchers looked for MD signs and eye experts examined to assess the stage of MD. The participants were classified by age into four groups- 34-44 years, 45-54 years, 55-64 years and 65-74 years.

Nearly 4% of the 35-44 years people had early MD but nobody from the group had late MD. Around 12% of the people in total had early MD, with the risk of the disease increasing with the participants’ age. Gender and eye color had no link to MD prevalence.

Korb said, “Our research shows that age-related macular degeneration can already occur much earlier than previously thought. This means there may also be possible consequences with regard to the screening examinations for these diseases.”

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Obese workers have higher injury rates, medical costs, lost workdays

By jeremyc | July 25, 2014

The US CDC has found that one in three adults in the country are obese, and this may be affecting workplace performance. The CDC has reported that obese workers have higher rates of injury, medical costs and lost workdays when compared to workers of normal weight.

The study that found these results also found that workers of excessive weight were not as able to carry out work when compared to people of normal weight. Age was not a factor in performance either.

Maury Nussbaum, PhD, professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and Lara Cavuoto, PhD, a professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York were co-authors of this study.

For this study, the endurance levels of 32 people were evaluated after being segmented into non-obese young, obese young, non-obese older and obese older groups. The participants were asked to perform three tasks that test a simulated assembly operation, shoulder elevation and hand grip. The workplace was that of a manufacturing setting.

On analysis, the researchers found that the endurance times of the non-obese was 60% higher than that of the obese. Also, despite older workers having longer endurance times, age and obesity did not significantly affect the results.

Nussbaum said, “Previous studies have indicated that both age and obesity lead to decreased mobility, particularly when it comes to walking and performing lower extremity tasks. However, we found no evidence of an interactive effect of obesity and age on endurance times, which is contrary to previous findings.”

Cavuoto noted that the results of this study may lead to updated workplace design guidelines that address the limitations of obese workers.

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Lack of sleep may distort, impair memories

By jeremyc | July 23, 2014

According to a new study, lack of sleep could impair or distort memory to a significant degree. The study was led by Kimberly Fenn, PhD, associate psychology professor at Michigan State University.

For the study, the researchers performed two memory comparison experiments on people who sleep less than six hours or not at all, and people who slept at night. For the first experiment, 194 University of California, Irvine students were asked about how much sleep they got and underwent a test in two parts. A total of 28 students reported five hours or fewer of sleep, and were placed on one group while the rest were in another group. Both were then asked to remember a plane crash video that they were shown earlier.

Those who slept over five hours had a greater chance of remember the plane crash video than the other group, although similar numbers from both groups reported seeing the video during the follow-up interview.

The second experiment involved 104 Michigan State University students that involved 24-hour sleep deprivation. They underwent similar tests to those taken by the University of California students.

In both experiments, it was found that sleep deprivation led to a greater risk of false memories. Fenn said, “People who repeatedly get low amounts of sleep every night could be more prone in the long run to develop these forms of memory distortion. It’s not just a full night of sleep deprivation that puts them at risk.

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GlaxoSmithKline begins seeking approval for malaria vaccine in Africa

By jeremyc | July 21, 2014

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a British pharmaceutical company, has begun seeking approval for the first malaria vaccine in the world. On approval, the vaccine could help protect millions, especially African children, from the illness.

GSK has approved the European Medicines Agency for approval of the vaccine. The approval process will involve determining the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, called RTS,S. it works by triggering the immune system to work against the malarial virus Plasmodium falciparum, which is particularly common in sub-Saharan Africa.

Once approved by the European Medicines Union and recommended¬† by the WHO, the vaccine will likely be distributed in sub-Saharan Africa first. GSK reported, “The vaccine is designed to prevent the parasite from infecting, maturing and multiplying in the liver, after which time the parasite would re-enter the bloodstream and infect red blood cells, leading to disease symptoms.”

Malaria has caused 627,000 deaths and around 207 million cases in 2012 alone, most of the victims and casualties being children less than five years old. For this reason, the RTS,S vaccine’s trials were focused on young children.

The vaccine’s approval process has been moved along after conducting a trial involving 15,460 infants and children in eight countries from Africa, including Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. The children in this trial received one vaccine dose every month for three months.

The trial resulted in a stronger effect in children aged five to 17 months as compared to infants aged six to 14 weeks, according to the WHO. A 55% reduction in malarial episodes was reported after a 12-month period. The WHO reported, “According to the vaccine development partnership’s timelines, the information needed for WHO to make an assessment will become available in late 2014, to allow possible recommendation for use in 2015, depending on the results.”

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Each additional condition lowers life expectancy

By jeremyc | July 19, 2014

New research has found that life expectancy can decline with each diagnosis of a chronic disease, especially for people of or over 67 years of age.

The study was led by Eva DuGoff, MPP, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. For this study, the researchers assessed the medical records of 1.372 million enrollees of Medicare older than 67 years. A total of 21 conditions were identified, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease and several cancer types.

On grouping participants, the researchers found that their life expectancy reduced with each new condition at an average of 1.8 years. Thus, a 67-year old without chronic conditions lived 22.6 more years on average than a similar-aged participant with five chronic conditions.

DuGoff said, “Living with multiple chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure is now the norm and not the exception in the United States.” He added, “The medical advances that have allowed sick people to live longer may not be able to keep up with the growing burden of chronic disease. It is becoming very clear that preventing the development of additional chronic conditions in the elderly could be the only way to continue to improve life expectancy.”

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HPV vaccination rate declines, other vaccination rates rise

By jeremyc | July 18, 2014

According to a CDC report, the rates of several recommended vaccinations, including the HPV vaccination, increased slightly but overall HPV vaccination rates were low.

The report looked at the vaccination rates in US teenagers during 2012-2013. It was done by Laurie D. Elam-Evans, PhD, of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and colleagues.

For this report, the researchers assessed data on 18,264 13-17 year-old participants from the 2013 teen National Immunization Survey. On analysis, the researchers found that vaccination coverage had increased for all recommended vaccines, with the percentage of teens who took a minimum one dose of Tdap vaccine increasing from 84.6% to 86%. Also, the percentage of those who received a minimum one dose of MenACWY vaccine increased to 77.8% to 74%.

As for HPV vaccination rates, the percentage of teens receiving the vaccine increased but coverage rates remained low. Among female adolescents, the percentage of those who received a minimum one dose of the vaccine increased to 57.3% from 53.8%. Among male adolescents, it increased to 34.6% from 20.8%. However, three doses of HPV vaccine is recommended, and the target was for 80% of 13-15 year-old girls to receive all three doses by 2020. This report has suggested that only 32.7% of the girls met this goal by 2013.

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Men working night or rotational shifts have higher diabetes risk

By jeremyc | July 16, 2014

According to a recent study, male workers who worked unusual or irregular hours had a greater risk of developing diabetes than those who worked in the day. Males were more susceptible to this risk than females.

The study was led by Zuxun Lu of the School of Public Health at Tongji Medical College in Wuhan, China. For this study, the researchers assessed 12 studies that measured diabetes development and shift work. Also, 28 independent reports were assessed, with data on a total of 226,652 participants.

On analysis, it was found that shift workers had a 1.09 times greater risk of diabetes, and night, irregular and rotational shifts were particularly associated with greater diabetes risk.

Men performing shift work had a greater risk of diabetes than women who did the same. The researchers concluded that an increased diabetes risk was associated with shift work, especially for men.

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Vitamin B consumption does not decrease Alzheimer’s disease risk

By jeremyc | July 15, 2014

Vitamin B has been considered a high-potential drug by some medical community members for reducing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) risk. However, a recent UK study has found no such link between vitamin B and AD prevention.

The study was led by Robert Clarke, MD, of the Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit at the University of Oxford in the UK. It aimed to analyze the relation between the disease and the ‘homocysteine hypothesis’.

AD patients have been associated high levels of the compound homocysteine in their blood, and the compound has also been linked to a greater risk of AD. Folic acid and vitamin B-12 has been known to reduce levels of homocysteine, suggesting that vitamin B medicines may reduce the risk of AD.

For this study, the researchers performed a meta-analysis on 11 clinical trials involving around 22,000 participants. On analysis, the researchers found that B vitamins did reduce homocysteine levels but had no significant impact on brain function. When compared to a placebo group, they found similar memory, brain function and other parameters.

Clarke said about the results, “Our study draws a line under the debate: B vitamins don’t reduce cognitive decline as we age.” He added, “Taking folic acid and vitamin B-12 is sadly not going to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. About 25 percent of the adult population take multi-vitamins, often with the idea that they are also good for the heart or the brain, but the evidence just isn’t there. Much better is to eat more fruit and vegetables, avoid too much red meat and too many calories, and have a balanced diet.”

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July 28 to be recognized as World Hepatitis Day

By jeremyc | July 13, 2014

In order to increase awareness of hepatitis, World Hepatitis Day will be recognized on 28 July 2014. According to health officials, hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffer from the condition, but many of them are not even aware of it.

World Hepatitis Day is being organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and others. For 2014, the theme is ‘Hepatitis: Think Again’. WHO has taken certain steps recently as part of its awareness-raising efforts to urge people to consider different hepatitis treatment approaches. It issued revised hepatitis C treatment recommendations in April 2014, which is estimated to affect 150 million people worldwide.

The new treatment recommendations include guidelines for governments worldwide to expand hepatitis C patient services and develop better infection screening and patient care programs. Baylor University Medical Center (Dallas) Liver Transplantation Medical Director James Trotter said, “The recommendations are to screen those born between 1945 and 1965 once as well as patients with the recognized risk factors for [hepatitis C virus] acquisition, primarily blood transfusion before 1992, spouse with [hepatitis C], history of IV drug use, elevated liver tests, organ transplant recipient before 1992, and clotting factor concentrate before 1987.”

In June 2014, as part of this ‘Think Again’ campaign, 194 WHO World Health Assembly countries passed a resolution for creating a worldwide response to all hepatitis types. WHO stated, “The resolution calls for enhanced action to improve equitable access to hepatitis prevention, diagnosis, and treatment and asks countries to develop comprehensive national hepatitis strategies.”

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