Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News article] Vaccination leads to decline in pneumococcal disease and antibiotic resistance | Daily Science News

Vaccination leads to decline in pneumococcal disease and antibiotic resistance | Daily Science News.

Wits University and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) released a new study, led by Wits academics, showing rates of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) – including cases caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria – have fallen substantially in South Africa following the introduction of a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in 2009.

The release of the results of the study coincides with World Pneumonia Day, commemorated annually on 12 November.

The study, titled: Effects of Vaccination on Invasive Pneumococcal Disease in South Africa, published in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), compares IPD incidence after the introduction of PCV (post-introduction: 2011 and 2012) to incidence prior to its introduction (2005-2008), focusing on high-risk groups.

Although the majority of childhood pneumococcal deaths occur in Africa, evidence of the potential impact of pneumococcal vaccines in routine use has largely been drawn from high-income countries. However, two recent publications from South Africa have demonstrated PCVs to be effective in preventing pneumococcal disease among South African children, in conditions of routine vaccine use.

“The results show that the vaccine works as rolled out in our immunization program and this supports the hard work of our national and provincial Departments of Health. However, much still remains to be done in South Africa, other countries in Africa and elsewhere to prevent children from developing and dying from pneumonia,”said Dr Anne von Gottberg, lead author of the paper, Clinical Microbiologist, Head of the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis at the NICD and Associate Professor in the School of Pathology at Wits.

This study demonstrates significant declines in pneumococcal disease cases caused by bacteria resistant to one or more antibiotics, a phenomenon of growing concern among health professionals. In fact, the rate of infections resistant to two different antibiotics declined nearly twice as much as infections that could be treated with antibiotics. This proportionately greater effect of vaccination on antibiotic-resistant strains points to a very valuable added benefit of immunization.

“These are very compelling results,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a Geneva-based global health organization that part-funded the research. “Not only does it add significant weight to the growing body of evidence that PCV prevents disease, but it suggests that vaccines may have a role to play in the fight against antibiotic resistance.”

“Vaccination is one of the most effective and underappreciated tools available to reduce antibiotic resistance. The majority of resistant strains of pneumococcus are of types which are included in the vaccine, for this reason, vaccine introduction in South Africa, has led to a substantial decline in antibiotic resistant invasive pneumococcal disease,” said Dr Cheryl Cohen, co-author of the paper, Clinical Epidemiologist at the NICD and senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at Wits.

In 2009, South Africa became the first African country – and the first nation in the world with a high HIV prevalence – to introduce PCV7 into its routine immunization program. The current study shows a significant decline in IPD in children and in unvaccinated adults, which demonstrates the indirect protection conferred by herd immunity. Among children under two years of age, overall incidence of IPD declined nearly 70% after PCV introduction, and rates of IPD caused by bacteria specifically targeted by the vaccine plummeted nearly 90%.

A recent study published by the researchers in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal found that the risk of IPD in South African children increased with HIV exposure, as well as with underlying medical conditions, malnutrition, tuberculosis, upper-respiratory tract infections and exposure to other children.

“We have shown that HIV-infected and HIV-exposed children experience a disproportionate burden of pneumococcal disease. The vaccine has also been shown to be highly effective in HIV-exposed children and disease reductions have been observed in both HIV-infected and uninfected children,” said Dr Claire von Mollendorf, a medical epidemiologist from the NICD. “This study reinforces what the scientific community has known – that the pneumococcal vaccine saves lives.”

Although incidence of HIV among infants is decreasing in South Africa due to improved prevention of the mother-to-child HIV transmission and the use of anti-retrovirals, a large number of HIV-exposed yet uninfected children remain, for whom vaccination against pneumococcal disease may be of particular importance to ensuring reduced risk of life-threatening infections in childhood.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

‘[news article] Smart’ drugs won’t make smart people smarter, research concludes — ScienceDaily

‘Smart’ drugs won’t make smart people smarter, research concludes — ScienceDaily.

Excerpt

Date: November 12, 2014
Source: University of Nottingham
Summary: It is claimed one in five students have taken the ‘smart’ drug Modafinil to boost their ability to study and improve their chances of exam success. But new research into the effects of Modafinil has shown that healthy students could find their performance impaired by the drug.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] ‘Nudges’ try to help college students live healthier

‘Nudges’ try to help college students live healthier 

 

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Students run up the bleachers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on the University of Florida campus. A new national study aimed at preventing college students from gaining weight used Internet lessons and “nudges” to try to get them to live healthier lifestyles. Karla Shelnutt, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences and a study investigator, considers the web messages successful if they helped students progress from thinking about eating more fruits and vegetables to actually doing so.Credit: UF/IFAS file photo.

From the 14 November 2014 University of Florida press release:

From the 12 November 2014 University of Florida press release

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Internet lessons and “tailored” text alerts can help some young people adopt healthier lifestyles, according to a national study aimed at preventing weight gain.

Although experimental group students didn’t gain or lose more weight than their control group counterparts, researchers remain hopeful the Internet-message approach can work because it helped college students progress from what researchers call the “contemplative stage” to the “action stage.”

An example of the contemplative stage would be someone who’s thinking about trying to eat fatty foods less frequently, but hasn’t taken action to do so, while someone at the action stage would choose to eat a salad, instead.

In the study, students aged 18-24 received individually targeted messages. Some students were in the “pre-contemplative” stage; others fell into the “action” stage, while others were in various stages between those two.

The study, published online last week in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, found more students who received the Web messages ate more fruits and vegetables and were more physically active than those in the control group.

Researchers weren’t as concerned about students losing weight as they were with giving them strategies to lead healthier lives to prevent weight gain, said Karla Shelnutt, a University of Florida assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences.

 

 

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Understanding natural compounds when antibiotics no longer work — ScienceDaily

Understanding natural compounds when antibiotics no longer work — ScienceDaily.

Excerpts

Date:November 12, 2014
Source:ETH Zürich
Summary:Medicine is drifting towards a major problem. An increasing number of bacteria is no longer sensitive to known antibiotics. Doctors urgently need to find new ways of fighting these multi-resistant pathogens. To address the problem, pharmaceutical research is turning back to the source of most of our drugs: nature.

Although hundreds of thousands of known active agents are found in nature, exactly how most of them work is unclear. A team of researchers from ETH Zurich has now developed a computer-based method to predict the mechanism of action of these natural substances. The scientists hope this method will help them to generate new ideas for drug development. “Natural active agents are usually very large molecules that often can be synthesized only through very laborious processes,” says Gisbert Schneider, a professor of computer-aided drug design at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at ETH Zurich. An understanding of the exact mechanism of action of a natural substance enables the design of smaller, less complex molecules that are easier to synthesize. Once a substance is chemically synthesized, it can be optimized for medical applications.

In order to understand the mechanism of action, researchers are studying which parts of a pathogen interact with the natural substance to inhibit its growth for example. In the past, this involved highly complex laboratory tests through which scientists usually identified only the strongest effect of a substance. However, this interaction alone is often unable to explain the entire effect of a natural substance. “Minor interactions with other target structures can contribute to the overall effect as well,” explains Schneider.

“By using the computer to break down the molecules, which can be quite large, into separate building blocks, we discover which parts might be essential for the mechanism of action,” says Schneider. Thus, it might be possible to design less complex molecules that chemists could synthesize instead of the laborious process of isolating them from the natural source.

Analysis of 210,000 natural substances

Using the computer-based method, the researchers led by Gisbert Schneider were able to predict a variety of potential target structures for 210,000 known natural substances.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain demonstrated — ScienceDaily

Marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain demonstrated — ScienceDaily.

Excerpts

Date:November 10, 2014
Source:Center for BrainHealth
Summary:
The effects of chronic marijuana use on the brain may depend on age of first use and duration of use, according to new research. Researchers for the first time comprehensively describe existing abnormalities in brain function and structure of long-term marijuana users with multiple magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychiatry | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Recognizing emotions, and what happens when this is interrupted — ScienceDaily

Recognizing emotions, and what happens when this is interrupted — ScienceDaily.

Excerpt

Date:November 10, 2014
Source:Sissa Medialab
Summary:
Recognizing the emotions other people feel is crucial for establishing proper interpersonal relations. To do so, we look at (amongst other things) facial expressions and body posture. Unfortunately, in some neurological disorders this ability is heavily impaired. This happens, for example, in multiple sclerosis where scientific evidence shows that people affected by the disease often have trouble recognizing expressions that communicate emotions. A new study now demonstrates that the same difficulty may also be encountered with emotions conveyed by posture.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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