Archive for August, 2010


Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Whale Medicine Makes Scars disappear

Veterinarians And Microbiologists

Develop Antimicrobial Agent

That Works Under Water

September 1, 2008 — Veterinarians added a bioadhesive to an existing antimicrobial agent in order to make it an effective protective agent for aquatic animals such as whales. The adhesive was originally developed to treat burns on humans, but the adhesive helps it stay in place underwater, providing protection from infection and allowing animals’ natural defenses work to heal wounds.

Anytime you cut yourself or get a burn, one of the biggest roadblocks to healing is infection. That’s especially true for burn patients and those with extremely sensitive skin.

Now, there may be a new weapon in the war against infections — even against dangerous germs like MRSA, Super-Staph and other drug-resistant bacteria; and humans aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit Beluga whales, native to the arctic, are some of the Georgia Aquarium’s most popular and talkative residents.

John Widgery is a firefighter of more than 20 years. In an unusual trial, man and beluga became the first test patients for a new kind of anti-microbial compound that enhances the effectiveness of antibiotics to fight dangerous infections.

“We can take even the most drug-resistant bacteria and make them susceptible to very low concentrations of what we call low-class antibiotics; things that aren’t really considered to work anymore,” says Branson Ritchie, D.V.M., Ph.D., a professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “We can take those very drug-resistant bacteria and kill them.”

Widgery became one of the first human patients to be treated with the compound after an explosion left him with first- and second-degree burns on his face and arms. “When I stood up, I thought my hair was in my face,” says Widgery. “I wiped my face and found out it was my skin that was hanging in my eyes and my mustache. I reached for it and it was gone. My eyebrows were gone.”

After 12 days of treatment with the experimental anti-microbial, the results were astounding. Widgery’s skin is now back to normal. Meanwhile, University of Georgia veterinarians found they could adapt the same experimental compound to protect beluga whales from dangerous infections by adding a bioadhesive that makes the compound stay on underwater.

“The bioadhesive will stick to those lesions, keep them protected from their aquatic environment and let their bodies do the natural defense that they need to do while protecting it from the environment,” Dr. Ritchie says. It’s disease-fighting research for animals — and people. Widgery is grateful he was part of it.

“I am not a person that cares what I look like, but I am so thankful that I don’t have those scars,” Widgery says. The whales aren’t complaining either.

The human anti-microbial Silvion has now received FDA marketing approval and is available to treat everything from skin cuts to burn injuries. The animal version, Tricide, is being used to treat animals at zoos and aquariums to prevent infection and promote healing.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Virus May Act as ‘Evolution-Proof’

Biopesticide Against Malaria

Science (Aug. 21, 2010) — A naturally occurring virus in mosquitoes may serve as a “late-life-acting” insecticide by killing older adult mosquitoes that are responsible for the bulk of malaria transmission. The researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, detail their findings in the August 2010 issue of the Journal of Virology.

Malaria infects hundreds of thousands of people each year and is the cause of over a million deaths worldwide. Insecticides are one of the main strategies currently used to control malaria transmission, however, evolving resistance to such therapies continues to impact such efforts. “Late-life-acting” insecticides (LLAIs) are now being examined as a new approach for controlling malaria as they selectively kill older mosquitoes that spread the disease, while younger mosquitoes survive just long enough to reproduce.

“Reproduction allows for relaxation of evolutionary pressures that select for resistance to the agent,” say the researchers. “If resistance alleles exert fitness costs, there are theoretical scenarios under which resistance is not expected to evolve, leading some to provocatively term LLAIs as ‘evolution-proof’.”

Densonucleosis viruses (or densoviruses [DNVs]) are naturally occurring parvoviruses that have been identified in multiple mosquito species. Some DNVs typically infect during the larval stage and are lethal, however, in this study researchers suggest that the Anopheles gambiae densovirus (AgDNV) may infect at low levels during early life and replicate to lethal levels at adult age. Analysis following infection showed that although AgDNV levels increased modestly during larval development they still replicated slower resulting in significantly decreased virus levels during this stage. Additionally, virus levels greatly increased in 7-to-10-day-old adults.

“Ultimately, we expect that a properly engineered LLAI AgDNV can be deployed in the field to significantly modulate malaria transmission,” say the researchers.

Sourced & published  by Henry Sapiecha


Monday, August 23rd, 2010

New Compound May Be Effective

Against Chagas’ Disease

Science (Aug. 22, 2010) — A new compound may offer an effective drug candidate against the deadly tropical infection, Chagas’ disease say researchers from Brazil. They report their findings in the August 2010 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Chagas’ disease is an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and it affects approximately 18 million people and causes up to 50,000 deaths per year in tropical regions of the world. Human infection occurs through contact with contaminated feces or urine from infected insects, blood transfusions, contaminated food, and birth canal transmission. In areas where the disease is endemic, such as Mexico and Argentina, up to 30% of infected patients may develop cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems.

The current drug used to treat Chagas’ disease, benznidazole, is effective when treating acutely infected patients, however, it is less so when dealing with chronic infections and poses severe side effects in elderly patients.

In this study researchers identified a compound against T. cruzi and found it not only inhibited cell division, but it was also a very effective against T. cruzi even at very low doses. Additionally, it was 340 times more toxic to parasites than mammalian cells as well as more effective than benznidazole in all experiments.

“This compound was demonstrated to have a fast antiparasite effect, decreasing its viability and invasion capacity and leading to an apoptosis-like death,” say the researchers.

First Case Of Insect Transmission Of Chagas Parasite In Louisiana (Jan. 18, 2007) — Loyola biology professor Patricia Dorn, Ph.D., in collaboration with Dawn Wesson, Ph.D., of Tulane University Health Sciences Center and Loyola undergraduate student Leon Perniciaro discovered the …  > read more

Genetically Distinct Carriers Of Chagas Disease-Causing Parasite Live Together (Mar. 18, 2009) — Researchers have found living together the known carrier species for the Chagas disease-causing parasite Triatoma dimidiata (also known as “kissing bugs”) and a cryptic species that looks the same — …  > read more

Human Movement May Have Brought Chagas Disease to Urban Peru (Dec. 17, 2009) — New research shows how the migration and settlement patterns associated with the rapid urbanization of Peru may link to Chagas disease transmission. The study, suggests that the practice of …  > read more

Dogs May Help Collar Chagas Disease: Researchers Propose New Ways to Combat Prevalent Public Health Challenge (July 12, 2010) — Chagas disease affects 10 to 12 million people in Latin America, killing more than 15,000 a year. It is caused by a parasite that roams with only limited control among the rural poor in Latin …  > read more

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Bird Influenza Virus

May Persist on Feathers

Fallen from Domestic Ducks

ScienceDaily (Aug. 22, 2010) — Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1) may persist on feathers fallen from the bodies of infected domestic ducks and contribute to environmental contamination. Researchers from the National Institute of Animal Health, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan report their findings in the August 2010 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Since the emergence of Asian avian influenza virus in 1997, it has spread to Europe, the Middle East and Africa causing significant mortality and economic loss in the poultry industry. Although the virus is mainly found in waterfowl and transmitted through fecal contamination in water, humans as well as other mammalian species have contracted the virus through close contact with infected birds.

A prior study showed that H5N1 could replicate in the skin cells of feathers and further suggested that those that drop off the body could potentially contaminate the environment. Here, researchers evaluated the environmental risk posed by contaminated feathers by inoculating domestic ducks with H5N1, collecting feathers, feces and drinking water three days following, and then storing them at 39 degrees and 68 degrees Fahrenheit for 360 days. Results showed that H5N1 persisted the longest in feathers at both temperatures.

“These results indicate that feathers detached from domestic ducks infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1) can be a source of environmental contamination and may function as fomites with high viral loads in the environment,” say the researchers.


Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
Understanding Multiple Myeloma – What is Blood?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer affecting plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell.

Blood is pumped around your body to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and take away waste products. It is made up of:

  • red cells — carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body
    Red cells
  • white cells — fight infection
    White cells
  • platelets — form clots to stop bleeding.

The different kinds of blood cells are made by the bone marrow (the spongy part in the centre of bones). The bone marrow contains stem cells, which are primitive blood cells that develop into either red cells, white cells or platelets. When a stem cell matures, in most cases it is released into the bloodstream.
Plasma cells, which are affected in multiple myeloma, are a type of white blood cell that normally remains in the bone marrow. They:

  • form part of the immune system
  • help fight infection by making proteins called antibodies, which attack bacteria and viruses that infect the body.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Friday, August 20th, 2010

Colon exam doesn’t finish the job

A new study is pushing a cut-rate version of the colonoscopy — and while it might save your insurance company big money, don’t count on it to save your life.

It’s called sigmoidoscopy, and it can cost as little as $250 versus $1,000 for a colonoscopy and anesthesia. Researchers say their analysis of studies involving hundreds of patients finds that this newer procedure is just as effective as colonoscopy at reducing deaths by colon cancer.

Both procedures use a camera on a tube inserted into your hindquarters, but that’s where the similarities end — because while colonoscopies involve a thorough examination of the entire colon, the bargain-basement version only looks at the lower third.

Hey, you’ve seen one part of the colon, you’ve seen it all, right?

Not on your life! Any gastroenterologist worth his scope will tell you that they often find polyps and other growths in the part of the colon skipped by the sigmoidoscopy.

An amateur, on the other hand, will miss polyps no matter where they grow… and that’s how we got this study.

You see, the researchers didn’t look at colonoscopies done here in the United States, where they’re performed by specialists such as gastroenterologists. Nope — all the patients in this review were overseas, where colonoscopies are done by general practitioners.

You’ve got a camera, I’ve got a tube — let’s have a rectal exam!

Take it from me — you know I have no great love of cancer screenings, and I’m against nearly all of them. But colonoscopies work, plain and simple, and they work so well there’s simply no reason to trust your hiney to any cheap, unproven alternatives — no matter how much the insurance companies might love them.

So forget sigmoidoscopies, virtual colonoscopies, and any other gimmick that comes along and get a plain old colonoscopy from a doctor with a proven track record.

No ifs, ands… or butts.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Treating IBS: Peppermint Oil – Mint Leaves

If you prefer a natural remedy, peppermint oil is worth a try. Studies suggest that it may be effective in relieving IBS symptoms. In fact, it performed better than a placebo at relieving symptoms in some people with IBS. Look for enteric-coated capsules, which are less likely to cause heartburn — and check with your doctor first if you’re taking other medications.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Monday, August 16th, 2010

Deathstalker Scorpion Venom

Could Improve Gene Therapy

for Brain Cancer

Science (Aug. 11, 2010) — An ingredient in the venom of the “deathstalker” scorpion could help gene therapy become an effective treatment for brain cancer, scientists are reporting. The substance allows therapeutic genes — genes that treat disease — to reach more brain cancer cells than current approaches, according to the study in ACS Nano.

Miqin Zhang and colleagues note that gene therapy — the delivery of therapeutic genes into diseased cells — shows promise for fighting glioma, the most common and most serious form of brain cancer. But difficulties in getting genes to enter cancer cells and concerns over the safety and potential side effects of substances used to transport these genes have kept the approach from helping patients.

The scientists describe a new approach that could solve these problems. Key ingredients of their gene-delivery system are chlorotoxin, the substance in deathstalker scorpion venom that can slow the spread of brain cancer, and nanoparticles of iron oxide. Each nanoparticle is about 1/50,000th the width of a human hair. In tests on lab mice, the scientists demonstrated that their venom-based nanoparticles can induce nearly twice the amount of gene expression in brain cancer cells as nanoparticles that do not contain the venom ingredient. “These results indicate that this targeted gene delivery system may potentially improve treatment outcome of gene therapy for glioma and other deadly cancers,” the article notes.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Monday, August 16th, 2010

Green Tea Extract

Appears to Keep Cancer in Check

in Majority of CLL Patients

Science (June 4, 2010) — An extract of green tea appears to have clinical activity with low toxicity in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients who used it in a phase II clinical trial, say researchers at Mayo Clinic.

The findings were presented June 7 during the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). They are the latest in a series of Mayo studies to show promise for use of the chemical epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) — the major component of green tea — in reducing the number of leukemia cells in patients with CLL. Mayo first tested EGCG in a variety of laboratory assays about eight years ago, and it was found to reduce the survival of CLL leukemic cells. This laboratory finding was followed by a successful phase I clinical trial — the first time green tea extract had been studied in CLL patients.

“Although only a comparative phase III trial can determine whether EGCG can delay progression of CLL, the benefits we have seen in most CLL patients who use the chemical suggest that it has modest clinical activity and may be useful for stabilizing this form of leukemia, potentially slowing it down,” says Tait Shanafelt, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hematologist and lead author of the study.

“These studies advance the notion that a nutraceutical like EGCG can and should be studied as cancer preventives,” says Neil Kay, M.D., a hematology researcher whose laboratory first tested the green tea extract in leukemic blood cells from CLL patients. “Using nontoxic chemicals to push back cancer growth to delay the need for toxic therapies is a worthy goal in oncology research — particularly for forms of cancer initially managed by observation such as CLL.”

Drs. Shanafelt and Kay caution that EGCG is not a substitute for chemotherapy. All of the patients Mayo tested with EGCG were early stage, asymptomatic CLL patients who would not otherwise be treated until their disease progressed. The extract was supplied by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Polyphenon E International for these initial clinical trials.

CLL is a blood cancer that is a hybrid between leukemia and lymphoma. Progression of the disease is measured by the quantity of leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow as well as enlargement of lymph nodes due to infiltration by the leukemia cells. In the phase I study, published in May 2009 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers found that the blood lymphocyte (leukemia cell) count was reduced in one-third of participants, and that the majority of patients who entered the study with enlarged lymph nodes due to involvement by CLL saw a 50 percent or greater reduction in their lymph node size.

Using the highest dose tested in the phase I study, the researchers launched their phase II clinical trial in an additional 36 patients. The results presented at the ASCO meeting evaluate the effects in these 36 patients as well as the six patients from the phase I trial treated at the same dose (total 42 patients). Results from 41 patients who have completed the study show that 31 percent of patients had a 20 percent or greater sustained reduction in blood leukemia count, and 69 percent of patients with enlarged lymph nodes saw a reduction of node size of 50 percent or greater.

In all, 69 percent of CLL patients had a biological response to EGCG as evidenced by a 20 percent or greater sustained reduction in blood lymphocyte count and/or a 50 percent or greater reduction in lymph node size, the researchers say.

Because EGCG was being studied in patients who did not otherwise need treatment, the researchers took a rigorous approach toward studying side effects. Most clinical trials of therapeutic agents only report grade 3 and higher side effects, but the researchers looked at and reported grade 1 and grade 2 as well. While a number of patients had transient grade 1 or 2 side effects, only three of 42 experienced a grade 3 side effect during their six months of treatment.

“All in all, the treatment was well tolerated with very mild side effects in most patients,” Dr. Shanafelt says.

The researchers say that the prior publications on the effects of EGCG on CLL leukemia cells in the laboratory and the data from the published phase I study have been widely disseminated via the Internet by patient advocacy groups. Based on information from patients and colleagues throughout the country, the Mayo researchers have become aware that many CLL patients nationwide have started to use EGCG supplements, which are readily available over the counter.

“Without a phase III clinical trial, we cannot make a recommendation that EGCG be used by CLL patients, but those who want to take supplements should consult with their oncologists and need to receive appropriate monitoring using laboratory tests,” Dr. Kay says.

The study was funded by grants from the NCI, the Mayo Comprehensive Cancer Center and from donors and patient advocacy foundations.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Monday, August 16th, 2010

Receipts covered in hormone-like chemical

Here’s a reality check for those of you who think you can avoid the toxic chemical bisphenol A: It turns out this toxic chemical has even been found in cash register receipts. That’s right: It’s not just cans and plastic bottles, friends – this poison is literally everywhere.

Researchers from the Environmental Working Group found this dangerous estrogen-like substance in 40 percent of receipts from places like Safeway, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, CVS, and KFC.

Even the hippy-friendly greenie paradise Whole Foods had BPA in its receipts. You just can’t trust anyone these days!

But if you think handling receipts with BPA is no big deal, think again. Swiss scientists say that two hours after exposure, 30 percent of the BPA from a receipt remained on the skin – and could no longer be washed away.

Nothing like a hormone boost with each purchase – and they don’t even charge extra for it.

Speaking of BPA, Duane wrote in to ask how to send a message to the government urging them to ban this toxic garbage. Here’s what you do, Duane: Write a letter and print it out. Don’t waste money on an envelope or a stamp – just run that letter right through your shredder.

That’s what the feds will do with it, because they don’t care about you or me. The dangers of BPA are well known and well documented – it’s been linked to everything from obesity and cardiovascular problems to reproductive harm and early puberty – and they’re deliberately ignoring all that evidence every single day they fail to act.

If you want to do something more productive with your time, get rid of everything that might contain BPA: Cans, bottles, jars with lids – if it doesn’t say “BPA free,” assume it’s BPA full.

There’s not much you can do about those receipts. I’d say leave them right there at the cash register, but in some places they’ll tackle you at the door if you don’t show a receipt on the way out. You might also need those receipts for warranties, returns and the taxman.

Does this mean gloves are mandatory

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha