Lex News: Last Month in Medicine – July ’23     

Reported by Dr. Lavanya Patnala and Madhav Bansal

  • Bird Flu outbreaks in Mammals warranting vigilance

28 domestic cats in Poland have tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) virus, which has decimated global poultry populations, caused mass deaths among wild birds, and infected more than 40 mammalian species. From January 2022 to June 29, 2023, thirteen A(H5N1) cases in people, including 2 deaths, have been reported globally, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This July, the UK reported 2 additional cases in asymptomatic poultry workers. Most of the cases have been in people who were in contact with sick or dead infected poultry or contaminated environments, and none were instances of human-to-human transmission. The WHO and its partners urged nations to take a proactive approach to protect animals, people, and economies from avian influenza.

  • Stiff arteries found to be the cause of Metabolic syndrome

New research published in the American Journal of Physiology found that arterial stiffness occurred before the presence of metabolic syndrome. Arterial stiffness was measured using carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity, the speed of blood flow from the upper to the lower aorta. They assessed for metabolic syndrome by the presence of three or more risk factors, including high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high trunk fat mass. Arterial stiffness increased the risk for metabolic syndrome by 9% for males but only by 1% for females. Males were also five times more likely than females to have metabolic syndrome.

  • New drug for RSV infection approved in US, Europe and Canada

The monoclonal antibody Beyfortus (nirsevimab-alip), already approved for use in Europe and Canada, is indicated for newborns and infants born during or entering their first RSV season, and for children up to 24 months of age who are vulnerable to severe RSV through their second RSV season, was approved by the FDA for use in the United States. Beyfortus was approved in part based on data from the phase 3 MELODY trial, which found the injection reduced the incidence of medically attended lower respiratory tract infections associated with RSV by 74.9% versus placebo (p<0.001)

  • New pin-prick blood test for Osteoporosis developed

Researchers developed and validated a generic, battery-operatable, portable device (Labman Automation, UK) to detect osteoporosis-associated SNPs from a fingerpick blood sample, with no need for DNA extraction or purification.The entire assay from the addition of the thermolyzed blood sample to the readout of the results was complete in just 15 minutes, with a cost per SNP, on a laboratory scale, including the cost of the electrode array and all reagents, of 0.3 euro (0.33 USD).

  • New therapy for Clostridium difficile infection might prevent relapses

OpenBiome, an organization dedicated to microbiome research, offers an investigational product from screened donors that has not received FDA approval. It’s been around for some time. It can be used in either upper- or lower-GI applications, and the organization cites about an 84% success rate using this product.

  • Sleep apnea linked with overall cognitive decline

According to researchers at the University of Paris-Cité, Paris, loud snoring and obstructed breathing, often caused by sleep apnea, can lead to higher chances of exhibiting signs of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or overall cognitive decline. Participants with severe sleep apnea had more white matter hyperintensities than those with mild or moderate conditions and demonstrated a decrease in the integrity of the axons of the brain that connect nerve cells. Deep sleep is one of the best indicators of sleep quality and the study found that for every 10% decrease in deep sleep, the white matter hyperintensities increased, equivalent to the brain aging 2.3 years.

  • Study found plant-based milks lack Vitamin D

Most plant-based milks, such as almond or oat milk, have less calcium, vitamin D, and protein than what is found in cow’s milk, a cornerstone beverage for meeting nutritional needs, according to research from the University of Minnesota. To make up for it, many plant-based milks are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, but most still lack the same level of protein found in cow’s milk, researchers found. The analysis included more than 200 plant-based milk alternatives, including those made from almonds, cashews, coconuts, flax, hazelnuts, hemp, oats, pistachios, rice, soy, and walnuts. The findings, which have not been published, were presented during this week’s American Society for Nutrition’s annual conference in Boston.

  • New non-invasive therapy for chronic pain

A new review paper co-authored by two Johns Hopkins pain experts suggests that scrambler therapy, a noninvasive pain treatment, can yield significant relief for approximately 80%–90% of patients with chronic pain, and it may be more effective than another noninvasive therapy: transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Scrambler therapy administers electrical stimulation through the skin via electrodes placed in areas of the body above and below where chronic pain is felt. The goal is to capture the nerve endings and replace signals from the area experiencing pain with signals coming from adjacent areas experiencing no pain, thereby “scrambling” the pain signals sent to the brain, explains the study’s primary author, Thomas Smith, M.D., Family Professor of Palliative Medicine Center and a professor of oncology and medicine at Johns Hopkins University.

  • Woman with transplanted uterus gives birth

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hospital reported that a woman with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome who was born with an absent uterus becomes the first to give birth to a healthy boy in May with a transplanted uterus from a deceased donor. This is a landmark event for UAB hospital’s uterus transplant program.

  • World Hepatitis Day on 28 July: Theme for 2023 – ‘one life, one liver’

Globally, there’s a huge number of undiagnosed and untreated people living with hepatitis.

Hepatitis infection is silent and liver health awareness is low. Most symptoms only appear once the disease is advanced, resulting in a huge volume of undiagnosed people living with hepatitis. Hepatitis C can be prevented by adequately screening all donated blood, ensuring safe injection practices in health care settings, at home and especially among people who inject drugs. WHO stated,”With COVID-19 no longer a global health emergency, now’s the time to eliminate viral hepatitis and meet our 2030 targets’.

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