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Wed, 26 Jan 2022
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Health & Wellness

Magic Wand

Immune system can drive cancers into dormant state

A multinational team of researchers has shown for the first time that the immune system can stop the growth of a cancerous tumor without actually killing it.

Scientists have been working for years to use the immune system to eradicate cancers, a technique known as immunotherapy. The new findings prove an alternate to this approach exists: When the cancer can't be killed with immune attacks, it may be possible to find ways to use the immune system to contain it. The results also may help explain why some tumors seem to suddenly stop growing and go into a lasting period of dormancy.

The study appears today in the advance online publication of Nature.


Bird flu deal hangs in the balance

THE world's ability to track the evolution of flu and develop vaccines against it hangs in the balance. Governments will meet next week at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, to try and rebuild the global system for sharing flu viruses after protests by Indonesia earlier this year. The country has sent only five H5N1 samples from infected people to WHO labs in 2007. Virologists say this is not enough to track H5N1 evolution.

Indonesia and its allies complain that the samples they send to the WHO-run Global Influenza Surveillance Network (GISN) are being turned into patented diagnostic tests and vaccines that they can't afford. "There has been a huge spike in H5N1-related patents recently," says Ed Hammond of pressure group the Sunshine Project.


Consumers unaware of 'eating GM food'

GENETICALLY-modified food is entering the UK by stealth via feed given to animals reared for dairy and pork products, a campaign group has warned.

Supermarket chains are widely stocking goods sourced from animals fed GM soya and maize, according to the Soil Association.

GM material could find its way, in small quantities, into the milk and animal tissue of GM-fed livestock, the group said.


Chicken-plant workers test 'positive' for TB

Alabama health officials have identified 212 workers who have tested positive for tuberculosis at a single poultry plant owned by one of the largest processors in the U.S.

In two batteries of skin tests last month, given to 765 fresh processing employees at the Decatur, Ala., plant owned by Wayne Farms LLC by the State Department of Public Health's Tuberculosis Control Division, 28 percent were found to be infected, including one with active tuberculosis disease, which is contagious. Doctors have yet to evaluate X-rays for 165 current workers who tested positive to determine if any more are contagious.


UK public areas 'actively antisocial to children'

Young people should be able to ring a hotline to report adults who are threatening their right to play outside, according to a report today warning that young people are being increasingly excluded from public spaces.

A study by the thinktank Demos finds that public areas in Britain are frequently "built around the convenience of the car and the shopping trip", and are "actively antisocial to children".

There should be scope for children and young people to have a far greater say in planning to ensure their needs are met, says the report, Seen and Heard, which urges adults to take a more positive attitude to children's use of public space.


Mental health needs of soldiers increase several months after returning from Iraq war

Compared to initial screening upon returning from the Iraq war, U.S. soldiers report increased mental health concerns and needs several months after their return for problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, according to a study in the November 14 issue of JAMA.

"Our previous article described the Department of Defense's (DoD) screening efforts to identify mental health concerns among soldiers and Marines as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan using the Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA). However, the article also raised concerns that mental health problems might be missed because of the early timing of this screening. It cited preliminary data showing that soldiers were more likely to indicate mental health distress several months after return than upon their immediate return. Based on these preliminary data, the DoD initiated a second screening similar to the first, to occur 3 to 6 months after return from deployment," the authors write.

Charles S. Milliken, M.D., of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Silver Spring, Md., and colleagues analyzed the mental health responses of the first cohort of soldiers (n = 88,235) to complete both the initial screening and the new later screening, with a median (midpoint) of six months between the two assessments. Both screenings included a self-report questionnaire and a brief interview with a clinician.

The researchers found that soldiers reported more mental health concerns, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression or alcohol misuse during the later screening. Of the 88,235 soldiers, 3,925 (4.4 percent) were referred for mental health care during the initial screening and 10,288 (11.7 percent) were referred during the later screening. Combined data from both screenings showed that the clinicians identified 20.3 percent of active and 42.4 percent of reserve soldiers as needing referral or already being under care for mental health problems.


Virulent form of cold virus spreads in U.S.

A new and virulent strain of adenovirus, which frequently causes the common cold, has spread in parts of the United States, killing 10 people and putting dozens into hospitals, U.S. health officials said on Thursday.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report detailed cases of people ill since May 2006 with a strain of the virus called adenovirus 14 in New York, Oregon, Washington state and Texas.

An enlarged view of an adenovirus particle. The viral capsid is an icosahedron with 12 antenna-like fiber projections that function to attach the virus to the cell surface during infection. A new and virulent strain of adenovirus, which frequently causes the common cold, has spread in parts of the United States, killing 10 people and putting dozens into hospitals, health officials said on Thursday.


We Can't Shop Our Way to Safety

Concerned with toxic chemicals, more people are buying products with labels like "organic," "green," and "natural." But a consumerist response to environmental threats is not only inadequate, it is dangerous.

Organic food has boomed in the last decade, moving from a tiny niche market to a $17 billion dollar industry. Those who can afford it are buying nontoxic and organic rugs, mattresses, and clothing. Almost half of all households in the US have purchased a water filter of one kind or another. Across the country, people are growing more concerned with the possibility that their food and water could actually make them sick -- and are responding by buying more products with labels like "organic," "green," and "natural."


Can't Afford That Operation? Fly to Another Country

The congressional budget office (CBO) releases its updated long-term projections for Medicare and Medicaid this week. They will almost certainly show a frightening story.

Healthcare costs in the United States are expected to hugely outpace the growth in income and inflation. When these increases are projected out over 50 or 100 years, the picture is very frightening indeed. In fact, many prominent politicians and political pundits have made a career out of scaring the public with these projections, warning of long-term budget deficits in excess of $70tn (approximately 7% of future GDP). Of course the scare stories usually neglect to point out that the vast majority of the projected deficit is due to our broken healthcare system.

Magic Wand

Examining the healing mystery of Aloe

If grandma gets a bedsore, the best thing to put on it might be a plant that's been used for 5,000 years.

The mysterious Aloe vera has been a source for healing since Old Testament times, and a Texas A&M University researcher is trying to uncover just what the substances are in the plant that work wonders and how they do it so that more might be learned about treating wounds.

Dr. Ian Tizard, a professor of immunology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, is studying a special polysaccharide, the substance that forms along cell walls of the Aloe vera, to see how it performs its healing tricks.

The Aloe vera is native to North Africa but now can be found almost worldwide, Tizard says. A succulent, it thrives in warm and dry climates very much like cactus does.

But unlike its prickly cactus cousin, Aloe vera is in a class by itself when it comes to certain healing properties.

There are more than 100 species of aloe, but Tizard says Aloe vera is the one that has drawn the most scientific interest.