Tag Archives: medical

Good News Monday: Can Dogs Detect COVID-19?

Here’s a bow-WOW from the world of science: Dogs’ acute sense of smell may mean they can sniff out people carrying the virus — say, before they get on an airplane.

[from StudyFinds.org]

Dogs trained to detect people infected with COVID-19 – by sniffing their armpits

MAISONS-ALFORT, France — While a vaccine for the coronavirus will help stop the pandemic’s spread, finding everyone who may be carrying the virus is still an issue. Luckily, man’s best friend is now on the case. Researchers in France are helping to specially train dogs to detect people infected with COVID-19 — by sniffing their armpits.

A new study that has seen pilot programs spring up around the world has discovered that dogs can sniff out coronavirus in the sweat of humans. Thanks to their famously acute sense of smell, dogs have been rooting out drugs, explosives, and even successfully pick up diseases like cancer for years.

COVID-sniffing dog
A team of French scientists have now shown man’s best friend can also help save lives during the pandemic by spotting the virus. (Image credit: National Veterinary School of Alfort)

The French scientists are now showing how our furry friends can also help save lives during the pandemic by spotting virus clues. An early experiment suggested canines could be between 75 and 100 percent effective at detecting the disease with their noses.

Dogs paw-trolling airports for COVID?

The technique has already been piloted in several countries including the UEA, Lebanon, Finland, Australia, and elsewhere. Travelers may already have seen the specially trained dogs at some airports, but researchers are still trying to prove without a doubt that dogs can pick up the scent before the method is fully adopted.

The team behind the study hope their findings will mean dogs could help with COVID aid in parts of the world without the infrastructure for expensive mass testing programs. The loveable animals could be used anywhere however, with the hope that invasive nasal swabs could be replaced by a simple sweat sample taken from under the armpit for a dog to sniff.

Mass testing alternative?

Professor Dominique Grandjean, from the National Veterinary School of Alfort in France, says the dogs could check a large number of people in a short period of time.

“The results are good and I’m happy, really happy,” Grandjean says in a statement, per SWNS. “It is a success technically and scientifically and it’s surprising because we didn’t know what we were going to have as results.”

COVID-sniffing dogs
During the study, which started in March, the researchers recruited six dogs previously trained to sniff out bombs, colon cancer, or were used in search and rescue missions and re-trained to detect COVID-19. (Image credit: National Veterinary School of Alfort)

“We have been validated by the World Health Organization and they have given us a bit of money which is good. “Probably the country which is the most advanced now is the UAE, where they have dogs in three international airports. They are deploying some mobile units to go to the villages and to the people that might be more exposed to the virus,” the professor explains.

“For us here the idea was, of course, the airports but I can imagine a small city having a couple of dogs and just saying to the population ‘you can be tested whenever you want.’ You just come and put a swab under your armpit and give that to the dog and he will tell you yes or no. The dogs would be able to do that very quickly on a large number of people.”

Ending the pandemic one sniff at a time

Grandjean adds that dogs could also be used where people are reluctant to have uncomfortable nasal swab tests. During the study, which started in March, the researchers recruited six dogs previously trained to sniff out bombs, colon cancer, or used in search-and-rescue missions and re-trained to detect COVID-19.

They then collected sweat samples from 177 people (95 with COVID-19 and 82 without) and then placed the samples inside cones for the dogs to sniff. In trials, the dogs successfully picked out the infected sweat when examining a line-up of mock and negative samples.

Although the published study is just a “proof of concept” and cannot be taken as absolute proof, Prof. Grandjean and his team have now carried out further studies to validate their results and have more planned in 2021. They have also issued a “practical guide” to other academics to help others in their research and are building up a set of “international training standards” for dogs.

“We have been working with lots of countries. I think we have 20 countries working for us. It’s amazing, really amazing,” Prof. Grandjean concludes.

The study was published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

SWNS writer William Janes contributed to this report.

Good News Monday: Statins, stat!

For us older folks with cholesterol concerns — mine’s hereditary; thanks, Dad — today’s NY Times article had some heartening info.

For Older People, Reassuring News in the Statin Debate

There is accumulating evidence that the benefits of statins far outweigh possible risks, and nearly all statins on the market are now available as inexpensive generics.

Credit…Gracia Lam
Jane E. Brody

By Jane E. Brody

  • Sept. 21, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, already one of the most popular medications worldwide, may become even more widely used as evidence grows of their safety and value to the elderly and their potential benefits beyond the heart and blood vessels.

Among the latest are reports of the ability of several leading statins to reduce deaths from common cancers and blunt the decline of memory with age. Perhaps such reports will persuade a reluctant 65-year-old friend who has diabetes, and others like him, that taking the statin his doctor strongly advised is a smart choice.

In addition to accumulating evidence that the benefits of statins far outweigh possible risks for the vast majority of people for whom they are now recommended, nearly all statins on the market are now available as inexpensive generics.

Full disclosure: I have a strong family history of heart disease and have been taking a statin — atorvastatin, originally marketed as Lipitor — for many years after dietary changes failed to control a steadily rising blood level of artery-damaging LDL-cholesterol. My prescription is now fully covered by my Medicare Part D insurance with no co-pay.

But cost of a medication is not the only consideration for a drug that can be lifesaving for many people. The primary indication for taking a statin is to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by lowering serum LDL-cholesterol and, in some cases, also triglycerides, both of which can damage coronary arteries when levels rise above normal.

Statins offer further cardiovascular protection by stabilizing the fatty deposits in arteries called plaque that can break loose, block a major artery and cause a heart attack or stroke.

Current guidelines typically recommend statin therapy for:

  • People with a history of heart disease, stroke or peripheral artery disease or risk factors that give them a 10 percent or greater chance of a heart attack within 10 years;
  • People over 40 with diabetes and an LDL-cholesterol level above 70 milligrams per deciliter;
  • People over 21 with an LDL-cholesterol level of 190 or higher (despite dietary changes to minimize saturated fats and achieve a normal body weight).

Currently, more than 60 percent of older people in the United States who, like me, have high cholesterol take a statin to help prevent a heart attack or stroke.

Still, there’s been a long-simmering debate as to whether statins are advisable for people over 75, even though the risk of suffering life-threatening cardiovascular disease rises precipitously with age. Concerns have been raised about side effects associated with statins, potential adverse effects of the drugs on other ailments common in the elderly and possible harmful interactions with the many other medications they often take.

Writing in the Harvard Health Blog last October, Dr. Dara K. Lee Lewis noted, “The paradox that we face is that as our patients age, they are at increased risk for heart attacks and strokes, and yet they also become more sensitive to medication side effects, so it is a tricky balance.”

Statins can sometimes cause blood sugar abnormalities, resulting in a diagnosis of pre-diabetes or diabetes, and possible toxic effects on the liver that necessitate periodic blood tests for liver enzymes. A very small percentage of people prescribed a statin develop debilitating muscle pain. An elderly friend developed statin-induced nightmares. There have also been reports suggesting statin-associated memory problems and cognitive decline, already a common concern as people age.

But likely the biggest deterrent was the existence of meager evidence for the role statins might play for older people at risk of cardiovascular disease. As is true in most drug trials on new medications, relatively few people over 75 were included in early studies that assessed the benefits and risks of statins.

The latest reports, however, are highly reassuring. One followed more than 120,000 French men and women ages 75 to 79 who had been taking statins for up to four years. Among the 10 percent who stopped taking the drug, the risk of being admitted to a hospital for a cardiovascular event was 25 to 30 percent greater than for those who continued taking a statin.

Another study in Israel, published last year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, involved nearly 20,000 older adults followed for 10 years. Among those who stayed on statin therapy, the chance of dying from any cause was 34 percent lower than among those who failed to adhere to a prescribed statin. The benefits were not reduced for those older than 75 and applied to women and men alike.

This year a study published in JAMA by a team headed by Dr. Ariela R. Orkaby of the VA Boston Healthcare System found that among 326,981 United States veterans whose average age was 81, the initiation of statin use was associated with 25 percent fewer deaths over all and 20 percent fewer cardiovascular deaths during a follow-up of nearly seven years.

However, none of these studies represent “gold standard” research. The results of two such studies, the Staree trial and the Preventable trial, both randomized controlled clinical trials of statin therapy to prevent cardiovascular events in the elderly, have not yet been published. Both will also assess effects on cognition.

Meanwhile, a report last year from Australia published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found no difference over a six-year period in the rate of decline in memory or cognitive status between statin users and those who had never taken the drugs. In fact, among those who started a statin during the study, the rate of memory decline was blunted. Another observational study by a Swedish team published in Nature found beneficial effects on reaction time and fluid intelligence among statin takers over 65.

Finally, there are several reports that a major class of statins called lipophilic (including atorvastatin, simvastatin, lovastatin and fluvastatin) may have anticancer effects. One study of nearly 2,000 survivors of early-stage breast cancer found a decreased five-year recurrence rate in women who started a statin within three years of diagnosis.

In a report presented in June to a virtual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, Dr. Kala Visvanathan of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore described a 40 percent reduction in deaths from ovarian cancer among more than 10,000 patients who had used statins either before or after their diagnosis. The patients who benefited in this observational study had the most common and aggressive form of ovarian cancer.

Dr. Visvanathan explained that statins inhibit an enzyme in a chemical pathway involved in the growth and proliferation of tumors. At a press briefing, Dr. Antoni Ribas, president of the association, said that if the finding is confirmed in a randomized clinical trial, “this would be a great outcome.”

Good News Monday: Full Speed Ahead

No time for an original post today, but want to share this encouraging article from my daily New York Times email briefing:

A running start for a vaccine at Oxford

Here’s promising news in the worldwide race to develop a vaccine to ward off the coronavirus. The Jenner Institute at Oxford University has one that seems to work in lab animals and is ready to test its effectiveness in humans, if regulators approve.

The institute had a big head start, our correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick reports. Its scientists had an approach that they already knew was safe: They had proved it in trials last year for a vaccine to fight MERS, a respiratory disease caused by a closely related virus.

That has enabled the institute to skip ahead and schedule tests of its new Covid-19 vaccine on more than 6,000 people by the end of May, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana got very good results when they tried out the Oxford vaccine last month on six rhesus macaque monkeys. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the coronavirus. After more than four weeks, all six were still healthy.

“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” said Vincent Munster, the researcher who conducted the test.

Immunity in monkeys doesn’t guarantee that a vaccine will protect people, but it’s an encouraging sign. If the May trials go well and regulators grant emergency approval, the Oxford scientists say they could have a few million doses of their vaccine available by September — months ahead of other vaccine projects.

“It is a very, very fast clinical program,” said Emilio Emini of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is helping to finance a number of competing efforts.

All in the genes: The Jenner Institute isn’t following the classic approach of using a weakened version of the disease pathogen. Instead, its approach starts with another familiar virus, neutralizes it and then genetically modifies it so that it will prompt the body to produce the right antibodies for Covid-19.

Researchers originally cooked up the technology in a quest to develop a vaccine for malaria, which is caused by a parasite. No luck there yet. But when the idea was borrowed to go after MERS, it worked well.

woman in blue tank top smiling

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

An Ounce of Prevention

A friend passed along a medical professional’s advice that seems to be echoed by other sources. Couldn’t hurt and makes sense.

Introduction: The Chinese now understand the behavior of COVID-9, after analysis of multiple autopsies.  The virus obstructs respiratory pathways with thick mucus that solidifies and blocks the airways and lungs.

To apply medicine, you have to open and unblock the airways so treatment can be used, which takes several days.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO SAFEGUARD YOURSELF

  1. Drink lots of HOT LIQUIDS such as coffee, soup, tea and hot water.  Also, sip WARM water every 20 minutes because this keeps your mouth moist and washes any virus into the stomach, where gastric juices will neutralize it before it gets to the lungs.
  2. Once a day, GARGLE with an antiseptic in warm waer, such as lemon juice, vinegar or salt.
  3. The virus ATTACHES to clothes and hair.  Any soap or detergent kills it.  SHOWER or bathe IMMEDIATELY when you get in from the street.  Avoid sitting and go straight to the shower.  If you can’t wash your clothes daily, hang them in direct SUNLIGHT, which also neutralizes the virus.
  4. Clean METALLIC SURFACES especially carefully, because the virus can remain viable on these surfaces up to 9 days.  Be extra vigilant about cleaning hand rails, door handles etc., and regularly wipe down these surfaces at home.
  5. DON’T SMOKE!
  6. WASH HANDS every 20 minutes for 20 seconds with any soap that FOAMS.
  7. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Try to elevate your ZINC levels, not just VITAMIN C. Meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts and eggs are a few food sources.
  8. Animals do not spread the virus. It is passed on by PERSON TO PERSON contact.
  9. Try to AVOID catching the common flu, which will weaken your immune system, and also avoid cold foods and beverages.
  10. If you feel ANY DISCOMFORT in your throat, or a SORE THROAT coming on, attack it immediately using the above methods.  The virus ENTERS THIS WAY and remains 3-4 days before it passes into the lungs.

Best of luck to us all, and please don’t go out unless it’s absolutely necessary.  xx Alisa

Today’s COVID-19 Practical Tip: Painkillers

French authorities have warned the public to avoid widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs that may worsen the coronavirus.

The country’s health minister, Olivier Véran, who is a doctor and neurologist, tweeted on Saturday: “The taking of anti-inflammatories [ibuprofen, cortisone … ] could be a factor in aggravating the infection.  In case of fever, take paracetamol.

If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor’s advice.”

Anti-inflammatory drugs are a known risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the body’s immune system response.

The health ministry added that patients should choose paracetamol – which is known in the US by the generic name acetaminophen and commonly by the brand name Tylenol – because “it will reduce the fever without counterattacking the inflammation”.

Why Lies Spread Faster Than the Truth

It’s not your imagination. Misinformation travels faster than a speeding bullet — or a potentially deadly virus — , making this video worth a look.

Thanks to the EnlightenedMind blog for the timely reminder.

white plane on the sky

Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com

Priorities

In the midst of gloom, doom and general mayhem, I read something yesterday that provided a glimmer of humor.

Apparently observed amidst the panicky consumers laying siege to groceries, pharmacies and big box stores: a man stocking up on 16 boxes of condoms and a large tub of coconut oil.

When the apocalypse comes?

silhouette photo of man leaning on heart shaped tree

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Free Pain Relief

Take a deep breath: it’s an easy, free way to combat pain, insomnia, and nausea. Try these wacky-seeming techniques and let me know if any of them work for you.

PAIN 

closeup photography of two teal and three pink inflated balloons

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

WHAT TO DO

Most of us inadvertently hold our breath when we experience pain. Shallow breathing can make things worse by releasing the stress hormone cortisol instead of relieving the stress itself.

  1. Close your eyes and breathe deeply from your belly.
  2. Picture oxygen filling the painful areas with comfort as you inhale
  3. Picture the pain being pushed out as you exhale.  This supposedly stimulates the vagus nerve, which calms the fight-or-flight response.

INSOMNIA 

white bed comforter

Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

WHAT TO DO Try a technique called 4-7-8 breathing instead of medication. Keeping the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth, follow these steps:

  1. Exhale through your mouth with a gentle “whoosh”.
  2. Close your eyes and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for seven counts.
  4. Exhale with an eight-count “whoosh” through your mouth.

Repeat three times or until you fall asleep from boredom.  Caveat: Warn your partner that you’re about to make weird noises!

NAUSEA

man on gray concrete staircase

Photo by Felix Staffler on Pexels.com

WHAT TO DO Controlled breathing is said to help suppress the gag reflex and encourage peristalsis, the muscle contractions that move food into the stomach. Picture yourself walking barefoot down a long, stone staircase.

  1. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four as you imagine how the cool stone feels underfoot.
  2. Exhale with your lips closed for a count of eight as you imagine stepping down.
  3. Repeat until you stop feeling queasy.

 

 

Good News Monday: 11 Medical Breakthroughs

Look for these promising new initiatives to become more widely used in the next couple of years.

lab-217041_640

1. Tecnic Symfony, a newly approved, first-in-class lens replacement for cataracts, can now provide an extended depth of focus.  We’ll no longer have to choose between optimal close-up or distance vision, and a tiny stent is now available to treat people with glaucoma.

 2. Drones are distributing medicine to isolated areas. In 2016, a start-up company used drones to deliver medicine to Rwanda. This practice has since become routine and it’s estimated that even more areas will benefit.

3. Gene editing is helping prevent disease. A new technique to “edit” embryos (CRISPR Technology) may help future generations avoid retinal degenerative disease and inherited  diseases such as cystic fibrosis and hemophilia.

4. ALS patients will soon be able to communicate with their thoughts. New technology may help decode the thoughts of people with functional brain activity who have a completely paralyzed body resulting from a stroke, traumatic injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

5. Diabetics can be helped by an artificial pancreas. Diabetes is caused when the pancreas produces insufficient insulin. In May 2017, it was reported that the first artificial pancreas systems (the Hybrid Close-Loop Insulin Delivery System) were beginning to be distributed, helping diabetics regulate their insulin levels.

6. Reduction of LDL cholesterol. When powerful cholesterol drugs — known as PCSK9 inhibitors — were approved by the FDA in 2015, experts hailed it as a huge breakthrough, but more studies were needed to see whether this would result in medications with fewer side effects than statins.

Since then, new studies have reported good news – earlier in 2017, a 20% reduction in LDL was reported in a study group of 25,982 patients. These new cholesterol meds should become increasingly available.

7. Enhanced post-surgery recovery. Traditional surgery protocol involves no eating or drinking beforehand, feeling nauseous or groggy afterwards, and being prescribed pain medication to help with recovery, which can lead to opioid dependence.

New research has been evaluating the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol, which recommends various methods including post-operative nutrition plans and alternatives to pain medication, to speed up the recovery process.

8. More targeted and precise breast cancer therapies. Treatments such as chemotherapy fight cancer cells but don’t always have the desired outcome. In the near future, according to Breastcancer.org, expect to see treatments for breast cancer that are designed to target specific cancer cell characteristics, such as the protein that allows cells to grow in a malignant way, .

9. Improved treatments for sleep apnea. Treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea is often invasive and uncomfortable, involving the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP). This machine blows air into your nose via a nose mask, keeping the airway open and unobstructed.

But a less invasive method was approved by the FDA in October, 2017. The Remede sleep system is an implanted device that treats central sleep apnea by activating a nerve that sends signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing.

Following successful trial studies, this may become the treatment of choice.

10. Next-generation vaccines. New techniques include freeze-drying, which allows vaccinations to be transported to remote areas. Companies are also investigating faster ways to manufacture vaccinations to make them more readily available.

11. The first human head transplant! Italian scientist Sergio Canavero and Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren are developing a plan to transplant a human head — and yes, it involves neck bolts and electricity! The goal is to help patients with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

The surgeons have already performed the procedure on mice, rats and a dog, all of which survived surgery and even regained some motor function. Is that cool or what?!

Have a GOOD week! xx