Women who are infected with genital herpes early in their pregnancy may face twice the risk of bearing a child with autism, a team of US and Norwegian researchers said Wednesday.

The report in mSphere, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology journal, is the first to show that a woman’s immune response could have a harmful effect on the developing fetus’s brain and influence the likelihood of autism.

“We believe the mother’s immune response to herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) could be disrupting fetal central nervous system development, raising risk for autism,” said lead author Milada Mahic, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The causes of autism spectrum disorder remain poorly understood, and researchers believe it arises from some combination of genetic and environmental influences.

As many as one in 68 US children suffer from autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder which can impair social and communication skills.

About one in five American women has genital herpes, which is incurable and is typically spread through sex.

For the current study, researchers examined five pathogens which have previously been shown to raise the risk of birth defects to see if there was any link between maternal infection and autism.

These included Toxoplasma gondii, rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex viruses type 1 and 2.

Researchers examined blood samples from 412 mothers of children diagnosed with autism, and compared them to 463 mothers of children without autism in Norway.

The blood samples were analyzed at around week 18 of pregnancy and at birth.

Only antibodies to HSV-2, not any of the other pathogens, were linked to a higher risk of autism.

And the risk was only apparent when the mother’s system was fighting a genital herpes infection early in pregnancy, at a time when the fetus’s nervous system is growing rapidly.

“The cause or causes of most cases of autism are unknown,” said senior author W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

“But evidence suggests a role for both genetic and environmental factors. Our work suggests that inflammation and immune activation may contribute to risk.”

source: Manila Bulletin
http://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2017/02/23/genital-herpes-in-pregnancy-doubles-autism-risk-study/

For people with a certain type of migraine headache, regular acupuncture treatments may help reduce the frequency of these debilitating attacks, a recent study from China suggests.

Patients who suffered migraines without aura, and who received five true acupuncture treatments per week for four consecutive weeks had about one less headache per month than similar patients who got the same number of sham acupuncture treatments, researchers report.

“Acupuncture should be considered as one option for migraine prophylaxis in light of our findings,” the authors write in JAMA Internal Medicine.

About 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men in the U.S. suffer from migraine headaches in a given year, according to a 2001 study, making the condition a leading cause of disability.

Acupuncture is commonly used to treat migraines in China, however, studies of whether it works for migraine prevention have been inconsistent, the study team notes.

Ling Zhao of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Sichuan, China, and colleagues recruited 249 adults who had an average of two to eight migraines without aura per month from three clinical centers in China.

For the study, participants kept track of their migraine headache frequency and severity for four weeks before being randomly assigned to receive true acupuncture treatment, sham acupuncture treatment or to be put on a waiting list for treatment.

People in both the true and sham acupuncture groups received 20 treatments with acupuncture needles and electrical stimulation, each lasting thirty minutes.

The true acupuncture group was treated at four acupuncture points thought to affect headaches and with enough electrical stimulation to elicit a “Deqi" sensation, which includes “soreness, numbness, distention or radiation that indicated effective needling,” according to the authors.

For the sham treatment, the needles were placed in areas not known to be acupuncture points and the deqi sensation wasn’t induced.

At 16 weeks, the number of migraines reported in the true acupuncture group fell by about three attacks per month, while people in the sham acupuncture group had two fewer attacks per month.

Among the study’s limitations, about 20 percent of the participants had previous experience with acupuncture, and it’s not known how many may have been able to guess whether their treatments were real or sham.

“Placebo response is strong in migraine treatment studies, and it is possible that the Deqi sensation . . . that was elicited in the true acupuncture group could have led to a higher degree of placebo response because there was no attempt made to elicit the Deqi sensation in the sham acupuncture group,” Dr. Amy Gelfand writes in an accompanying editorial.

Gelfand, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told Reuters Health that the placebo effect is interesting and important, especially in migraine studies, but she thinks about it differently as a researcher and as a clinician.

“When I'm a researcher, placebo response is kind of a troublesome thing, because it makes it difficult to separate signal from noise,” she said. But when she’s thinking as a doctor about the patient in front of her, placebo response is welcome, Gelfand said.

“You know, what I really want is my patient to feel better, and to be improved and not be in pain. So, as long as something is safe, even if it's working through a placebo mechanism, it may still be something that some patients might want to use,” she said.

When a patient is interested in a treatment that may have a strong placebo effect, Gelfand added, “There's a real checklist in my head, with safety being the first thing; and if it seems like it's safe then I think about things like cost, because often these things are not going to be covered by insurance, but to a certain extent that's the patient's decision; and I think about time, because these treatments can be time-consuming.”

It’s a good idea to keep your doctor informed of any treatments that you're using, be they over-the-counter supplements or non-pharmacologic behavioral treatments, she said.

“I think that that's part of the picture, and as a provider, I like to know about all of those things. If for no other reason than it just helps me understand what kind of treatments my patient values and is looking for,” Gelfand said.

source: Reuters Health
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-migraine-acupuncture-idUSKBN1622K6

 

While most people born in rich countries will live longer by 2030 — with women in South Korea projected to reach nearly 91 — Americans will continue to have one of the lowest life expectancies of any developed country, a new study predicts.

Scientists once thought an average life expectancy beyond 90 was impossible but medical advances combined with improved social programs are continuing to break barriers, including in countries where many people already live well into old age, according to the study’s lead researcher, Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London.

“I can imagine that there is a limit, but we are still very far from it,” he said.

Ezzati estimated that people would eventually survive on average to at least 110 or 120 years. The longevity of South Korean women estimated in 2030 is due largely to investments in universal health care, he said. South Korea also led the list for men.

“It’s basically the opposite of what we’re doing in the West, where there’s a lot of austerity and inequality,” he said.

Ezzati and his co-authors used death and longevity trends to estimate life expectancy in 35 developed countries. The calculation is for a baby born in 2030. The study was published online Tuesday in the journal Lancet.

Women were ahead of men in all countries. Behind South Korea, women in France, Japan, Spain and Switzerland were projected to live until 88. For South Korea men, life expectancy is expected to reach 84. Next were Australia, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands at nearly 84.

At the bottom of the list: Macedonia for women at nearly 78, and Serbia for men at about 73.

While some genetic factors might explain the longevity in certain countries, social and environmental factors were probably more important, Ezzati said.

The study estimated that the U.S., which already lags behind other developed countries, will fall even further behind by 2030, when men and women are projected to live to 80 and 83. American women will fall to 27th out of 35 countries, from their current ranking of 25, and men will fall from 23rd to 26th.

The researchers note that among rich countries, the U.S. has the highest maternal and child death rates, homicide rate and is the only high-income country without comprehensive health care.

The researchers also predicted how much longer 65 year olds in 2030 would live; they guessed that among men, those in Canada would live the longest, surviving another 23 years. Among 65-year-old women in 2030, they estimated that South Koreans would live the longest, another 28 years.

In an accompanying commentary, Ailiana Santosa of Umea University in Sweden wrote that the projections raise “crucial issues” about which strategies are needed to tackle worsening inequality problems.

“Achieving universal health coverage is worthy, plausible and needs to be continued,” she said.

The study was paid for by the U.K. Medical Research Council and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

source: Manila Bulletin
http://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2017/02/22/life-expectancy-to-keep-rising-south-korean-women-could-hit-91/

Superbug bacteria found in people, animals and food across the European Union (EU) pose an “alarming” threat to public and animal health having have evolved to resist widely used antibiotics, disease and safety experts warned on Wednesday.

A report on antimicrobial resistance in bacteria by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said some 25,000 people die from such superbugs in the European Union every year.

“Antimicrobial resistance is an alarming threat putting human and animal health in danger,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU’s health and food safety commissioner.

“We have put substantial efforts to stop its rise, but this is not enough. We must be quicker, stronger and act on several fronts.”

Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages bacteria to evolve to survive and develop new ways of beating the medicines.

Wednesday’s report highlighted that in Salmonella bacteria — which can cause the common and serious food-borne infection Salmonellosis — multi-drug resistance is high across the EU.

Mike Catchpole, the ECDC’s chief scientist, said he was particularly concerned that some common types of Salmonella in humans, such as monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium, are showing extremely high multi-drug resistance.

“Prudent use of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine is extremely important,” he said. “We all have a responsibility to ensure that antibiotics keep working.”

Resistance to carbapenem antibiotics — usually the last remaining treatment option for patients infected with multi-drug resistant superbugs — was detected for the first time in animals and food, albeit at low levels, as part of EU-wide annual monitoring for the report.

It said very low levels of resistance were observed in E. coli bacteria found in pigs and in meat from pigs.

Resistance to colistin, another last-resort human antibiotic — was also found at very low levels in Salmonella and E. coli in pigs and cattle, the report said.

Marta Hugas, head of EFSA’s biological hazards and contaminants unit, noted geographic variations across the European Union, with countries in northern and western Europe generally having lower resistance levels than those in southern and eastern Europe and said this was most likely due to differences in the level of use and overuse of the medicines.

“In countries where actions have been taken to reduce, replace and rethink the use of antimicrobials in animals show lower levels of antimicrobial resistance and decreasing trends,” she said.

source: Business World
http://www.weekender.bworldonline.com/2017/02/23/alarming-superbugs-a-risk-to-people-animals-and-food-eu-warns/

A new study indicates that a subset of genes involved in daily circadian rhythms, or the “biological clock,” only become active late in life or during periods of intense stress when they are most needed to help protect critical life functions.

The findings, made by researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) in a study on fruit flies and published Tuesday in Nature Communications, may help combat serious stresses associated with age, disease or environmental challenges, and help explain why aging is often accelerated when the biological clock is disrupted.

As part of a stress response mechanism that was previously unknown and its rhythmic activity late in life was not understood, this group of genes were named “late-life cyclers,” or LLCs, by former OSU graduate student and lead author of the study, Rachael Kuintzle. At least 25 such genes become rhythmic with age, and the function of some of them remains unclear.

Circadian rhythms, which are natural to an organism but synchronized by the light/dark cycle of a 24-hour day, are so important to life that the same genes controlling biological processes have been traced from fruit flies to humans, retained through millions of years of evolution. These genes are found throughout the nervous system and peripheral organs, and affect everything from sleep to stress reaction, feeding patterns, DNA repair, fertility and even the effectiveness of medications.

People with routine disruptions of their circadian rhythms and sleep patterns have been found to have a shorter lifespan and be more prone to cancer.

About the LLCs, Jadwiga Giebultowicz, a professor in the OSU College of Science, co-senior author on the study and international expert on the mechanisms and function of the biological clock, noted that “this class of LLC genes appear to become active and respond to some of the stresses most common in aging, such as cellular and molecular damage, oxidative stress, or even some disease states.”

“Aging is associated with neural degeneration, loss of memory and other problems, which are exacerbated if clock function is experimentally disrupted,” Giebultowicz was quoted as saying in a news release from OSU. “The LLC genes are part of the natural response to that, and do what they can to help protect the nervous system.”

The increased, rhythmic expression of these genes during times of stress, the researchers believe, are another example of just how biologically important circadian rhythms are, as they help to regulate the activity of hundreds of genes essential to the processes of life. And as aging brings with it a host of new problems, the LLC genes become more and more active.

“Discovery of LLC genes may provide a missing link, the answer to why the disruption of circadian clocks accelerates aging symptoms,” said David Hendrix, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Science and College of Engineering, and co-senior author on the study, who explained that some LLC genes are known to play roles in sequestering improperly “folded” proteins or helping them refold. And this could help prevent formation of protein aggregates that can lead to age-related neurodegeneration.

In addition, the study shows that intense stress at any point in life can cause some of the LLC genes to spring into action.

“In experiments where we created artificial oxidative stress in young fruit flies, the LLC genes were rhythmically activated,” said Eileen Chow, an OSU faculty research assistant and co-author.

“Some of these same genes are known to be more active in people who have cancer. They appear to be a double-edged sword, necessary during times of stress but possibly harmful if activated all the time,” Chow said.

source: Manila Bulletin
http://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2017/02/22/study-identifies-late-life-genes-only-active-in-response-to-stress-aging/