Medical developments from around the world
The Ebola story changing daily?
In the sordid saga on ebola, governments and the science establishments seem to be in cahoots. At one point, they announced that the virus was losing its power; the next day, reports said that a new outbreak was expected. There is a big debate about its spread because very little is known, or understood, about the virus. Although the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that it does not spread through air, some stray reports suggest cases of airborne contagion.
Weight in Early Pregnancy and Outcomes in Early Infancy
A team of Swedish and American researchers wanted to test the hypothesis that obese mothers are a bad influence on their offspring. They studied all the births in the Swedish Birth Registry between 1992 and 2010, which totalled 1.8 million.
The study’s results have upheld the hypothesis. The fatter the mother during pregnancy, the higher was the infant mortality. The authors of the study said: “Causes of death included congenital anomalies, birth asphyxia, infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and results were adjusted for factors, such as maternal age, height, smoking, education, country of birth, and year of delivery. Babies do best when mothers have a normal body weight before and during pregnancy, they added.”
This was an epidemiological retrospective study and might only show the trend. To prove that this hypothesis really works on the ground, one has to confirm it with prospective studies and, if possible, animal studies.
Does the Simple Flu Vaccination Kill?
The number of people who have died in Italy after being administered a flu vaccine made by a Swiss pharmaceutical company has risen to 13. “The Italian Medical Agency (AIFA) has warned against panic and stressed there is not proof yet that it was the vaccine that led to the deaths. It said it banned two batches of the product—called FLUAD—as a precautionary measure, pending further studies,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Burden of Medical Treatment on Families
This is a matter that receives little attention in the hi-tech medical world. The usual joke is that a recovering patient gets a massive heart attack and dies when he sees the final hospital bill. Imagine the fate of relatives when a patient dies in the hospital with a huge bill pending. The rule, in some private hospitals, is that the relatives and friends need to clear the bill before they get hold of the dead body!
There is an editorial on this in the recent issue of the British Medical Journal which says, “The burden continues to increase as healthcare systems shift an ever growing list of management responsibilities and tasks on to patients and their caregivers. This is real work, which requires considerable effort from patients, their caregivers, and their extended social networks.” The burden can be more severe on patients from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Patients who work at more than one job to make enough money for survival, for example, may find it hard to “follow the requirements of multiple clinical guidelines” and “struggle to adhere to treatment recommendations.” Other challenges include the expense of getting clinic appointments and learning self-management skills, such as coping with polypharmacy and taking regular injections.
Mediterranean Diet and Health
The latest research about the ‘Mediterranean diet’ suggests that it increases longevity by preserving the length of the telomeres. Interestingly, the diet also has advice on alcohol intake: “It is characterised by a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils), and (mainly unrefined) grains; a high intake of olive oil but a low intake of saturated fats; a moderately high intake of fish, a low intake of dairy products, meat and poultry; and regular but moderate intake of alcohol (specifically wine with meals).” I am not in agreement with this line on wine. In my considered view, alcohol can never have any salutary effect on human health. It is possible that the positive tilt on alcohol may have a link to the funders of the study.
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