News in Brief

Codonics auto syringe label system gets US FDA approval
Codonics SLS 500i Safe Label System has received US FDA 510(k) approval. Codonics SLS is first in its class of automated syringe labeling patient safety devices. The system is a complete solution for safe, compliant and efficient labelling of medication in the operating room, or anywhere syringes are prepared.

Siemens runs low dose CT image contest
Following on from the amazing success of the first computed tomography (CT) image contest in 2010, Siemens Healthcare has announced the “International CT Image Contest 2011”. Institutions and clinics around the globe will submit their best clinical images, taken with the lowest possible radiation dose on Siemens CTs, to a jury of internationally renowned professors. The contest starts on March 3rd, and the closing date for entries is September 18th, 2011. The winners will be announced at the next conference of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA 2011) in Chicago.

International CT Image Contest 2011

New imaging tech creates sharp images without tissue damage
TheGreatBeyond blogger writes that a new optical imaging tool that doesn’t damage tissue could help doctors to diagnose brain disorders and perform surgeries. The noninvasive technique relies on a tweaked version of two-photon laser-scanning miscroscopy, which produces high-resolution images of living tissue by beaming photons that penetrate through cell layers. But unlike the traditional approach, which enhances image contrast with toxic fluorescent dyes, the new one, called third-harmonic genera treattion (THG), creates sharp images by matching the laser focus with the physical features of the tissue. The method is ideal for picturing lipid-rich structures, such as the long projections that connect neurons and could be used to detect Alzheimer’s disease and brain cancer, for example.

Using light to move molecules
Using a light-triggered chemical tool, Johns Hopkins scientists report that they have refined a means of moving individual molecules around inside living cells and sending them to exact locations at precise times. This new tool, they say, gives scientists greater command than ever in manipulating single molecules, allowing them to see how molecules in certain cell locations can influence cell behaviour and to determine whether cells will grow, die, move or divide.

Eight die after bites from vampire bats
Eight people have died after being bitten by vampire bats in Peru, according to a report in La Republica on 24 February 2011. The deceased are all indigenous children from the Aquaruna tribe in the Amazonas region. They developed rabies after the bites and, without access to appropriate medication, died. Healthcare workers were sent to the area to carry out an immunisation programme for rabies.

Hundreds of medical workers work round the clock to check pilgrims
Nearly 1,000 medical workers were employed around the clock at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul Aziz Airport’s 41 reception halls in Pilgrim City to check arriving pilgrims for illnesses, notably the swine flu virus, reports the Saudi Gazette. The doctors, nurses and technical staff were equipped with thermal cameras to detect and treat a variety of illnesses as health precautions were tightened ahead of an expected influx of pilgrims in early April.

Doctors choose different treatments for patients than for themselves
A study in the US found that doctors often recommend different treatments for patients than what they would select for themselves. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found doctors frequently advised patients to pursue treatments with higher rates of side effects and lower mortality rates, but would select treatments with lower rates of side effects and higher mortality rates for themselves.

“When making recommendations to patients, physicians can push aside any emotions that would lead them astray,” Prof Peter Ubel, study author, said. “But those emotions may loom large when a doctor is deciding for him or herself. In other words, the act of giving advice to others may reset the balance between emotion and reason.”

Honey slows bacteria growth in wounds
Professor Rose Cooper of the University of Wales Institute Cardiff and colleagues found that Monika honey – derived from nectar collected by honey bees foraging on the Monika tree in New Zealand – interferes with the growth of bacteria in wounds and aids wound healing. They studied its effect on three types of common bacteria that infest wounds – Pseudonyms origins, Group A Streptococci and Medellin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

“Other work in our lab has shown that honey can make MRSA more sensitive to antibiotics. This indicates that existing antibiotics may be more effective against drug-resistant infections if used in combination with Monika honey,” he said. The research was presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s Spring Conference in Harrogate, UK.

Blueberries may stave off obesity
Eating blueberries may help keep fat off because they fight the development of fat cells, a US researcher suggests, following a study in mice which showed that blueberry polyphenols could inhibit obesity at a molecular level. The lipid content in the control group was significantly higher than the content of the tissue given three doses of blueberry polyphenols, Shiwani Moghe, a graduate student at Texas Woman's University in Denton, Texas said of the study. Cultures that received the highest dose of blueberry polyphenols yielded a 73% decrease in lipids and the lowest dose had a 27% decrease.

Many Iraqi refugees suffering from nervous system disorders
A US study found many Iraqi refugees, including the victims of torture and the disabled, are affected by brain and nervous system disorders. The study analysed data on 36,953 registered Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers in Jordan in 2010 and found about 4% were reported to have a brain or nervous system disorder. Of this number 5% reported having been tortured. The study is a pilot for a project by the United Nations to monitor neurological disease in displaced people.

An apple a day keeps the cardiologist away
An apple a day may keep the cardiologist away by lowering cholesterol, US researchers found in study of 160 women ages 45-65. They found “incredible changes” in the apple-eating women happened by six months. The women experienced a 23% decrease in lowdensity lipoprotein, lowered lipid hydroperoxide levels and C-reactive protein, according to Dr Bahram Arjmandi of The Florida State University. The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology summit in Washington, DC, in April.

Stop TB Partnership calls on world leaders to step up commitment

For World TB Day on 24 March, WHO, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Stop TB Partnership called on world leaders to step up their commitment and contributions to meet the goal of diagnosing and treating one million people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) between 2011 and 2015.

In late March WHO released a report, Towards universal access to diagnosis and treatment of MDR-TB and XDR-TB by 2015, which presents progress in the MDR-TB response in the countries with the highest burden of drug-resistant TB. “Many countries have made progress, but despite the recent scale up in efforts, the world needs to do much more to get care to all MDR-TB patients who need it,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO directorgeneral. “We cannot allow MDR-TB to spread unchecked.”

Leaving MDR-TB untreated increases the risk of spread of drug resistant strains of TB. WHO estimates there will be more than 2 million new cases of MDR-TB between 2011 and 2015.

Programmes financed by the Global Fund and following WHO treatment standards are expected to diagnose and treat about 250,000 people for MDR-TB by 2015.

It is anticipated that the Global Fund will provide 84% of all international investments in TB in 2011. However, both domestic and international resources need to be scaled up to cope with MDR-TB and continue to make progress in the fight against TB.

“MDR-TB is a threat to all countries as it is difficult and expensive to treat. Unless we make an extraordinary effort to tackle this problem our ability to finance and secure continued progress against TB in general will be threatened,” says Professor Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund.

“It is time for countries with rapidly growing economies and a heavy burden of MDR-TB to step up their commitment and financing for their own MDR-TB programmes. Several have the capacity to show new leadership on south-south cooperation and aid to neighbouring countries that are also affected,” says Dr Jorge Sampaio, the UN Secretary- General’s Special Envoy to Stop TB.

Since 2009, the 23 countries most heavily affected by TB drug resistance have nearly doubled their budgets for MDR-TB. From 2002 through 2010, Global Fund-financed TB programmes around the world have provided treatment to 7.7 million people and saved the lives of 4.1 million.

“The Global Fund’s success can be measured in the number of lives that have been saved through care provided by the TB programmes it finances,” says Dr Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. “Every TB patient should have access to proper care.”

MDR-TB is a form of TB that fails to respond to standard first-line drugs. In 2009, WHO reported that 9.4 million people became ill with TB and 1.7 million died, including 380,000 people with HIV-associated TB. There were some 440,000 cases of MDR-TB and 150,000 deaths in 2008, the latest year for which estimates are available.

Stop TB Partnership

UK’s NICE issues guidelines for food allergy in children

The UK-based National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has drawn up guidelines for food allergy in children and young people. They recommend the routine use of allergy tests in [NHS] primary care and community settings to confirm suspected food allergy. These new evidence-based guidelines support earlier diagnosis and assessment of food allergy and point out that testing is cost effective compared to not testing.

Food allergy can cause severe allergic reactions and even death from food induced anaphylaxis. Patients with coexisting asthma often have the most severe reactions leading to intensive care unit visits. There is currently no other treatment than avoiding the food that causes the allergy and treating the symptoms associated with severe reactions. The prevalence of food allergy in Europe and North America, range from 6% to 8% in children up to the age of 3 years.

NICE recommends that all children and young people with suspected IgE (antibody)- mediated allergy should be offered an allergy test, such as a blood test, such as ImmunoCAP, or a skin prick test. Medical history alone is not sufficient to make a diagnosis of food allergy. An allergy test can help define the underlying cause of an allergic reaction, confirm or rule out food allergy and thus avoid unnecessary treatment or dietary restrictions.

NICE guidelines recommend that skin prick test only should be done where there are facilities to deal with an anaphylactic reaction as skin prick test may provoke this reaction. NICE also states that healthcare professionals undertaking such tests should be competent and aware of the potential risks associated with these tests.

A blood test is easy, uncomplicated, safe and reliable. Unlike skin prick testing, it can be done irrespective of a patient's age, skin condition, pregnancy, medication, symptoms and disease activity. In addition it may provide more detailed information on the origin of the allergy.

NICE Guidelines for Food Allergy in Children

Philips sets up consortium to develop next innovation in clinical imaging

Philips Electronics has set up a German public-private partnership that aims to advance the development of whole-body Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) systems and preclinical hybrid systems that combine MPI with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The initiative represents the Philips philosophy of ‘Open Innovation’ to technological development.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has made a commitment to provide EUR 10.6 million funding to the consortium partners, roughly half of the target budget of EUR 20.3

Researching future-generation imaging technologies such as MPI underpins the long-term nature of this commitment, says Philips.

MPI was invented by scientists at Philips. It relies on the magnetic properties of ironoxide nanoparticles (the so-called tracer) that are injected into the bloodstream. An MPI system spatially and quantitatively detects these iron-oxide nanoparticles in order to produce three-dimensional images of physiological processes. The technology has already proved capable of capturing accurate real-time 3D-images of blood flow and heart motion in mice.

Philips has initiated the Magnetic Particle Imaging Technology - MAPIT - consortium to accelerate the translation of this innovative new imaging concept into clinical practice,” says Michael Kuhn, vice president Technology Strategy at Philips Healthcare. “Realising the full potential of MPI to help in elucidating the processes associated with disease requires an integrated approach and a collaborative effort. I am convinced that the multidisciplinary MAPIT consortium is well positioned to advance MPI development in the areas of instrumentation, tracers, and application research.”

Philips and the University of Lübeck, two of the three proposed consortium partners in the instrumentation area, will focus on the development of whole-body MPI demonstrators. The third instrumentation partner, Bruker Corporation, will focus on developing a simultaneous or consecutive preclinical MPI plus MRI capability. This will complement the functional MPI information with morphological information from MRI for the purposes of preclinical imaging. In the area of tracer development, the proposed partners Bayer Schering Pharma, Miltenyi Biotec, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt aim to develop magnetic nanoparticle materials optimised for MPI.

Professor Bernd Hamm, director of the Department of Radiology and Chair of Radiology at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, said: “I consider MPI to be a new imaging modality with the real potential to improve diagnostic imaging in cardiology and oncology, as well as being a tremendous tool for the advancement of molecular imaging in general.”

Two principal application areas will be explored by the consortium: functional cardiovascular measurements (such as myocardial perfusion) and image-guidance of cardiovascular interventions (using interventional devices optimised for MPI guidance).

US embarks on 10-year plan to tackle diabetes

The US National Institutes of Health recently announced a new strategic plan to guide diabetes-related research over the next decade. The plan, developed by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), identifies research opportunities with the greatest potential to benefit the millions of Americans who are living with or at risk for diabetes and its complications.

The plan – Advances and Emerging Opportunities in Diabetes Research: A Strategic Planning Report of the Diabetes Mellitus Interagency Coordinating Committee – focuses on 10 areas of diabetes research with the most promise. The goal is to accelerate discovery on several fronts, including:

- the relationship between obesity and type 2 diabetes, and how both conditions may be affected by genetics and environment

- the autoimmune mechanisms at work in type 1 diabetes

- the biology of beta cells, which release insulin in the pancreas

- development of artificial pancreas technologies to improve management of blood sugar levels

- prevention of complications of diabetes that affect the heart, eyes, kidneys, nervous system and other organs

- reduction of the impact of diabetes on groups disproportionately affected by the disease, including the elderly and racial and ethnic minorities

International survey looks at women’s knowledge of breast cancer screening

A large in international survey which looks at women’s knowledge of breast cancer screening finds that most women – 82% – believe screening and the early detection of breast cancer is important.

The survey also reveals that women would most likely trust their physician when seeking reliable information about breast cancer.

The survey, commissioned by Siemens, and conducted by German market research institute Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (GfK) surveyed 4,000 women aged 25 to 65 in eight countries (Austria, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russia, Sweden, and the USA) about the topic of breast cancer screening.

Participants in Germany, Sweden, and Austria believe that regular screening examinations can detect changes in the breast earlier or even prevent diseases. In India, 35% of the interviewed women indicate increasing breast cancer awareness as a reason why they find breast cancer screening important.

Taking an average of all countries surveyed and looking at women’s knowledge of breast cancer screening, only 40% of the interviewed women feel that they are well or very well informed; Russia and China got particularly low results.

Based on the survey results, Siemens plans to prepare country-specific information material for breast cancer screening that, for instance, can support physicians in instructing their patients and increasing their awareness for this disease.

Breast Cancer Screening Survey

WHO issues list of priority medicines for maternal and child health

The WHO has produced a list of 30 priority medicines for maternal and child health.

Access to appropriate medicines is vital to achieving global health goals. More than eight million children under the age of five still die every year from causes such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. An estimated 1,000 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths occur in developing countries and the vast majority can be prevented when the right medicines are available in the right formulations and are prescribed and used correctly.

The top 30 priority list was compiled by experts in maternal and child health and medicines who analysed the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines and the latest WHO treatment guidelines to establish which medicines would save the most lives.

Haemorrhage, or severe bleeding, is the leading cause of maternal death. It can kill a healthy woman within two hours of giving birth. An injection of oxytocin immediately after delivery can stop the bleeding and can make the difference between life and death.

Other medicines on the list for mothers include medicines to treat infection, high blood pressure and sexually transmitted infections as well as drugs to prevent preterm birth.

Every year, pneumonia kills an estimated 1.6 million children under the age of five years, yet research has shown that treatment with simple antibiotics could avert as many as 600,000 deaths.

Improving access to Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and zinc tablets would save many of the 1.3 million children who are dying annually from diarrhoea.

Appropriate doses of the right combinations of antimalarials and antiretrovirals are critical to reducing child deaths and suffering from malaria and AIDSrelated illness.

Medicines appropriate for children are often not available, partly because of a lack of awareness that children need different medicines from adults. As a result, health workers are forced to adapt medicines intended for adults. Tablets are crushed into imprecise portions and dissolved into unpalatable drinks that are difficult for children to swallow and are potentially ineffective, toxic or harmful.

WHO recommends that, wherever possible, medicines for children should be provided in doses that are easy to measure and easy for children to take. For example, a newly developed artemesinin combination tablet for malaria is dissolved in liquid and is sweet tasting, making it easier for children to swallow and ensuring that they receive correct and effective doses.

The top 30 priorities list also features five urgently needed medicines that do not currently exist for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, particularly in HIV-infected children, and for newborn care.

Wrist size a good indicator of Metabolic Syndrome

Measuring an obese or overweight child’s wrist circumference is a better indicator of insulin resistance than body mass index, researchers in Italy say. The study involved 477 children – mean age 10 – who were measured for body mass index, fasting biochemical parameters and insulin resistance. Fifty-one subjects, randomly selected, underwent nuclear magnetic resonance imaging of the wrist to evaluate the transversal wrist. The study by Dr Marco Capizzi et al, in the journal Circulation (published online 11 April 2011), found a statistically significant association between measuring the child’s wrist and insulin resistance. The authors say their findings suggest a close relationship among wrist circumference, its bone component, and insulin resistance in overweight/obese children and adolescents, opening new perspectives in the prediction of cardiovascular disease.

doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.012898


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