[Vol 18] Medi-Scene: Your Weekly Health News Update

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MediScene Magazine Vol 18

1. Coronavirus update: India sees biggest one-day spike with 5200 cases

On Monday, the number of Covid-19 cases in India crossed 1 lakh, on Tuesday more than 5,200 fresh cases were reported from across the country. It was reported to be the highest single-day jump. Deaths from the virus were also on the rise with 146 reported by the states on Tuesday. Maharashtra accounted for over half the deaths, reporting its highest single-day toll of 76 out of which 43 were from Mumbai alone, followed by Gujarat with 25. A ray of hope in such tough times was also that the number of people who have recovered from the infection crossed 40,000 on Tuesday, rising to 42,071 by the end of the day, taking the national recovery rate from the virus to 39.8%. Apart from Delhi, Rajasthan saw 338 new cases, Uttar Pradesh with 292, Karnataka with 149 and Assam with 46. These 5 states broke their respective records of new cases in a day. Surat recorded two and Aravalli and Gandhinagar recorded one death each. Gujarat carried out 5,865 tests to identify new cases. Jayanti Ravi, principal secretary (health), said that two major hospitals in Ahmedabad have started trials with ayurvedic and homoeopathic medicines along with allopathic treatment.

2. Want to reduce COVID-19 risk? Quit smoking

A recent study published in the journal Developmental Cell has elucidated why smokers may be more prone to catching severe COVID-19 infection. Smoke from cigarettes stimulates the lungs to create receptor protein. The novel coronavirus utilizes this to enter the body. Jason Sheltzer, a cancer geneticist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the US in a discussion said, “Our results provide a clue as to why smokers who develop COVID-19 tend to have poor clinical outcomes. We found that smoking caused a significant increase in the expression of ACE2, the protein that SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter human cells.” According to researchers and health experts, giving up smoking might reduce the risk of a serious COVID-19 infection. Three major groups who have been more likely than others to develop severe illness are men, elderly and smokers. First they concentrated on juxtaposing gene activity in the lungs across different ages, between the sexes, and between smokers and nonsmokers. The researchers said both mice that had been exposed to smoke in a laboratory, and humans who were current smokers had significant upregulation of ACE2 (Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2).  The study also claimed that those who smoke regularly produced 30-55% more ACE2 than their non-smoking counterparts. Jason Sheltzer further commented on the research and added, “Goblet cells produce mucus to protect the respiratory tract from inhaled irritants. Thus, the increased expression of ACE2 in smokers’ lungs could be a byproduct of smoking-induced secretory cell hyperplasia. Cigarette smoke contains hundreds of different chemicals. It’s possible that certain ingredients like nicotine have a different effect than whole smoke does. One could imagine that having more cells that express ACE2 could make it easier for SARS-CoV-2 to spread in someone’s lungs, but there is still a lot more we need to explore.”

3. Study reveals countries in Asia have largest men’s health gaps in the G20

Men are at a higher risk of facing health issues than women in 58% countries globally. While the majority of men in G20 are healthier, men from Asia are more likely to be less hearty. As stated by WHO (World Health Organization), men are living robust and longer lives than earlier, but in all likelihood to be troubled by illness and are endured by women in every country. Researchers have also reported a difference in mortality rate when it comes to the novel coronavirus. The death rate for men is approximated to be 2.8% in comparison to 1.7% for women. Manual, the welfare program for men, has analysed data for 156 countries worldwide across ten categories like: 

  • Life expectancy 
  • Rates of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and obesity, mental health disorders 
  • Daily alcohol intake, to find out where has the largest gender health gaps…etc. 

According to the research, out of the 156 countries studied, men face greater health risks in more than half of countries globally – 58%. Contrastingly, two nations worldwide have gender health equality (South Africa and Guatemala), while women face greater health risks in the remaining 41% of countries.

4. Research says that Ashwagandha can be an effective COVID-19 preventive drug

Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic drug known for its energy-boosting properties could be a potent answer to prevent coronavirus infection. This was based on a collaborative research by IIT-Delhi and Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). D Sundar, head of the Delhi Indian Institute of Technology’s Biotechnology department in an interview said, “The researchers targeted the main SARS-CoV-2’s enzyme for splitting proteins, known as the main protease (Mpro), that plays a key role in mediating viral replication. This is an attractive drug target for this virus, and as humans don’t naturally have this enzyme, compounds that target Mpro are likely to have low toxicity. The findings may not only connect to save time and cost required for screening for anti-COVID-19 drugs, but may also offer some preventive and therapeutic value for the management of fatal COVID-19 pandemic, and hence warrant prioritized validation in the laboratory and clinical tests. Although these are easily available and affordable, one has to be cautious about the content of bioactive ingredients. CAPE, while is a major component of propolis, its amount and stability are critical factors that could be managed by generating its complex with cyclodextrins. Withanone, on the other hand, varies with geography, parts and size of the Ashwagandha plant. So, in order to acquire or appreciate particular effects, we must use the right and quality-controlled resources and extracts.” The study is being conducted by a group of scientists and researchers from the Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, University Grants Commission (UGC) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). D Sundar further added, “While new line of drug and vaccine development have been initiated worldwide, in the current scenario of high infected numbers, severity of the disease and high morbidity, repurposing of the existing drugs are heavily explored by recruiting integrative genomics and bioinformatics research tools. While well-trusted reputation of Ashwagandha as an immunity enhancer forms a basis of the recent initiative of the Indian government in forming an Interdisciplinary Task Force to launch its clinical research studies related to SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 disease, the current research report of this team provide hints on its direct antiviral activities.”

5. People with stroke and peripheral artery disease lag in heart attack prevention

Globally, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is one of the leading causes of death. Atherosclerosis, which occurs when cholesterol, fat, and inflammatory cells build up and form plaque that blocks the arteries and impedes blood flow is one of the major contributors. Lead author Dr Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., associate professor of medicine at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore said, “Our study highlights the need for public health campaigns to direct equal attention to all three major forms of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. We need to generate awareness among both clinicians and patients that all of these diseases should be treated with aggressive secondary preventive medications, including aspirin and statins, regardless of whether people have heart disease or not.” The research compared more than 14,000 U.S. adults enrolled in the 2006-2015 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. During the course of study when juxtaposed to participants with coronary artery disease, it came to light that participants with peripheral artery disease were twice more likely to report no statin use and three times more likely to report no aspirin use. Commenting on this Michos further added, “Peripheral artery disease and stroke should generally be treated with the same secondary prevention medications as coronary artery disease.”

6. HIV drug may help in Covid defence

Revised protocol by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which is yet to be released, states that HIV combination drugs, and FDA-approved Ivermectin along with supplements of zinc and Vitamin C helps improve immunity and is most likely to lower viral replication. India’s pinnacle health research body is evaluating its treatment recommendation for coronavirus and may relinquish hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) from the protocol due to increasing concern over its efficacy. A person familiar with the development in an interview said, “The disease is evolving and now that we know that HCQ is not working, it should be removed from the treatment protocol. Rather other drugs which have proved to be efficacious should be added into the new protocol. There has been sufficient push back from the microbiologists against HCQ within the task force.” 

7. Covid-19 vaccine tested on people in US shows promise

Moderna, the manufacturer of the vaccine on Monday announced that the first COVID-19 vaccine to be administered on people appears to be safe and is able to prompt an immune response against the virus.The research was based on the data of the first eight people who, in March, received 2 rounds of vaccine. The healthy volunteers replicated the antibodies that were then studied on human cells in the lab and were able to cease the virus from multiplying – which is a key demand for any vaccine. The levels of the neutralising antibodies was equal to the levels found in patients who had recovered after contracting the virus. Moderna has said the second phase involving 600 people will begin soon, and a third phase to begin in July involving thousands of healthy people. The FDA gave the manufacturer a go-ahead for phase II earlier this month. The firm’s chief medical officer Tal Zaks in an interview said, “If those trials go well, a vaccine could be available for widespread use by the end of this year or early 2021. Three doses of the vaccine were tested: low, medium and high. These initial results are based on tests of the low and medium doses. The only adverse effect at those doses was redness and soreness in one patient’s arm where the shot was given. But at the highest dose, three patients had fever, muscles and headaches.”

8. Around 70% of children’s blood test may be altered due to obesity

A recent study done by researchers from University of Toronto in Canada showed that routine blood tests done on children who are obese may obstruct doctor’s abiltiy to elucidate their report. Over 1300 children and teens were studied for this research and the data from the same found that 24 blood tests were affected by obesity, including LFT (Liver Function Test), inflammation markers, lipids and iron. Conclusion of the study was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, and stated that almost 70% of the blood tests studied were affected due to the children’s obesity. Study’s first author Victoria Higgins from the University of Toronto in an interview said, “As clinical decisions are often guided by normative ranges based on a large healthy population, understanding how and which routine blood tests are affected by obesity is important to correctly interpret blood test results. We hope our study results will assist pediatricians and family physicians to better assess children and adolescents with different degrees of overweight or obesity.” 

Reference link:

  1. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/in-biggest-single-day-spike-india-records-over-5200-covid-cases/75837923
  2. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/diagnostics/quitting-smoking-might-reduce-severe-coronavirus-infection-risk-study/75825000
  3. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/study-reveals-countries-in-asia-have-largest-mens-health-gaps-in-the-g20/75823429
  4. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/diagnostics/ashwagandha-can-be-effective-covid-19-preventive-drug-finds-research-by-iit-delhi-and-japans-aist/75820118
  5. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/diagnostics/heart-attack-prevention-efforts-lag-for-people-with-stroke-peripheral-artery-disease/75806697
  6. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/diagnostics/hiv-drug-may-replace-hydroxychloroquine-in-covid-defence/75819639
  7. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/diagnostics/first-covid-19-vaccine-tested-on-people-in-us-shows-promise/75819886
  8. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/obesity-may-alter-70-per-cent-of-childrens-blood-tests-study/72867171

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