[Vol 23] Medi-Scene: Your Weekly Health News Update


MediScene Magazine Vol 23

1. Coronavirus update: Death toll crossed 14,000 on Monday, while recovery rate is almost at 60%

On Monday, 22nd June, the total death toll in the country crossed 14,000 cases, but it also saw a dip in the number of new cases fall below 15,000-mark for the first time in 3 days. Total Covid-19 cases in the country went past 4.6 lakh while 2.7 lakh patients had recovered from the infection. In Maharashtra, there was no break in coronavirus infections as the state added 3,721 cases on Monday, taking its tally to 1,35,796. In Delhi, the count of new cases fell to 2,909 after recording 3,000-plus infections for the past few days. In Tamil Nadu, no district was left untouched as the state recorded its highest-ever daily count of 2,710 cases on Monday. The total number of cases in the state soared to 62,087 and the toll reached 794 after 37 deaths. A day after Gujarat recorded the highest single-day tally of 580 on Sunday, the next 24 hours recorded the second highest tally of 563, taking the total number of Covid-19 positive cases in the state to 27,880.

2. Medlife, along with hospitals & health-tech startups launch a free telemedicine app Swasth

To help fight the Covid19 pandemic in India, Medlife, along with 100 leading private hospitals, health-tech startups, technology companies have come together to launch a free telemedicine consultation app Swasth. The app will go live on 24th June and will also make available resources for users to find available beds, diagnostic labs and home quarantine aids. The initiative is being led by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, Manipal Group’s Ranjan Pai, iSPIRT’s Sharad Sharma, Apollo Hospital’s Shobhana Kamineni, former Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation executive Nachiket Mor and Accel’s Subrata Mitra, who form the governing council of the non-profit consortium. The app is being developed in English, Hindi and Gujarati, but will be scaled up to 25 languages soon. Shobhana Kamineni, executive vice-chairperson of Apollo Hospitals in an interview said, “The network has a bunch of doctors who will offer their services for free and then there’s the specialist networks from Apollo and Manipal and other hospitals that are coming onboard.The framework for this (Swasth) creates an intent that we can do more. It would be a waste to drop this off after the crisis. Neutrality, data privacy and the ability to adjudicate in a very fair manner are the basis of this framework.” Yashish Dahiya, co-founder and CEO of PolicyBazaar, which is part of the network said, “The governing council will also look at non-shareholder fundraising as a part of its (job). Swasth has been built in close partnership with iSPIRT and the technology teams work together. It’s an open network that’s built on top of a consent layer where the owner of the data, which is the patient, and the hospital which he/she goes to, has access to that data and nobody else.” As stated by the Swasth website, it mentions that it will work to “further public health goals and work in coordination with the government, the Medical Council, public health organizations and the private sector” to provide quality healthcare access to the masses.

3. Study: Symptoms of adult diabetes detectable in children as young as 8 years old

In health research established at the University of Bristol in the early 1990s tracking over 4,000 participants, it observed the effects of a genetic risk score for developing type 2 diabetes as an adult on metabolism measured from blood samples taken from the participants in the study when they were aged 8, 16, 18, and 25 years. The researchers took an approach called ‘metabolomics’, which requires quantifying many small molecules in a blood sample, to try and identify patterns that are specific to early stages of type 2 diabetes development.  Dr Joshua Bell, the study’s lead investigator explained, “We knew that diabetes doesn’t develop overnight. What we didn’t know is how early in life the first signs of disease activity become visible and what these early signs look like. We addressed these by looking at the effects of being more genetically prone to type 2 diabetes in adulthood on measures of metabolism taken across early life. This would not have been possible without the Children of the 90s study. Diabetes is most common in older age, but we see signs of disease susceptibility very early on – about 50 years before it’s usually diagnosed. Knowing what these early signs look like widens our window of opportunity to intervene much earlier and stop diabetes before it becomes harmful. We’re talking about the effects of susceptibility rather than of clinical disease itself. This does not mean that young people ‘already have adult diabetes’; these are subtle differences in the metabolism of young people who are more prone to developing it later in life.These findings help reveal the biology of how diabetes unfolds and what features may be targetable much earlier on to prevent the onset of disease and its complications. This is important because we know that the harmful effects of blood glucose, such as on heart disease, are not exclusive to people with diagnosed diabetes but extend to a smaller degree to much of the population.”

4. Atherosclerosis related mortality rate lower in those who have higher activity levels

Atherosclerosis is a hardening and narrowing of your arteries which puts blood flow at risk. This happens because the arteries are blocked. A recent study examined 2,318 patients ranging in age from 65 to 84 years old who underwent coronary artery calcium (CAC) scanning from 1998 to 2016. They were asked to fill a questionnaire and along with other questions, there was also a mention of physical activity levels (rated on a scale from 0 to 10, representing “none” to “always”). After a follow-up of every 10.6 years, it was concluded that 2.9% of people with the lowest activity had higher mortality rate per year and the lowest mortality 1.7% per year among those with the highest activity levels. Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and chief academic officer for the Department of Cardiology at Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital in New York City in conversation with a medical journal said, “Exercise does not reduce the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries, but it improves patients’ heart health and reduces future mortality through a number of established mechanisms.When people are completely sedentary, they experience an increased risk for insulin resistance and diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, visceral fat accumulation, and loss of muscle strength and function. Exercise does all the opposite, thus reducing the risk of both heart disease and other chronic illnesses.” Patients who reported higher activity levels were less likely than those with the lowest activity to have hypertension (40.5% vs 51%), obesity (7.6% vs 25.6%), diabetes (5.6% vs 11.7%), or to be smokers (2.9% vs 7.7%). Thijs Eijsvogels, an exercise physiologist at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, who wasn’t involved in the study, commented via email to a medical journal, “The underlying mechanisms of the association between exercise and coronary atherosclerosis is currently not fully understood, but it is expected that cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, lipid levels and inflammatory status play a role. Exercise improves these factors, whereas there is also a link between these factors and the magnitude of calcium deposits in the coronary arteries as well as the risk of all-cause mortality.”

5. New study on blood cancer treatment raises hopes

The learnings from the study provides a new goal for therapies of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), which is a highly aggressive form of leukaemia. A new investigation from QIMR Berghofer has identified an early genetic change in blood and bone marrow cells that surfaces the way for the development of some blood cancers. The findings from the research have been issued in the international journal Nature Communications. The investigating team devised the transcription factor Cdx2 into normal mouse blood cells, and this resulted in the development of MDS and AML. Lead researcher and the head of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s Cancer Program, Associate Professor Steven Lane said, “We found that Cdx2 hijacks and corrupts how other genes behave in blood and bone marrow cells. It sows the seeds of vulnerability which then allows the development of other genetic mutations that lead to cancer. It’s a step-wise process that closely reflects the progression of human MDS to AML, where genetic mutations occur in blood and bone marrow stem cells and these immature cells become a reservoir for leukaemia. Cdx2 isn’t usually present in normal blood formation, so our study on mice showed its presence in the early stem cell stage of development was the likely driver of leukaemia. It’s possible that targeting the early processes leading to MDS in patients might prevent the acquisition of other mutations that lead to acute leukaemia. We found that reducing the dosage of the medication and giving it over a longer period of time was more effective in killing off Cdx2 cells and leukaemia cells than the standard treatment regimen that provides high doses of azacitidine at intermittent intervals. There is a new, oral form of azacitidine that might be more suited to the lower dose, extended treatment regimen, but further tests will be necessary to determine its efficacy in patients.”

6. Glenmark’s FabiFlu launched as COVID-19 drug after getting DCGI nod

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals on Saturday launched the antiviral drug Favipiravir, under the brand name FabiFlu after receiving manufacturing and marketing approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on Friday. FabiFlu is going to be used for the treatment of patients with mild to moderate COVID-19.Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Chairman and Managing Director Glenn Saldanha said, “This approval comes at a time when cases in India are spiralling like never before, putting a tremendous pressure on our healthcare system. The company hopes that the availability of an effective treatment such as FabiFlu will considerably help assuage this pressure, and offer patients in India a much needed and timely therapy option.” The company in a statement said that FabiFlu is the first oral Favipiravir-approved medication for the treatment of COVID-19. 

7. Study: Lockdown could make the healthy ones more prone to diabetes too

Lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak may trigger weight gain which in turn could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes due to lifestyle changes. The findings from the study showed that 40% of the participants gained up to 5 kg and 16% added 2.1-5kg. Data was collected from 100 households in the middle of the 42nd and 49th days of the lockdown. The risk score for diabetes was calculated using BMI. Anoop Misra, chairman of Fortis CDOC Hospital for Diabetes and Allied Specialties and one of the authors of the study paper commented saying, “According to our previous research, we are going to have many patients with uncontrolled diabetes and complications. To add to those numbers will be scores of patients with new onset diabetes as per our modelling estimates.”

Reference links

  1. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/covid-deaths-cross-14000-slight-dip-in-fresh-cases/76521385
  2. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/hospitals-health-tech-startups-to-start-free-telemedicine-app-swasth/76530500
  3. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/diagnostics/signs-of-adult-diabetes-visible-in-children-as-young-as-8-years-old-says-study/76478929
  4. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/932532
  5. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/diagnostics/new-research-on-blood-cancer-raises-new-treatment-hopes/76493240
  6. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/pharma/glenmark-launches-covid-19-drug-after-dcgi-nod/76480996
  7. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/even-healthy-may-turn-diabetic-due-to-lockdown-study/76521160


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