30 September 2018
SUNDAY, Sept. 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — It’s a perfect case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. A potentially dangerous bacteria appears to target malignant cells and could provide a new means of fighting cancer, a small, preliminary study reports. The bacteria, Clostridium novyi-NT, can cause gas gangrene and sepsis if infection is allowed to run amok in a wound. But when injected into a tumor, Clostridium novyi-NT appears to both attack the cancer directly and encourage the body’s immune response against the cancer cells, said lead researcher Dr. Filip Janku. He is an associate professor at the department of investigational cancer therapeutics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston. “Patients only had one week of exposure to the bacteria, but even with that limited exposure we saw quite interesting and, in some patients, clinically meaningful activity,” Janku said. Clostridium novyi has been linked to human illness. In 2000, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a handful of drug users in the United Kingdom fell ill or died after their injection sites became infected with the bacteria. The strain used in this clinical trial, Clostridium novyi-NT, had been weakened to prevent it from producing its toxin, which can be lethal in humans, Janku said. The NT stands for “non-toxic.” Clostridium novyi flourishes in low-oxygen environments. Researchers thought this might make the bacteria a prime candidate for cancer fighting, by keeping the infection focused on the tumor site. “Normal tissues, even if they are low on oxygen, they always have enough oxygen to not allow this bacteria to germinate and proliferate,” Janku explained. “Cancerous tissue is low in oxygen, most often in the center of the cancers.” To test whether the bacteria could help fight cancer, researchers injected the tumors of 24 patients with a single dose of Clostridium novyi-NT, ranging from 10,000 to 3 million spores. Fifteen of the patients had sarcoma, two patients had melanoma, and seven had a variety of cancers, the researchers said. The scientists expected Clostridium novyi-NT to help fight the tumor in two ways. First, the bacterial infection itself could cause direct destruction of the tumor cells, Janku said. “If that happens, it actually helps to increase the presence of tumor-specific antigens, which are proteins that make a tumor more obvious to the immune system,” Janku said. “It can prime the immune system to attack the cancer.” The bacteria also could activate the immune system to fight the cancer even if the infection didn’t kill off tumor cells, Janku added. Patients in this clinical trial were left with the bacterial infection for one week, and then everyone was given antibiotics to kill off the Clostridium novyi-NT, Janku said. “Clostridium is actually quite susceptible to antibiotics,” Janku noted. The bacteria germinated in the cancers of 11 out of the 24 patients, with tumor cells dying off as a result. Tumor shrinkage of greater than 10 percent was observed in 23 percent of patients. However, Janku said this could be an underestimate since the infection causes surrounding tissue to become inflamed, making the lesion appear larger than it actually is. Following bacterial therapy, cancer stabilized in 21 patients. When both injected and uninjected lesions were included, the stable disease rate was 86 percent, the researchers reported. The potential for Clostridium novyi-NT to prompt an immune response against cancer is intriguing, said Sacha Gnjatic, who is associate director of the Human Immune Monitoring Center at Mount Sinai in New York City. “That’s where the promise of this type of therapy lies. You would expect that the injected lesion would have some type of response because you’re disrupting the tumor cells,” Gnjatic said. “What would be interesting is if this could prime an immune response that would eventually also take care of the non-injected tumors. That’s the holy grail of immunotherapy.” Janku said he’s particularly excited by the ability of the bacteria to battle sarcomas, which are cancers that occur in bone, muscle and soft tissues. “Classic immunotherapy which is now approved or being heavily investigated doesn’t seem to be working for a majority of sarcomas,” Janku explained. Researchers have moved on to the next phase, in which patients taking the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) will also be treated with a single injection of Clostridium novyi-NT, Janku said. The researchers suspect the two therapies used in combination will create a strong immune response against cancers. However, they will have to keep an eye on potential side effects from Clostridium novyi-NT, Janku added. Two patients treated with the heaviest dose of 3 million spores of Clostridium novyi-NT fell ill with sepsis and/or gas gangrene, leading researchers to set the maximum tolerated dose at 1 million spores. Researchers also found the bacteria in the bloodstream of a couple of patients, meaning that the infection will need to be carefully tracked, Janku said. “That didn’t result in clostridium seeding anywhere else outside the injected region, but it’s a theoretical possibility since we were able to detect it in the blood culture of one or two patients,” Janku said. Patients also could be susceptible to immune response side effects, such as low blood pressure or fever, he added. The trial results were to be presented Sunday at the International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference, in New York City. The meeting is jointly sponsored by the Cancer Research Institute, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. More information The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer treatment.
27 September 2018
THURSDAY, Sept. 27, 2018 (American Heart Association) — Having a limb amputated can be traumatic, yet experts say not enough is being done to prevent a common disease that can lead to limb loss. Critical limb ischemia, or CLI, is a severe form of peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries of the extremities that typically affects the legs. At least 6.8 million Americans ages 40 and older have peripheral artery disease. Among them, more than 1 percent develop critical limb ischemia. Critical limb ischemia is caused by the same artery-clogging plaque that causes heart attacks and strokes, said Dr. Mark Creager, director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. “CLI occurs when the blockages are so severe that the blood supply to the leg — and particularly to the foot — is inadequate to maintain its normal nutritional needs. A patient’s skin might break down and progress to ulcers and gangrene, and they may end up losing their leg,” said Creager, a professor of medicine at Dartmouth. Estimates vary on how many people with CLI go on to have amputations, with one study reporting that without treatment, up to 40 percent of patients have an amputation within one year. Symptoms of CLI include leg and foot pain, infections, and cracks and sores that don’t heal. “Look at your feet. The presence of painful fissures, particularly between the toes, nonhealing ulcers, and blackened toes could each be an indication of CLI,” Creager said. “Another sign of CLI is persistent pain in the feet, oftentimes when the patient is lying in bed, which may improve with standing. We have more blood supply to the foot when we’re standing because of the effects of gravity. If you have more pain in your feet when you put your legs up, that’s a worrisome symptom,” he said. Spotting symptoms early and getting to the doctor quickly is essential, said Dr. Marie Gerhard-Herman, a physician and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Early recognition is huge, because if you can increase blood flow to their foot or leg before the muscle starts dying, then you can actually bring the foot or the leg back to life,” said Gerhard-Herman, who chaired the group that wrote the 2016 peripheral artery disease guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. Patients with peripheral artery disease should be treated with cholesterol-lowering statins and blood-thinning medications to reduce the risk of heart attack and prevent CLI, Creager said. Once CLI occurs, patients should be considered for a revascularization procedure that restores blood flow and may involve stents or bypass surgery, he said. Two main risk factors for critical limb ischemia are smoking and diabetes, said Gerhard-Herman. “We know that people who stop smoking have less peripheral artery disease, which means less CLI,” she said. And because people with diabetes are more prone to infections, “if they don’t have enough blood delivered to the limb, they cannot fight the infection, and they lose the limb,” she added, making better diabetes control extremely important. Other lifestyle factors that can help control peripheral artery disease and possibly prevent critical limb ischemia include eating a healthy diet, maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and getting regular exercise. But experts say there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how to best prevent and control critical limb ischemia. “There’s a terrific need for research to develop additional therapies for CLI … there’s a long way to go,” Creager said. “We also have to enlighten the public about CLI so patients can take steps to get PAD identified earlier, get the appropriate treatment, and prevent the risk of progression of CLI and loss of limb.” Eileen Bogosian can vouch for how traumatic the loss of a limb can be. A retired X-ray technician, singer and teacher, Bogosian, 84, developed peripheral artery disease and then critical limb ischemia after she was first diagnosed with a benign bone tumor and bone fractures on her right femur. After going through a series of stent surgeries, Bogosian had her right leg amputated above the knee in June. She said getting early treatment allowed her to keep her leg for several years longer than she otherwise would have, and she urged people to seek medical attention quickly, and reject any advice from friends who say otherwise. “If you are suddenly noticing any questionable symptoms, don’t wait. Waiting is going to possibly add damage to what you already have,” said Bogosian of Seekonk, Massachusetts. “I tell people — especially elderly people — to be your own advocate and get to a doctor. You need to catch it early and nip it in the bud so you can keep living a happy, healthy life.”
26 September 2018
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26, 2018 (American Heart Association) — The day after Maggie Maine was born, doctors told her parents there was a 70 percent chance she’d never walk, talk or be able to feed or bathe herself. An MRI had found severe defects in both her heart and her brain. Relying on their faith, Jeff and Renae Maine decided to focus on the 30 percent chance that the doctor was wrong, that Maggie would grow up to be “normal.” “We’re focusing on the positive instead of the negative,” said Jeff. Maggie’s prognosis wasn’t a surprise. Ultrasounds done before she was born had already found defects in her brain and heart. The MRI only confirmed those findings. Doctors told the Maines, who live in Bluffton, South Carolina, that about 75 percent of Maggie’s cerebellum was missing due to a rare condition called Dandy-Walker variant. Located in the lower, back portion of the brain, the cerebellum plays a vital role in balance and in coordinating muscular activity necessary, for example, to ride a bike. She also had a heart condition called tetralogy of Fallot, a combination of four heart malformations. These include a hole between the lower chambers of the heart that allows oxygen-poor blood to flow out of the heart to the rest of the body. Tetralogy of Fallot symptoms include a bluish skin tone, chronic fatigue, especially during physical activity, and a dangerous thickening of the heart walls. The best news Jeff and Renae heard following the MRI was that Maggie’s heart defects were repairable. She had her first open-heart surgery at just 3 months of age and, a week later, had a pacemaker implanted into her abdomen. From that scary, gloomy start, look at her now, at age 8. While there’s no treatment for Maggie’s brain defect, her cognitive development has so far been completely normal. “She’s in second grade but she’s reading at a fifth-grade level,” Renae said. “She loves to write, play the piano and she even takes dance lessons. She’s just a normal, energetic little girl.” About the only signs of her condition, her parents said, is that she sometimes has difficulty with balance and that she runs slower than other children her age. One of Maggie’s many neurologists called her development “unexplainable.” The Maines prefer “miracle.” Yet, while they’ve tried to remain optimistic, Jeff concedes there have been “dark days.” “We’re human, too, so sometimes the optimism fades,” he said. As for Maggie, her parents say she understands her physical limitations, but at an 8-year-old level. “She calls her pacemaker her ‘battery,'” Jeff said. “We were at the airport recently and she asked if the security scanner would hurt her battery.” Maggie has had four additional heart surgeries since her early months. There are more to come, yet the prognosis is encouraging. “Maggie’s doing great, although she has challenges ahead of her,” said her pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Patrick Broderick with the Savannah Children’s Heart Center. “She’s had some leakage through the pulmonary valve, for example, so she’ll eventually need a new one. We’ll try to wait until she’s 12, maybe 14 years old before we do that, though.” Broderick said he tried to encourage Maggie’s parents by telling them the Olympic snowboarder Shaun White was born with tetralogy of Fallot. “So now I tell them that she owes me three gold medals,” Broderick said. But Maggie has already decided she wants to be a cardiologist when she grows up. So perhaps someday she’ll be doing these procedures herself on another little girl.
24 September 2018
MONDAY, Sept. 24, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A paraplegic man has regained the ability to move his legs and walk with assistance, thanks to an implanted electrode stimulating his spinal cord, Mayo Clinic researchers say. Surgeons implanted the electrode below the level of 29-year-old Jered Chinnock’s spinal cord injury. A 2013 snowmobile crash left Chinnock with complete loss of motor control and sensation below the middle of his back. But after the new therapy, he “was able to regain voluntary control of the movement in his legs,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Kendall Lee, a neurosurgeon and director of Mayo Clinic’s Neural Engineering Laboratories in Rochester, Minn. He explained that Chinnock’s “own mind or thoughts were able to drive the movement in the legs.” Similar results were also reported Monday for patients who got the same type of treatment in a study conducted at the University of Louisville. Describing Chinnock’s case, researchers said he can now can walk about the length of a football field, around 111 yards. “We were able to get him to stand independently and be able to take his own steps,” Lee said. “The amount of steps he was able to take was pretty significant.” New insights into the spinal cord Researchers aren’t sure why this electrical stimulation allows the brain to once again take control of the legs, Lee said. He noted that the electrode is placed “way below the level of the injury,” stimulating nervous tissue that still is connected to the leg muscles. It’s possible that despite the injury, there remain some residual intact nerve fibers capable of transmitting brain signals to the legs, said Kristin Zhao, co-principal investigator and director of Mayo Clinic’s Assistive and Restorative Technology Laboratory. If that’s the case, the brain likely is sending signals to re-stimulated nerves farther down the spinal cord that are specifically tied to walking, said Dr. Brian Kopell, a neurosurgeon and director of the Center of Neuromodulation at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. “We are beginning to understand there are specific hard-wired circuits related to walking in the spinal cord itself,” said Kopell, who wasn’t involved with the study. “The brain works in conjunction with these locomotive sectors in the spinal cord to create the behavior we know as walking.” How it works This study began in 2016, with Chinnock receiving his electrode implant after 22 weeks of physical therapy. It sits in the epidural space that covers the spinal cord, Lee said. It is connected to a pulse generator implanted just below the skin of his abdomen. Researchers can wirelessly program the pulse generator to provide specific electrical stimulation to the spinal cord, Lee said. After recovering from surgery, Chinnock had 43 weeks of intense physical therapy involving 113 visits to the Mayo Clinic, Zhao said. He eventually regained the ability to walk over ground using a front-wheeled walker and on a treadmill with his arms on support bars to help with balance. By the end of the study period, Chinnock learned to use his entire body to transfer weight, maintain balance and propel himself forward, researchers said. But his legs move only when the pulse generator is activated, Lee said. “The stimulation absolutely has to be turned on,” Lee said. “We found you have to deliver a very specific type of stimulation. A random stimulation does not work.” Chinnock also still cannot feel anything below the site of his spinal cord injury, Lee added. He cannot yet walk independently outside the lab, but does perform regular leg exercises at home while standing or sitting, Zhao said. Full independence the goal Chinnock said the implant also has helped him in one of his favorite pastimes, bowhunting. “My sitting balance and stuff has gotten a lot better. Like, I can shoot my bow a lot better because I’m able to hold — have more trunk support and stuff,” he said in a video released by Mayo. Chinnock said his goal is to become “completely independent — be where I needed a walker, but I didn’t need anybody else to help me. I mean, that’s kind of a goal, but the main goal is to not need anything.” The electrical stimulator he has is one designed for nerve pain. The research team received permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use it in this new way. Researchers now plan to step back and re-engineer the device to specifically target paralysis, Lee said. They also plan more studies to figure out just what is happening in the brain and spinal cord that allows a patient to regain control of his legs, Zhao said. The latest report on this study appears in the journal Nature Medicine. In a similar separate study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Louisville researchers reported that two of four paralyzed patients were able to walk again after receiving an implanted stimulation device and intense physical therapy. Susan Harkema, a professor of neurological surgery who was part of that research, described the outcome as “phenomenal” in an interview with CNN. “This new knowledge is giving us the tools to develop new strategies and tools for recovery in people with chronic spinal injuries,” she said. Harkema and her colleagues implanted epidural stimulators in 14 paralyzed patients over the years. Thanks to the devices, all 14 were able to move and had better bowel and bladder function, she said. “This should change our thinking about people with paralysis,” Harkema said. More information Columbia University has more about neuromodulation.
24 September 2018
MONDAY, Sept. 24, 2018 (HealthDay News) — How tall you are might play a part in whether you are unlucky enough to develop varicose veins, a new study suggests. Every additional 4 inches in height increases your risk of varicose veins by about 25 percent, said researcher Dr. Erik Ingelsson, a professor of cardiovascular medicine with Stanford University School of Medicine. “We have pretty robust evidence that height is actually causally related through genetics with increased risk of having varicose veins,” Ingelsson said, though the study did not definitively prove causality. Varicose veins are swollen, twisted, gnarled veins that can be seen just below the surface of the skin. They are often dark purple or blue in color, and most frequently appear on the legs. Varicose veins do not increase a person’s risk for heart attack or stroke, explained cardiologist Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of NYU Langone’s Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health in New York City. “They’re generally a benign condition,” said Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. But these veins can become achy, itchy or painful, and can contribute to swelling of the legs due to fluid retention, she added. Varicose veins affect up to 25 percent of women and 15 percent of men, according to the Vascular Disease Foundation. How do varicose veins develop? Veins are designed to quickly shoot blood back up to the heart, with one-way valves that encourage blood flow, Goldberg said. When these one-way valves start to fail, blood can start pooling the veins, causing them to swell and stretching the vein walls. It’s been known that there are genetic factors involved in development of varicose veins, Ingelsson said. A family history of varicose veins makes it more likely you’ll develop them as well. To explore potential risk factors for varicose veins, researchers analyzed the health of more than 413,000 people aged 40 to 69 across the United Kingdom. This included a screen of genetic markers for more than 337,000 of those participants, including nearly 9,600 with varicose veins. Researchers confirmed a series of known risk factors, including age, gender, obesity, pregnancy and history of deep vein thrombosis (when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the legs). But when they sorted people by height, they found that those in the tallest quarter of folks were 74 percent more likely to develop varicose veins than the shortest quarter of people. Further, the researchers linked genes that determine a person’s height to their risk for varicose veins. The researchers also found a strong genetic correlation between deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins. It’s possible that height puts additional strain on veins trying to return blood to the heart, Ingelsson said. “If you’re taller, you have higher pressure downwards on your veins,” he said. “The veins are pushing the blood back up to the heart. If you’re tall, that creates more pressure.” Tall people can help reduce their risk of varicose veins by wearing compression socks, especially if they spend a lot of time on their feet, Goldberg said. Varicose veins that have become very unsightly or uncomfortable can be safely removed through laser surgery, she added. “In cases where these veins are irritated, itching, infected or contributing to swelling, you really should see a vascular specialist because you may be a candidate for a vein procedure to help eliminate the varicose veins,” Goldberg said. The study was published Sept. 24 in the journal Circulation. More information There’s more from the U.S. National Institutes of Health about varicose veins.
23 September 2018
SUNDAY, Sept. 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — It may be tempting to squeeze a large pimple, but doing so could make the zit worse, skin doctors say. Up to 50 million Americans struggle with various forms of acne, particularly red, swollen, painful bumps that develop deep in the skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. There are better, more effective ways to manage acne, said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Meghan Feely. “Although there are no overnight or immediate cures for acne, you don’t have to stand by and suffer, either,” Feely said in an academy news release. She’s an attending physician at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. “Make sure you use noncomedogenic and oil-free cosmetics, cleansers and sunscreens, and never try to scrub away a pimple, as this can further irritate it and make it worse,” she said. Noncomedogenic products are less likely to clog pores. There are other strategies that can help keep acne under control. Feely recommended the following: Use a mild cleanser. It’s important to apply acne treatment to clean skin. Opt for a fragrance-free cleanser and wash the skin gently. Apply ice, then heat. A cold compress can help ease the pain and swelling of a pimple. Wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and apply it to the affected area for five to 10 minutes. Repeat this process twice, taking 10-minute breaks between applications. Once a whitehead begins to form, a warm compress can help release the pus that accumulates under the skin. Soak a clean washcloth in hot water. Apply the warm cloth to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this step three to four times daily until the pimple begins to heal. Target bacteria. Once the skin is clean, apply a small amount of acne treatment to the pimple. Choose a product that contains 2 percent benzoyl peroxide. This will help kill the bacteria that causes acne. Apply only a thin layer to avoid irritating the skin. Keep in mind that benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabrics, so avoid contact with clothing, colored sheets and towels. Resist the urge to pop or pick at pimples. You’ll only make your pimples more noticeable and increase the risk for infection and scarring. Be wary of “natural” acne remedies. Products advertised as natural could do more harm than good. Even natural ingredients may be combined with potentially harmful products. Talk to a doctor. Board-certified dermatologists are trained to help treat acne and prevent future breakouts. They can treat painful, swollen pimples with a cortisone injection. A dermatologist can also prescribe treatments to help maintain a clear complexion. “Today, virtually every case of acne can be successfully treated, even severe acne,” Feely said. “However, not everyone’s acne can be treated the same way. If you have a lot of acne, or if your acne isn’t responding to over-the-counter acne medications after four to six weeks, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.” More information The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about acne.
20 September 2018
THURSDAY, Sept. 20, 2018 (HealthDay News) — In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, residents of the Carolinas are facing a new health threat: mold. Mold-related illnesses are a serious concern following severe flooding in North and South Carolina, say experts from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. “Where there’s dampness and water, there’s mold,” said Paula Schenck, of the division of occupational and environmental medicine. “Mold is an indicator of a whole soup of biological material. Unhealthy exposure to these bioaerosols is very possible after a flood from a hurricane and especially during cleanup efforts 24 to 48 hours after the storm,” she said in a university news release. Exposure to mold primarily affects the lungs and the skin, Schenck said. How you react to mold depends on the severity of your exposure. Some people may be more susceptible to mold-related illnesses than others, including children and those with a weakened immune system, asthma or another chronic illness. Warning signs of mold-related health issues include: Nasal congestion and sneezing. Hoarse voice and throat irritation. Cough, wheezing, shortness of breath or chest tightness. Flareup of asthma symptoms. Respiratory symptoms. Extreme tiredness. These symptoms may not develop right away, Schenck noted. She advised doctors to be extra vigilant about educating their patients about mold risk following a storm or natural disaster. During a post-storm cleanup, the UConn experts advised the following: Assume any areas exposed to water or flooding for more than 24 hours have mold even if it’s not apparent. While cleaning mold, use an “N95” respirator that has bands to hold the mask close to the face. Dust and surgical masks will not protect against mold and mold spores. People at high risk for mold-related illnesses should not attempt to personally clean up following a flood. If water damage covers more than 100-square-feet, seek professional help with the cleanup. Wear protective clothing. Cover the skin on the arms, hands, legs and feet while cleaning mold. Use long rubber gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm. Wear unvented goggles during mold cleanup to protect the eyes. Clean hard surfaces with soapy water. Avoid using bleach or other “fungicides” unless there is contamination from other flooded materials such as sewage. These harsh chemicals aren’t more effective than soapy water and could cause or worsen lung irritation. Don’t attempt to clean soft materials and porous surfaces like fabrics and wall board. Throw away these items. More information The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers more on hurricane safety and preparedness.
19 September 2018
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, can be very difficult to control in some people. But the skin condition, which leads to dry, itchy and inflamed skin, is particularly problematic for black people, according to new research. Scientists who examined patients’ skin on a molecular level found that compared to Americans of European ancestry, African Americans may require higher doses of some medications to manage stubborn eczema symptoms. “Research shows about 19 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of European Americans are diagnosed with atopic dermatitis,” said study lead author Dr. Emma Guttman-Yassky. She is a professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City. “Our study found there are significant differences in the skin of people with atopic dermatitis than in those without the condition,” she added. “Furthermore, we found African Americans with atopic dermatitis have more inflammation than European Americans with the condition,” Guttman-Yassky said in a news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Scientists are using molecular skin profiling to develop more effective treatments for eczema. Previous research, however, had only included European Americans with the skin condition, the study authors explained. So the new study compared the molecular profile of the skin in eczema patients of African descent with patients of European descent, looking for differences that might help researchers improve treatment options for black people. “The results indicated that the immune profile was more unbalanced in African Americans with atopic dermatitis compared to European Americans,” Guttman-Yassky said. The study authors said this was the first molecular study to seek out and identify differences that could help doctors understand why eczema is often more severe and difficult to control among black people. The findings were published in the Sept. 14 issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. According to allergist Dr. Donald Leung, executive editor of the journal, “This may prove to be a valuable enhancement for treatment options for African Americans with atopic dermatitis. It will also reinforce the importance of racial diversity in clinical research studies for effective treatment” for the skin condition. More information The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on eczema.
19 September 2018
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Widely practiced in Asia for thousands of years, acupuncture is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine. Yet it’s still viewed with some skepticism in the Western world. And for the squeamish, just the idea of needles can be a turnoff. But, depending on what ails you, it might bear trying. Acupuncture uses very thin needles inserted lightly into the skin to stimulate specific points to correct imbalances in qi (pronounced chee), the flow of energy throughout the body. And these needles don’t cause a similar level of pain to the needle used for, say, your annual flu shot. Even after hundreds of studies, acupuncture’s effects are just beginning to be understood. Much research has been done on acupuncture for pain relief. It has benefits for people with frequent headaches and offers some relief for some people with back, neck or arthritis pain. There’s even some evidence that it helps with nausea, insomnia, weight loss and quitting smoking as part of a multi-prong approach. Results vary widely from person to person, even for the same condition, and your expectations and beliefs may factor into whether this drug-free approach helps. So, have an open mind if you’re interested in trying it. Acupuncture is usually safe in the hands of an experienced, well-trained acupuncturist using sterile needles. But improperly performed, it can cause serious side effects. So always check credentials. Most states require practitioners to have a license, certification or registration, like a diploma from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Because of the growing interest in this alternative approach, some conventionally trained health care providers also practice acupuncture. The websites of accrediting organizations are a great way to find qualified practitioners. More information The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has detailed information on acupuncture, including a practitioner directory.