Zika virus warnings for pregnant women
THE mosquito-borne Zika virus has been getting worldwide attention with reports that it is linked to a recent surge in rates of microcephaly. Zika was first discovered in monkeys in Uganda in 1947 and has previously been considered to be a mild illness with symptoms including rash, fever, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The symptoms usually last 2–7 days. However, an outbreak in Brazil has occurred at a similar time as an increase in poor pregnancy outcomes and babies born with microcephaly. Preliminary reports point to Zika virus as the cause. Scientists are also investigating a concurrent increase in the number of cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome in the region and whether this may also be linked to the outbreak. Most of the at-risk areas are in the Caribbean and Central America; however, there is also one in the Pacific (Samoa) and one in Africa (Cape Verde). There is currently no vaccine or drug treatment for the virus and the only way to avoid Zika is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Current Australian advice suggests women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If Zika is suspected, clinicians are advised to discuss testing with their local pathology provider. See the Government’s general guidance. For managing pregnant women who have returned from an area with Zika outbreak, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided guidelines. For more, visit doctorportal.
Common antibiotic makes children more prone to obesity and asthma: study
A FINNISH study, published in Nature Communications, has found a common antibiotic could make children more predisposed to becoming overweight and developing asthma. The macrolides class of antibiotics, useful for treating lung and chest infections, are used as an alternative for people who are allergic to penicillin. The study examined changes in microbiota and incidence of disease in 142 children over a 6-month period and supported theories that certain antibiotics early in life can have negative effects on health. The researchers analysed the faecal microbiotia of children aged 2 to 7 years. They found that the use of macrolide antibiotics, but not penicillins, was associated with marked changes in gut microbiota composition that persisted for over 6 months. Previous studies on adults and mice have seen similar changes in microbiota that have been associated with increased risk of developing obesity and immune-related diseases. Although more research is needed, the authors concluded: “Our results support the idea that, without compromising clinical practice, the impact on the intestinal microbiota should be considered when prescribing antibiotics.” For more, visit doctorportal.
Public hospital performance stagnating: AMA
THE Australian Medical Association (AMA) has launched its Public Hospital Report Card 2016, and says the results point to an imminent crisis. The report card shows key performance measures such as emergency department waiting times, elective surgery waiting times and bed number ratios have either deteriorated or are stagnant. AMA President Professor Brian Owler said these results are a direct consequence of reduced funding from the Commonwealth. “The States and Territories are facing a public hospital funding ‘black hole’ from 2017 when growth in Federal funding slows to a trickle,” Professor Owler said. “As a result, hospitals will have insufficient funding to meet the increasing demand for services.” The current report card shows that: hospital bed to population numbers have remained constant despite there being an increased demand for hospital services; 68% of emergency department patients classified as urgent were seen within the recommended 30 minutes (the target for this is 80%); under the National Emergency Access Target, 90% of patients should be treated within 4 hours of presentation to an emergency department (in 2014–15, only 73% were treated in this timeframe); and, under the National Elective Surgery Target, 100% of all urgency category patients waiting for surgery should be treated within the clinically recommended time — however, in 2014-15, 78% of elective surgery category 2 patients were admitted within the clinically recommended time (within 90 days). More information at doctorportal.
Cancer cells reel in their neighbours to form bigger tumours
A UNIVERSITY of Iowa study published in the American Journal of Cancer Research has used 3D real-time recordings of the movements of cancerous breast tissue cells to find that a small minority of cancer cells actively recruits other cells, including a lot of healthy cells, into the tumour. A small group of tumorigenic cells extends a “cellular cable” to grab neighbouring cells and reel them in to enlarge the mass. “We suggest that this newly discovered, specialised characteristic of tumorigenic cells may explain, at least in part, why tumours contain primarily non-tumorigenic cells,” the authors wrote. Full text of the study here.