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MHS - News Archives
 

JUNE 02 NEWS ARCHIVES
(Last update was: 19 July 2002 )

RECENT NEWS ITEMS

DATE


ARCHIVED HEADLINE

2002/06/24 Health minister visit hospital after claims of abuses - The Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Mpumalanga Health MEC Sibongile Manana are to visit Philadelphia Hospital in Mpumalanga today.  Read
2002/06/24 Shock diabetes findings in SA - A shock finding that urban Africans in South Africa have the highest incidence of diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, has prompted calls for a return to 'traditional' eating habits. Read
2002/06/12

Aids stats questioned: Cape Town - Government's latest Aids statistics were described as "confusing" and "unreliable" in several circles on Tuesday. According to researchers it is "very naïve of government to say the Aids pandemic is levelling out".

Read
2002/06/03

Possible MS breakthrough: Sydney - The discovery of a protein that may lead to a new treatment for multiple sclerosis by protecting nerve cells from attack by the immune system has been announced by an Australian research team.

Read
2002/06/03

Grow-your-own transplants: Washington - Researchers say they have shown cloning can work as a source of grow-your-own transplants, by implanting into cattle cloned cells which formed functioning kidney-like organs and working heart tissue.

Read
2002/06/03 Health bill envisages a super-minister: A draft bill proposed by the government would give sweeping powers to the health minister - including the power to register new drugs. Read
2002/05/30 Marais rushed to hospital after anthrax scare: Western Cape premier Peter Marais and 27 employees of the Western Cape provincial legislature were taken to the Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital on Thursday after fears they had been exposed to anthrax. Read
2002/05/30 Aids 'protocols' agreed for rape survivors: The health department said on Thursday that it had reached agreement on protocols for the provision of anti-retroviral drugs to rape survivors. Read
2002/05/20

'Condoms for kids' sparks row: Pietermaritzburg - Proposed legislation to make condoms available for children has been strongly criticised.

Read
2002/05/20

Millions for Aids education unspent: Johannesburg - Provincial education departments, which are expected to be at the forefront of Aids education at schools, have failed to spend millions of rands allocated to them by the national department to fight the disease.

Read
2002/05/20 Abuse of health workers is rife, study finds: Verbal abuse, ranging from insults to threats of violence, is a major concern for health-care workers in hospitals across Cape Town. Read
2002/05/19 Cured with a foetus ovary: Beijing - Chinese doctors have successfully transplanted an ovary from an aborted female foetus to treat a young woman suffering from premature menopause, state media said on Sunday. Read
2002/05/18 New hope for cancer patients: Orlando, Florida - An experimental cancer drug shrinks the tumours in advanced lung cancer patients and improves their symptoms, offering them perhaps the first shred of hope, doctors said on Saturday. Read
2002/06/03

Possible MS breakthrough: Sydney - The discovery of a protein that may lead to a new treatment for multiple sclerosis by protecting nerve cells from attack by the immune system has been announced by an Australian research team.

Read
2002/06/03

Grow-your-own transplants: Washington - Researchers say they have shown cloning can work as a source of grow-your-own transplants, by implanting into cattle cloned cells which formed functioning kidney-like organs and working heart tissue.

Read
2002/06/03 Health bill envisages a super-minister: A draft bill proposed by the government would give sweeping powers to the health minister - including the power to register new drugs. Read
2002/05/30 Marais rushed to hospital after anthrax scare: Western Cape premier Peter Marais and 27 employees of the Western Cape provincial legislature were taken to the Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital on Thursday after fears they had been exposed to anthrax. Read
2002/05/30 Aids 'protocols' agreed for rape survivors: The health department said on Thursday that it had reached agreement on protocols for the provision of anti-retroviral drugs to rape survivors. Read
2002/05/20

'Condoms for kids' sparks row: Pietermaritzburg - Proposed legislation to make condoms available for children has been strongly criticised.

Read
2002/05/20

Millions for Aids education unspent: Johannesburg - Provincial education departments, which are expected to be at the forefront of Aids education at schools, have failed to spend millions of rands allocated to them by the national department to fight the disease.

Read
2002/05/20 Abuse of health workers is rife, study finds: Verbal abuse, ranging from insults to threats of violence, is a major concern for health-care workers in hospitals across Cape Town. Read
2002/05/19 Cured with a foetus ovary: Beijing - Chinese doctors have successfully transplanted an ovary from an aborted female foetus to treat a young woman suffering from premature menopause, state media said on Sunday. Read
2002/05/18 New hope for cancer patients: Orlando, Florida - An experimental cancer drug shrinks the tumours in advanced lung cancer patients and improves their symptoms, offering them perhaps the first shred of hope, doctors said on Saturday. Read
2002/05/06 Stop that kissing and pass the brandy! Winter is officially with us, but a daily dose of vitamin C and a tot of brandy every other night should help to keep colds at bay. Read
2002/05/06 Breaking up is hard on health: New York - By and large, married people appear to have better health than their single peers. However, if the marriage ends, that healthy edge tends to disappear, with divorced and separated people reporting one of the highest rates of illness. Read
2002/05/06 Here's some good news about Aids: Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Monday South Africa was beginning to win the fight against HIV/Aids and she would soon release a survey showing infection rates among the youth stabilising. Read
2002/05/05 Employees lead the way in fighting AIDS: Some South African employees are taking the lead in the fight against HIV/AIDS, donating their time, salaries and services to help victims of the disease. Staff at some of the country's biggest companies and government departments have raised over R1 million and provided food to orphans in some of the country's poorest areas in what is believed to be the start of a new trend among employees. Read
2002/05/02 Drug firms cut prices in wake of generics list: Some major pharmaceutical manufacturers have dropped the prices of 76 different drugs to bring them within the price threshold specified by Medscheme's new Medicine Price list, which kicked in this week. Medscheme director Gary Talor said he was absolutely delighted at the reductions, which averaged 18%. He believes that as prices are reduced on more drugs there will be greater flexibility for prescribing medicines which attract non co payment. Read
2002/04/16 Nobel honour for AIDS activist Nkosi Johnson: Nkosi Johnson has done what not even Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu could do - win two Nobel prizes in one night. The late young AIDS activist was honoured twice, when he was awarded posthumously the Global Friends Award and shared the World Children's Prize with Nepalese group, Maiti Nepal. Read
2002/04/16 Drs warn of 'Aids atrocities': Cape Town - A group of doctors has warned their South African colleagues against becoming accomplices in a new wave of "atrocities" by refusing to administer antiretroviral drugs. Read
2002/04/16 Boosting 'good' cholesterol: New York - An experimental drug may help boost levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol by as much as 34% in as little as a month, according to a new study. Read
2002/04/16 Siamese twins face 20-hour operation: Wednesday was due to be the big day for Port Elizabeth's conjoined twins, Zinzi and Zanele Kona, who were to be separated in a marathon operation at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town. Read
2002/04/15 Gene disease unravelled: Paris - Scientists say they have pinpointed genes that cause a serious intestinal disorder, marking the first time that the multiple genetic causes of a disease have been identified. Read
2002/04/12 A pill for every 'illness': London - So-called lifestyle drugs for baldness, erectile dysfunction or unhappiness are big business for pharmaceutical companies, but some doctors believe they are being coerced into treating a growing number of "non-diseases". Read
2002/04/12 Manuel and Mandela tot up bill: Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and Nelson Mandela have called for better funding for child vaccination. Read
2002/04/11 SA could be free of polio: Cape Town - South Africa could soon be declared free of polio, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Wednesday. Read
2002/04/11 Specialist centre an incentive for doctors to stay in the country: A five hour intensive operation costing R110 000 was completed when a tumour the size of a melon was cut from the liver of a Hout Bay woman at the recently opened University of Cape Town (UCT) Medical Centre. Read
2002/04/10 The elderly could put a strain on the world's health: For the first time in history the world will contain more people over 60 than under 15 years. 'The world is undergoing an unprecedented demographic transformation' says Kofi Annan, UN Secretary –General at the Summit being held in Madrid, Spain this week. Read
2002/04/09 Accord on health and safety signed: Government, organised labour and business made a commitment to guard against accidents in the workplace when they signed an accord on occupational health and safety. 'The socio-economic damage of health and safety incidents and fatalities on enterprises, the workers and their families have reached the levels where the social partners deemed it proper and fitting to find a common solution and co operative approach to the problem,' said Labour Minister, Membathisi Mdladlana Read
2002/04/09 A cancer-killing virus: Washington - A genetically engineered virus designed to home in on and kill cancer cells may be safe to test in patients whose cancer has spread, researchers said on Monday. Read
2002/04/09 Insomnia affects health: New York - A new study shows that people with chronic mental or physical illness are also likely to suffer from insomnia, which severely worsens their overall quality of life Read
2002/04/09 Cholera vaccine shows promise: New York - An oral vaccine against cholera has shown promise in human tests, and may be a safe, effective way of preventing the disease in travellers, researchers say Read
2002/04/08 Wanted - a leader with 'relevant' views: Opposition leaders have called for a dynamic new initiative that would lead South Africa out of the growing Aids crisis that is threatening the country's democratic future. Read
2002/04/08 Move for health: Johannesburg - More than 70 percent of the world population will die as a result of non-communicable diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles in 2020, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Mismang said on Sunday. Read
2002/04/08 Organic food: Healthy, or for the wealthy? London - Organic fruit, delivered right to the doorstep. That is what Gabriel Gold prefers, and he is willing to pay for it. Failing that, the 26-year-old computer technician is willing to spend the extra money at the supermarket to buy organic food. Read
2002/04/08 Flying and blood clots linked? Johannesburg - Planning to travel on SA Airways flights from London to Johannesburg over the next 30 days? Then you stand a chance of finding yourself mingling with and being part of a team of international medical professionals in search of the link between flying and the causes of the dreaded deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Read
2002/04/07 Aids bogey sours Mbeki's Nepad briefing: President Thabo Mbeki ran into an unscheduled flurry of queries from foreign journalists about his views on HIV/Aids during a briefing on Africa's revival plan on Sunday Read
2002/04/04 Minister Responds to Constitutional Court Order: This morning the Constitutional Court issued an interim order concerning the provision of Nevirapine in government health services in the period until there is an outcome in the main Constitutional Court case on this issue (to be heard on May 2 and 3). Government respects and accepts this judgement. Read
2002/03/26 Kruger Park malaria warning: Johannesburg - All visitors to South Africa's malaria areas, including the Kruger National Park, should take anti-malarial tablets, Netcare Travel clinics advised on Monday. Read
2002/03/25 What the minister said on TV news Read
2002/03/25 'No' means six months of torture: Just over six months ago, a pregnant woman came to the rural Elim Hospital in Limpopo province begging for Nevirapine to save her unborn child. Read
2002/03/25 Nurse in hot water after burning boy, 4: A nurse faces charges of assault after she allegedly forced a 4-year-old boy into a tub of extremely hot water. He suffered first and second-degree burns to his feet. Read
2002/03/25 Pill raises breast cancer risk: Barcelona - Using the birth control pill can increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, particularly if is she is still taking it after the age of 45, scientists say. Read
2002/03/25 Today is World Tuberculosis Day: Five people per day died of tuberculosis (TB) in Gauteng during the past year, even though the disease is easily curable. 'In the face of a looming HIV epidemic, the current TB epidemic has the potential to escalate at a tremendous rates, said Dr Ebraham Samba, World Health Organizations regional director for Africa. Read
2002/03/25 Manto's refusal to provide drug 'unconstitutional': Pretoria - Health Minister Manto Tshabala-Msimang's statement that she would not heed a court order to supply nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women beyond the existing pilot sites was a violation of the Constitution, the Treatment Action Campaign said on Monday. Read
2002/03/24 Groote Schuur opens its heart to UK patients:Cape Town's medical fraternity is agog with the news that British authorities want to send hundreds of patients to Groote Schuur Hospital for heart operations. Read
2002/03/24 Nevirapine hitch is academic, not medical: The government is threatening to close down its pilot sites on maternal transmission if the registration of Nevirapine is withdrawn. Read
2002/03/24

Mobile thumbs up: London - Young people growing up using mobile phones to send text messages are developing thumbs that are stronger and more versatile than their other digits, Britain's Observer newspaper reported on Sunday.

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2002/03/18 New clinic will offer 24-hour service to the community: Former President Nelson Mandela opened Qaukeni Community Clinic in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape, over the weekend, the clinic will dispense the drug Nevirapine. The move comes amid sharp debate within the ANC over whether or not the drug should be rolled out beyond official test sites. Read
2002/03/18

SA to treat UK patients? London - The British department of health may soon send state patients to South Africa for treatment in an attempt to shorten the long waiting lists in Britain.

Read
2002/03/18 GM food may prevent cancer: London - Eating organic food may help prevent cancer, heart attacks and strokes, a team of scientists in Britain has claimed. Read
2002/03/18 Japan's unique hayfever problem: Tokyo - Japanese monkeys suffer from it. Dogs suffer from it. Now the prime minister seems to have been afflicted too. It's a unique kind of hayfever found only in Japan, caused by "sugi" or Japanese cedar trees, a seemingly incurable annual affliction that causes runny noses, itchy eyes and sneezing that makes spring a blooming misery for some 13 million Japanese - more than 10 percent of the population. Read
2002/03/17 Hospital to beef up security after execution: Johannesburg Hospital will this week enforce tighter security on its premises, following the execution of a patient in his bed. Read

2002/03/17

Value for Money Medicines - Consumers will benefit as a result of Medscheme’s latest initiative to bring more affordable medicines to the members of the schemes they administer.

Read
2002/03/17 Broken families cause of poor health: Johannesburg - A breakdown in the family structure has been a major cause of health problems such as pregnancies, drug abuse, HIV/Aids and violence among Gauteng youth, a youth health seminar found in Johannesburg on Saturday. Read
2002/03/15 Durban hospice faces financial crisis: Highway Hospice in Durban has prided itself for years on giving care, medical and mental, to those in need, but now it faces the worst financial crisis in its history. Read
2002/03/14 Cape ushers in new era for genetic testing: Are you worried you might develop heart disease, Alzheimer's or arthritis, because this is what happened to members of your extended family? Read
2002/03/14 State yet to heed Nevirapine decision: Nevirapine is still not available at all state hospitals and the government has shown no signs of making the anti-retroviral freely available Read
2002/03/11 Nevirapine ruling out today: The Pretoria High Court is expected to give judgement this week in the State's application for leave to appeal against an earlier order that it provide the anti-retroviral drug, Nevirapine to all HIV positive pregnant women Read
2002/03/11 Discovered: Hunger hormone: London - British researchers said on Monday they had isolated a "hunger hormone" that dramatically boosts human food consumption, raising the prospects of new treatments for both the obese and the malnourished. Read
2002/03/08 Negligent nurse accepts six-month suspension: Bushbuckridge nurse Stella Kubayi has accepted the findings of the Nursing Council of South Africa which ruled that she should be struck off the roll of nurses for six months. Read
2002/03/07 'Travel sickness' hits spouses: Paris - The spouses of executives who make frequent business trips abroad face a much-higher risk of falling sick with mental or emotional problems than the partners of executives who do not travel, according to a new study. Read
2002/03/06 Minister of Health's statement to parliament on the health systems trust reports on the National PMTCT research sites: Wednesday, 6 March 2002  Read
2002/03/06 Tomatoes 'can lay prostate low': Washington - A diet rich in tomato sauce, ketchup and other tomato-based products containing a powerful antioxidant can lower the risk of prostate cancer, a new study says. Read
2002/03/05 Medscheme in bid to reduce medical expenses: South Africa's largest medical aid administrator is cutting back on the amount it is willing to pay for medicine. At a time when medical inflation is increasing at twice the rate of consumer inflation and when a number of medical aids are facing a financial crisis, Medscheme is trying to cut back on the biggest medical expense of all – pharmaceutical products. Read
2002/02/21 Cooling prevents brain damage: New York - Cooling the body just a few degrees appears to prevent brain damage in people who survive cardiac arrest but are left unconscious. Read
2002/02/21 Gauteng 'jumped the mark': Johannesburg - The Gauteng provincial government had "jumped the mark" in announcing a full nevirapine roll-out programme when studies on the efficacy of the drug were not complete, the ANC said on Wednesday. Read
2002/02/21 Coffee drinkers beware: New York - Preliminary findings from a small study suggest that drinking moderate amounts of coffee may put healthy individuals at risk for decreased insulin sensitivity, or an inability to process blood sugar efficiently. Decreased insulin sensitivity is a precursor to diabetes. "Our finding may have serious health implications, especially when superimposed on already-disturbed glucose tolerance or established (type 2) diabetes," write lead study author Dr Gerben B. Keijzers and colleagues from University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Read
2002/02/21 Primate killings a threat to research: Washington - The killing of gorillas, chimpanzees and other primates for food is threatening Aids research and may cause diseases to spread, US scientists said on Tuesday. Read
2002/02/18 Female condom: now that's empowerment: It may not be the prettiest-looking thing around, but it is giving South African women real power Read
2002/02/04 Public medical aid schemes face insolvency: South Africa is on the brink of a serious health crisis as a growing number of public medical aid schemes, representing 4.6 million lives, struggle to avoid insolvency. This month, Sanlam bailed out of its healthcare interest by selling its administration company Sanlam Health to Medscheme because it was deemed to be unprofitable. Observers say that this is a strong indication of an industry in crisis. Read
2002/02/04 Defective joints compensation: Zurich - Swiss medical technology group Sulzer Medica has reached a settlement to compensate patients who received defective artificial joints, the company said on Saturday. Read
2002/02/04 Judasa launches Armband campaign: Durban - A "Black Armband Campaign" to draw attention to Aids, was launched by the Junior Doctors Association (Judasa) in Durban on Saturday. Read
2002/02/03 TAC holds onto anti-Aids drugs: The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has moved swiftly to quell rumours that the Medical Control Council (MCC) confiscated anti-retroviral drugs from a Khayelitsha Aids treatment clinic. Read
2002/02/01 Jury still out on Nevirapine: The lives of thousands of babies have been put in jeopardy once again as the government stalls on a national plan to halt the tragic tide of mother-to-child transmissions of the Aids virus. Read
2002/01/30 KZN agrees to three-month Nevirapine roll-out: The KwaZulu-Natal provincial cabinet on Wednesday reached consensus on a three-month roll-out plan to make Nevirapine available at state hospitals and clinics in the province. Read
2002/01/30

Aids drugs from Brazil: Johannesburg - South African activists on Tuesday said they had imported generic anti-Aids drugs from Brazil, risking the wrath of pharmaceutical firms, which hold the patents.

Read
2002/01/30 Cholera outbreak under control: Bisho - Shocking roads and a lack of electricity is exacerbating the cholera outbreak in Mqanduli in the Transkei, Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang discovered during a visit there on Wednesday. Read
2002/01/30 Ministries of health and finance at odds: The turf war about who should control medical scheme brokers, who have been partly blamed for the rocketing medical aid costs, continued this week with Minister Manto Tshabala-Msimang stepping in to slam unilateral attempts by the Financial Services Board ( FSB) to interfere in her backyard Read
2002/01/30 Prisoner heart transplant renews ethics debate: SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- A California prison inmate serving 14 years for robbery received a heart transplant earlier this month, renewing a debate about who deserves to get desperately needed organs. Read
2002/01/23 Gel trials could be the answer to AIDS scourge: One of the largest drug trials yet undertaken in Southern Africa will determine whether a gel like substance used by women to prevent HIV infection could be the key to stemming the AIDS pandemic. More than R250 million has been awarded to the development of two microbicides, Dextrin sulphate and PRO 2000 identified by scientists as the most likely effective protection against HIV/AIDS. Read
2002/01/22 R25m grant for heart study: Cape Town - A R25 million donation has made it possible for 15 South African families suffering from a rare genetic disorder causing sudden cardiac death to be studied by medics at the University of Stellenbosch (US). Read
2002/01/22 Spirituality linked to better arthritis health: New York - A high level of spirituality appears to be associated with better health among individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and could also help them cope with their illness more effectively, recent study findings suggest. Read
2002/01/22 Baby-saving programme faces axe: Plans to save babies born to HIV-positive women in KwaZulu-Natal could be scuppered by political wrangling. Read
2002/01/21 Cholera leaves trail of death in Eastern Cape: Cholera has spread for the first time to the Eastern Cape, where it claimed two lives at the weekend, and might be responsible for at least another two. Read
2002/01/16 Glasnost reaches Russian disabled: MOSCOW, Russia -- As revolutions go, disabled rights has not been the quickest change in social policy to have hit Russia. Read
2002/01/16 Medical scheme embroiled in legal wrangle: A protracted and costly legal battle looms between Fedhealth Medical Scheme and its former administrator, Fedsure Health in which each party plans to sue the other for amounts in excess of R200 million. Fedhealth will be launching a bid to recover more than 200 million for what it says was maladministration by Fedsure Health. Read
2002/01/16 AIDS overwhelms vaccine in monkey study: (AP) -- Harvard AIDS researchers working with monkeys say the virus overcame an experimental vaccine by changing a single gene, killing one of the animals. Read
2002/01/16 Prescribe anti-retrovirals: Sama: Pretoria - The SA Medical Association (Sama) on Tuesday came out in support of its member doctors who prescribed anti-retroviral drugs to rape victims in contravention of government policy. Read
2002/01/16 Nurses ask Kasrils for water to stop cholera: The efforts of the Department of Health alone in curbing the cholera epidemic, especially in rural areas, are not enough and the Department of Water and Forestry Affairs has to move fast if outbreaks are not to become a permanent feature. Read
2002/01/13 Parents fear acne wonder drug is a killer: Graham and Di Jones say their son's suicide could have been prevented if they had been properly informed of the side-effects of acne drug Roaccutane. Read
2002/01/13 Gene shows who's 'got milk': - '"Lactose intolerance" today is the ancient form of the gene' - WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A single genetic mutation allows people to tolerate milk after they leave babyhood, and is virtually the same in people of Asian, European and African descent, researchers reported on Sunday. Read
2002/01/11 The naughty life of proteins: Paris - Proteins are amazingly promiscuous, mixing and matching in a tango of life and then splitting up and reforming in a different combination, scientists have found. Read
2002/01/11 Minister's AZT remarks spark outrage: Opposition politicians on Friday expressed disgust at the Northern Cape government's response to a doctor's decision to give anti-retroviral drugs to an 11-month-old gang-rape victim in violation of government policy Read
2002/01/11 AIDS slows South Africa's TB cure rate: South Africa will not meet the tuberculosis cure rate set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) because of AIDS, experts have warned. This is in spite of the TB cure rate jumping from 56% in 1997 to 62% in 1998 and 63% in 1999. The HIV epidemic is causing a massive increase in the number of TB cases, with more than half of tuberculosis patients being HIV positive. Read
2002/01/06 Gabon to seal province hit by Ebola: LIBREVILLE, Gabon (Reuters) -- Gabon is to seal off a remote province struck by the Ebola virus, which has killed 23 people in the central African country and in neighboring Congo and may have infected many more. Read
2002/01/04 Cholera surges in Ladysmith area: Durban - A total of 214 new cholera cases have been reported in KwaZulu Natal since Thursday, with the disease largely confined to the Ladysmith region, where 175 new cases were reported, the provincial health department reported on Friday. Read
2002/01/04 Gene clue to HIV treatments: Paris - Tiny differences in a gene that controls a key metabolising protein can cause enormous variations in the ability of HIV patients to respond to antiretroviral drugs, researchers reported on Friday. Read
2002/01/04 Transplant man's third heart is beating fine: A Zimbabwean man who became the second person in Africa to receive an artificial heart before having a donor's heart transplant was making good progress, according to his surgeon. Read
2002/01/03 Cloned pig organs easier to transplant: Virginia - A research firm says it has cloned pigs that have been genetically altered to remove one of the paired genes that cause the human immune system to powerfully reject transplanted pig organs. Read
2002/01/02

Vitamin A levels need to be re-evaluated: Chicago - Too much vitamin A may increase the risk of hip fractures in older women, according to a new study that researchers say suggests the need to re-evaluate the levels in supplements and fortified food.

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2002/01/02

Progestin protects against ovarian cancer: WASHINGTON (AP) -- Progestin is the ingredient in oral contraceptive pills that provides the highest level of protection against ovarian cancer, researchers have found.

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2002/01/02 Alternate therapy for asthma: New York - Nearly half of all asthma or seasonal allergy sufferers say they turn to alternative therapies for relief, researchers report. Read
2002/01/02

Scientists: Liars betrayed by their faces: (AP) -- A heat-sensing camera trained on people's faces was able to detect liars in a study that hints at a way of spotting terrorists at airports.

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2002/01/02 U.S. team finds genes for obsessive grooming: WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Think your teenage daughter spends far too long in the bathroom? It might just be due to her genes, and her primping may actually be an important survival behavior, scientists said on Wednesday. Read
2001/12/19 Health minister ponders ruling on HIV drug: The government is due to announce on Wednesday whether it would appeal against a High Court ruling ordering it to give a key drug to HIV-positive pregnant women to help protect their unborn babies. Read
2001/12/18 Malaria vaccine breakthrough: Washington - A vaccine made from the milk of genetically engineered mice has been shown to prevent monkeys from developing malaria. Read
2001/12/18 Drug gives quicker relief for common cold: CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- In a medical first, researchers have developed a drug that speeds recovery from the common cold -- a significant breakthrough for scientists who have been in pursuit of a cure for decades. Read
2001/12/18 Vaccination prevents Hepatitis A outbreaks: CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Hepatitis A outbreaks in all age groups could be prevented if children were routinely vaccinated against the liver ailment, a study in Northern California suggests. Read
2001/12/17 Pill firm resorts to word-juggling: A company selling a natural antidepressant is fighting allegations that its wonder drug contains little more than a bit of protein Read
2001/12/10

Uganda issues Ebola alert: KAMPALA, Uganda -- Uganda has issued an Ebola virus alert after the deaths of 28 people from haemorrhaging near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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2001/12/10 Keyhole surgery on kidneys leaves no scars: A new procedure for kidney surgery makes unsightly scars, hospital stay and long recovery time something of the past. This keyhole surgery, also known as minimal invasive surgery is being used by South African urologists to perform operations that until recently could only be done by an incision that stretched nearly halfway around the body. Read
2001/12/10 Nigeria first to trial generic Aids drugs: Abuja - Nigeria will on Monday launch Africa's first trial programme to use cheap, imported, generic Aids drugs to combat the disease sweeping the continent, officials said on Sunday. Read
2001/12/10 Garlic and rosemary fight cancer: Paris - Extracts of garlic and rosemary can help prevent cancer, a team of French researchers announced in Paris on Friday. Read
2001/12/09 Twin surgery on hold: Port Elizabeth's siamese twins, Zinzi and Zanele Kona, who are joined at the bottom, will not be separated today as doctors had hoped. Read
2001/12/07 Garlic hinders anti-Aids treatment: Washington - Garlic supplements, often taken in hopes of lowering cholesterol, can seriously interfere with drugs used to treat the Aids virus, a new federal study concludes. Read
2001/12/07 Private hospital group welcomes Health Bill: A private hospital group, Netcare, welcomed the draft National Health Bill and said it was a good piece of legislation treating private and public hospitals as equals and would lead to a better national health system. The National Health Bill is the result of a White Paper on health services, which covers the private and public health sectors at national, provincial and local levels Read
2001/12/07 Mom's arms the right place for siamese twins: Nomsa Kona, mother of the Port Elizabeth conjoined twins, is hesitant about exposing her babies to the world - but then they're put into her arms for the first time and everything else just disappears. Read
2001/12/07 Vaccine shows promise against malaria: London - Doctors say they are excited by early results of an experimental vaccine against malaria, the world's deadliest tropical disease. Read
2001/12/07 A little siesta does wonders: Cape Town - Around midday when you have to shield the heat of the sun from your eyes, it is time to take a short nap. Read
2001/12/06 FDA issues warning for anesthesia drug: WASHINGTON (AP) -- A drug anesthesiologists commonly use apparently can cause fatal irregular heartbeats at far lower doses than expected, prompting the government to urge doctors to try different medications. Read
2001/12/06 US doctors request an organs market: As the need for organ transplants continues to outstrip supply in the United States the American Medical Association (AMA) is grappling with a possible solution that has been taboo: paying dying would-be donors and their families for vital organs. Read
2001/12/06 Study finds pain, pleasure linked in brain: - WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Pain and pleasure may be closer sensations than anyone thought, researchers said Wednesday. Read
2001/12/06 The danger of home-based cures: Durban - Potentiallly harmful substances like drain cleaner, shoe polish, aspirin and disinfectant are being used by some parents to treat anything from constipation to respiratory problems in their children. Read
2001/12/06 Take care against malaria: Cape Town - Adequate protection against mosquitoes, that's what most South Africans, who intend spending Christmas in certain neighbouring countries, should pack as a priority. Read
2001/12/05 Aids vaccine trials start early 2002: Durban - The Medical Research Council said on Tuesday it would start South Africa's first HIV/Aids vaccine trials early next year with 96 participants from KwaZulu-Natal, Soweto and the United States. Read
2001/12/05 Cells in breast fluid may predict cancer risk: WASHINGTON (AP) -- Women with abnormal cells in breast fluid are twice as likely to develop breast cancer, says a study that evaluated the disease risk in more than 7,600 women. Read
2001/12/05 Shortages cause fewer heart ops: Johannesburg - The number of heart operations performed at the Johannesburg Hospital have declined drastically over the past few years as a result of staff shortages. Read
2001/12/04 Politicians want to meet on child rape incidents: As the weekend's grim toll of rape and abuse continues and with public anger growing steadily, politicians have called for an emergency meeting to discuss the growing incidence of child rape. Following the rape of a five month old baby in Johannesburg last week, police in the Western Cape arrested a father and two of his friends for allegedly raping a one year old girl. Read
2001/12/04 State lashes top doctor for backing Aids drug: The national health department has criticised Prof Jerry Coovadia, head of research at the Nelson Mandela Medical School at the University of Natal in Durban, for suggesting that the use of Nevirapine to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV was simple and straightforward. Read
2001/12/04 Exercise addicts: Pietermaritzburg - A Cape Town psychologist specialising in eating disorders believes that a new disorder - exercise addiction - is becoming widespread as people desperately try to avoid uncomfortable emotional states and strive for more control in their lives. Read
2001/12/04 Senators hear views on cloning research: WASHINGTON (AP) -- The president of the company that claims to have cloned the first human embryo defended his firm's actions Tuesday and urged senators not to hastily pass a bill restricting the practice. Read
2001/12/04 SA's teen moms reveal need for urgent action: Pretoria - One percent of South African women gave birth to their first child at the age of 13, and 0,7 percent at the age of 12, according to a 1996 population census report released on Monday. Read
2001/12/04 Durban decides to save 3 000 babies a year: After months of dithering, Durban's eThekwini Council is finally poised to implement an effective programme to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, a move which city health officials say will save almost 3 000 babies from a lingering death from Aids every year. Read
2001/12/04 Shortage of vaccines stirs concern for children: CNN) -- A limited supply of tetanus and several other vaccines in the United States is stirring concern that more children could begin contracting otherwise preventable diseases. Read
2001/12/03 Garlic under microscope: Israel - It stops vampires in their tracks, pulverises bacteria, cures athlete's foot and gives a tasty kick to spaghetti bolognese. Read
2001/12/03 X-rays now on home computers: Germany - Patients can now inspect their own X-rays on their home computers using new CD-Rom technology, according to the Institute of Telematics in Trier, Germany. Read
2001/12/03 ANC NEC condemns Aids court action: Johannesburg - The ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) criticised the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) on Sunday for taking the government to court over the use of Nevirapine. Read
2001/12/03 Finger transplant successful: Australia - Australian surgeons successfully transferred the fingers of a man's severed left hand to his right hand, doctors said on Sunday. Read
2001/12/03 New body to oversee medical schemes' services: A non-profit company,Health Quality Assessment, was founded recently aimed at ensuring that the services of medical schemes meet a certain requirement. It will do a health audit of the entire health care financing industry in both the private and public sectors, and will focus on setting standards for objective measuring criteria. Read
2001/12/02 Indians close to developing HIV vaccine: New Delhi - A top Indian medical institute is close to a breakthrough in developing a vaccine against one of the most common strains of HIV, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported on Sunday. Read
2001/12/02 Young snorers at risk of heart disease: Hong Kong - Children who snore are at higher risk of heart disease and breathing difficulties in later life, a medical study published on Sunday has found. Read
2001/12/01 AIDS continues 'devastating' sweep: The virus that causes AIDS is continuing to spread worldwide at a dramatic pace, with eastern Europe particularly hard hit, the United Nations has warned. Read
2001/12/01 President must lead Aids fight, says Madiba: Nelson Mandela sent a clear message to the government on World Aids Day on Saturday: people with HIV need drugs. Read
2001/11/29 Hope for cancer patients: London - British doctors said on Wednesday they had come up with a technique to counter liver cancer by heating the organ well above body temperature, offering hope to hundreds of people with inoperable cancer. Read
2001/11/29 'Hopeless' doctors beg state to fight Aids: Every day, 100 new patients with full-blown Aids are admitted to Johannesburg's three academic hospitals. Read
2001/11/29 Ambulance paramedics 'can't drive': Fears have been raised of a new hazard on the roads this holiday season - inexperienced, newly-recruited paramedics who can neither drive nor treat injured patients. Read
2001/11/29 Man gets operation after spending 2 years in hospital: The man who spent more than 2 years in the orthopaedic ward of the Sebokeng Hospital with untreated fractures will be transferred to the Garankuwa Hospital for treatment of a bladder problem and corrective surgery to his fractured legs. Read
2001/11/28 Work is bad for your health: New York - Most patients seeking medical attention for a range of concerns feel their work environment is either the direct cause of their health problems or is aggravating pre-existing conditions, study findings show. Read
2001/11/28 Woman gives birth to Siamese twins in PE: Siamese twins were born in the Port Elizabeth provincial hospital on Wednesday, SABC television news reported. Read
2001/11/27 Cloning success sparks debate: Religious and political leaders worldwide have condemned reports that a US company has cloned a human embryo for the first time. The announcement has raised a multitude of questions over cloning, with President George Bush, calling it morally wrong and others saying the company had crossed an ethical line. 'The use of embryos to clone is wrong. We should not as a society grow life to destroy it,' said Bush. Read
2001/11/27 Light cigs still dangerous: Washington - Cigarettes marketed as "light" or "low-tar" by tobacco companies have offered smokers only an illusion of reduced health risks while leaving unabated the death toll caused by the habit, according to a report released on Tuesday by the US National Cancer Institute. Read
2001/11/27 Aids judgment 'before Xmas': Pretoria - The High Court reserved judgment on Tuesday in the application by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to force government into making Nevirapine available to HIV-positive pregnant women. Read
2001/11/27 'Disturbing a spider's web':  Pretoria - An application by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to force South African health authorities to provide Nevirapine to all HIV-positive pregnant mothers was "simplistic, ill-informed and ignored vital issues such as the availability of resources." Read
2001/11/27 'South Africans are too sexy for condoms': Eight in 10 South Africans are concerned about contracting Aids or another sexually-transmitted disease, but many are not protecting themselves, an international sex survey revealed on Tuesday. Read
2001/11/26 Hope for HIV+ men who want kids: New York - A preliminary study with rabbits has found that an extract from the pokeweed plant could theoretically help an HIV-positive man conceive a child without infecting his partner or the child with the virus. Read
2001/11/26 Make-up's SPF may fade fast: New York - Women who rely on their foundation make-up to shield their faces from the sun may need to touch-up every couple of hours. Read
2001/11/26 Protein patterns may give cancer answers: BETHESDA, Maryland (AP) -- In a crowded Food and Drug Administration laboratory, a scientist fires a miniature laser at cells from a cancer patient, a purple blast that captures normal, precancerous and tumor cells. Read
2001/11/26 Bush: Human cloning 'morally wrong': WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush Monday criticized the creation of human embryos through cloning as "morally wrong" and "bad public policy," saying the procedure should not be allowed. Read
2001/11/26 Genes linked to premature heart attacks: DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- Scientists say they have found evidence linking three genes to premature heart disease in what could be a step toward a better screening procedure for families at risk. Read
2001/11/24 MP calls for HIV 'census': tests for all: An African National Congress MP has called on the government to introduce mandatory testing for sexually active citizens to determine the true extent of HIV and Aids in the country. Read
2001/11/23 Possible MS gene identified: New York - Scientists have discovered a gene that may be involved in multiple sclerosis (MS) and other diseases that destroy the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord. Read
2001/11/23 New drug halts diabetes: London - A new experimental drug can block the progression of insulin-dependent diabetes and may be able to prevent the disease, which affects up to 20 million people worldwide, researchers said on Friday. Read
2001/11/23 SA 'making progress' against Aids, says Zuma: Pretoria - Deputy President Jacob Zuma has rejected as one-sided criticism that the government is neglecting the fight against Aids. Read
2001/11/23 Hope for haemophilia sufferers: Cape Town - Since Khayalethu Ziqwayi (10) has been receiving treatment for his severe blood disease, he has entered a new chapter in his life. Read
2001/11/22 Cancer cells tricked: London - Researchers in Scotland said on Thursday they had developed a potential new therapy that fools cancer cells into killing themselves. Read
2001/11/22 Study: Flu shots safe for asthma patients: (AP) -- Contrary to widespread fears among patients and some doctors, flu shots are safe even for those with severe asthma, a study found. Read
2001/11/22 Biomedical Institute to study AIDS: A multimillion rand internationally recognised biomedical research institute is to be built at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to consolidate and expand existing research into Africa's three most ruthless diseases: AIDS, tuberculosis and cancer. Read
2001/11/22 Mbeki 'neglecting' Aids: Cape Town - A leading international human rights organisation on Wednesday accused President Thabo Mbeki of neglect in tackling the Aids pandemic sweeping SA. Read
2001/11/21 Berlin Heart man beats for the real thing: A Zimbabwean bodybuilder has become the second person in South Africa to be hooked up to the Berlin Heart, an artificial heart powered by a pump outside the body. Read
2001/11/21 Current medicines studied for smallpox: BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- Scientists in search of a smallpox cure hope they'll find one already on the shelf. Read
2001/11/21 FDA approves world's first contraceptive skin patch: WASHINGTON (AP) -- American women may soon buy the world's first birth control in a skin patch. Read
2001/11/21 S A leads world with rapid X-rays: South African experts have made a significant breakthrough in one of the most difficult fields of medicine – radiology. In a world first , a digital, low dosage X-ray diagnostic imaging system was launched in Johannesburg this week. The system known as Lodox will be showcased to the world in Chicago, USA, It is expected to put South Africa on the world medical imaging map. Read
2001/11/21 Irregular periods, diabetes linked: Chicago - Women who have highly irregular menstrual cycles are twice as likely as women with a regular cycle to develop diabetes in their adult years, US researchers say. Read
2001/11/21 'Wrinkle-free' with deadly bacteria: Seoul - "My friends said I look 10 years younger," said a beaming Kim after treatment with Botox, a hot new beauty product in Seoul. Read
2001/11/20 Hospital system deteriorates despite new ventures:  The hospital system is degenerating in spite of new policies and investments, according to the chief director of hospital services in the national health department, Thabo Sibeko, who was speaking at the health summit in Johannesburg. He pointed out that it would take about R1.33 billion a year to replace hospitals. The general belief is that hospitals need replacing every 40 years. Read
2001/11/20 Tembisa kids found playing in medical waste: Three children between the ages of five and six were found playing with dumped medical waste in Tembisa on Sunday after the hijacking of a vehicle transporting blood last week, the Ekurhuleni metro council said on Tuesday. Read
2001/11/20 Heart implant patient has another setback: LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (AP) -- The first recipient of a self-contained artificial heart suffered bleeding in his brain this week in the same area damaged by a stroke 10 days ago. Read
2001/11/20 Mental illness a serious problem: Johannesburg - One in four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives, yet nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder will never seek help, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Read
2001/11/20 HIV picks on cell membrane: Washington - When the HIV virus invades a cell, it picks a place on the cell's membrane that is rich in cholesterol, according to a new study at the National Institutes of Health. Read
2001/11/19 Paramedic suspended for blowing the whistle: A volunteer paramedic who blew the whistle on the state of Gauteng's ambulance services has been suspended for talking to The Star. Read
2001/11/19 Health minister admits mistakes: Cape Town - Health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has recommitted government to meeting the challenges of HIV/Aids by continuing to strengthen and expand programmes across the country and participate in international initiatives. Read
2001/11/19 ADD drugs popular on black market: She had no idea she had a popular party drug on hand. To her, the vial of prescription pills she'd once been given to treat attention deficit disorder were just leftovers, until a friend from New York called to ask if she'd mail out a few -- just for fun. Read
2001/11/19 Hijackers dump medical waste in Tembisa: The medical waste found in Tembisa, north of Johannesburg over the weekend belonged to a blood bank which had its combi hijacked last week, North Rand police said on Monday. Read
2001/11/19 Health summit to focus on quality health care Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, urged the 600 delegates at the health summit to speak their minds on contentious subjects that needed to be discussed,including HIV/AIDS. 'This event is in the hands of all the participants, not in the hands of a few performers standing under bright lights on a platform, said Tshabalala-Msimang. She said her department was committed to consultation and they had fully accepted that dissent and criticism were part of debates. Read
2001/11/17 Mbeki faces Aids revolt from women MPs: The first meaningful dialogue on the government's policy on HIV/Aids to emerge within the ANC took place this week in two party meetings - with sharply differing views emerging over how the government's policy should be implemented, according to well-placed party sources. Read
2001/11/17 Docs try ATM-style prescription machines: WASHINGTON (AP) -- It looks like a giant ATM machine, but instead of cash the contraption at a Minneapolis pediatricians' office spits out prescription drugs. Read
2001/11/16 WHO publishes new guidelines to measure health:  A new World Health Organization (WHO) publication to classify the functioning, health and disability of people across the world challenges mainstream ideas on how we understand health and disability. The ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health), released yesterday (15 November) has been accepted by 191 countries as the international standard to describe and measure health and disability. Read
2001/11/16 Activists cheer WTO decision: Johannesburg - Groups that promote access to essential drugs were elated on Thursday about a World Trade Organisation (WTO) statement saying intellectual property rights (Trips) cannot deter a country from protecting its public health. Read
2001/11/16 How safe is your milk?: Cape Town - Shoppers at Woolworths were recently given a leaflet entitled "rBST hormone in milk - your right to choose". The title is an indication of consumer concern about this hormone that is administered to dairy cattle. Read
2001/11/15 Tiny 'smart bomb' can invade, kill cancer: WASHINGTON (AP) -- A microscopic cancer "smart bomb" powered by a single radioactive atom is able to find and kill tumor cells in laboratory experiments. Researchers hope to test the technique on human patients next year. Read
2001/11/15 Government is planning to take care of rural doctors The government is considering incentives to attract doctors and specialists to rural areas and keep them there, as experts continue to caution of a looming disaster in healthcare. Read
2001/11/15 Aids problem starts with Mbeki: Johannesburg - For as long as President Thabo Mbeki ranks the HIV/Aids epidemic not as a priority ministers, councillors and activists will find it difficult to handle the pandemic as such. Read
2001/11/15 Study: Musicians' brains wired for sound: SAN DIEGO, California (AP) -- The brain waves of professional musicians respond to music in a way that suggests they have an intuitive sense of the notes that amateurs lack, researchers said Wednesday. Read
2001/11/15 Feds - Alternative remedies no cure for anthrax: WASHINGTON (AP) -- There is no evidence that alternative medicines, including some promoted on the Internet, are effective in treating anthrax or other biological agents, a leading government scientist said Wednesday. Read
2001/11/14 Artificial-heart patient suffers stroke: LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (CNN) -- The first patient in the world to receive a self-contained artificial heart has suffered a stroke, doctors said Wednesday. Read
2001/11/14 Decaf coffee linked to arthritis: San Francisco - Decaffeinated coffee may raise women's risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to the findings of two studies presented on Tuesday at the American College of Rheumatology's annual meeting. Read
2001/11/14 Cholesterol drug breakthrough: London - A third of all heart attacks and strokes suffered by high-risk patients could be avoided by using cholesterol-busting drugs called statins, a British study showed on Tuesday. Read
2001/11/14 Health puffs up as Kahn comes out smoking: The Western Cape director of public prosecutions, Frank Kahn, refuses to press charges under the smoking law because it is "sloppily drafted" - but the health department says he is misinterpreting it. Read
2001/11/14 MPs want Aids drugs: Cape Town - A parliamentary committee has gone against President Thabo Mbeki and the health ministry's current thinking on HIV/Aids, by supporting - among other things - the use of anti-retrovirals (ARVs), despite their toxicity. Read
2001/11/13 Millions of rands for Aids strategy unspent: Millions of rands allocated by the government to the provinces for Aids programmes have not been spent, a study has found. Read
2001/11/13

Tamoxifen preventive for some women: CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- The drug tamoxifen may help prevent breast cancer in healthy women with BRCA2 genetic mutations but not in women with BRCA1 defects, new research suggests.

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2001/11/13

Legs hold clues to health: London - Leg length may determine more than a man's stature but could also be an indicator of his chances of developing diabetes and heart disease, British researchers said on Tuesday.

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2001/11/13

Aids underspending 'critical': Cape Town - Although they are already halfway through the financial year, provinces have spent only a fraction of the money they were allocated for HIV/Aids programmes, according to a report released on Tuesday.

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2001/11/12 Comment by the S A Medical Association on the Baragwanath hospital audit: The findings at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital audit published last week came as no surprise to the SA Medical Association (SAMA). The association has continuously attempted to draw the attention of the authorities to the grossly inadequate equipment, facilities and staffing structures that exist at state hospitals. These inadequacies have a serious negative impact on the quality of service doctors are able to render to their patients. Read
2001/11/12 Heart assist pump shows promise: ANAHEIM, California (CNN) -- An implanted pump that gives a boost to failing hearts can extend lives and improve quality of life, according to a study presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association. Read
2001/11/12 Anthrax has been 'mooving' around for a while: The San bushmen did not see a potential threat when they stumbled upon a dead cow lying in a South African field. They saw precious meat. So they cooked and ate the animal. Read
2001/11/12 Exec makes a run to sponsor Aids orphanages: Umlazi is soon to get a home for Aids orphans, while a second orphanage is to be established in Gauteng. Read
2001/11/12 Cholesterol drugs better in studies than real life: ANAHEIM, California (AP) -- Two-thirds of people taking widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering medicines do not get as much benefit as drug company statements suggest they should, a study found. Read
2001/11/12 Can touch-tone phones detect dementia?: CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Automated touch-tone phone answering systems could help screen older callers for early signs of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, researchers say. Read
2001/11/12 Union to provide Aids drugs: Cape Town - The debate surrounding HIV/Aids treatment should move beyond the customary "complaints and denials" and realise into tangible aid for victims. Read
2001/11/11 Doctors laud artificial heart performance: BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- The fact that surgeons have cut out the hearts of five terminally ill men and put in artificial ones is amazing enough all by itself. But what absolutely stuns the people who build and install the hearts is what has happened since. Read
2001/11/09 State clash looms over smoking law: The Department of Health seems set for a head-on clash with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) over whether it is a crime to smoke in public places. Read
2001/11/09 Red tape strangles rural health: Johannesburg - The critical need for senior doctors in rural hospitals in South Africa could be addressed if the country made it easier for foreign doctors to work here. Read
2001/11/09 New KZN cholera warning after rains: The KwaZulu-Natal health department has confirmed nine new cholera cases since Tuesday. Read
2001/11/08 Extra radiation helps beat breast cancer: (AP) -- An extra dose of radiation aimed squarely at the spot where the tumor was removed can substantially improve the outlook for younger women with breast cancer, a European study found. Read
2001/11/08 The largest hospital in Africa is in a poor standard The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is rife with abusive nurses, bribery for special treatment, theft and demoralised doctors. The scandals at the largest hospital in Africa were exposed in an ethics audit released by the hospital this week. The survey looked at patients' views and beliefs of staff at all levels, also at the staffs' views of themselves and patients, the physical environment and management. Read
2001/11/08 Refugees' health suffers during war: After a month of intense air attacks on Afghanistan, America seems no closer to their goal of persuading the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden. But the attacks have succeeded in making ordinary civilians' lives a misery, leaving many of them without food, homes and struggling with disease. Read
2001/11/08 All-purpose drugs tested for bioterror: (AP) -- American smart bombs zero in on programmed targets in Afghanistan. Bioterrorism protection at home may demand drugs that do just the opposite -- kill just about any germ target in sight. Read
2001/11/07 City Park hospital renamed after Barnard: A Cape Town hospital is to be renamed after heart pioneer Chris Barnard - and a drive to save the lives of children with defective hearts is to be stepped up in his name. Read
2001/11/07 Some HIV strains resistant to AZT: Washington - Researchers at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have established that certain strains of the Aids virus could develop a resistance to medication, according to a study released on Tuesday. Read
2001/11/07 Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital: - some stats Read
2001/11/07 70 percent of prison deaths are Aids-related: The Aids time bomb is taking its toll in South African prisons, with deaths linked to the virus having increased more than 500 percent in the past four years. Read
2001/11/07 The key to cure malaria: Cape Town - Researchers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) are hopeful that a mysterious herb, growing on inaccessible mountain slopes in Southern Africa, could prove to be the key to a cure for malaria. Read
2001/11/07 Welfare report to miss 2002 budget:  The report of the committee looking into the introduction of a comprehensive social security programme will be finalised too late for its recommendation to be included in next year's budget. The report is expected to cover substantive aspects of social security and their implications. Read
2001/11/06 Accepting Aids report 'must lead to action': The South African Medical Association says it supports the conclusions of the recently released report on the Aids pandemic by the Medical Research Council - a document which the government initially tried to suppress. Read
2001/11/06 Mercy flight to save babies' lives: Two Durban babies were on Monday airlifted to Johannesburg on a mercy flight to save their lives.  The babies, a boy and a girl aged three months and eight months, were diagnosed with severe heart problems at their births. Read
2001/11/06 One-hour anthrax test developed: Washington - The Mayo Clinic said on Monday it had developed a test for anthrax that works in one hour and can be used both on people and in the environment. Read
2001/11/06 Unveiled: 'Safe' cigarettes: New York - Vector Group Ltd., owner of US tobacco maker Liggett Group Inc., on Monday introduced a cigarette it claims has up to 60 percent fewer cancer-causing agents, yet maintains the taste of a regular cigarette. Read
2001/11/04 Increase in the number of teachers dying of AIDS: Teacher deaths due to HIV/AIDS have rocketed by more than 40% in the past year, according to the statistics compiled by the largest teacher trade union in South Africa and accepted by an aide to Education Minister, Kader Ismal. The figures are based on claims submitted to the S A Democratic Teachers Union's funeral scheme between June 2000 and May 2001. Read
2001/11/01 Investigators report 'no clues' in latest anthrax death: (CNN) -- Federal health authorities Thursday reported "no clues" that might link the anthrax death of a Bronx, New York, woman to tainted mail. Read
2001/11/01 Mom sues Manto after baby loses arm: The mother of a five-month-old baby, whose left arm was amputated after he was treated for pneumonia at Frontier Hospital, is claiming R10-million from Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Read
2001/11/01 Accolades for Durban hospital: Wentworth hospital is the second provincial hospital in KwaZulu-Natal to secure a 100% accreditation rating from the Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa. Read
2001/11/01 Smoking ban: 18 Durban firms charged: The health authorities in Durban have so far laid charges against the owners of 18 local businesses for failing to enforce a smoking ban on their premises. Read
2001/11/01 Why do we need sleep? Scientists disagree: WASHINGTON (AP) -- Somewhere in the time between dream and wake, the human mind -- struggling with burdensome problems -- takes memories, facts and emotions and snaps them together like puzzle pieces. Read
2001/11/01 Don't confuse anthrax, flu: Washington - Worried people with flu like symptoms who fear they may have anthrax will likely flood hospitals and clinics this year but a federal health official said on Wednesday there are some easily recognisable differences between the two diseases that should help doctors allay patients' fears. Read
2001/11/01 Blood pressure: How high is too high?: New York - New research suggests a reading a few points below the official benchmark for high blood pressure significantly increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes Read
2001/11/01 Smokers take longer to conceive: London - A new study by scientists at the Institute of Health Sciences at Oxford University showed it took smokers almost two months longer to become pregnant than women who had never smoked or those who had quit more than a year earlier Read
2001/10/31 CDC releases draft of public health law: ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- A model law drafted for states at the request of the federal government would give authorities broad powers to close buildings, take over hospitals and order quarantines during a biological attack Read
2001/10/31 Anthrax scare at Tuynhuys: A DOZEN cabinet ministers were treated in an anthrax scare yesterday as police and firemen cordoned off Tuynhuys, President Thabo Mbeki's Cape Town office, after two suspicious parcels were opened at the complex Read
2001/10/31 Discovery's showdown risks turning into a lie down: It was The Clash who wrote the revolutionary punk anthem I Fought the Law and the Law Won - possible background music for the spat between Discovery Health and Patrick Masobe, the registrar of medical schemes. Read
2001/10/30 FDA approves new AIDS drug: WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new anti-viral drug is being added to the arsenal of anti-AIDS medications. Read
2001/10/30 Vitamin C shows promise: New York - Therapy with vitamin C may help heart failure patients by improving the function of their blood vessels, results from a small study suggest. Read
2001/10/30 Lozenges to help smokers quit: London - A new lozenge can triple a smoker's chance of quitting and is more effective than other forms of nicotine replacement therapy, according to results of a study released on Monday. Read
2001/10/30 R1bn a year on Aids: Zuma: Parliament - Government spending on fighting HIV and Aids has increased from under R100 million in 1994 to the current level of almost R1 billion nationally and provincially, Deputy President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday. Read
2001/10/30 Leg, used needles, tossed on EL city dump: The leg of a man, wrapped in what appeared to be a plastic bag from the local Frere Hospital, was discovered on Monday afternoon by children scratching through waste at the Second Creek dumps along the Buffalo River upstream from the East London harbour. Read
2001/10/29 Smoke more, says Malawi pres: Malawi - The 22-nation world tobacco body on Monday said the international anti-smoking lobby will seriously undermine tobacco crops which earn about $4 billion each year world-wide. Read
2001/10/29 No new drugs for 'poor' diseases: Cape Town - Virtually no new drugs are being developed for diseases that predominantly affect the poor, according to a report released by the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Read
2001/10/29 S. Africa urges change to AIDS drug deal: JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (Reuters) -- South Africa urged the World Trade Organization on Monday to make AIDS drugs cheaper for the developing world and said the drug industry put patents before lives. Read
2001/10/29 Volunteers try Aids vaccine: Trinidad - Faye Gonzalez volunteered to be injected with a new experimental vaccine against HIV because the virus exacted a personal toll, taking the life of a close friend last year. Read
2001/10/29 Blueprint for salmonella genes revealed: Two international teams of researchers have finished mapping the genetic sequences of two major strains of Salmonella enterica. One causes typhoid, and the other causes food poisoning. Read
2001/10/28 'Molecular pharming' takes root: (AP) -- In a greenhouse tucked away in Indianapolis, Indiana, flourishes corn being engineered to provide the active ingredients in gels that fight herpes and kill sperm Read
2001/10/26 A new era in spinal surgery: Pretoria - Neck operations are likely to be reduced considerably in future as a result of new developments in spinal surgery where prosthesis could ensure normal movement for patients. Read
2001/10/26 Tests show SA anthrax scares false - so far:  The SA Police Service's Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria had tested 98 cases of suspected anthrax infection by Friday - and all were negative. Read
2001/10/25 HIV: state 'unethical, negligent': Johannesburg - Government's refusal to provide anti-retroviral drugs to pregnant women with HIV and rape victims, constitutes an ethical offence and no less than gross negligence. Read
2001/10/25 Aids monster blows up in Mbeki's face - again: President Thabo Mbeki has been accused of misrepresenting new guidelines issued by the United States government's Centre for Disease Control (CDC) on the use of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). Read
2001/10/25 Inmates seek to avoid the Aids death sentence: It was the melodious sound of guitars and drums echoing off the walls of Johannesburg prison that drove about 300 inmates into dance. Read
2001/10/25 Treating anemia beneficial after heart attacks: BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- Doctors can save the lives of many elderly heart attack victims by quickly giving blood transfusions to those who have even mild anemia, a U.S. study found. Read
2001/10/25 Drug may slow wasting in burn victims: BOSTON (AP) -- A widely used blood pressure drug shows strong potential for slowing the metabolic overdrive that makes patients waste away after severe burns and other major injuries, researchers say. Read
2001/10/24 Global anti-TB plan announced: Washington - Officials at the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have launched a new global plan to drastically cut tuberculosis infection and death rates in poor countries. Read
2001/10/23 Guidelines for contingency planning: Biological Threat: Anthrax: October 2001 - DEPARTMENT OF PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (National Disaster Management Centre) Read
2001/10/23 Olive oil scam: how dangerous are the added solvents? What exactly are the green colourants used to tinge some sunflower oils? These are petro-chemical solvents, used for cleaning engines and machinery. Copper chlorophyll was also found at a bottling plant. In undiluted form, these additives can cause permanent liver damage. Petro-chemical solvents can produce the dangerous byproducts, mercury and aromatic amines, both of which can be toxic to the liver. Read
2001/10/23 Cancer cases linked to Chernobyl: Lisbon - Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear accident, is linked to nearly 2000 thyroid cancer cases, the largest number of cancers associated with a known cause on a specific date, scientists said on Tuesday. Read
2001/10/23 Childhood obesity a global issue: New York - The percentage of American kids who are overweight or obese has swelled to such a level that public health officials call it an epidemic. Now, an international study reveals that the rate of obesity among children in other nations is also on the rise. Read
2001/10/22 Breast milk bank a first: South Africa, and KwaZulu-Natal in particular, has scored a world "first" with the opening of a community-based "breast milk bank" for Aids orphans or for babies whose HIV-infected mothers have deserted them. Read
2001/10/22 Stammering Day to help 60m people: Paris - Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill and Britain's King George VI proved that it need not be an obstacle to success. Read
2001/10/21 WHO considers reviving smallpox vaccine: Geneva - World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland has asked an advisory group to review whether vaccination against smallpox should be resumed as fears of bioterrorism grow, the WHO said in a statement on Friday. Read
2001/10/21 Study blames drug reactions for many elderly deaths:  CHICAGO (Reuters) -- Taking greater care when administering drugs to sick elderly patients could bring down relatively high death rates caused by drug reactions, Norwegian researchers said Sunday. Read
2001/10/19 Chickenpox vaccine launched: Johannesburg - The first vaccine to prevent varicella, commonly known as chickenpox, was launched in Johannesburg on Thursday. Read
2001/10/18 Male genes cause aggression: Ohio - New research on rats suggests that male genes are directly responsible for causing men to become belligerent and get into fights. Read
2001/10/18 Baby with HIV sues health department: A six-month-old baby who contracted HIV from her mother is suing Mpumalanga's MEC for Health, Sibongile Manana, for R700 000. Read
2001/10/18 Doctors lack info on treating kids in bioterror attack: NEW YORK (AP) -- Pediatricians are warning that the nation's health-care system is ill-prepared to treat child victims of a large-scale bioterrorism attack. Read
2001/10/15 New drug puts spring back in stroke victim: It is only a week since he suffered a major stroke that threatened to leave his entire left side paralysed, but thanks to cutting-edge treatment, Duncan Middleton is walking, talking and mowing the lawn. Read
2001/10/15 Bara reports 24 000 Aids deaths: Johannesburg - More than 24 000 people have already died of Aids-related diseases at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital since 1998, hospital officials said. Read
2001/10/14 The Real Quibbles on HIV/AIDS:  Article published in the Sunday Times, 14 October 200. By Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Dr Ben Ngubane and Dr Essop Pahad. Read
2001/10/14 More women developing breast cancer: An increasing number of women are being diagnosed each year with breast cancer, with 3 800 women diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone. Read
2001/10/15 Brain regions tied to autism in rare disorder: Growths and abnormal biochemical activity in several areas of the brain may be responsible for autistic behaviours in children with a rare genetic disorder, suggests a new study. Read
2001/10/14 Second NBC anthrax case?: NEW YORK (CNN) -- Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Saturday authorities have found the source of the anthrax that infected an NBC employee, and New York City Health Department officials are investigating another possible infection in another NBC News employee. Read
2001/10/12 Painless heart attacks are deadly: London - A painless heart attack, when sufferers have shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest but feel no ache, can be the most deadly, British doctors said on Tuesday. Read
2001/10/12 Investigators looking for links in anthrax cases: WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Anthrax-contaminated letters sent to NBC and a Senate leader's office. The anthrax death of a photo editor in Florida and the illness of a second employee. The baby of an ABC news producer contracts the skin version of the disease. They are stories of fear and tragedy, and investigators are trying to determine who is responsible for the wave of biological terror that has shaken the United States. Read
2001/10/12 MRC, Stats SA in Aids rift: Cape Town - A bitter war of words erupted between Medical Research Council (MRC) chief Dr Malegapuru Makgoba and Statistics South Africa (SSS) over "laymen" who question the latest MRC Aids national mortality rates report. Read
2001/10/12 What kills most South Africans?: Johannesburg - Wrangling over the exact main cause of unnatural death in South Africa has left many uncertain of whether it is Aids or violence that poses the greatest risk to life. Read
2001/10/11 Alcohol abuse under the spotlight: Johannesburg - The Health Department will address the problem of alcohol abuse by a policy which focuses on alcohol advertising, warning labels, sponsorship and counter advertising, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Wednesday. Read
2001/10/11 MRC report 'not entirely wrong': Pretoria - Stats SA on Thursday did not exclude the possibility that a Medical Research Council (MRC) report estimating that a quarter of all deaths last year were due to HIV/Aids, may be accurate. Read
2001/10/10 Aids a 'shattering' pandemic:  Cape Town - The Medical Research Council (MRC) on Tuesday said it stood firmly by its controversial report on Aids deaths, and that South Africa was experiencing a pandemic of "shattering" proportions. Read
2001/10/10 National Health Summit 2001 - 18, 19 and 20 November 2001 - Reaching for better health for all:  The Department of Health will be hosting a national Health Summit from 18 to 20 November 2001. The purpose of the Summit is to evaluate progress the health sector has made with the implementation of new policies and strategies and consider the way forward. Broad areas that will be covered include human resource issues, quality of care, communicable diseases and public-private-partnerships. Read
2001/10/10 Diabetes becoming a world pandemic: Diabetes was becoming a world pandemic and if action was not taken, the prospects for world health were bleak, says the president of the South African Diabetes Association and head of the diabetes unit at Groote Schuur Hospital, Professor Francois Bonnici.. Read
2001/10/10 Disciplinary rules for doctors tightened: Medical doctors under investigation for misconduct could from next month be suspended pending the outcome of the inquiry, the Health Professions Council of SA said on Wednesday. Read
2001/10/10 Plague outbreak in Uganda: Plague has broken out in Uganda claiming 17 lives, Medinfo reported on Wednesday. It said the deaths were reported in the Nebbi district and were confirmed by State Minister of Health, Mike Mukula. Read
2001/10/01 Doctors dish out pills, no advice: Johannesburg - General practitioners in South Africa prefer to dish out large amounts of pills, rather than encouraging their patients to follow a healthier lifestyle. Read
2001/10/01 Study offers new clues about asthma in kids: CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Children susceptible to asthma face more than double the risk of developing the disease by ages 6 to 8 if their parents had trouble caring for them in early infancy, a study shows. Read
2001/10/01 Quick jab could cure snoring: London - A simple injection in the back of the mouth may be able to silence problem snorers, according to new research from the United States. Read
2001/09/28 First genetic test for HIV drug resistance OK'd: WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government has approved the first gene-based test to tell quickly whether an HIV patient's virus is mutating to make a particular drug therapy fail, important to know so the person can switch AIDS medications. Read
2001/09/27 Healthcare chaos 'a reality' : Grahamstown - Eastern Cape Health MEC Dr Bevan Goqwana admitted the legislature's health committee report damning the appalling state of public hospitals in the province reflected "the reality of the situation". Read
2001/09/26 Implanted ovarian tissue functioning: CHICAGO, Illinois(AP) - Sections of ovaries taken from two patients were implanted in their arms and continued to function there, raising hopes women can avoid the loss of fertility that often accompanies treatments for cancer and other diseases. Read
2001/09/26 Obesity is in the genes: New York - New study findings confirm what many would believe to be common sense - that overweight parents are more likely to have overweight children. Read
2001/09/26 Animal organ transplant ok- Vatican: Vatican City - The Vatican on Wednesday formally agreed to transplanting animal organs, tissues, and cells to human beings, saying it had no ethical or moral objections to the procedure Read
2001/09/25 Hair dye linked to arthritis: New York - Women who use hair dyes for more than 20 years may be nearly doubling their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, say researchers Read
2001/09/23 Mbeki provokes 'mass exodus' of Aids researchers: Johannesburg - The Medical Research Council, currently caught up in a controversy over an HIV/Aids report which provides a shocking account of the impact of the epidemic in the country, could face a mass exodus of senior researchers and in the process seriously affect the country's efforts to find a vaccine for the deadly disease. Read

 

Ref:HEA020624 Health minister visit hospital after claims of abuses - The Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Mpumalanga Health MEC Sibongile Manana are to visit Philadelphia Hospital in Mpumalanga today. The visit comes after M-NET's Carte Blanche programme broadcast a story about the alleged abuse of patients admitted for termination of pregnancy at the hospital last night.

The Minister and the MEC will meet the hospital management and discuss corrective measures that need to be taken on this matter. The media is invited to join the Minister and the MEC when they visit the hospital at 14h00 today (24 June 2002).

In a media statement released immediately after the programme last night, Minister Tshabalala-Msimang said:

"I am appalled by the suffering inflicted by some health workers at Philadelphia Hospital on young women admitted for termination of pregnancy. The treatment exposed by the Carte Blanche team represents a grotesque miscarriage of the law that we enacted five years ago to facilitate access to safe and legally sanctioned termination of pregnancy, with respect for the dignity of all women who exercised this option.

"I will leave no stone unturned - and will tolerate no delay - in having the alleged practices at this particular hospital fully investigated and ensuring that appropriate corrective and disciplinary measures are taken. I trust that the Nursing Council will also take up the matter with due seriousness.

"In the light of allegations that similar abuses are occurring at other state hospitals, I would like to invite anybody in possession of evidence or any woman who has experience of such malpractice, to contact my legal advisor, Advocate Patricia Lambert (cell - 082 566 3608) or the head of our women's health section, Dr Eddie Mhlanga (cell - 083 459 6112).

Your communication will be treated as confidential."

Article Source & Reference: Department of Health - http://www.doh.co.za/docs/pr/pr0624-f.html, 2002/07/02

Ref:AID020612 Shock diabetes findings in SA - A shock finding that urban Africans in South Africa have the highest incidence of diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, has prompted calls for a return to 'traditional' eating habits.

The research conducted early this year by the World Health Organisation's diabetes team found that diabetes was on the increase in the African community in South Africa, where the prevalence rate was estimated to be between 4% and 5%.

Dr Mak Omar, a member of the World Health Organisation's panel on diabetes, who also heads the diabetics unit at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine in Durban, told the Sunday Times newspaper that South Africa's figures compare poorly to the rest of Africa. "In Tanzania, for example, the prevalence rate is less than 2%," he told the newspaper.

Changing lifestyles
Omar believes that the main reason for the high rates of diabetes is the change in lifestyle as rural people move to the cities. "We drew the conclusion that African people no longer subsist on a truly African diet," Omar said.

Dr Mac Robertson, a patron and executive member of the Diabetes Association, agreed that a marked change in diet and lifestyle was contributing to the increase in cases of diabetes.

"Urbanisation is a major factor. African people have moved from rural to urban areas in search of jobs. They tend to consume refined food. In the days before Kader Asmal and Ronnie Kasrils, rural Africans used to walk kilometres to fetch a bucket of water. Now many people have moved into the urban areas and have become less active," he told the Sunday Times.

Return to traditional diet
The South African Diabetes Association and diabetes experts have called on the African community to return to their traditional rural diet in an effort to reduce the incidence of the potentially deadly disease.

A rural diet of unrefined carbohydrates is ideal for preventing diabetes, according to Robertson. "Unrefined beans, maize and legumes must be incorporated into the diet," he said.

Diabetes Association spokesperson Noy Pullen told the newspaper that diabetics should avoid white sugar, flour and mealie meal.

"Africans used to eat millet. Most Africans tend to use salt on everything and enjoy between four to six teaspoons of sugar in their tea and coffee," Pullen said in the report.

Article Source & Reference:  Health24 - http://www.health24.co.za/Default.asp?action=article&ContentID=17781, 2002/07/03

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Aids stats questioned: Cape Town - Government's latest Aids statistics were described as "confusing" and "unreliable" in several circles on Tuesday. According to researchers it is "very naïve of government to say the Aids pandemic is levelling out".

Deductions, like that the prevalence of HIV/Aids has decreased among young pregnant women because teenagers allegedly listen to government's Aids message, are "totally unscientific", researchers say.

In the latest study on the prevalence of HIV/Aids among pregnant women, conducted at 421 pre-natal clinics last year, it was found that 24.8% of the women were HIV positive, compared to 24.5% the year before. Government concluded from this that the rate of infection has possibly levelled out, after this figure had increased from 0.7% to 22.4% between 1990 and 1999.

Leigh Johnson from the Centre for Actuarial Research at the University of Cape Town, who was involved in the controversial report on Aids deaths, said he and his colleagues had several problems with this point of view.

Several stages

"There are several stages in the Aids pandemic. The number of new infections peaked in 1998, but the number of people infected with the virus will only reach a high in 2005. The number of Aids deaths will peak in 2010 and the number of Aids orphans in 2015.

"The biggest impact of the Aids pandemic will therefore only truly become apparent over the next decade."

Johnson also said data collected at pre-natal clinics did not always sketch a realistic picture.

"We have known for quite some time that HIV has a negative influence on women's fertility. As the epidemic rages ahead and more women become infertile, the consequence is that less HIV positive women visit the clinics."

Johnson also expressed his concern regarding the fact that government had compared Aids statistics of 1998 with those of last year. Government alleges, among other things, that a decrease of 5.6% can be seen in Aids figures for pregnant women younger than 20.

"The problem with this assumption is that the test group of women who were used for the research, has changed drastically over the past few years. In the past, government included, for example, considerably less rural pre-natal clinics in its sample - something which could have made the figures seem higher than they are in reality."

Johnson said the prevalence of HIV was usually considerably lower in rural areas than in urban areas.

He said government's figures on the number of people in South Africa living with HIV (about 4.7 million) were also inaccurate. The figures only represented people between the ages of 15 and 49, and not the entire population. Willemien Brümmer

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1198404,00.html, 2002/06/12

 

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Possible MS breakthrough: Sydney - The discovery of a protein that may lead to a new treatment for multiple sclerosis by protecting nerve cells from attack by the immune system has been announced by an Australian research team.

The discovery, published in the international medical journal Nature Medicine at the weekend, offers a new approach to managing the crippling auto-immune disease.

MS, which affects one in 1 000 people worldwide, is more common in women and typically begins between the ages of 20 and 40. Its most famous victims include the British cellist Jacqueline Du Pre, who died in 1987 aged only 42 and the 19th century German poet Heinrich Heine.

It causes the covering that insulates nerve fibres in the central nervous system to deteriorate and results in a slowing down or blockage of messages from the nerves to the brain.

It is characterised by recurrent and destructive inflammation of nerves in the brain and spinal cord, which worsens over time.

A research team from the University of Melbourne, led by MS expert Doctor Trevor Kilpatrick, found the administration of a naturally occurring protein, or cytokine, reversed the loss of nerve cells in mice with the animal form of MS.

The cytokine involved is Leukaemia Inhibitory Factor (LIF), which was first purified by Australian researchers in 1987.

"We were able to show that LIF reduced the severity of the clinical disease in animals," Kilpatrick said.

"It became clear that the LIF wasn't acting on the immune cells, it was actually keeping cells within the brain alive - and they're cells which normally die off in MS."

Kilpatrick's research complements that of Austrian researchers, published simultaneously with his in the latest edition of Nature Medicine, published in New York and London.

Scientists in the University of Wurtzberg in Austria discovered a sister component to LIF, known as CNTF, which also appeared to play a role in protecting nerve cells.

Kilpatrick said as well as providing an insight into the mechanism by which neurones were destroyed in MS, the combined research showed that agents like LIF and CNTF could be used to prevent progressive disability in MS.

"I don't think we're talking about a cure but one component of a complex disease," he said.

"We would see that the therapies that we're advocating would be potentially given in combination with immune therapy.

"That would be the sensitive approach in the future to thinking how an agent such as LIF might fit in treatment protocols for MS."

Human trials were ready to go ahead but timing depended on Amrad, a Melbourne biotech company that holds the commercial rights to the research, he said. - Sapa-AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1193678,00.html, 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:GRO020603

 

Grow-your-own transplants: Washington - Researchers say they have shown cloning can work as a source of grow-your-own transplants, by implanting into cattle cloned cells which formed functioning kidney-like organs and working heart tissue.

The cattle's immune systems showed no sign of rejecting the transplanted cloned tissue, said the team from Children's Hospital in Boston and Advanced Cell Technology in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts.

The researchers said their experiment, published in the June issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology, should put to rest criticism that therapeutic cloning will not work.

"It was pretty spectacular results," Dr Robert Lanza, medical director at Advanced Cell Technology, said. "Until now therapeutic cloning was theoretical."

The researchers cloned steers, using tissue from their ears to grow tiny embryos. Tissue from these embryos was used to make small, kidney-like organs that functioned normally.

"They were making strong yellow urine," Lanza said. "They were removing toxic waste products from the blood at up to 80 percent of what is considered normal for urine."

The whole issue of cloning is hugely controversial around the world. In the United States, Congress is considering either restricting or banning it. President George W. Bush would like to prohibit all cloning involving humans.

Most scientists say they do not want to try to clone a human baby, but doctors, patients' groups and many scientists would like to see cloning technology used in medical research.

One idea behind this therapeutic cloning approach would be to take a person's cells, and use cloning to grow genetically matched tissues or organs.

Possible uses would be in treating diseases in which cells or tissues are destroyed, such as Parkinson's, juvenile diabetes, and stroke. Such cells, it has been postulated, might even be used to grow entire organs.

If this could be done, it might take 80 000 Americans off the waiting list for donated organs. An estimated 3 000 die every year waiting for a kidney, heart, liver or other organ.

No animal is a true clone

Critics have said cloning will not work because the somatic cell nuclear transplant technique used to make Dolly the sheep and other cloned animals does not make an exact genetic duplicate.

What the cloning scientists do is get an egg cell, remove its nucleus, and replace it with the nucleus from a cell taken from the animal to be cloned. Various methods are used to start the egg dividing as if it had been fertilised by a sperm cell.

But the resulting animal does not have 100 percent of the DNA from one animal. Virtually all the DNA is in a cell's nucleus, but some is found in the form of mitochondrial DNA, which is in the body of the egg.

All cloned animals have the mitochondrial DNA of the egg donor, not of the animal that was cloned. "It's the presence of this foreign DNA that raises the question of whether cloned cells would be rejected," Lanza said.

Opponents of cloning research use this argument to say that no scientific advances will be thwarted if all cloning is banned. "We believe we have shown that this is not the case," said Dr Anthony Atala of Harvard University and Children's Hospital, who worked on the study.

The team removed some of the tissue from their tiny cloned embryos. They seeded kidney tissue onto artificial structures that they hoped would grow into kidneys when transplanted back into the steer they were cloned from.

It worked even better than expected.

"They self-assembled in the animal," Lanza said. By themselves, the kidney cells formed a small, kidney-like organ. As a comparison the researchers used cells from an unrelated steer to make a similar artificial kidney, and, as expected, the steer's immune system attacked and killed those cells.

They transplanted cloned heart and muscle tissue under the haunch of a second steer, and that tissue also thrived, the researchers said.

No one has cloned a human embryo, but Atala said the experiment may be even easier to do in people. The promise of cloning lies in the embryonic stem cells, cells that have the power to become any kind tissue in the body at all.

Experiments on embryos left over from test-tube fertility attempts have shown these stem cells are readily found in a human embryo that is smaller than the head of a pin.

If cloning can be shown to work in humans, and if it remains legal, then theoretically a plug of skin could be taken from a patient and used to grow a new heart, brain cells or other tissue for transplant.
Maggie Fox

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1194059,00.html, 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:HEA020603 Health bill envisages a super-minister: A draft bill proposed by the government would give sweeping powers to the health minister - including the power to register new drugs.

The bill would allow Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the health minister, to remove qualified medical officials from South Africa's drug regulator, the Medicines Control Council (MCC), and replace them with political appointees.

They would also allow her to have the final say in drug registration - if she wanted to, she could potentially register Virodene, the dangerous chemical which was claimed to be a possible Aids cure and which the MCC refused to register in 1996.

"She can encroach on anything. She can change rules everywhere," said one MCC official, who asked not to be named.

The proposed legislation comes at a time when South Africa is still reeling from international criticism about the pseudo-science promoted by President Thabo Mbeki and top Afrrican National Congress officials.

Over the past two years leading Aids scientists have come under fire from the government for defying government's support of Aids dissidents, who believe that HIV does not cause Aids.

The MCC also came under political pressure and was slated in the ANC's notorious "Castro Hlongwane" document, which argued that Aids was an international conspiracy aimed at raking in profits for the pharmaceutical industry.

Legal experts say that the legislation could see Tshabalala-Msimang "almost becoming the regulator".

The new laws are contained in the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill, which was released by the cabinet for comment last week.

It is a proposed amendment to the legislation which led to last year's court showdown over access to cheaper generic medicines.

Part of the proposed new powers of the health minister come from a new section which would see her as the sole arbiter of appeals.

According to existing legislation, an independent body consisting of a retired judge or advocate, a pharmacologist and another expert handles all appeals.

This independent body would be scrapped and replaced by Tshabalala-Msimang if the Bill is passed.

"It's worrying because not only will she have incredibly wide discretion regarding appointments to the MCC, but she will also have the power to override decisions of the very council she constitutes," said Jonathan Berger, a lawyer at the Aids Law Project.

"It seems to be just one step short of eliminating a council altogether."

Wits bioethicist Professor Udo Schuklenk(CRT) also expressed concern.

"The issue really is that professional opinion is worth less, ultimately, than the opinion of a minister," he said.


By Lynne Altenroxel

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020530215128438M320217&set_id=1, 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:MAR020530

 

Marais rushed to hospital after anthrax scare: Western Cape premier Peter Marais and 27 employees of the Western Cape provincial legislature were taken to the Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital on Thursday after fears they had been exposed to anthrax.

Marais's spokesperson Riana Geldenhuys, who was also taken to hospital, said a clerk in the premier's office opened a letter containing white powder.

"The clerk informed senior personnel and they called the police, who in turn called out the police reaction unit," Geldenhuys said.

Jacobs said the reaction unit, wearing protective white outfits, sprayed several desks and placed everyone on the floor, including the premier, under quarantine.

"We were all taken to hospital where nasal swabs were taken," Geldenhuys said.

"Then each of us had to take a shower and were given antibiotics. It's a normal procedure taken as a precaution."

Jacobs said staff at the hospital were very professional.

Hospital spokesperson Elaine Gerber said everyone, including Marais, had left the hospital by early afternoon.

Gerber said the nasal swabs would be sent to pathologists for examination and results should be known within the next 48 to 72 hours.

"In the interim there is medication they must take, but they all seem fine," Gerber said. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=qw1022761980202B253&set_id=1, 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:AID0200530

 

Aids 'protocols' agreed for rape survivors: The health department said on Thursday that it had reached agreement on protocols for the provision of anti-retroviral drugs to rape survivors.

This follows Health Minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang's announcement on April 17 that rape victims would be provided with anti-Aids drugs at public hospitals as soon as possible.

When the announcement was made, she said government needed time to discuss the provision of a comprehensive package of care for sexual assault victims.

The package was to include counselling as well as testing for HIV, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Tshabalala-Msimang said various drug combinations and procedures had been reviewed since April 17 to decide on the best package.

"As a result, the public health service will offer a combination of the same two drugs we use in the occupational setting - that is, AZT and 3TC," she said. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct2002053010513078_430202&set_id=1 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:CON020520

 

'Condoms for kids' sparks row: Pietermaritzburg - Proposed legislation to make condoms available for children has been strongly criticised.

According to the South African Law Commission, a substantial number of people have rejected the commission's recommendation that confidential access to contraceptives should be provided to all sexually active persons, regardless of age.

The respondents argued that, from a biblical point of view, no child under 18 should be provided with access to contraceptives, and that children should be taught to abstain from sex before marriage.

Those in favour of confidential access to contraceptives approved, provided the condoms were supplied only to children over 12.

Although the commission said it would look at the recommendations again, it seems as if it is determined to make them a final recommendation in the draft, which will be sent to Social and Welfare Minister Zola Skweyiya in June.

Side effects a problem

The commission says: "Given the increase of HIV/Aids, especially among teenagers, all children should be provided with confidential access to condoms."

However the commission takes cognisance that oral contraceptives and injectable contraceptives can have side effects, some of a severe nature, and that the only benefit of taking these contraceptives is that they may prevent pregnancy.

"They do not protect the user from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids. Perhaps the answer lies in restricting confidential access to oral/injectable contraceptives to children over the age of 12 years, after a proper medical examination and counselling."

Free access to contraceptives in European schools has been debated for the last two years in Europe. In the United Kingdom, which has the highest teenage birth rate in Europe, a plan to instal condom-vending machines in schools to tackle teenage pregnancies caused outrage. A liberal attitude towards sex education appears to be paying off in the Netherlands, which has the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe. Dutch children are taught about sex from a young age, but opt to have sex at a later age than their European counterparts.

Christi Naude

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1187342,00.html , 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:AID020520

 

Millions for Aids education unspent: Johannesburg - Provincial education departments, which are expected to be at the forefront of Aids education at schools, have failed to spend millions of rands allocated to them by the national department to fight the disease.

This information is contained in a tri-monthly report which was recently handed to President Thabo Mbeki by Education Minister Kader Asmal, showing that provincial departments have done little to spend millions which had been allocated to them to fight the Aids pandemic.

The report on the state of education in the provinces shows that out of the R74 292 million HIV/Aids grants to provinces for the 2001/2002 financial year, only 39.45 percent or R25 049 million was spent.

Should the figures remain unchanged when the National Treasury reconciles its statements, it will mean the level of under expenditure has become worse by close to R14 million from the previous financial year.

During the 2000/2001 financial year provinces failed to spend a total of R10 792 million aimed at curbing the spread of HIV/Aids.

The funds were rolled over to the 2001/2002 financial year to make up the R74 292 million, of which R49 243 million remains unspent as per the latest reports from the provinces.

The statistics show the Eastern Cape, which spent a paltry 6.39 percent and still has R10 996 million unspent, is the worst culprit.

It is followed by Limpopo, which spent only 15.89 percent and still has R8 385 million in its coffers.

The Western Cape spent 23.72 percent and still has R5 301 million. KwaZulu-Natal, which was allocated the highest grant and is one of the hardest hit by HIV/Aids infections, spent 47.8 percent and still has R11 607 million in its coffers.

Gauteng has utilised 38.89 percent, remaining with R4 773 million, while the Free State spent 51.16 percent.

The latter retained R4 251 million.

Only three provinces are reported to have done better in their spending. Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and North West have spent more than 75 percent of their HIV/Aids grants.

The report also notes the pathetic spending of the R21 million funds allocated for early childhood development grants to provinces for the implementation of the compulsory reception year programme for pre-school learners.

At least three provinces spent more than 30 percent of their respective allocations. These were KwaZulu-Natal (53 percent), Northern Cape (53.6 percent) and the Western Cape (30.3 percent).

The Eastern Cape, which is one of the poorest provinces in the country, has spent a paltry 0.28 percent, while the Free State hopelessly registered a 0.9 percent expenditure.

Both provinces have retained R3 874 million and R1 311 million respectively.

The report states that Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the North West have "either not submitted their reports or, worse still, have not spent their funds at all".

A whopping total of R17 761 million remains unspent for the grade reception programme.

The report states that the Department of Education will "review" the current mechanisms used in spending the grants with the aim of improving its utilisation.

In what the report describes as "surprising observation", all the provincial education authorities, except Western Cape, have underspent during the 2001/2002 financial year in their total budget allocations.

The other eight provinces have underspent by at least three percent.

Mpumelelo Mkhabela

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1187015,00.html, 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:ABU020520

 

Abuse of health workers is rife, study finds: Verbal abuse, ranging from insults to threats of violence, is a major concern for health-care workers in hospitals across Cape Town.

This was one of the findings of a study by the University of Cape Town's Institute of Criminology and the Medical Research Council in which 178 health-care workers were interviewed about their stress at work.

The results of the study were published in the May edition of the South African Medical Journal.

Staff at the Gugulethu and Mitchell's Plain day hospitals and the emergency units at Groote Schuur and GF Jooste were interviewed.

The researchers found that 61 percent of those interviewed "frequently" had to deal with criminal violence, which includes verbal insults and threats, and that this was their main concern at work.

Budget constraints, leading to insufficient staff and equipment, were also a major problem, 63 percent said.

The same numbers said their working conditions had deteriorated over the past few years.

The study consisted of staff observation during busy times and a 12-page questionnaire filled in by 178 nurses, doctors, pharmacists, radiographers and administrative staff.

Very few people said they had been physically attacked, contrary to the impression created by media reports of isolated incidents of violence in hospitals across the country, said field worker Ricky Rontsch.

"We thought we would be confronted with murder, mayhem, terror and fear, because that was what journalistic accounts had portrayed. That is not what we found. In the few incidents where health workers were assaulted, they were hit, bitten or scratched by mentally ill patients, and you can't classify that as crime. Hardly anybody had experienced anything other than verbal assault."

The verbal abuse ranged from staff being told they were useless, to patients saying they would call in gang members if they did not receive instant service or staff being told someone knew where they lived and would attack them at home.

Some health workers were able to laugh the threats off, Rontsch said. Others were often absent as a way of coping.

Although the study was undertaken last year, senior health managers said intimidation of staff had not decreased.
By Jo-Anne Smetherham

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020520211917108G123629&set_id=1, 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:CUR020519

 

Cured with a foetus ovary: Beijing - Chinese doctors have successfully transplanted an ovary from an aborted female foetus to treat a young woman suffering from premature menopause, state media said on Sunday.

The surgery took place at the No 2 Zhengzhou university hospital in central Henan province, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The patient, a 28-year-old woman surnamed Feng, had been diagnosed with menopause syndrome due to premature senile ovaries, the agency said.

The woman showed symptoms such as severe mood swings and insomnia, and her skin had become unnaturally coarse over the past two years.

Since the surgery, "Feng's skin has resumed its natural softness and she has enjoyed a good night's sleep," the agency said. - Sapa-AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1187005,00.html, 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:CAN020518

 

New hope for cancer patients: Orlando, Florida - An experimental cancer drug shrinks the tumours in advanced lung cancer patients and improves their symptoms, offering them perhaps the first shred of hope, doctors said on Saturday.

The drug, called Iressa, can be taken as a pill - a huge boon to patients used to being hooked up to intravenous infusions for chemotherapy. And it has very few side-effects - none of the nausea and hair loss that often makes chemotherapy patients so miserable.

It takes a new approach, targeting proteins that are produced only by cancer cells, so it does not attack hair follicles and intestinal cells the way other cancer drugs do.

"Giving a drug that blocks an enzyme actually makes patients feel better," Dr Mark Kris of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, who presented his findings to a meeting in Orlando of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, told a news conference.

"That is nothing short of amazing."

Iressa, being developed by Europe's second largest drugmaker, AstraZeneca Plc, is not on the market yet but is being tested in clinical trials pending approval by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Kris and colleagues tested Iressa, once known by the experimental name of ZD1839, in 216 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

All had cancer that worsened despite two or more rounds of chemotherapy. "All these patients had cancer that couldn't be helped by either radiation or surgery," Kris said.

They weren't cured, but 43 percent felt better, the researchers told ASCO's annual conference in Florida. They had less shortness of breath, weight loss, cough, loss of appetite and confusion - all symptoms of lung cancer.

Improvement came fast

"What is quite amazing is that the patients who had that improvement had it within two weeks," Kris told a news conference.

And in 12 percent, the tumours shrank 50 percent or more. Average survival was about six months, so Iressa is no wonder drug, experts said. But it is the first hope to patients with what has been a very hopeless stage of cancer, they say.

"The major side-effect, it turns out, is a minor skin rash that looks like acne," Dr Paul Bunn, president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a cancer specialist at the University of Colorado, told reporters.

A second study done in Japan and Europe in patients who had failed one round of treatment showed that 19 percent had their tumours shrink 50 percent or more, and 40 percent felt better.

Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killed in the world, claiming 125 000 lives a year in the United States alone.

Iressa targets the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a key biochemical switch used by tumours, and only by tumours, to survive and grow.

"By giving a drug that blocks a specific enzyme vital to the growth of cancer cells, we can actually shrink lung cancer," Kris said. "It is the first targeted therapy for lung cancer."

Iressa is expected to reach the market later this year. It is one of several drugs targeting the EGFR, including a rival drug made by biotechnology firm Imclone called Erbitux.

The FDA rejected Erbitux late last year and the drug, which ImClone is co-developing with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and Germany's Merck KGaA, is now only expected to go on sale in 2003.

Tarceva, made by OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc, Genentech Inc and Roche Holding AG, has won fast track approval status from the FDA.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1186984,00.html, 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:POS020603

 

Possible MS breakthrough: Sydney - The discovery of a protein that may lead to a new treatment for multiple sclerosis by protecting nerve cells from attack by the immune system has been announced by an Australian research team.

The discovery, published in the international medical journal Nature Medicine at the weekend, offers a new approach to managing the crippling auto-immune disease.

MS, which affects one in 1 000 people worldwide, is more common in women and typically begins between the ages of 20 and 40. Its most famous victims include the British cellist Jacqueline Du Pre, who died in 1987 aged only 42 and the 19th century German poet Heinrich Heine.

It causes the covering that insulates nerve fibres in the central nervous system to deteriorate and results in a slowing down or blockage of messages from the nerves to the brain.

It is characterised by recurrent and destructive inflammation of nerves in the brain and spinal cord, which worsens over time.

A research team from the University of Melbourne, led by MS expert Doctor Trevor Kilpatrick, found the administration of a naturally occurring protein, or cytokine, reversed the loss of nerve cells in mice with the animal form of MS.

The cytokine involved is Leukaemia Inhibitory Factor (LIF), which was first purified by Australian researchers in 1987.

"We were able to show that LIF reduced the severity of the clinical disease in animals," Kilpatrick said.

"It became clear that the LIF wasn't acting on the immune cells, it was actually keeping cells within the brain alive - and they're cells which normally die off in MS."

Kilpatrick's research complements that of Austrian researchers, published simultaneously with his in the latest edition of Nature Medicine, published in New York and London.

Scientists in the University of Wurtzberg in Austria discovered a sister component to LIF, known as CNTF, which also appeared to play a role in protecting nerve cells.

Kilpatrick said as well as providing an insight into the mechanism by which neurones were destroyed in MS, the combined research showed that agents like LIF and CNTF could be used to prevent progressive disability in MS.

"I don't think we're talking about a cure but one component of a complex disease," he said.

"We would see that the therapies that we're advocating would be potentially given in combination with immune therapy.

"That would be the sensitive approach in the future to thinking how an agent such as LIF might fit in treatment protocols for MS."

Human trials were ready to go ahead but timing depended on Amrad, a Melbourne biotech company that holds the commercial rights to the research, he said. - Sapa-AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1193678,00.html, 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:GRO020603

 

Grow-your-own transplants: Washington - Researchers say they have shown cloning can work as a source of grow-your-own transplants, by implanting into cattle cloned cells which formed functioning kidney-like organs and working heart tissue.

The cattle's immune systems showed no sign of rejecting the transplanted cloned tissue, said the team from Children's Hospital in Boston and Advanced Cell Technology in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts.

The researchers said their experiment, published in the June issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology, should put to rest criticism that therapeutic cloning will not work.

"It was pretty spectacular results," Dr Robert Lanza, medical director at Advanced Cell Technology, said. "Until now therapeutic cloning was theoretical."

The researchers cloned steers, using tissue from their ears to grow tiny embryos. Tissue from these embryos was used to make small, kidney-like organs that functioned normally.

"They were making strong yellow urine," Lanza said. "They were removing toxic waste products from the blood at up to 80 percent of what is considered normal for urine."

The whole issue of cloning is hugely controversial around the world. In the United States, Congress is considering either restricting or banning it. President George W. Bush would like to prohibit all cloning involving humans.

Most scientists say they do not want to try to clone a human baby, but doctors, patients' groups and many scientists would like to see cloning technology used in medical research.

One idea behind this therapeutic cloning approach would be to take a person's cells, and use cloning to grow genetically matched tissues or organs.

Possible uses would be in treating diseases in which cells or tissues are destroyed, such as Parkinson's, juvenile diabetes, and stroke. Such cells, it has been postulated, might even be used to grow entire organs.

If this could be done, it might take 80 000 Americans off the waiting list for donated organs. An estimated 3 000 die every year waiting for a kidney, heart, liver or other organ.

No animal is a true clone

Critics have said cloning will not work because the somatic cell nuclear transplant technique used to make Dolly the sheep and other cloned animals does not make an exact genetic duplicate.

What the cloning scientists do is get an egg cell, remove its nucleus, and replace it with the nucleus from a cell taken from the animal to be cloned. Various methods are used to start the egg dividing as if it had been fertilised by a sperm cell.

But the resulting animal does not have 100 percent of the DNA from one animal. Virtually all the DNA is in a cell's nucleus, but some is found in the form of mitochondrial DNA, which is in the body of the egg.

All cloned animals have the mitochondrial DNA of the egg donor, not of the animal that was cloned. "It's the presence of this foreign DNA that raises the question of whether cloned cells would be rejected," Lanza said.

Opponents of cloning research use this argument to say that no scientific advances will be thwarted if all cloning is banned. "We believe we have shown that this is not the case," said Dr Anthony Atala of Harvard University and Children's Hospital, who worked on the study.

The team removed some of the tissue from their tiny cloned embryos. They seeded kidney tissue onto artificial structures that they hoped would grow into kidneys when transplanted back into the steer they were cloned from.

It worked even better than expected.

"They self-assembled in the animal," Lanza said. By themselves, the kidney cells formed a small, kidney-like organ. As a comparison the researchers used cells from an unrelated steer to make a similar artificial kidney, and, as expected, the steer's immune system attacked and killed those cells.

They transplanted cloned heart and muscle tissue under the haunch of a second steer, and that tissue also thrived, the researchers said.

No one has cloned a human embryo, but Atala said the experiment may be even easier to do in people. The promise of cloning lies in the embryonic stem cells, cells that have the power to become any kind tissue in the body at all.

Experiments on embryos left over from test-tube fertility attempts have shown these stem cells are readily found in a human embryo that is smaller than the head of a pin.

If cloning can be shown to work in humans, and if it remains legal, then theoretically a plug of skin could be taken from a patient and used to grow a new heart, brain cells or other tissue for transplant.

Maggie Fox

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1194059,00.html, 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:HEA020603 Health bill envisages a super-minister: A draft bill proposed by the government would give sweeping powers to the health minister - including the power to register new drugs.

The bill would allow Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the health minister, to remove qualified medical officials from South Africa's drug regulator, the Medicines Control Council (MCC), and replace them with political appointees.

They would also allow her to have the final say in drug registration - if she wanted to, she could potentially register Virodene, the dangerous chemical which was claimed to be a possible Aids cure and which the MCC refused to register in 1996.

"She can encroach on anything. She can change rules everywhere," said one MCC official, who asked not to be named.

The proposed legislation comes at a time when South Africa is still reeling from international criticism about the pseudo-science promoted by President Thabo Mbeki and top Afrrican National Congress officials.

Over the past two years leading Aids scientists have come under fire from the government for defying government's support of Aids dissidents, who believe that HIV does not cause Aids.

The MCC also came under political pressure and was slated in the ANC's notorious "Castro Hlongwane" document, which argued that Aids was an international conspiracy aimed at raking in profits for the pharmaceutical industry.

Legal experts say that the legislation could see Tshabalala-Msimang "almost becoming the regulator".

The new laws are contained in the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill, which was released by the cabinet for comment last week.

It is a proposed amendment to the legislation which led to last year's court showdown over access to cheaper generic medicines.

Part of the proposed new powers of the health minister come from a new section which would see her as the sole arbiter of appeals.

According to existing legislation, an independent body consisting of a retired judge or advocate, a pharmacologist and another expert handles all appeals.

This independent body would be scrapped and replaced by Tshabalala-Msimang if the Bill is passed.

"It's worrying because not only will she have incredibly wide discretion regarding appointments to the MCC, but she will also have the power to override decisions of the very council she constitutes," said Jonathan Berger, a lawyer at the Aids Law Project.

"It seems to be just one step short of eliminating a council altogether."

Wits bioethicist Professor Udo Schuklenk(CRT) also expressed concern.

"The issue really is that professional opinion is worth less, ultimately, than the opinion of a minister," he said.


By Lynne Altenroxel

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020530215128438M320217&set_id=1, 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:MAR020530

 

Marais rushed to hospital after anthrax scare: Western Cape premier Peter Marais and 27 employees of the Western Cape provincial legislature were taken to the Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital on Thursday after fears they had been exposed to anthrax.

Marais's spokesperson Riana Geldenhuys, who was also taken to hospital, said a clerk in the premier's office opened a letter containing white powder.

"The clerk informed senior personnel and they called the police, who in turn called out the police reaction unit," Geldenhuys said.

Jacobs said the reaction unit, wearing protective white outfits, sprayed several desks and placed everyone on the floor, including the premier, under quarantine.

"We were all taken to hospital where nasal swabs were taken," Geldenhuys said.

"Then each of us had to take a shower and were given antibiotics. It's a normal procedure taken as a precaution."

Jacobs said staff at the hospital were very professional.

Hospital spokesperson Elaine Gerber said everyone, including Marais, had left the hospital by early afternoon.

Gerber said the nasal swabs would be sent to pathologists for examination and results should be known within the next 48 to 72 hours.

"In the interim there is medication they must take, but they all seem fine," Gerber said. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=qw1022761980202B253&set_id=1, 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:AID0200530

 

Aids 'protocols' agreed for rape survivors: The health department said on Thursday that it had reached agreement on protocols for the provision of anti-retroviral drugs to rape survivors.

This follows Health Minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang's announcement on April 17 that rape victims would be provided with anti-Aids drugs at public hospitals as soon as possible.

When the announcement was made, she said government needed time to discuss the provision of a comprehensive package of care for sexual assault victims.

The package was to include counselling as well as testing for HIV, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Tshabalala-Msimang said various drug combinations and procedures had been reviewed since April 17 to decide on the best package.

"As a result, the public health service will offer a combination of the same two drugs we use in the occupational setting - that is, AZT and 3TC," she said. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct2002053010513078_430202&set_id=1 2002/06/03

 

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Ref:CON020520

 

'Condoms for kids' sparks row: Pietermaritzburg - Proposed legislation to make condoms available for children has been strongly criticised.

According to the South African Law Commission, a substantial number of people have rejected the commission's recommendation that confidential access to contraceptives should be provided to all sexually active persons, regardless of age.

The respondents argued that, from a biblical point of view, no child under 18 should be provided with access to contraceptives, and that children should be taught to abstain from sex before marriage.

Those in favour of confidential access to contraceptives approved, provided the condoms were supplied only to children over 12.

Although the commission said it would look at the recommendations again, it seems as if it is determined to make them a final recommendation in the draft, which will be sent to Social and Welfare Minister Zola Skweyiya in June.

Side effects a problem

The commission says: "Given the increase of HIV/Aids, especially among teenagers, all children should be provided with confidential access to condoms."

However the commission takes cognisance that oral contraceptives and injectable contraceptives can have side effects, some of a severe nature, and that the only benefit of taking these contraceptives is that they may prevent pregnancy.

"They do not protect the user from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids. Perhaps the answer lies in restricting confidential access to oral/injectable contraceptives to children over the age of 12 years, after a proper medical examination and counselling."

Free access to contraceptives in European schools has been debated for the last two years in Europe. In the United Kingdom, which has the highest teenage birth rate in Europe, a plan to instal condom-vending machines in schools to tackle teenage pregnancies caused outrage. A liberal attitude towards sex education appears to be paying off in the Netherlands, which has the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe. Dutch children are taught about sex from a young age, but opt to have sex at a later age than their European counterparts.

Christi Naude

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1187342,00.html , 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:AID020520

 

Millions for Aids education unspent: Johannesburg - Provincial education departments, which are expected to be at the forefront of Aids education at schools, have failed to spend millions of rands allocated to them by the national department to fight the disease.

This information is contained in a tri-monthly report which was recently handed to President Thabo Mbeki by Education Minister Kader Asmal, showing that provincial departments have done little to spend millions which had been allocated to them to fight the Aids pandemic.

The report on the state of education in the provinces shows that out of the R74 292 million HIV/Aids grants to provinces for the 2001/2002 financial year, only 39.45 percent or R25 049 million was spent.

Should the figures remain unchanged when the National Treasury reconciles its statements, it will mean the level of under expenditure has become worse by close to R14 million from the previous financial year.

During the 2000/2001 financial year provinces failed to spend a total of R10 792 million aimed at curbing the spread of HIV/Aids.

The funds were rolled over to the 2001/2002 financial year to make up the R74 292 million, of which R49 243 million remains unspent as per the latest reports from the provinces.

The statistics show the Eastern Cape, which spent a paltry 6.39 percent and still has R10 996 million unspent, is the worst culprit.

It is followed by Limpopo, which spent only 15.89 percent and still has R8 385 million in its coffers.

The Western Cape spent 23.72 percent and still has R5 301 million. KwaZulu-Natal, which was allocated the highest grant and is one of the hardest hit by HIV/Aids infections, spent 47.8 percent and still has R11 607 million in its coffers.

Gauteng has utilised 38.89 percent, remaining with R4 773 million, while the Free State spent 51.16 percent.

The latter retained R4 251 million.

Only three provinces are reported to have done better in their spending. Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and North West have spent more than 75 percent of their HIV/Aids grants.

The report also notes the pathetic spending of the R21 million funds allocated for early childhood development grants to provinces for the implementation of the compulsory reception year programme for pre-school learners.

At least three provinces spent more than 30 percent of their respective allocations. These were KwaZulu-Natal (53 percent), Northern Cape (53.6 percent) and the Western Cape (30.3 percent).

The Eastern Cape, which is one of the poorest provinces in the country, has spent a paltry 0.28 percent, while the Free State hopelessly registered a 0.9 percent expenditure.

Both provinces have retained R3 874 million and R1 311 million respectively.

The report states that Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the North West have "either not submitted their reports or, worse still, have not spent their funds at all".

A whopping total of R17 761 million remains unspent for the grade reception programme.

The report states that the Department of Education will "review" the current mechanisms used in spending the grants with the aim of improving its utilisation.

In what the report describes as "surprising observation", all the provincial education authorities, except Western Cape, have underspent during the 2001/2002 financial year in their total budget allocations.

The other eight provinces have underspent by at least three percent.

Mpumelelo Mkhabela

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1187015,00.html, 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:ABU020520

 

Abuse of health workers is rife, study finds: Verbal abuse, ranging from insults to threats of violence, is a major concern for health-care workers in hospitals across Cape Town.

This was one of the findings of a study by the University of Cape Town's Institute of Criminology and the Medical Research Council in which 178 health-care workers were interviewed about their stress at work.

The results of the study were published in the May edition of the South African Medical Journal.

Staff at the Gugulethu and Mitchell's Plain day hospitals and the emergency units at Groote Schuur and GF Jooste were interviewed.

The researchers found that 61 percent of those interviewed "frequently" had to deal with criminal violence, which includes verbal insults and threats, and that this was their main concern at work.

Budget constraints, leading to insufficient staff and equipment, were also a major problem, 63 percent said.

The same numbers said their working conditions had deteriorated over the past few years.

The study consisted of staff observation during busy times and a 12-page questionnaire filled in by 178 nurses, doctors, pharmacists, radiographers and administrative staff.

Very few people said they had been physically attacked, contrary to the impression created by media reports of isolated incidents of violence in hospitals across the country, said field worker Ricky Rontsch.

"We thought we would be confronted with murder, mayhem, terror and fear, because that was what journalistic accounts had portrayed. That is not what we found. In the few incidents where health workers were assaulted, they were hit, bitten or scratched by mentally ill patients, and you can't classify that as crime. Hardly anybody had experienced anything other than verbal assault."

The verbal abuse ranged from staff being told they were useless, to patients saying they would call in gang members if they did not receive instant service or staff being told someone knew where they lived and would attack them at home.

Some health workers were able to laugh the threats off, Rontsch said. Others were often absent as a way of coping.

Although the study was undertaken last year, senior health managers said intimidation of staff had not decreased.
By Jo-Anne Smetherham

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020520211917108G123629&set_id=1, 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:CUR020519

 

Cured with a foetus ovary: Beijing - Chinese doctors have successfully transplanted an ovary from an aborted female foetus to treat a young woman suffering from premature menopause, state media said on Sunday.

The surgery took place at the No 2 Zhengzhou university hospital in central Henan province, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The patient, a 28-year-old woman surnamed Feng, had been diagnosed with menopause syndrome due to premature senile ovaries, the agency said.

The woman showed symptoms such as severe mood swings and insomnia, and her skin had become unnaturally coarse over the past two years.

Since the surgery, "Feng's skin has resumed its natural softness and she has enjoyed a good night's sleep," the agency said. - Sapa-AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1187005,00.html, 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:CAN020518

 

New hope for cancer patients: Orlando, Florida - An experimental cancer drug shrinks the tumours in advanced lung cancer patients and improves their symptoms, offering them perhaps the first shred of hope, doctors said on Saturday.

The drug, called Iressa, can be taken as a pill - a huge boon to patients used to being hooked up to intravenous infusions for chemotherapy. And it has very few side-effects - none of the nausea and hair loss that often makes chemotherapy patients so miserable.

It takes a new approach, targeting proteins that are produced only by cancer cells, so it does not attack hair follicles and intestinal cells the way other cancer drugs do.

"Giving a drug that blocks an enzyme actually makes patients feel better," Dr Mark Kris of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, who presented his findings to a meeting in Orlando of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, told a news conference.

"That is nothing short of amazing."

Iressa, being developed by Europe's second largest drugmaker, AstraZeneca Plc, is not on the market yet but is being tested in clinical trials pending approval by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Kris and colleagues tested Iressa, once known by the experimental name of ZD1839, in 216 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

All had cancer that worsened despite two or more rounds of chemotherapy. "All these patients had cancer that couldn't be helped by either radiation or surgery," Kris said.

They weren't cured, but 43 percent felt better, the researchers told ASCO's annual conference in Florida. They had less shortness of breath, weight loss, cough, loss of appetite and confusion - all symptoms of lung cancer.

Improvement came fast

"What is quite amazing is that the patients who had that improvement had it within two weeks," Kris told a news conference.

And in 12 percent, the tumours shrank 50 percent or more. Average survival was about six months, so Iressa is no wonder drug, experts said. But it is the first hope to patients with what has been a very hopeless stage of cancer, they say.

"The major side-effect, it turns out, is a minor skin rash that looks like acne," Dr Paul Bunn, president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a cancer specialist at the University of Colorado, told reporters.

A second study done in Japan and Europe in patients who had failed one round of treatment showed that 19 percent had their tumours shrink 50 percent or more, and 40 percent felt better.

Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killed in the world, claiming 125 000 lives a year in the United States alone.

Iressa targets the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a key biochemical switch used by tumours, and only by tumours, to survive and grow.

"By giving a drug that blocks a specific enzyme vital to the growth of cancer cells, we can actually shrink lung cancer," Kris said. "It is the first targeted therapy for lung cancer."

Iressa is expected to reach the market later this year. It is one of several drugs targeting the EGFR, including a rival drug made by biotechnology firm Imclone called Erbitux.

The FDA rejected Erbitux late last year and the drug, which ImClone is co-developing with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and Germany's Merck KGaA, is now only expected to go on sale in 2003.

Tarceva, made by OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc, Genentech Inc and Roche Holding AG, has won fast track approval status from the FDA.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1186984,00.html, 2002/05/21

 

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Ref:KIS020506

 

Stop that kissing and pass the brandy! Winter is officially with us, but a daily dose of vitamin C and a tot of brandy every other night should help to keep colds at bay.

Another health tip is to stop kissing people and shaking the hands of strangers, because that helps to spread disease.

Autumn is officially on its way out, and Tuesday was expected to be the coldest day of the year so far, weather forecaster Evert Scholtz said. He added that the mercury was expected to drop to 3°C in Johannesburg and, later in the day, rise to a paltry 16°C.

"There will be a fresh south-westerly wind blowing and no rain. The rains are over already and the cloud cover we see now will start moving away," Scholtz said.

He said a cold front that hit the Western Cape at the weekend had already passed over Gauteng, causing thunderstorms on Sunday night.

Johannesburg physician Dr Michael Setzer said a daily 500mg dose of vitamin C should help to keep flu at bay, and that while it was a myth that brandy kept you warm, it wouldn't hurt to try it - in moderation.

"Yes, it's an excuse to drink, but it's a good excuse," he laughed.

Setzer said cutting back on dairy products could also help to keep flu at bay.

"People must also be sure to take jerseys with them, to wear when they leave the office, because of temperature variations.

"They must also increase their intake of products containing (the plant) echinacea," Setzer said.

Health-conscious people should also refrain from using gas heaters or making fires inside their homes, as fin-heaters and humidifiers were healthier options.

Scholtz said a cold front was lying over Limpopo and Mpumalanga and moving towards KwaZulu Natal.

"It's moving faster than we anticipated," he said, advising that Gautengers could expect clear blue skies from now on - but these would be accompanied by very chilly weather.

"It's certainly not going to get warm again like it was last week, but it might warm up briefly again next week," he said.

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020506204619408S30054&set_id=1 , 2002/05/07

 

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Ref:BRE020506

 

Breaking up is hard on health: New York - By and large, married people appear to have better health than their single peers. However, if the marriage ends, that healthy edge tends to disappear, with divorced and separated people reporting one of the highest rates of illness.

Now, a new study published in the May issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that co-habitating couples also experience a decrease in health after splitting up.

"Leaving a co-habitation, like a marriage, tends to have a detrimental effect on health," said lead author Dr Zheng Wu of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

Wu and his co-author Randy Hart obtained their results from nationwide surveys on physical and mental health and relationship status, conducted by Statistics Canada at 2-year intervals starting in the 1990s. There were 9 775 participants, aged 20 to 64 years when the surveys began.

Looking at this data, the researchers found that both men and women tend to report a decrease in physical or mental health after ending either a co-habitation or a marriage.

Researchers have proposed two theories to explain why married people report better health than non-married people. One supposes that healthier people are more likely to get married, while the other, called the "marriage protection hypothesis", suggests that married couples improve their health by providing each other with social and financial support, and by monitoring each other's health behaviours.

Wu said he tried to understand if either of these hypotheses might explain the health benefits of marriage and co-habitation by analysing the results in different ways.

The authors conclude that "protection effects" may explain much of why married or co-habitating couples experience health gains. The findings also suggest that living together and being married are similar in terms of health benefits gained.

"Although there are some differences between marital and non-marital unions, our research suggests that in terms of health outcomes, the two are quite similar," they write. "The finding that co-habitation and marriage share similar health consequences lends credence to the notion that co-habitation has become a viable form of family living."

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1177778,00.html, 2002/05/07

 

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Ref:AID020506

 

Here's some good news about Aids: Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Monday South Africa was beginning to win the fight against HIV/Aids and she would soon release a survey showing infection rates among the youth stabilising.

About 4,7 million of South Africa's 43 million people are living with HIV/Aids, the government says. The United Nations says this is more than any other country in the world.

South Africa has provoked worldwide criticism by blocking widespread access to anti-Aids drugs it deems costly and toxic.

But last month the government announced a dramatic shift in its Aids policy, offering state-funded anti-retroviral treatment to rape victims for the first time.

"I think we are beginning to turn a corner in our country," Tshabalala-Msimang told reporters, saying the stigma attached to people with the deadly disease was waning.

She was speaking on the last day of the government's appeal against a lower court ruling that it must widely offer a drug that cuts the risk of mothers passing HIV-Aids to their babies. The Constitutional Court may take a month to decide the appeal.

"Particularly among youths, we're seeing stabilisation of the infection rate," the minister said, adding the survey would indicate that the "young will outlive the old".

But she said the report, which would be made public after it is reviewed by cabinet, would not be all good news.

"A worrying factor is that we are not seeing HIV stabilisation among women between 25 and 45 coming to public ante-natal clinics."

Tshabalala-Msimang would not comment on the court case which centres on whether a court can dictate government policy and whether the government has a constitutional duty to provide Nevirapine to thousands of HIV-positive pregnant women.

She also declined to say when the government would be ready to roll-out Nevirapine - said to cut HIV transmission from mothers to their babies by up to half - or what it would cost.

She said a key issue was infant feeding options. Breastfeeding is not advised during Nevirapine use, but women who do not breastfeed could be shunned by their communities, she added.

If the government opted to promote formula milk feeding, that would make up some 69 percent of all costs of rolling out Nevirapine access beyond the government's pilot sites where the efficacy and side-effects of the drug are being researched.

Government lawyers have argued it was vital to respect the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive, but some judges from the 11-bench Constitutional Court have said the case was also about saving babies from death.

Tshabalala-Msimang's briefing was called to announce the health department's plans for the worldwide "Candlelight Memorial" on May 19 to mourn those who have died of Aids.

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=qw1020690000566B232&set_id=1, 2002/05/07

 

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Ref:AID020505

 

Employees lead the way in fighting AIDS: Some South African employees are taking the lead in the fight against HIV/AIDS, donating their time, salaries and services to help victims of the disease. Staff at some of the country's biggest companies and government departments have raised over R1 million and provided food to orphans in some of the country's poorest areas in what is believed to be the start of a new trend among employees.

In one instance, S A Revenue Services employees have started an orphan outreach scheme to hand out food, clothes and furniture to destitute children. More than 16% of ABSA staff have signed up to contribute a slice of their monthly salaries towards an AIDS fund that provides drug treatment for rape survivors and to help prevent mother to child HIV transmission. The bank matches the employee's contribution and thus far R1 million has been raised. Employees of AngloGold have volunteered to become HIV/AIDS counsellors to its infected workers.

Xoliswa Singiswa, chairperson of the SARS charity committee said staff had decided to help out because it was the only way to guarantee a better life for all. 'The response has been remarkable. We are going out there looking for places that are desperate, places that nobody is looking at,' said Singiswa. Ebrahim Asmal from ABSA said, ' The give as you earn project is modelled on the UK example, and it has been totally supported locally. Asmal challenged other businesses to follow suit, enabling the country to uplift itself.

(Source: Rapport & Sunday Times 05 May 2002)Employees lead the way in fighting AIDS

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org, 2002/05/07

 

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Ref:DRU020502

 

Drug firms cut prices in wake of generics list: Some major pharmaceutical manufacturers have dropped the prices of 76 different drugs to bring them within the price threshold specified by Medscheme's new Medicine Price list, which kicked in this week. Medscheme director Gary Talor said he was absolutely delighted at the reductions, which averaged 18%. He believes that as prices are reduced on more drugs there will be greater flexibility for prescribing medicines which attract non co payment.

Under the present scheme, those who choose to take more expensive brand name drugs are liable for the difference between the Medicine Price List price and the brand name price. Some of the companies that will be decreasing the prices are Aspen Pharmacare, Cipra Medpro and Pharmadynamics.

Taylor said that where patients had adverse reaction to generics or they did not function as well, doctors could obtain authorisation from Medscheme for the more expensive drugs to be provided. When seeking pre authorisation doctors can call Medscheme and talk to clinicians or pharmacist from Medscheme and discuss alternatives. He said it was in everyone's interests for private health care to remain affordable, and bringing down costs would in the long run benefit the consumers.

(Source: Pretoria News, Star and Mercury 02 May 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org, 2002/05/07

 

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Ref:NOB020416

 

Nobel honour for AIDS activist Nkosi Johnson: Nkosi Johnson has done what not even Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu could do - win two Nobel prizes in one night. The late young AIDS activist was honoured twice, when he was awarded posthumously the Global Friends Award and shared the World Children's Prize with Nepalese group, Maiti Nepal.

Recalling the brave activist's short life at the awards ceremony, Sweden's Queen Silvia, praised Nkosi for his enormous commitment to AIDS awareness and his courage even in the face of death. His foster mother, Gail Johnson received the prize on his behalf, with his longtime friend Eric Nicholls (12) and two AIDS orphans from Nkosi 's Haven .

Weakened by the ravages of AIDS, yet confident and clear, Nkosi moved scientists, government officials and doctors to tears at the AIDS 2000 Conference, when he told them, ' I don't want babies to die'. He then implored the government to listen to the words of children like him.

The winner of the World Chidren's Prize is chosen by a jury which comprises children who are fighting for the rights of children who have had their rights violated in some way. The second prize, the Global Friends Award, is voted by the children all over the world. More than 125 000 school children participated.

The other winner is Nepalese organisation Maiti Nepal, nominated for its fight against the slave trade in girls from Nepal who are being sold to brothels in India.

(Source: Star, Sowetan,Citizen 16 April 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News -  http://www.samedical.org/, 2002/04/17

 

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Ref:AID020416

 

Drs warn of 'Aids atrocities': Cape Town - A group of doctors has warned their South African colleagues against becoming accomplices in a new wave of "atrocities" by refusing to administer antiretroviral drugs.

In a statement published in the latest edition of the South African Medical Journal, they say doctors have a moral duty to prescribe the drugs.

The government is challenging a High Court order won by Aids activists that will force it to give the drugs to HIV-positive women who want to minimise the chances of their infants being infected during birth.

The six doctors who put their names to the SAMJ statement include Professor Louis-Jacques van Bogaert, chief gynaecologist at Mpumalanga's Philadelphia Hospital.

Eighty doctors, nurses and support staff at Philadelphia earlier this month announced they would provide nevirapine to pregnant women regardless of the province's policy on the issue.

The superintendent of another Mpumalanga hospital was earlier axed for allowing an anti-rape NGO to supply anti-retroviral drugs to rape survivors at the hospital.

Cowardice or complicity?

The six said in the statement that doctors should not keep silent while their colleagues were disciplined by the authorities for placing the best interests of their patients above those of others.

It was a fact that many health-care workers who spoke out against the grave injustices in the apartheid system were abused.

"We will not accept history repeating itself," they said.

"More than a decade after the official end of apartheid, we wonder how some of our colleagues became involved in atrocities.

"Was it cowardice or complicity? Over and over, we say 'never again'."

If the state was allowed to dictate particular policies, as in the antiretroviral debate, it shackled the "fundamental principles of medical ethics" and opened the door to possible greater human rights abuses.

The other five signatories of the SAMJ statement were Dr Donna Knapp van Bogaert, bioethics lecturer at Medunsa; Dr Ames Dhai, senior consultant in obstetrics at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in Durban; Professor Graham Howarth of the departments of obstestrics, gynaecology and bioethics at the University of Pretoria; David Hanekom, assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Dakota; and Professor Ghoyga Ogunbanjo, of Medunsa's department of family medicine.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1169023,00.html, 2002/04/17

 

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Ref:BOO020416

 

Boosting 'good' cholesterol: New York - An experimental drug may help boost levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol by as much as 34% in as little as a month, according to a new study.

Because high levels of HDLs may reduce a person's risk for heart attack and stroke, researchers have been interested in finding drugs to boost HDL levels.

Researchers from the Netherlands evaluated an experimental drug that blocks the action of a protein called CETP, which is known to regulate levels of HDL in the body.

"CETP represents an important target because this protein plays a key role in HDL metabolism," lead author Dr John Kastelein of the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam said in a prepared statement. "In fact, a genetic deficiency of CETP is the main reason for high HDL (levels) in Asian populations."

In the study, 198 healthy men and women with a mildly elevated blood fat levels were divided into four groups. Three groups took various doses of the CETP inhibitor while those in the fourth group took an inactive placebo. The investigators measured levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol at various points throughout the 12-week study.

After 4 weeks, those taking the highest dose of the drug saw their HDL levels increase by 34% and their LDL levels decrease by 7%, the authors report.

According to the study, the experimental drug, referred to as JTT-705, appeared to have mild gastrointestinal side effects including diarrhoea, flatulence, nausea and constipation.

"Although these results hold promise, further studies are needed to investigate whether the increase in HDL cholesterol translates into a reduction in coronary artery disease risk," said Kastelein.

The study was sponsored by Japan Tobacco Inc in Tokyo and managed by Orion Clinical Services Ltd, located in Slough, UK.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1168760,00.html, 2002/04/17

 

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Ref:SIA020416

 

Siamese twins face 20-hour operation: Wednesday was due to be the big day for Port Elizabeth's conjoined twins, Zinzi and Zanele Kona, who were to be separated in a marathon operation at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town.

The babies, born on November 27 last year, were transferred to the hospital immediately, and specialists decided to wait at least three months before going ahead with the separation.

It is now four-and-a-half months later and an extensive team of medical specialists was set to begin the delicate task of separating the little girls, who are joined at the pelvis and share an anus.

Surgeons were confident they can be successfully separated.

The medical team includes anaesthetists, nursing staff, urologists, neurologists, plastic surgeons, and orthopaedic and general surgeons, who expect the operation to last for at least 20 hours.

The team was to be led by Professor Heinz Rode, head of paediatric surgery at the Red Cross hospital. It will be the 35th separation of conjoined twins done there.

Last year Rode described the pair as having individualised themselves. Zanele is slightly bigger than Zinzi.

The last separation of conjoined twins done by Rode was in July 2000, when his team successfully separated Tanzanian twins Esther and Stella Alphonce, who were 8 months old.

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=qw1018987924746S363&set_id=1, 2002/04/17

 

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Ref:GEN020415

 

Gene disease unravelled: Paris - Scientists say they have pinpointed genes that cause a serious intestinal disorder, marking the first time that the multiple genetic causes of a disease have been identified.

Variations in eight genes are implicated in Hirschsprung disease, a condition that affects about one new-born in 5 000, they report in research published online by the specialist journal Nature Genetics.

Individuals with Hirschsprung lack nerve cells in bowel muscles that push faecal material along the intestine and often suffer from a bloated abdomen, constipation, vomiting and bowel inflammation as a result.

A team led by Aravinda Chakravarti of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, and Stanislas Lyonnet of the Necker Hospital for Sick Children in Paris trawled through the genetic profile of families where Hirschsprung was common.

In addition to mutations in five genes that cause "long-segment" Hirschsprung, which affects a long portion of the intestine, they found mutations in three genes that are to blame for "short segment" Hirschsprung which affects the rectum and a small portion of the colon.

Hirschsprung - named after a Copenhagen doctor, Harald Hirschsprung, who first identified the condition in 1888 - is usually treated by surgical removal of the affected bowel section.

"Short segment" Hirschsprung, in which usually only a few centimetres (inches) of bowel are affected, is by far the commonest form of the disease, accounting for up to 85 percent of all cases.

The research is important because finding the hereditary causes of a disease is a crucial first step towards warning people who are at risk of developing the condition or of passing it on to their children.

The goal is that, eventually, a cure can be found that can block or even reverse the malfunctioning genes.

Scientists have already identified several diseases that are caused by a single gene, such as the fatal brain disorder Huntingdon's disease, but this is the first time that a multiple-gene condition has been unravelled.

"The approach... should serve as a model for dissecting other complex diseases," said Eberhard Passarge of Essen University Clinic in Germany, who has been investigating Hirschsprung disease for more than three decades.

"However, a prerequisite for such an analysis is the careful clinical characterisation of the disease to be studied." - Sapa-AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.com/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1168470,00.html, 2002/04/17

 

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Ref:PIL020412

 

A pill for every 'illness': London - So-called lifestyle drugs for baldness, erectile dysfunction or unhappiness are big business for pharmaceutical companies, but some doctors believe they are being coerced into treating a growing number of "non-diseases".

The British Medical Journal said on Friday a poll of its readers had identified almost 200 conditions that are not real sicknesses - ranging from allergies to jet lag - as more and more ordinary life conditions are redefined as medical problems.

The findings are controversial, with a number of doctors questioning whether debilitating conditions such as obesity and chronic fatigue syndrome - also known as ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) - are true illnesses.

British and Australian medics writing in the influential journal said some drug companies were "disease-mongering" by widening the boundaries of treatable diseases in order to boost their markets.

BMJ editor Richard Smith said it was easy to create new diseases out of many of life's normal processes, such as ageing and sexuality. The challenge was to get the balance right between the under-treatment of some conditions and the over-treatment of others.

"Global pharmaceutical companies have a clear interest in medicalising life's problems, and there is now an ill for every pill," he wrote in an edition of the influential journal devoted to the subject.

"The concept of what is and what is not a disease is extremely slippery."

In the past 10 years, lifestyle drugs - which improve the quality of life or alleviate the symptoms of old age - have grown into a multibillion dollar business for pharmaceutical companies.

Pfizer Inc's Viagra for male impotence is a prime example. But the industry has also pushed back the boundaries by developing anti-depressants for social phobia, promoting treatments for baldness and pushing new disease categories such as attention deficit disorder.

Advances in genetics may aggravate matters, according to David Meltzer and Ron Zimmern of Cambridge University, since genomic science may soon define us all as patients, in need of correction for genetic "defects," which predispose us to certain diseases.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1167280,00.html, 2002/04/12

 

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Ref:MAN020412

 

Manuel and Mandela tot up bill: Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and Nelson Mandela have called for better funding for child vaccination.

Speaking at the Financing Vaccination for Every Child conference on Thursday, Manuel said United States corporate donors had promised $1-million (about R11,2m) for young black South Africans to study medicine.

But he could not understand why a society where corporate and individual citizens were so generous was so tolerant of low levels of "national giving".

The US devoted only 0,1 percent of gross domestic product to overseas development aid.

Citing World Health Organisation estimates, Manuel said of all spending on health research, 90 percent was for diseases that affected only 10 percent of the world's population. Vaccines represented only 1,5 percent of the global pharmaceutical market.

Mandela said at least $1-billion (about R11,2-bn) a year was needed to cover all the world's children who needed vaccinations.

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News -http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct200204121126283V252148&set_id=1, 2002/04/12

 

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Ref:POL020411

 

SA could be free of polio: Cape Town - South Africa could soon be declared free of polio, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Wednesday.

She expressed the hope while announcing that the first Polio Eradication Countdown in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would be launched at a stadium in Northern Province on Thursday.

"Starting with the very first National Day for the Polio Eradication Countdown on April 11, we believe that our country will soon be declared free of this crippling condition, which left thousands of people paralysed in the last five decades," she said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are up to 20 million polio survivors, 12 million of whom have some degree of disability caused by the disease. Thousands of South Africans have been left paralysed by polio.

A National Certification Committee (NCC) was appointed last July to monitor the polio eradication. The NCC consists of technical experts, including a community health specialist, and epidemiologist, a paediatric neurologist and a virologist.

"We are also establishing a Laboratory Containment Committee (LCC), which will consist of experts in the field of virology," Tshabalala-Msimang said.

South Africa adopted the strategies for polio eradication based on three principles.

Firstly, routine immunisation of children under one year of age against polio should reach at least 90 percent of this age group, in all provinces. This was to ensure that South African communities were protected against a "wild" polio virus, which may be imported into the country by refugees fleeing war-torn countries or people from countries where polio immunisation coverage was below the national and global goals of 90 percent.

  • Secondly, mass immunisation campaigns were conducted from time to time, to interrupt transmission of polio in the target age group rapidly.
  • The third principle was to actively detect, report and investigate suspected cases of polio, also called acute flaccid paralysis (AFP).

    Healthcare Portfolio spokesperson Slawek Justyniarski said South Africa followed the WHO's recommended immunisation schedule through which infants were routinely vaccinated against nine major childhood diseases: tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, haemophilus influenza type b and hepatitis b.

    He said all of the nine diseases could cause serious complications and sometimes even death.

    Symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.

    Dr Eddie Mhlanga, the Health department's official tasked with finding ways to eradicate the disease, said the only way to make sure that a child under the age of 15 who had sudden weakness or lameness did not have polio was by testing two stools at the National Institute for Virology [NIV] in Johannesburg which is the only laboratory in the country that can do polio virus isolation.

    He warned that a child with polio could spread the disease rapidly to at least 200 children within a few days. Five doses of oral polio vaccine given to a child would provide lifelong immunity from a disease that could cause permanent lameness and death.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1166850,00.html, 2002/04/12

 

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Ref:SPE020411

 

Specialist centre an incentive for doctors to stay in the country: A five hour intensive operation costing R110 000 was completed when a tumour the size of a melon was cut from the liver of a Hout Bay woman at the recently opened University of Cape Town (UCT) Medical Centre.

The medical centre was set up as a move by the university to retain highly specialised doctors to work at Groote Schuur Hospital and to train other doctors. 'We need people to stay here so they can still be used in the state hospital, says Dr Mark van Rensburg, a surgeon at the centre.

The medical centre has four state of the art operating theatres and 124 beds. Among the equipment used for the operation was a R500 000 argon beam coagulator which controls blood flow by burning the tissue without touching it, an ultrasound knife that vibrates at 55 000 hertz per second and that costs
R100 000.

(Source: Pretoria 11 April 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - Health News - http://www.samedical.org, 2002/04/12

 

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Ref:ELD020410 

The elderly could put a strain on the world's health: For the first time in history the world will contain more people over 60 than under 15 years. 'The world is undergoing an unprecedented demographic transformation' says Kofi Annan, UN Secretary –General at the Summit being held in Madrid, Spain this week.

Ageing populations risk straining the world's health, social security and pension systems as the proportion of working aged people shrinks. The old are commonly thought to pose a problem mainly for rich European countries, which are seeing elderly populations balloon as a result of increased life expectancy and falling birth rates. 'Ageing is definitely no longer just a first world issue. What was a footnote in the 20th century is on its way to becoming a dominant theme in the 21st, highlighted Annan.

The international report 'State of the world's older people' produced by HelpAge International, a British advocacy group, revealed that discrimination, lack of legislation, poor economy and AIDS mean older Africans are deprived of basic rights and services and live in extreme poverty.

The Summit aims to arrange basic strategies of ensuring sufficient income and access to social services for the elderly and mechanisms of including the elderly actively within society.

(Source: Natal Witness 10 April, 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - Health News - http://www.samedical.org, 2002/04/12

 

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Ref:ACC020409

 

Accord on health and safety signed: Government, organised labour and business made a commitment to guard against accidents in the workplace when they signed an accord on occupational health and safety. 'The socio-economic damage of health and safety incidents and fatalities on enterprises, the workers and their families have reached the levels where the social partners deemed it proper and fitting to find a common solution and co operative approach to the problem,' said Labour Minister, Membathisi Mdladlana.

The signing follows several health and safety violations in the past two years, such as the death of 11 factory workers in Lenasia last year. 'The signing of the accord is important to our members who confront occupational accidents and diseases daily, said Cosatu, vice president Joyce Pekane.

The intention of the accord was to debunk the misconception that occupational health and safety is the sole responsibility of the government.

(Source: Citizen & Business Day 09 April 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org/, 2002/04/10

 

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Ref:CAN020409

 

A cancer-killing virus: Washington - A genetically engineered virus designed to home in on and kill cancer cells may be safe to test in patients whose cancer has spread, researchers said on Monday.

The latest in a series of experiments using Onyx-015, a cold virus altered so that it infects and kills only cancer cells and leaves healthy cells alone, produced positive results on liver cancer, the researchers said.

Richmond, California-based Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc has been testing the virus for several years, using a variety of novel approaches such as putting it into a mouthwash to treat oral cancer and injecting it into tumours.

In the latest experiment they infused the virus into the livers of patients whose cancers had spread there.

"Rather than injecting it directly into the tumour using a syringe and needle, where it might not get distributed evenly, we injected it into the artery, so that the flow of blood carries it throughout the liver," Dr Daniel Sze of Stanford University Medical Centre in California, who helped lead the study, said.

The phase I study was meant only to test the safety of the approach, and Sze told a meeting in Baltimore of the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology it seemed safe.

They tested 35 patients whose gastrointestinal cancer, mostly colon cancer, had spread into the liver. None could be cured by surgery and chemotherapy had stopped working for them, so they were dying of their cancer.

Not only was the treatment safe, Sze told the meeting, but it seemed to help fight the tumours. Such patients usually live only six to eight months but the median survival time of this group was just over a year.

CT scans showed the livers swelled at first, perhaps a sign of inflammation from the treatment.

Tumours shrank after treatment

"The tumours shrank somewhat, but more impressive was that blood tests showed that abnormal proteins being secreted by the tumours either decreased significantly, or became completely undetectable," Sze said. "That suggests the tumours, although still visible on the CT scan, are dying or dead."

The researchers were also scheduled to report on their findings to a meeting in San Francisco of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Colon cancer kills 50 000 people every year in the United States, making it one of the deadliest cancers after lung, breast and prostate cancer. It often spreads to the liver, and is very difficult to treat at that stage.

Sze said Onyx-015 might offer an effective way to treat the cancer without the side-effects of chemotherapy. "Standard chemotherapy kills some healthy cells along with the cancer. This engineered adenovirus is designed to kill only the cancer and not to harm healthy cells," he said.

The adenovirus his team used is a relative of the common cold virus. When it attacks cells it uses a protein called p53, which happens to help repair the kind of damage that leads to cancer.

About 60 percent of cancer cells have mutated p53 genes. Researchers changed the adenovirus so that it could not make use of p53 and therefore should not be able to invade healthy cells, but could attack cancer cells with faulty p53.

Sze said his team realised that infusing a virus into the liver could be dangerous. Such a treatment killed 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger in 1999 in a gene therapy experiment.

Sze said the cancer experiment took this into account. "The maximum dose (used in the Gelsinger case) was something like 25 times as high as our maximum dose," he said.

"That is the Jesse Gelsinger legacy - you can't indiscriminately keep going up. Also, even though our patients had tumours, their liver function was normal. We were certainly aware that if we gave too much stress on the livers they could go into liver failure."

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1165998,00.html, 2002/04/10

 

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Ref:INS020409

 

Insomnia affects health: New York - A new study shows that people with chronic mental or physical illness are also likely to suffer from insomnia, which severely worsens their overall quality of life.

To investigate the effect of insomnia on health-related quality of life, Dr David A. Katz of the University of Wisconsin in Madison and Dr Colleen A. McHorney of Indiana University in Indianapolis analysed questionnaires completed by 3 445 patients with chronic illness. Fifty percent of the patients reported insomnia. Sixteen percent of them characterised their inability to sleep as "severe".

After controlling for the effects of depression, anxiety and medical problems, which prior studies failed to do, the investigators discovered that insomnia was "independently associated with worsened health-related quality of life to almost the same extent as chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure and clinical depression."

In particular, patients reported that insomnia had a negative impact on their mental health, vitality and general health perceptions, the researchers report in the March issue of The Journal of Family Practice.

"Clinicians should not ignore insomnia," the authors write. But as they point out, many do, according to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, which recently reviewed 10 000 medical records from nine family practices and found only 123 notations on sleep. And not one suggested an effective response to a sleep complaint.

"By identifying and treating chronic insomnia, including any predisposing conditions that may perpetuate insomnia, clinicians can significantly improve the quality of life of patients with chronic illness," Katz said.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1166037,00.html,  2002/04/10

 

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Ref:CHO020409

 

Cholera vaccine shows promise: New York - An oral vaccine against cholera has shown promise in human tests, and may be a safe, effective way of preventing the disease in travellers, researchers say.

Cholera is spread through contaminated food and water. It is an acute intestinal infection that causes copious, watery diarrhoea and can rapidly cause severe dehydration and death if not treated promptly.

Dr Mitchell B. Cohen of Children's Hospital Medical Centre in Cincinnati, Ohio, tested the new vaccine, called Peru-15, in 59 healthy volunteers. The vaccine is made from live, weakened Vibrio cholerae bacteria. Volunteers received either the cholera vaccine or an inactive placebo shot. About 3 months after vaccination, 36 of the volunteers were exposed to live V. cholerae bacteria.

The researchers report their findings in the April issue of Infection and Immunity.

The existing vaccine available for preventing cholera is given by injection, and protects about half of people who receive it, Cohen and colleagues note. This vaccine also produces adverse reactions at the injection site and throughout the body, they add.

In the current study, the only reactions reported more often with the Peru-15 vaccine than with a placebo were headache and abdominal cramps, the investigators report, and only headaches reached statistical significance.

All but one person who received the vaccine (97%) showed at least a fourfold increase in the amount of anti-cholera antibodies in their blood, Cohen's team found.

When exposed to the cholera germ, 5 of the 12 placebo recipients (42%) and none of the 24 vaccine recipients developed moderate or severe cholera, the report indicates. Seven placebo recipients (58%) and one person who received the vaccine (4%) reported any diarrhoea.

"This study demonstrates that a single dose of Peru-15 is a well-tolerated and immunogenic oral cholera vaccine that affords protective efficacy against life-threatening cholera diarrhoea in a North American human volunteer challenge model," the authors conclude. "We believe that this vaccine could be a safe and effective tool to prevent cholera in travellers."

"We plan to conduct a larger scale multicentre challenge study to replicate the results obtained using a production lot of the vaccine," Cohen said.

The researchers don't know how long the protection offered by the Peru-15 vaccine lasts. "This is an important unanswered question," Cohen added. "We hope to look at immunogenicity beyond 6 months after vaccination to give some idea of this answer."

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1166000,00.html, 2002/04/10

 

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Ref:LEA020408

 

Wanted - a leader with 'relevant' views: Opposition leaders have called for a dynamic new initiative that would lead South Africa out of the growing Aids crisis that is threatening the country's democratic future.

Pan Africanist Congress MP and HIV/Aids campaigner Patricia de Lille said the country needed "strong, honest, independent leadership" that would "get us out of this mess".

She was responding to the latest outburst by President Thabo Mbeki, who said the government would not be "intimidated, terrorised, bludgeoned, manipulated, stampeded or in any way forced to adopt policies and programmes inimical to the health of our people".

There was only one person in the country who was confused about the way Aids should be treated -"that's the President", De Lille said.

Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said HIV and Aids was no longer a political issue but a "national crisis".

Reacting to Mbeki's views, given in his column on the ANC website, the DA's national spokeswoman on HIV/Aids, Sandy Kalyon, said Mbeki's thinly veiled attack on Malegapuru William Makgoba, head of the Medical Research Council, was "disturbing" and "dangerous to our democratic future".

Meanwhile, during a briefing in Pretoria on Africa's revival plan, Mbeki had to field a barrage of questions from foreign journalists about his views on HIV and Aids.

Pushed for a reply on the link between HIV and Aids, Mbeki retorted: "I don't know why the importance of this question. You should ask that question of scientists... My views are irrelevant to this matter. I don't know why it is important."

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020408000845618M125890&set_id=1, 2002/04/10

 

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Ref:HEA020408

 

Move for health: Johannesburg - More than 70 percent of the world population will die as a result of non-communicable diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles in 2020, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Mismang said on Sunday.

"As we rise up to the challenge posed by major communicable diseases like tuberculosis, HIV/Aids, the tendency has been to neglect some of the major non-communicable (diseases) that are major causes of death in our society.

"Non-communicable diseases are acquired over a period of time due to what people eat and how they live," she said at World Health Day celebrations in Sebokeng near Vereeniging.

The minister was attending the commemoration of the day along with Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa and the World Health Organisation's (WHO) national representative, Dr Welile Shasha.

According to WHO, non-communicable diseases contributed to almost 60 percent (31.7 million) of deaths and 43 percent of diseases in the world in 1998, the minister said.

"Based on the current trends, these diseases are expected to account for 73 percent of deaths and 60 percent of the disease burden in the year 2020."

She said low and middle-income countries such as South Africa suffered the most.

The most prominent non-communicable diseases were cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.

They are linked to risk factors such as tobacco use, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

"The theme for this year's World Health Day is 'Move for Health' and it is aimed at promoting healthy, active and tobacco-free lifestyles and preventing diseases and disabilities caused by unhealthy and inactive living," Tshabalala-Msimang said.

Ramokgopa told community members that a small amount of daily exercise made a difference to a person's health and how he felt about himself.

"I ask that you volunteer, and encourage all those with whom you have contact to volunteer, to form small groups, and contribute to the health of your community through organised exercise programmes and other health related activities."

"We will be able to see the effects of your endeavours by the drop in attendance rates at our clinics, for illnesses that are preventable, or can be relieved to a great extent, through exercise," she said.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1165488,00.html, 2002/04/09

 

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Ref:ORG020408

 

Organic food: Healthy, or for the wealthy? London - Organic fruit, delivered right to the doorstep. That is what Gabriel Gold prefers, and he is willing to pay for it. Failing that, the 26-year-old computer technician is willing to spend the extra money at the supermarket to buy organic food.

"Organic produce is consistently better," Gold said.

"Theoretically the food is free of pesticides, and you are generally supporting family farms instead of agora-business. And more often than not it is locally grown and seasonal, so it is more tasty."

Gold is one of a growing number of shoppers buying into the organic trend, and supermarkets across Britain are counting on more like him as they expand their organic offerings.

But how many shoppers really know what they are getting, and why are they willing to pay the price for organic produce?

A straw poll at two central London supermarkets showed that Gold and others who buy organic can generally give clear reasons for their preferences - but what they believe about the organic ideal is not always strictly accurate.

For instance, some trace amounts of approved pesticides can be used on organic products. And about three-quarters of organic food in Britain is not local but imported to meet growing demand.

"The demand for organic food is increasing by about one third every year, so it is still a very buoyant market," said Sue Flock, spokeswoman for the Soil Association, Britain's largest certifying body for organic produce.

A growing market

The big supermarket chains agree.

"(The market for organic) has gone up dramatically," said Jonathan Church, spokesperson for the Tesac supermarket chain.

"We launched our range back in 1997 with just a couple of hundred products, and now we have 1 100, and that is all in response to customers."

So what does organic mean? In Britain, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs sets the rules.

Anyone involved in producing organic food must register with an approved certification organisation, which will inspect the grower at least once a year.

"(Buying organic) means you are supporting a system of farming that respects the environment, and you are buying food with proven health benefits," Flook said.

"So organic farming aims to avoid the use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers, and no herbicides are permitted."

Instead, organic farmers rotate crops to maintain soil fertility and seek to keep their animals healthy without routinely using antibiotics.

"There are some instances when we do allow certain sprays to be used on crops, but we do not encourage routine use, and there are only about seven artificial inputs that we do allow under organic standards," Flook said.

To ensure the purity of organic farming, the organic lobby has been fighting to keep genetically modified crops well away from their fields.

And according to a European Union report obtained by Reuters last month, there is a risk to farms certified as GM-free. Some GM crops are highly likely to crossbreed with organic or wild plants, the report said.

For some consumers, all the effort of keeping organic food distinct is worth it for the flavour.

But not all shoppers think organic food tastes better, and for many, the organic label is just too expensive.

"I think it is incredibly overpriced and a consumer rip-off," said London shopper Steven Castledine.

But is it good for you?

Church said Tesco was working to bring organic prices down, but admitted the food did tend to cost more.

"Customers recognise that organic products are more expensive to produce, more labour-intensive, and therefore they do expect to pay a higher price," he said.

And the organic lobby says there is evidence that such practices give organic food health benefits over conventionally farmed produce.

For instance, in March the New Scientist magazine reported that researchers had found organic soup had almost six times as much salicylic acid - which helps to prevent hardening of the arteries and bowel cancer - as regular soup.

People who buy organic food tend to think it is the healthier option.

"I feel it is supposed to be better and good for me," said Maureen Roberts of London, who buys organic food occasionally, if the price is right.

But official organisations have held back from endorsing such beliefs.

The food department does not make any claims for organic nutritional superiority. "However, there is evidence for the environmental benefits from organic production," a department spokesman said.

The Foods Standards Agency said it thought people should have the organic option, but there was not enough evidence to say that organic foods were significantly safer or more nutritious than conventional farm products.

"As far as we are concerned, a vegetable is a vegetable and a fruit is a fruit," an agency spokeswoman said.

"There might be different growing methods using different things in the growing process, but the end result is the same."

And many shoppers remain sceptical.

"I never buy organic because I think the (price) mark-up is ridiculous, and I do not think it is that much better for the environment," said Freya Koepping, visiting London from Germany.

"I think it is a marketing ploy and just a craze. We have been eating the same food for thousands of years."

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1165680,00.html, 2002/04/09

 

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Ref:FLY020408

 

Flying and blood clots linked? Johannesburg - Planning to travel on SA Airways flights from London to Johannesburg over the next 30 days? Then you stand a chance of finding yourself mingling with and being part of a team of international medical professionals in search of the link between flying and the causes of the dreaded deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

The project, dubbed the largest ever international medical research and due for take off on Monday, was jointly launched by Wits University and the National Health Laboratory Services in Johannesburg on Friday.

South African and British scientists will be conducting tests on 1 000 passengers - 500 on Economy Class and Business Class each on a voluntary basis - flying Heathrow Airport to the Johannesburg International Airport between Mondays and Fridays over the test period.

DVT, a condition commonly referred to as Economy Class Syndrome, is the clotting of blood due to damaged blood vessels and is caused by among others, lack of movement, dehydration (partly caused by alcohol - one of beverages offered on board), and time zones, which most travellers experience during lengthy flights.

According to the research study's head, Professor Barry Jacobson of Wits University, the study would examine all factors relating to the formation of clots in the body while flying.

A particular emphasis would be put on factors such as weight, gender, height, age, in-flight activity, genetic profile and seating position.

Volunteers would be asked before boarding the flight at Heathrow, to complete a short confidential questionnaire, have one of their ankles measured and undergo a painless blood sample test.

During the flight each volunteer would be asked to fill a form about their fluid intake and movement on board, while on arrival at the Johannesburg International Airport they will hand it to the medical team.

Spin-offs for volunteers would include 5 000 free voyager miles, a beneficial self knowledge as well as being of service to the world societies.

Addressing the launch on Friday, Jacobson said there had been very little research conducted into how one of the major problems in the health care field could be defeated.

The problem had meanwhile led to numerous media reports about DTV sufferers threatening class action lawsuits against certain airlines for accommodating them in cramped conditions in economy class sections, and for failing to warn them of risks associated with flying in such conditions.

Jacobson said the currently available medications, which include aspirin, had no effect at all.

SAA has expressed its full support of the project as it was bound to provide answers to questions - such as whether there was medical evidence directly linking DVT to air travel, or whether being on board a flight was any different from travelling by car.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1164939,00.html, 2002/04/09

 

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Ref:AID020407

 

Aids bogey sours Mbeki's Nepad briefing: President Thabo Mbeki ran into an unscheduled flurry of queries from foreign journalists about his views on HIV/Aids during a briefing on Africa's revival plan on Sunday.

Pushed for a reply on the link between HIV and Aids, Mbeki at some point said: "I don't know why the importance of this question. You should ask that question of scientists."

He also denied an assertion that the government was opposed to the use of the anti-Aids drug Nevirapine.

The occasion was a briefing at the Union Buildings in Pretoria after Mbeki met visiting Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on preparations for the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

Mbeki has in the past drawn sharp criticism from detractors who have accused him of flouting conventional scientific views that HIV causes Aids.

As Sunday's briefing was drawing to a close, the final question formally allowed related to Mbeki's views on the causality between HIV and Aids and on the use of anti-retrovirals.

Mbeki refrained from giving a direct reply, focusing instead on the extent of South Africa's programme against the disease. It was the most comprehensive on the continent and one of largest in the world, he said.

Ignoring instructions from presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo that the briefing was over, more than one reporter insisted on an answer from Mbeki on the connection between HIV and Aids.

He retorted: "My views are irrelevant to this matter. I don't know why it is important."

Asked why the government opposed the use of anti-retroviral drugs such as Nevirapine, Mbeki said: "No, no. You see, we will need a bit of time to discuss this - the facts and not the prejudices and beliefs."

He went on to explain the government's programme to conduct trials on Nevirapine at official pilot sites.

"There is a whole range of matters that need to be answered before you can roll out. So, I don't know what you mean when you say opposition."

Mbeki added: "We will go through with that programme and see what the results say before we take any further decisions."

Khumalo ended the briefing as more questions on HIV and Aids were being shouted at Mbeki.

Chretien stayed out of the debate by saying his country has donated money to the World Health Organisation for the fight against the disease.

"The implementation of this programme by each nation is done locally, and not by us. So, I don't have any comment," he said. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=qw1018186381946B262&set_id=1, 2002/04/09

 

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Ref:MIN020404

 

Minister Responds to Constitutional Court Order: This morning the Constitutional Court issued an interim order concerning the provision of Nevirapine in government health services in the period until there is an outcome in the main Constitutional Court case on this issue (to be heard on May 2 and 3). Government respects and accepts this judgement.

The order of the court specifically points out that government is not required to undertake "the wholesale extension" of the Nevirapine programme. What we are expected to do is to enable the drug to be prescribed to HIV-positive pregnant women and their babies:

  • At health facilities where necessary preconditions already exist for this intervention to be effective. These would at least include voluntary counselling and testing services.
  • In cases where the attending doctor and medical superintendent consider it medically advisable.

In consultation with provinces, we are developing a circular that will be sent to all public health facilities. Our intention is to ensure that facility managers and health professionals in antenatal clinics are in a position to respond appropriately to this latest development.

The Task Team that is currently being constituted to guide the further development of the programme on mother-to-child transmission will now take on the additional role of communicating and monitoring actions taken as a consequence of today's order.

Government is striving for a comprehensive approach to ensure that women receive appropriate advice on breastfeeding, in line with our national protocols. We have an over-riding concern to ensure that affected women are in a position to make an informed choice abut this programme.

Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
Minister of Health

Article Source & Reference: South African Department of Health, http://www.doh.gov.za/docs/pr/pr0404-f.html, 2002/04/09

 

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Ref:MAL020326

 

Kruger Park malaria warning: Johannesburg - All visitors to South Africa's malaria areas, including the Kruger National Park, should take anti-malarial tablets, Netcare Travel clinics advised on Monday.

This follows requests from individuals in the tourism sector for this recommendation to be dropped as it "scares off" tourists.

But Dr Andrew Jamieson, medical director of Netcare Travel Clinics said: "Advising against malaria prophylaxis is not responsible and may be dangerous. The best way to scare off tourists is to let them find out the hard way about malaria."

He said many travellers who contracted malaria in southern African nature and game reserves only fell ill on return to their home countries and their deaths were not reflected in official South African figures.

"Netcare Travel Clinics have documented evidence of this occurring, and it is senseless to pretend otherwise."

Jamieson added that official malaria statistics in all countries understated the true incidence and risk of the disease.

Definite risk

He said the majority of tour operators and lodge owners were responsible about alerting their guests to the risks of malaria, and that it was only a small minority within the industry who deliberately disregarded the risks.

"As malaria definitely occurs, and is definitely a risk, the official Netcare Travel Clinics policy will remain to recommend prophylaxis with anti-malaria tablets for travellers staying overnight in the Kruger National Park and similar areas, despite pressure from certain airlines and public officials to the contrary."

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1161471,00.html, 2002/03/26

 

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Ref:MIN020325

 

What the minister said on TV news

Interviewer: Now, a big day in court tomorrow. Government is fighting against the roll-out of nevirapine in the way the TAC wants. Given the fact that there are now new concerns about nevirapine, let's say that the court rules tomorrow that you have to go ahead as the TAC wants, will you be prepared to follow what the court says, given these new concerns around the drug?

Tshabalala-Msimang: My own view is that the judiciary cannot prescribe from the bench - and that we have a regulatory authority in this country that is interacting with the regulatory authority FDA of the USA and I think we must allow them to assist us in reaching conclusions.

Interviewer: Mmm, so you think it's inappropriate that this is in court, but nevertheless it's there. Will you stand by whatever the court decides?

Tshabalala-Msimang: No, I think the court and judiciary must also listen to the regulatory authority, both of this country and the regulatory authority of the US.

Interviewer: So you're saying no?

Tshabalala-Msimang: I say no. I am saying no.

 

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct2002032521510845M320375&set_id=1, 2002/03/26

 

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Ref:TOR020325 'No' means six months of torture: Just over six months ago, a pregnant woman came to the rural Elim Hospital in Limpopo province begging for Nevirapine to save her unborn child.

She was HIV-positive, she told hospital staff, and knew the drug could halve the risk that she would transmit the deadly virus to her baby.

Doctors wanted to help her, but Elim Hospital was not supplied with Nevirapine because of government policy.

Just 70km away, at Siloam Hospital, one of the state's 18 pilot sites, the life-saving drug was on the hospital's shelves.

But staff said they had not started implementing the government programme and so could not give the single dose the women required for successful treatment.

The only other official site in Limpopo, 125km away at Mankweng Hospital, refused to take in patients from outside its feeder area.

So the young mother became one of thousands of HIV-positive pregnant women whose attempts to access the drug were in vain.

Her baby was born without treatment.

If Monday's Pretoria High Court judgment had been made six months earlier, the mother might have been granted her wish.

The ruling, by Judge Chris Botha, means that the state is obliged to supply Nevirapine to any public hospital where doctors and medical superintendents believe they have the capacity to provide the counselling and HIV testing needed to give Nevirapine to pregnant women.

It comes into effect immediately - ahead of a government appeal in the Constitutional Court to contest a court order forcing it to implement a national programme to provide the drug.

The government would be in contempt of court if it refused a request for the drug, said Geoff Budlender of the Legal Resources Centre.

Anyone involved - doctors, hospital superintendents or patients - could lay charges against the state if they were denied access to Nevirapine in a public hospital which had the capacity to supply it.

And it is up to doctors to decide if their hospitals have the capacity.

Dr Sajira Lakhana, medical superintendent of Elim Hospital, is one of the people who believes her hospital could supply the treatment.

Lakhana said Nevirapine could cut by one-third the number of HIV-positive babies dying there. About 11 HIV-positive children are admitted every month; every month, two or three HIV-positive children die there.

The young woman who was denied Nevirapine at Elim Hospital six months ago still does not know whether her baby contracted the virus, and will eventually be admitted to this paediatric ward.

Because babies gets HIV antibodies from their mothers, blood tests can give false HIV-positive results for a year after they are born.

This means the young woman has another six, long months of waiting.

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020325212109266M320699&set_id=1 , 2002/03/26

 

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Ref:NUR020325

 

Nurse in hot water after burning boy, 4: A nurse faces charges of assault after she allegedly forced a 4-year-old boy into a tub of extremely hot water. He suffered first and second-degree burns to his feet.

The boy's granny, Hilda Jonas, said the child had been at Kimberley Hospital for intestinal-related ill health for the past four months.

Jonas said the nurse forced her grandchild into a bath after he had defecated in his bed.

"She did not feel the water temperature. The boy screamed because he was burning from the hot water."

The nurse has been suspended pending internal investigations. - By Dineo Khechane

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020325232101739N620190&set_id=1, 2002/03/26

 

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Ref:PIL020325

 

Pill raises breast cancer risk: Barcelona - Using the birth control pill can increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, particularly if is she is still taking it after the age of 45, scientists say.

New research presented at the Third European Breast Cancer Conference confirms the results of earlier, smaller studies which have shown the chance of getting the disease rises by about 26 percent in women who have used oral contraceptives compared to those who have not.

For women aged 45 and over the risk is doubled.

"It is a doubling in risk," Dr Merethe Kumle, of Community Medicine in Tromso, Norway told the conference.

"It is clear that oral contraceptives increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, particularly when they are used in the later period of reproductive life," she added.

Using data from a large lifestyle and health study, Kumle and her team studied information on 103 027 women who were questioned about their lifestyle, health and use of the pill in 1991/1992.

They followed the medical history of the women to December 1999 and found 1,008 cases of the disease. Most of the women had taken newer versions of the pill which contain lower doses of hormones.

"I think the results from this study of Norwegian and Swedish women are very interesting and confirm results from earlier studies of oral contraceptive use," Kumle said.

Early pregnancy, late menopause, postponing childbirth or not having children are risk factors for breast cancer which affects about one million women worldwide each year.

Studies have also shown that using the pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can increase the risk of the disease, although the risk decreases after women stop taking the drugs.

Kumle stressed that the risk for younger women, under the age of 40, is very low. Most breast cancer is diagnosed in women 50 years and older.

"We found a slightly increased risk of breast cancer among users of the pill, but it is important to underline that young women using the pill are not playing hazard with their health. As contraception, the pill should still be the drug of choice for young women," she added.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1161166,00.html, 2002/03/26

 

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Ref:TUB020325

 

Today is World Tuberculosis Day: Five people per day died of tuberculosis (TB) in Gauteng during the past year, even though the disease is easily curable. 'In the face of a looming HIV epidemic, the current TB epidemic has the potential to escalate at a tremendous rates, said Dr Ebraham Samba, World Health Organizations regional director for Africa.

Over 200 million Africans are healthy carriers of the TB germ. About 2000 people died from TB last year and almost 15 500 new case were diagnosed. Research has shown that when HIV infected people develop TB, levels of HIV in the bloodstream increase five to 160 fold. In addition, HIV infection makes people more susceptible to TB. 'We are steadily improving our rate of cure for TB in Gauteng, says a statement from the provincial health department. 'But both the number of deaths and number of infections are up from the previous year', Samba said.

(Source: Star and Pretoria News 25 March, 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association (SAMA) - http://www.samedical.org/ , 2002/03/25

 

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Ref:MAN020325

 

Manto's refusal to provide drug 'unconstitutional': Pretoria - Health Minister Manto Tshabala-Msimang's statement that she would not heed a court order to supply nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women beyond the existing pilot sites was a violation of the Constitution, the Treatment Action Campaign said on Monday.

He was referring to a statement by the minister who, when asked in an interview on SABC television whether government would heed the court order, said the "judiciary cannot prescribe from the bench".

"We need a clear statement from the highest level of government (on) whether the court and court orders will be respected," TAC secretary Mark Heywood said outside the Pretoria High Court.

Judge Chris Botha on Monday upheld an application by the TAC, the Children's Rights Centre and paediatrician Haroon Saloojee of the Save Our Babies organisation, confirming his earlier order that government should provide nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women at state hospitals with the capacity to do so, and where it was medically indicated.

Botha initially granted an order in December last year. In March, he granted the government a positive certificate allowing it to ask the Constitutional Court to hear its appeal against the December order. At the same time, Botha issued an execution order, compelling the government to make nevirapine available outside the existing pilot sites where the drug is being tested, pending the outcome of the Constitutional Court bid.

Tshabalala-Msimang and seven health MECs (of all provinces except the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, where nevirapine programmes have already been expanded past the pilot sites) on Friday applied to Botha to grant a positive certificate to take their appeal against the execution order to the Constitutional Court.

However, Botha issued a negative certificate on Monday. He said the matter of the execution order, unlike the original order, was not a constitutional matter. "I must add I am also not convinced that another court will find that I have exercised my discretion incorrectly. In essence I had to balance the loss of lives against prejudice that could never amount to more than inconvenience."

According to figures before court, the execution order could save at least 10 lives a day.

"In the end the choice was between tolerating the loss of life and tolerating inconvenience, no matter how many lives were at stake," Botha said.

De-registration a crucial issue

In the hearing, Marumo Moerane, SC, for the government, argued that the possible de-registration of nevirapine by the Medicines Control Council (MCC) was a crucial issue in the matter.

In a letter last week, the MCC alerted Tshabalala-Msimang to serious concerns which the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had expressed about a nevirapine test conducted by a US institution in Uganda.

According to the letter, dated Wednesday, questions had been raised about the reporting and documentation of the study on the use of Viramune (of which nevirapine is the active ingredient) for the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV.

The MCC said it would review nevirapine in the light of those developments. Botha said in his judgment: "In my view the fact that there may be a revision of the registration of nevirapine is irrelevant."

Such a possibility had existed throughout the case. "Until that happens, there is no reason to review the order or to discontinue the work at the pilot sites.

"What is conspicuous, is that the respondents have not produced any evidence, after almost a year of dispensing nevirapine to approximately one tenth of the affected population, of any deleterious effects encountered in its programme," Botha said.

'Yes and no'

In the SABC television interview, Tshabalala-Msimang was asked if government would be prepared to follow a court order to roll out its nevirapine programme in light of concerns about the drug.

"My own view is that the judiciary cannot prescribe from the bench and that we have a regulatory authority in this country that is interacting with the regulatory authority FDA of the United States and I think we must allow them to assist us in reaching conclusions."

Asked whether the government would stand by the court's decision, the minister said: "No, I think the courts and the judiciary must also listen to the authorities - regulatory authorities - both from this country and the United States."

Asked if she was saying no, Tshabalala-Msimang said: "Yes and no. I'm saying no."

Reacting to this, Positive Women's Network director Prudence Mabele, who has lived with HIV for 10 years, on Monday said: "I get so frustrated by our own government depriving us the right to live."

Heywood said all major health bodies in the world supported the drug. These included the Centres for Disease Control, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Aids programme and the American National Institute for Health.

"There is no question about its safety and efficacy," Mabele said. "I know many HIV-positive women who have HIV-negative children because of this drug." Heywood said the judge's statements made for a strong case for patients and doctors to sue the government for failure to provide the medication and to prevent enormous suffering.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1161116,00.html, 2002/03/25

 

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Ref:GRO020324

 

Groote Schuur opens its heart to UK patients:Cape Town's medical fraternity is agog with the news that British authorities want to send hundreds of patients to Groote Schuur Hospital for heart operations.

The scheme, which is a move to cut the hefty hospital waiting lists in Britain, could see between 500 and 1 000 British patients sent to Groote Schuur annually for cardiac bypasses alone.

The National Health Service in Britain already sends patients, all expenses paid, to countries in the European Union for operations. If British legislation is passed to allow South Africa to be included, the patients could be sent to South Africa within weeks.

"We're very chuffed," Norman Maharaj, the chief director of Groote Schuur Hospital, said of the scheme. "It shows faith in Groote Schuur's capability and its surgeons. But our first priority would be our own patients.

"We have our own waiting lists. We have the surgeons and the capacity here to perform more operations, but we need more money. For every one person from the United Kingdom who is given an operation, we would be able to afford to operate on two of our own people."

It has been reported on BBC radio that the Labour government has already made about R1,6-billion available to address the UK's waiting lists.

There are hundreds of people waiting to have heart valve replacement operations at Groote Schuur, and a large proportion of these are poor or indigent people. A heart valve alone costs between R20 000 and R30 000.

The operations on patients from the UK would be performed in Groote Schuur's private wards. Groote Schuur would draw up a business plan for the scheme, but fees charged would need to be approved by the Department of Finance and the Treasury, Maharaj said.

Ivan Toms, Cape Town's director of health, said it was "quite scary" that the National Health Service could afford to fly patients to South Africa from Britain for operations while "we can't afford to do them for our own patients".

"But cross-subsidisation could make it possible for us to do more of these operations. We are in a unique situation. We have the experts and the infrastructure, just not the money," said Toms.

A proposal would probably need to be drawn up by British and South African health authorities to determine selection criteria; how patients should be cared for before and after the operations; and how their families could be accommodated in Cape Town, Maharaj said.

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News -http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020324200555684U2532928&set_id=1, 2002/03/25

 

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Ref:NEV020324

 

Nevirapine hitch is academic, not medical: The government is threatening to close down its pilot sites on maternal transmission if the registration of Nevirapine is withdrawn.

The anti-retroviral, which offers the cheapest way to reduce HIV transmission from mother to child, could be deregistered by the Medicines Control Council after an administrative hiccup at a Ugandan research site led to its manufacturer withdrawing an application for its registration in the US.

International medical organisations, including the World Health Organisation, UNAids and US-based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), have leapt to Nevirapine's defence, arguing that the problem is purely administrative and that the drug has proved to be effective and safe.

An NIAID statement read: "The reduction in perinatal transmission by the use of Nevirapine, an accessible, inexpensive regimen, represents a major public health advance in resource-poor settings, and NIAID believes there is no reason for programmes implementing this life-saving regimen to change their practices."

On Sunday, Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu joined the fray over anti-retrovirals, calling on South Africa to use all accumulated knowledge on HIV and Aids to fight the pandemic with "the same commitment... as we had when we were fighting the scourge of apartheid".

A Pretoria High Court judgment which could force the government to make the drug more widely available is expected on Monday.

The government's advocate in the case, Marumo Moerane SC, told the court on Friday that the state would shut down the pilot sites if Nevirapine's registration was withdrawn.

What is the problem?

Boehringer Ingelheim, the company which manufactures Nevirapine, the drug used to save babies from contracting HIV from their mothers, has withdrawn an application to have it registered in the US for use in preventing maternal transmission because of administrative problems with documentation from a Ugandan research site. When it withdrew its application, the company notified South Africa's Medicines Control Council (MCC) of its decision to do so. The MCC, in turn, notified Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. The MCC is also reviewing its decision to register Nevirapine. (The drug is already registered in the US for adult use.)

What caused the problem?

The Ugandan study into Nevirapine was used as a basis for Nevirapine's registration in South Africa. When Boehringer Ingelheim applied for US registration, an audit was conducted into the Ugandan documents - and investigators discovered that it did not meet the requirements of the Federal Drug Administration for approval to be granted. The FDA requires that the entire medical history of each patient be kept. But at the Ugandan hospital where the research site was based, such records are not kept.

What does it mean?

The world's leading medical institutions including the World Health Organisation, say Nevirapine should still be used to prevent maternal transmission of HIV. They point out that Nevirapine's safety and efficacy are not being questioned, and that Boehringer Ingelheim's decision to withdraw its application relates to an administrative matter.

By Lynne Altenroxel and Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020324215055795N161104&set_id=1 , 2002/03/25

 

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Ref:MOB020324

 

Mobile thumbs up: London - Young people growing up using mobile phones to send text messages are developing thumbs that are stronger and more versatile than their other digits, Britain's Observer newspaper reported on Sunday.

Mobiles, gameboys and hand-held computers were leading to the kind of physiological development that normally took generations, Sadie Plant of Warwick University told the newspaper.

"The relationship between technology and the users of technology is mutual: we are changing each other," she said.

"The fact that our thumbs operate differently from our fingers is one of the main things that defines us as humans.

"Discovering that the younger generation has taken to using thumbs in a completely different way and is instinctively using them where the rest of us use our index fingers is particularly interesting," the researcher into cybernetic culture said.

Plant studied technology users in cities across the world, including London, Beijing Chicago and Tokyo, noticing that younger people use both thumbs equally well and that they barely looked at the keys.

"They use the absolute minimal movement," she said. "Thumbs are the new fingers," she added. - Sapa/DPA

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1160836,00.html, 2002/03/25

 

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Ref:NEW020318

 

New clinic will offer 24-hour service to the community: Former President Nelson Mandela opened Qaukeni Community Clinic in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape, over the weekend, the clinic will dispense the drug Nevirapine. The move comes amid sharp debate within the ANC over whether or not the drug should be rolled out beyond official test sites.

In his speech Mandela said, 'Many young people and babies are dying in large numbers every day. The people who are well must give them support and love and we must make sure we give them the proper treatment.' The clinic was born in 2000 when King Sigcau told Mandela that the informal clinic was inadequate for the area's population of over 20 000. Mandela challenged John Kearney, CEO of GlaxoSmithKine to build and equip a new clinic. GlaxoSmithKline donated R2 million toward the Quakeni Clinic. The new 24-hour clinic with modern toilets and running water will service communities from 22 villages, with four professional nurses and a nursing assistant.

Meanwhile on Monday, the Business Day reported that the department of health says there was no way the clinic could make the drug available at present. 'The report in the Sunday Times is saying what we are not going to do. We are not moving an inch on the issue of Nevirapine. We are not going to roll out the provision of these drugs'.

Provincial health department spokesperson, Mahlubandile Mageda, stressed that, 'The national policy says no roll out programme can be made until the results from our pilot sites have been received and processed. That will guide us on whether to expand the programme or not. Until then we are not going to do anything.' Mageda said that not even a recent court ruling ordering the provision of the drug could force the government to change its policy.

(Source: Sunday Times 17 March & Sowetan, Business Day 18 March 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org, 2002/03/19

 

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Ref:UKP020318

 

SA to treat UK patients? London - The British department of health may soon send state patients to South Africa for treatment in an attempt to shorten the long waiting lists in Britain.

A spokesperson on Monday confirmed that the pilot project, launched earlier this year to transfer National Health Services (NHS) patients to Europe, might be extended to South Africa.

The weak rand and excellent quality of medical care in private hospitals, make South Africa an obvious choice. South Africa is already popular among British cancer patients who fly here at their own cost instead of waiting for months for the NHS to administer the critical treatment.

A study done last week showed that at least 10 000 British cancer patients die every year because of the long waiting period and poor quality of treatment. Britons suffering from lung cancer have a 50% lower chance of survival than their counterparts on the European mainland.

In an attempt to ease the load on the system, Britain sends a quota of state patients to Germany and France every year for routine operations at the taxpayers' expense. A research team in York will evaluate this project next week. A decision on possible expansions will be taken then.

A project spokesperson says patients seem to be satisfied to travel in order to receive treatment. Although studies have shown that people prefer to be treated closer to home, South Africa has unique advantages - treatment is at least half the price, the quality is good and it can take place immediately.

Should South Africa be selected, it would be the first time the British NHS sends patients to a destination outside Europe.

The director of a private company in London, who arranges operation packages for patients to the Southern Cape, says he believes patients will jump at the opportunity. According to Rob Gee, director of Garden Route Medicare, who mainly arranges hip, knee and cosmetic operations, dozens of Britons are already treated in South African hospitals every week.

Panorama Medi-Clinic in Cape Town sees an average of five British patients every week and hopes to see at least 300 by the end of the year. The hospital is negotiating a special package for patients and their families with airlines and the hospitality industry.

An NHS nurse recently paid $700 from her own pocket to have a lump removed from her breast in South Africa. The day after her arrival, she was operated on in Cape Town. She would have had to wait more than a month for a specialist appointment in Britain.

According to Gee, more and more Britons are enquiring about treatment in South Africa. "There are people who are not willing to wait any longer. They know they can get good treatment at half the price in South Africa. Many combine it with a holiday - and they still pay less."

Igna Schneider

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1158573,00.html, 2002/03/19

 

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Ref:CAN020318

 

GM food may prevent cancer: London - Eating organic food may help prevent cancer, heart attacks and strokes, a team of scientists in Britain has claimed.

Researchers at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary in Scotland have found organic vegetable soup contains six times as much of a natural acid which helps combat bowel cancer and hardening arteries as non-organic soups.

Biochemist John Paterson said "the higher levels of salicylic acid in organic food means eating organic may be good for you", New Scientist magazine reported.

He added: "I'm not an evangelist for the organic food movement, but there was a fairly substantial difference." Salicylic acid occurs naturally in plants, which could explain why levels are higher in organic vegetables grown without protection from pesticides, the magazine suggested."

Earlier research by the team discovered significantly higher concentrations of the acid in the blood of vegetarian Buddhist monks compared with that of meat-eaters. 
Sapa-DPA

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Heatlh News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1158267,00.html, 2002/03/19

 

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Ref:HAY020318

 

Japan's unique hayfever problem: Tokyo - Japanese monkeys suffer from it. Dogs suffer from it. Now the prime minister seems to have been afflicted too. It's a unique kind of hayfever found only in Japan, caused by "sugi" or Japanese cedar trees, a seemingly incurable annual affliction that causes runny noses, itchy eyes and sneezing that makes spring a blooming misery for some 13 million Japanese - more than 10 percent of the population.

"Hayfever season is really depressing," said Chieko Onuki, a 58-year-old housewife from Tokyo. "The other day when I went to Narita-san (park), I felt really sick and couldn't even stand up. I've lost my sense of taste, my appetite and some weight."

Onuki has invested in a pack of 50 surgical-style white facemasks and silk tissues because her allergy pills, eye drops and nasal sprays were not keeping her symptoms in check.

"I used to love and enjoy this time of year, I used to go to the mountains, and went skiing a lot," said Yoko Adachi, a 45-year-old paper-manufacturing company worker.

"Nowadays, just seeing a sugi tree is enough to fill my eyes with tears."

The problems of Onuki, Adachi and millions of fellow sufferers would not be so acute if it had not been for the government's policy of encouraging the planting of "sugi" and "hinoki" (Japanese cypress) for timber to rebuild the country's housing stock devastated by World War II.

Widely perceived as an overpopulated concrete jungle, roughly 65 percent of Japan's landmass is forested, but only 17 to 18 percent of Japan's naturally occurring forest area is covered by needle-leaved, pollen-spraying trees.

Yet once you add plantation sugi, hinoki and other coniferous species once promoted by the government, the figure surges to 53 percent of the total 23.5 million hectares (58 million acres), according to the Forestry Agency.

But with 81.8 percent of Japan's 2000 timber needs - 99.3 million cubic metres (3.476 billion cubic feet) - supplied from imports, and the cost of felling prohibitively high, it looks like Japan's pollen-producing forests are here to stay.

While the agency has been developing low-pollen sugi strains and promotes the selective harvest of pollen-laden trees, experts say the problem does not appear likely to blow over - in fact, it will probably get worse.

"The number of patients who show spontaneous remission is very, very rare, so the total number is increasing," said Professor Akiyoshi Konno, director of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at Chiba University School of Medicine.

"The number of patients who attend our allergy clinic is increasing every year, while 40 years ago it (hayfever) was very, very rare," Konno said.

In Tokyo alone - which is bordered on the west by mountains planted with sugi - the metropolitan government calculates the number of sufferers rose steadily from some 7.0 percent of those surveyed in 1983 to nearly 20 percent in 1997.

Konno believes, however, that while the increase in pollen spores contributes to the rise in cases, "it's not the only reason".

He said clinical tests have shown that inhaling diesel exhaust particulates increases the production of IgE antibodies, which, when they overcompensate to fight pollen inhalation, produce hayfever symptoms.

He also said the gradual increase of Western foods, high in protein and calories compared to Japanese cuisine, contributed to a sturdier immune response system and possibly an overactive production of antibodies.

Even Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been afflicted. As he was to meet representatives of a group of 48 ruling Liberal Democratic Party members who make up the Hakushon (Atchoo!) Alliance earlier this month, he experienced a sudden runny nose and sneezing.

"Something's strange," Koizumi muttered to reporters. "Lately I've been sneezing and had a runny nose."

Shinya Ono, an LDP co-founder of the group and "veteran sufferer", said the group had boosted the amount of funds earmarked to study the disease to 7.3 billion yen ($57 million) in the 2002 fiscal budget, up from 268 million yen when the group started seven years ago.

"Something has to be done to eliminate this disease," a congested-sounding Ono said. He was forced to miss one day of work this spring because of "really terrible" hayfever, a rarity in workaholic Japan.

According to a 2000 study produced by the government's Science and Technology Agency, cedar allergies alone caused Japanese sufferers to spend 286 billion yen a year in medical expenses, in addition to the billions more hayfever costs the country in terms of lost earnings or productivity.

Ono said he hopes researchers can find a cure not only for pollinosis, but for a rash of illnesses related to it.

"Asthma and atopic dermatitis, these are all related because these symptoms are caused by an overreaction of our immune systems," Ono said. 
- Sapa-AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Heatlh News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/0,1113,2-14_1157891,00.html, 2002/03/19

 

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Ref:SEC020317

 

Hospital to beef up security after execution: Johannesburg Hospital will this week enforce tighter security on its premises, following the execution of a patient in his bed.

On Thursday, a 28-year-old man, who cannot yet be identified, was shot 13 times in the chest and lower body by three gunmen in ward 369.

None of the men, who were seen leaving the hospital in a white Honda and a cream Nissan 4x4, have been apprehended.

The victim was admitted for a gunshot wound to his leg.

By Sunday night no arrests had been made in connection with the shooting, said police spokesperson Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini. He could not provide any further details.

Hospital chief executive officer Sagie Pillay said on Sunday the hospital was investigating ways to beef up its security, especially where gunshot victims were being treated.

"We are looking to increase security in the wards. The thing we are going to do immediately is to install access-control gates in the trauma areas where people with gunshot wounds are admitted."

He also said a chief of security would be appointed from April to review security at the hospital.

"We are treating this as an isolated incident, and already have measures in place where cars and individuals are searched. It is difficult to pick these things up, and this is an issue of concern to us."

Pillay explained that there were 37 access points to the hospital and this made it difficult to control everyone who entered and left.

However, in an attempt to control the number of people entering the hospital, Pillay said, visiting hours would be enforced.

"We are going to stick to visiting hours very strictly. Up to now we have been relaxed about this. If families want to visit patients outside visiting hours, they will have to make special arrangements," he said.

Patients and their families would be notified of the new rule about visiting hours before the end of March.

"It is not designed to frustrate people. It's just that, the fewer people walking around after hours, the easier it will be to control security," Pillay added.

A nurse at the hospital, who did not wish to be named, said she had heard about the incident when she went to work on Friday morning.

She said that although this was the first such incident she had heard of, she wasn't surprised that it could happen.

"You can get inside the basement and get into the wards without anyone checking," she said.

Two patients, who also declined to be named, said they felt afraid after hearing about the shooting at the hospital.

"There is security here, but this is a big hospital and they must put in more security," said one.

By Nalisha Kalideen

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020317213431230N420756&set_id=1, 2002/03/19

 

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Ref:MED020317

 

Value for Money Medicines - Consumers will benefit as a result of Medscheme’s latest initiative to bring more affordable medicines to the members of the schemes they administer.

All stakeholders in the healthcare industry are concerned about the fact that healthcare inflation is increasing at twice the rate of consumer inflation. It is making quality care unaffordable to the average family, and hurting employers who subsidise their employee’s medical aid premiums.

Blaming others does nothing to provide solutions, and it is unsatisfactory just to make medical aid members pay more as the money runs out.

It is a known fact that South Africans spend above 30% of their medical aid money on medicines, while the rest of the world spends around 12% to 15%. The cause of this is:

· Volume - some people may use unnecessary medication

· Price - we do not always use cost-effective (the best value for money) medicines.

The Medicine Control Council approves medicines based on scientific evidence of efficacy and safety. Pharmaceutical companies compete with each other to make many different medicines, often with the same chemical ingredients, which can be used to treat a particular illness.

However, there is no system in South Africa which currently ensures that the most cost-effective medicines are prescribed. Generic medicines comprise over 50% of all prescriptions in the USA, Canada & Europe, but only a quarter in SA.

So how do we get our cost of medicines down to international norms without compromising on quality?

· Reduce Volume - by cutting down on medical aids paying for medicines which are used inappropriately. This is being done throughUtilisation Review programmes, such as Medi-Serve, which authorize extended benefits for patients with ongoing illnesses.

· Reduce Price - by medical aids and consumers paying only the price at which value-for money medicines can be bought. 

How will the value-for-money system work?

1. On 1 April 2002, Medscheme will introduce a Medscheme Price List which will establish a cost-effective benchmark price for medicines offers the best value-for-money in that particular medicine class. This list will be transparently determined by a team of experts with no vested interest or profit motive, and updated regularly. This list will be available from the Medscheme web-site , www.medscheme.co.za , the middle of March 2002.

2. Where doctors prescribe the cost-effective medicines or one even cheaper, Medscheme-administered schemes will pay the full amount, and the cost will be covered in full, in accordance with scheme rules.

3. If the doctor chooses to prescribe a less cost-effective medicine, he should explain this to his patient, who will then pay the difference between the value-for-money price and the higher cost medicine.

4. An Exclusion list will also be published which will contain the names of those medicines that are considered not to add scientific and financial value to patients’ treatment options and that should thus not warrant any reimbursement from the medical aid.

It is important to note that no medical practitioner will be forced to prescribe in a different way. Should he wish to prescribe a medicine which is on the Exclusion list or not on the value-for-money list, he is entirely free to do so, but should just inform his patient of the cost implications. In the same way, Medscheme members will also no longer be forced to pay unnecessarily high prices, when a more cost-effective medicine exists, which does the same job. 

Our parliament has passed the Medicines Act (No. 90) which seeks to end the old system of non-transparent bonuses and kick-backs which everyone knew was wrong. Medical aids administered by Medscheme believe that the value-for-money concept is a concrete step towards implementing the spirit of this legislation. We now call on stakeholders to support this very practical step which is intended to make cost-effective quality medicines affordable for the majority of South Africans. 

· Patients can be assured of getting the most cost-effective medicines available, which will make their benefits stretch further, and help to keep premium increases down. Their support of value-for-money medicines will make the system work.

 · Doctors will be able to make input into updating the value-for-money lists. Where doctors help us reduce costs, the Medscheme Performance Based Reimbursement programme will reward them for cost-effective care.

 · Pharmaceutical Companies will be incentivised to price their medicines to fall within the Value-for-Money list. Their contribution towards making medical aid more affordable will result in greater support for those who market cost-effective medicines.

 · Medical Aids could expect to see medicine costs coming closer to international norms, and will be able to pass this benefit on to both high and low-claiming members through lower than average premium increases.

 · Brokers have been urging medical aids to do something concrete about bringing down medicine costs (and therefore premiums) for their members, while still delivering real benefits. 

At the end of the day, all stakeholders know that this system will benefit the consumer. It will mean a change in the way things might have been done in the past, but we all know that change is needed. It is no longer acceptable to medical aid members for them to bear the brunt of avoidable increases, and we call upon all parties to support this initiative and to provide input into improving things further as the year progresses.

Article Source & Reference: Board of Health Funders Website -Industry Links (Administrators) - Medscheme -  http://www.bhfglobal.com/benchmarket/links/index.html, 2002/03/18

 

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Ref:BRO020317

 

Broken families cause of poor health: Johannesburg - A breakdown in the family structure has been a major cause of health problems such as pregnancies, drug abuse, HIV/Aids and violence among Gauteng youth, a youth health seminar found in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The seminar, sponsored by provincial Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa and attended by youths from 250 organisations, was held to discuss health problems facing the province's youth.

In a statement on Sunday, Ramokgopa's spokesperson Simon Zwane said the gathering followed the MEC's concern that despite the government's attempts to assist them, young people continued to be at a high risk of health problems, including sexual abuse, gender-based violence, accidents, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases such as Aids.

Zwane said that about four million South Africans, half that number adolescents and young adults, contract sexually transmitted diseases each year.

"Information from Gauteng clinics in 2000/01 indicates that men with urethral discharge (or drop) constitute 24.7 percent of people who consult clinics for the first time with a sexually transmitted disease," he said.

Teenage pregnancies also remained unacceptably high, with 35 percent of teenagers having been pregnant or given birth by the age of 19.

"The spread of HIV infection among the country's youth has also been daunting. The October 2000 national antenatal sero-prevalence survey showed that HIV prevalence among women in their twenties had increased significantly between 1991 and 2000."

Young people at the seminar identified dysfunctional families, lack of communication between parents and child, as well as peer pressure as factors fuelling problems such as gender-based violence and drug abuse.

Zwane said the findings would be discussed at a workshop to be held later this year to formulate appropriate youth-friendly policies.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1157967,00.html, 2002/03/18

 

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Ref:DUR020315

 

Durban hospice faces financial crisis: Highway Hospice in Durban has prided itself for years on giving care, medical and mental, to those in need, but now it faces the worst financial crisis in its history.

Patients like Ephraim Magwaza know there is a place where they can get the attention needed in their last moments, but the hospice itself is financially ill. In the last year they have had to cut their budget by 25 percent, the number of beds by half and have lost 25 percent of their workforce.

"Through voluntary retrenchment, redundancies and frozen posts we have lost 25 staff members - from doctors to cleaners," said General Manager Lesley Van Zyl.

The financial crisis was compounded by a "crime-driven year 2000" during which two vehicles were hijacked, three stolen and the linen cupboard burgled.

"We had to get extra security, fences, gates, burglar guards and monitoring systems, which was a cost we had not budgeted for," said Van Zyl.

The hospice's funding comes from donations, trusts and the "man on the street".

"Family used to give R100 in memory of a loved one, now they can barely afford R20. They cannot afford it in today's economic climate, but it has hit us badly," said Van Zyl.

It costs R700 a day to have a patient staying at the Sherwood centre, but R100 for a home-care visit. The hospice has more than 500 home-care patients it needs to look after.

"Patients and families need to know there is help 24 hours a day if they need it. When they cannot cope anymore, we will be there," said Van Zyl.

The remaining staff at the hospice have not had an increase in more than two years, do not get an end-of-year bonus or perks. They work long hours, facing traumatic medical and social situations.

"If a care-worker goes to visit a starving family, she makes sure they have groceries before she leaves, paying out of her own pocket," said Van Zyl.

Fundraiser Karen Fouchee had a close family member who was cared for at the hospice before death.

"The care received made me want to work here," she said.

One of the ways around the budget constraints is to open community-based centres. The first centre was opened in Chesterville, with one in Phoenix opened this week.

"We are about to open one in Inanda and have planned another for Umlazi," said Van Zyl.

The idea is to educate the community in home-based care and fund-raising projects.

"With HIV/Aids on the increase, this is the only way we will be able to cope. Despite our problems, we will not turn anyone away," he said.

To the hospice, care is more than just a medical term, it is an improvement in the quality of life for patients and families - even at personal cost to the staff.

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020315190426158H212383&set_id=1, 2002/03/18

 

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Ref:GEN020314

 

Cape ushers in new era for genetic testing: Are you worried you might develop heart disease, Alzheimer's or arthritis, because this is what happened to members of your extended family?

A cutting-edge laboratory in Cape Town is developing DNA tests for a host of inherited diseases, from breast cancer to heart disease and deafness.

The laboratory, operating under the Genecare Molecular Genetics company, is to be opened in April at the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, but is already doing DNA tests for inherited high cholesterol and haemochromatosis, or iron overload. A host of other tests looks set to follow within the next year.

Now, for the first time in South Africa, the insurance industry is set to spread information about genetic testing. Insurance giants Sanlam, Old Mutual, Liberty Life and Momentum have agreed in principle, after being approached by the founders of the laboratory, to make information about genetic testing to certain applicants for insurance.

Genetic testing is a "very sensitive issue", said Pieter Coetzer, chairperson of the medical and underwriting committee of the Life Offices Association, an umbrella body for insurers.

In Australia and Britain there were public outcries after insurance companies designed special policies for what was perceived as a "superclass" of people who tested negative for certain diseases. People who tested positive paid more for insurance policies.

In South Africa, the association already has an ethical code governing the testing. Companies flouting it would be expelled.

The code forbids companies from asking insurance applicants to have a test, and from creating special policies for people with clean genetic slates.

An applicant can choose whether to have a test, and the company will not be given the results.

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News -  http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020314214851141G520838&set_id=1, 2002/03/18

 

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Ref:NEV020314

 

State yet to heed Nevirapine decision: Nevirapine is still not available at all state hospitals and the government has shown no signs of making the anti-retroviral freely available.

On Monday, the High Court ordered the government to immediately provide the drug at state hospitals where necessary infrastructure for HIV/Aids testing and counselling existed, but on Thursday health spokesperson Sibani Mngadi said the government was still considering whether it would comply with or challenge the ruling.

"No final decision has been taken and the minister (Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang) and the MECs are still in consultation."

He said the government had 15 days to decide whether it would abide by Judge Chris Botha's order. "That is sufficient time to make a decision on whether or not to appeal."

The Treatment Action Campaign's secretary, Mark Heywood, said that the government was in no position to appeal. "It is not an order which can be appealed against. The government doesn't have a choice; it has been ordered by the court to provide Nevirapine."

Should the government pursue the matter in the courts, the TAC would apply to have the appeal dismissed, Heywood added.

The government and the TAC have been waging war in court over the mandatory provision of the anti-retroviral drugs since last year. Round one went to the TAC in December when Judge Botha ruled in its favour.

But the government contested the order, and on Monday it was granted leave to appeal to the constitutional court to have the constitutionality of Judge Botha's ruling tested. The appeal was granted, but in the interim, the judge said, the government should make Nevirapine available "pending the finalisation of the matter".

Mngadi said: "No mention was made about formula feed. It is a critical issue because mixed feeding has been shown to increase the risk of transmitting HIV."

He said the order only said the drug should be made available at hospitals which had infrastructure for counselling and testing.

"We need to look at the package of care which the government will provide, and this is one of the things the minister is consulting the MECs about."

By Peroshni Govender

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020314213402398A32362518&set_id=1, 2002/03/18

 

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Ref:COO020221

 

Cooling prevents brain damage: New York - Cooling the body just a few degrees appears to prevent brain damage in people who survive cardiac arrest but are left unconscious.

If treated quickly enough, cardiac arrest can be reversed and the heart restarted with electric shock. But doctors have not figured out how to stop the brain damage that begins minutes after blood flow stops.

Researchers in Europe and Australia tried lowering body temperatures, using cold air and ice packs on cardiac arrest victims who were comatose when they reached the hospital.

The patients who were chilled had a better recovery, according to their research, reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. The European study also found mild hypothermia increased the patient's chances of survival.

"Now we have at least a tiny little tool ... which might help," said Dr Fritz Sterz, who led the European study, conducted in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany and Italy. "This gives a new hope and a new attitude toward these patients."

The treatment is now used at Vienna General Hospital, where he works, and was used as recently as Tuesday in the case of a 48-year-old man.

Dr Peter J. Safar of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre said there is enough evidence to make the treatment routine in the United States.

"It's pretty clear-cut now. This should immediately go into guidelines for regular use," said Safar, whose lab did some of the animal tests that renewed interest in the approach.

Cooling for cardiac arrest - but at much lower temperatures - was tried in the 1950s but abandoned because of serious side effects.

Safar said cooling works by reducing the brain's need for oxygen while suppressing the chemical processes that kill brain cells.

The technique is also being tested for stroke and brain injuries, and Safar said other uses warrant study, such as spinal cord injury.

In the European study of 275 patients, half were chilled with circulating cold air and ice packs from a normal 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to between 32 C (89.6 F) and 34 C (93.2 F) for 24 hours.

Fifty-five percent of the cooled group had a favourable outcome compared with 39 percent of the group that did not get the treatment. The death rate at six months was 41 percent in the cooled group and 55 percent in the group that was not cooled.

The researchers in Melbourne, Australia, used ice packs, and cooling was started by paramedics. Forty-three of 77 patients were chilled to 33 C (91.4 F) for 12 hours. Forty-nine percent of the treated group recovered well enough to go home or to a rehabilitation centre, compared with 26 percent of the patients who were not chilled.

Dandenong Hospital's Dr Stephen A. Bernard and his colleagues calculated that patients were five times more likely to recover with mild hypothermia than without.

"What we were eager to demonstrate was that we could get people home again, rather than just simple improvement in survival," he said.

Researchers in both studies said quicker, more efficient ways to cool patients are needed. Several devices are being developed, and Bernard said he is testing ice-cold liquids given intravenously.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1147400,00.html, 2002/02/22

 

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Ref:GAU020221

 

Gauteng 'jumped the mark': Johannesburg - The Gauteng provincial government had "jumped the mark" in announcing a full nevirapine roll-out programme when studies on the efficacy of the drug were not complete, the ANC said on Wednesday.

ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said the ANC believed a decision regarding nevirapine could only be made once Aids studies in all provinces were complete.

Studies were being conducted at 18 experimental sites.

The Health Minmec (a meeting between ministers and MECs) had not met to discuss the studies' findings because a report had not been finalised.

"The ANC respects the Health Minmec resolutions that all provincial MECs for health in ANC-led provinces, based on the preliminary report, go back to their provinces to study and further consult on the report with a view of formulating an appropriate response," he said.

He said an appropriate response had not been made at the last Minmec on January 31.

"Thus, any approach that deviates from this position defeats the objectives set out in Minmec in order to come out with a well-thought out, comprehensive national position on this issue," he said.

"In the ANC's view, the Gauteng Province jumped the mark in announcing a full roll-out programme whilst these processes had not completed their full course."

Ngonyama said the ANC was, however, encouraged "by the initiative taken by the minister and the Gauteng provincial government for a meeting to correct any deviation from national policy".

"The ANC further calls on all its structures both inside and outside government to respect this strategic approach. It is crucial at this point to have a nationally agreed strategy around the MTCT programme, so as to avoid any unintended consequences."

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,659_1147507,00.html, 2002/02/22

 

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Ref:COF020221

 

Coffee drinkers beware: New York - Preliminary findings from a small study suggest that drinking moderate amounts of coffee may put healthy individuals at risk for decreased insulin sensitivity, or an inability to process blood sugar efficiently. Decreased insulin sensitivity is a precursor to diabetes. "Our finding may have serious health implications, especially when superimposed on already-disturbed glucose tolerance or established (type 2) diabetes," write lead study author Dr Gerben B. Keijzers and colleagues from University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

But because more study is needed, "it is currently premature to advise against caffeine use," the researchers add.

Keijzers and colleagues studied 12 healthy individuals who, after abstaining from caffeine for 72 hours, were intravenously given moderate doses of either caffeine or an inactive substance.

Caffeine reduced insulin sensitivity by 15% among the study group, the researchers report in the February issue of Diabetes Care. The decrease in insulin sensitivity was comparable to the increase in sensitivity produced by taking diabetes drugs.

The caffeine group also had higher blood levels of free fatty acids than their peers in the comparison group, the report indicates.

Caffeine's ability to decrease insulin sensitivity could occur because the drug boosts levels of free fatty acids, as well as the hormone epinephrine, the authors suggest. The caffeine group exhibited a five-fold increase in blood levels of the hormone, the report indicates.

In an accompanying editorial, Drs Italo Biaggioni and Stephen N. Davis of Vanderbilt University in Nashville write that Keijzers' study "adds another item to the list of potential deleterious effects of caffeine."

But coffee drinkers should not panic, Biaggioni said.

"The study was performed under artificial experimental conditions in normal people," he said. "The conclusions, therefore, are not immediately applicable to the rest of us, to obese people or to patients with diabetes."

"Coffee is, in general, a safe substance," Biaggioni said. "However, every substance, even aspirin, may be dangerous to some people, or if we take too much of it."

"Talk to your doctor if you think you are drinking too much coffee or if your diabetes is not well controlled," he advised.

Charnicia E. Huggins 

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1147701,00.html, 2002/02/22

 

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Ref:PRI020221

 

Primate killings a threat to research: Washington - The killing of gorillas, chimpanzees and other primates for food is threatening Aids research and may cause diseases to spread, US scientists said on Tuesday.

"There is no doubt humans are exposed" to different infections through the spilled blood of chimpanzees and other animals killed in west and central Africa, said Dr Beatrice H. Hahn of the University of Alabama at Birmingham at a congressional briefing.

Hahn said illegal commercial trading of "bushmeat" - sold around the world although the biggest market is in the urban areas of Cameroon, Congo and elsewhere in central Africa - could have a severe effect on human health if it isn't stopped.

A smaller chimp population also hurts scientists' efforts to find cures for hepatitis, Ebola virus and other deadly diseases.

"Chimps are the most important medical research animals ... not just for HIV/Aids," said Dr Eric Chivian, director of the Centre for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University. "This seems to me the best example of destroying other species is ultimately destroying ourselves."

International treaties and national laws already make hunting endangered species illegal, which is supposed to protect chimpanzees, gorillas and other great apes.

The total value of the bushmeat trade has been estimated at $50 million annually.

Logging in previously inaccessible parts of the jungle also is opening up chimp habitats to more hunters.

So the scientists are working, along with foreign governments, to teach people that killing the chimps is extremely dangerous for public health.

"It is a bloody enterprise," Hahn said.

"We are in danger of losing our closest living relatives in the wild," added primatologist Jane Goodall. The bushmeat trade "is not sustainable for the indigenous populations or the forest," she said.

Many scientists believe HIV originates from a similar virus found in wild chimpanzees that probably jumped to humans through exposure to primate blood, such as during hunting and food preparation. - Sapa-AP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1146850,00.html, 2002/02/22

 

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Ref:FEM020218

 

Female condom: now that's empowerment: It may not be the prettiest-looking thing around, but it is giving South African women real power.

The female condom is giving women a new lease on their sex lives, say health experts, and while it is still quite new in the country, it is starting to take off.

However, the appearance of the female condom is still keeping some at bay.

"It looks like a soft cling-wrap cylinder with a hard plastic ring on one end - it really isn't very pretty, but it provides me with total control in the bedroom," said one user.

Rowena Ngubeni and Mmabatho Mqhayi, from the Reproductive Health Research Unit (RHRU), say women like the feel of the female condom and are empowered by it.

All the women who reported back to the unit were impressed by the condom, although they agreed that it was not aesthetically pleasing and some had problems with insertion.

Some of the comments received included: "The female condom is a solution to male condom refusal", "It is easy to use and is comfortable", "It increases our options" and "I insert it myself, so I feel confident that I am protected".

After conducting in-depth interviews in 2000, the RHRU found that men, too, generally felt comfortable with the female condom.

The female condom was first launched on the market at the end of 1989, but was not very well received by the public because the price was way too high and people didn't know much about it.

Then last year the Society For Family Health received enough money in donations to advertise. Soon all of its female condom stocks were sold out.

Elna Macintosh, clinical sexologist from Disa Health Care, has had many requests for the female condom, especially from upmarket sex workers.

"While the male condom only protects you from body fluids, the female condom protects you from all sexually transmitted diseases because it entirely lines the vagina.

"This also takes the responsibility away from men, who have never enjoyed owning that responsibility, and it allows women to take control of the situation, knowing that they are safe.

"The female condom is the only contraceptive for women that also provides protection against HIV," she added.

Dave Nowitz from the Society For Family Health says that the average women buying the female condom is "a breadwinner, emerging-middle-class woman who is in a position to negotiate condom use and is between the ages of 24 and 36".

More men are coming in to buy the female condom, he added.

Also known as the femidom, the female condom is made out of polyurethane, which is much stronger than the latex used for the male condom. It can be inserted up to eight hours before sexual intercourse, and any type of lubricant can be used.

The heat transferral using polyurethane is 98 percent, whereas in latex it is only 50 percent, so it creates more stimulation for both parties involved.

The female condom helps to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It does not contain spermicide, and should not be used at the same time as the male latex condom.

It is freely available at several clinics, including the Meadowlands Hostel Clinic in Soweto.

By Deborah Stewart

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020218214400696F542827&set_id=1, 2002/02/22

 

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  ARCHIVED ARTICLES
Ref:NEV020311

 

Nevirapine ruling out today: The Pretoria High Court is expected to give judgement this week in the State's application for leave to appeal against an earlier order that it provide the anti-retroviral drug, Nevirapine to all HIV positive pregnant women.

Justice Chris Botha will also deliver judgement in an application by the lobby group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) that the state should immediately execute the order. Judge Botha ruled in December last year that the government should give Nevirapine to all HIV positive pregnant women who had been tested and counselled.

Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said, 'We felt we could not allow the court judgement to remain unchallenged, but on the other hand, we are determined that an appeal against the judgement must not stand in the way of developing a dynamic and well-articulated prevention programme'.

The December order could not be put into effect pending the government's intended appeal to the Constitutional Court. The state's appeal was not expected to be concluded before the end of May. On March 1, the court heard that ten babies a day would die pending the finalisation of the appeal.

Mr Zackie Achmat said, 'The TAC is confident that its position will stand the test of the Constitutional Court. We will continue to fight for the rights of women, children, and people with HIV/AIDS.'

In terms of national government policy, Nevirapine could be distributed to HIV positive pregnant women only at 18 pilot sites around the country.

(Source: Citizen, Sowetan, Cape Times 11 March 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org/, 2002/03/11

 

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Ref:HUN020311

 

Discovered: Hunger hormone: London - British researchers said on Monday they had isolated a "hunger hormone" that dramatically boosts human food consumption, raising the prospects of new treatments for both the obese and the malnourished.

"There is currently little effective medical treatment for obesity and we are very excited to have taken this step toward a future therapy," said Dr Alison Wren, Research Fellow at Imperial College, London.

Many appetite-controlling mechanisms are in the brain. But Wren said ghrelin, named after the Hindi word for growth, was the first such hormone circulating in the blood to have been isolated.

"I am sure there will be pharmaceutical companies looking at this research. We hope that by targeting ghrelin with specific drugs, it may be possible to therapeutically control hunger."

Fellow researcher, Professor Steve Bloom, Head of the Department of Metabolic Medicine at Hammersmith Hospital, London, said: "The advantages of this kind of therapy may extend beyond the treatment of obese patients and include conditions that induce a dangerous loss of appetite, such as cancer.

"In cases such as this, ghrelin supplements could potentially help to normalise eating patterns."

Scientists have known for some time that the hormone stimulates hunger in rats. Now they have shown that it can also make people so ravenous they eat nearly a third more food than usual.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, follow a study in which five men and four women volunteers were given a dose of ghrelin or a placebo and told to eat as much as they wanted.

One week later, the experiment was repeated, except that those who had been on placebo now received the hormone, and vice versa.

The results revealed that those volunteers who received the hormone consumed an average of 28 per cent more calories than those who received the placebo.

"We were trying to mimic levels of ghrelin after an overnight fast and may have overdone it a bit," Wren told Reuters. But she said other studies also showed significant differences in food consumption at smaller doses.

Other scientists, however, are cautious about the prospects of an eventual therapy. They point out that previous enthusiasm about leptin, which was dubbed the "obesity hormone," turned out to be misplaced and did not lead to a cure for obesity.
Richard Woodman

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News -  http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1155344,00.html, 2002/03/11

 

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Ref:NUR020308

 

Negligent nurse accepts six-month suspension: Bushbuckridge nurse Stella Kubayi has accepted the findings of the Nursing Council of South Africa which ruled that she should be struck off the roll of nurses for six months.

In terms of her sentence she will only re-enter the profession once she has taken a set of refresher courses. Kubayi was found guilty of negligence by a NCSA tribunal in Pretoria this week.

Although reluctant to discuss the matter she said for now she had accepted the judgment and would comply with the recommendations as stated by the tribunal.

In May last year Kubayi sat in front of the ambulance with the driver leaving 28-year-old Refiloe Masia alone in the back while she was in labour.

Masia of Green Valley village, Bushbuckridge, was on her way to Tintswalo Hospital. She fell out of the ambulance and both she and her unborn baby died.

The provincial health department initially fired Kubayi, but she was reinstated after her union intervened.

Bridgette Masia, Refiloe's sister, said at least something had been done although it would not bring her sister back.

Masia, who now supports her deceased sister's other children, said she hoped government would compensate the children so they could live a better life.

The department welcomed the ruling saying it vindicated their initial decision to dismiss her.

Charlie Nkadimeng, speaking for Limpopo Health MEC Sello Moloto, said the suspension sent a strong message to the public that government demanded that employees adhere to professional standards when on duty.

By Elijah Mhlanga

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020308193238344N6252207&set_id=1, 2002/03/11

 

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Ref:TRA020307

 

'Travel sickness' hits spouses: Paris - The spouses of executives who make frequent business trips abroad face a much-higher risk of falling sick with mental or emotional problems than the partners of executives who do not travel, according to a new study.

The evidence comes from medical insurance claims filed by spouses of World Bank employees in Washington DC in a 12-month period between 1997 and 1998.

During this time, more than 4 600 spouses made a claim, two-thirds of them women and one third of them men.

Among business travellers who made four or more international trips in one year, spouses filed 16 percent more claims for health treatment than spouses whose partners did not travel.

More specifically, claims for psychological disorders were nearly twice as many among the frequent travel group, while for stress-related disorders, the rate was triple.

Intestinal problems and skin disease were also far more common.

Boundaries tend to merge

The researchers, led by Lennart Dimberg of the World Bank's occupational health services, say the corporate world still has to realise that spouses can suffer from ill health if their partner is often absent from home.

"The boundary between the workplace and the home is permeable," warns the study.

Brief, frequent separations are probably more destructive than occasional, longer ones, they suggest.

This is because frequent absences are more disruptive to family life and the returning traveller finds it harder to resume a normal routine, they suggest.

Corporations should closely look at the travel workload of their employees because anxiety about problems at home can be a major drag on a worker's effectiveness, they add.

"Promoting the wellbeing of spouses and family may be particularly important for companies that employ international business travellers, because of the potential impact on functioning at work among stressed employees."

Several known health hazards

The research is published in the March issue of the British Medical Association's specialist journal, Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Frequent long-haul trips are a known health hazard to business people, being associated with high blood pressure, ulcers and other intestinal problems, depression and emotional distress.

Few studies have been carried out to assess the impact of these trips on the spouses who stay at home. They have generally focused on the emotional problems encountered by the spouses of submariners, airline pilots and oil workers.

Two-thirds of the World Bank's 8 500 staff travel for business at least once a year. A third do so at least four times a year, said Dimberg's study.

Employees with female spouses travelled more often than employees with male spouses. The study did not say how many spouses accompanied their partners on business trips. - Sapa-AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Heath News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1153639,00.html, 2002/03/11

 

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Ref:MIM020306

 

Minister of Health's statement to parliament on the health systems trust reports on the National PMTCT research sites: Wednesday, 6 March 2002 

Introduction and background
Before commenting on the interim report of the Health Systems Trust, I would like to take a minute to explain how this report of the HST came about.

Towards the end of 2000, when I and my colleagues in the provinces decided to establish the operational research sites on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, we also decided to commission an independent organisation to record and analyse progress at these sites.

Hence the Health Systems Trust was asked to undertake this task.

Even though the provincial and national departments of health would be collecting information from the sites and would be evaluating progress, we felt that we needed to have a more objective appraisal of the programme.

The interim report of the HST on MTCT, therefore, comes as no surprise, as it poses the operational questions that we all agreed were important and seeks to provide some answers on the basis of the first six months of experience at the sites.

I am pleased that we have this report to assist us in future decisions and policy formulation on this programme.

Scope of an interim report
But I think I should highlight -- as the HST itself does -- what this interim report does and what it cannot do.

The presence of the word "interim" in the title of the report is a clue to its limitations and it also indicates that there will be further reports at a later stage.

The report does not deal with the impact of the use of Nevirapine in reducing HIV rates among the babies born at the research sites. This is because the programme is simply too new to yield this information.

Every baby given Nevirapine will be tested at one year to determine his or her HIV-status and, because the first sites only began in May, we will only begin to see the outcome in terms of HIV-prevention in the second half of 2002. Hence it is only then that the issues of universal access will be considered.

The report does, however, examine the operation of the existing sites in some detail.

  • It looks at the number of women seen
  • The uptake rates for HIV-testing
  • The conditions in which HIV testing and counselling are offered
  • The reliability of Nevirapine administration
  • The use of obstetric protocols for women with HIV
  • Questions relating to the feeding of the baby
  • Follow-up of mother and baby pairs after delivery.

And, in the light of what is actually happening at the research sites, it discusses and makes recommendations

  • Firstly, to improve the running of the existing sites
  • Secondly, to inform decisions on the possible extension of the mother-to-child programme in a manner that is effective and sustainable.

Let me highlight some of the findings of the report

Coverage
Within the 18 national research sites, the MTCT programme is being provided in over 200 health facilities. This is equivalent to approximately 6,090 antenatal bookings per month.

This means that we are already covering between 10 to 15 percent of all antenatal bookings in the country in less than one year. This translates to approximately 3,133 pregnant women per month that we are reaching through this programme.

This is the largest MTCT programme in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is a fact that in the whole world, there is not a single country which provides universal access to MTCT.

All countries are doing research of one kind or another.

Health Systems and Infrastructure
The report comments on 4 main issues, namely staffing, management infrastructure, physical infrastructure and service integration.

Staffing
The reports says: "Human resources are the bed-rock of a well-functioning health system and PMTCT programme".

Their recommendations are:

  1. We should develop minimum staffing norms and standards;
  2. We should recruit, train and deploy lay counsellors to support the service;
  3. We should improve supervision and support at the facility level; and
  4. We should address the deficiencies in the training of health professionals such as doctors and nurses on how to deal with AIDS patients.

Management Infrastructure
The report says: "A functional health system with effective sub-district health management teams capable of integrating community-based, clinic-based and hospital-based services is critical".

This means that an MTCT programme cannot be implemented as a vertical programme. It must be integrated with all levels of care, through the District Health System.

We are working hard with the Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs on the implementation of the District Health System to ensure that all our health services reach everyone in every district council, local municipality, municipal ward and village.

Physical Infrastructure
The report says: "inadequate physical space and privacy has hampered the ability to provide adequate counselling and HIV testing services, as well as intra-partum (childbirth) care in many facilities".

It says that this is a major barrier to coverage.

Therefore, we need to expedite the upgrading of the physical infrastructure of the primary health care facilities and district hospitals across the country.

Service Integration
The report says: "Counselling has been too strongly associated with consent for an HIV test and it needs to be incorporated in a broader set of activities that include empowering women with knowledge and information about their childbirth, HIV, MTCT and infant feeding'.

It says we must consider couple HIV testing and counselling.

It says we must explore the use of rapid saliva HIV testing as an alternative to rapid blood testing. Of course we will explore these proposals but we will not compromise the standards and quality of HIV diagnostic testing.

The report says we must address the lack of clarity about clinical and obstetric management of HIV positive women in labour.

It also encourages the use of patient held records instead of keeping patient files in health facilities. This, it argues, should be done to protect patient confidentiality.

As you can see, Honourable Members, some of these recommendations need serious planning and cannot be done overnight.

The researchers say that: "Plans for expansion must therefore address the systemic and infrastructural constraints in order to avoid a multiplication of poor and/or non-sustained service delivery, as well as to reduce health care inequity".

And that's exactly what we are striving for, to improve our health care delivery system and to ensure that every citizen has equitable access to quality health care.

The HST report cautions that: "The impression created that implementing the PMTCT programme is as easy as dispensing aspirin, fails to convey the many genuine complexities that are outlined in this report".

It argues that we should use the lessons learnt in implementing an MTCT programme as an engine and a catalyst for the improvement of the health care system and primary health care services in general".

The HST specialises in public health and is not qualified to do clinical research.

The investigation of questions relating to resistance to Nevirapine within the PMTCT programme is being carried out as a separate research programme with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases providing the necessary expertise.

(The National Institute for Communicable Diseases - NICD is the new name for the National Institute for Virology).

As the HST report points out, research in other countries establishes that resistance does occur and that maybe the levels are higher than initially thought to be.

We hope to provide more conclusive answers by taking a relatively large experimental sample of 300 women.

This research is being co-funded by Boehringer-Ingelheim, which manufactures Nevirapine and which is required by the Medicines Control Council to supply information on resistance as a condition of registration of the drug for PMTCT.

This clinical research is being done amongst 300 women at a cost of approximately R4m in order to monitor closely issues of resistance and adverse drug reactions due to Nevirapine.

This research has not been done before.

I must remember this House that there is still no cure for AIDS, and in the absence of a cure, our focus remains on prevention strategies, health promotion and education, the vigorous treatment of opportunistic infections, and the care and support of those who are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.

We must not forget that the drug Nevirapine is not a cure for AIDS and it should also not be used as a contraceptive. Our responsibility is to encourage every South African to take appropriate actions to prevent the transmission of HIV.

We continue to remind each and every South African to Abstain from sex, and for young people to delay their sexual debut for as long as possible. Everyone must be faithful to one partner. And those who cannot do any of the above, to use a condom.

Quality of the report
If I could, I would make the HST report compulsory reading for every Member of this House.

This is largely because the document recognises the complexity of the programme and examines this in a helpful way.

When the health authorities argue that the PMTCT programme is much more than providing women with a pill and babies with a few drops of Nevirapine, they are, in the current unfortunate environment, seen as making excuses to delay the expansion of the programme.

When the HST makes a similar assertion, and substantiates it by describing the issues involved, we hope it facilitates fruitful discussion, which focuses on solutions.

The HST report also reflects on some of the scientific questions in a manner that makes these understandable even to those of us who are not conversant with this field of work.

This in turn helps us all to engage in the related policy debates.

Of particular interest is the HST's assertion that the key policy issue that confronts government is not the provision of anti-retrovirals, but the question of infant feeding.

It points out that mixed breast- and formula-feeding by HIV-positive mothers will result in some babies being infected after birth, even if they receive Nevirapine at birth.

But the HST points out that interfering with established infant feeding practices, and particularly introducing breast milk substitutes, may pose a more deadly risk to many infants.

These children may be prone to malnutrition and some may die from diarrhoeal diseases.

The issues of affordability and the cost implications of rolling out formula feeding throughout the whole country also need prompt consideration.

And it broadens the debate from an HIV issue to a general public health issue. The challenge is not only to reduce HIV rates among the babies, but ultimately to reduce the overall infant mortality and morbidity rates.

We must find ways to avoid substituting one set of health risks - diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition and infections -- for the another, namely HIV/AIDS

As the HST points out, there is no simple formula for this - but close monitoring of the situation through our sites will at least provide reliable information on which we can work.

Response to recommendations
The HST makes a whole series of recommendations for consideration by provincial and national government.

It is regrettable -- but perhaps understandable in the current context -- that only two have been highlighted: That is the recommendations on:

  • Expanding the present research sites in a gradual and phased manner, proceeding at different speeds in different provinces.
  • Finding an immediate mechanism to provide Nevirapine, with essential support services, to women already known to be HIV-positive who do not attend the research sites.

I know that some members of this House are looking for a simple "yes or no" answer from me. And they will, for the present, be disappointed.

I have tried at all times to indicate that decisions on the mother-to-child transmission programme are coordinated through MINMEC, and that holds true for government's response to the HST recommendations that touch on fundamental policy direction.

We will continue to present progress reports on our 5 Year Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS and STDs, including the progress we are making on the National MTCT Research Sites.

What I can say, is that I feel assured that we are making good progress, and we have a very solid piece of research in front of us.

Its recommendations are well-rooted both in the reality that the researchers have witnessed at the South African sites and informed by international experience.

I can assure you that aspects of the report that relate to policy development will be considered with the seriousness they demand.

There are many recommendations, however, that relate to implementation rather than top-level decision-taking.

I know that, even as the public debates continue, various provinces have been acting on these findings and striving to strengthen the PMTCT programme in places where it is not meeting targets in terms of the quality of care, based on national norms and standards.

Particular attention is being given to management and co-ordination issues.

But above all, we must provide avenues for the women themselves to speak up on how they perceive the progress we are making in the implementation of this MTCT programme and tell us how it should be shaped to adequately meet their needs.

Conclusion
In conclusion, I would appeal to Members of this House and the public at large to read the full HST report and not to rely on journalist's reports that lift out only the newsworthy elements.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the debate on mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been a tendency to depict research as a stumbling block or an enemy of extended access to care.

The HST report shows just how systematic information gathering can become the key to an effective programme.

We do not want a PMTCT programme that does not deliver the goods - we want one that works.

And different strands of research - each with different time-scales - will continue to underpin our work enable us to review our policy from time to time.

Finally, Madame Speaker, let me remind some of the members of this House that I am indeed trained as a medical doctor and as an obstetrician gynaecologist. I have also specialized in public health.

As such, I do not take these issues of public health policy lightly. I have to think about them carefully in order to advise my colleagues in Cabinet, including the President.

Therefore, Madame Speaker, we will examine this report carefully and take whatever steps are appropriate to increase the coverage of HIV positive women giving birth to health and HIV positive children.

We will develop national norms and standards to ensure that wherever this programme is provided, there is adequate health infrastructure, the service is staffed adequately, and that there are sufficient and sustainable resources.

We are also committed to see to it that for the women of this country, pregnancy and childbirth are not seen as an illness but are part of their normal lives, and for those women who are HIV positive, the ANC-led government will see to it that they have an opportunity to lead productive and loving lives in the company of their children, partners and families.

Article Source & Reference: Department of Health - News http://www.doh.gov.za/docs/sp/sp0306-f.html, 2002/03/11

 

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Ref:TOMO020306 Tomatoes 'can lay prostate low': Washington - A diet rich in tomato sauce, ketchup and other tomato-based products containing a powerful antioxidant can lower the risk of prostate cancer, a new study says.

Researchers analysed the food choices and prostate cancer histories of more than 47 000 men and found that those who ate at least two meals a week containing tomato products lowered their risk of prostate cancer by 24 percent to 36 percent.

Dr Edward Giovannucci of Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health, the first author of the study, said it supported earlier research involving foods, particularly tomato products, that were high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.

"These most-recent findings add support to the notion that a diet rich in tomatoes and lycopene-containing foods, as well as other fruits and vegetables, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer," said Giovannucci.

Study involved 47 000 men

A report on the study appeared on Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Giovannucci said that lycopene was thought to protect against cancer by absorbing oxygen-free radicals, which were chemicals created during metabolism that could damage the genetic structure of cells.

The finding is based on data from the Health Professional Follow-Up Study, a project that followed the health history and dietary habits of 47 000 men, aged 40 to 75, from 1986 to 1998. During that period, 2 481 of the men developed prostate cancer.

Dietary questionnaires in the study included such food items as tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, pizza, watermelon and pink grapefruit, along with salsa, ketchup and other tomato-based condiments.

When the data was adjusted for the effects of other life-style factors, the researchers found that tomatoes, particularly those that had been cooked, were beneficial against prostate cancer.

Avoid an excess of fats

"Spaghetti sauce was the most popular" and also seemed to give the most protection, said Giovannucci. He said that cooking raw tomatoes, as was done to make spaghetti sauce, might break down cell walls of the fruit and allow the body to absorb more of the lycopene.

Giovannucci emphasised that tomato-based products should be only a small part of a well-rounded diet that included other fruits and vegetables and avoided an excess of fats.

Jo Ann Carson, a clinical nutritionist at the University of Texas, Southwest Medical Centre in Dallas, said the study "is an example that what we eat can affect our risk of cancer".

The study also supported the idea that foods rich in antioxidants, rather than vitamin pills, provided the most cancer protection, she said.

"Eating the whole foods seems to give a beneficial combination that would be lacking in supplements," she said. - Sapa-AP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1153195,00.html, 2002/03/11

 

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Ref:MED020305 Medscheme in bid to reduce medical expenses: South Africa's largest medical aid administrator is cutting back on the amount it is willing to pay for medicine. At a time when medical inflation is increasing at twice the rate of consumer inflation and when a number of medical aids are facing a financial crisis, Medscheme is trying to cut back on the biggest medical expense of all – pharmaceutical products.

Medscheme said that from next month it would only pay the full price for what is described as the most cost effective medicines. These drugs will be those on a special list compiled by a board set up by Medscheme to decide when generic medicines can be substituted for the original product. The difference in price can be staggering. An anti-depressant, for example, could set you back R440 but will only cost R104 for the generic version.

The scheme confirmed that in spite of the projected savings, members' medical aid premiums would remain the same. Last year almost one third of the money Medscheme paid out was spent on medicine.

'Generic medicines comprise over 50% of all prescription in the US, Canada and Europe, but less than 25% in South Africa', Medscheme CEO, Anton Roux said .

From April 1, Medscheme members will be forced to use the medicines listed by the administrator if they want to avoid paying the difference between those deemed to be the most cost effective and the brand they prefer.

(Sources: Pretoria News and Star 05 March 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - Health News -  http://www.samedical.org/, 2002/03/11

 

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Ref:MED020204

 

Public medical aid schemes face insolvency: South Africa is on the brink of a serious health crisis as a growing number of public medical aid schemes, representing 4.6 million lives, struggle to avoid insolvency. This month, Sanlam bailed out of its healthcare interest by selling its administration company Sanlam Health to Medscheme because it was deemed to be unprofitable. Observers say that this is a strong indication of an industry in crisis.

Latest figures show that in many cases the reserves of medical aid schemes are far below the government's present stated minimum of 13.5%. Some have as little as 4% or two weeks' cover in their reserves. Among the reasons given for healthcare meltdown are:
· Widespread fraud, particularly by practitioners
· Growing competition among a new breed of profit driven health care brokers playing one scheme off against another
· The plunging rand that has doubled, in some cases tripled, the cost of hi-tech equipment and pharmaceuticals
· The increasing number of young HIV/AIDS patients needing expensive anti-retroviral treatment and who in normal circumstance would be subsidising older members
· The escalating fees charged by professional healthcare administrators

Now the government plans to introduce a social insurance policy next year, which requires that all employees have health insurance, could push the medical aid administration over the edge.
Leaders in the industry believe that unless a comprehensive subsidised national health scheme is put in place to cater for the expected tide of low income earners the situation with 46 open schemes could become disastrous.

(Source: Sunday Independent 03 February 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org/, 2002/02/05

 

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Ref:DEF020204

 

Defective joints compensation: Zurich - Swiss medical technology group Sulzer Medica has reached a settlement to compensate patients who received defective artificial joints, the company said on Saturday.

Sulzer, which had earlier proposed a class settlement of $783 million, signed an "extended and improved" offer to victims, spokesperson Andy Bantel said.

The in-principle agreement was signed in Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday, he said, without giving details about the offer which he said had still to be finalised.

The announcement followed the expiry of an injunction imposed by a US court last year on individual lawsuits against Sulzer.

About 3 300 patients have had to undergo a second operation because of faulty implants made by Sulzer.

The victims have until May 2 to decide if they will agree to the settlement and a final hearing has been set for May 14.

A number of patients had previously opposed the class action and started individual proceedings against Sulzer Medica in the hope of gaining higher damages. - Sapa/AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News -  http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1139314,00.html, 2002/02/05

 

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Ref:JUD020204

 

Judasa launches Armband campaign: Durban - A "Black Armband Campaign" to draw attention to Aids, was launched by the Junior Doctors Association (Judasa) in Durban on Saturday.

The Judasa's chairperson Dr Karl le Roux said the band which was endorsed by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) signified the mourning of patients lost to Aids, and showed solidarity to those who were HIV positive.

"The band also signifies that there is an urgent need to fight Aids," he said.

Le Roux said part of the programme was to get doctors to gather information to expose to the government.

"We as doctors must keep information to show the government what we are facing on the ground. It will help in the fight against Aids. Many doctors are afraid that this would look like a resistance to government but it's in support of those who are HIV positive," he said.

Several KwaZulu-Natal doctors have begun wearing the black band with a red ribbon in support against the struggle of the epidemic.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1139403,00.html, 2002/02/05

 

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Ref:TAC020203

 

TAC holds onto anti-Aids drugs: The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has moved swiftly to quell rumours that the Medical Control Council (MCC) confiscated anti-retroviral drugs from a Khayelitsha Aids treatment clinic.

TAC spokesperson Nathan Geffen said the clinic, run by Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), had been visited by an MCC inspector last week, but nothing had been taken.

The inspector visited the office on Thursday and a meeting took place which lasted for a few hours. There had been no further developments.

A coalition of South African Aids activist groups announced on January 30 that they had imported the medicines from Brazil in violation of drug-company patent rights, but with the full blessing of the MCC.

Citing preliminary results from a pilot project in Khayelitsha, the activists said the drugs had reduced the presence of the virus in patients' blood to undetectable levels after less than a year of treatment.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang met health MECs in Pretoria last week to discuss the government's nevirapine programme, designed to curb mother-to-child transmission. It was decided that the MECs should study reports from the country's test sites and "consult with the aim of formulating a response that is appropriate".

Observers said "appropriate responses" could take months to formulate.

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020203205513907A2452871&set_id=1, 2002/02/05

 

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Ref:NEV0202010

 

Jury still out on Nevirapine: The lives of thousands of babies have been put in jeopardy once again as the government stalls on a national plan to halt the tragic tide of mother-to-child transmissions of the Aids virus.

At a crucial two-day meeting between Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and her nine provincial health MECs in Pretoria on Thursday and Friday, it was decided that the MECs should return to their provinces to study the reports from the country's test sites and "consult with the aim of formulating a response that is appropriate and in line with national protocols on managing mother-to-child transmission of HIV".

Observers say "appropriate responses" could take months to formulate and even then there is no guarantee that the government will approve the protocols submitted.

There was speculation that the government had little alternative but to bow to public pressure.

However, this was not to be.

It has become clear that the government is determined to stick to the same policies which underline its appeal against a high court judgment which ordered it to implement a comprehensive roll-out programme for Nevirapine.

After the meeting a defiant Tshabalala-Msimang strode out of the hall, refusing to answer any questions about Nevirapine or the government's attitude to anti-retrovirals.

Last week KwaZulu-Natal Premier Lionel Mtshali took a unilateral decision to make Nevirapine available to mothers and babies in all state hospitals in the province.

Despite censure by the ANC government, Mtshali's announcement was followed by a statement by provincial Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, that the programme would be extended to 20 State hospitals within the next six months.

The writing was on the wall. Not only was the province's ANC health minister promising a roll-out programme in direct opposition to the government's own stance, but his policy was in conflict with the government's Constitutional Court appeal against a judgment to implement just such a programme.

Meanwhile, the Treatment Action Campaign has filed a new application asking the Pretoria High Court to order the implementation of its original judgment and "make Nevirapine available... in public health facilities" that are not part of the pilot sites, pending the outcome of the appeal.

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - Health News -  http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020201205506477N130648&set_id=1, 2002/02/05

 

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Ref:NEV020130

 

KZN agrees to three-month Nevirapine roll-out: The KwaZulu-Natal provincial cabinet on Wednesday reached consensus on a three-month roll-out plan to make Nevirapine available at state hospitals and clinics in the province.

The decision followed an announcement a week ago by Premier Lionel Mtshali that Nevirapine would be available to all HIV-positive pregnant mothers in the province by April.

He has been condemned for his decision by national Health Minister Manto Tshabala-Msimang, who is increasingly facing criticism over her stance on the Nevirapine issue.

The national health department has refused to make the drug available, although it has been approved by the World Health Organisation, arguing that more research was needed on toxicity and resistance.

In a joint statement issued by all the parties represented in the provincial coalition government, members said they supported the implementation plan for roll-out on the use of Nevirapine throughout KwaZulu-Natal.

Before the start of cabinet meeting in Ulundi on Wednesday morning, members were briefed by provincial health MEC Zweli Mkhize and his team of experts for about two hours on research results obtained from the pilot project sites.

It was agreed that the programme would be implemented at those institutions that were ready and had the necessary infrastructure.

Mkhize, who is also the ANC deputy leader in the province, on Monday told the media that Nevirapine could be distributed from at least 20 of the major KwaZulu-Natal hospitals by July while the remaining 40 smaller hospitals and clinics would be phased in.

Mkhize also expressed hope that the province's decision on Nevirapine would be supported by the national government.

According to Primrose Nxumalo, spokesperson in Mtshali's office, there was "no disagreement at all" and the ANC "shared the premier's moral standpoint".

"There was a meeting of minds between the premier and Zweli (Mkhize), but six months were not acceptable to the premier and the parties then agreed that three months was a reasonable timeframe," Nxumalo said.

Despite media speculation this past week that Mthsali's announcement would cause political tension between the IFP and the ANC in the province, both he and Mkhize addressed the media after the cabinet meeting. It was the first time since the announcement was made last Monday that the two leaders shared a platform on the Nevirapine issue.

"There was no animosity between them and all the discussions took place in an amicable way," Nxumalo said.

The coalition leaders also resolved that the central procurement committee in the province be approached as soon as possible to facilitate and expedite the tender process and recruitment procedures that would make it possible for the programme to be fully implemented.

They are also to recruit competent nurses and counsellors to assist the woman who become part of the programme.

There is currently a shortage of about 6 000 nurses and 4 000 other personnel in the provincial health department.

The lack of qualified counsellors to counsel women while they are on the programme was earlier cited as one of the most critical problems facing the implementation of the mother-to-child-transmission programme across the province.

KwaZulu-Natal was among the first provinces, apart from the Western Cape, to launch its Nevirapine and MTCT pilot projects at two sites in the province and at 13 clinics and hospitals in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. These included the King Edward, Prince Mshiyeni, Edendale and Grey hospitals.

Cabinet further agreed that roll-out programme be granted high priority and that this had to be reflected accordingly in the budgets of the department of health in particular and the province as a whole.

"The roll out must be seen in the broader context of the fight against HIV-Aids in general."

The provincial leaders also requested that they be presented with regular reports to monitor the progress of the programme.

Nevirapine, which costs about R25 per dose, is much cheaper than its predecessor AZT in helping prevent an HIV-pregnant woman from transmitting the disease to her baby.

The Western Cape was the first province to start its roll-out plan in 2000 and by June this year the province plans to reach at least 90 percent of pregnant women.

It is estimated that about 60 000 babies were born HIV-positive in the country each year, contracting the disease from their mothers.

KwaZulu-Natal has the highest prevalence of HIV-Aids in the country.

ANC provincial spokesperson Mtholephi Mthimkhulu said neither the provincial nor the national government had ever been against Nevirapine.

"There has been a distortion of facts. The ANC never opposed the roll-out in principle.

All that we said was that we needed to prepare for it. It is common sense. Why have research sites if we don't plan on roll-out?"

The province has secured Nevirapine free for five years from pharmaceutical company Ingelheim-Bhoringer. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=qw1012412880913B232&set_id=1, 2002/01/31

 

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Ref:AID020130

 

Aids drugs from Brazil: Johannesburg - South African activists on Tuesday said they had imported generic anti-Aids drugs from Brazil, risking the wrath of pharmaceutical firms, which hold the patents.

Aids activists said they had approval to import the drugs from the Statutory Medicines Control Council but risked civil lawsuits from the manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Boehringer Ingelheim, which hold patent rights.

The drugs, manufactured by Brazil's state-owned Farmanguinhos lab, are being given to about 50 patients in a pilot treatment programme in Khayelitsha township in Western Cape province run by aid agency Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

"We've made it very clear we're prepared to engage for the sake of the lives of our people where we feel the laws are unjust," said Mark Heywood, spokesperson of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). "We are in the midst of a severe Aids epidemic."

South Africa has the highest number of people with HIV/Aids in the world, an estimated five million people. Most of them cannot afford the drugs that could keep them alive.

MSF says the Brazilian drug costs about $1.55 per patient per day compared with $3.20 for the patented drug. It says it has enough stock to treat 80 people for three months and envisages more imports.

Last year, the government scored a landmark legal victory when 39 drugs firms abandoned their attempt to prevent South Africa importing cheap generic drugs.

But the government has done little to take advantage of its victory by issuing licences to import or produce generic drugs, and antiretrovirals remain extremely limited in the public health sector.

MSF and the TAC urged the government to lift restrictions on the manufacture of cheaper generic drugs. "The South African government should pursue compulsory licensing to ensure that generic antiretrovirals can be produced in and/or imported into South Africa," TAC chairperson Zackie Achmat said.

South Africa's Aids policy has for a while courted controversy. President Thabo Mbeki has expressed scepticism about the causal link between HIV and Aids and said antiretrovirals are as toxic as the condition they treat.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1137565,00.html, 2002/01/31

 

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Ref:CHO020130

 

Cholera outbreak under control: Bisho - Shocking roads and a lack of electricity is exacerbating the cholera outbreak in Mqanduli in the Transkei, Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang discovered during a visit there on Wednesday.

The minister visited Orange Grove and Mqanduli villages in Transkei to check on the epidemic and found the situation "under control", her spokesperson, Sibani Mngadi, said.

Tshabalala-Msimang announced that the local district municipality would start working on rebuilding the access road to Mqanduli on Monday to allow emergency and other health services access to the ill.

Generators were also being brought to the rehydration centre to ensure a 24-hour emergency health service.

However, Mngadi said there would be no new allocation of funds to deal with the outbreak and all the role players would have to use resources available to them now.

The provincial Health Department would lead the campaign against cholera, with support from the district municipality and the University of Transkei while the national department would offer some "technical support". - ECN

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1137746,00.html, 2002/01/31

 

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Ref:MIN020130

 

Ministries of health and finance at odds: The turf war about who should control medical scheme brokers, who have been partly blamed for the rocketing medical aid costs, continued this week with Minister Manto Tshabala-Msimang stepping in to slam unilateral attempts by the Financial Services Board ( FSB) to interfere in her backyard.

But the FSB and Barbara Hogan,chairman of the portfolio committee on finance, hit back, saying they had consulted the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) about the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Bill and were not trying to regulate anything other than the accreditation of health brokers.

This was legitimate as the brokers sold a wide range of products apart from medical aid schemes and these had wide ranging financial implications, the FSB said. The worrying problem of soaring commissions for health brokers and the regulations of the conduct, which even the CMS has described as collusion, would remain under the department of health and possibly be subject to competition authority scrutiny.

But the accreditation of brokers through the FSB would provide consumers with a far greater degree of protection against unscrupulous schemes and brokers. Hogan said she was concerned about the possibility of arbitrage as brokers tried to register under the more flexible CMS rules to avoid a range of FSB requirements. These ensure brokers are properly trained and can be held liable for misrepresentation.

In a submission from the CMS tabled this week, it appeared that health brokers remained deeply divided about who should accredit them. Corporate brokers falling under the Association of Health Benefit Advisors, now under the Financial Planning Institute of SA, favoured FAIS, while the independent black brokers under the SA Healthcare Intermediaries Association preferred to stay with CMS.

The committee is expected to make a final decision next week, with the dual registration of medical schemes brokers considered an option. Hogan is seeking legal advice on whether her committee can deal with the brokers.

(Source: Star, Pretoria News, Sowetan and Business Day 30 January, 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org/, 2002/01/31

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Ref:PRI020130

 

Prisoner heart transplant renews ethics debate: SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- A California prison inmate serving 14 years for robbery received a heart transplant earlier this month, renewing a debate about who deserves to get desperately needed organs.

The taxpayer-supported transplant, expected to cost $1 million with follow-up care, occurred as 500 Californians waited for hearts. The operation saved the 31-year-old inmate from dying of a viral heart condition, said Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections.

Citing two court rulings in favor of inmate care, Heimerich said, "Our hands are pretty much tied. It's not a question for this department to decide."

He pointed to a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring it "cruel and unusual punishment" to withhold necessary medical care from inmates. And he noted that in 1995 a federal court ordered prison officials to give a kidney transplant to an inmate whose request had been denied.

Prison system officials and spokesmen for an organ-sharing network confirm that numerous inmates nationwide have received kidney transplants. And, they say, such taxpayer-financed transplants are likely to increase as the prison population ages.

But the California case could be the first case of an inmate receiving a heart, an organ sought by 4,000 Americans.

"Anecdotally, I've not heard of any other case of an inmate receiving a heart transplant," said Joel Newman, spokesman for the Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which maintains the nation's waiting list for organs.

The level of debate in California has risen as news of the heart transplant has spread.

"You have to wonder if a law-abiding, taxpaying citizen drew one last breath while Jailhouse Joe was getting a second wind," wrote Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez.

Conservative radio talk show host Mark Williams in Sacramento said that two callers who were on transplant waiting lists "were absolutely besides themselves."

But the UNOS has an ethics policy that puts prison inmates on equal footing with others. In California, Heimerich said, that could include death row prisoners.

Dr. Lawrence Schneiderman, medical professor at the University of California, San Diego, disagrees with that interpretation, saying people convicted of murder or other "heinous" crimes shouldn't get transplant benefits from a society they violated.

But in this case, the professor said, "It's reasonable to think the benefit we are giving him will be experienced by him with plenty of life left. Medically, we have no reason to deny him. Socially, he violated society, but not so severely that he gives up his right to experience medical care."

Besides, he added, "Doctors in medical practice don't have a right to make social decisions. If it's a limited resource, our choice should be who will it help the most."

Arthur Caplan, a University of Pennsylvania medical ethicist and author of the book, "Ethics and Organ Transplants," says it's up to state lawmakers to change the law if citizens don't want prisoners to get organs.

Other high-profile transplants have resulted in changes in the organ waiting list. In 1996, UNOS declared that people suffering from long-term liver failure of the kind often seen in alcoholics and drug addicts would no longer be at the top of the list for liver transplants.

The change followed debate that was raised when Mickey Mantle and TV star Larry Hagman received transplants.

In the California case, the inmate received the heart at Stanford University Medical Center on January 3 after an ethics committee there approved him and put him on the waiting list, Heimerich said. "From there on, it's strictly a medical decision. It was always a medical decision."

Department policy forbids identifying inmates while discussing their medical conditions, he said. But the inmate's crimes involved a 1996 robbery in Los Angeles County, eight months after he was released from prison for burglary, Heimerich said. He is not eligible for parole until 2008.

The patient is currently in satisfactory condition at a prison medical facility near San Francisco.

As for the cost of the transplant, Heimerich noted that inmates are typically less healthy than the average person due to "poor lifestyle choices."

The state's most recent annual medical bill for 156,000 inmates was $663 million, he said.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/01/30/transplant.prisoner.ap/index.html, 2002/01/31

 

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Ref:GEL020123

 

Gel trials could be the answer to AIDS scourge: One of the largest drug trials yet undertaken in Southern Africa will determine whether a gel like substance used by women to prevent HIV infection could be the key to stemming the AIDS pandemic. More than R250 million has been awarded to the development of two microbicides, Dextrin sulphate and PRO 2000 identified by scientists as the most likely effective protection against HIV/AIDS.

Three gel trial sites have been selected in South Africa, Durban, Hlabisa and Johannesburg. If the product proves successful, it will become a powerful tool in protecting more than 16 million women countrywide from contracting the virus. Funds for the multi-million rand programme have been awarded by the UK's Department for International Development.

The trials will be a collaborative programme involving the South African Medical Research Council (MRC), The African Centre for Health and Population Studies, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Wits University and a group of international research collaborators in the UK, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon and Zambia.

Dr Gita Ramjee, acting director of the MRC's Prevention and Vaccine Research Unit says, 'Used prior to intercourse to block the development of infection in the vagina and cervix, it would significantly lower risk of HIV infection'.

Ramjee said research had shown that women in both the developed and developing world wanted this type of product for HIV prevention. 'It would offer women more choice and control, especially in situation where men do not or will not use condoms. An added bonus was that microbicides would be cheap to produce and affordable for women in poor countries.

(Source: Mercury and Star 18 January, 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - http://www.samedical.org/, 2002/01/23

 

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Ref:HEA020122

 

R25m grant for heart study: Cape Town - A R25 million donation has made it possible for 15 South African families suffering from a rare genetic disorder causing sudden cardiac death to be studied by medics at the University of Stellenbosch (US).

The research being conducted at US is mainly focused on Afrikaans-speaking families with a common ancestor. At least 300 South Africans, including those with the surname Geldenhuys, are to be examined over the next five years.

The study is part of a worldwide research project in an effort to gain insight into the disease known and Long QT Syndrome.

Long QT Syndrome is more prevalent in sufferers under the age of 20, who can die without warning during exercise or when they get a fright.

The disease is caused by a genetic defect resulting in the heart muscle contracting too slowly between heartbeats. This is accompanied by dangerously irregular heart rhythms and blackouts. If the heart does not return to normal, the sufferer dies within minutes.

"Although individuals in families here have inherited the same risk, at least 30% of those born with the defect never experience attacks. One could compare it to a time bomb that does not necessarily explode in every case. We want to probe which factors protect and which aggravate the risk," says US team leader Professor Paul Brink.

Researchers will concentrate on genetic aspects of adrenalin secretion. "It appears that some people have a built-in 'something' in their system blocking the secretion of adrenalin or blocking the reacion."

The research is likely to shed more light on general heart diseases including ischaemic heart disease and congestive heart failure.

Brink maintains that babies born in a family with the faulty gene have a 50% chance of developing the defect. Doctors are able to determine whether a patient suffers from the disease by conducting an electrocardiogram.

Administering beta blockers to protect the heart against the effects of adrenalin is an effective way of drastically reducing risk factors, as is simple surgery. A third treatment method is to implant a pacemaker which administers light shocks to the patient as soon as irregularities are detected.

It appears that Long QT Syndrome might well have been the cause in many instances of cot death.

Professor Peter Schwartz of the University of Pavia in Italy believes it might be possible in future to prevent the syndrome in newborn babies by in-vitro fertilisation.

Schwartz leads the international team and is assisted by Professor Alfred George of the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Brink said funds were made available by the American National Institute for Health.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News -   http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1134436,00.html, 2002/01/23

 

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Ref:ART020122

 

Spirituality linked to better arthritis health: New York - A high level of spirituality appears to be associated with better health among individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and could also help them cope with their illness more effectively, recent study findings suggest.

"Spirituality may be a type of psychological resource that allows individuals to adjust better to living with a chronic illness," lead researcher Professor Susan J Bartlett of the John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, said.

Bartlett and her colleagues studied 77 people, all of whom had rheumatoid arthritis for more than two years. The female study participants reported an average of 12 swollen and tender joints while the males had seven swollen and tender joints, on average. One in four study participants reported clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms.

In general, people with a high level of spirituality - who were also more likely to attend church, pray and read the Bible - rated themselves as healthier and less disabled than their less spiritual peers, and also reported having more positive thoughts, according to Bartlett and her team.

Greater spirituality was also associated with more overall adaptive coping, "meaning that in the face of a serious challenge - like having a chronic illness - folks who are higher in spirituality 'rise to the challenge' more easily," Bartlett said.

The more spiritual individuals were also less passive, showed greater restraint, had more faith in others and drew strength from others more than did their less spiritual peers. The findings held true even after the researchers took the participants' level of disease activity, age, education, fatigue and ability to function independently into account, Bartlett noted.

Several factors could explain the link between spirituality and well-being, according to Bartlett. "People's perceptions of themselves and how they are doing play a major role in their happiness," she explained.

"If you perceive having a chronic illness as having meaning and providing an opportunity to learn and grow as a person, it may be much easier to reformulate life priorities and adapt to living with an illness."

Also, "having a spiritual meaning gives a sense of connectedness to others," Bartlett said. "Social support is a well-known buffer against stress and emotional problems."

The researcher pointed out that "relatively little work has been done on spirituality, per se, and most that is available has failed to distinguish between spirituality and religiousness."

Bartlett distinguishes between the two by describing spirituality as "a belief in a power outside oneself and one's own existence" and religiousness as "the outward practice of a particular spiritual understanding".

She added, "More scientific work in this area is clearly needed to help us understand how spirituality may facilitate adjustment to living with chronic illness."

The study findings were presented in California during the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals' recent annual meeting.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News -  http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1134015,00.html, 2002/01/23

 

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Ref:BAB020122

 

Baby-saving programme faces axe: Plans to save babies born to HIV-positive women in KwaZulu-Natal could be scuppered by political wrangling.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Lionel Mtshali announced on Monday that the country's most Aids-affected province would provide the drug to all HIV-positive pregnant women - a move which surprised the health minister and is believed to have caught even the province's health MEC off-guard.

This makes KwaZulu-Natal the latest participant in the growing defiance of government policy.

"The people are crying out for help. I cannot stand back and watch this terrible misery and desperation without doing something about it," said Mtshali.

"The administration of Nevirapine is an emergency measure in a life-threatening situation to the baby... I will stand up and be counted for the stance I have made."

Research has shown that Nevirapine halves the rate of HIV transmission from mother to child.

Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang responded by saying she hoped he would come to his senses and realise the difficulties involved in providing the low-cost treatment.

"We knew that the premier was having discussions with (pharmaceutical company) Boehringer-Ingelheim. But his announcement has really taken us all by surprise," she said. "I'm not upset with the premier. I'm just hoping that as time goes by he will understand the problems involved."

As it stands, KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Zweli Mkhize, of the African National Congress has repeatedly stated that it will be extremely difficult (if not impossible) for the health department to provide follow-up counselling and support for such a programme.

Furthermore, he, as MEC, is an applicant in a Constitutional Court appeal to overturn the high court ruling that forces the government to supply Nevirapine.

In Gauteng, the health department insists that it is following government policy of giving pregnant women access to Nevirapine only at pilot research sites.

However, the number of official research sites has shot up to 20 from the recommended number of two.

Department spokesperson Popo Maja said the department would continue following government policy and "would open sites as soon as institutions are ready".

A growing number of state doctors prescribe Nevirapine for pregnant women in the belief that last year's registration of the drug for use in prevention of maternal transmission makes it legal for them to do so.

Mtshali's office on Tuesday indicated that the project would be implemented by April, and that it had accepted an offer by Boehringer-Ingelheim to provide Nevirapine free of charge for five years.

Officials at Boehringer-Ingelheim were apparently taken aback by the announcement.

The company's spokesperson, Kevin McKenna, said they had indicated their willingness to provide Nevirapine free of charge in a meeting with KwaZulu-Natal representatives about six months ago.

But they had only heard news of the programme via the media, and had not received a letter confirming the province's acceptance of their offer.

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - News -   http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020122211201599N14092&set_id=1, 2002/01/23

 

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Ref:CHO020121

 

Cholera leaves trail of death in Eastern Cape: Cholera has spread for the first time to the Eastern Cape, where it claimed two lives at the weekend, and might be responsible for at least another two.

Sibani Mngadi, a national health department official, said the epidemic began in the province on January 13, and 149 people has been treated so far.

Alicia Siphambo, nursing service manager at Umtata General Hospital, said that since last week, 36 people had been treated for diarrhoea and dehydration and then discharged.

Two deaths at the hospital had been confirmed as cholera related and the tests on two others were being awaited, she said.

Six patients were still being treated.

The Eastern Cape was one of the provinces which last year escaped the cholera epidemic that hit KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Province, the Free State and Gauteng.

KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape are the only provinces currently affected.

In the Eastern Cape, most of the sick are from Qingqolo village, Mqanduli district near Umtata.

Mngadi said all districts in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were on high alert to ensure the epidemic was contained.

At the weekend, 367 new cholera cases were reported in KwaZulu Natal, with 310 of these in the Ladysmith area.

The most severe cholera cases reported so far this year were from Peacetown, Watersmeet and the rural village of Umhlumayo.

In KwaZulu-Natal, 237 people have died from cholera since August 2000.

The latest death was that of a 58-year-old man from the Mpise area near KwaDukuza on Sunday. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - News -  http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020121195643822C460215&set_id=1, 2002/01/23

 

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Ref:RUS020116

 

Glasnost reaches Russian disabled: MOSCOW, Russia -- As revolutions go, disabled rights has not been the quickest change in social policy to have hit Russia.

In the days of the former Soviet Union many areas of Russian society suffered in one way or another -- but none more so than the country's 11 million disabled population.

Even today, although changes are becoming more noticeable, the Russian capital is an obstacle course for disabled people.

Only one of its metro stations has an elevator -- and that is not working yet -- while vital facilities such as ramps, wheelchair accessible toilets and handicapped parking are almost non-existent.

In the winter, particularly, Moscow is still not a good place to be in a wheelchair.

Yuri Somoilov and his friend, Slava, know that only too well. "The cops are always telling us to get out of the street", Yuri said.

But for Russia's disabled revolution is slowly taking place and things are beginning to improve.

The word in Russian for disabled is "invaleed" -- invalid.

In the days of the old Soviet Union, that's just how the disabled were treated. Many were not allowed to work at all, or were confined to menial jobs at special workshops -- all in the name of "protecting" them.

Alexander Klepikov, of the All Russian Society for the Disabled, which boasts 2.5 million members, said: "That model for social protection was passive.

"What we are promoting and the government is joining us in this, is to be active -- to make disabled people active members of society."

The society has helped to pass a watershed 1995 law on the rights of the disabled. Its work is evident elsewhere.

In the society's car park is a handicapped parking sign -- the first I have ever seen in Moscow - while inside its building is another rarity, an elevator large enough for two wheelchairs.

Evgeny Kaperband lost a leg while serving in the army and his wife, Olga Vinogradova, has been disabled since birth.

In the past their lives were difficult, but today there is nothing they enjoy more than a spin around Moscow in their specially equipped "Oka" car.

The Oka, whose accelerator and brakes are all controlled by hand, is revolutionising standards of living for the disabled.

The vehicles are manufactured at a plant that, 50 years ago, produced cars for war veterans. Now it markets over 11,000 vehicles a year for about $2,000 each.

Igor Kropachev, of the Serpukhov factory, said: "For the more severely disabled, the government pays for the whole thing. For others, the government covers half the cost."

But at one of the city's workshops for the disabled, the director says it's another thing to change society's views.

Sergei Lupilov said: "We're always trying to prove we're equal, and sometimes even better, workers.

"We have a phrase in Russian: God didn't give me good health, but he did give me brains."

Olga Vinagradova says in the past 10 years she and her husband have seen major improvements for the disabled.

It's slower than they'd like, but she says they're headed in the right direction.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/01/16/russia.disabled/index.html, 2002/01/17

 

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Ref:MED020116

 

Medical scheme embroiled in legal wrangle: A protracted and costly legal battle looms between Fedhealth Medical Scheme and its former administrator, Fedsure Health in which each party plans to sue the other for amounts in excess of R200 million. Fedhealth will be launching a bid to recover more than 200 million for what it says was maladministration by Fedsure Health.

Fedsure Health on the other hand is in the process of taking action to sue Fedhealth for more than 250 million it says is owed to it in outstanding administration fees and a R200 million cash injection given to the scheme last year. The first round of this battle has already been won by Fedhealth. The court last year upheld a joint application by the scheme and the Council for Medical Schemes that Fedsure Health pay the scheme back R70 million of member funds held in contravention of the Medical Schemes Act.

Poor management at Fedsure Health had allegedly resulted in Fedhealth's membership falling from 150 000 to 100 000 and almost caused the scheme to go insolvent, said Tom Borill, the chairman of Fedhealth. Jeremy Yatt, Fedhealth's principal officer, said the administrative failure of Fedsure Health was allegedly responsible for losses of about R200 million to the scheme.

Dean Kowarski, CE of Fedsure Healthcare, denied the allegations. 'We are in the process of drafting an affidavit to claim R250 million from Fedhealth in administration fees as well as rebate of R200 million we injected into the scheme last year. I don't think there was any maladministration', said Kowarski.

But Borril said Fedhealth had refused to pay Fedsure Health as the administrator did not deliver on many of its undertakings and had failed to deliver a proper service, which had resulted in the scheme withholding payments for June and July.

Kowarski said Fedhealth should have ended its relationship with Fedsure Health earlier if it was unhappy, with the service levels. 'We had a good relationship with the trustees of the scheme and they never mentioned problems, said Kowarski.

(Pretoria News & Star 16 January, 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org/, 2002/01/17

 

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Ref:AID020116

 

AIDS overwhelms vaccine in monkey study: (AP) -- Harvard AIDS researchers working with monkeys say the virus overcame an experimental vaccine by changing a single gene, killing one of the animals.

Scientists said the disappointment does not mean that AIDS vaccines are doomed to fail. But it illustrates how the virus remains a relentless opponent that will not be easily defeated or even contained.

HIV already is known to mutate and grow impervious to standard AIDS drugs in at least half of all Americans under care for the infection.

Now researchers have seen a similar outcome with an experimental vaccine that tries to stimulate immune cells to prevent the virus from multiplying. The mutation occurred in only one of eight vaccinated rhesus monkeys in the Harvard experiment.

The findings were published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

"It is sobering to find that a single-point mutation within the virus can initiate a cascade of events resulting in a clinical vaccine failure and death," said Dan H. Barouch, a clinical fellow at the Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study.

More than one dozen experimental vaccines using different genetic strategies have been tested in various laboratories. Some have been successful for more than two years.

Unlike a flu shot, AIDS vaccines do not actually prevent infection by stimulating antibody molecules that neutralize the invading virus. That is because the HIV comes in many strains and it changes rapidly, overwhelming the antibody response.

Instead, the AIDS vaccines work to hold HIV infection in check. The vaccines are made with genes that carry the code for proteins in the virus. When the immune system sees these codes, it stimulates production of a broad class of virus-fighting cells known as cytotoxic T lymphocytes, or killer T cells.

Details of one such vaccine program developed Merck & Co. were published in Nature along with the Harvard report. Company researchers discussed their progress at the first-ever AIDS vaccine meeting in September, and they have begun testing the vaccine in people.

In their animal study, the Merck researchers used the simian version of HIV. They said their best results were obtained by loading an SHIV gene for a protein known as gag into a genetically engineered cold virus. It stimulated the monkeys' immune systems to generate different types of killer T cells.

The Merck researchers subsequently injected lethal doses of SHIV into the animals. They said the vaccine has protected the animals and they have not seen signs of the Harvard problem, known as "gene-escape."

"We've gone 500 days and not seen any escape," said molecular biologist Emilio Emini, director of the Merck trials. "It's something to watch for. But if the vaccine elicits a sufficiently broad genetic response, this is going to be an issue that we can deal with."

The Harvard trial took a different approach. Rather than loading the genetic material from SHIV onto a bioengineered cold virus, the Harvard researchers injected gag DNA plus an immune cell growth factor directly into the animals. That technique known as a "naked DNA" vaccine.

Seven of Harvard's vaccinated animals have remained healthy for two years, even after injected with SHIV.

But the eighth vaccinated monkey, known as No. 798, responded differently. Six months into the trial, molecular studies showed the virus had started mutating the gag gene in the vaccinated monkey.

Within eight months, virus levels soared within No. 798 and mutated virus was rapidly replacing the original virus. Levels of killer T cell levels plummeted. No. 798 died of AIDS-related complications one year after vaccination.

Federal scientists who reviewed both the Harvard and Merck studies said the SHIV strain used in the trials is very aggressive and hard to control. It may not reflect how vaccines will perform in humans, where HIV infection is more gradual.

Developing an AIDS vaccine will be "an uphill grade for the foreseeable future," Jeffery Lifson of the National Cancer Institute and Malcolm Martin of the National Institutes of Health wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/conditions/01/16/aids.vaccine.ap/index.html, 2002/01/17

 

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Ref:RET020116

 

Prescribe anti-retrovirals: Sama: Pretoria - The SA Medical Association (Sama) on Tuesday came out in support of its member doctors who prescribed anti-retroviral drugs to rape victims in contravention of government policy.

"Doctors are obliged to act in the best interests of their patients," said Sama human rights, law, and ethics committee chairperson Dr Anant Chetty.

"Government policy does not determine medical ethics."

In terms of official policy, public hospitals and clinics are not allowed to give anti-retroviral drugs to rape victims, as the government maintains there is no evidence they are effective.

Sama, however, was of the opinion that the drugs were beneficial, Chetty said. "There is evidence that this is a worthwhile exercise."

It would therefore be unethical of a doctor not to at least inform a patient of the benefits of anti-retroviral drugs.

Sama, the only representative body of South African doctors, reiterated its support for the right of medical practitioners to clinical independence and autonomy.

This included the right to treat patients without undue influence, pressure or victimisation from employers or government institutions.

"The Sama also supports the rights of patients to receive necessary treatment, always with their informed consent," the organisation said in a statement.

"This includes the rights of pregnant women who are HIV-positive to receive the best available treatment that has been proven to reduce mother-to-child transmission. This principle should apply to rape survivors."

Chetty said the body would support any of its members who got into trouble for prescribing anti-retrovirals.

Sama represents some 17 000 doctors, two-thirds of which are employed in the public sector.

Last week, opposition politicians expressed disgust at the Northern Cape government's response to a doctor's decision to give anti-retroviral drugs to an 11-month-old gang-rape victim.

Northern Cape Health MEC Dipuo Peters reportedly lambasted the Kimberley provincial hospital after media reports revealed the child had been given the anti-retroviral drug AZT.

The hospital subsequently issued a circular reminding doctors that they were barred from administering the drug to rape patients.

It was claimed the hospital had a policy of administering the drugs, but had to change it when the government intervened.

The Northern Cape baby was raped and indecently assaulted by six men in Louisvale in November when she was nine months old.

The girl, named "Tshepang (Have Hope)" to hide her identity, has since been transferred to the Red Cross children's hospital in Cape Town, where she is expected to undergo reconstructive surgery.

The government is also involved in litigation against the Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project, which hands out anti-retroviral drugs to rape victims at six hospitals in the greater Nelspruit area.

The case is pending.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Heatlh News -  http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1131165,00.html, 2002/01/17

 

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Ref:CHO020116

 

Nurses ask Kasrils for water to stop cholera: The efforts of the Department of Health alone in curbing the cholera epidemic, especially in rural areas, are not enough and the Department of Water and Forestry Affairs has to move fast if outbreaks are not to become a permanent feature.

These were the words of nurses stationed in a makeshift tent ward at Mteyi clinic, in Mhlumayo, 30km from Ladysmith, one of the areas worst hit by cholera.

The irony for the villagers is that the very same rain which they pray for daily has now become their enemy, contaminating drinking water with the cholera bacteria and condemning entire families to hospital beds.

The nurses, whose spirits were lifted on Tuesday by a visit from Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, her provincial counterpart Zweli Mkhize and Water and Forestry Affairs Minister Ronnie Kasrils, were quickly left subdued by the rain.

Sipho Shabalala, one of the nurses deployed by the Department of Health to contain the epidemic, shrugged his shoulders when the first drops of rain started to fall just as the delegation sped off in a convoy of luxury cars.

"All these patients we are treating today, even the ones who have been discharged from the Ladysmith hospital, will be back here this weekend because of the rain."

The area has virtually no sanitation, with people relieving themselves under trees and on the hills.

The only sources of water are boreholes which have been in a state of disrepair for years and lie open. The rains wash the faeces, some containing the cholera bacteria, back into the boreholes and the cycle of infection continues.

The nurses at Mteyi said that in cases where the boreholes were covered, contaminated rainwater seeped into the boreholes through the underground drainage system.

Kasrils announced earlier in the day that a further allocation of R25-million had been made to the campaign against cholera in the province. He conceded, however, that the spending capacity of the local municipality in building a proper sanitation infrastructure was grossly inadequate.

The new cash allocation is in addition to R81-million in government funds channelled to district municipalities since the outbreak of cholera in August 2000.

Kasrils said these special "cholera intervention funds" were in addition to a R300-million annual allocation to the province for basic water and sanitation services.

In a press statement, the department said that between August 2000 and November 2001 at least 70 percent of the 106 003 cholera cases reported were from humid coastal areas. There had been 235 deaths.

The 2001/2002 cycle of the disease, in contrast, had unexpectedly flared up in the high-lying, cooler areas of the province.

Of the 3 415 cases reported in the province since December 7 2001, resulting in the death of six people, 85 percent originated from two fairly small areas outside Ladysmith.

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020116102651918C460132&set_id=1, 2002/01/17

 

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Ref:ACN020113

 

Parents fear acne wonder drug is a killer: Graham and Di Jones say their son's suicide could have been prevented if they had been properly informed of the side-effects of acne drug Roaccutane.

They are among a growing number of parents, whose children have either attempted or committed suicide, who say there are glaring omissions in a booklet meant to inform South Africans of the serious side-effects of Roaccutane.

In 1997, Benoni schoolboy Russell Jones was, at 17, a high achiever, top of his high school class and appointed deputy head boy for the next year. He related well with his teachers and peers, and stood out as a leader.

But he killed himself the day after his parents celebrated their wedding anniversary - an act his parents blame on Roaccutane.

The medication, described by some as an acne "wonder drug", is manufactured by Roche Pharmaceuticals and prescribed to patients only as a last resort.

It has been linked to numerous cases of suicide overseas, most notably in the US and Britain. The product is no longer sold in France.

It emerged last week that American teenager Charles Bishop, 15, who committed suicide by crashing a plane into a Florida skyscraper, was taking Roaccutane.

Warnings of side-effects are placed on the glossy colour booklet given to South African patients to read before they sign an official Roche consent form.

Listed in the booklet as a side-effect are "mood changes", which reportedly occur "rarely". However, the leaflet contained inside the Roaccutane box states that "Roaccutane may cause depression, psychosis and, rarely, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide".

But the relevant section, headed "warnings", is 2 300 words long and is written in highly technical terms.

One mother, whose daughter was prescribed Roaccutane two years ago, says that besides being given the booklet, she was not informed of the possibility of depression and suicidal tendencies by her dermatologist.

Di Jones says that when her son was prescribed Roaccutane in 1997, a booklet was not available and there was no leaflet in the Roaccutane box.

Although a patient booklet has been subsequently made available, as well as the information of suicidal tendencies added to the box leaflet, she says it is not good enough.

The US Food and Drug Administration has reportedly stated that 147 Roaccutane users either committed suicide or were hospitalised for suicide attempts between 1982 and 2000.

A US congressional committee hearing held on December 5, 2000, to discuss the psychiatric side-effects of the drug, found that high concentrations of vitamin A led to psychotic behaviour. Roaccutane has a high content of vitamin A derivatives, called retinoids.

Committee chairperson Dan Burton said that of the 1 900 women who became pregnant while on the drug, 1 400 had to have abortions because of possible birth defects.

The committee was concerned about the insufficient warnings about suicidal tendencies.

Congressional committee member Henry Waxman pointed out that, when Roche had been requested by the FDA to include warnings about suicidal tendencies relating to Roaccutane, it responded with a press release which stated that teenagers were prone to depression and suicide.

Roche's South African corporate affairs manager, Pat Senne, said the same thing on Friday, adding that Roche urged doctors to observe all acne patients for signs of depression so that they could be treated.

She said no causal relationship had been established between Roaccutane and a "psychiatric event".

Article Source & Reference: Independent Online (IOL) - News -  http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020113215535172N420125&set_id=1, 2002/01/14

 

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Ref:GEN020113

 

Gene shows who's 'got milk': - '"Lactose intolerance" today is the ancient form of the gene' - WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A single genetic mutation allows people to tolerate milk after they leave babyhood, and is virtually the same in people of Asian, European and African descent, researchers reported on Sunday.

Finding the tiny change in the genetic code should allow scientists an easy test for lactose intolerance -- a painful digestive condition -- and also offers insights into how some groups of people evolved a milk-drinking culture, the team of United States and Finnish researchers said.

People who have lac

tose intolerance -- most of the people in the world -- cannot digest large amounts of lactose, the main sugar found in dairy products.

If they eat milk, cheese or other dairy products they develop nausea, cramps, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Between 30 million and 50 million North Americans are lactose intolerant -- 75 percent 

of African-Americans and 90 percent of Asian-Americans.

It affects about 5 percent of Northern Europeans and close to 100 percent of Southeast Asians, said the researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Nature Genetics.

A mutation identified

Lactose intolerance was known to be genetic, caused by a recessive gene, meaning that a person has to inherit a "faulty" copy from each parent to be lactose intolerant.

"This is the first time this mutation, the DNA change, is actually identified," said Dr. Leena Peltonen, a geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the study.

"This paves the way to DNA testing."

Many people may fear they have a more serious disease when they develop nausea, bloating and other symptoms, and would be relieved to learn it was simply lactose intolerance, Peltonen said. They can then simply avoid dairy, using soy, rice, or almond substitutes instead, or lactose-free milk.

Gene variation

Peltonen and colleagues first looked at nine Finnish families, 196 people, who had lactose intolerance. They narrowed it down to a gene that regulates the gene responsible for making the enzyme that breaks down lactose.

They found two changes, one in every person with lactose intolerance and another in all the Finns.

Then they looked at blood samples from nine Italians, nine Germans and 22 Koreans -- all of whom had been diagnosed with lactose intolerance -- as well as genetic information from 109 people from Utah in the United States, and from France.

They found the gene variation in 41 percent of the French, 7.6 percent of white North Americans and 79 percent of African-Americans.

Peltonen said babies are born with the ability to digest lactose -- it's found in breast milk -- but they lose this ability after weaning.

"That we found the same DNA variant in all lactose-intolerant people across distant ethnic groups indicates to us that it is very old," she said.

"We believe that the variant we identified in patients is the original form of the gene -- which mutated to tolerate milk products when early humans adopted dairy farming," she added.

"This 'lactose intolerance' today is actually the ancient form of the gene."

In cold climates where winter crops cannot be reaped, a gene mutation allowing adults to digest milk would help people survive better. People who survived would pass on those genes to their offspring.

"Ten to twelve thousand years ago. when human populations started to use dairy culture -- cattle, goats -- around that time the mutation happened and made some individuals lactose tolerant," Peltonen said.

"I think it's fascinating. People think lactose intolerance is a disease, but this is how everyone was initially."

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/01/13/lactose.reut/index.html, 2002/01/14

 

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Ref:PRO020111

 

The naughty life of proteins: Paris - Proteins are amazingly promiscuous, mixing and matching in a tango of life and then splitting up and reforming in a different combination, scientists have found.

In two studies published this week, their findings represent a big step forward in the new science of proteomics - the study of how proteins work.

Proteomics flows from genomics, the study of the gene, and is viewed by many as potentially the most lucrative prize in all biotechnology.

Genes control proteins, the molecules that comprise living tissue, maintain it or destroy it.

Understanding a proteome - how an organism's set of proteins work and how they interact - would be a breakthrough in pharmaceutics.

It would open the door to new treatments that would target specific genes to cure or prevent complex diseases, or tailor drugs to an individual's needs.

Two teams, one led by Giulio Superti-Furga of Cellzome AG and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, and another led by Mike Tyers of the Mount Sinai Hospital and University of Toronto, Canada, have started work on building the proteomic library.

In a painstaking undertaking, they catalogued many of the proteins in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), a species that is a favourite subject for lab research.

Even though yeast is only a single-celled organism, it shares many of the same protein functions as more sophisticated lifeforms, including man.

Reporting in this week's issue of Nature, the British science journal, the Superti-Furga team say they have identified 1 440 separate proteins within 232 protein clusters in yeast, while the Tyers group say they have identified 1 578 proteins.

The most valuable insight is the complexity of interaction between proteins as they build and sustain cellular life.

About 85 percent of the proteins that have been identified so far link up with others to perform various functions, the teams found.

That discovery has big implications for drug research, as many drugs today are aimed at only a single protein.

It now seems clear that proteins have multiple roles. So if one protein is affected by a drug, that could have a knock-on effect on other functions that may have nothing to do with the ailment.

"Proteomic studies such as these have generated a huge volume of exciting data," Anuj Kumar and Michael Snyder, of Yale University's department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, said in a commentary.

They cautioned, however, that much remained to be learned before the proteome of even a simple organism such as yeast is unravelled, let alone the protein blueprint of a complex, multi-celled organism such as a laborary mouse.

They estimated that the yeast proteome probably has around 30 000 protein interactions, of which at most only 11 000 have so far been discovered.

The scientists used a molecular form of fishing to snare their proteins.

They attached DNA tags to hundreds of proteins and sat back and watched as these proteins teamed up with other proteins, often forming complexes.

At that point, the tagged protein was fished out, taking the complex with it.

The other proteins extracted along with it were identified using mass spectrometry, a standard method of analysing a substance's chemical signature. - AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1128964,00.html, 2002/01/14

 

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Ref:AZT020111

 

Minister's AZT remarks spark outrage: Opposition politicians on Friday expressed disgust at the Northern Cape government's response to a doctor's decision to give anti-retroviral drugs to an 11-month-old gang-rape victim in violation of government policy.

"The MEC (of health in the Northern Cape, Dipuo Peters) should be charged with attempted negligence or something like that," Pan Africanist Congress health spokesman Dr Costa Gazi said.

"We would advise the doctor concerned to stand his ground. There is plenty of support for that kind of action. I am sure 90 percent of doctors would agree this is the way to go."

Gazi said Peters should be pleased if the girl did not develop HIV/Aids.

The Mail & Guardian newspaper on Friday reported that Peters had lambasted the Kimberley provincial hospital after media reports revealed the child had been given the anti-retroviral drug AZT.

She reportedly scolded hospital chief executive officer Deon Madyo.

The hospital subsequently issued a circular reminding doctors they were barred from administering the drug to rape patients.

The newspaper quoted a doctor as saying the hospital had a policy of administering the drugs, but had to change it when the government intervened.

The doctor, Beatrix Weber, was suspended for criticising the government's HIV/Aids policy.

While there was no guarantee anti-retroviral drugs would prevent one from contracting the virus, at least it improved one's chances, Gazi said.

Inkatha Freedom Party health spokeswoman Dr Ruth Rabinowitz described Peters' reaction as appalling.

"It suggests the government has no desire to help anybody."

Sandy Kalyan of the Democratic Alliance expressed outrage at the state of affairs, saying anti-retroviral drugs should be offered to rape victims as a matter of routine.

According to Barbara Kenyon, chief executive officer of the Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project (GRIP), it was "absolutely ridiculous to tell doctors not to do what they have been trained to do - prescribe medication".

She claimed that public sector doctors who continued prescribing anti-retroviral drugs to patients were being harassed, and in some cases their contracts were not renewed.

GRIP hands out anti-retroviral drugs to rape victims at six hospitals in the greater Nelspruit area. The Mpumalanga health department has taken the organisation to court over this. The case is still pending.

All the spokesmen agreed that doctors had a moral and professional duty to act in the best interest of their patients, but that this was difficult in the current circumstances.

"Most doctors do not want to risk their jobs," Gazi said. "But at the very least, if they can't prescribe the drug themselves, they can refer their patients to a pharmacy."

The Northern Cape baby was raped and indecently assaulted by six men in Louisvale in November when she was nine months old.

The girl, who has been named "Tshepang" (have hope) to protect her true identity, suffered serious injuries.

The six accused in the case, Piet van Rooi, 39, Jan Mienies, 45, John Radebe, 24, Frans Mosterd, 28, Jan van Wyk, 66, and Joffie Freeman, 32, were due to appear in the Upington Magistrate's Court again on February 1.

The girl has since been transferred to the Red Cross children's hospital in Cape Town, where she is expected to undergo reconstructive surgery.

The surgery is necessary to enable her to use her own organs instead of a bag for excretions.

The hospital on Friday declined to reveal her condition, saying this was prohibited since the girl was officially in the care of the police's child protection unit.

In terms of official policy, public hospitals and clinics are not allowed to give anti-retroviral drugs to rape victims, as the government maintains there is no evidence they are effective.

The drug Nevirapine is available to pregnant HIV-positive women at about 200 trial outlets countrywide, but also not freely accessible at public facilities.

The national health department referred a request for comment to the province, which promised to issue a statement "before dawn".

Madyo was not available for comment. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: Inedpendent Online (IOL) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=qw1010768761440B211&set_id=1, 2002/01/14

 

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Ref:AID020111

 

AIDS slows South Africa's TB cure rate: South Africa will not meet the tuberculosis cure rate set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) because of AIDS, experts have warned. This is in spite of the TB cure rate jumping from 56% in 1997 to 62% in 1998 and 63% in 1999. The HIV epidemic is causing a massive increase in the number of TB cases, with more than half of tuberculosis patients being HIV positive.

Although TB is easily cured, even in HIV positive patients, it is one of the most common causes of death in people with full blown AIDS. Last year, the South African National Tuberculosis Association reported more than 20 deaths a month at its Soweto hospital. The Gauteng Department of Health has estimated that, even if 20% of HIV cases are prevented by 2005, the TB caseload in the province will still triple.

Although figures for the TB cure rate in 2000 are not yet available, the acting director of the Health Department's TB control programme believes the cure rate is decreasing. This means that the World Health Organisation targets of having an 85% cure rate by 2005 is unlikely to be met and the department has opted for a new plan of action featuring closer co –operation between divisions dealing with HIV and TB.

This week, the Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang officially launched a new medium term plan to deal with the looming TB crisis. The plan aims to identify HIV positive TB patients earlier in order to give them a greater chance of being cured. By doing this, is it hoped that the WHO's targets will be met.

( Source: Star & Mercury 10 January, 2002)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News Items - http://www.samedical.org/, 2002/01/14

 

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Ref:EBO020106

 

Gabon to seal province hit by Ebola: LIBREVILLE, Gabon (Reuters) -- Gabon is to seal off a remote province struck by the Ebola virus, which has killed 23 people in the central African country and in neighboring Congo and may have infected many more.

The government said in a statement late on Saturday that it has decided to seal off the province of Ogooue-Ivindo in the northeast of Gabon to help contain the virus, which has no vaccine and no known cure.

At least 32 people have contracted the virus, and 23 of those have died, according to latest figures from the World Health Organization, which has sent experts to the stricken region to help local health workers deal with the outbreak.

"In line with the advice of national and international medical experts, the government has decided to reinforce the measures already taken," said the statement, adding that more resources would be made available to fight the disease.

Seventeen people have died in the forested region around Mekambo in northern Gabon. The other confirmed deaths have been in neighboring villages in the Republic of Congo.

Gabonese authorities have had to postpone elections for a parliamentary seat in Ogooue-Ivindo province because of Ebola.

The disease is named after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, where it was first discovered in 1976 and where a 1995 epidemic killed more than 250 people.

Early diagnosis is difficult because victims suffer symptoms similar to flu, but in later stages the disease eats through veins and arteries, causing massive internal bleeding.

As well as by contact with infected body fluids, scientists believe it can be caught by eating meat from infected apes, which are regarded as a delicacy in Gabon and as a staple by many forest-dwellers despite a ban on hunting "bushmeat."

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/01/06/gabon.ebola.reut/index.html, 2002/01/07

 

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Ref:CHO020104

 

Cholera surges in Ladysmith area: Durban - A total of 214 new cholera cases have been reported in KwaZulu Natal since Thursday, with the disease largely confined to the Ladysmith region, where 175 new cases were reported, the provincial health department reported on Friday.

The department has stepped up its provision of fresh water and intensified its health education campaign.

Cholera is a bacterial infection contracted by drinking contaminated water or eating food which has been in contact with contaminated water, flies or soiled hands.

The department has urged people to use only purified water.

There have been more than 100 000 cases of cholera since the epidemic began in August 2000 with 235 confirmed deaths. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020104195421127N34011&set_id=1, 2002/01/07

 

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Ref:HIV020104

 

Gene clue to HIV treatments: Paris - Tiny differences in a gene that controls a key metabolising protein can cause enormous variations in the ability of HIV patients to respond to antiretroviral drugs, researchers reported on Friday.

The gene, known as MDR1, produces a protein called P-glycoprotein which plays a vital role in delivering drug molecules to different parts of the body.

Previous studies have already pinpointed P-glycoprotein as a barrier that can prevent medication from being absorbed into the intestine, the brain, nerve system and uterus.

A team led by Amalio Telenti of the University Hospital of Lausanne, Switzerland, looked at 123 patients, most of them white, who were taking drugs to suppress levels of HIV-1, the most prevalent strain of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

They looked in particular at three small variations, known as TT, CT and CC, that occur in part of the MDR1 gene and measured the patients' blood levels of the commonly prescribed anti-HIV drugs efavirenz and nelfinavir.

Patients with the TT genotype enjoyed a much faster recovery in their immune system than the others. Six months after starting treatment, they had more than twice as many CD4 white cells than those with the CC variation.

Telenti, whose research is reported in Saturday's issue of the British medical weekly The Lancet, says the findings shows that controlling P-glycoprotein could boost the rebound of the body's immune defences after infection by the Aids virus.

It also raises the question of how to tailor drugs to meet the needs of differing populations.

Among white people, 25 percent have the TT variation, 50 percent have the CT and 25 percent have the CC type.

But among black Africans, who are bearing the brunt of the global HIV/Aids pandemic, 67-83 percent have the CC variation, and the incidence of TT is very low.

"This variation could lead to different patterns of HIV-1 disease evolution and responses to anti-retroviral treatment in human populations," Telenti's study says. - AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1126827,00.html, 2002/01/07

 

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Ref:TRA020104

 

Transplant man's third heart is beating fine: A Zimbabwean man who became the second person in Africa to receive an artificial heart before having a donor's heart transplant was making good progress, according to his surgeon.

Themi Themistockes of Harare was given an artificial heart almost two months ago. Surgeon Willie Koen, leader of the transplant unit at the Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town, said on Friday that Themistockes was given a suitable donor heart a week ago, and was already able to walk a bit.

Speaking from his hospital bed, Themistockes, 48, said he was thankful to the Lord. "Every day is a new day and a new challenge. I'm getting ready for the outside world. My family and friends are rooting for me."

In November, Themistockes was flown to Johannesburg after suffering three angina attacks in a day. Doctors at the Milpark Hospital said he had also had a massive heart attack.

The Zimbabwean was then flown to Cape Town in order to receive the artificial heart transplant. When he arrived, less than 10 percent of his heart was working. He received the artificial heart just in time.

Funds for the operation were raised by Themistockes' family and friends, who organised golf tournaments and dances.

"I can't wait to be able to bath and shower myself," said Themistockes, who runs a construction business. "I want to do the simple things in life that people take for granted."

He said he would resume work when he returns to Harare in about three months.

The artificial heart - known as the Berlin Heart and developed in Germany over the past 25 years - is made from polyurethane and has two ventricles.

According to Koen, the Berlin Heart is used as a life-saving procedure, and patients can be kept alive for up to a year while they await a suitable donor heart.

In March last year, a 61-year-old Capetonian became the first person in South Africa to receive an artificial heart. However, he died before a donor heart could be found. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference:  IOL (Independent Online) Health News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20020104170929199H630552&set_id=1, 2002/01/07

 

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Ref:PIG020103

 

Cloned pig organs easier to transplant: Virginia - A research firm says it has cloned pigs that have been genetically altered to remove one of the paired genes that cause the human immune system to powerfully reject transplanted pig organs.

"This is the first step in overcoming the rejection of pig organs in humans," said David L Ayares, vice president of research for PPL Therapeutics. "We still need to make some modifications to create the ultimate pig."

On Wednesday he said both copies of the paired genes will have to be removed from a strain of pigs before the animal organs would be accepted by the human immune system.

Ayares said all the cloned pigs are female, but that male pigs with the altered genes are expected to be born later this year. The animals would then be bred in the hope of producing offspring that are true "knockouts" - animals with both of the target genes knocked out of their gene structure.

PPL is a subsidiary of PPL Therapeutics in Scotland that helped clone Dolly the sheep with the Roslin Institute in 1997.

The target gene that PPL scientists want removed puts a sugar on the surface of pig cells. In humans, this sugar triggers a powerful rejection reaction when swine tissue is transplanted. The hope is to remove both genes so the swine tissue would not be rejected.

"This has been a major hurdle," Dr Jay Fishman, director of transplantation and infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital, said of the PPL announcement. But he cautioned that more research is needed before organs from genetically altered pigs would be ready for human transplantation.

At least six labs have been searching for a way to manipulate pigs so their organs could be used to replace ailing human hearts, lungs and livers.

The major problem has been finding a way to cause the recipient's immune system to regard the transplanted organ as its own and not as foreign tissue that must be destroyed.

Ayares said PPL will take several years to figure out how to deal with adverse immune reactions and conduct trials with primates. If successful, PPL could begin human clinical trials using harvested pig hearts, kidneys, pancreases, livers, skin, and blood cells by late 2005.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the national transplant waiting list, about 77 000 Americans were in line for transplants in 2000, while 23 000 received them.

That same year, 5 742 people on the US transplant waiting list died awaiting transplants, according to the network.

Pigs have long been considered good candidates as a source for replacement parts because their organs closely match the size of those in humans. But organs from ordinary pigs would be rejected by humans because the surface of pig cells have a sugar known as alpha-1-galactose.

The human immune system recognises this sugar as foreign and reacts strongly, causing a hyperacute rejection action that kills transplanted organs within hours.

For this rejection action to be neutralised, both copies of the alpha-1-galactose gene must be removed from the pig genome.

PPL's five piglets, born on Christmas Day, were engineered to lack one copy of the gene responsible for alpha-1-galactose.

"People might wonder, who wants pig organs? I tell you, the people on the waiting list," Ayares said.

The five newborns - named Joy, Angel, Mary, Star and Noel - huddled in the corner of their pen of artificial turf at PPL's news conference on Wednesday, each with a number written above their tail. - AP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1126480,00.html, 2002/01/07

 

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Ref:VIT020102

 

Vitamin A levels need to be re-evaluated: Chicago - Too much vitamin A may increase the risk of hip fractures in older women, according to a new study that researchers say suggests the need to re-evaluate the levels in supplements and fortified food.

Vitamin A is important for such things as healthy skin and hair and bone growth. But in this study, researchers found that women with the highest total intake, both from food and vitamin supplements, had double the risk of hip fractures compared with women with the lowest intake.

One theory is that too much vitamin A inhibits the ability of Vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium, said lead author, Diane Feskanich, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She said previous studies also suggest vitamin A affects cells that work in bone remodelling - the breakdown and rebuilding of bone.

"There is a biologic reason to support what we're observing, but we don't know what those reasons are," said Feskanich, adding that the research confirms the findings of an earlier Swedish study.

The adverse effects appear to be caused only by too much retinol - the true form of vitamin A, found in such things as liver, fish oils and supplements - and not by foods rich in beta carotene, such as dark, leafy vegetables. Beta carotene is converted by the body to vitamin A as needed.

Researchers analysed dietary questionnaires from more than 70 000 postmenopausal woman - all nurses from 34 to 77 years old.

From 1980 to 1998, there were 603 hip fractures from such things as falling from the height of a chair or tripping.

The risk was almost twice as high among women with retinol intake of about 2 000 micrograms or more per day, compared with those with intakes of less than 500 micrograms daily. And women specifically taking a vitamin A supplement had a 40 percent greater risk of hip fracture than women not taking the supplement, Feskanich said.

The Institute of Medicine - a private science organisation that sets the nation's recommended daily allowances (RDA) for nutrients - recommends that women get 700 micrograms a day of the vitamin. But multivitamins typically contain about 1 500 micrograms because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not updated vitamin supplement labels, Feskanich said.

She said between multivitamin supplements and fortified food, it is not difficult for women to attain vitamin A levels high enough to cause problems. Some increased risk was even seen at the old recommended levels.

"If you're taking a multivitamin and consuming fortified milk and cereal ... after a while, there are just too many sources," she said.

She said the FDA should consider lowering labelling standards for vitamin A. Also, some foods currently fortified with the vitamin might not need to be, or could be fortified with beta carotene instead of retinol, she said.

Researchers cautioned that people should not stop taking multivitamins, which help lower the risk of other diseases. Instead, consumers might consider a multivitamin that supplies some of its vitamin A from beta carotene, said co-author, Dr Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group for the dietary supplement industry, played down the significance of the study, saying that another recent survey found no connection between high vitamin A intake and bone density problems.

The study of nurses was "observational" only, the trade group said, and "by its very nature, never provides proof" but only suggests further study.

But Dr John Anderson, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said the study appears to show a strong link between high vitamin A levels and hip fractures.

But, "I think we kind of need to wait and see", Anderson, who was not involved in the study, said. "There is enough suggested evidence from previous studies and this one that it's very possible we're overfortifying and oversupplementing in the US. But it's unclear what a safe upper limit is, and the issue needs to be resolved more with clinical studies."

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Margo A Denke of the Centre for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre said the findings support the need to set a safe upper limit to dietary retinol only.

She noted that the study participants were white US women of high socioeconomic status, and said further study is needed on populations with diets less rich in vitamin A, "to avoid confronting the other, even more hazardous side of the sword - vitamin A deficiency". - AP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1126214,00.html, 2002/01/03

 

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Ref:PRO020102

 

Progestin protects against ovarian cancer: WASHINGTON (AP) -- Progestin is the ingredient in oral contraceptive pills that provides the highest level of protection against ovarian cancer, researchers have found.

Analysis by the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center of a 20-year-old study that showed the pill can help prevent ovarian cancer found that the cancer risk was cut by about 50 percent in all women taking pills containing the hormones estrogen and progestin.

However, women who took pills containing high levels of progestin reduced their risk of ovarian cancer by an additional 50 percent, said Patricia G. Moorman, a Duke University Medical Center researcher and the co-author of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"The take-home message from this study is that oral contraceptives are protective against ovarian cancer and our finding that the high progestin potency effect is a scientific (result) that might lead to new protective" drugs against ovarian cancer, Moorman said.

The study is based on a re-examination of the medical and oral contraceptive histories of more than 3,200 women who took part in a study project conducted from 1980 to 1982. The group included 390 women who developed ovarian cancer and 2,865 who did not. It compared the ovarian cancer outcome among women who did not take the pill and with women who took different formulations of the pill.

The groups included women who took no pills; those who took pills high in both estrogen and progestin; women who took pills high in one or the other of the hormones, and women who took pills with low levels of both hormones.

Moorman said earlier results had proven that the pill protects against ovarian cancer, while the new study shows which of two hormones in the pill, estrogen and progestin, are most protective.

She said the study "should lead to the investigation of progestin as a chemopreventative agent for ovarian cancer."

Moorman said the pills used by the women in the study 20 years ago are not now commonly available. She said birth control pill formulations have changed over the years as research showed that pills with lower hormone levels were effective contraceptives. Pills with lower levels of hormone generally have fewer side effects.

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer among women, excluding the skin cancers. It accounts for about 4 percent of all cancers in women, with more than 23,000 new cases diagnosed in 2001, according to the American Cancer Society.

Nearly 14,000 American women died of ovarian cancer in 2001.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/parenting/01/02/cancer.thepill.ap/index.html, 2002/01/03

 

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Ref:AST020102

 

Alternate therapy for asthma: New York - Nearly half of all asthma or seasonal allergy sufferers say they turn to alternative therapies for relief, researchers report.

The finding "supports other observations indicating an increasing prevalence over the last decade of alternative, complementary, or unorthodox treatment" for these common maladies, Dr Paul D Blanc and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco, reported in a recent issue of the journal Chest.

By telephone, Blanc's team randomly surveyed 300 northern California adults with either asthma or seasonal allergies such as hay fever, questioning them about their use of herbals, homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, reflexology, massage and other alternative medicines.

Overall, 127 (42%) of those surveyed reported using at least one alternative therapy in the previous year. Of these, 33 (26%) were not currently using any prescription medications.

Twenty-four percent of those questioned reported using herbal remedies - products such as herbal teas or Chinese herbal preparations - while another 22% said they had tried other treatments such as aromatherapy, massage or acupuncture to ease their symptoms.

People who used one type of alternative therapy tended to use others, the team found.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Edzard Ernst of the University of Exeter, UK, said the growth in use of alternative therapies by asthmatics and those with allergies is in keeping with trends seen in the general population.

But the effectiveness of most of these therapies remains in doubt, he said, and some - including medicines containing Ephedra and certain Chinese herbal mixtures - have proven downright dangerous to the health of some users.

Too many patients also hide their use of alternative medicines from their doctors, Ernst added, a potentially harmful practice since many of these medicines can interact harmfully with conventional drugs.

According to Ernst, doctors and patients need to do more to educate themselves about the risks and benefits associated with traditional remedies, so that "we start clearing up this profoundly confusing and potentially dangerous mess".

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1126233,00.html, 2002/01/03

 

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Ref:SCI020102

 

Scientists: Liars betrayed by their faces: (AP) -- A heat-sensing camera trained on people's faces was able to detect liars in a study that hints at a way of spotting terrorists at airports.

In six of eight people who lied, the high-resolution thermal imaging camera detected a faint blushing around their eyes that Mayo Clinic researchers said is evidence of deception.

Such facial imaging, they said, could provide a simple and rapid way of scanning people being questioned at airports or border crossings.

But other scientists questioned the significance of the findings, noting that the technique was tested on a small number of people. They also said the experiment fell far short of what is needed to reveal whether thermal imaging can work accurately and quickly in real-life situations.

"What they found is interesting, but it's more than a bit of a stretch for them to say this could be useful for mass screening," said Monroe Friedman, a professor of psychology at Eastern Michigan University.

The experiment involved 20 Army recruits. They were randomly assigned to either stab a mannequin and take a $20 bill from its clothing, or not carry out this staged crime.

The recruits were then filmed with the thermal imager as they were subjected to the same questions, with the mannequin-robbers instructed in advance to lie about their theft.

The results appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Six of the eight "robbers" showed the telltale heat patterns around their eyes. Eleven of the 12 other volunteers were correctly tagged as innocent.

Polygraph yields similar results

Tests with a polygraph -- popularly known as a lie detector -- yielded similar results. Polygraphs measure blood pressure, breathing rate, sweating and other body changes.

James A. Levine, a study author and a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist, said the blushing seen around the robbers' eyes was the thermal signature of the primitive "fright-flight response" that arises when people lie.

Levine conceded the experiment was small but said the findings warrant "aggressive investigation" for potential security applications. His team is planning additional tests.

Frank Horvath, a professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University, was not impressed. He said the thermal imaging camera, like a polygraph, is only picking up physiological changes caused by anxiety. Such changes do not necessarily indicate guilt or innocence, he said.

And even if thermal imaging is comparable in accuracy to polygraphs, Horvath said it would not be suitable for rapid mass screenings. He noted that 25 percent of the test subjects who were lying eluded detection.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/01/02/liars.faces.ap/index.html, 2002/01/03

 

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Ref:GEN020102

 

U.S. team finds genes for obsessive grooming: WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Think your teenage daughter spends far too long in the bathroom? It might just be due to her genes, and her primping may actually be an important survival behavior, scientists said on Wednesday.

They said they had found a group of genes that, when disrupted, caused mice to groom themselves to the point of baldness.

Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah School of Medicine, who helped lead the study, said people have the same group of genes and they may also be involved in grooming behavior. If so, further studies could help explain obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

"People with obsessive-compulsive disorder can spend an enormous amount of time washing their hands, to the point where they get bleeding sometimes," Capecchi said in a telephone interview.

That is only one manifestation of OCD, which can cause a range of behaviors. But it is similar enough to what the mice do to make Capecchi believe there is a link.

"In terms of genes, we are 99 percent the same" as mice, Capecchi, a geneticist, said. "Now what we have to do is go to populations that have obsessive-compulsive disorder and then start looking at their DNA to see if this particular gene is affected."

Studies with twins show that OCD has a genetic basis -- identical twins are more likely to have OCD if their twin has it, Capecchi said.

His team had been examining a group of genes called Hoxb genes, specifically one called Hoxb8. They are very important in development and are very similar in all mammals.

"It is a very basic gene," Capecchi said.

"It is important during the early part of your life. It is involved in making parts of your brain, all the bones in your body, organs in particular places."

So how could it have a role in behavior?

"What we are finding is that genes normally don't have a single role. They have multiple roles," Capecchi said. "This whole complex may be involved extensively in the adult."

It would make sense that mammals would share a gene for grooming, Capecchi said. Even fruit flies groom themselves.

"We often neglect it but terms of survival grooming is actually important," Capecchi said.

For example, he said, when people invented cotton clothing, they could wash their clothes and their bodies more often, getting rid of fleas, germs and parasites. Just about the time Europe started importing cotton from Egypt, life expectancy went up, he said.

"That gives you an indication of the importance of grooming," Capecchi said.

So he said parents should not complain when teenagers spend hours in the bathroom. "As long as they are grooming, that is probably OK," he said.

Capecchi and colleagues found the role of the hoxb8 gene by creating mice that lacked a normal version of the gene. The mice ended up with bald patches.

But, the researchers reported in the January 2 issue of the journal Neuron, they were not sure why the mice were bald -- were they grooming too much, did they have itchy skin, or was something else wrong?

So they videotaped their mice. Not only did the mutants groom themselves bald, but they also licked and nibbled their normal cage-mates for hours.

"They have fairly normal grooming behavior -- they just spend enormous amounts of time doing it," Capecchi said.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/conditions/01/02/grooming.gene.reut/index.html, 2002/01/03

 

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Ref:HIVP011219

 

Health minister ponders ruling on HIV drug: The government is due to announce on Wednesday whether it would appeal against a High Court ruling ordering it to give a key drug to HIV-positive pregnant women to help protect their unborn babies.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang spent Tuesday in a meeting with seven of the country's nine provincial health MECs.

A statement had been drawn up, but a final decision had not been made at that stage, an SABC television report said on Tuesday night.

On Friday, the government said it was "studying the detail of the judgment, in order to establish its premise, including such critical issues as the role of the judiciary in relation to executive policy decisions".

In its arguments before the court, the government outlined its concern that, in ruling on the case, the judiciary might infringe on government policy-making.

The Pretoria High Court ordered the government to provide the anti-retroviral drug Nevirapine to all pregnant women who are infected with HIV to help prevent mother-to-child transmission.

It also ordered the government to submit a plan by March 31 on how it would go about implementing an extended programme.

An estimated 25 percent of pregnant women in the country are HIV-positive, and infect more than 70 000 babies every year. - Sapa-AFP

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Oline) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011219000644377S162236&set_id=1, 2001/12/19

 

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Ref:MAL011218

 

Malaria vaccine breakthrough: Washington - A vaccine made from the milk of genetically engineered mice has been shown to prevent monkeys from developing malaria.

Scientists say the same vaccine produced in goat's milk could protect millions from malaria, a major killer of African children.

Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on Monday that the study was a laboratory experiment to prove that a vaccine against malaria could be made cheaply by changing the genes of milk producing animals.

Obtaining malaria vaccine from milk could be a key step in controlling malaria in the poorer countries where the mosquito-borne infection hits the hardest, said Anthony Stowers, a NIAID malaria researcher and the first author of the study appearing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"A herd of several goats could conceivably produce enough vaccine for all of Africa," Stowers said.

Dr Philip J. Rosenthal, a malaria expert at the University of California, San Francisco, said the NIAID study is "an important advance" toward a cheap malaria vaccine, but the study still leaves many unanswered questions about the vaccine itself.

"What makes this study important is not the vaccine part, but the fact they have produced this antigen (a protein that can be used as a vaccine) in milk," said Rosenthal. "That is very impressive."

In the study, Stowers and his colleagues inserted into the DNA of mice embryos some genes that would cause the animals' mammary glands to later produce a protein known to block the spread of malaria parasites in the blood.

The embryos were put into the wombs of mother mice, carried to term and were born. When the young animals reached adulthood, the females among them were allowed to lactate. The researchers recovered this milk with small syringe-like breast pumps and used standard lab techniques to purify the anti-malaria proteins.

These vaccine proteins were then injected into six small Aotus monkeys. Seven other monkeys were injected with a placebo protein.

Later, all the monkeys were injected with a killer concentration of the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite.

Stowers said that five of the six monkeys injected with the milk-produced vaccine did not develop malaria. The one monkey that got sick with the disease was treated and recovered.

Among the control animals, all became sick with malaria, but recovered after treatment.

Stowers said that the genetic manipulation technique has now been done on a herd of goats and preliminary tests show that they, too, will produce the malaria vaccine in their milk. He said the goats are expected to begin natural lactation in June.

When they do, Stowers said the researchers will purify the vaccine and then test it against malaria in monkeys. If it works, he said the group hopes to start human trials using the goat-produced vaccine in 2003.

If the technique works, Stowers said it would make it possible for a small herd of goats to make enough vaccine to rescue a whole generation of African children from malaria.

"A single gallon of goat milk could produce 40 000 doses of vaccine," he said.

Right now, about 300 Africans, aged birth to five, die every hour from the disease. It is estimated that up to 500 million Africans are infected with malaria annually and up to two million, mostly children, die. - Sapa-AP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1122383,00.html, 2001/12/19

 

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Ref:COM011218

 

Drug gives quicker relief for common cold: CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- In a medical first, researchers have developed a drug that speeds recovery from the common cold -- a significant breakthrough for scientists who have been in pursuit of a cure for decades.

Since the medicine doesn't make the sniffles disappear immediately, it is still debatable whether the scientists have discovered the long-sought cure. But experts say there is little doubt the medicine makes people feel better sooner if their cold is caused by a rhinovirus, the most common culprit.

The drug -- which is still months away from drugstores -- eases cold symptoms within a day and makes a runny nose completely clear up a day sooner than usual.

Dr. Scott Hammer, a virus expert at Columbia University, said that is a substantial development -- considering a one-day reduction in a viral disease that lasts only a few days is probably the best that can be hoped for.

The findings were presented Monday by Dr. Frederick Hayden of the University of Virginia at an infectious-disease conference in Chicago sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology. The research was financed by ViroPharma Inc. of Exton, Pennsylvania, which is developing the drug.

The company applied in July to the Food and Drug Administration for approval to market the drug. A decision is at least months away.

Experts say they expect the agency to be unusually cautious, since any medicine to treat a non-lethal infection in healthy people must be extremely safe.

"The safety issues are dramatic," said Hammer. "They will be looked at very, very carefully."

Hayden said he has seen no significant side effects from the drug, called pleconaril. Some volunteers have a slight, temporary rise in cholesterol levels, which he said has "no clinical significance."

The company has not said how much it will charge for the medicine, which would be sold by prescription under the brand name Picovir, but officials said it is likely to cost as much as antibiotics, which typically are more than $40 for a course of treatment.

Unlike many over-the-counter remedies, which ease cold symptoms by drying up plugged noses and soothing aches, pleconaril attacks a large group of viruses known as the picornaviruses. Among these is the rhinovirus, the bug that causes about half of all colds.

"It really represents the first effective treatment for a rhinovirus illness," Hayden said.

The medicine stops the virus by fitting into a groove on its surface. This jams the machinery it needs to enter and infect the body's cells.

The latest research is ViroPharma's second attempt to prove that the drug speeds recovery from the common cold. Its earlier study fell short of showing a statistically significant benefit.

In the latest work, conducted a year ago, people who felt colds coming on were randomly assigned to get pleconaril or dummy pills. In all, 2,096 people started in the study within a day of the onset of symptoms.

Testing showed that two-thirds of the volunteers actually had caught a rhinovirus. In these people, runny noses and other symptoms completely went away in an average of six days, compared with seven days in the rhinovirus sufferers getting placebos.

Volunteers were allowed to take their usual over-the-counter medicines. Nevertheless, those using pleconaril began to feel better than the others within a day of starting treatment. Their symptoms were half gone in three days, compared with four days among those getting dummy pills.

New studies are under way to test the drug in children who have colds as well as in college students to see if it will keep them from catching colds.

Those with fevers were excluded from the study, since their colds are unlikely to result from rhinoviruses.

In general, Hayden said the medicine is likely to be most useful in the spring, summer and fall, when the rhinovirus is the dominant cause of colds. Colds in the late fall and winter are more likely to result from other viruses.

Doctors assume that the sooner people start taking the drug, the better their chances of cutting short their colds. Hayden said pleconaril may work best if people keep a supply at home to use at the first telltale symptoms.

Colds are the single most frequent reason why people go to the doctor. Antibiotics are worthless against colds, though doctors often prescribe them anyway.

An FDA advisory panel is scheduled to review pleconaril next spring. Hayden declined to predict whether it will be approved. However, he said, "I would certainly use it, and I would use it in my family members."

Pleconaril may also work against other kinds of picornaviruses, including ones that cause viral meningitis and middle-ear infections.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/conditions/12/18/cold.treatment.ap/index.html, 2001/12/19

 

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Ref:HEP011218

 

Vaccination prevents Hepatitis A outbreaks: CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Hepatitis A outbreaks in all age groups could be prevented if children were routinely vaccinated against the liver ailment, a study in Northern California suggests.

When 66 percent of eligible children in Butte County received free hepatitis A vaccinations over six years, cases in the county dropped nearly 94 percent. The number of reported cases fell from 57 in 1995 to 4 in 2000, the lowest number in more than 30 years, the study found.

The study was conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver that can cause flu-like symptoms and jaundice. Children are less severely affected than adults and may even have no symptoms. The virus can be spread by human feces or contaminated water or food. The disease usually clears up in about two months.

Federal estimates suggest there were 270,000 cases in the United States in 1997, and Western states are disproportionately affected.

The CDC recommends routine vaccination of children in Western states with high rates of the virus: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Washington.

Of those, only Oklahoma and Alaska routinely require the childhood vaccine statewide, said Dr. Philip Rosenthal, president of the Northern California chapter of the American Liver Foundation. Nevada will begin requiring the shots in July, but Rosenthal said efforts to make them mandatory in California have so far failed.

During the study, 29,789 children ages 2 through 12 in Butte County received at least one dose; 17,681 received the recommended second dose. No serious side effects were reported. The incidence last year of 1.9 cases per 100,000 population was the lowest of any county in the state.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/parenting/12/18/hepatitis.a.ap/index.html, 2001/12/19

 

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Ref:PIL011217

 

Pill firm resorts to word-juggling: A company selling a natural antidepressant is fighting allegations that its wonder drug contains little more than a bit of protein.

Ironically, excessive doses of that protein are believed to cause depression, instead of curing it.

But the Pretoria-based company Unique Formulations, whose "SAMe Moodcaps" retail at about R160 for 60 capsules, insists that the dispute is little more than a "labelling issue".

It says it has changed its labelling because "we don't want to be ambiguous".

The label on the "SAMe Moodcaps" claims that the capsules each contain 200mg of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a special form of the amino acid methionine.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

SAMe is manufactured in the body.

Supplementation is used as a treatment for a variety of ailments, but is best known for the treatment of depression. But laboratory tests have revealed that the "Moodcaps", which are supposed to counteract depression, contain no SAMe.

One test, conducted in Switzerland at BASF Laboratories, failed to detect SAMe.

The other test, conducted by the South African Bureau of Standards, revealed that the 528mg capsule contained 345mg of methionine (a substance which is not listed as one of the ingredients).

Once the other two ingredients of Moodcaps have been added, this would leave little room for the 200mg of SAMe the capsule is supposed to contain.

Ironically, excessive doses of methionine can elevate the body's levels of another amino acid derivative - homocysteine - which could aggravate depression (the problem "Moodcaps" is supposed to correct).

In September, the Health Products Association of South Africa wrote to Unique Formulations requesting a certificate of analysis to prove its claims.

Unique Formulations directors Dr Roy Davey and Winston Bursey responded by denying they had "lied to the public".

"We acknowledge that there may be a labelling issue that needs closer scrutiny," their response read.

They did not provide proof of the contents of the "Moodcaps" and were subsequently given a deadline to provide evidence backing their claims that the capsule contained SAMe.

Last week, Davey and Bursey admitted to The Star that "Moodcaps" did not contain SAMe after all.

They said their product contained methionine, but also had "secret ingredients" which enabled the body to produce SAMe.

The day before the interview, The Star photographed the label of a bottle which was on the shelves of a popular Johannesburg pharmacy. It stated that the capsules each contained 200mg of SAMe.

The cleverly worded label presented to The Star during the interview the following day stated: "Uniquely formulated and therapeutically advanced SAMe Moodcaps deliver 500mg Formula S07 SAMe."

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011217203642777S5405&set_id=1, 2001/12/19

 

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Ref:EBO011210

 

Uganda issues Ebola alert: KAMPALA, Uganda -- Uganda has issued an Ebola virus alert after the deaths of 28 people from haemorrhaging near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sam Okware, Uganda's Ebola task force chairman, told Reuters on Monday: "We have been hearing of rumours of an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever in Congo and Gabon so we have put the districts on alert just in case it is Ebola."

Doctors fear an outbreak of fever in the Congolese village of Misangandu, roughly 1,000 km (620 miles) southwest of Uganda, could be the dreaded Ebola virus.

The World Health Organisation said at least 10 other people, including a nurse, had died of a mystery illness in the west African country of Gabon and attributed one of the deaths to the deadly virus.

The WHO said in a weekly bulletin in Geneva on Friday that it had received reports of cases of suspected viral haemorrhagic fever -- which includes Ebola -- in Ogooue Iveindo province in the northeastern part of Gabon.

There is no known cure or vaccine for Ebola, which causes up to 90 percent of victims to bleed to death in a matter of days.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told the Associated Press that the dead were 10 members of an extended family and a health worker.

A group of experts have travelled to Gabon and a second team of WHO specialists was being assembled to fly there on Monday.

The team will help Gabon officials contain the disease, partly by teaching local medical staff to use "barriers" such as gloves and masks to prevent contact with the bodily fluids of patients, Hartl said.

The virus is named after the Ebola River where it was first identified in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The biggest recent outbreak of Ebola killed more than 170 people in Uganda last year.

Ebola, which is passed on through contact with body fluids of infected persons and begins with aches and fever similar to flu symptoms, killed at least 245 people in the Congolese town of Kikwit in 1995.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/africa/12/10/ebola/index.html, 2001/12/11

 

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Ref:KID011210

 

Keyhole surgery on kidneys leaves no scars: A new procedure for kidney surgery makes unsightly scars, hospital stay and long recovery time something of the past. This keyhole surgery, also known as minimal invasive surgery is being used by South African urologists to perform operations that until recently could only be done by an incision that stretched nearly halfway around the body.

The surgery involves three small holes in the patient's body, one on the rim of the belly button, and the other two forming a triangle on either side. None of the cuts were longer than a centimetre.

News journalists were invited to witness this new procedure at Netcare's Parklands Hospital in Durban last week. It took about an hour, and according to the surgeon, the patients would have been able to go home about an hour later.

Kidney operations performed by using this new method include the removal of a kidney, removal of large stones from the ureter, various repairs of the kidney and bladder, removal of lymph nodes from the pelvis, surgery for undescended testis in children, hernia repair in adults and children, and even removal of the prostate.

At present only a few urologists practise laparoscopy in South Africa. It is a new procedure that costs considerably less than conventional surgery, but very few medical schemes in South Africa have incorporated in into their benefit schedules. People opting for this type of operation would have to negotiate with their medical schemes beforehand.

(Source: Sunday Independent 9/12/2001)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org/, 2001/12/11

 

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Ref:AID011210

 

Nigeria first to trial generic Aids drugs: Abuja - Nigeria will on Monday launch Africa's first trial programme to use cheap, imported, generic Aids drugs to combat the disease sweeping the continent, officials said on Sunday.

Aiming to tackle the effects of an epidemic now affecting almost 3.5 million Nigerians, and 28.1 million Africans, the programme will start in 18 federal health centres on a limited number of patients.

It will be widened to 100 centres and 10 000 patients over coming months, officials said.

In an experiment expected to be watched closely by health officials across Africa, the trial - the idea of President Olusegun Obasanjo and Health Minister Alphonsus Nwosu - will be testing the ability of the country's shambolic state health system's to administer the difficult anti-retroviral drugs demanded across the continent.

Costly anti-retroviral drugs, or ARVs, are widely used in the West to tackle Aids and have turned it from what was always a death sentence into, often, a chronic but not necessarily fatal disease.

However, according to some health experts, the way the ARVs have to be administered, the conditions in which they have to be kept and the degree of care and support is beyond the health systems of many African countries.

And until a court case in South Africa earlier this year, countries in Africa were banned from importing the sort of cheap generic drugs from India now to be trialed in Nigeria.

"What we are doing is a first," admitted on Sunday an official with Nigeria's National Action Committee on HIV/Aids.

"Other countries have tried western drugs but no-one can afford them on a big scale. What we are trying is something that will be on a big scale. It is a trial," he said.

Attention on the experiment will be particularly intense because it comes as a special conference on HIV/Aids gets under way in nearby Burkina Faso.

Health experts, community care workers and policymakers gathered in the capital of Burkina Faso on Sunday with the goal of strengthening strategies for tackling the crisis across Africa.

The five-day conference, staged under UN auspices, was to open ceremonially late on Sunday broaching the themes of efforts to overcome the Aids taboo in many countries, as well as access to cheap anti-retroviral drugs.

Deputy Health Minister Amina Ndalolo last month announced the trial programme.

But on Sunday some of the drugs required for the trial had still not arrived at either of the two Lagos hospitals chosen to be among the 18 centres for the launch.

Eventually, officials recognise, the country will need to import cheap generic drugs commercially if it is to tackle the disease in a nation as large as Nigeria, with a population of 120 million, since it cannot afford free treatment for all.

Meanwhile, health workers are also concerned that more effort should be put into prevention programmes.

"Of course, everyone supports treatment programmes but it is just as important to stop more people getting it," a health worker said on Sunday.

Since Aids was first discovered 20 years ago, 60 million people have become infected with HIV, 20 million of whom have already died. Of the 40 million people today living with Aids or HIV, 28.1 million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. - AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1119299,00.html, 2001/12/11

 

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Ref:GAR011210

 

Garlic and rosemary fight cancer: Paris - Extracts of garlic and rosemary can help prevent cancer, a team of French researchers announced in Paris on Friday.

According to the researchers at the French Institute for Agronomy Research (INRA), garlic - like other plants of the genus allium, such as onion and shallots - contains a number of sulphuric compounds, one of which exhibits remarkable anti-carcinogenic properties.

This compound prevents the development of two early phases in the pathogenesis of cancer, initiation and advancement, INRA said.

Similarly, extracts of rosemary have been found to be rich in substances known as polyphenols, which help prevent the onset of the disease.

They act by stimulating enzymes capable of neutralizing the activity of carcinogenic substances and thereby preventing them from attacking the DNA of cells, INRA said.

The Institute said that rosemary extract could eventually be used as an anti-oxydant in the human diet, replacing synthetic compounds currently in use.

The experiments were carried out on liver cancer in rats, but the mechanisms discovered suggest that they have a wider application, such as in other cancers and possibly on humans, INRA said. - DPA

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1118778,00.html, 2001/12/11

 

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Ref:TWI011209

 

Twin surgery on hold: Port Elizabeth's siamese twins, Zinzi and Zanele Kona, who are joined at the bottom, will not be separated today as doctors had hoped.

The head of the Red Cross Children's Hospital paediatric surgery unit, Prof Heinz Rode, said the twins would be given another three months in which to grow normally before the difficult operation was attempted.

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011209195030505T520647&set_id=1, 2001/12/11

 

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Ref:GAR011207

 

Garlic hinders anti-Aids treatment: Washington - Garlic supplements, often taken in hopes of lowering cholesterol, can seriously interfere with drugs used to treat the Aids virus, a new federal study concludes.

The study makes garlic the second popular herbal remedy found to interact dangerously with prescription drugs. Experts already warn that St John's wort, which claims to ease depression, can block the effectiveness of several drugs, including Aids treatments and a medicine vital for organ transplant recipients.

Doctors "and patients should not assume that dietary supplements are benign therapies," wrote Dr Judith Falloon of the National Institutes of Health, co-author of the garlic study.

NIH researchers recruited 10 healthy volunteers - people who did not have HIV - and gave them doses of an Aids drug called saquinavir. Saquinavir is a protease inhibitor, one of a class of potent drugs credited with helping thousands of patients battle HIV and live longer lives.

The volunteers took saquinavir for three days, after which researchers tested the drug's level in their bloodstream. Then they took both saquinavir and garlic supplements for three weeks.

Blood levels of the medication dropped 51 percent when it was taken with garlic, the researchers reported Thursday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

A drop that big in an HIV patient could cause treatment failure, doctors say. - AP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1118419,00.html, 2001/12/10

 

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Ref:BIL011207

 

Private hospital group welcomes Health Bill: A private hospital group, Netcare, welcomed the draft National Health Bill and said it was a good piece of legislation treating private and public hospitals as equals and would lead to a better national health system. The National Health Bill is the result of a White Paper on health services, which covers the private and public health sectors at national, provincial and local levels.

Mr Norman Weltman, executive director for Netcare, said they regarded the Bill as very positive but there were some aspects of concern. `We have three months to submit comment and make recommendations.

Their main concerns include the certificate of need required to set up any health establishment, including a hospital, and the clause allowing the minister to determine pricing at hospitals which could be seen as price control.

'The minister will also be able to regulate standards, staffing size and delivery of service. We believe we have demonstrated in the private sector that our standards are equal to the rest of the world offering first world medicine and service. We are driven to maintain our high service,' Weltman said.

Netcare said they also welcomed the integration of public and private health establishments. 'In a public private interface skills and expertise can be shared to ensure a better health system.'

(Source: The Star 7 December 2001)

Article Source & Reference: http://www.samedical.org/, 2001/12/10

 

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Ref:SIA011207

 

Mom's arms the right place for siamese twins: Nomsa Kona, mother of the Port Elizabeth conjoined twins, is hesitant about exposing her babies to the world - but then they're put into her arms for the first time and everything else just disappears.

Her face is a picture of love and her smile widens, eyes fixed firmly on little Zinzi and Zanele.

Zanele sleeps through it all, her first official photo shoot, but little Zinzi is awake and responsive, interacting constantly with her mother.

Kona doesn't want to talk too much about herself. She is understandably overwhelmed by the arrival, by natural birth, of twins joined at the pelvis, the emergency flight to Cape Town with them, the transfer to Red Cross Children's Hospital, and then all the tests they've had to undergo.

On Thursday, nine days after the birth, she held them in her arms for the first time, a little awkwardly, but the pleasure and contentment on her face proved the babies were finally in just the right place.

The twins, born on November 27, are joined at the pelvis and share an anus and perhaps a bladder, although tests have not yet confirmed all these details, according to Heinz Rode, head of paediatric surgery at Red Cross Children's Hospital.

Rode will lead the surgical team that will separate the girls in a marathon operation at the hospital on Monday. It will be the 35th separation of conjoined twins at Red Cross.

On Friday afternoon, surgeons and specialists were to meet to discuss the details of the operation, analysing results of extensive tests the babies have undergone throughout the week to determine what organs they share and the strategy for the separation.

Rode said he believed the twins could be successfully separated but reconstruction would be difficult.

"We will, I'm sure, be able to ensure they become functional, separate human beings," he said.

Rode describes the pair as having "individualised themselves". Zanele is slightly bigger than Zinzi.

Zinzi was awake during the photo shoot and while she might be a little smaller than her sister, it's clear that whatever she lacks in size, she certainly makes up for in personality.

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011207100516338T520969&set_id=1, 2001/12/10

 

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Ref:MAL011207

 

Vaccine shows promise against malaria: London - Doctors say they are excited by early results of an experimental vaccine against malaria, the world's deadliest tropical disease.

Trails of the vaccine, developed by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc, showed it was 34 percent effective in protecting adults against the mosquito-borne disease that kills 2.7 million people each year.

Dr Kalifa Bojang, of the Medical Research Council Laboratories in Gambia, said the results are encouraging because they show scientists are on the right track in defeating the disease.

"We are very excited by these results," he said.

"The important thing to bear in mind is that this 34 percent was in adults and the immune response in children might be different. There are plans now to test this vaccine in children and we might see a better result," he added.

Three-quarters of malaria victims are children.

Developing an effective vaccine against the disease has been a top priority for public health officials because of malaria's high death toll, particularly in Africa where the disease is most prevalent, and the economic burden of the illness.

Although effective drugs are available, the malaria parasite has developed resistance to many treatments and a vaccine is seen as one of the best hopes of curtailing the disease.

Vaccine development difficult

"Malaria vaccine development has been very difficult, partly because of the technical challenges involved," said Bojang, referring to the parasite's complexity and how it evades the immune system.

"We are encouraged by this result because it means we are on the right path and that we can look forward to trying to develop a better vaccine."

The vaccine, known by the code name RTS,S/AS02, prevents the malaria parasite from infecting red blood cells. The parasite invades the blood cells and adheres to other cells and prevents them from launching an immune response.

Bojang and his team tested three doses of vaccine on 131 men. They said their results, which are reported in The Lancet medical journal, show it is safe and effective. A fourth dose boosted effectiveness to 47 percent.

Trials of the vaccine will be expanded into Mozambique where it will be tested on children aged one to five years old.

Malaria is transmitted by the bite of an infected female mosquito. It causes fever, muscle stiffness and shaking and sweating. Cerebral malaria, the most dreaded form of the illness, can kill within 24 hours.

The World Health Organisation estimates there are 500 million cases of malaria each year.

Scientists have also created a genetically modified malaria mosquito in what they hope will be the first step in controlling the transmission of the disease by manipulating mosquito genes.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1118528,00.html, 2001/12/10

 

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Ref:SIE011207

 

A little siesta does wonders: Cape Town - Around midday when you have to shield the heat of the sun from your eyes, it is time to take a short nap.

Mediterraneans have been following this practice for ages, but now the British Sleep Council is calling on bosses to replace the nine-to-five work day with more flexible working hours.

This follows a survey which shows that by including a siesta in the working day, productivity is promoted. "That's why employers could benefit from allowing afternoon naps," Dr Chris Idzikowski a Surrey University professor maintains following two years of research.

The 12 000 respondents included Europeans, Americans, Australians and South Africans. A total of 41 percent said their most productive period was during the morning, while 38 percent elected evenings as their productive period.

American Navaho Indians definitely got it wrong by pertinently stating that anyone who takes a nap during the day is lazy.

Before the advent of industrialisation people slept in bits and pieces. They would for example have slept in the afternoon, early evening and at night rather than for an uninterrupted sleep during the night.

Sleeping patterns tend to change within different cultures. Earlier Eskimos slept for much longer during the long, dark winters than in summer. As a result of electrical lights, this is no longer the case.

Whether children sleep with their parents, depends on the climate, availability of bedrooms, family size, presence of a father, privacy, independence and mortality among newborns in a community.

In the US Spock advised that children should not share a bed with their parents, this practice, however, that developed in the 20th century is unusual for other cultures including Japan and Italy.

Countless American families also do not sleep in separate rooms. In Afro-American families it is common for parents and young children to share a bed.

The British Sleep Council believes it reflects a fundamental difference in values. US parents believe their children should be independent as early as possible, while inter dependency is much more important in Japan.

The Sleep Council also probed who sleeps how, on what and under what.

Not everybody wears pyjamas when they depart to the country of dreams. The Effe of the Democratic Republic of Congo sleep in the raw for fear that the campfire might set them alight.

In North Kenya the men and women of the Gabra tribe sleep in separate beds, while the parents and children of the Lese tribe in the DRC share beds. In Pakistan the Swat Pathan have separate beds for everyone, with separate sleeping quarters reserved for men and women.

Not everyone agrees that a good mattress is the best guarantee for a good night's rest.

In non-industrialised communities they often sleep on the ground.

The Ache of Paraguay sleep on mats they roll up during the day and the Hiwi of southern Venezuela use hanging mats. A layer of leaves is sufficient covering for the Effe of the DRC.

Article Source & Reference: M-web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1118661,00.html, 2001/12/10

 

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FDA issues warning for anesthesia drug: WASHINGTON (AP) -- A drug anesthesiologists commonly use apparently can cause fatal irregular heartbeats at far lower doses than expected, prompting the government to urge doctors to try different medications.

At issue is droperidol, a tranquilizer often used to treat the nausea many people feel after undergoing anesthesia.

Droperidol has long carried a warning that it could cause sudden cardiac death at high doses in patients at risk of irregular heartbeats.

But the new warning, issued Wednesday, says even standard low doses of droperidol can be dangerous, and thus doctors should try alternatives before using it. Among more than 100 reports of heart-related side effects, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration counted four people who died and another three revived after cardiac arrest who were given mere 2.5-milligram doses, said agency anesthetic chief Dr. Cynthia McCormick.

So the FDA put its sternest warning -- an attention-grabbing black box -- on the drug's label and ordered manufacturer Akorn Pharmaceuticals to write thousands of doctors alerting them to the problem.

Apparently the drug can delay recharging of the heart between beats within minutes after a dose is administered, a problem known as "QT prolongation." If the heart doesn't recover, it can go into a potentially fatal irregular beat.

While apparently rare, the side effect is serious enough that anesthesiologists should reserve the drug for patients who don't respond to alternatives, the letter says. Even then, the drug should not be given to patients at risk for developing QT prolongation, which includes people with certain heart conditions, the warning says.

While droperidol is fairly widely used, it is considered second-line therapy already, so there are alternatives, said Dr. Bruce Cullen of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Still, he called the warning a surprise.

"It's certainly something that raises concern," Cullen said. But despite 30 years of practice, "I've never heard of a death due to droperidol."

That may be because many doctors use doses less than 1 milligram, he said.

But the FDA did count one death and one nonfatal cardiac arrest in patients given that low a dose, McCormick said.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News -  http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/12/06/drug.warning.ap/index.html, 2001/12/07

 

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Ref:ORG011206

 

US doctors request an organs market: As the need for organ transplants continues to outstrip supply in the United States the American Medical Association (AMA) is grappling with a possible solution that has been taboo: paying dying would-be donors and their families for vital organs.

Financial incentives are illegal and were banned by Congress in 1984. Doctors attending the 2001 meeting of the association's 549 member policy setting body said people needing organ transplants had to rely strictly on volunteers, a system that was failing.

About 15 000 people in the United States die each year awaiting organ transplants because only one third of potentially valuable organs are donated, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the non profit agency the US government pays to oversee the organ donor network. An AMA committee, the Council of Ethical and Judicial Affairs is recommending that the AMA support studies to determine if financial incentives will bring in more organ donations.

Most organ donation decisions are made by families of the people who have died suddenly and unexpectedly, and the families usually decline to offer their dead relatives for donations. 'We have a nationwide crisis and altruism doesn't seem to be hacking it right now', said Frank Riddick, chairman of the ethics commission.

The recommendations from the ethics commission have received extreme opposition from other members, who see financial incentives as unethical. 'I have a problem with treating the body and the human as property'. This is nothing more than a sale, this is a slippery slope, said Michelle Petersen.

Michael Green added this would create an unfair commercial market for organs that would exploit the poor and mostly benefit the wealthy.

In South Africa the commercialisation of organ donation was also discussed at a conference in Thaba Nchu earlier this year. Earlier this week a Cape Town doctor who preferred to remain anonymous, said some hospitals did kidney transplants on patients from Israel and it would seem if money was involved in the process. He said the donors claimed to be relatives, but there was doubt if these people really were related.

In South Africa the director general must give his/her permission for organ transplants from donors not related to the recipients, and ensure that no money was paid for the organ. Ms Alexia Michaelides, transplant co-ordinator at the Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town said it was nearly impossible to control that no money is paid to the donor or his/her family.

South Africa has a system of 'compulsory consent' where the donor's family has to give permission for donating the organ. Some doctors believe that this should be changed to 'acceptable consent' where all persons are regarded as potential donors, unless otherwise indicated.

(Source: Beeld & Cape Argus 06 December 2001)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News -  http://www.samedical.org/, 2001/12/07

 

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Ref:STU011206

 

Study finds pain, pleasure linked in brain: - WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Pain and pleasure may be closer sensations than anyone thought, researchers said Wednesday.

They found the two often activate the same circuits in the brain -- suggesting that the responses to pain and pleasure are similar.

The findings may open ways to better treat pain and also increase understanding of how the brain works, said Dr. David Borsook of Massachusetts General Hospital, who led the study.

They may also offer an objective way to measure what is now an intensely personal sensation.

"Pain is not just a sensory experience -- 'I feel it here so and just this much' -- but it is also an emotional experience. It is that emotional experience that has been hard to capture or define," Borsook said in a telephone interview.

"By defining this circuitry we believe we now are in a position to understand what in a chronic pain patient is their bigger problem, and this is their emotional reaction to pain. They are anxious, they don't eat as much, they become depressed, even suicidal."

Borsook's team used technology that allows scientists see the brain in action. They took functional MRI images of the brains of eight healthy young men while running various tests.

In one, a small heat pad was attached to the hands of the volunteers. The researchers heated it to either a pleasantly warm 106 degrees Fahrenheit or a painful 115 degrees.

Painfully hot temperatures activated not only areas long associated with pain in the brain, but also areas previously believed to involve "reward" circuitry, the researchers reported in the December 6 issue of the journal Neuron.

In some of the structures associated with reward -- areas known to be activated by cocaine, food and money -- the pattern was different from that caused by pleasurable rewards.

There was also a variation in the response over time.

"These are two brain systems that were never associated in the past, and it's the first time that we have seen something aversive activating these reward structures," Lino Becerra, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

Borsook said something more complex than a simple positive or negative response may be going on.

"It may be that these circuits previously described as handling reward are actually analyzing stimuli and judging which are important to survival," he said.

"I'm hopeful that these results will help us understand how chronic pain produces changes in the brains of patients. For example, many chronic pain patients report that they cannot enjoy any pleasurable experience ... This interaction of brain systems also may explain why patients can take opioid drugs for pain without becoming addicted."

Borsook, who has studied chronic pain for 15 years, said the experiment might also show ways for doctors to use functional MRI to objectively measure pain -- and to measure whether pain drugs are working.

"One of the big, big problems in pain treatment is that we don't have the equivalent, for many pain conditions, of an antibiotic -- where you can test for sensitivity and then you give it and the chances are ... that pneumonia or whatever will disappear," he said.

It should also help in the design of better pain drugs. "Current therapies are essentially based on folklore -- opioids and aspirins," he said. "We don't even know how they work.

Borsook said the findings may also explain the unusual response of masochists to pain, although he stressed this was not his particular goal.

"Clearly if sadism and masochism represents something in the reward-aversion continuum, one hypothesis suggests that perhaps the circuitry has been modified to where an aversive stimulus is perceived as rewarding," he said.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/12/06/pain.pleasure.reut/index.html, 2001/12/07

 

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Ref:HOM011206

 

The danger of home-based cures: Durban - Potentiallly harmful substances like drain cleaner, shoe polish, aspirin and disinfectant are being used by some parents to treat anything from constipation to respiratory problems in their children.

The dangers of unsafe home therapies were highlighted by a study conducted last year by two medical students at the University of Natal's Paediatric Surgery Department to determine what traditional medicine had been given to children before they came to a hospital or clinic.

In KZN, the majority of children who attend hospitals or clinics have received traditional medicine, and this applies to urban and rural children equally, according to the study.

Over 56% of the 400 parents or guardians approached in either Zulu or Xhosa at two urban clinics and two semi-rural clinics in the greater Durban region, said that they had given their children enemas (ukuchatha).

The most common reasons for using an enema were constipation (95 children), fever (39), diarrhoea (29), abdominal pain (16), cough (13) and loss of energy (11).

According to medical doctors and traditional healers, many of the enema constituents like Sunlight soap, water and herbs are relatively harmless but some of the substances administered can have severe complications.

"Using a syringe [uchatho] can perforate the colon or intestines, resulting in peritonitis, while harmful substances can burn the intestines. Toxic substances can get absorbed and can either damage the liver or the kidneys, which can lead to liver or renal failure," warned Dr Chris Ellis, senior lecturer in family medicine at the Nelson R. Mandela Medical School in Durban.

Chairman of the KZN Traditional Healers' Council Sazi Mhlongo said people who prescribe harmful constituents to patients must be arrested.

"Genuine traditional healers, licensed by the Department of Health, should only use herbs. Unfortunately there are many charlatans in the business who take short cuts to make money. They are the same criminals who told people that they can be cured from Aids by raping young children."

Msunduzi Municipality health officer Dr Julie Dyer said that although no statistics are available, clinic staff members in the greater Pietermaritzburg area have found a general decline in home therapies, such as enemas, "probably as a result of mass education during the cholera campaign. However, occasionally enemas can be harmful as they alter the signs and symptoms of the underlying complaints. We have had to refer cases of serious diarrhoea to hospital."

Ellis, a managing partner of MediCross, said enemas are still used by western-trained doctors "but only for severe constipation. For mild cases suppositories or laxatives can be bought over the counter."

Building bridges between patients of other cultures is very important, believes Ellis, who offers cross-cultural consultation workshops. "All true healers, whether Western-trained or traditional, uphold 'primum non nocere', which means 'first do no harm'."

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1117966,00.html, 2001/12/07

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Ref:MAL011206

 

Take care against malaria: Cape Town - Adequate protection against mosquitoes, that's what most South Africans, who intend spending Christmas in certain neighbouring countries, should pack as a priority.

Those who will be visiting traditional malaria areas in South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) can however, take it easier thanks to beefed up efforts to curb the disease.

Malaria is one of the most commonly reported diseases in South Africa according to the South African Yearbook 2000/1. In 1998, for example, 26 440 cases and 198 deaths were reported - of which 13 575 occurred in KZN.

In 1999 the figure was 50 000 with 393 deaths. Last year the figure climbed to 62 000 reported cases (the most ever) and 423 deaths.

This alarming increase compelled the government to take drastic steps including spraying domiciles with the controversial agent DDT and laying down a new treatment protocol since malaria parasites developed resistance to existing products, Health Department deputy director for vector-carrying diseases, Dev Moonasar, said.

The decision to start using DDT again, following its ban in 1996, was taken last year since malaria mosquitoes developed a resistance to peritroid sprays.

DDT has been used in South African since the 1940s when malaria control was first introduced in South Africa. Before that time the disease was common in KZN, the Northern Province and in Mpumalanga. Epidemics were recorded as far south as Durban and Pretoria.

Malaria generally occurs in tropical areas and at least one million people die annually in Africa of malaria, says SAA Netcare Travel Clinics (SAA/NTC). The parasite is transmitted to the victim when they are bitten by contaminated mosquitoes.

The parasite develops in the liver. When mature it is released in the blood stream where it penetrates red blood cells and multiplies. Eventually red blood cells explode and the parasites are once again released in the blood stream, repeating the cycle. Cold fever and sweats are associated with malaria and occur when red blood cells explode.

Anaemia, an enlarged spleen, renal failure and blood surges in the brain follow.

Malaria in South Africa is carried by at least three mosquito species, of which the falciparum species is the most dangerous, says Dr Andrew Jamieson SAA/NTC medical director.

The disease mainly occurs in low lying areas of the Northern Province (including Messina, Thohoyandou, Letaba and Punda Maria), Mpumalanga (particularly the Kruger National Park, Malelane, Komatipoort) and in the north-east of KZN. The highest risk area is in a 100km belt along the Zimbabwean, Mozambican and Swaziland borders.

In Africa the disease is endemic to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola, Zambia, Swaziland and parts of Namibia. Moonasar notes that contamination reaches a peak during hot summer months from October to May and that people should take precautions during this period.

Jamieson says the frequent rains recently is cause for concern. "Malaria is on the increase in the northern areas of Zimbabwe and in Botswana. In addition South Africans are increasingly choosing holiday destinations in countries including Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. Resorts in southern Angola are becoming ever more popular and Mozambique remains a popular destination."

"We predict a normal distribution season with no serious outbreaks. Rain mainly occurred in higher-lying areas. But we are prepared, should cases increase drastically," Moonasar said.

Visitors to St Lucia in KZN have fewer concerns this year. The Medical Research Council (MRC) says no cases among local residents were reported for the past two years. Although the area has been declared "malaria free" Moonasar notes it would be safest to watch the area for another season.

"However, it is true that the incidence of malaria dropped drastically. Areas in the province still carrying a high risk alert include border areas with Mozambique - with Ndumo, Manguzi and Ubomob in particular."

The incidence of the disease fell by 76 percent in KZN over the past year and in Swaziland by 64 percent it was announced earlier at a media briefing.

In Mozambique figures reduced by 40 percent.

This does not mean that visitors to KZN risk areas should not take care, Jamieson maintains. "Travellers are often at greater risk to contract malaria since they do not have natural immunity. We recommend taking steps to avoid mosquito bites. This applies to people whose spleen has been removed, and whose immune system is under pressure, such as pregnant women.

Malaria prevention depends on avoiding mosquito bites and using prophylactics.

Use an effective insect repellent when spraying rooms; Wear clothes that cover as much of the body as possible - specially at dawn and dusk; Sleep under a mosquito net at night, particularly those soaked in insect repellent, and burn insect repellents; Avoid being outdoors in the evening when malaria-bearing mosquitoes are most likely to strike.

Various antidotes are available on the market - depending on the area to be visited and your medical history. You should start taking these drugs at a set time ahead of your departure and should continue with them for a period after leaving the malaria area.

The fact that malaria-bearing mosquitoes have developed resistance to certain agents, including chlorine quinine is cause for great concern in the battle against the disease. Another problem occurs when patients fail to take the medicines for the prescribed period since they start feeling better.

Certain medicines can be bought over the counter. Jamieson, however, notes that people should be alert to the fact that some of these drugs are less effective in certain areas in Africa.

"Rather consult your travel clinic or doctor for a prescription. Pharmacists are also likely to aid you. Your chances at contracting malaria are 10 to 50 time greater without precautionary measures."

SAA/NTC says symptoms include an aching body, fatigue, headaches, sore throat, diarrhoea and fever. The patient's condition could deteriorate suddenly as a result of the increase of parasites in the bloodstream. Cerebral malaria could be fatal and it is therefore essential to attend to suspected malaria immediately.

Symptoms can emerge within seven days after arriving in a malaria area and up to six months after leaving it.

The problem is that symptoms are often inconsequential initially, manifesting itself a flu.

Home tests are available and very accurate, as long as they are well attended to and implemented correctly, Jamieson says. They are particularly handy when you are likely to visit an area far from facilities where blood can be tested. The results are available within 10 minutes.

The disease has a quicker and more severe effect on babies and small children and special precautions should be taken in protecting them.

Jamieson adds that it would be better for children under five years of age and pregnant women to stay away from malaria areas.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1118104,00.html, 2001/12/07

 

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Aids vaccine trials start early 2002: Durban - The Medical Research Council said on Tuesday it would start South Africa's first HIV/Aids vaccine trials early next year with 96 participants from KwaZulu-Natal, Soweto and the United States.

Dr Andrew Robinson from the MRC in Durban said the first phase of the trial could start as early as February, on condition that enough volunteers made themselves available.

During a briefing of potential volunteers, he said a total of 24 trial subjects would come from KwaZulu-Natal while the other 24 would be chosen from Soweto.

The trials will be done in conjunction with the John Hopkins University in the United States and the other 48 subjects will be chosen from four sites in the US. The vaccine trials would be the first ever in South Africa.

So far there have been 30 vaccine trials across the world and only one trial, the one in Thailand, has reached its third phase, Robinson said.

A number of clinical trials are currently also underway in India, Kenya, Haiti, Brazil, Peru, Britain and the USA.

Across the world 36 million people are living with HIV. In South Africa there are more than four million people living with the virus.

The RK Khan Hospital in Durban and the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Gauteng will serve as the two trial sites in South Africa.

Robinson said if the first phase of the trial proved successful, the third and final phase of testing could begin in 2007.

"But we have to start the first trials next year, otherwise we will not be able to realise this goal," he said.

The South Africa C-type virus was isolated in South Africa and a vaccine was developed by a biotechnology company in the US, in conjunction with local researchers.

Trial subjects must be between 18 and 40 years old, HIV-negative and not at risk to be infected. The aim of the first phase is to test the safety of the vaccine and to determine if it can prevent infection.

Robinson said the vaccine was not made out of the live HI-virus and volunteers would therefore not risk infection.

But, while they would not be infected, blood test would be HIV-positive.

Robinson said there had already been negotiations with medical aid institutions to distinguish between HIV-positive people and the trial subjects who would be HIV-induced.

The vaccine would prevent HIV-infection and not cure it, but Robinson said a vaccine was the only long-term hope to stop the Aids epidemic.

He added that support from public health structures and political will and leadership to see the vaccine trial succeed was important. If there was no behavioural change, the trials would be nullified.

Equally important was understanding from communities and according to Nolwazi Gasa from the Centre for the Study of Aids at the Pretoria University, a campaign has already been launched to sensitise them to the trials.

She said Community Advisory Boards would be set up as vital link between the communities and the researchers and would both inform and protect communities.

Gasa, who had been involved in trials at Hlabisa in northern KwaZulu-Natal, said a vaccine that was safe was the best route for South Africa to follow.

Indications at this stage were that the messages about HIV/Aids going out to the people were not working as well as was hoped.

"The messages seem to only go so far. The numbers of infections are still increasing. The education is continuing, but it is not leading to behavioural changes," Gasa said.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1117167,00.html, 2001/12/06

 

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Ref:CAN011205

 

Cells in breast fluid may predict cancer risk: WASHINGTON (AP) -- Women with abnormal cells in breast fluid are twice as likely to develop breast cancer, says a study that evaluated the disease risk in more than 7,600 women.

The study, appearing Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, classified thousands of women by the types of cells found in fluids that had been drawn from their breasts using a mild suction device. None of the women in the study were pregnant or lactating.

After following the women for up to three decades, the researchers found those whose breast fluid contained abnormal cells were twice as likely to develop breast cancer later in life. Women from whom no fluid could be drawn were the least likely to have breast cancer, while those with normal cells in the fluid were at about 60 percent greater risk.

"Our study shows that if you can get fluid from a woman and there are abnormal cells in that fluid, then it is an indication of increased risk of breast cancer," said Margaret R. Wrensch, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine and the first author of the study.

She said the study suggests, but does not prove, that for a woman who is not pregnant or nursing to produce any fluid at all may be an indication of increased risk.

"We think that some women have some fluid in their breast ducts all of the time," said Wrensch. "We don't understand ... why we can obtain fluid from some women and not from others." She said the fluid could signal that there are changes underway in the breast.

Wrensch said the results of the study suggest that an analysis of breast fluid should be considered for inclusion on the list of factors that doctors now evaluate when predicting a woman's breast cancer risk. Other risk factors include close family members with breast cancer, age and the results of physical examinations and biopsies.

"I think our study shows that (obtaining breast fluids) is a valid technique for predicting risk," Wrensch said. "But further work is needed to determine" how it would be used in routine patient care.

Dr. Bruce F. Kimler, a cancer specialist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, urged caution in using cells from breast fluid as a predictor of breast cancer risk.

He said the procedure to obtain the breast fluid is "well-tolerated" and could be performed in most doctors' offices.

But if the procedure does not produce fluid, he said, "one should not interpret this to mean that a woman is at low, short-term risk" of breast cancer.

In the study, Wrensch and her colleagues analyzed the breast cancer histories of two groups of women, totaling 7,673, from whom health care workers had attempted to take breast fluids. About 60 percent of the women produced fluids. Specimens from the first group were taken from 1971 to 1980, while the second group was enrolled in the study from 1981 to 1991.

The fluids were obtained by use of a manual breast pump that mimicked the suction force of a nursing infant.

An analysis showed that fluids from 38.1 percent of the women contained only normal cells, while specimens from 15.2 percent had abnormal cells. The researchers said 7.5 percent of the women produced fluids that could not be analyzed.

Among those women with abnormal cells in the breast fluid, 19.2 percent later developed breast cancer, compared to 3.7 percent of those women who produced no fluids. Among women whose breast fluid contained only normal cells, about 6.6 percent developed breast cancer.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/12/05/breast.cancer.ap/index.html, 2001/12/06

 

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Ref:HEA011205

 

Shortages cause fewer heart ops: Johannesburg - The number of heart operations performed at the Johannesburg Hospital have declined drastically over the past few years as a result of staff shortages.

Responding to a question by DA health spokesperson Jack Bloom in the legislature, Gauteng health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa said 476 major heart operations were performed in 1998 compared to only 394 last year.

This constitutes a decline of 17 percent.

The number of minor operations declined by 31 percent from 1089 in 1998 to 750 last year.

Ramokgopa said the decline could be attributed to a shortage of qualified nurses for the ICU.

She noted that emergency surgery is performed immediately, however with elected surgery (surgery that is not immediately essential) the waiting period is longer. Ramokgopa said about two thirds of patients in this group undergo the necessary surgery within a year.

Bloom added that the government should pay more attention to the reduced capacity of the only heart surgery unit for state patients in Johannesburg.

He claims that patients suffer longer if the waiting period is between six months and a year. In addition the risks associated with the patient's condition is increased, Bloom said.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1117535,00.html, 2001/12/06

 

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Ref:RAP011204

 

Politicians want to meet on child rape incidents: As the weekend's grim toll of rape and abuse continues and with public anger growing steadily, politicians have called for an emergency meeting to discuss the growing incidence of child rape. Following the rape of a five month old baby in Johannesburg last week, police in the Western Cape arrested a father and two of his friends for allegedly raping a one year old girl.

This week both the New National Party and the DA called for an emergency summit to discuss the issue and to come up with a concrete plan of action. DA spokesperson Dr Sandy Kalyan said the biggest problem was that there was no comprehensive strategy to deal with the growing rape problem. Former President Nelson Mandela, also supported the move and stressed that South Africans must stand together in a national campaign to end the myth that having sex with a baby or a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS.

However, while politicians are pushing for a meeting, non governmental organisations are advocating a change in the way these crimes are investigated and treated. The KwaZulu-Natal ANC added its voice, saying it was shocked and outraged by the escalating levels of child abuse. 'It is wrong to define these incidents as child rapes because the Oxford dictionary definition of rape is: Rape is the act of forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse against her will. Thus we think these incidents must be defined as molestation and attempted murder because there is no way that a man can negotiate to have sexual intercourse with a five month old baby.'

National detective services spokesperson Superintendent Martin Aylward, said that incidents of child abuse were more prevalent over weekends and school holidays because parents were often not at home with their children and other parents were drunk. Dr Sebastian van As, head of the trauma unit at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town said the hospital saw about 100 case of child rape a year. A survey conducted by the hospital revealed that over the past nine years 10 rape victims admitted were less than one year old.

(Source: Pretoria News, Citizen & Star 04 December 2001)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - http://www.samedical.org/, 2001/12/06

 

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Ref:AID011204

 

State lashes top doctor for backing Aids drug: The national health department has criticised Prof Jerry Coovadia, head of research at the Nelson Mandela Medical School at the University of Natal in Durban, for suggesting that the use of Nevirapine to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV was simple and straightforward.

Referring to Prof Coovadia's remarks on the subject on SABC TV, the department said the benefits of using Nevirapine for breast-feeding mothers could be reversed if babies were exposed to mixed feeding - breastfeeding plus substitute formula feed.

The statement says the national programme for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission is designed to maximise and maintain the benefit of using Nevirapine. The complexities of using formula feed or exclusive breast-feeding need to be addressed, it added.

"It is unfortunate that an eminent scientist like Professot Jerry Coovadia, who has done work on mother-to-child transmission and therefore should have a clear understanding of these complexities, should choose to misinform the public by suggesting that such challenges are non-existent."

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011204214942275C130897&set_id=1, 2001/12/06

 

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Ref:EXE011204

 

Exercise addicts: Pietermaritzburg - A Cape Town psychologist specialising in eating disorders believes that a new disorder - exercise addiction - is becoming widespread as people desperately try to avoid uncomfortable emotional states and strive for more control in their lives.

Clinical psychologist Janet Earl, an expert on anorexia and other eating disorders, is currently researching the emergence of exercise addiction as a treatable condition. A variety of other labels have been ascribed by researchers to describe this disorder - anorexia athletica, exercise dependence or excessive exercise.

Earl, who completed her psychological studies at the University of Natal, said while general eating disorders remain a serious problem, exercise addiction is becoming increasingly evident.

She believes the condition is going untreated because it is applauded, instead of being seen as a disorder.

"We are seeing the emergence of a new disorder," Earl said.

"Anorexia has been around since the early 1900s and bulimia was defined in 1980. More recently, in the nineties, we have identified the binge eating disorder. The new millennium has brought with it a new disorder, that of exercise addiction. I think there is an important distinction between over-exercising and addictive exercise."

Earl said while eating disorders are mainly found among women, addictive exercising is seen in both men and women.

"The definition of an exercise disorder is when exercise starts to serve a psychological purpose. It is not just done for health reasons or weight loss - although it might be rationalised like that."

According to Earl, excessive exercising can be a way of dealing with uncomfortable emotional states.

"It can be an escape, an emotional anaesthetic. It can block out feelings and helps people avoid themselves or aspects of their life that are uncomfortable," Earl said.

"Exercise generally makes people feel better about themselves and more in control of their lives. However, when it becomes excessive, it may be treating an underlying depression that needs to be addressed. Unconsciously, a person may feel emotionally out of control inside, then at least this external activity makes them feel more in control.

"Exercise might soothe them. It helps release anxiety and tension, and the release of seratonin makes them feel good."

According to Earl, with eating disorders the substance of abuse is food. "With drug addicts the substance of abuse is drugs. With exercise addiction, the 'substance' of abuse is exercise."

Earl, who is working closely with dieticians and other medical experts on this issue, said the physical effects of exercise addiction can be dire.

"The primal instincts kick in. If you don't eat all day, your body goes into 'famine' and your metabolism slows down.

"In the same way, if you are exercising three times a day, in evolution this would have meant you were hunting or at war, so your body slows down to protect you."

Earl cited the findings of some dieticians where exercise addicts consulting them for advice on how to lose weight were told to cut down on exercise - and actually lost weight through that reduction.

"It needs to be stressed that exercise is an addiction when the primary goal is psychological. Excessive exercising does not help lose weight and the health risks are immense," Earl said.

She cited several scenarios which an exercise addict might find him or herself in, including overwhelming guilt when he or she misses "that one day" of exercise.

"For instance, an anorexic will often avoid socialising, so that he or she does not have to eat. An exercise addict will avoid social activities because he or she has to run or exercise.

"The exercise disorder is made that much more difficult to deal with because it is sanctioned by society.

"Someone who is working out and who is fit, is generally applauded in society. For this reason, the addiction often goes untreated because it is not seen as a problem.

"The reason why excessive exercising is problematic is that, while physical problems might not be evident now, they will start to take their toll when the person is older.

"The body can only take so much before serious long-term damage is done. And it is a fact that physiotherapists are busier now than ever before. It is also problematic in that emotional issues do not get dealt with, which has all sorts of implications."

Citing the example of one client, Earl said the woman became sick when her husband died.

"She started exercising twice a day. Then, however, she became ill and could not exercise. She said she had never ever been so depressed. This was clearly because she had to sit with her feelings and face herself. She was not in a position to distance herself from dealing with the death of her husband."

Earl said while the average age of anorexics is quite young and the incidence of bulimia more common among teenagers around the age of 18, exercise addiction tends to occur among people of 25 or older.

"For instance, one of the people I treat has a previous history of anorexia. She knows, rationally, that over-exercising does not help her lose weight but she will relentlessly do her two hours of exercise a day."

International researchers have produced interesting findings on the subject of excessive exercise.

One British study, conducted in 1989 by Ivan Eisler and Daniel le Grange, put forward four models based on the suggestion that some excessive exercisers might have a disorder analogous to anorexia nervosa.

The first model sees anorexia nervosa and excessive exercise as distinct diagnostic groups, while the second sees the two as overlapping groups, with excessive exercise having the potential to develop into anorexia nervosa.

The third model sees the two disorders as being both related to another underlying disorder, while the fourth model sees excessive exercise as a variant of an eating disorder.

Earl said although much is known about the benefits of regular exercise, physically and psychologically, the criteria at present used to determine how much is too much are yet to be established.

It is clear, however, that when exercise becomes obsessive, behaviour bears the following characteristics: a rigid schedule of intense exercise, resisting temptation to lapse into non-exercise, feelings of guilt and anxiety when the schedule is violated, compensatory increases to make up for lapses, pushing oneself when tired, ill or injured, mental preoccupation with exercise and detailed record-keeping.

Earl added that it is then time to take note.

"Treatment is extremely important. Essentially, as with any eating disorder, the treatment focuses on the emotional world that is driving the behaviour.

"The excessive exercise is the visible sore. In order to treat the sore. We have to focus on the illness that has resulted in it."

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1117013,00.html, 2001/12/05

 

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Senators hear views on cloning research: WASHINGTON (AP) -- The president of the company that claims to have cloned the first human embryo defended his firm's actions Tuesday and urged senators not to hastily pass a bill restricting the practice.

"We're not talking about the cloning of humans," Michael West, president of Advanced Cell Technology, told a Senate appropriations subcommittee. "We're talking about the cloning of cells."

"I would argue rather than slow medical research, we take the time to carefully learn these issues," West said.

The Worcester, Massachusetts, company sparked a worldwide debate last month when officials announced they had succeeded in cloning a human embryo for the first time, growing it to six cells before it quit developing.

The company's ultimate goal is to cull, from a cloned embryo, stem cells that could then be grown into custom medical treatments for patients. The company's first embryo was too small to generate stem cells.

Some Republicans made an unsuccessful bid Monday to have the Senate take up a bill that would place a six-month moratorium on cloning until lawmakers could have extensive debate in the spring.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, a leading abortion opponent, told lawmakers they should take "time out, let's just think a little bit" before allowing scientists to proceed.

But the issue has clearly divided lawmakers, many of whom said they would support the research as long as scientists did not clone a human.

"What business do we have as long -- as we don't allow reproductive cloning -- to tell the scientists what to do?" said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said he planned to introduce a bill that would ban reproductive cloning only. "I believe it would be tragic to allow our outrage about human cloning to blind us to the promise that (the research) holds."

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/12/04/cloning.hearing.ap/index.html, 2001/12/05

 

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SA's teen moms reveal need for urgent action: Pretoria - One percent of South African women gave birth to their first child at the age of 13, and 0,7 percent at the age of 12, according to a 1996 population census report released on Monday.

Overall, 12 percent of South African women became mothers between the ages of 12 and 16, states the Youth of South Africa report.

Launching the report, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said the stark results reflected in the report indicated the need for urgent intervention programmes, particularly in schools.

He added this was but one of the worrying tendencies revealed by the census, which would have to be addressed through intervention by the government and society at large.

Other such trends included a 41 percent employment rate among young people, low education levels, and racial and gender imbalances in schooling and employment.

Young people are identified for the purposes of the report as all those aged between 14 and 35.

The census findings reveal that eight percent of South African youth had no formal education. Also, five percent of blacks had acquired a tertiary qualification, compared to 28 percent of whites.

The National Youth Commission (NYC) welcomed the census report.

"Statistics provided by the report reveal areas in which the NYC needs to firm up on its youth development programmes and initiatives," commission chairman Jabu Mbalula said. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011204094956304Y300914&set_id=1, 2001/12/05

 

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Durban decides to save 3 000 babies a year: After months of dithering, Durban's eThekwini Council is finally poised to implement an effective programme to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, a move which city health officials say will save almost 3 000 babies from a lingering death from Aids every year.

Central to the plan, approved by the council's Health and Safety Committee on Monday, is the administration of the controversial anti-retroviral drug, Nevirapine, to both HIV-positive mothers and their newborns at all 112 municipal clinics in greater Durban.

Ironically, the unanimous decision came on the same day that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel pooh-poohed the use of such drugs, saying they would do little or nothing to stop the spread of Aids. It also came a day after the ANC's National Executive Committee backed the Government's continued resistance to making the drugs widely available.

Nevirapine has been proven to reduce the transmission of HIV from mother to child during childbirth by 50 percent.

In a report to the Health and Safety Committee, the city's director of health, Dr Colleen Pieterse, estimated that the programme would cost the city R9.6-million a year, most of it to be spent on infant milk formula and the hiring and training of nurses and counsellors.

She said that the lives of about 2 900 infants would be saved every year by the programme. As it costs about R10 000 to treat each child who contracts HIV, the cost of failing to implement the programme would be close to R29-million a year.

Taking into account the R9,6-million annual cost of the programme, the nett savings to the health care system as a result of averting HIV infection of these infants would be more than R19-million a year, Pieterse said.

These did not take into account the cost of the drug itself, but Pieterse was confident it could be obtained free of charge from the manufacturers. She stressed, however, that for the programme to be effective, it would have to be run in partnership with the provincial health authorities.

As important as the use of the anti-retroviral drugs was an education drive aimed at preventing parents-to-be from contracting HIV in the first place and preventing unwanted pregnancies among HIV- infected women.

The plan goes before the final meeting of the full council next week for final approval.

While in Durban babies continue to die daily pending a final decision from the council, the rural area of Hlabisa in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal is to implement its own programme immediately.

The Mtubatuba-based research institute, Africa Centre, announced on Monday that Nevirapine would be made available to all HIV-positive mothers in the region, which is home to 200 000 people.

Trained HIV counsellors will be working throughout the district and the drug will be available at Hlabisa Hospital and at all 14 clinics in the region, thanks to a grant from the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric Aids Foundation.

While senior government figures continue to adopt a cautious approach, there appears to be a growing tide of opinion in favour of making such drugs readily available.

Manuel, speaking at the launch of the Youth of South Africa report on Monday, was particularly sceptical, saying: "They could pump you full of anti-retrovirals; the only thing that will happen is that you'll develop a series of drug-resistant diseases."

His remarks appear to have been prompted by Durban pediatrician Professor Jerry Coovadia's assertion at the weekend that Nevirapine is safe and simple to use and that the benefits outweighed the potential side-effects.

Coovadia, who also convened last year's World Aids conference, rejected the Government's argument that the safety of Nevirapine was still an issue.

Also at the weekend, former president Nelson Mandela urged President Thabo Mbeki and his wife to "be in the forefront of the campaign to fight this disease".

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011204093510126A320257&set_id=1, 2001/12/05

 

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Shortage of vaccines stirs concern for children: CNN) -- A limited supply of tetanus and several other vaccines in the United States is stirring concern that more children could begin contracting otherwise preventable diseases.

In addition to the tetanus vaccine, the shortages are affecting vaccines for diphtheria and pertussis -- also known as whooping cough -- along with the new pneumococcal vaccine that helps protect children against meningitis, pneumonia and some other diseases, health officials said.

In some pediatricians' offices, parents expecting to get scheduled shots for their children are being told to come back later. But if parents don't bring them back, officials said they fear more children will start coming down with the diseases.

It's unclear exactly how many children haven't been receiving the vaccines because of the shortages, which officials have attributed to fewer companies making the vaccines and some recent manufacturing problems.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, said the nation's immunization program for children has been a victim of its own success.

"We tend to take it for granted," Reed said Tuesday. "We haven't invested some money at the federal level, or most particularly, the state level, to have the infrastructure to deliver these vaccines."

The senator, who has asked the General Accounting Office to look into the problem, said he wants the federal government and states to pay more attention to the problem.

"We have to strengthen the system because immunization is the best weapon we have against disease," he said, "and it's been remarkably successful, and we have to reinforce the success with real resources."

Dr. Ed Thompson, Mississippi's chief health officer, noted that while the United States isn't seeing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases yet, they could happen.

"We don't see children die of diphtheria and pertussis anymore," Thompson said, "but we could begin seeing that again if we don't heed the early warning signs of something being badly wrong with our public immunization system and our private immunization system."

He urged parents to make sure children get their shots.

"Be tenacious, be stubborn, make sure you know whether your child is due for any immunization or not," he said. "If your child is, seek out those immunizations."

-- CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News- http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/12/04/vaccine.shortage/index.html, 2001/12/05

 

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Garlic under microscope: Israel - It stops vampires in their tracks, pulverises bacteria, cures athlete's foot and gives a tasty kick to spaghetti bolognese.

Garlic, a key ingredient of folklore, is being put to the test by some of Israel's leading scientists out to unlock the herb's secrets.

Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science are focusing on allicin, a pungent compound that is nature's way of protecting garlic from insects, fungi and bacteria in the soil.

Weizmann Institute biochemist David Mirelman heads a four-person team that has cloned the gene for allicin, synthesised it and stabilised the highly volatile molecule which is responsible for all that is good and bad in garlic.

The overwhelming odour of crushed garlic is the result of the chemical reaction that creates allicin by combining the substrate, allin, with an enzyme called allinase.

But tests conducted by Mirelman and a slew of scientific studies show that allicin is also highly effective at preventing high blood pressure, treating diabetes, curing diarrhoea, lowering the risk of heart attacks and killing cancer cells.

In laboratory tests on rats, they also found that garlic prevents weight gain and might even lead to weight loss.

'Wonder drug'

Mirelman calls it a "wonder drug" and says it is in the league of aspirin, discovered over a century ago and still a staple multipurpose drug that is highly effective at preventing strokes, among many other things.

"Aspirin is not an antibiotic but it helps to prevent strokes, headaches, pain and so on ... allicin has a proven effect on micro-organisms so it's an antibiotic; it kills micro-organisms," said Mirelman.

The Israeli biochemist stumbled on garlic's medicinal properties on a trip to China for a conference on dysentery. A Chinese physician there showed off his cure for the often deadly stomach illness - a bottle of crushed raw garlic soaked in alcohol.

"He gave dysentery patients a half a glass of the yellow liquid twice a day. I asked him how well it worked and he said it's been curing people for 5 000 years," said Mirelman.

"So I took the recipe and studied it," he said. "I isolated each of the components in garlic to see if they were effective against a battery of micro-organisms and found the most effective component was allicin," Mirelman said.

"It was highly effective at killing a wide range of micro-organisms from fungi to bacteria and malaria," said Mirelman, who is trying to find a scientist with anthrax supplies to test whether allicin can kill anthrax spores.

Garlic - Rome's secret weapon

Garlic has been a staple item in medicine chests from China to Italy for thousands of years.

Its virtues were the subject of legends and fodder for ancient poets and the Bible, in which the Israelites bewailed the garlic left behind in Egypt when they fled to the wilderness with Moses.

Egyptian hieroglyphics record that garlic was given to the workers who built the pyramids to keep them strong and healthy. Ancient Greek athletes would eat raw garlic before competitions and soldiers consumed it before going into battle.

It was the secret weapon of the Roman Empire, whose centurions ate garlic to keep disease - especially stomach bugs - at bay. The ancient father of medicine Hippocrates recommended garlic for infections, wounds, leprosy and digestive disorders.

In the Middle Ages, garlic was used to prevent the plague and hung around the neck as a charm to ward off demons and the occasional vampire. During World War I, it was used to prevent gangrene when penicillin and sulfa drug supplies ran out.

A team of doctors at Israel's Tel Hashomer hospital used Mirelman's allicin in controlled tests on rats to gather evidence that garlic combats high blood pressure and prevents diabetes and heart attacks.

It received top marks, destroying the build-up of plaque in coronary arteries, reducing the symptoms of diabetes and bringing down blood pressure in rats that were fed a high fructose diet for three weeks before been given allicin.

The blood pressure and sugar metabolism of rats given allicin after the high fructose diet went back to normal within two weeks.

But the blood pressure and sugar metabolism of rats in a control group that received no allicin went sky high and remained there.

Garlic prevents weight gain

During the tests, researchers noticed an interesting side-effect. None of the rats given allicin gained weight.

"They ate the same amount as the control group but their weight did not change," said Tel Hashomer hypertension expert Dr Telma Rosenthal, who now wants to conduct tests on fat rats to see whether allicin causes weight loss.

Mirelman has not yet discovered why garlic would prevent weight gain but in separate experiments he has found the herb destroys cancer cells in petri dishes at an amazing rate.

Unfortunately it also kills live cells, prompting Mirelman to develop an anti-cancer treatment that is tumour specific, meaning it targets only the cancer cells.

It will take 10 years but Mirelman believes it could help combat breast cancer and other tumours.

Mirelman's work at synthesising allicin - which most scientists agree is the secret of garlic's medicinal success -could enable the production of medications based on allicin.

But Mirelman has found little interest in conducting the costly research and human tests by pharmaceutical companies because allicin is in the public domain, which means no company can recoup its investment with an exclusive drug.

But that doesn't faze Mirelman, who is so taken with allicin that he eats it with yoghurt every day.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1116467,00.html, 2001/12/03

 

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X-rays now on home computers: Germany - Patients can now inspect their own X-rays on their home computers using new CD-Rom technology, according to the Institute of Telematics in Trier, Germany.

They have developed equipment allowing doctors to rewrite medical X-rays on special CD-Rom discs.

But the institute says its new Patients-CD-System is mainly aimed at advancing telemedicine. It can store high quality X-ray, tomography and ultrasound pictures on CD-Rom. A picture viewing software, also saved on the Patient-CD-System allows specialists to enlarge pictures, measure distances and alter the contrast of pictures.

Doctors will easily be able to save their patients' picture data and establish a mobile patient file. It will also make it easier for them to refer patients to specialists. Direct transfer of pictures via the internet also allow new picture compression possibilities so that doctors can send pictures to specialists within seconds. - DPA

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1116438,00.html, 2001/12/03

 

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ANC NEC condemns Aids court action: Johannesburg - The ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) criticised the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) on Sunday for taking the government to court over the use of Nevirapine.

"The NEC viewed as unfortunate the court case brought against government by the TAC," an African National Congress (ANC) statement on the weekend's NEC meeting said.

"The meeting agreed government's approach to mother-to-child transmission of HIV is correct, given that so little is currently known about the longer term effects of the drug."

The Aids lobbyists launched a court application in the Pretoria High Court last month to force the government into making Nevirapine available to HIV-positive pregnant woman.

The NEC also expressed concern over "the extent of infrastructure and resources required to administer it (Nevirapine) and the level of counselling and monitoring required to ensure its potential benefits are not reversed".

"The ANC is committed to treatment programmes which are responsible, effective and sustainable," the NEC said.

The statement said the meeting endorsed government's strategy to combat HIV/Aids.

"It reiterated that government's strategy should be based on the assumption that HIV causes Aids.

"It further supported ongoing scientific inquiry to address the many areas in which our knowledge of the syndrome, its development and its treatment are still deficient."

The NEC welcomed the fact that HIV/Aids was being widely debated which created more awareness about the disease.

However, it cautioned against generating mass hysteria about the pandemic.

"Much of the debate was characterised by misinformation; oversimplification, particularly around the complexities of treatment; and, from some quarters, the wilful encouragement of hysteria."

The NEC also discussed the new co-operation agreement with the New National Party (NNP), saying it welcomed the development.

"The meeting viewed co-operation with the NNP as an important step in the political evolution of South Africa, and a welcome opportunity to challenge the racial divisions which characterise South African politics."

It also reviewed a report on a forthcoming meeting with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's political party, Zanu-PF.

"This meeting is part of a broader effort ... to engage all sectors of Zimbabwean society in finding solutions to the pressing problems currently facing that country."

The NEC appointed Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as the ANC's chief whip in the National Assembly.

He will take over from deputy chief whip Geoff Doidge who has been serving as acting chief whip since the resignation of Tony Yengeni in October.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1116333,00.html, 2001/12/03

 

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Finger transplant successful: Australia - Australian surgeons successfully transferred the fingers of a man's severed left hand to his right hand, doctors said on Sunday.

Jonathon Paton was nearly killed in a train accident more than six weeks ago. His left arm had been severed, his right arm crushed and his left leg also crushed and later amputated.

But shortly after the accident, a team of Australian plastic surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons and other medical staff operated to replace the crushed fingers of his right hand using those saved from his severed left arm.

Paton was still recovering on Sunday in Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital where the operation was carried out and is expected to celebrate Christmas at home with his family, according to Network Nine television.

The fingers were successfully transplanted in a marathon 15-hour operation.

"He does in fact have reverse fingers if you can imagine - that's the only way one can get the left hand to sit into the right hand and sit in the right arrangement," Dr Mark Gianoutsos told Network Nine.

Paton will undergo a 12-week therapy course and is expected to have almost normal use of his hand within nine months. - AP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1116175,00.html, 2001/12/03

 

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Ref:MED011203

 

New body to oversee medical schemes' services: A non-profit company,Health Quality Assessment, was founded recently aimed at ensuring that the services of medical schemes meet a certain requirement. It will do a health audit of the entire health care financing industry in both the private and public sectors, and will focus on setting standards for objective measuring criteria.

The report, which is aimed at the consumer market, will consist of three categories:, namely clinical, financial and administrative measures. The clinical section will address the efficiency, accessibility and utilisation of care, as well as consumers' experiences.

The financial section will investigate the stability of health care plans, cost of care, and the structure and efficiency of management. The administrative side will address informed health care options, information and service levels.

Research will also be done among consumers to determine their expectations of assessing the quality of health care. Representatives of major medical schemes and the National Consumer Union of SA will sit on the Board of Directors of Health Quality Assessment.

(Source: Beeld 3 December 2001)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News - http://www.samedical.org/, 2001/12/03

 

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Indians close to developing HIV vaccine: New Delhi - A top Indian medical institute is close to a breakthrough in developing a vaccine against one of the most common strains of HIV, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported on Sunday.

It said Pradeep Seth, head of microbiology in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, was developing a vaccine for HIV Type 1, which is one of the most common virus that causes the Aids infection.

Seth started his experiments three years ago, but realised he was on the right track following his experiments with mice.

"There is no way to fight Aids except strengthening the immune system. The first part of my study is over successfully, with responses that are more than encouraging," Seth was quoted as saying.

"The second phase has to start with primates, mainly monkeys. The moment that is approved, we can start with the second phase. To tell you the truth, I have never been so excited," he added.

Seth says the vaccine being developed could be effective against a type of virus prevalent in India.

Some 3.5 million Indians are HIV-positive, although unofficial estimates put the figure at closer to five million. The figure gives India the largest HIV-positive population after South Africa. - AFP

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1116117,00.html, 2001/12/03

 

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Young snorers at risk of heart disease: Hong Kong - Children who snore are at higher risk of heart disease and breathing difficulties in later life, a medical study published on Sunday has found.

One in 10 children who snore go on to develop apnoea - a condition in which people stop breathing while sleeping - within five years, the University of Hong Kong study found.

Snoring children were also found to have higher blood pressure and harder arteries than children of the same age who do not snore, exposing them to a higher risk of heart disease when they grow up.

About 200 children were examined for the Hong Kong study, which is believed to be the first in the world to link snoring with health problems in later life, the Sunday Morning Post newspaper has reported.

Head of the research project Dr Cheung Yiu-fai said snoring was usually linked to being overweight and the problem should be tackled initially by attention to children's diet and exercise.

An estimated 10 percent of children in Hong Kong, where youth obesity is a fast-growing problem, are serious and habitual snorers, Cheung said. - DPA

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/0,1113,2-14_1116109,00.html, 2001/12/03

 

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AIDS continues 'devastating' sweep: The virus that causes AIDS is continuing to spread worldwide at a dramatic pace, with eastern Europe particularly hard hit, the United Nations has warned.

The U.N. report, released to coincide with World AIDS Day on Saturday that aims to raise global awareness of the disease, revealed that 75,000 new infections of the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome had been reported in Russia by early November, a 15-fold increase in just three years.

The U.N. also warned that AIDS was continuing to spread worldwide at a dramatic pace, with 40 million children and adults infected by HIV, an increase of four million from last year.

Dr Peter Piot, executive director of the U.N. programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, warned: "HIV is spreading rapidly throughout the entire Eastern European region.

"It is unequivocally the most devastating disease we have ever faced and it will get worse before it gets better."

In an interview published in a Russian newspaper on Saturday, Piot said millions in Russia could die from AIDS over the next decade if the government does not take fundamental steps to fight the spread of the disease.

"All will depend on which position the leadership of the country takes," Piot told the newspaper Vremya.

European Union trade chief Pascal Lamy said the EU was determined to do all in its power to make sure that safe, affordable drugs were available to all who need them in the struggle to combat HIV-AIDS and other killer diseases.

Ukraine's Health Minister, Vitaliy Moskalenko, said that three government anti-AIDS programmes between 1992 and 2000 slowed the epidemic, while the current 2001-2003 program may even stop it, according to the Interfax news agency.

The current programme in Ukraine has focused on AIDS prevention measures among youth and removing the stigma associated with the disease.

Piot praised Ukraine's achievements but warned that the situation may worsen among the youth, Interfax reported.

The United Nations estimates that the number of victims in Ukraine has risen from 110,000 in 1997 to as many as 240,000 in 1999.

The Christian agency World Vision called on Saturday for the church to take a more realistic attitude to the use of condoms in an attempt to slow the global spread of the disease.

And in Kenya, doctors are trying to convince men to tell their wives if they are HIV-positive in an effort to reduce the spread of the disease, Dr. James Nyikal, chairman of the Kenya Medical Association, said.

There are more than two million HIV-positive people in Kenya's population of 30 million. Many married Kenyan men have more than one wife or have multiple sexual partners.

Across Africa there were 3.4 million new infections with more than 30% of pregnant women in some areas HIV positive.

Unknowing infection

In Trinidad, Dr. Ruben Del Prado, regional programme adviser for UNAIDS, said Caribbean governments must relax laws criminalising homosexuality and prostitution if they hope to combat AIDS.

Gays and prostitutes "will not come forward to be tested, educated and to be treated, because there are laws against them," Del Prado told The Associated Press.

The Caribbean, excluding Cuba, has an HIV infection rate of nearly 2 percent -- the second-highest regional rate after sub-Saharan Africa. About 500,000 people in the Caribbean live with the disease; by contrast, aggressive campaigns in Cuba have kept infection rates there low.

In the United States, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday that nearly 30 percent of people deemed at risk for HIV have never been tested and could be unknowingly spreading the virus that causes AIDS.

The study involved more than 30,000 people in the United States. Some 73 percent of those considered at risk for HIV said they had been tested, but only 30 percent said they had been tested in the previous year.

In Thailand, the government bowed to AIDS patients' demands on Friday and agreed to provide AIDS treatment under a government programme that offers medical care for 30 baht (70 U.S. cents) per hospital visit.

Thailand is credited with bringing down its rate of HIV/AIDS infection by 80 percent after a massive awareness and condom distribution campaign in the early 1990s.

Heterosexual spread

Meanwhile in Britain, research from Taylor Nelson Sofres Healthcare (TNSH) showed that 54% of all new HIV infections were from heterosexual sex. Previously most infection had been caused by intravenous drug use or homosexual sex.

The HIVDynamics Monitor study detailing more than 2,000 HIV patients in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, shows infection through heterosexual contact has also increased in Italy rising from 28% last year to 47% this year.

In Spain and Italy over half (52%) of all HIV infections are due to drug abuse compared with just 7% in the UK.

Spain and Italy also report much lower transmission rates through homosexual contact than the rest of Europe (18% compared with 50% in Germany and 40% in the UK).

UK government data shows that more than 33,000 Britons aged 15 to 59 have HIV -- 10% above the estimate for the end of 1998. This is believed to be the most since records began in 1982.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/12/01/aids.day/index.html, 2001/12/03

 

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President must lead Aids fight, says Madiba: Nelson Mandela sent a clear message to the government on World Aids Day on Saturday: people with HIV need drugs.

Mandela also said heads of state should lead the fight against Aids, which has already infected more than 40 million people worldwide.

"Heads of state and their first ladies must be in the forefront of the campaign to fight Aids," Mandela said, naming the leaders of Botswana, Uganda and Senegal as role models.

The former president and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a fellow Nobel peace prize winner, spent Saturday speaking to children in Cape Town's Crossroads and Nyanga townships, spreading the message about fighting the spread of Aids.

Mandela's remarks come as the government continues to resist giving anti-retroviral drugs to people living with the HIV virus, and amid widespread criticism of President Thabo Mbeki's perceived lack of leadership on the Aids crisis.

On Saturday, Mbeki attended a meeting of the ANC's national executive committee. His spokesperson, Bheki Khumalo, said that Mbeki had been involved in World Aids Day "by way of institutions led by him".

Seated beside Tutu, Mandela said: "We must combine various strategies with giving people the necessary drugs to prevent the disease getting the upper hand."

If the government provided drugs and the proper nutrition and living conditions, it would bring down the level of HIV/Aids in the long run, he said.

Mandela said he had met Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, the deputy president, to tell them it was proper that they be seen in the frontline of the fight against the pandemic.

"For those who are HIV-positive, we must ensure that they get the proper treatment and drugs," he said while visiting a centre for children in Crossroads. He told those gathered there: "You must not leave this to the government. The question you should be asking is what are you doing to assist ordinary people who are fighting HIV/Aids."

Later on Saturday, Mandela rejected reports that he had attacked Mbeki's stance on Aids.

Speaking at the opening of the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island, the former president said journalists had misinterpreted the comments he had made earlier in the day at Crossroads and Nyanga.

Mandela had been shocked by a subsequent phone call from Mbeki's office about the reports.

"I said countries that have succeeded in bringing down the levels of Aids are those where the president of the country takes the lead," he said, to applause from the hundreds of VIPs at the ceremony.

He said he had quoted the case of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and that of President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, two leaders who had "gone out in their countries and concentrated on mobilising the communities to understand how to fight Aids".

"After praising Museveni and Wade I said our president and deputy president are doing the same thing, but the difficulty with the president is that he is busy with Africa and countries beyond."

He added: "Some sections of the press are mischievously trying to drive a wedge between me and my president. They know I never criticise the president."

Khumalo said a commemoration service for people who had died of Aids had been held in the presidency on Friday, and that "most ministers were engaged with Aids-related activities yesterday".

"There has been a flurry of activity from government officials on this matter," Khumalo said.

This week, Aids activists and doctors took the government to court in an attempt to force it to provide the anti-retroviral drug nevirapine to pregnant women who have contracted HIV.

The drug reduces by 50 percent the chance of pregnant women passing the virus to their babies.

Government lawyers argued that the cost of providing such treatment would cripple the public health system, given the number of people who were infected with HIV/Aids, and questioned the efficacy of the drug.

Mbeki has said repeatedly that he is concerned about the safety of anti-retroviral drugs.

Speaking at the launch of the Democratic Alliance in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday, Tony Leon, the leader of the DA, called on the government to declare a national health emergency on Aids. The government's handling of the Aids crisis from 1994 to the present spoke of "massive denial and monstrous failure of leadership", Leon said.

Aids was the most serious threat to the people of KwaZulu-Natal. Quoting from official statistics on Aids relating to KwaZulu-Natal, he pointed out that 70 000 children had been orphaned by the disease and that an estimated 53 500 people had died in the year 2000 alone.

He reminded people that one in three residents of rural KwaZulu-Natal had contracted HIV.

The DA supported the Treatment Action Campaign's court action to demand that the health department implement mother-to-child anti-retroviral programmes in all public hospitals and clinics, he said.

Motsoko Pheko, the deputy president of the Pan Africanist Congress, speaking at the party's Gauteng provincial congress at Vista University, Soweto, on Saturday, said the government had been presented with enough information to prove that it was important to provide nevirapine to HIV-positive mothers.

Pheko said it was important that the government provided the anti-retroviral treatment to mothers so that unborn babies could be saved.

"I hope the court case brought against the government by the Treatment Action Campaign will force it to provide nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant mothers," he said.

And at a rally in Cape Town, Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, said the legacy of the past had facilitated the spread of Aids.

Vavi said the disease thrived on violence and the oppression of women.

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011201184911168A320605&set_id=1, 2001/12/03

 

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Ref:CAN011129

 

Hope for cancer patients: London - British doctors said on Wednesday they had come up with a technique to counter liver cancer by heating the organ well above body temperature, offering hope to hundreds of people with inoperable cancer.

A team of radiologists at Bristol Royal Infirmary uses the technique to "cook" the liver to up to 70 degrees Celsius. Once infected cells are killed, the liver recovers fully.

The technique, known as radio frequency ablation, aims to help patients who cannot be treated by surgery, for example those who have too many tumours in their liver to be removed.

Liver cancer is the most common secondary cancer, following the diagnosis of the most common cancers, including breast cancer and bowel cancer, and cannot be treated with radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Commonly patients have several tumours spread throughout their liver, making it impossible to operate, and leaving many facing a terminal illness.

Although it is possible to survive on less than half a liver, only five to 15 percent of patients are suitable for surgery, and the five-year survival rate, at 20 to 40 percent, is low.

Mark Callaway, and the team of radiologists at Bristol, pinpoint the tumour, or tumours, using a magnetic resonance imaging scanner, which provides a three dimensional image of the liver, before heating the liver to destroy the cancerous cells.

"With radio frequency ablation, we can kill multiple small tumours, leaving the patient ready to have surgery on a large tumour or group of tumours sited close together in the liver," Callaway said.

"We can also offer hope to some patients who, for whatever reason, are inoperable, for example those whose liver is in very poor condition," he added.

The treatment will not be suitable for all patients, and cannot be used on cancers elsewhere in the body. - DPA

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1114649,00.html, 2001/12/03

 

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Ref:AID011129

 

'Hopeless' doctors beg state to fight Aids: Every day, 100 new patients with full-blown Aids are admitted to Johannesburg's three academic hospitals.

The deluge of sick people is so overwhelming that the largest hospital in the world, Chris Hani Baragwanath, ran out of beds in July and has been referring non-critical casualty patients to other institutions ever since. It simply has no more space.

Now some of South Africa's leading academics from Wits University have called on the government to declare Aids a national emergency; to stop sidetracking debate away from urgent issues; and to start providing proper treatment, including anti-retrovirals.

Otherwise, they say, South Africa will lose the war on HIV.

Professor Ken Huddle, head of the department of medicine at Chris Hani Baragwanath, said the bed capacity at his hospital was "overwhelmed in July this year for the first time".

His department has 700 beds for general patients and has been struggling to cope with a growing number of admissions each month.

In July, the Gauteng Department of Health was called in to help avert a crisis. Patients were being placed in vacant beds in surgical wards because there was nowhere else they could be accommodated.

Finally, it was decided that Chris Hani Baragwanath would no longer accept patients with lesser ailments at casualty - these would be re-routed to other clinics. Medical officers with minimal training would handle less-serious cases.

"There's a feeling of hopelessness, major hopelessness, within the hospital," Huddle said.

Huddle was one of about a dozen academics who attended a press conference at Wits' medical faculty yesterday, where the faculty called on the government to reiterate publicly that HIV causes Aids.

Faculty head Professor Max Price released a statement that also calling on the government to:

- Provide anti-retroviral treatments, like Nevirapine, to rape survivors and pregnant women;

- Stop debating the toxicity of anti-retrovirals, which were "firmly established as standards of care for advanced HIV", and rather debate the best way to provide them;

- Provide more resources, including clinics and laboratories, to deal with the epidemic.

"We're calling on the government to treat this in the way the world has treated the war on terrorism. The situation is hopeless only if we continue to do so little," Price said.

Wits University's call coincides with a similar call by 350 scientists from the University of Cape Town, who say the epidemic is out of control.

Price said at least 70% of women in SA gave birth in hospital and could easily be given Nevirapine to prevent transmission of HIV.

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011129210400669T530256&set_id=1, 2001/11/30

 

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Ref:AMB011129

 

Ambulance paramedics 'can't drive': Fears have been raised of a new hazard on the roads this holiday season - inexperienced, newly-recruited paramedics who can neither drive nor treat injured patients.

Less than a month into the controversial transformation of the provincial emergency medical services, new paramedics have already been blamed for crashing three ambulances at Jozini, Mariannhill and Newcastle.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize insisted on Wednesday that the project was progressing well and that the service was better than ever.

The more than 500 new recruits were brought in as a key part of this transformation process. Many qualified paramedics with years of experience were retrenched at the beginning of November.

According to vehicle maintenance officer Irfaan Bux, of the Wentworth base, who has worked for the department for 16 years, most of the new recruits were under 21 - which meant they could not get their Public Driver's Permit.

Without this they are allowed to transport goods, but not patients, which means that they cannot respond to emergency calls.

"In one instance at their driving tests the new paramedics were asked to drive forward and back and the ambulance was not taken on to the road for a proper test," Bux said.

"I took one new recruit out on Thursday for a quick driving test and she could not drive. She nearly crashed into a building. There is no way she can drive on a public road or respond to a case. She is a hazard to the public and staff," said Bux.

Part of the prerequisite for appointment was that candidates have proof of a valid driver's licence and have their Public Driver's Permit.

A fax from the KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Rescue Services to heads of departments urges that they "ensure that the new ECP's (emergency care practitioners) except Safal (South African First Aid League) staff, do not drive the ESVs (emergency support vehicles) until they have completed the driver training course."

Superintendent-General for Health, Professor Ronald Green-Thompson, dismissed the charge that the new recruits posed a hazard, saying the service had reported its lowest number of accidents in November compared with past years.

And Mkhize, reporting to the legislature in Ulundi on Wednesday, said the restructuring would result in a "seamless and equitable" emergency medical service.

He said 529 emergency care practitioners had been recruited since November.

He said there had been several challenges to the transformation process, including a court case, which the department won, with costs.

"There is an appeal which the department will defend," said Mkhize.

He said the transformation had improved the quality of the service by extending the coverage of the bases and reducing reaction time, which meant patients would be attended to much sooner than was the case previously.

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011129104921976P653664&set_id=1, 2001/11/30

 

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Ref:MAN011129

 

Man gets operation after spending 2 years in hospital: The man who spent more than 2 years in the orthopaedic ward of the Sebokeng Hospital with untreated fractures will be transferred to the Garankuwa Hospital for treatment of a bladder problem and corrective surgery to his fractured legs.

In October a doctor discovered that the patient, Mr Ben van Stad, had been in the hospital since October 1999 after he had been injured in a motor car accident. Van Stad believed he was paralysed. The doctor, who wants to remain anonymous, reported the case to the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).

Dr Aggrey Moorkey, superintendent of the Sebokeng Hospital said the hospital also investigated the matter. One of the doctors in charge of the orthopaedic ward, Dr Mark Zaika, had since resigned from his post.

Moorkey said the whole section would be restructured. Dr N S Motsetsi who is the head of the division, will be replaced, but will continue to work at the hospital on a part–time basis. According to Moorkey the hospital staff are overworked, but four additional orthopaedic surgeons will be appointed as part of the hospital's restructuring process.

(Source: Beeld 29 November 2001)

Article Source & Reference: South African Medical Association - News Items - http://www.samedical.org/, 2001/11/30

 

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Ref:WOR011128

 

Work is bad for your health: New York - Most patients seeking medical attention for a range of concerns feel their work environment is either the direct cause of their health problems or is aggravating pre-existing conditions, study findings show.

"Occupational health concerns are extremely common," said lead author Dr Phillip Harber of the University of California, Los Angeles. "And while, traditionally, people have thought about coal mines and asbestos production, in reality, occupational hazards are relevant to office workers, teachers and professional performers. So we need to broaden our focus and consider all the possibilities."

Harber and his colleagues interviewed over 100 patients who sought care at managed care facilities and hospital clinics in the Los Angeles area.

Occupational health concerns were generally very common among the patients, according to the report in the November issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The investigators found that almost 40% of the patients said they believed the cause of their illness or injury could be job-related. Many more - nearly 7 out of 10 - said their health problems were made worse by either the stress or physical requirements of the workplace.

Men were more than twice as likely as women to say that their job had actually caused their health problem, but the researchers found little gender difference in whether people thought that work had worsened their health.

Overall, 13% said they had changed jobs because of health issues, while almost 20% said that poor health had caused them to change what they did at work in some manner.

Six out of 10 patients said making changes in their work environment could help them function better.

Harber and colleagues conclude that healthcare providers should ask patients about their occupational health concerns, no matter what motivated the patient to seek care in the first place.

"Healthcare providers really should ask about occupational factors and not wait for the patients to bring it up, because patients won't bring it up by themselves," Harber said. "It can offer real opportunities to prevent disease and also to improve a patient's overall sense of well-being."

Harber stressed the need to improve the training of American physicians and nurses when it comes to appreciating the health impact of various work environments.

"The healthcare provider can make suggestions about minor changes at work that can help (the patient) work more effectively," he said. "(Adjusting an office) chair can have a big impact.

Sometimes more so than a discussion about selecting one drug as opposed to another drug. And yet physicians hardly ever address these issues."

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1114841,00.html, 2001/11/30

 

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Ref:SIA011128

 

Woman gives birth to Siamese twins in PE: Siamese twins were born in the Port Elizabeth provincial hospital on Wednesday, SABC television news reported.

The public broadcaster said the twins were flown to Cape Town for further examination.

They are joined at the waist, and a Livingstone hospital paediatrician was as quoted saying the twins have separate organs.

The exact cause of this kind of birth is not known, but the chances of someone giving birth to twins in this way were one in 50 000, he said. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) News  - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=qw1006989660984B252&set_id=1, 2001/11/30

 

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Ref:CLO011127

 

Cloning success sparks debate: Religious and political leaders worldwide have condemned reports that a US company has cloned a human embryo for the first time. The announcement has raised a multitude of questions over cloning, with President George Bush, calling it morally wrong and others saying the company had crossed an ethical line. 'The use of embryos to clone is wrong. We should not as a society grow life to destroy it,' said Bush.

The Vatican charged that the US company had tampered with human life. 'Not withstanding the humanistic intents, this calls for calm but resolute appraisal which shows the moral gravity of this project and calls for unequivocal condemnation, the Vatican stressed.

Michael West, CEO of The Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) strongly defended his company's research and explained that their work was aimed not at creating a human but at mining the embryo for stem cells to treat diseases from Parkinson's to juvenile diabetes. 'We can do so much more good than bad and we ought to be concerned about over-reacting in our fears about a brave new world, said West.

The company stressed it did not intend to create ranks of genetically identical babies through its research. 'We are not talking about a human life. There is fundamental distinction. I consider myself pro-life by the way and I do not see this a pro-life issue, emphasized West.

The United Nations is set to begin negotiations next year on a draft treaty banning the cloning of humans, an initiative of France and Germany launched in June. Some scientists pointed to the value of the research and said it was just another step toward using stem cell technology to treat a range of diseases.

(Source: Beeld, Citizen, Pretoria News, Mercury, Daily News 27 November 2001)

Article Source & Reference: - http://www.samedical.org/, 2001/11/

 

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Ref:CIGN011127

 

Light cigs still dangerous: Washington - Cigarettes marketed as "light" or "low-tar" by tobacco companies have offered smokers only an illusion of reduced health risks while leaving unabated the death toll caused by the habit, according to a report released on Tuesday by the US National Cancer Institute.

While the design of cigarettes has changed over the past half century as tobacco companies created products billed as packing less cancer-causing tar, there has been no meaningful change in the health risk posed by smoking, the report found.

"Epidemiological and other scientific evidence, including patterns of mortality from smoking-caused diseases, does not indicate a benefit to public health from changes in cigarette design and manufacturing over the last 50 years," the report stated.

About 87% of cigarettes sold in America are low-tar brands, many billed as "light" and "low-tar", according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The report found that this widespread adoption of cigarettes that produce less tar in machine-measured government tests has not prevented a sustained increase in lung cancer among long-time smokers.

The report was authored by two experts on the health effects of smoking, Dr David Burns of the University of California at San Diego and Dr Neal Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco. It was released by the National Cancer Institute, part of the US government's National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Smoking-related diseases kill an estimated 430 700 Americans annually, according to the American Lung Association. About 26% of men and 22% of women smoke in the United States.

Smoking is directly responsible for about nine in 10 cases of lung cancer, and causes most cases of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Tar is the substance blamed for those diseases.

The report found that tobacco companies have designed cigarettes specifically so FTC tests using machines that puff on them find that they yield less tar when smoked, but also so they still deliver full doses of tar and nicotine to actual smokers.

There has been a 60% drop in machine-measured tar yields in US cigarettes over the past 50 years.

But people smoking these cigarettes still can be exposed to the same old levels of tar in part because people puff cigarettes differently than machines do, the report found.

A cigarette's design can be manipulated in order to deliver a lower level of tar in machine measurements by increasing the size or number of ventilation holes in the cigarette's filter, the report said. Thus, these machine tests fail to offer smokers any meaningful information on the amount of tar and nicotine they will consume from a cigarette, the report said.

"Smokers may take larger puffs, inhale more deeply, take more rapid or more frequent puffs, block ventilation holes in the filters with their fingers or lips, or increase the number of cigarettes they smoke per day," the report stated.

Marketing "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes as lower-risk products is deceptive, the report stated.

"Many smokers switch to lower-yield cigarettes out of concern for their health, believing these cigarettes to be less risky or to be a step toward quitting," according to the report.

"Advertising and marketing of lower-yield cigarettes may promote initiation and impede cessation, more important determinants of smoking-related diseases."

Article Source & Reference: - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1114000,00.html, 2001/11/

 

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Ref:AID011127

 

Aids judgment 'before Xmas': Pretoria - The High Court reserved judgment on Tuesday in the application by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to force government into making Nevirapine available to HIV-positive pregnant women.

Judge Chris Botha said judgment "would definitely be delivered before Christmas".

Earlier, TAC attorney Gilbert Marcus told the court there was nothing that resembled a timetable for the expansion of the government's programme to distribute the drug.

Marcus challenged argument by Marumo Moerane on behalf of the health authorities that there were insufficient resources to expand the present programme, which was limited to certain pilot sites.

Marcus said the truth was that the government's current policy had nothing to do with the ideal of achieving 100 percent Nevirapine coverage.

That was why doctors at the Johannesburg Hospital, who bought and dispensed Nevirapine at their own cost, were denigrated as being irresponsible when they took steps to achieve the ideal.

He quoted from the affidavit of one Johannesburg paediatrician, who said withholding Nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant mothers was morally and ethically wrong.

According to the affidavit Nevirapine was easy to administer with no side-effects "except extreme gratefulness".

Marcus said it was clear that besides the Western Cape and Gauteng, where the Nevirapine programme had been extended, there was no timetable to extend the programme to other provinces.

Marcus said his clients had been trying to persuade health authorities for years to come up with a comprehensive programme to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

He said the State's understanding of equity seemed to be that all babies were equal, but some babies -- such as those in the Western Cape and Gauteng where the Nevirapine programmes were being expanded -- "were more equal than others".

Article Source & Reference: - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1114115,00.html, 2001/11/

 

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Ref:SPI011127

 

'Disturbing a spider's web' Pretoria - An application by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to force South African health authorities to provide Nevirapine to all HIV-positive pregnant mothers was "simplistic, ill-informed and ignored vital issues such as the availability of resources."

This was told to the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday by counsel for the minister of health and the majority of health MEC's in the country.

Marumo Moerane, SC, argued before Judge Chris Botha that the TAC's application should be dismissed, because they were in essence asking the court to make a policy decision.

He said the national health department's decision to embark upon Nevirapine trials at selected state hospitals was "reasonable, rational, made in good faith, justified and consistent with international standards and the state's obligations as set out in the constitution".

This approach was better than to become involved immediately in the wide-scale distribution of the drug in the public health sector.

"The applicant's definition of the issues is misconceived and impractical and ignores vital infrastructural and logistical factors, such as voluntary counselling and testing and the evaluation of mother and child to ensure effectiveness," he said.

Spider's web

Moerane emphasised that the benefits of Nevirapine had not been established as clearly as the TAC claimed.

"The programme is aimed at looking into what it would take to sustain the efficacy of Nevirapine. It would be counter-productive to supply Nevirapine at all public hospitals. It must be correctly administered and not pose a public health risk.

"There are sound management and financial reasons for limiting the prescription of Nevirapine at public hospitals. By allowing doctors in the public sector to prescribe Nevirapine at their own discretion, budgets would be strained and it does not address the problem of human, financial and other resources."

For the court to interfere in the government's policy about Nevirapine would be like disturbing a spider's web: It could create a ripple effect and lead to one aspect of health care being emphasised above others.

Moerane stressed that the present national policy was to extend the Nevirapine programme as resources allowed.

He emphasised that there was a right to access to health care, but no right to access to Nevirapine.

If the court interfered, it would require a re-arrangement of budgets and would affect the provision of health care services.

Article Source & Reference: - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1114076,00.html, 2001/11/

 

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Ref:CON011127

 

'South Africans are too sexy for condoms': Eight in 10 South Africans are concerned about contracting Aids or another sexually-transmitted disease, but many are not protecting themselves, an international sex survey revealed on Tuesday.

The 2001 Durex Global Sex Survey, carried out in 28 countries worldwide, found almost a fifth of South Africans were taking no measures to prevent the spread of Aids.

Of those who did, only 14 percent insisted on using a condom for casual sex and just six percent asked their partner about their sexual history.

Although condoms were the most popular form of contraception in South Africa - used by 48 percent - 11 percent admitted to using nothing at all.

"Although many people are taking measures to protect themselves, it is worrying that there is still a large number who are choosing to take risks," said Keli Wakfer, South African publicist for Durex.

"Aids and infections such as chlamydia present a real threat to health throughout the world. Durex conducts this international survey on an annual basis to assist healthcare professionals in communicating this important message."

The survey also found that South African lovers were having sex more frequently. South Africans were making love 116 times a year, increasing from 107 last year.

Their increased libido has put South Africa up among the most sexually active nations in the world, ahead of Italians (111), Britons (107), and Dutch (94). However, the Americans (124) are still in front.

South African teenagers tended to lose their virginity at a later age than in other countries. In the US, the average age was 16 years, France 16,7 and South African 17,2.

South Africans also have fewer sexual partners, averaging 8,2, compared with Americans (14,3). However, nine percent of those interviewed in South Africa said they had more than 20 partners in their lifetime.

Wakfer said: "This wide-ranging survey is the largest ever undertaken by Durex and explores sexual attitudes and behaviour across 28 countries around the globe, including South Africa."

The survey found the average age at which children were first exposed to sex education in school was 14,8 years. However, 32 percent said they did not learn about sex in the classroom.

Mothers are the preferred source of sex education for 25 percent of South Africans, with 20 percent opting to learn at school. One in 10 say they would prefer to rely on friends.

Having sex is the No 1 pastime of 15 percent of the nation's adults, but a larger proportion (21 percent) would prefer to socialise with friends and 14 percent most enjoy shopping or watching television.

Some 12 percent said they receive the greatest pleasure from going to work.

The beach is where a quarter of South Africans would most like to make love, with 23 percent picking a jacuzzi, spa or hot tub.

However nine percent prefer a more domestic setting and would like to have sex on the kitchen table.

Personality was by far the biggest initial point of attraction to the opposite sex with 42 percent saying this was the most important factor in choosing a partner.

Another 19 percent fall for a sense of humour and 13 percent are swayed by good looks. - Sapa

Article Source & Reference: - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=qw1006879321365B226&set_id=1, 2001/11/

 

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Ref:HIV011126

 

Hope for HIV+ men who want kids: New York - A preliminary study with rabbits has found that an extract from the pokeweed plant could theoretically help an HIV-positive man conceive a child without infecting his partner or the child with the virus.

The extract would be used to "wash" the man's sperm, which would then be used to artificially inseminate his partner.

"Whether sperm washing can provide adequate protection for discordant couples where the man is HIV positive and the woman is HIV negative is uncertain because of the paucity of HIV elimination data assessing current sperm-washing techniques," note Drs Osmond J D'Cruz and Faith M Uckun of the Parker Hughes Institute in St Paul, Minnesota.

The investigators conducted a study of "sperm washing" with the pokeweed extract in 12 male and 48 female rabbits. The does were inseminated with sperm that had been treated with one of two different concentrations of the pokeweed protein, or "control" sperm that was not treated with the protein.

"Pokeweed antiviral protein treatment of semen had no adverse effect on gestation length, pregnancy rate, perinatal outcome, growth and development of the offspring," the authors conclude in the October issue of Fertility and Sterility.

The researchers note that the protein is effective against HIV and a number of other viruses, including herpes and polio, and has been used as an anti-HIV drug.

D'Cruz and Uckun had previously done lab studies that found treating human sperm with high concentrations of the pokeweed protein had no effect on a number of measures of sperm viability. Other tests found the protein was not toxic to cells from the female genital tract.

The findings "uniquely qualify pokeweed antiviral protein as a particularly attractive candidate for a non-spermicidal microbicide development," D'Cruz and Uckun conclude.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_1113376,00.html, 2001/11/27

 

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Ref:SPF011126

 

Make-up's SPF may fade fast: New York - Women who rely on their foundation make-up to shield their faces from the sun may need to touch-up every couple of hours.

A study of "foundation migration" shows that the make-up tends to collect in facial lines not long after a woman smoothes it on, leaving most of her face exposed to the sun's damaging rays.

"Foundations with an SPF (sun protection factor) provide a benefit to consumers," the study's author, Dr Zoe Diana Draelos, said in a statement. "However, it is important for consumers to be aware that if they are going to be outside for an extended period, they can only rely on their foundation to protect them from the sun for approximately two hours."

Draelos came to that conclusion after studying 12 women who wore various types of foundation for eight hours in an indoor, controlled environment. Using a video microscope, she charted the make-up's movements over the women's faces throughout the day.

It turned out that the foundation - be it liquid, cream/powder or lotion - found its way into the fine lines of the women's faces and tended to gather around hair follicles. The migration happened more quickly for women with oily skin, and the cream/powder formulation appeared most prone to shifting.

Draelos, of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, reported the findings in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

For women with oily skin, Draelos found, it took two hours or less for the foundations to lose their sun-shielding capability. The same was true for all the women four hours after application.

This "degradation", Draelos notes, probably happens even faster in the real world where sweat, natural oil production in the skin and accidental removal of make-up would factor in.

Besides the fact that foundation migration might eliminate some women's sun shield, the make-up's tendency to pool around hair follicles might explain why some users show skin break-out near the hairline.

"This may explain why facial foundations that claim to be noncomedogenic and nonacnegenic cause (acne) eruptions in persons with self-diagnosed sensitive skin," Draelos writes.

This idea, she adds, remains only a hypothesis.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1113379,00.html, 2001/11/27

 

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Ref:CAN011126

 

Protein patterns may give cancer answers: BETHESDA, Maryland (AP) -- In a crowded Food and Drug Administration laboratory, a scientist fires a miniature laser at cells from a cancer patient, a purple blast that captures normal, precancerous and tumor cells.

This microscopic freeze-frame is key to a new experiment: tracking the chain reactions of proteins that fuel cancer before, during and after each patient is treated.

The hope is that doctors one day could tell in an instant the best chemotherapy for each patient, when one treatment is about to fail and it's time to switch, or when a relapse is near -- merely by looking at the "protein fingerprint" inside patients' cells.

By tracking how patterns of proteins change, "you get almost the story of cancer in this patient," explains FDA microbiologist Emanuel Petricoin, who co-directs the joint FDA-National Cancer Institute research program.

It's called proteomics, the study of all proteins in living cells. Biotechnology companies are using it in a quest to discover disease-causing proteins and create drugs that disable them.

But the FDA-NCI collaboration marks the first time proteomics is being used in clinical trials -- a step toward using proteins to guide real-world treatment and diagnosis, not just hunt new drugs.

Today, the only way to know if cancer treatment is working is to "wait and see in six months, and hope," says NCI's Dr. Lance Liotta. If proteomics works, "we're not doing that ever again."

It's a highly unusual program for the FDA, known for regulating therapies, not creating them.

Together, Petricoin and Liotta have discovered more than 140 proteins that change as cancers of the breast, ovary, prostate and esophagus grow, making them new targets for treatment and earlier diagnosis.

More important, Liotta says the cancer institute needed FDA's untapped expertise in how drugs work, and why so many fail, to spur proteomics in ways industry may not push, such as customizing therapy so that patients get the most effective therapy at the lowest, safest dose possible.

Genes contain the instructions that create proteins, molecules that do the body's work by directing cells' action. A mutated gene can create an abnormal protein, setting off a chain reaction that ends in disease.

Many drugs target single abnormal proteins. But proteins form networks, almost like a circuit board, that direct different cells. Those patterns can fluctuate minute-to-minute, depending on what medications or other compounds affect the proteins. And with cancer, a drug targeting just one protein may help some patients -- but other times tumors just reroute themselves along the protein network to evade treatment.

"Because everything is hooked up in circuits, it gives cancer cells the advantage, a fantastic advantage," Liotta says.

Enter the FDA-NCI proteomics program.

Several hundred patients, mostly ovarian cancer patients, enrolled in various treatment studies at the National Institutes of Health's hospital will undergo additional biopsies before, during and after their therapy.

First, Liotta's laboratory created a special laser microscope to extract cells -- normal, premalignant and invasive cancer -- from that biopsied tissue. Unlike traditional methods that yield a mishmash of proteins, this "laser capture microdissection" isolates pure cells and, in seconds, transfers them to a special film that preserves the patterns proteins make as normal cells turn cancerous.

It's basically a molecular snapshot.

Then, using measures of molecular weight, Petricoin developed a way to tell, in minutes, what proteins are present in that snapshot, and in what strengths. The result looks like a bar code, a pattern that is the unique fingerprint for each patient's cancer.

Now the challenge: Track how each patient's protein patterns change as a result of different therapies. Those changes should make clear if the patient is responding or needs to switch therapies.

Beyond treatment, they might even lead to simple blood tests that could tell when someone at high risk of hard-to-detect ovarian cancer is about to get sick, says NCI ovarian cancer specialist Dr. Elise Kohn, who is sending biopsies from such patients to the FDA lab for protein analysis.

"The potential has not yet been realized," Petricoin cautions. But proteomics "could change the shape of how medicine is practiced."

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/11/26/unraveling.proteins.ap/index.html, 2001/11/27

 

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Bush: Human cloning 'morally wrong': WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush Monday criticized the creation of human embryos through cloning as "morally wrong" and "bad public policy," saying the procedure should not be allowed.

"We should not as a society grow life to destroy it, and that's exactly what's taking place," Bush said during a Rose Garden appearance.

Bush spoke one day after a Massachusetts company announced that it had created the first human embryos through cloning.

The president of Advanced Cell Technology Inc., of Worcester, Massachusetts, told CNN the process is not intended for human reproduction and he wouldn't want to see the science move in that direction.

"I don't think this is safe yet for human reproduction," said Dr. Michael West, president and CEO of the company. He said there is a risk of losing both the embryo and the mother through cloning. West also stressed that he doesn't support cloning procedures to create human beings.

His goal, he said, is to create human embryos through cloning and extract stem cells -- master, blank cells that can transform themselves -- with the goal of using them to treat a variety of ailments.

"There are people out there, people we all care for, who are suffering and dying and need therapies now," West said.

But the revelation drew fire. A Florida Republican warned of a "slippery slope," saying that West has opened the door to reproductive cloning through the procedure.

"If you start allowing all these labs all over the place to create human clones, then it's only a matter of time before somebody tries to bring a baby to birth because the implantation of those cloned embryos would occur within the privacy of the doctor/patient relationship," said Rep. Dave Weldon, a doctor.

Weldon also cited "real serious" ethical and moral problems with cloning, whatever the goal.

He said "therapeutic cloning," as West calls the procedure, amounts to "creating human life for the purpose of exploiting it and a lot of people have ethical problems with that."

In West's study, the results of which were published in the Journal of Regenerative Medicine, scientists removed DNA from human egg cells and replaced it with DNA from a human body cell. The egg cells began to develop "to an embryonic state," a company press release said.

Of the eight eggs involved in the study, two divided to form early embryos of four cells and one progressed to a six-cell stage before it stopped dividing. This breakthrough occurred October 13.

"These are exciting preliminary developments," Robert P. Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific development at ACT and an author of the study, said in a statement. "This work sets the stage for human therapeutic cloning as a potentially limitless source of immune-compatible cells for tissue engineering and transplantation medicine."

"Our intention is not to create cloned human beings, but rather to make lifesaving therapies for a wide range of human disease conditions including diabetes, strokes, cancer, AIDS and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease."

Last summer, the House of Representatives voted to ban human cloning and set penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for those convicted of attempting to clone humans.

The measure was never taken up by the Senate, so it never became law.

Over the weekend, several lawmakers said West's announcement could prompt the Senate to take up the legislation.

A White House spokesman Sunday reiterated Bush's opposition to human cloning and called on Congress to outlaw the procedure.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News - http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/11/26/human.cloning/index.html, 2001/11/27

 

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Genes linked to premature heart attacks: DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- Scientists say they have found evidence linking three genes to premature heart disease in what could be a step toward a better screening procedure for families at risk.

Using a new technique called high throughput microarray genotyping to sift through some 50,000 genes, the researchers found that three produce thrombospondin. The protein governs blood's ability to clot, a factor in heart disease.

The study in Tuesday's issue of the journal Circulation found that families with a variant of a gene called thrombospondin-4 were 89 percent more likely to have a premature heart attack compared with those who had a normal gene of the same type.

Researchers also found that a variant of the gene thrombospondin-1 was 10 times more likely to form blood clots, while a variant of another gene -- thrombospondin-2 -- actually reduced the risk of heart attack by 69 percent.

The study looked at 400 families at 15 medical centers across the United States.

Dr. Eric Topol, the study's author and a chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said the study was just a first step in the quest to find the root causes of heart disease.

"The hunt for the genes to explain this disease has actually not gone too far yet," Topol said. "We know there's something going on. Each of these variants are making very abnormal proteins."

Topol said the research could lead to a screening procedure to identify at-risk families at an early age. He said the next step is for others to replicate his findings and show the cause-and-effect relationship between the suspect genes and heart illness.

Experts said the study suggested that researchers were on the right track.

"There are millions of segments of genes. This is just one segment," said Dr. David Fischman, a cardiologist and an assistant professor of medicine at the Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

He said research is farther along on genetic markers that could predict cancer risks. Fischman predicted ethical battles over whether to manipulate genetic codes in an effort to stop diseases, citing controversy surrounding this week's claim by a Massachusetts company that it had cloned a human embryo.

"This (gene therapy to prevent heart attacks) won't raise as much as that, but it will probably raise considerable controversy," Fischman said.

Article Source & Reference: CNN Health News -http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/11/26/heart.attacks.genes.ap/index.html , 2001/11/27

 

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MP calls for HIV 'census': tests for all: An African National Congress MP has called on the government to introduce mandatory testing for sexually active citizens to determine the true extent of HIV and Aids in the country.

Ruth Bhengu, who was praised for her public declaration of support for Nosipho Bhengu, her HIV-positive daughter, said: "We must pass laws which make testing for HIV mandatory."

She said that the constitutional provisions for the right to privacy - used by some not to take an Aids test - be suspended to determine the extent of the disease.

Bhengu joins a growing list of ANC MPs who are breaking ranks with their party over its Aids policy.

Last week Pregs Govender, a fellow MP, called for "an operational plan" and massive education and funding to deal with mother-to-child transmission.

Bhengu said privacy could be protected by a law ensuring confidentiality of the information garnered by the state.

Her campaign comes as the ANC government prepares for a court battle with the Treatment Action Campaign over its position on providing Aids drugs to pregnant women.

It also comes in a week when Lionel Mtshali, the premier of KwaZulu-Natal, announced his province would soon be providing Nevaripine to pregnant women.

Mtshali's announcement means that the country's two non-ANC controlled provinces are ignoring President Thabo Mbeki's stance on not providing anti-retrovirals.

Also this week, doctors, nurses, health researchers, labour unions and churches all joined in saying the government has no legal, ethical, scientific or financial grounds for refusing to provide anti-retroviral drugs to people living with HIV or Aids.

The health department said it had spent R4 billion - about 12 percent of the health budget - on treating people with HIV in the past year.

"We are not all prepared to be soldiers in the war against the epidemic in the same way we were prepared to confront the enemy in the struggle against apartheid," Bhengu said.

Bhengu said mandatory testing was necessary in order to give a clearer picture of the virus that estimates say has already infected more than 36 percent of the population of KwaZulu-Natal and is now responsible for an increasing national mortality rate.

Early this year, Bhengu brought tears to the eyes of parliamentarians when she announced that her daughter was HIV-positive.

"We do not have reliable scientific figures on the extent of the infection rate. Figures available are based on the numbers of pregnant women attending government hospitals who test positive," Bhengu said.

She said every sexually active citizen should know their status so they could be treated and behave accordingly in order not to spread the virus.

Bhengu criticised the government for failing to take care of HIV-positive people.

"A key question today [is] how do you protect those who are already infected? Let us allocate a budget empowering communities to take care of those who are infected. While it is correct that we are talking about the need for prevention, we are doing very little to take care of those that already have the virus," she said.

Meanwhile, thousands of supporters of mother-to-child anti-retrovirals nationwide have vowed to take to the streets simultaneously in support of a court action launched by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to force the government to provide the anti-retroviral drug Nevirapine to pregnant women with HIV.

The court action starts in the Pretoria high court on Monday.

Also, in a build-up to World Aids Day on Saturday, December 1, thousands of people, including pregnant women, medical and health personnel, volunteer counsellors, trade union and religious leaders are expected to converge on city centres tomorrow for the start of a rolling action campaign against the government for its refusal to implement a national programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The protest action will take the form of marches in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. The marches are organised by the TAC.

Article Source & Reference: IOL (Independent Online) - News - http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=125&art_id=ct20011124194839287A323446&set_id=1, 2001/11/26

 

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Possible MS gene identified: New York - Scientists have discovered a gene that may be involved in multiple sclerosis (MS) and other diseases that destroy the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord.

The findings suggest that blocking the activity of the gene may slow the progress of MS, researchers say.

Multiple sclerosis and many other types of neurological diseases slowly destroy myelin, the thin, protective coating that insulates nerve fibres in the brain and spine. The destruction of myelin can lead to numbness, muscle weakness and stiffness, impaired vision and co-ordination problems.

Dr Lawrence Steinman of Stanford University in California and colleagues searched a gene "library" containing thousands of samples of brain tissue from people who had died of MS to look for genes possibly involved in the disease.

Several different forms of a gene that makes a protein called osteopontin showed up over and over again, Steinman said.

"We found a dozen copies of osteopontin," he said.

The researchers next studied the expression, or switching on, of the osteopontin gene in experimental models of MS in mice. They found that the expression of the gene varied in different stages of the disease. For instance, the gene was expressed in neurones when symptoms were present, but not during remission of the disease.

The investigators also discovered that the MS-like disease was much less severe in mice that lacked osteopontin. These mice also experienced more frequent remissions of the disease than mice that had the gene. The results of the research are published in the November 23rd issue of the journal Science.

MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease, meaning that it occurs because the body's immune system has turned against its own tissue. Osteopontin appears to interact with a type of immune-system cell called a T helper cell-1 to affect MS, the report indicates.

The authors speculate that targeting the expression of the gene may help block the development of progressive MS.

According to Steinman, other genes in the library besides the osteopontin gene may play a role in MS.

"We have identified the titles but haven't yet read the contents," he said.

Article Source & Reference: M-Web Health News - http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Health_News/0,1113,2-14-660_1112353,00.html, 2001/11/26

 

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New drug halts diabetes: London - A new experimental drug can block the progression of insulin-dependent diabetes and may