Category Archives: Health

The happiness gene – is there one?


In recent decades many have observed that certain people are always optimistic.  Naturally, researchers who requested funding to study if “optimism” could be inherited did get some money. Any major answer? The 5-HTT gene family: The feeling of satisfaction is apparently controlled by the 5-HTT gene family. It probably may not be the only gene family that controls the feeling of satisfaction but it has been the one most studied. There are many members in the 5-HTT gene family with various functions. One member controls satisfaction levels while another member controls marital bliss.

Satisfaction level controlled by a gene?
We found that this single, collaborative article published in the Journal of Neuroscience answered our question the best, given today’s technological knowledge and funding set aside for the pursuit of a happy society. The article, “Genes, Economics and Happiness” studied the feeling of subjective well being in twins in a genetic association study. Studying twins makes sense because scientific studies require a “control”, with which they can compare any differences, such as environment and economics, all other factors being equal. Who can be a better control than a person’s own twin? Let’s find what these scientists collaborating between four universities in three countries summarized. Subjects were asked questions like, “How satisfied are you with your life as a whole?”

1. About 33% of life’s satisfaction can be explained by genetic variation – you inherit your family’s feelings of satisfaction.
2. There are molecular genetic associations with subjective well being – meaning that although previous studies have shown that there is a baseline happiness that is inherited from family, certain experiences can interfere with that baseline. An indirect molecular effect of life’s stressful events?
3. As an example, they studied in detail the Serotonin Transporter gene (5-HTTLPR, also named SLC6A4), or SERT a key brain protein it encodes. Serotonin is a chemical released by one neuron and received by another neuron. The protein has a longer form and a shorter form. Initial findings suggested that families that inherited the longer form were more satisfied. But this study produced mixed results, implying that certain experiences can interfere with the length of this gene. The 5-HTT gene has been studied for over 20 years. This gene encodes a protein (located on the cell surface membrane) that absorbs serotonin into the neuron in parts of the brain that influences mental states.
4. Heritability of happiness rises as people age. At different points in life’s course genes and environment play a different role.
5. In particular, gender does not systematically effect happiness.
6. There are other genes with functions involved in gene-environment interactions and satisfaction.

This study encourages economists to consider biological differences in their studies. Economists are interested in the impact of income or unemployment on feelings of satisfaction. Psychologists describe a “set point” or “happiness levels” that exist in families. Since, optimism is linked in families carrying a more efficient version of the 5-HTT gene, all of us are interested.

Wedded bliss gene?

Dr Claudia Haase, Northwestern University

Dr Claudia Haase, Northwestern University says couples with the 5-HTTLPR gene were most happy in their marriages

There is recent evidence for a wedded bliss gene. Scientists have long observed that married people are generally happier than divorced people. Couples with the 5-HTTLPR gene were most happy in their marriages. Couples with two shorter forms of this gene are likelier to be happier in a compatible relationship rather than suffer in a bad one. Emotion is an important element in marital bliss. The marriage thrives under certain emotional levels. People who inherit the two longer forms of this gene respond less to emotional levels in marriage. Read, “Claudia Haase’s New Study links DNA Marital Happiness“.

Can we be re-engineered biologically to be happier?
If we do have this satisfaction gene and we find that some of us do not have this happiness gene, then what? Will it be allowed by FDA to walk into a clinic to get diagnosed “for a happiness gene” and then get a bioengineered happiness gene if the doc says we lack one? Will insurance pay for such a happiness – gene – bioengineering therapy? What will it’s medical code termininology read like? Will insurance pay for “diagnosing a SNP or marker” that causes change in the “happiness gene” in an unhappy individual?

Pursue Natural felt it could begin by searching for any peer – reviewed published work on happiness genes. Peer – reviewed would indicate that fellow scientists respect the methodology or scientific thoroughness with which this scientist approached the issue of discovering the happiness gene.  We discussed above our findings. What are your opinions on the happiness gene? Laugh a Lot. Can you imagine the impact of an eternally happy society?

Other Authors who have recently discussed the Happiness factor
Happiness from having a purpose in life linked with gene activity
Your happiness type matters
Happiness can affect your genes
Looking to genes for the secret to happiness
Wedded bliss or blues? Scientists link DNA to marital satisfaction

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World Hunger, Rising Obesity, Anorexia: which nutrition group to stress on World Food Day? @FAOWFD #wfd2013


Ironically, while we try to end world hunger, we are also fighting the twin wars of rising obesity and anorexia. The Centers of Disease Control says 35% of US adults are obese and 69% of US adults are overweight (including obese).  A Brown University study says 0.5% to 3.7% of females will suffer from anorexia in their lifetimes.  About 5-15% of total anorexics will be men.  Anorexia is significant weight loss due to an intentional starvation for “beauty”.

Pursue Natural has a suggestion on how to solve obesity and anorexia while helping stop world hunger: Encourage such individuals to actively participate in ending world hunger activities by actually interacting with starving people around the world.  The interaction between these groups will leave a lasting impression.  On one hand, hunger when there is no other option other than to starve versus intentional hunger to become thin (Anorexia) and on the other hand, an obese individual whose calorie needs are not sustainable by  his/her genes (obesity and genes).  Our select collection of photos here emphasize these three groups.

Photos on nutrition

Hunger exists in parts of the world where generosity and kindness is lacking among leaders and influential people. You can do something about it.

Finding enough fish to feed increasing population numbers -The Fisherman on the River Ganga (Ganges) by Sumit Sen

Finding enough fish to feed increasing population numbers -The Fisherman on the River Ganga (Ganges) by Sumit Sen

Hunger: No obesity exists among the displaced citizens of the world

Hunger: No obesity exists among the displaced citizens of the world

A new USA 2013 citizen - with the promise of no hunger, obesity or anorexia?

A new USA 2013 citizen – with the promise of no hunger, obesity or anorexia?

Mayor Bloomberg wants to restrict sugared drinks to 16oz size max

Mayor Bloomberg wants to restrict sugared drinks to 16oz size max in New York City to conquer obesity

Adults often try to make healthy food choices

Adults often try to make healthy food choices

It is quite difficult even for adults to resist such candy choices

It is quite difficult even for adults to resist such candy choices

Weight issues haunt the young in USA

Weight issues haunt the young in USA

photo-4

New York City introduces subsidized bike rentals to ride your way out of obesity

New York City introduces subsidized bike rentals to ride your way out of obesity

Hunger Obesity BrainObesity 2013

How to grow enough rice for exploding population growth - A rice field in Korea

How to grow enough rice for exploding population growth – A rice field in Korea

Modern grocery stores promised better food than such local farmer shops could provide.

Modern grocery stores promised better food than such local farmer shops could provide.

A severely Anorexic woman  - who intentionally starved herself to feel "more beautiful"

A severely Anorexic woman – who intentionally starved herself to feel “more beautiful”

Buy this placemat to end hunger program by Church World Service CWS - What can you do? Order Online or call 1-800-297-1516

Buy this placemat to end hunger program by Church World Service CWS – What can you do? Order Online or call 1-800-297-1516

Be a part of the solution and learn, get inspired and take action
We can end hunger. The body needs a certain amount of energy or calories from food to keep up basic life functions. Obesity rates have more than doubled in adults and children since the 1970s and continues to be a leading public health problem in the US (Food Research and Action Center).

Join the global movement to end hunger
The World Food Day theme for 2013 is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition”. A noteworthy discussion is posted by Worldlife Conservation Society, “World Food Day: A Time to Embrace the farming We Want”, where they stress the crucial challenge in conserving biodiversity.

World Food Day is celebrated every year on October 16 to honor the date of the founding of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations on 1945. Every year a different theme is adopted and most center around agriculture.

End malnutrition and hunger through education
Prevent intergenerational malnutrition and hunger by promoting education of women and girls. Read this 40 page 2013 article on Right to Food- Global Strategic Framework – women/gender.

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The nutritive, medicinal and diuretic properties of Pumpkin flour


When fall arrives so does pumpkin season.  With so many people looking for avoiding gluten and looking for wheat substitutes, there is a new candidate – pumpkin flour.

Ancient Food Habits included Whole Grain. Yet, a gluten - free diet and other life style changes in modern day may keep many free of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Arthritis. Copyright 2013 (c) Pursue Natural

Ancient Food Habits included Whole Grain. Yet, a gluten – free diet and other life style changes in modern day may keep many free of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Arthritis. Copyright 2013 (c) Pursue Natural

Physiochemical characteristics of pumpkin flour
Fresh pumpkin is rather popular all around the world. Pumpkin pie is a staple in a Thanksgiving meal. Pumpkin spice latte is a fall treat in coffee shops. Pumpkin is added to soups and curries, and their young flowers dipped and fried around the world.  This vegetable is highly valued because it is so easy to grow and produce, and has a high nutritive value.

A delicious Pumpkin Pie - An American Tradition

A delicious Pumpkin Pie – An American Tradition

Nutrition value
Pumpkins are rich in carotene, minerals, vitamins, pectin, and dietary fiber.

Medicinal value
They are diuretic, tonic and calm thirst. Because they are diuretic do not overeat. You may also want to read “Pumpkin is mildly diuretic – so eat in moderation“. The yellow – orange characteristic color is due to the presence of carotenoids. They can be converted in the body to retinol (Vitamin A). Vitamin A is essential for normal immune function and vision. At present researchers are uncertain whether the biological effects of carotene is from antioxidant or non-antioxidant activities. Carotenoids are best absorbed in the intestine with fat in a meal, so you know what to do to truly enjoy the benefits of pumpkin. To read more click here.

Comparing Pumpkin flour with Wheat flour
Researchers have studied and compared fresh pumpkin, pumpkin flour and wheat flour. Fresh pumpkin (Curcurbita moschata, C. pepo, and C. maxima) has significantly higher moisture content and lower fat, protein, crude fiber and ash content than pumpkin flour. The researchers prepared cake substituting wheat flour with pumpkin flour and measured the contents. They found a significantly higher beta carotene, crude fiber and ash and decreased crude fat, crude protein and crude carbohydrate in pumpkin flour containing cakes. Wheat flour has higher protein content (>14%) than pumpkin flour (>9%). You may read more of the original article by clicking here.

Colors of Pumpkins
Depending on the species their colors may vary from green, white, blue-grey, yellow, red and ofcourse, the characteristic orange that we know and love.  Here are a collective exhibition of pumpkins at the 2013 New York Botanical Garden. a

A pumpkin caterpillar at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

A pumpkin caterpillar at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

b

A pumpkin sculpture at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

A pumpkin sculpture at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

 

A pumpkin sculptur at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

A pumpkin sculptur at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

c

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Certain flu vaccines are not recommended for all ages


It is time for your 2013-2014 flu vaccine.  However, do take your doctor’s advice before vaccination. Certain flu vaccines are not recommended for all ages. For example, CDC recommends that one brand of inactivated flu vaccine called Affluria, should not be given to children 8 years of age or younger. A related vaccine was related with fever and fever – related seizures in young children in Australia. More about side effects below.  Young children who get inactivated flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13) at the same time may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever. Ask your doctor for more information. Tell your doctor if a child who is getting flu vaccine has ever had a seizure. You may also read “Why am I feeling fatigued after taking the flu vaccine?

Avoid Pain Reliever with Flu Vaccine
Although your first reaction would be to take a fever or pain reliever along with the flu vaccine – you may want to avoid this action. Common pain relievers dilute the effect of the vaccine. Click here to read the views of the University of Rocherster Medical Center. Quote

“What we’ve been saying all along, and continue to stress, is that it’s probably not a good idea to take common, over-the-counter pain relievers for minor discomfort associated with vaccination,” Phipps said. “We have studied this question using virus particles, live virus, and different kinds of pain relievers, in human blood samples and in mice — and all of our research shows that pain relievers interfere with the effect of the vaccine.”

Unquote.

Egg and/or latex allergy?
What if you have an egg and/or latex allergy? Consult your doctor. The answer is in this previous article.  However, there is a major update for individuals with egg allergy waiting to be vaccinated – Flublok.  In 2013, FDA has approved Flublok, for 18-49 year old, which is not developed in eggs but in insects. Hence, Flublok may be suitable for adults (but not children, teens and seniors) with egg and/or latex allergy.  Traditionally, the flu vaccine has been developed in eggs.  To learn more you may read a previous article, “Tracking the history of the development of the flu vaccine”, by clicking here.  The ability to develop the flu vaccine in insects instead of eggs is heralded as a boon to egg allergic individuals.  However, since it has been newly introduced in 2013, it remains to be clinically tested in individuals other than adults and hence, is not yet FDA approved in children, teens and seniors, since their immune system is different than a typical healthy adult.

A Flu Virus

A Flu Virus

Please, discuss with your doctor.  It is highly recommended to take the flu vaccine to avoid hospitalization and other secondary complications from a flu infection.  It is highly contagious.  Certain age groups are more susceptible than others.  The Centers of Disease Control of USA reports a total of 12,343 hospitalizations that occurred from October 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, which translates to a cumulative rate of 44.3 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States. The total number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported to CDC for 2012-2013 was 146 in USA. While the vast majority of the tested virus samples (>99%) showed susceptibility to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir, some varieties showed resistance. Watch an animated video of how the flu virus enters, and multiplies inside the human body.

Why do I feel fatigued after my flu vaccine?
The vaccine composition is changed every year. The WHO meets twice a year to discuss the varieties of flu strains causing flu infections and hopes to include the most “popular” strains in the flu vaccine composition (see below for for the 2013-2014 composition). However, the vaccine can accomodate a maximum of three to four flu strains. There might be a new flu strain that emerges later in the year. There might be a fifth or sixth flu strain also causing infections. The flu vaccine assists an individual in easing the “suffering from symptom” period. Therefore, a person who has the vaccine can still get the flu from a flu strain not included in the vaccine but the symptoms will be weaker. This is because the flu strains differ from each other very slightly and most of their characteristic proteins are included in the vaccine, hence “teaching” the body’s immune system to be ready to fight the flu infection.

There can be a slight fever and other side effects (see below) after the flu vaccine.  The symptoms would start right away and last 2 to 3 days. This might happen if the flu vaccine composition includes one or more flu strains that were not included in the previous year’s vaccine composition. If the individual has never been exposed to 1 or more of the flu strains in the vaccine, the immune system might react with symptoms like the flu. It is the immune system getting ready. The individual does not get flu from the inactivated flu vaccine and the live flu vaccine is too weakened to cause the flu. You may also read “Why am I feeling fatigued after taking the flu vaccine?

Related Articles:
The compostion of the 2013 – 2014 trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere
Tracking the seasonal flu, The History of the Flu Vaccine and The Flu Vaccine of 2011

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Autism Scientists seek public assistance to detect, measure and prevent Autism and major psychiatric disorders


You may want to visit and contribute your experiences at the  Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force  site and inspire them in their public – private effort to achieve their goal. Their vision is to get the desired outcome in three to five years as a result of the work laid out to implement the Minnesota Autism Spectrum Disorder strategic plan. Help them in your own, unique creative way.

You may also contact the Science Department Leadership at various autism foundations, such as Autism Speaks, and Autism Support Network with your personal experiences, hunches and suggestions on which public – private large scale database efforts to fund.

Autism rates continue to rise at an alarming rate
Tomorrow the autistic child could be someone born in your family – 1/50 to 1/80th chance of happening today, with more boys being born with autism than girls. States are drowning with the rising numbers of autism cases. The role of environment cannot be ignored which you may read by clicking “Why is Autism observed in America and not in underdeveloped countries?“, although dyslexia and mild communication disorder is rising worldwide (Read more). The role of shared family genes is not being ignored but so far, no clear association has scientific merit. You may call it the Geek syndrome but as Steve Silberman describes, if the autism spectrum genes were eliminated from society, it would be disastrous for the evolution of society. He also adds here that Microsoft recently became the first major US corportion to offer its employees insurance benefits to cover the costs of behavioral training for their autistic children. The number of autistic children among their employees were high enough to justify that – a fact that did not exist even over a decade ago. And their numbers continue to rise.

History of Autism
John Hopkins Neuroimmunopath has a FAQ site on their “Focus on Autism“.  They are researching the role of the immune system in Autism.  You might want to visit their site to consider what unseen factors inside the body control the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  After all, the first cases of Autism in USA were diagnosed at John Hopkins by Dr. Leo Kanner and published in 1943 to alert the public.  Dr. Hans Asperger of Austria described a similar group of patients around the same time and the distinctive sypmtoms got a diagnostic name.

Although historical accounts point to the existence of what could be isolated cases of autism, the mid 20th century is the first time clusters of patients with distinct ASD symptoms began to be diagnosed.  Unfortunately, ASD cases are rising at a rate that we find alarming, even if we allow for a certain threshold of misdiagnosis.  There is no known cure for ASD.  Since we do not know a cause we cannot begin to prevent onset of ASD, which usually strikes suddenly and without warning around the age of 18 months, according to parental reports.  Although there is no doubt that genetics or inherited family factors plays a role in susceptibility to ASD, scientists cannot rule out a potential major role for non-heritable risk factors.  A strong supporting reason for this is an observation by parents of Somali origin, which you may read by clicking “Why is Autism observed in America and not in underdeveloped countries?“. Scientist urge for more research on the important role of Vit D, as a possible environmental risk factor in Autism Spectrum Disorder. You may read their review by clicking here. Research studies on gene x environment are identifying which pesticide, herbicide, fungicide classes are of greatest concern in susceptible populations.

What is Autism
Sceptics abound (Read Forbes magazine article here).  Many do not know what is Autism.  Just like in the early 1980s the average person had no idea what HIV and AIDS was; similarly, the average skeptic today is unacquainted with autism and untouched by the daily adversities of living with autism.  Those who have never seen or been in the same room, let alone family, of an autistic individual, will not have any empathy for this discussion. Take your autistic child to public museums, movie theaters, enclosed botanical garden exhibitions. Tell every skeptic who frowns with displeasure that this disruptive individual is a healthy, autistic person. Your job is educational in nature and to reach as many skeptics as you can. If you believe that Autism research needs more believers, then you will have to leave a skeptic alone in the same room with a severely autistic child. Then, leave the skeptic alone in the same room with simply a misbehaved child. The skeptic will realize that there is a difference. Then, to justify urgency, you can show evidence as to how the numbers of autistic children are growing, and soon to become a growing burden on society as they age and their parent – caretakers die. Who will take care of them? Additionally, society is losing 1/50 of every young male or 1/80 of every young child who could contribute gainfully to social security or medicare. Can society let such monetary contributors get lost without a question? In 1960 there were 4.9 workers paying into the social security system for every beneficiary collecting (click here for Time magazine article). In 2035 there will be 1.9 workers for every social security recipient. With rising autism rates, how many of these 1.9 workers will be unable to contribute to this social equation and instead require social care as their caretaker parents die?

AutismIt is possible that part of the reason why no other risk factors have been identified may be that genetic and non – genetic factors need to be studied together in order to get a complete ASD profile.  What factor/s changed globally in the developed world around mid 20th century?  The scientists need the assistance of the public to solve this mystery as observant team members.  You may click here to learn more about facts of ASD and the Autism Fact Sheet of John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.  The origins, detection, measurement and prevention of conditions that affect behavioral, socioemotional and/or cognitive development are specific to Autism and ASD and are discussed here.

Role of Dirt/Microbial biome in Allergy, Asthma and ASD?

A variety of Hookworms

A variety of Hookworms

A blogger, summarizes a recent research study and it’s conclusion that dirt may be necessary to prevent allergies in “Dirt Prevents Allergies“. The researchers, headed by Professor Bisgaard, followed a cohort of asthma patients for several years to identify what factors might have triggered their disease. While these researchers are still looking for asthma trigger factor/s in early childhood, they did find that there was a connection between lack of diversity of bacteria in the intestine and allergy and have published their results in the journal of allergy and clinical immunology in 2011. The “microbial biome” is the term used to define all the bacteria that a healthy intestine supports. You may click here to read “Worm Theory: to improve the immune system to fight asthma, multiple sclerosis and more”. Several families have reported the presence of a parent with multiple sclerosis and children with autism and/or allergy. There apparently is a age – related connection. A younger family member presents with autism while an older family member has symptoms of multiple sclerosis. neuron

Since, researchers are finding that the immune system is involved in both Autism – which is on the rise recently, and in food allergy – which too is on the rise in recent decades and often in the same family, we have to wonder if it is correct to ask, “Is Autism an immune reaction with an allergic profile?” However, why did the recent study of Bisgaard and colleagues not find a common factor in allergy and asthma yet?  Multiple sclerosis, a nerve disease, is also on the rise in recent decades, and often reported in families with autism and severe allergies.

Babies with no autism or allergy

Babies with no autism or allergy

When is the earliest trigger for the diseases that are on the rise in recent years? Why is the first symptom seen not at birth but a few months, several months or years later? What factors control later symptoms? Is it an age – related control? You may want to read a popular article “How I gave my son autism” by Thinking Mom’s Revolution, which lists eight things this mother would change given a change to move time back.

Health Analyses of Families with Autism using the internet

Health Analyses of Families with Autism using the internet

No single gene appears to control autism. Studies indicate that the main immune mechanism in autism is an innate immune reaction. Contrast this to adaptive immune response seen in diseases such as meningitis and encephalitis. What is the difference between innate and adaptive immune system? A simple biological explanation is given by the Univesity of Arizona researchers here.

The Autism Genome Project
The Autism Genome project(AGP) is a large-scale, public – private collaborative, genetics research project initiated by the National Alliance for Autism Research and the National Institute of Health and is aimed at sifting through the human genome in search of autism susceptibility genes. The vision is to identify predisposition to Autism and to identify the causal mechanisms.  A new born screening mechanism would allow for early intervention. AGP has identified a dozen autism related genes researched by 120 scientists from 11 countries. They indicate that two important gene networks in the central nervous system contribute to the susceptibility to autism, leading to impairments in social and communication skills. The estimated prevalence of autism in siblings is about 10%, while it is a whopping 90% in twins. However, although heredity plays a definite role, such children with autism are born only under certain environmental conditions, underlining the fact that unknown life-style changes trigger autism.  The role of lack of exposure to enough Vit D in autism is being researched, especially in countries like Sweden. AGP has also revealed that Autism shares risk genes with major psychiatric disorders. Which leads to the question, whether searching for a cure for autism might lead to an early diagnosis of major psychiatric disorders, prevention and cures? It appears that the diagnosis of dyslexia is more common in underdeveloped countries. However, when this same gene pool is exposed to the life – style changes of a developed country the diagnosis of moderate to severe autism is observed.

Innate and Adaptive Immunity
There is a growing body of evidence linking Vit D to various immune related conditions including allergy and auto-immunity, but none show a convincing link, meaning there is a connecting missing link which remains to be discovered. Lack of Vit D would normally not cause diseases like autism but, given the presence of this missing link, lack of Vit D or specific life-style changes, one becomes predisposed to diseases like autism.  Various diseases involve the innate and/or adaptive immune system:

Dr Belbedos and colleagues want to modulate the innate immune reaction in allergy and asthma therapy in young children.

Lyme disease is an innate immune reaction.

Measles suppreses both innate and adaptive.

Pertussis or whooping cough involves both innate and adaptive.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis is different – see fatal tuberculosis , where an acquired immunity is not enough but an innate immune response additionally, is required. The MyD88 pathway is crucial to protect against this disease. 90% of infected people do not show any symptoms. What protects them?

Vitamin D initiates an innate immune reaction. Apparently, its role in adaptive immune response has been known, but not in innate immune response. Too much Vit D is bad.

The National Institute of Health has explained immunity and the immune response in an article and include a video on immune response and a video on vaccines. The definitions of innate, acquired and passive immunity are followed by a video; if you scroll down, you will see the videos.

Related Video
Watch a video of a Pro-surfer, a father of an autistic son, and founder of a non-profit foundation school of Surfing for Autistic kids and how it makes them smile. Volunteers are pro-surfers.

Related Articles
A single shared component has been confirmed in allergy and autoimmune diseases
Proteins neuroligins and neurexins are important in Autism and Schizophrenia
G proteins: the connector proteins that try to prevent Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Your blood pressure is influenzed by hot to cold weather


Heart expert Dr. Padmanabhan has discovered that there is a connection between a drop in temperature during the day to your blood pressure (BP).  This may be because the arteries and veins tend to collapse with colder weather making it harder for blood to travel around the body.  This response to temperature changes may be under genetic control too. Which means some families may be more susceptible to temperature changes than others, so all people may not respond in the same way to weather changes. Those susceptible are 30% more likely to die from a deadly rise in BP than those who are not.

These heart experts realize that not many studies have correlated effect of weather on BP and recommend that physicians be aware of this. Quote

Temperature-sensitive subjects had significantly higher mortality (1.35 [95% confidence interval, 1.06–1.71]; P=0.01) and higher follow-up systolic blood pressure (1.85 [95% confidence interval, 0.24–3.46]; P=0.02) compared with temperature-nonsensitive subjects. Blood pressure response to temperature may be one of the underlying mechanisms that determine long-term blood pressure variability. Knowing a patient’s blood pressure response to weather can help reduce unnecessary antihypertensive treatment modification, which may in turn increase blood pressure variability and, thus, risk.

Unquote.
Sunshine plays a role in monitoring BP. Cloudy days raise BP.

Nature - the blazing, glorious sun that sustains all life shows one form in the sand dunes of Morocco. Copyright (C) Pursue Natural

Nature – the blazing, glorious sun that sustains all life shows one form in the sand dunes of Morocco.
Copyright (C) Pursue Natural

To read the original article published in Journal of Hypertension on 23 May 2013 by researchers in Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK click here.

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Now is the time for your 2013 – 2014 flu vaccine


The 2013- 2014 flu season is here for the Northern Hemisphere. Los Angeles has reported it’s first flu case early September (Click here). New York city residents are surprised that flu season has already arrived and reaching people before their scheduled flu vaccination date. The first Los Angeles case is an H1N1 which is in this year’s flu vaccine combination to protect those vaccinated this season. The New York city strain has yet to be reported.  Fortunately, the flu vaccine of 2013 – 2014 has either three flu strains (trivalent) or the newly introduced four flu strains (quadrivalent) described more in detail below.  If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you might want to begin flu vaccination plans much earlier this flu season, since the flu has already arrived atleast in two major USA cities and it is only early September. However, in Australia and countries of the Southern Hemisphere, the peak of the 2012 – 2013 flu season is expected to have just ended in August 2013, since the seasons are opposite.

This is what the flu virus looks like

This is what the flu virus looks like

Why should you take the flu vaccine?
The reason one has to take the vaccine every year is because the vaccine only provides immunity for about a year. Unlike the natural infection which gives you lifetime immunity, a flu vaccine does not. Even if in certain years the vaccine flu strain composition is exactly the same as in the previous year. The individual is  advised to take the flu vaccine annually. The answer is explained in detail in this previous article.

However, do take your doctor’s advice before vaccination. Certain flu vaccines are not recommended for all ages. For example, CDC recommends that one brand of inactivated flu vaccine called Affluria, should not be given to children 8 years of age or younger. A related vaccine was related with fever and fever – related seizures in young children in Australia. More about side effects below.  Young children who get inactivated flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13) at the same time may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever. Ask your doctor for more information. Tell your doctor if a child who is getting flu vaccine has ever had a seizure.addition,

Egg and/or latex allergy?
What if you have an egg and/or latex allergy? Consult your doctor. The answer is in this previous article.  However, there is a major update for individuals with egg allergy waiting to be vaccinated – Flublok.  In 2013, FDA has approved Flublok, for 18-49 year old, which is not developed in eggs but in insects. Hence, Flublok may be suitable for adults (but not children, teens and seniors) with egg and/or latex allergy.  Traditionally, the flu vaccine has been developed in eggs.  To learn more you may read a previous article, “Tracking the history of the development of the flu vaccine”, by clicking here.  The ability to develop the flu vaccine in insects instead of eggs is heralded as a boon to egg allergic individuals.  However, since it has been newly introduced in 2013, it remains to be clinically tested in individuals other than adults and hence, is not yet FDA approved in children, teens and seniors, since their immune system is different than a typical healthy adult.

Please, discuss with your doctor.  It is highly recommended to take the flu vaccine to avoid hospitalization and other secondary complications from a flu infection.  It is highly contagious.  Certain age groups are more susceptible than others.  The Centers of Disease Control of USA reports a total of 12,343 hospitalizations that occurred from October 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, which translates to a cumulative rate of 44.3 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States. The total number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported to CDC for 2012-2013 was 146 in USA. While the vast majority of the tested virus samples (>99%) showed susceptibility to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir, some varieties showed resistance. Watch an animated video of how the flu virus enters, and multiplies inside the human body.

Why do I feel fatigued after my flu vaccine?
The vaccine composition is changed every year. The WHO meets twice a year to discuss the varieties of flu strains causing flu infections and hopes to include the most “popular” strains in the flu vaccine composition (see below for for the 2013-2014 composition). However, the vaccine can accomodate a maximum of three to four flu strains. There might be a new flu strain that emerges later in the year. There might be a fifth or sixth flu strain also causing infections. The flu vaccine assists an individual in easing the “suffering from symptom” period. Therefore, a person who has the vaccine can still get the flu from a flu strain not included in the vaccine but the symptoms will be weaker. This is because the flu strains differ from each other very slightly and most of their characteristic proteins are included in the vaccine, hence “teaching” the body’s immune system to be ready to fight the flu infection.

There can be a slight fever and other side effects (see below) after the flu vaccine.  The symptoms would start right away and last 2 to 3 days. This might happen if the flu vaccine composition includes one or more flu strains that were not included in the previous year’s vaccine composition. If the individual has never been exposed to 1 or more of the flu strains in the vaccine, the immune system might react with symptoms like the flu. It is the immune system getting ready. The individual does not get flu from the inactivated flu vaccine and the live flu vaccine is too weakened to cause the flu. You may also read “Why am I feeling fatigued after taking the flu vaccine?

The New Quadrivalent Flu Vaccine: Until recently, the vaccine compositions have only had three different kinds (trivalent) of circulating flu varieties. This year, the vaccine choices include those with four different kinds (quadrivalent) of circulating flu varieties, approved by the WHO (see quote below). Do be aware of your vaccine choices in 2013 to 2014 – trivalent or quadrivalent and discuss with your care provider. The FDA approved companies in 2013 manufacturing the new quadrivalent flu vaccine are:

1) GlaxoSmithKline – Fluarix
2) AstraZeneca – MedImmune
3) Sanofi Aventis – Fluzone approved in June 2013 for children 6 months or older, adolescents and adults.

Two methods of delivery of Flu Vaccine

One method of delivery of Flu Vaccine

One method of delivery of flu vaccine

One method of delivery of flu vaccine

The 2013-2014 Influenza/Flu virus compostion
The compostion of the 2013 – 2014 trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere:

The World Health Organization has met in Geneva Switzerland in February 2013 to decide upon the composition of the Influenza or flu vaccine composition of the upcoming 2013-2014 flu season. Read more.

Influenza/flu vaccine Adverse Effects

The CDC site has the following safety information. In addition to including three to four different flu varieties in the vaccine composition (trivalent or quadrivalent), the flu vaccine may be either inactivated or live. If inactivated, it can never cause the flu because it does not contain a live virus. However, inactivated flu vaccine could be associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), no more than 1 or 2 cases per million people. If the flu vaccine is live, it is made from a weakened virus and does not cause flu. Both may cause allergic reactions in less than one in million doses. Quote
Influenza (inactivated) vaccine side-effects
What are the risks from inactivated influenza vaccine?

With a vaccine, like any medicine, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own.

Serious side effects are also possible, but are very rare. Inactivated flu vaccine does not contain live flu virus, so getting flu from this vaccine is not possible.

Brief fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls. Tell your doctor if you feel dizzy or light-headed, or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.

Mild Problems

soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
hoarseness; sore, red or itchy eyes; cough
fever
aches
headache
itching
fatigue
If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1 or 2 days.

Moderate Problems

Young children who get inactivated flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13) at the same time may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever. Ask your doctor for more information. Tell your doctor if a child who is getting flu vaccine has ever had a seizure.

Severe Problems

A severe allergic reaction could occur after any vaccine (estimated less than 1 in a million doses).
There is a small possibility that inactivated flu vaccine could be associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), no more than 1 or 2 cases per million people vaccinated. This is much lower than the risk of severe complications from flu, which can be prevented by flu vaccine.
The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit: Vaccine Safety Monitoring and Vaccine Safety Activities.

One brand of inactivated flu vaccine, called Afluria, should not be given to children 8 years of age or younger, except in special circumstances. A related vaccine was associated with fevers and fever-related seizures in young children in Australia. Your doctor can give you more information.

This information was taken directly from the Inactivated Influenza VIS
(This information taken from Inactivated Influenza VIS dated 7/26/2013. If the actual VIS is more recent than this date, the information on this page needs to be updated.)

Influenza (live) vaccine side-effects
What are the risks from LAIV?

With a vaccine, like any medicine, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own.

Serious side effects are also possible, but are very rare. LAIV is made from weakened virus and does not cause flu.

Mild Problems
Some children and adolescents 2-17 years of age have reported:

runny nose, nasal congestion or cough
fever
headache and muscle aches
wheezing
abdominal pain or occasional vomiting or diarrhea
Some adults 18-49 years of age have reported:

runny nose or nasal congestion
sore throat
cough, chills, tiredness/weakness
headache
Severe Problems

A severe allergic reaction could occur after any vaccine (estimated less than 1 in a million doses).

The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit: Vaccine Safety Monitoring and Vaccine Safety Activities.

This information was taken directly from the LAIV VIS
(This information taken from Live Influenza VIS dated 7/2/12. If the actual VIS is more recent than this date, the information on this page needs to be updated.)

 

The WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

The WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

A meeting in action at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

A meeting in action at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

World Health Organization (WHO) headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland recommends the flu vaccine composition each year for the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.

Related Article:
Review by Anne Sealey: A Cruel Wind: Pandemic Flu in America, 1918-1920; Author Dorothy A. Pettit and Janice Bailie (Timberlane Books, 2008): The book has an excellent chapter on the biological detail of the flu virus, a historical narrative of the 1918 pandemic, and an intimate portrait of political life and social environment during the pandemic. It includes plenty of charts for statistical support.

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The compostion of the 2013 – 2014 trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere


The compostion of the 2013 – 2014 trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere:

The World Health Organization has met in Geneva Switzerland in February 2013 to decide upon the composition of the Influenza or flu vaccine composition of the upcoming 2013-2014 flu season. A quote from their decision is below:
quote

Recommended composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2013-14 northern hemisphere influenza season

21 February 2013
It is recommended that trivalent vaccines contain the following:

an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virusa;
an A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011b*;
a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.

It is recommended that quadrivalent vaccines containing two influenza B viruses contain the above three viruses and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virusc.

a A/Christchurch/16/2010 is an A/California/7/2009-like virus;
b A/Texas/50/2012 is an A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011;
c B/Brisbane/33/2008 is a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.

* It is recommended that A/Texas/50/2012 is used as the A(H3N2) vaccine component because of antigenic changes in earlier A/Victoria/361/2011-like vaccine viruses (such as IVR-165) resulting from adaptation to propagation in eggs.

For more information

Recommended composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2013-14 influenza season – full report
pdf, 229kb

Unquote
You may also want to read our follow up article, “Now is the time for your 2013 – 2014 flu vaccine“.

The Flu Virus

The Flu Virus

The 2013-2014 flu vaccine composition differs from the 2012-2013 and from the 2011-2012 flu vaccine composition. See below.

The Northern Hemisphere’s 2012-2013 seasonal influenza vaccine be made from the following three vaccine viruses:

  • an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
  • an A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus;
  • a B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus (from the B/Yamagata lineage of viruses).

While the H1N1 virus used to make the 2012-2013 flu vaccine is the same virus that was included in the 2011-2012 vaccine, the recommended influenza H3N2 and B vaccine viruses are different from those in the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere.

The Northern Hemisphere’s 2011-2012 seasonal influenza vaccine contain the following three flu viruses:

  • an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus;
  • an A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus;
  • a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.

Related Articles:
Now is the time for the 2013-2014 flu vaccine
The History of the Flu Vaccine Development
Flu vaccine and Egg Allergy
The world’s top influenza (Flu) research laboratories decided to institute a self-imposed moratorium
Why am I feeling fatigued after the flu vaccine?

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Rising fungal infections, Future Antifungal therapy and WHO recommendations


With the sudden worldwide spike in hospital acquired secondary fungal infections, a search is on for prevention and cure of fungal diseases, especially antifungals against the deadly fungal diseases.  How can you help? Your assistance in spreading the 10 steps WHO recommends to be taken (click here to read) for making safer antifungal therapy for invasive fungal infections more widely available, in addtion to stopping the practice of unnecessary antifungal prescription would be invaluable.  Fungal diseases of humans have been around for a long time but only recently have they become a reason for public health concern.  Although the first fungal diseases were described in 1840s, they began to be studied intensively since 1940s, when United States soldiers returned from the South Pacific humid tropical warzone. To read a wonderful historical account of the Fungi as human  disease agents by University of Hawaii researchers click here.

Prescription sales of antifungal drugs show a major increase since late 1980s, say scientists from the Center for Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine, University Hospital, Freiburg, Germany.  They summarized here in 2005 that cancer units are intense antifungal drug prescribing areas. Fluconazole and other azol antifungal drugs are the most prescribed drugs in all patient care areas while amphotericin B use has considerably decreased.  Role of corticosteroids, immunotherapy and antifungal drugs have also been studied in allergic fungal rhinosinusitis (AFRS) in an individual who is hypersensitive to fungi (Read more). A variety of fungi can be found in such allergic sinuses.

Antifungal drug resistance
Unexpectedly high mortality rate associated with resistant fungal infections indicates that innovative new antifungal drugs are needed. Sustained efforts are now advised to urgently disseminate and implement World Health Organization (WHO) treatment guidelines. WHO recommends increased access to antifungal drugs that can lower mortality rates in subsaharan Africa from crytococcal meningitis and 20% of AIDS related mortality in low and middle income countries (Read more).

Alternative uses of current drugs
One research method is to find alternative uses of current drugs as an antifungal. Zoloft, an antidepressant can also act against Cryptococcus sp., a fungal causal agent of meningitis with the added benefit of being able to penetrate the blood brain barrier. The mode of action was revealed in 2012 by a team at Texas A&M University to be blocking protein synthesis ability of the the fungus at the translation level. You may read the published research by clicking here.

It is a challenge to find antifungals that can penetrate the blood – brain barrier.  The fact that Zoloft can penetrate the blood – brain barrier and act against a fungus that causal a neural infection such as meningitis will help antifungal discovery scientists. Unfortunately, this antidepressant is very selective in its antifungal activity and has no action against other fungi tested.

Fungi enter a host cell using penetration structures called Haustoria

Fungi enter a host cell using penetration structures called Haustoria

Current advances in antifungal drug development
As drug resistance in fungi have been increasing we find ourselves in need of truly novel future approaches to combat fungi. Researchers are following different paths:
1) Virulence factors of fungi and their inhibitors – discovery and characterization. The fungus Candida albicans secretes a virulent factor, aspartic proteinase, and it would be particularly rewarding for many when it’s inhibitor is discovered (Read more).
2) Echinocandins are a new class of antifungal agents with a novel mechanism of action (interference with fungal cell wall synthesis). Caspofungin (Cancidas), Caspofungin MSD) is the first echinocandin to be approved and is administered intravenously against candidiasis and aspergilliosis(Read more).
3) A lipid-associated formulation – Liposomal amphotericin B (AmBisome) is a lipid-associated formulation of the broad-spectrum polyene antifungal agent amphotericin B.  In autopsy tissue, the highest concentrations of the drug were found in the liver and spleen, followed by the kidney, lung, myocardium and brain tissue.  Read more.
4) Adjunctive immune therapy with cytokines – since patients with invasive fungal infection often have a weakened immune system, for example during cancer chemotherapy. The role played by pattern recognition receptors and the induction of proinflammatory cytokines during the early phases of fungal infection are being investigated (Read more).
5) Combination therapy – cryptococcal meningitis patients showed a survival benefit with combination antifungal therapy (Read more).
6) Inhibitors of Beta Glucan synthesis – and second-generation azole and triazole derivatives have characteristics that render them potentially suitable agents against some resistant fungi (Read more).

Related Articles:

In recent years one of the groups most active in drug discovery has been Merck – Antifungal Drug Discovery: Something Old Something New

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Can we repair the brain? A UK research-USA industry collaboration


Collaborating transatlantically are UK based Center for Clinical Brain Sciences established as recently as 2004 and USA based Biogen. A landmark clinical study will observe three licensed drugs for neurological conditions. Late stage progressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients will be monitored for two years says Prof. Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Anne Rowling Clinic. MRI scans will test for signs of MS disease progression. The research initiative is being funded by Biogen. The UK researchers will provide greater insight into the cell and biological processes behind progressive neurological diseases.

Over 35 million people are affected and the global cost for treatment and care is at 700 billion and rising.  Multiple sclerosis progresses fast.  Within 18 months of the first symptoms a person may become wheel chair bound. How does the brain cell wiring system get damaged so rapidly? The hope lies in a new discovery – stem cells can spontaneously repair damaged brain cells, by laying new myelin over nerve cells.  Treatment options being considered for research are by either activating existing stem cells in the brain or by transplanting stem cells to replace dead or dying brain cells. The UK research team has done the ground work for this research since their public is open to the advantages of stem cell research and understand the implications of using a patient’s own stem cells. This risky and super expensive research needs visionary and patient funding leaders. That is where Biogen comes in.  Naturally, such collaborations cannot be done in countries where the citizens do not understand or are opposed to the possibilities of stem cell research.

Dr. Siddharthan Chandran gave a talk at TEDGlobal 2013 describing his vision of hope for neurodegenerative diseases of the brain. See a description of his talk and more images by clicking here or at: http://blog.ted.com/2013/06/12/regenerating-hope-tedglobal-2013-with-siddharthan-chandran/

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