Infections — common and risky
US prone to strokes
use may cause breast cancer
Low-fat diet may help fight prostate cancer
Two cocktails can kill
foetal brain cells
New vaccine a
Ayurveda & you
Infections — common and risky
DISEASES in medical practice are classified on the basis of their causes — congenital, hereditary, infectious, allergic, neoplastic, degenerative, idiopathic and others. Prima facie, an infectious disease is perhaps the most treatable and preventable problem. Yet infections remain the most common medical disorders threatening the health care infrastructure. Even in the modern era when the advances in medical technology and pharmaceutical sciences have tremendously expanded, the micro-organisms, responsible for different infections, continue to defy the laws of medicine and pose newer challenges. It has been most wisely commented that "infectious disease is one of the few genuine adventures left in the world."
An infection is generally caused by a variety of tiny-sized organism — micro-organisms such as the bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Most of these micro-organisms, except for a few parasites, cannot be seen without the help of a microscope. They are largely ubiquitous and found all over the world, although some have got a preferential geographical distribution.
Micro-organisms can involve any human (or animal) organ and spread from one organ to other. They can also spread from humans to humans, animals to humans and sometimes from humans to animals as well. It is this characteristic of spread which distinguishes an infection from most other diseases and is frequently responsible for a panic reaction.
An infection can be present either acutely or in a chronic fashion. Some of the general features or complaint of a patient such as fever, malaise, loss of appetite, aches and pains, etc, are common to most infectious diseases. Other symptoms may depend on the type of organ involved. For example, a patient with lung infection will complain of cough and sputum production, while one with abdominal infection may have belly ache and loose motions. Similarly, patients with urinary tract infection have frequency and burning during urination while brain infections will result in headache, seizures or paralyses, etc. The symptom-presentation of an infection is highly variable and cannot be considered as diagnostic of the disease. Symptoms will usually suggest a diagnosis which may not be true all the time.
An acute infection generally lasts a short time and resolves on its own or leads to a more severe dysfunction. Occasionally, it can even be fatal. It depends upon the type and nature of the micro-organisms responsible for this infection.
Relatively chronic infections such as tuberculosis, are even more common and debilitating. They are responsible for great morbidity and mortality in society. Mere chronicity of these problems allows their continuation and persistence in spite of the availability of good and effective treatments.
For the last few decades we have been faced with entirely new groups of infections which were not there in the past. These are the hospital-acquired infections and those in the immuno-compromised hosts which are partly attributed to the developments in medicine. Prolonged hospitalisation and multiple treatment-interventions for different diseases are directly responsible for increased hospital infections, especially caused by organisms resistant to drugs. he infections are frequent and invariably occur in intensive care units.
Patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and those on immunosuppressive drugs are prone to develop several kinds of atypical infections. The use of immunosuppressive drugs such as the corticosteroid, anti-cancer drugs and others is almost mandatory in patients with many inflammatory diseases, cancers and transplantation. The occurrence of infections becomes totally unavoidable.
The best way to control an infection is the meticulous maintenance of cleanliness and sanitation practices. General sanitation and the implementation of an efficient public health system are perhaps the most critical needs. Use of drugs such as antibiotics is important to treat but it fails in the absence of ancillary measures. Vaccinations have greatly helped in preventing and eradicating some infections. Unfortunately, we do not have this weapon in our hands for all kinds of infectious diseases.
Man’s fight with micro-organisms will go on. Both are living organisms and have natural mechanisms to adapt to each other’s onslaught and develop new mechanisms of survival. This, however, takes long. As of the practical steps for the common man, besides the adoption of general public health measures, it is important to be careful and cautious, recognise early symptoms and seek medical attention in time.
Indians in US prone to strokes
New York: Indians in the United States are particularly prone to strokes, according to a study by a five-member medical team.
The study was perhaps the first attempt to assess the prevalence of stroke and associated risk factors among Asian Indians in the US.
The overall prevalence of stroke is 2.77 per cent (men 3.72 per cent and women 1.77 per cent), the study said. Stroke was significantly associated with systemic hypertension, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, end-stage renal disease, and family history of stroke and myocardial infarction.
This is in sharp contrast with the figures in India, where the prevalence range has been given as 0.22-0.63 per cent. A three-page report on the study, done last year, appeared in The American Journal of Cardiology in its January 15 issue. All members of the team were Indian-Americans.
Dr Navin Nanda, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Heart Station-Echocardiography Laboratories at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Dr Naresh Parikh, a cardiologist in Atlanta, Georgia, played a key role in making the study.
The team said in the
report that the estimation of the prevalence of stroke in Asian Indian
immigrants presents a unique problem because they are not classified
separately in any US national health surveys or hospital data banks.
MICROBES have an unusual way to assert themselves. Just when man thinks that he has an edge over most of the trouble-mongering micro-organisms, mutant ones cock a snook with such ferocity that they trigger off pandemic.
According to scientists, AIDS is the end-result of African tribals hunting and eating chimpanzees. The virus that otherwise lies dormant in chimps mutated to become the deadly HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) that has transcended all geographical boundaries to infect human beings. How many lives are sacrificed at the altar of AIDS doesn’t make headlines anymore.
Then came bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), popularly known as the mad cow disease. BSE is a transmissible, neuro-degenerative fatal brain disease that affects cattle. Its variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, has affected nearly 100 humans worldwide through infected beef.
Last year, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) made news and nearly 800 persons died of it. Investigators found evidence that civet cats, a delicacy in China, harboured the SARS-virus and its transmission to humans was through the dining table. Many earning to eat civet cats spelled trouble and the microbe, which belongs to corona-virus family, conveniently mutated to infect humans.
In February 2002, there was a pseudo-plague scare in our very own Chandigarh when patients from Himachal were admitted to the PGI with a communicable form of pneumonic illness. Initially, alarm bells started ringing overtime when the illness was misdiagnosed as pneumonic plague. However, later it was found that this ‘unusual’ disease had started from Hatkoti village in Rohru tehsil when a resident went out in the nearby Keori forest and hunted down a wild cat. All those who ate the meat suffered from this pneumonic transmissible illness. Thankfully, the disease was self-limiting and its exact cause still lies unknown, but there is a stark similarity between the SARS symptoms and those that these patients showed. Was it a SARS prototype that occurred right under our nose in City Beautiful? The question needs to be investigated.
And now, bird-flu or avian influenza, known to spread in humans through infected poultry intake, is in the news. The reported symptoms of avian influenza in humans caused by the mutant virus strain H5N1 have ranged from typical influenza-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and muscle-ache) to eye infections, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia and other life-threatening complications. Already, numerous deaths have been reported from South-East Asia and with cases having been detected in Pakistan, India is just a sitting duck.
New microbial strains
are thumbing the nose at the human immune system and are threatening
the conventional inoculations and vaccines. Another virtual pathogen
bomb that is ticking away is of chronic wasting disease (CWD), an
illness typical to deer, bucks and stags. It is very similar to the
mad cow disease. This peculiar disease can lie dormant for more than a
decade and is fatal. All it will take is a trigger-happy man to hunt a
buck. No wonder, most of the man’s problems are self-created. Or
Antibiotics use may cause breast cancer
Chicago: A study suggests antibiotics might increase the risk of developing breast cancer, but researchers said the data should not stop women from taking the medication. Women who took the most antibiotics — who had more than 25 prescriptions, or who took the drugs for at least 501 days — faced double the risk of developing breast cancer over an average of about 17 years, compared with women who didn’t use the drugs, the study showed.
The authors say more research is needed because it could have been the diseases women used antibiotics to treat — rather than the drugs themselves — that increased breast cancer risk. Also, since antibiotics are widely used to treat a variety of common infections caused by bacteria, including strep throat, some pneumonias and many gastrointestinal infections, it may be that women who never took the drugs were unusually healthy and therefore unusually resistant to cancer, the researchers said.
premature for people to stop taking antibiotics when they’re
needed," said lead author Christine Velicer, a researcher at
Group Health Cooperative, a large nonprofit health plan in western
Washington." — AP
Low-fat diet may help fight prostate cancer
Washington: A new study has found that low-fat diet may help men with aggressive prostate cancer better fight their disease and live longer. Researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center showed that a diet low in polyunsaturated fats slowed cancer growth and increased survival times in lab models. The study appears in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Cancer Research.
Laboratory mice with advanced human prostate cancer that were deprived of the hormone testosterone were fed a diet low in polyunsaturated fats and remained in remission about twice as long as mice fed a diet with a much higher fat content, the study found.
The mice on the low-fat diet also lived nearly twice as long as those on the high-fat diet, said Dr. William Aronson, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and the study’s lead author. Additionally, levels of PSA — which measures the amount of prostate cancer present — were markedly lower in the mice fed a low-fat diet.
Aronson called the
results "very significant", but cautioned that large studies
need to be conducted in humans to ensure that the results can be
translated from mice to men. "These results provide a sound basis
for clinical trials evaluating the impact of dietary fat reduction in
prostate cancer patients on hormone therapy," Aronson, an
associate clinical professor of urology, noted. — ANI
Two cocktails can kill foetal brain cells
Seattle: Two cocktails are enough to set back an unborn child for the rest of his life, a researcher has warned.
Neurologist John Olney told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle over the weekend that studies on mice showed that a blood alcohol level in a pregnant women of 0.07 per cent, the level produced by two drinks, was enough to kill the developing brain cells of her foetus.
The researcher from
Washington University in St Louis said one glass of wine might not be
a problem, but if the one glass leads to more alcohol consumption,
even later in the day, the mother-to-be is putting her unborn child at
greater risk because she is keeping her alcohol level at an increased
level over time. — DPA
New vaccine a time bomb
London: Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that a delayed-release system could help produce more effective vaccines against a number of diseases, including cancer. The scientists encased their "DNA vaccines" in biodegradeable spheres.
BBC, quoting the researchers in the journal Nature Materials, says that they do not break down and release the vaccine until they are carried to key locations such as the lymph nodes and that it should mean a far more powerful vaccine — which might be able to target tumours.
DNA vaccines, which
instead of a whole virus, contain fragments of genetic material from a
virus or bacteria. Doctors see them as a modern alternative to
traditional vaccines, possibly working against a wide variety of
illnesses with fewer side-effects. — ANI
Ayurveda & you
A man’s dietary needs undergo various changes from childhood to old age. If adequate nutrition and a well-balanced diet is essential in the younger years, old age requires far more care towards dietary matters. Ayurvedic masters maintain that people can live longer, be healthier and ultimately have a better quality of life if their nutritional needs are adequately met.
Elderly people can be categorised in three groups: the working elderly, the frail elderly and those with chronic diseases. Each of these groups has different nutritional needs. The first group requires a balanced diet plan to keep it active and fit whereas in the later groups, though the intake of the quantum of food decreases, the requirement of many nutrients remains unaltered. Therefore, for old people it becomes all the more important to take an adequate amount of all the nutrients within their decreased energy levels.
There are many factors which come in the way of proper nutrition of old persons. This includes the impaired physical status like poor mobility, loss of teeth or non-use of dentures, physiological conditions of malabsorption or maldigestion of food and certain pathological stages like psycho-neuro disorders and wasting diseases. Social factors like poverty, alcoholism and lack of family support also influence the nutritional scenario of the old people.
Elderly persons suffering from chronic ailments should be aware of the fact that it is possible that some of the drugs they take may interfere with the absorption of some of the nutrients in the diet. Regular use of diuretics deplete many of the essential nutrients, which makes them to be supplemented. Prolonged and unsupervised use of hard laxatives, whether herbal or otherwise, also hampers the process of absorption. Continuous use of some of the special or restricted diets can also lead to nutritional problems. For example, a low protein diet may lead to protien malnutrition and muscle wasting, and a low salt diet can result in the poor intake of nutrients secondary to the lack of taste and food apathy.
Ayurveda views that while making a diet plan for the elderly, the foremost point to be kept in mind is that with the advancement of age, the capacity to digest large meals often decreases. Old persons should opt for light and easily digestible food, and if required the number of meals can be increased as per the individual’s acceptance. Since hypertension and cardiovascular problems are present in most of the elderly persons, the intake of heavy and fried items and other energy-rich food and sweets and starches should be minimised.
There is gradual demineralisation of bones in old age. To compensate its losses, an adequate amount of calcium intake should be ensured. Depending upon individual suitability, old people need a reasonable quantity of milk, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables and a digestible amount of cereals. A balanced diet not only meets their requirement of vitamins and minerals but also helps in maintaining the immunological strength. Many diseases can be managed or reduced in prevalence by eating the right food in right proportions.
Ayurveda believes that good ahara (diet) must fulfil two criteria. First, it should furnish the appropriate levels of all nutrients to meet the physiological and biochemical needs of the body at all stages of life. Secondly, the diet must also be devoid of the excess of any nutrient that increases the risk of disease.
In this regard, old persons always need to remember an ayurvedic dictum: Ko aruk or who is healthy? The brief answer perhaps covers the total concept of the right diet: hit bhuk , mit bhuk , so aruk (he who takes the right and adapted food and does not overeat is healthy).
The writer is a Ludhiana-based ayurvedic physician