Wednesday, 29 July 2015

New Smartphone app for cough

The University of Queensland is developing a new smartphone app that will help doctors and patients alike with cough diagnosis and treatment. It could potentially save lives in conditions such as pneumonia and whooping cough. Conversely it may help reduce the use of unnecessary antibiotics for more benign conditions. The company has been listed on the stock market too and the app is due out in 2016.

Malaria vaccine for Africa

GSK has developed a vaccine against malaria that has been approved for rolling out in Africa. Sounds good but I don't think the search is over as it is only 27-46% effective. Come on scientists, you can do better!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Progress in India

Heartening news for global health watchers from Reuters article about the latest studies on health improvements in India. There has been positive movements in number of breastfed infants, number of births in hospitals, and improvements in child nutrition. The rate of child marriage is still high and adolescent girls are still low in body mass, but signs are improving. Female health workers from within the community called Ashas are trained in pre- and post-natal care and are a bonus!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

More Weighty News

Monash researchers have been working away on weighty matters. They have found some interesting neurons that help switch off hunger. However the new insights are unlikely to help people lose weight as eating is fuelled by many social and emotional signals in humans. Researchers do hope that they may be able to help with weight maintenance, though.

And Google is developing a great new app that calculates calories in food from a photo of the food. I could use that!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Treatment for Alzheimers

An article from Science Direct informs us that a new treatment for Alzheimers involving non-invasive ultrasound to target the toxic amyloid plaques and neuro-fibrillary tangles that are pathognomonic of the disease has been developed by the Queensland Brain Institute. The research has so far involved mice and the next step is to test the method on sheep before ascertaining whether the technology can be used on humans.

The Queensland Brain Institute is at the forefront of research on Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Motor Neuron Disease. Here is the podcast.

On a more topical note is the neuroscience behind the film Inside Out. Read about it here.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

More on Needle-free Immunisations

Professor Mark Kendall has delivered a most engaging TED talk where he describes the history of needles and the latest development in his research.  With improved immune responses to the nanopatch, vaccines that were previously too expensive to administer in the developing world can now be available at a hundredth of the dose to those in particular need.  This same logic applies to vaccine candidates that are currently too weak to be effective.  Examples include vaccines currently under development against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.  Improved immune responses with the nanopatch delivery method allows for a better way to tackle these diseases.

Another advantage of the nanopatch delivery method is it eliminates the need for the "cold chain" - that is the need for current liquid preparation vaccines to be refrigerated from the point of manufacture to the point of administration.  This cold chain has to be maintained throughout the vaccines' journey and is a key limitation in the developing world, where temperatures are high and fridges are few.  Up to 50% of vaccines in Africa are ineffective due to failure of the cold chain.  With the nanopatch this requirement is removed as the vaccine is a dry preparation.

Currently there are field trials of the HPV vaccine (cervical cancer vaccine) in Papua New Guinea.  This trial tests two of the limitations of current vaccines - the cold chain and the prohibitive cost.  I will be following the results with interest.

Not to mention - no more needle-phobia!

Bacteria Wars

A picture of bacteriophage P1 showing the head containing the DNA, the  tail and tail fibres
Diagram of a bacteriophage - a virus that "eats" bacteria

In the fight against bacteria, a not-so-new weapon has re-emerged, namely viruses.  The viruses that attack bacteria are called bacteriophages and were first described in the Ganges River in India in the late 1800s.  With the ability to heal skin sores on pilgrims, progress in knowledge of the organisms was hampered by their minute size which made them invisible until the advent of the Electron Microscope in 1942.  The emergence of antibiotics such as penicillin further placed bacteriophages on the back-burner.  However, the rise of antibiotic resistance and the shortage of newer antibiotics to target resistant bacteria has led to a re-emergence of interest in these tiny organisms.

To read more, click here.