Despite Threats, a Push to Eliminate Polio in Pakistan
There are only two countries in the world where polio still holds its devastating grip – Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Americans reaching retirement age today are the last to remember just how ominous the threat of the disease was during their childhood. Polio affects the nerves, resulting in paralysis of the arms, legs or the diaphragm, which controls breathing. Between two and five percent of people who develop paralytic polio will die.
We have the Salk (1955) and Sabin (1962) vaccines to thank for polio’s near-eradication.
Today Pakistan accounts for more than 70 percent of the world’s cases of polio. But last week over 100,000 health workers traveled across Pakistan in a drive to eliminate the polio virus this year. The aim is to finish vaccinating every child in the country by the end of May.
But these health workers face more opposition than suspicion about vaccination, itself. The effort to eliminate polio in Pakistan has been compromised, as polio workers have faced attacks by militants who say the health teams are Western spies – or that the vaccines they administer are intended to sterilize children. In January, a suicide bomber killed at least 15 people outside a polio eradication center in the western city of Quetta, with two militant groups claiming responsibility.
The image of vaccination was tainted after a CIA-employed Pakistani doctor used the guise of a vaccination campaign to spy on Osama bin Laden in the months before the raid that killed the terrorist.
Just the same, progress is being made. Statistics show that attacks on the immunization teams have started to decline in the face of improving community acceptance and coordination with security forces.
Sourced from: Reuters, Despite threats, thousands join anti-polio drive in Pakistan, a last bastion of the disease
Published On: Feb 16, 2016
Zika Virus Won’t Change Catholic Contraception Ban
As the Zika virus spreads throughout Latin America – one of the most Catholic parts of the world – the Church is reinforcing the doctrine that contraception is forbidden to be used by the faithful.
The challenge confronting the Roman Catholic Church in regard to Zika comes as Pope Francis makes his first trip to Mexico, a country where the virus appears to be spreading.
At first commenting little on the health crisis, bishops in Latin America are beginning to speak out and reassert the church’s opposition to birth control and abortion – doctrines that many Catholics in Latin America find unpopular and often disregard. Even so, almost 70 percent of adults in Latin America identify as Catholic, a number that is down from 94 percent in 1950.
Many church officials have expressed concern that the Zika epidemic will act as a catalyst that leads to the loosening of laws on abortion and contraception.
No Vatican department has yet issued an official statement about the Zika issue, and there is much speculation as to whether Pope Francis will address it during his trip to Mexico, where he will be until Thursday.
Zika virus can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly in babies of mothers who had Zika virus while pregnant. It is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, also cases of contraction through blood transfusion and sexual contact have been reported.
Sourced from: The New York Times, Catholic Leaders Say Zika Doesn’t Change Ban on Contraception
Published On: Feb 16, 2016
Cancer Drug Could Protect against Alzheimer’s
Protein clumps that clog up the brain are at the root of the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s.
Now a paper published in Science Advances, reveals researchers have discovered that a drug called bexarotene, which is approved in the U.S. for the treatment of lymphoma, also targets primary nucleation, the first step in the chain reaction that causes the faulty protein clumps or amyloid protein plaques.
The team is not declaring that they have cured Alzheimer’s. But are certainly hypothesizing that the drug could reduce the risk of developing the disease by boosting the body’s natural defenses against faulty proteins in the brain.
As people get older, the natural mechanisms for defending against brain plaques get weaker and become overwhelmed. For this study researchers from Cambridge, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and Lund University in Sweden gave bexarotene to nematode worms that had been genetically programmed to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
The bexarotene interrupted amyloid plaque formation early in the process. When given soon enough, the drug completely suppressed the formation of the plaques in the worms.
One of the vital pieces of this study is that the researchers established exactly what happens stage by stage in Alzheimer’s disease, and what might result if a particular stage were interrupted or switched off.
Further animal testing – followed by human studies – will reveal whether this new preventive approach could halt the earliest biological events in Alzheimer’s and keep damage at bay.
Sourced from: Medical News Today, Cancer drug may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, study shows
Published On: Feb 16, 2016