Sexually transmitted infection could turn into superbug

Scientists in the United Kingdom believe a relatively unknown sexually transmitted infection could turn into the next superbug if people are not more careful.

While the disease — known as Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) — often has no symptoms, it can cause infertility in women through pelvic inflammatory disease. It is also easy to miss and, if it is not treated correctly, it can develop a natural resistance to antibiotics.

To counter that, the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV plans to draft new guidelines that will cover how to both spot and treat MG.

The bacteria can cause inflammation of the urethra in men, which leads to discharge from the penis and makes it painful to urinate. In women, it can cause inflammation within the reproductive organs, which may lead to pain, fever, and minor bleeding.

What makes the infection so tricky is that is does not always cause symptoms and does not always need treatment. For that reason, it is often mistaken for other common sexually transmitted infections.

“This is not curing the infection and is causing antimicrobial resistance in MG patients,” said guideline author Paddy Horner, consultant senior lecturer in sexual health at Bristol University, according to The Telegraph. “If practices do not change and the tests are not used, MG has the potential to become a superbug within a decade, resistant to standard antibiotics.”

Current data shows that eradication rates of MG following treatment with one family of antibiotics, known as macrolides, have lowered with time.

Though researchers have developed some early tests for the disease, such options are not yet available in most clinics. As a result, scientists hope the new guidelines — which come from 15 years of study — will help prevent MG from turning into a superbug.

The instructions recommend that patients with any of the common MG symptoms use an accurate test for diagnosis in order to make sure they are correctly treated. Protection is important as well.

“If you have symptoms of an STI, we recommend you get tested at your local sexual health clinic,” said Helen Fifer, consultant microbiologist at Public Health England, according to BBC News.

“Everyone can protect themselves from STIs by consistently and correctly using condoms with new and casual partners.”


U.S. liver cancer rates on the rise

Liver cancer death rates in American adults jumped 43 percent from 2000 to 2016, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While cancer mortality rates as a whole have declined, the sharp rise in such a small amount of time is cause for concern.

According to the new results, liver cancer death rates between 2000 and 2016 rose for men and women 25 and older, and they also spiked in black and Hispanic populations. 

However, that does not mean liver cancer has become deadlier. In fact, the 10-year survival rate for liver cancer did not change much. Rather, it is likely that more people get the disease as time goes on.

Past studies show that 70 percent of liver cancers come from underlying liver disease, which has risk factors like obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. In that way, there are many different factors in play.

“I think the main reason for the increase in liver cancer incidence and death rate in the US is the increase in the prevalence of excess body weight and hepatitis C virus infection in baby boomers,” said Farhad Islami, the scientific director of cancer surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, according to CNN.

Increased opioid use may also be a reason for the increased rates. That is because hepatitis C, which spreads through the sharing of needles, drove elevated rates of liver cirrhosis throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Liver cancer survival rates depend on how early the disease is caught. Localized liver cancer has a 31 percent survival rate, while cancer that spread to one organ has an 11 percent survival rate, and ones that spread farther in the body have a 3 percent survival rate.

As a result, the team behind the new report hopes their research will make people more aware of liver cancer and encourage them take the necessary steps to lower their risk.

“Some of these liver cancer risk factors like obesity, diabetes and excess consumption of alcohol, those things can be prevented,” said report author Jiaquan Xu, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 


Diabetes may be five distinct diseases, study reports

Diabetes should be split into five types, not two, according to new research published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

Typically, diabetes is grouped into two different categories: type 1 and type 2. The first type is an autoimmune condition that generally develops in childhood, while type 2 — which is the more common form — either restricts insulin production or does not trigger glucose uptake in the body’s cells.

However, while both forms are the same disease, they are genetically different. That discovery comes from researchers at Lund University, who discovered that the disease should be grouped into five distinct types. That is because, not only are all of the newly classified subgroups genetically different, but they have entirely unique traits.

The researchers made this discovery by analyzing information taken from 8,980 diabetics diagnosed as adults in a Swedish registry. Such research showed that both type 1 diabetes and a specific late-onset autoimmune form of diabetes can be grouped together into what is known as severe autoimmune diabetes.

In contrast, type 2 diabetes has four different categories. One of the diseases — known as severe insulin-deficient diabetes — is similar to the autoimmune group because it causes low body mass index and a lack of insulin. However, it did not have any antibodies to mark it as an autoimmune disease.

The other severe category, severe insulin-resistant diabetes, is linked to obesity and causes the cells in the body to not respond to insulin. Patients with it had the highest likelihood of liver disease, chronic kidney disease, and diabetic kidney disease.

The two other categories are mild forms, and they can each be managed with a combination of medicine and lifestyle advice.

These findings are important because they show why some diabetics respond differently to treatments. It may also help scientists better identify high risk complications.

“This is extremely important, we’re taking a real step towards precision medicine,” said Leif Groop, a professor of diabetes and endocrinology at Lund University, according to BBC News. “In the ideal scenario, this is applied at diagnosis and we target treatment better.”

Researchers discovered the new subcategories by testing for different metrics, including age at diagnosis, body mass index,  a measure of blood glucose control, the presence of certain antibodies linked to autoimmune diabetes, and a measure of insulin sensitivity.

The groupings were not only different, but they stayed consistent in people who just developed the disease and those who had it for a long time. As a result, it is likely the categories are not simply different stages of the same form. While more work needs to be done on this topic, there is no doubt the findings could be used for future medicine.

“This research takes a promising step toward breaking down type 2 diabetes in more detail, but we still need to know more about these subtypes before we can understand what this means for people living with the condition,” said Emily Burns, head of research communications at Diabetes UK, according to The Guardian. “For example, whether we’d find the same subtypes in people of different ethnicity or nationality.”


Mysterious disease battering Florida’s coral reef

A mysterious disease is ravaging Florida’s coral reef, threatening several important coral species all along the coast.

The reef is one of the state’s largest tourist attractions and serves as a thriving ecosystem for numerous species. However, as of late an unknown disease is actively destroying the 360-mile-long formation.

According to researchers working in Australia, the disease first popped up four years ago. It affects a number of organisms, but it hits both brain and star coral particularly hard.

Though some researchers believe the disease is bacterial, there is no concrete evidence to support those claims. However, scientists do know that the illness is deadly. It causes necrosis of the coral tissue, which quickly leads to death.

“When they’re affected by this, the tissue sloughs off the skeleton,” said Erinn Muller, science director with Mote Marine Lab’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration, according to Tech Times. “And we see that once a coral is infected, it usually kills the entire coral, sometimes within weeks. And it doesn’t seem to stop.”

Even without full knowledge of the disease, researchers have enough information to know that shifting ocean currents make it worse. The tide moved the disease north of Florida, and now it looks like it will the spread south.

Four years have gone by since scientists first took note of the disease, and in that time many coral have died. That not only drops population numbers, but it also limits the amount of coral around that can easily reproduce or repopulate affected areas.

As the search for disease origins continue, scientists have begun to take action against the disease. For instance, some teams looked at DNA samples to better understand the pathogen and see if it is indeed bacterial.

Some scientists have also proposed a mission where they could grow corals off-site and bring them back to the beach.

“We’re truly at a basic point at this moment, where we have corals left on the reef,” added Muller, according to Week Facts “Before we lose more corals, this is the ideal opportunity to begin rolling out an improvement.”


HPV vaccine to be given to English boys

Doctors in the United Kingdom will begin to administer HPV vaccines to boys aged 12 to 13, matching recent decisions made in both Scotland and Wales.

Currently, the HPV vaccine is available to pre-teen and teenage girls in many countries throughout the world. However, it has largely remained gender specific since it first came about.

As a result of that, scientists spent years calling for it to be used on boys because of how the disease can lead to oral, throat, and anal cancers.

HPV is the name given to a large virus group that passes through sexual contact. While many infections go away on their own, some can lead to much more serious problems. That includes the above cancers.

Girls have had access to the vaccine since 2008. However, researchers did not offer it to boys because they thought males would get ahead of it through herd protection.

Even so, there is still a risk if those infected have sex with other men or women who have not been properly vaccinated.

The new program, which is set to begin in 2019, will vaccinate thousands of boys each year. It will also make the shot available to girls aged 12 to 13 in Northern Ireland.

“This extended program offers us the opportunity to make HPV related diseases a thing of the past and build on the success of the girls’ program, which has already reduced the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18, the main cancer-causing types, by over 80 percent,” said Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunizations at Public Health England, according to BBC News

This new decision is important for future prevention. It is a big step, and researchers hope it is not a one time event. Rather, they hope it marks a change in overall policy that will provide better medicine for both boys and girls.

“When our NHS faces such sustained pressure from so many preventable conditions, from cancers, to tooth decay and obesity, this sort of cost-effective intervention must not be a one off,” said Mick Armstrong, the chair of the British Dental Association, according to The Guardian.


Long hours may lead to type 2 diabetes, study reports

Long or extended work hours may be a precursor to type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ Diabetes Research & Care.

While past research has shown that long work hours can have negative health effects, this new study — which comes from a team of international researchers– is one of the first to reveal a direct correlation between diabetes and burning the midnight oil.

In the trial, scientists analyzed data from a database of more than 7,000 Canadian workers who they followed for a 12-plus year period.

At the end of the study, the team found that women working more than 45 hours a week were 51 percent more likely to develop diabetes than women who worked between 35 and 40 hours a week.

However, as surprising as that was, the same rise did not occur in men. In fact, men who worked longer hours had a lower risk of developing diabetes.

While scientists are not sure how to explain that discrepancy, they think it could be because, on average, the male participants were more active at work than the women. Roughly a third of the men who worked long hours did a combination of sitting, standing, and walking, compared to only 8 percent of women who stayed late.

Another theory is that women simply have more responsibilities outside of the office.

“I was surprised to see the somewhat protective effect of longer working hours among men,” said lead author Mahee Gilbert-Ouimet, a researcher at the Centre de recherche FRQS du CHU de Québec, according to TIME. “[W]e know women tend to assume a lot of family chores and responsibilities outside the workplace, so one can assume that working long hours on top of that can have an adverse effect on health.”

Regardless of why the difference exists, the link for women adds more credence to the idea that long work hours negatively affect health.

The team hopes their new research brings that link to light and helps doctors talk to their patients about how long they work.

“Considering the rapid and substantial increase of diabetes prevalence in Canada and worldwide, identifying modifiable risk factors such as long work hours is of major importance to improve prevention and orient policy making, as it could prevent numerous cases of diabetes and diabetes related chronic diseases,” wrote the team in the study, according to Newsweek.

HND_Disease Science

Scientists discover virus methods

Scientists now know how certain viruses work, according to Science Daily. Human cytomegalovirus is the leading cause of birth defects and transplant failures. The way it has evolved over time, this virus from the herpes family has found a way to actually bypass the body’s defense mechanisms that usually guard against viruses. Finally, scientists discovered how it operates.

A research team of scientists led by Leor S. Weinberger, PhD, the William and Ute Bowes Distinguished Professor and director of the Gladstone-UCSF Center for Cell Circuitry, discovered the mechanism that allows the virus to replicate. Their study has been published in PNAS.

“The way the virus operates is pretty cool, but it also presents a problem we couldn’t solve,” said Noam Vardi, PhD, postdoctoral scholar in Weinberger’s laboratory and the first author of this study. “The PP71 proteins are needed for the virus to replicate. But they actually die after a few hours, while it takes days to create new virus. So how can the virus successfully multiply even after these proteins are gone?”

He added: “We noticed that when the IE1 protein degrades slowly, as it normally does, the virus can replicate very efficiently. But if the protein breaks down faster, the virus can’t multiply as well. So, we confirmed that the virus needs the IE1 protein to successfully replicate.”

“The issue is similar for the virus,” added Weinberger, who is a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UC San Francisco. “It was not clear what mechanisms allowed the virus to continue replicating long after the initial signal from the PP71 had decayed to a whisper. Our findings uncover a circuit encoded by the virus that controls its fate and indicate that such circuits may be quite common in viruses.”





HPV tests effective in testing for cervical cancer

HPV tests may be more accurate than Pap smears when it comes to testing for cervical cancer, according to a new study published in the journal  JAMA.

Typically, women under 65 get a Pap smear when they go to the gynecologist. That unpleasant test, while important, is often uncomfortable. In it, a doctor or nurse scrapes cells from the back of the cervix and then analyzes them for signs of abnormality.

However, the new results — which come from a team of Canadian researchers — suggest that testing for  human papillomavirus (HPV) could be a better method of testing women ages 30 and over.

For the research, the team compared HPV test results against traditional Pap smear screenings in 19,000 Canadian women over a four year period.

At the start of the trial, some women got HPV testing, while others received a Pap smear. Then, those in the smear group who tested negative got a follow up HPV test two years later. Both groups were then tested with both methods four years later.

While neither method proved to be completely accurate, a final round of testing showed women who first had Pap smears were more than twice as likely to have abnormal cells as the end of the study.

That suggests HPV tests have a lot of value when it comes to detecting cervical cancer.

“What our study shows is that by using HPV testing, we detect precancerous lesions earlier,” said lead author Gina Ogilvie, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, according to NPR. “If women have a negative HPV test, they are significantly less likely to have a precancerous lesion four years later, meaning we can extend screening time.”

That head-to-head comparison revealed HPV tests may be more accurate, the first time such a claim has been made.

Even with screening, roughly 4,000 women die from cervical cancer each year. Officials hope to drop that number under the current guidelines, which recommend a smear every three years for women ages 30 to 65, or a smear every five years for women who get the Pap and an HPV test as the same time.

However, even if the guidelines do change, Pap smears are still important for women ages 21 to 29 because HPV is so common within that age range.

While more work needs to be done in the coming months, scientists hope to further their research and get more women to receive regular screenings on time. 

“Whether it’s co-testing or choosing one test over another, it’s really important to think about the system in which cervical cancer screening is introduced, and that women are called back and followed-up for an abnormal test, whether it be a Pap smear or an HPV test,” added Ogilvie, according to ABC News.

HEALTH HND_Disease Science

Gut bacteria could change type A blood into type O

Scientists from the University of British Columbia have found evidence that enzymes made by human gut bacteria may be able to change blood type.

To make this discovery, the team conducted a small study that found enzymes made with DNA extracted from human-gut microbes could remove type A and B antigens from red blood cells. That then makes the liquid universal type O.

Scientists first uncovered the enzymes through a method known as metagenomics. They then extracted DNA from all the microorganisms found in the human gut, a process that allowed them to target the enzymes that help bacteria take sugar-studded proteins known as mucins off the walls of the digestive tract.

That process is important because such antigens are what cause certain blood transfusions to go wrong. Being able to remove mucins would link up the blood and eliminate such issues.

Though a few enzymes are known to switch type B into type O, the newly discovered group are the first on record that can move A to O.

“That’s always been the biggest challenge,” said lead author Stephen Withers, a biochemist at the University of British Columbia, according to Live Science.

Type O is in high demand because it does not have antigens on its cell membranes. That means anyone can take a type O transfusion. As a result, if researchers could create type O by altering other more common types it could work to save a lot of lives.

Though that is not an easy process, and while doing it on a wide scale is not efficient, the team in the study believes that the enzymes uncovered in the research could eventually have applications for in-clinic use. For example, using them from blood bag to blood bag rather than trying to alter huge amounts at once. 

“I am optimistic that we have a very interesting candidate to adjust donated blood to a common type,” said Withers, in a statement. “Of course, it will have to go through lots of clinical trails to make sure that it doesn’t have any adverse consequences, but it is looking very promising.”

The findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.


Thyroid medications are recalled

There have been recalls of certain thyroid medications, according to Health Line. These medications have been used to treat hypothyroidism and have been recalled according to an announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Westminster Pharmaceuticals LLC is a company that manufactures levothyroxine (LT4) and liothyronine (LT3) has recalled these medications voluntarily.

Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid is when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones for the body’s needs. The thyroid gland resides in your neck and the hormones that it produces are used to control the way the body utilizes energy.

Most cases are in fact very mild, and only around  4.6 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 has hypothyroidism, according to estimates by the National Institutes of Health.

The recall actually comes after the Florida-based Westminster Pharmaceuticals used ingredients that were then found to have deficiencies in conjunction with the FDA’s current good manufacturing practices.

Westminster Pharmaceuticals obtained their thyroid medication’s active ingredient from Sichuan Friendly Pharmaceutical Co. Limited, based in China, a company that was cited with an Import Alert for poor manufacturing practices during an FDA inspection.

The FDA found that these substandard practices could actually be risky due to inconsistent levels of the active ingredient. Inconsistent levels of medication could then lead to risks associated with over- or undertreating hypothyroidism, which the FDA says “could result in permanent or life-threatening adverse health consequences.”

It’s now  believed that Westminster Pharmaceuticals purchased the active pharmaceutical ingredient before the actual enforcement of the Import Alert on Sichuan Friendly.