After scientists infected a pregnant pigtail macaque with Zika virus, the primate’s fetus developed brain lesions similar to those observed in some human babies born to Zika-infected mothers, the team reported yesterday (September 12) in Nature Medicine.
“Our results remove any lingering doubt that the Zika virus is incredibly dangerous to the developing fetus and provides details as to how the brain injury develops,” study coauthor Kristina Adams Waldorf of the University of Washington School of Medicine said in a statement.
The benefits of the cholesterol-reducing drug statins are underestimated and the harms exaggerated, a major review suggests.
Published in the Lancet and backed by a number of major health organisations, it says statins lower heart attack and stroke risk.
The review also suggests side effects such as muscle pain do occur, although in relatively few people.
But critics say healthy people are unnecessarily taking medication.
Statins reduce the build-up of fatty plaques that lead to blockages in blood vessels. According to the report authors:
About six million people are currently taking statins in the UK
Of those, two million are on them because they have already had a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event
The remaining four million take statins because of risk factors such as age, blood pressure or diabetes
Up to two million more should possibly take statins
The Lancet review, led by Prof Rory Collins from the Clinical Trial Service Unit at the University of Oxford, looked at the available evidence for the effects of taking an average 40mg daily dose of statins in 10,000 patients over five years.
It suggested cholesterol levels would be lowered enough to prevent 1,000 “major cardiovascular events” such as heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery bypasses in people who had existing vascular disease – and 500 in people who were at risk due to age or other illnesses such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Study found a gap between resources, potential need in the case of a U.S. outbreak
As summer drew near, the nation’s health officials took stock of whether they could handle a surge in demand for Zika diagnostic tests if disease-carrying mosquitoes began to proliferate.
A survey of state and local laboratories found enough capacity to perform 3,500 to 5,000 tests a week for the Zika virus. But that wouldn’t be enough to meet demand under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s worst-case scenario for a domestic Zika outbreak.
The gap was “considerable,” said Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious diseases for the Association of Public Health Laboratories, which conducted the April survey.
The finding set off a rush to expand lab capacity that continues as Zika’s foothold in the U.S. expands. In recent months, dozens of public health laboratories—which work with the government to monitor public health and screen for disease—bought equipment, stockpiled supplies and trained employees needed to start Zika testing, said state and local health officials.
Twelve California public health labs are preparing to start performing Zika tests; five others already do. The health department in Houston conducts one type of Zika test and will perform a second “as soon as we can get the equipment in the door,” said Larry Seigler, director of the city’s health labs.
Some blood banks could start checking blood samples immediately, because the FDA allowed them to use one of two new lab tests for Zika even before they have been officially approved.
OneBlood, which collects 3,000 blood donations daily in Florida, George, Alabama and South Carolina, said it started screening for Zika late last week. “Everything we draw we check for Zika now,” said Rita Reik, chief medical officer.
She said she couldn’t disclose whether any sample had tested positive, but if one did the blood bank would notify both the donor and the Florida Health Department. So far, she said, “The results have been quite reassuring.”
Even without microcephaly, seizures and developmental delays may appear in the months following birth
The full scope of Zika-related birth defects may extend far beyond abnormally small heads and brain damage. Research to be presented next week at a teratology conference in San Antonio, Texas, suggests that serious joint problems, seizures, vision impairment, trouble feeding and persistent crying can be added to the list of risks from Zika exposure in the womb.
The new findings confirm doctors’ concerns that even when Zika-exposed babies are born without microcephaly and appear largely normal at birth they can go on to have health issues including seizures and developmental delays that only become apparent in the weeks and months after birth. The new work also reinforces recent findings that suggest the type of outcomes the babies experience also varies by what trimester their mothers were in when they were exposed to Zika—with few cases of microcephaly when mothers were exposed during the third trimester.
A revolutionary technology known as “gene drive,” which for the first time gives humans the power to alter or perhaps eliminate entire populations of organisms in the wild, has stirred both excitement and fear since scientists proposed a means to construct it two years ago.
Scientists dream of deploying gene drive, for example, to wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitoes that cause the deaths of 300,000 African children each year, or invasive rodents that damage island ecosystems. But some experts have warned that the technique could lead to unforeseen harm to the environment. Some scientists have called on the federal government to regulate it, and some environmental watchdogs have called for a moratorium.
On Wednesday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the premier advisory group for the federal government on scientific matters, endorsed continued research on the technology, concluding after nearly a yearlong study that while it poses risks, its possible benefits make it crucial to pursue. The group also set out a path to conducting what it called “carefully controlled field trials,” despite what some scientists say is the substantial risk of inadvertent release into the environment.
Our bodies are confused by this 21st-century world.
IN the last half-century, the prevalence of autoimmune disease — disorders in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body — has increased sharply in the developed world. An estimated one in 13 Americans has one of these often debilitating, generally lifelong conditions. Many, like Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, are linked with specific gene variants of the immune system, suggesting a strong genetic component. But their prevalence has increased much faster — in two or three generations — than it’s likely the human gene pool has changed.
Many researchers are interested in how the human microbiome — the community of microbes that live mostly in the gut and are thought to calibrate our immune systems — may have contributed to the rise of these disorders. Perhaps society-wide shifts in these microbial communities, driven by changes in what we eat and in the quantity and type of microbes we’re exposed to in our daily lives, have increased our vulnerability.