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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Australia urged to come clean on asylum-seekers’ mental health

Sydney (AFP) – Australia’s human rights commissioner said Thursday the government must come clean about conditions at offshore asylum-seeker camps after an inquiry heard of an alleged cover-up of mental health problems.

The facilities have been under the spotlight in recent weeks following reports that up to a dozen mothers had attempted suicide at a detention centre on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

The women did so under the belief that their babies would have a better chance of being settled in Australia if they were orphans, reports said.

A leading psychiatrist alleged at a national inquiry into the mandatory detention of children seeking asylum that figures showing the extent of mental health issues had been covered up by the immigration department.

Peter Young, a former mental health services director with the International Health and Medical Service, a detention centre service provider, said he collected figures showing “significant” psychological problems among a number of child detainees.

“(The Immigration Department) reacted with alarm and have asked us to withdraw these figures from our reporting,” Young said.

Drug-resistant malaria spreading fast in SE Asia

Paris (AFP) – Drug-resistant malaria parasites are now firmly established in border regions in four Southeast Asian countries, imperilling global efforts to control the disease, experts warned on Wednesday.

Blood samples taken from 1,241 malaria patients found that parasites which are resistant to the frontline drug artemisinin have spread to border areas in western and northern Cambodia, eastern Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, they said.

There also signs of emerging resistance in central Myanmar, southern Laos and northeastern Cambodia, but none in three African states — Kenya, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — that were included in the sampling.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said doubling the course of antimalarial treatment, from three days to six, could help fight the resistance problem but time was short.

“It may still be possible to prevent the spread of artemisinin-resistant malaria parasites across Asia and then to Africa by eliminating them, but that window of opportunity is closing fast,” said Nicholas White, a professor of tropical medicine at Oxford University, England.

“Conventional malaria control approaches won’t be enough — we will need to take more radical action and make this a global public health priority, without delay.”

J&J seeks return of device seen as possibly raising cancer risk

(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson said on Wednesday it plans to ask doctors to return its power morcellators, a controversial surgical device that may inadvertently spread cancer in women being treated for uterine growths called fibroids.

J&J’s Ethicon unit in April suspended sales and distribution of the devices while their role in treating symptomatic fibroid disease is reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the medical community. The FDA had advised doctors not to use the devices pending further review.

On Thursday, J&J will take the further step of reaching out to customers to ask them to return the devices they have already purchased in what it is calling “a worldwide market withdrawal” of all Ethicon morcellation devices that remain on the market, an Ethicon spokesman said.

The morcellators are used to cut up the uterine growths so they can be more easily removed using non-invasive procedures. They are also used in hysterectomies.

However, the masses may sometimes be malignant, which is often not detected prior to surgery, and the spinning blade of the morcellators could spread deadly cancer and worsen patient outcomes, the FDA had warned.

“Due to this continued uncertainty, Ethicon believes that a market withdrawal of Ethicon morcellation devices is the appropriate course of action at this time until further medical guidelines are established and/or new technologies are developed to mitigate the risk,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

(Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Dan Grebler)

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – Drug-resistant malaria parasites have spread to border regions of Southeast Asia, seriously threatening global efforts to control and eliminate the mosquito-borne disease, researchers said on Wednesday.

The scientists, who analyzed blood samples from 1,241 malaria patients in 10 countries across Asia and Africa, found resistance to the world’s most effective antimalarial drug, artemisinin, is now widespread in Southeast Asia.

However, the study found no signs yet of resistance in the three African sites it covered in Kenya, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“It may still be possible to prevent the spread of artemisinin-resistant malaria parasites across Asia and then to Africa by eliminating them, but that window of opportunity is closing fast,” said Nicholas White, a professor of tropical medicine at Oxford University who led the research and is and chair of the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network.

More than half the world’s people are at risk of malaria infection, and while there have been significant reductions in the numbers falling ill and dying from the mosquito-borne disease, it still kills more than 600,000 people each year.

Most malaria victims are children under five living in the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

From the late 1950s to the 1970s, chloroquine-resistant malaria parasites spread across Asia to Africa, leading to a resurgence of malaria cases and millions of deaths.

Chloroquine was replaced by sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), but resistance to SP subsequently emerged in western Cambodia and again spread to Africa.

SP was replaced by […]

By |July 30th, 2014|blogs|0 Comments

23andMe lands $1.4 million grant from NIH to detect genetic roots for disease

WASHINGTON D.C. (Reuters) – Home genetics startup 23andMe has secured a $1.4 million two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build survey tools and expand its gene database.

With these funds from NIH, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the company intends to use its stores of genetic data for various research projects. External researchers will be able to access information on thousands of diseases and traits for more than 400,000 people.

The grant “enables researchers from around the world to make genetic discoveries,” Anne Wojcicki, chief executive officer of 23andMe, said in a statement.

23andMe, which is backed by Google Inc , has not always played well with the federal government.┬áLate last year, it hit a major regulatory snag when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expressed concerns about the “public health consequences of inaccurate results” from 23andMe’s $99 DNA test.

The agency took issue with 23andMe’s claim that its service could deliver insights about people’s genetic predispositions toward “254 diseases and conditions.”

23andMe agreed to stop marketing and selling its test. But it has continued to grow its genetic database by offering raw health and ancestral information, such as a person’s ethnic heritage, in exchange for a DNA sample. The company said it has grown to 700,000 customers since 2006.

This grant does not mark a new direction for 23andMe since the FDA’s crackdown, the startup’s spokeswoman Catherine Afarian said, as the company has used its data […]

By |July 30th, 2014|blogs|0 Comments