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Australia Shows Promise In Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

Further research is planned in Australia and the United States.

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Sclerosis
Street artist Lydia Emily Archibald, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012, touches up her mural aimed at raising awareness about the disease in Los Angeles. VOA

Australian researchers have made a breakthrough in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis using immunotherapy. Their world-first trial has produced promising results for the majority of patients enrolled, they said, including a reduction in fatigue and improvements in mobility and vision.

The treatment targets the Epstein-Barr virus in the brain that Australian researchers believe plays a role in the development of Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, a disease of the central nervous system. Immune cells extracted from patients’ blood have been “trained” in a laboratory to recognize and destroy the virus.

“What happens in MS, there is an immune reaction going on in your brain that is represented as if that your immune system is attacking the brain cells,” said Rajiv Khanna, a professor at Queensland’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. “Once that happens, your normal function in the brain gets impaired. We are trying to develop a treatment that could actually, sort of, make the immune system to work properly rather than going in the wrong direction.”

Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Kepler, NASA, tissue
A researcher takes a tissue sample from a human brain at the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank, at Imperial College London, Britain June 3, 2016. An appendix, often considered useless, seems to store an abnormal protein, which if it makes its way into the brain, has been found to become a hallmark of Parkinson’s. VOA

Researchers hope the treatment could stop the progression of MS. They say the trial is significant because they have shown the technique is safe and has had positive improvements in an autoimmune disease.

Seven of the 10 participants in the Queensland trial have reported positive changes, including Louise Remmerswaal, a mother from Queensland.

“Ever since the trial, it has just improved so much that now I can go out and spend time with my family and friends,” she said.

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Further research is planned in Australia and the United States.

The new therapy is developed by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane and the University of Queensland.

The results of the clinical trial have been published in the peer-reviewed journal, JCI Insight. (VOA)

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Massive Displacement in DR Congo’s Ebola-Affected Ituri Province Poses Serious Health Hazard

At least 160 people were killed during renewed clashes early last month between Lendu farmers and Hema herders

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FILE - A woman and her children wait to receive Ebola vaccinations, in the village of Mabalako, in eastern Congo Monday, June 17, 2019. VOA

The International Organization for Migration warns massive displacement from renewed inter-ethnic fighting in DR Congo’s Ebola-affected Ituri province poses a serious health hazard.

At least 160 people were killed during renewed clashes early last month between Lendu farmers and Hema herders in Ituri province.  U.N. agencies report the violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and sent more than 7,500 refugees fleeing for their lives into neighboring Uganda.

The International Organization for Migration reports people who have fled the frontline of the conflict are living in abysmal conditions that create a fertile ground for the spread of disease, most worryingly Ebola.

The latest World Health Organization figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2,382, including 1,606 deaths.  The bulk of these cases and deaths are in conflict-ridden North Kivu province   About 10 percent are in Ituri.

DR Congo, Ebola, Health
The International Organization for Migration warns massive displacement from renewed inter-ethnic fighting. Pixabay

The inter-communal fighting has displaced an estimated 400,000 people.  IOM spokesman, Joel Millman, says his agency manages 12 displacement sites in Ituri’s Djugu Territory.  Thousands of people unable to cram into these overcrowded camps, he says, are sheltering in spontaneous sites.

“Poor hygiene conditions in displacement sites severely increase the risk that Ebola, as well as cholera, measles and acute respiratory diseases, will spread,” Millman said. “Many of these people are seeking assistance in Ebola-affected Bunia, where the displacement site officially called “General Hospital Site” has received more than 5,000 new Internally Displaced Persons, increasing the site’s population to 10,000 or twice its capacity.”

Millman says plans are underway to relocate many of the IDPs to a new improved settlement on land owned by Bunia’s Catholic Diocese.

He says IOM also is reinforcing its Ebola surveillance and disease prevention activities at Ituri’s Points of Entry at International borders.  Measures include hand washing, hygiene promotion, and screening travelers for possible Ebola infections.

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On June 11, the first case of Ebola spread across the border from DRC to Uganda.  A five-year old boy and his grandmother subsequently died from the deadly virus.

Millman says IOM is working to reduce disease transmission to new areas and across borders by expanding its preparedness measures to include Uganda, South Sudan and Burundi. (VOA)