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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.

Also Read: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef To Get Help From Rescue Bot

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)

Next Story

New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

The health department's lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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measles
Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns — debunked by medical science — that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019.
A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019. VOA

Secret identities

The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.

The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.

In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

vaccination
The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine. Pixabay

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak.

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The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week. (VOA)