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Birth of a Baby conceived through a “three person” Fertility Technique wipes out trauma of Zika

In November, the WHO declared that Zika was no longer a global emergency, but it did not change the global risk assessment even in December

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FILE - A worker of the Ministry of Public Health and Population fumigates in the street against mosquito breeding to prevent diseases such as malaria, dengue and Zika in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2016. VOA

New Delhi, December 22, 2016: The rapid rise of the Zika infections across many parts of the world had a large section of the population mightily worried till its “global emergency” tag was removed, but there was much cheer at the birth of a baby conceived through a “three person” fertility technique.

The outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus ultimately led to the terrifying discovery that Zika infection during pregnancy causes microcephaly in their babies — that results in unusual smallness of their heads — and other severe fetal brain defects.

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In November, the WHO declared that Zika was no longer a global emergency, but it did not change the global risk assessment even in December. Like most mosquito-borne diseases Zika too is a seasonal disease that could repeatedly return.

A vaccine for Zika therefore seemed to catch the imaginations of medical researchers across the world with several papers reporting positive results for experimental vaccines in animal models and raising hope of an effective vaccine for humans in the near future. In August, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institute of Health, even announced the launch of a clinical trial of a vaccine candidate intended to prevent Zika virus infection.

In terms of vaccine development, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving the first clinical trial to test a lung cancer vaccine developed in Cuba could prove to be a watershed moment in fighting the deadly disease which can result from lifestyle factors such as smoking.

A big boost in the fight against cancer, however, came from Chinese scientists who used for the first time the revolutionary gene editing technique CRISPR-Cas9 to treat a patient with aggressive lung cancer as part of a clinical trial.

While the results of the trial are yet to be disclosed, a US advisory panel also approved the human use of CRISPR, for a study designed to target three types of cancer.

The experiment, proposed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, would use CRISPR-Cas9 technology to modify patients’ own T-cells to make them more effective in attacking melanoma, multiple myeloma and sarcoma.

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If the technology is found to be safe for human use, it could open up pathbreaking new approach to treating several deadly diseases, not just cancer.

In a major step towards understanding what happens when pregancies go wrong, for example, during miscarriage, as well as towards improving IVF rates, a team of researchers led by the University of Cambridge succeeded this year to keep human embryos alive in a petri dish for an unprecedented 13 days. Until now scientists were unable to keep embryos alive beyond seven days.

The technique shed new light on how embryos develop and researchers believe that it could open up new avenues of research aimed at helping improve the chances of success of IVF.

In yet another good news for parents who cannot conceive naturally, a baby boy was born earlier this year in Mexico through the use of a new “three person” fertility technique, called the “spindle nuclear transfer,” for the first time.

The boy, born to a Jordanian couple, has the usual DNA from his parents, and a small amount of genetic code from a donor. The use of this reproductive technology was intended to prevent the newborn inheriting Leigh syndrome, a genetic disorder. The parents were being treated by a US-based team but the delivery was carried out in Mexico because of absence of laws preventing it.

Later this year, Britain’s fertility regulators approved the use of the three parent technique that uses DNA from three progenitors (two women, one man) to prevent children being born with deadly genetic illnesses.

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This is also the year that made us aware that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality can have greater use in medical science — from predicting risk for Alzheimer’s disease to providing effective stimuli to increase movement speeds in people with Parkinson’s Disease.

The launch and increased use of numerous healthcare apps, wearable devices to track your heart rate or how well you slept the previous night, and so on, along with the rise in use of other digital technologies to offer diagnosis and care helped the year take a giant stride towards achieving what we have yearned for years — reducing dependence on others for management of our own healthcare.

After all, what else is technology for if not giving you more control over your own life? (IANS)

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WHO Claims, Novel Oral Treatment More Effective in Fighting Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis

The WHO says it is hopeful the new oral treatment program it is launching will be more effective in controlling the spread of the particularly virulent form of tuberculosis. 

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A tuberculosis patient holds medicines at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Government Hospital at Ram Nagar in Varanasi, India, March 13, 2018. VOA

Tuberculosis has plagued humans for thousands of years and continues to do so. In advance of this year’s World TB Day, March 24, the World Health Organization is issuing a call to action to eradicate the disease by 2030.

As part of these efforts, the WHO is launching an oral drug regimen it says can more effectively treat people with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing nearly 4,500 people a day and infecting 10 million people a year.

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As part of these efforts, the WHO is launching an oral drug regimen it says can more effectively treat people with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. VOA

Despite the grim statistics, much progress has been made in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the disease. The WHO says 54 million lives have been saved since 2000. But the WHO also warns the gains risk being lost with the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB or MDR-TB.

The current treatment for MDR-TB involves a two-year treatment course of painful injections, which provoke many bad side effects.

The WHO says it is hopeful the new oral treatment program it is launching will be more effective in controlling the spread of the particularly virulent form of tuberculosis.

The director of the WHO’s Global TB Program, Tereza Kasaeva, told VOA the new oral drug treatment the WHO is recommending has far fewer adverse side effects.

“Of course, it will be definitely much, much easier and there will not be a need for regular frequent visits of the physicians or health workers for making these injections. No doubt, as we see from the data, the effectiveness, the treatment success will be definitely much, much higher,” Kasaeva said.

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The director of the WHO’s Global TB Program, Tereza Kasaeva, told VOA the new oral drug treatment the WHO is recommending has far fewer adverse side effects.
VOA

The South African government has announced it plans to adopt the injection-free treatment. Kasaeva said the cost of the oral treatment is around $2,000, which is largely unaffordable for low-income countries.

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She said South Africa is engaging in talks with pharmaceutical companies to drop the price to $400.

The WHO says South Africa is one of the 20 countries most affected by MDR-TB. Others include Russia, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam. (VOA)