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Doctor Contracts Ebola Disease From Congo, A dreaded Scenario: WHO

More than 2,900 people have been vaccinated against Ebola since the outbreak began.

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A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a woman who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo
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A doctor has become the first probable Ebola case in one of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s “high insecurity zones” which are dogged by militia violence and hard to access, a scenario “we have all been dreading,” the WHO said on Friday.

Since the outbreak erupted on August 1, 103 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola have been identified in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, including 63 deaths, the health ministry said in an overnight update.

The doctor living in Oicha town in North Kivu has been re-hospitalised with Ebola symptoms after his wife was confirmed as having the disease when she traveled to the nearby city of Beni, said Dr Peter Salama, the World Health Organization’s head of emergency operations.

Ebola Congo
A Congolese health worker checks the temperature of a man before the launch of the vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, near the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

Oicha is almost entirely surrounded by ADF Ugandan Islamist militia, there are “extremely serious security concerns,” he said. Aid workers, priests and government officials are held hostage in the area, he said.

The doctor’s initial test for Ebola — which causes vomiting, fever and diarrhea — had been negative, but fresh results are awaited, Salama told Reuters.

So far 97 of the doctor’s contacts who may have been exposed to the virus have been identified, and vaccination has begun in the town, he added.

“So for the first time really we have a confirmed case and contacts in an area of very high insecurity. It really was the problem we were anticipating and the problem at the same time that we were dreading,” Salama told a news briefing.

Ebola patient
A health care worker from the World Health Organization, left, gives an Ebola vaccination to a frontline aid worker who will then vaccinate people who might potentially have the virus, in Mbandaka, Congo. VOA

WHO and health experts reached Oicha with an armed escort by MONUSCO troops this week, he said, adding: “We know from that incident now in Oicha we are going to have to operate in some very complex environments due to security and access concerns.”

In a further worrying development, angry youth burned down a health centre in another village, where vaccinations were under way, after learning of a death from Ebola, Salama said.

Also Read: Cholera Infection May be on Edge in Yemen, Says WHO

More than 2,900 people have been vaccinated against Ebola since the outbreak began, he said.

“We are at quite a pivotal moment in this outbreak in terms of the evolution of the outbreak epidemiologically and in terms of the response,” he said. (VOA)

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NASA to Send Organ-on-Chips To Test Human Tissue Health in Space

Called a micro-physiological system, a tissue chip needs three main properties

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NASA to send tissue chips to space to test human health, genetic changes. Flcikr

NASA is planning to send small devices containing human cells in a 3D matrix — known as tissue chips or organs-on-chips — to the International Space Station (ISS) to test how they respond to stress, drugs and genetic changes.

Made of flexible plastic, tissue chips have ports and channels to provide nutrients and oxygen to the cells inside them.

The “Tissue Chips in Space” initiative seeks to better understand the role of microgravity on human health and disease and to translate that understanding to improved human health on Earth, NASA said.

“Spaceflight causes many significant changes in the human body,” said Liz Warren, Associate Program Scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) in the US.

Kepler, NASA, tissue
This illustration made available by NASA shows the Kepler Space Telescope. As of October 2018, the planet-hunting spacecraft has been in space for nearly a decade. VOA

“We expect tissue chips in space to behave much like an astronaut’s body, experiencing the same kind of rapid change,” Warren said.

The US space agency is planning the investigations in collaboration with CASIS and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

Many of the changes in the human body caused by microgravity resemble the onset and progression of diseases associated with ageing on Earth, such as bone and muscle loss. But the space-related changes occur much faster.

That means scientists may be able to use tissue chips in space to model changes that might take months or years to happen on Earth.

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, VOA

This first phase of Tissue Chips in Space includes five investigations. An investigation of immune system ageing is planned for launch on the SpaceX CRS-16 flight, scheduled for this year.

The other four, scheduled to launch on SpaceX CRS-17 or subsequent flights, include lung host defense, the blood-brain barrier, musculoskeletal disease and kidney function.

In addition, four more projects are scheduled for launch in summer 2020, including two on engineered heart tissue to understand cardiovascular health, one on muscle wasting and another on gut inflammation.

Kepler, NASA, tissue
“Detecting life in an agnostic fashion means not using characteristics particular to Earth life,” said Heather Graham at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Pixabay

Also called a micro-physiological system, a tissue chip needs three main properties, according to Lucie Low, scientific programme manager at National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences in the US.

Also Read: NASA’s Ralph Will Explore Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids in 2021

“It has to be 3D, because humans are 3D,” she explained.

“It must have multiple, different types of cells, because an organ is made up of all kinds of tissue types. And it must have microfluidic channels, because every single tissue in your body has vasculature to bring in blood and nutrients and to take away detritus,” she added. (IANS)