Saturday August 18, 2018

Googling About Symptoms Can Predict Disease

The study was found by using digital surveillance through search engine algorithms such as Google Trends and Google Insights

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Google clarifies tracking users even with location data turned off. Pixabay
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Irritated at recurring symptoms? Searching for an online diagnosis on google is not a bad idea before visiting the doctor.

The habit of searching on internet for an online diagnosis before visiting a doctor can provide early warning of an infectious disease epidemic, says a study.

In the study published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, internet-based surveillance has been found to detect infectious diseases such dengue fever and influenza up to two weeks earlier than traditional surveillance methods.

“This is because traditional surveillance relies on the patient recognising the symptoms and seeking treatment before diagnosis, along with the time taken for health professionals to alert authorities,” said Wenbiao Hu, senior research fellow at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia.

Representational image.
Representational image. IANS

There was often a lag time of two weeks before traditional surveillance methods could detect an emerging infectious disease. “In contrast, digital surveillance can provide real-time detection of epidemics,” Hu added.

The study found by using digital surveillance through search engine algorithms such as Google Trends and Google Insights, detecting the 2005-06 avian influenza outbreak ‘Bird Flu’ would have been possible between one and two weeks earlier than official surveillance reports.

“In another example, a digital data collection network was found to be able to detect the SARS outbreak more than two months before the first publications by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” he said.

Also Read: Know Your Labour Signs

Early detection means early warning and that can help reduce or contain an epidemic, as well alert public health authorities to ensure risk management strategies such as the provision of adequate medication are implemented, the study noted.

Hu said social media tools including twitter and facebook could also be effective in detecting disease outbreaks.

“There is the potential for digital technology to revolutionise emerging infectious disease surveillance,” he added.  (IANS)

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Thinning of Retina Maybe Linked to Parkinson’s: Researchers

The thinning of the retina corresponded with the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine and the severity of the disease.

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Parkinson's Disease
GREAT MANCHESTER RUN 2010 Parkinson's UK Runners 16 May 2010 Manchester

The thinning of retina — the lining of nerve cells in the back of the eye — could be linked to Parkinson’s disease, a finding that can boost diagnoses to detect the disease in its earliest stages, researchers have found.

According to the study, the thinning of the retina is linked to the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine, a substance that helps control movement — a hallmark of the Parkinson’s disease that impairs motor ability.

“Our study is the first to show a link between the thinning of the retina and a known sign of the progression of the disease — the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine,” said Jee-Young Lee, from the Seoul National University in South Korea.

Parkinson's Disease
Representational Image. Flickr

“We also found the thinner the retina, the greater the severity of disease. These discoveries may mean that neurologists may eventually be able to use a simple eye scan to detect Parkinson’s disease in its earliest stages, before problems with movement begin,” Lee added.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, involved 49 people with an average age of 69 years who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years earlier but who had not yet started medication. They were compared to 54 people without the disease who were matched for age.

The team evaluated each participant with a complete eye exam, high-resolution eye scans as well as PET scan and found retina thinning, most notably in the two inner layers of the five layers of the retina, in those with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s Disease Gets Awareness From Various Events. Flickr

In addition, the thinning of the retina corresponded with the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine and the severity of the disease.

Also Read: Headache Due to Spending Long Hours in Front of Computer? Here’s How You Can Protect Your Eyes!

If confirmed in larger studies, “retina scans may not only allow earlier treatment of Parkinson’s disease but more precise monitoring of treatments that could slow progression of the disease as well”, Lee said. (IANS)