Monday July 23, 2018

Patients who Survive Ebola often Continue to Face Numerous Health Problems: Study

They have to face numerous health problems

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Laboratory technician Mohamed SK Sesay, who survived Ebola but saw many of his colleagues die and now has joint and muscle pains and loss of sight, holds the child of one of his work colleagues who died of the disease, in Kenema, Sierra Leone
Laboratory technician Mohamed SK Sesay, who survived Ebola but saw many of his colleagues die and now has joint and muscle pains and loss of sight, holds the child of one of his work colleagues who died of the disease, in Kenema, Sierra Leone. VOA
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  • Approximately 11,000 people died in the Ebola outbreak that hit West Africa from 2014 to 2016
  • Many battled vision problems and headaches that lasted for months
  • They show some quite distinct scarring patterns

Sierra Leone, West Africa, August 25, 2017: Patients who survive infection with the Ebola virus often continue to face numerous health problems. New research finds 80 percent of Ebola survivors suffer disabilities one year after being discharged from the hospital.

Approximately 11,000 people died in the Ebola outbreak that hit West Africa from 2014 to 2016; tens of thousands more who were infected survived.

Of those survivors, many battled vision problems and headaches that lasted for months.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool, the UK and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK are studying what’s called post-Ebola syndrome. One of the senior authors of the study, Dr. Janet Scott, says researchers are unsure why survivors experience such disabilities.

“I’m not sure we’ve quite gotten to the bottom of it yet,” Scott said. “The idea that you go through something as horrific as Ebola and just walk away from that unscathed was always a bit of a vain hope. So, it could be the inflammatory response. It could be damage to the muscles, and it could be the persistence of the virus in some cases. It could be all of those things.”

Scott says problems found in Ebola survivors’ eyes may provide clues to what is happening elsewhere in the body.

“They show some quite distinct scarring patterns,” she said. “There’s definitely scar tissue there. We can see it in the eyes. We can’t see it in the rest of the body, but I’m sure it’s in the rest of the body because the patients are coming in with this huge range of problems.”

The disabilities were reported in past cases of  Ebola outbreak, as well. However, because past outbreaks were smaller and there were few survivors, researchers were not able to do major, long-term studies on the after effects.

ALSO READ: Indian-origin Scientist part of the team that discovered natural Human Antibodies to fight Ebola viruses

This time, said Scott, “There are 5,000 survivors or thereabouts in Sierra Leone, and more in Guinea and Liberia. So, it’s an opportunity from a research point of view to find out the full spectrum of sequelae … the things that happen after an acute illness.”

Military Hospital 34 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, also took part in the study, helping to recruit 27 Ebola survivors and 54 close contacts who were not infected. About 80 percent of survivors reported disabilities compared to 11 percent of close contacts.

“The problems we’re seeing in Ebola survivors, this is not due just to the tough life in Sierra Leone. This is more than likely down to their experience in Ebola,” Scott said.

The research was led by Dr. Soushieta Jagadesh, who said: “a year following acute disease, survivors of West Africa Ebola Virus Disease continue to have a higher chance of disability in mobility, cognition, and vision.”

“Issues such as anxiety and depression persist in survivors and must not be neglected,” she added.

Scott hopes the findings can be used to provide better care in the event of another Ebola outbreak, no matter where it is. In the West Africa outbreak, the first goal was to contain the epidemic, followed by reducing the death rate.

“If I was treating an Ebola patient again, it has to be more than just surviving,” Scott said. “You have to try to make people survive well. Surviving with half your body paralyzed or with your vision impaired and being unable to care for your family or earn a living isn’t really enough. So, what I would like to do is to focus on that aspect to make people survive better and survive well.” (VOA)

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To Treat Brain Cancer Scientists Taking Polio’s Help

The result is a longer life for patients whose brain cancer returned

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A radiologist examines the brain X-rays of a patient. In a small study, patients with brain tumors were given genetically modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack the cancer.
A radiologist examines the brain X-rays of a patient. In a small study, patients with brain tumors were given genetically modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack the cancer. VOA

There’s an exciting new breakthrough in treating some types of deadly brain tumors, that uses, of all things, a polio virus. Doctors at Duke Health in North Carolina genetically altered the virus because it produces such a strong immune response in our bodies. The result is a longer life for patients whose brain cancer returned. All had glioblastoma, an aggressive and lethal type of brain cancer. Of the 61 patients in the study, 21 percent who got this new treatment had were alive three years later.

While that number is low, the survival rate for glioblastoma is normally even lower, usually, a year and a half after diagnosis. The researchers compared the study group to a group of patients drawn from historical cases at Duke. Only four percent of these patients survived three years after treatment.

Dr. Annick Desjardins, one of the authors, said not all patients respond, but if they do, they often become long-term survivors. Desjardins said, “The big question is, how can we make sure that everybody responds?”

Stephanie Hopper was the first patient in the Duke study. She was diagnosed with glioblastoma eight years ago. She had the tumor removed, but two years later, it returned. The modified virus is directly injected into the brain during surgery. After treatment, Hopper’s tumor shrunk to the point where it’s barely noticeable in her brain scans, and the tumor is continuing to shrink.

Dr. Darell Bigner is the senior author of the study which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. He explained that by modifying the virus, it destroyed its ability to infect nerve cells and cause polio, but the virus retained the ability to kill cancer cells. In fact, the modified virus targeted the tumor cells.

Prior to the study, the researchers decided they needed a different approach to treating glioblastomas which is why they looked at experimenting with the polio virus.

There's an exciting new breakthrough in treating some types of deadly brain tumors, that uses, of all things, a polio virus. Doctors at Duke Health in North Carolina genetically altered the virus because it produces such a strong immune response in our bodies
There’s an exciting new breakthrough in treating some types of deadly brain tumors, that uses, of all things, a polio virus. Doctors at Duke Health in North Carolina genetically altered the virus because it produces such a strong immune response in our bodies. Flickr

One of the goals of a phase one trial is to find a dose that is safe. In some patients, the therapy caused their brains to swell and they experienced seizures and other bad side effects so the dose was lowered. Study participants were selected according to the size of their recurring tumor, its location in the brain and other factors designed for patient protection.

For five of the 61 patients in the trial, the cancer returned. They were treated a second time and Bigner says, “Those that we’ve been able to follow long enough have responded to the treatment the second time. That’s extremely important.” Combining the polio virus with other approved therapies is one approach already being tested at Duke to improve survival.

Also read: A One-Shot Nanoparticle Vaccine for Polio is Developed by MIT scientists

The researchers are continuing their work on treating glioblastomas and planning other studies as well. They want to test the therapy on children’s brain tumors. The therapy may also expand beyond brain tumors to include breast cancer and melanoma patient as well. (VOA)