New York: Generic drugs used to treat heart diseases also have the potential to bolster the immune systems of patients with Ebola virus and some other life-threatening illnesses, research has found.
Unlike other medications in development for Ebola, which attack the virus, statins and angiotensin receptor blockers, typically used for heart disease, work on the host response, or a person’s biological reaction to the virus, said a lead study, authored by David Fedson, retired professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia in the US.
“The statin or angiotensin receptor blocker combination was found to help improve survival in 100 Ebola patients treated in Sierra Leone”, Fedson said. “This approach to Ebola treatment has two advantages,” he added.
According to him, the first advantage is that it uses inexpensive generic drugs that are widely available in any country with a basic healthcare system, and most physicians who treat patients with cardiovascular diseases are familiar with these medications. Second, because this strategy targets the host response to infection, these drugs might be used to treat patients with any form of acute infectious disease in which a failure to overcome endothelial dysfunction could lead to multi-organ failure and death, Fedson noted.
In a pilot study, patients were given the drugs atorvastatin (40 mg/day) and irbesartan (150 mg/day) at several hospitals in West Africa.
The researchers found rapid clinical improvement in most patients.
Specifically, the drugs stabilise or restore the integrity of endothelial cells lining the blood vessels.
Endothelial cell dysfunction has been a central feature of human Ebola virus disease, leading to severe fluid and mineral losses, Fedson explained.
The findings appeared in ‘mBio’, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
Twice as many high school students used nicotine-tinged electronic cigarettes this year compared with last year, an unprecedented jump in a large annual survey of teen smoking, drinking and drug use.
It was the largest single-year increase in the survey’s 44-year history, far surpassing a mid-1970s surge in marijuana smoking.
The findings, released Monday, echo those of a government survey earlier this year. That survey also found a dramatic rise in vaping among children and prompted federal regulators to press for measures that make it harder for kids to get them.
Experts attribute the jump to newer versions of e-cigarettes, like those by Juul Labs Inc. that resemble computer flash drives and can be used discreetly.
Trina Hale, a junior at South Charleston High School in West Virginia, said vaping — specifically Juul — exploded at her school this year.
“They can put it in their sleeve or their pocket. They can do it wherever, whenever. They can do it in class if they’re sneaky about it,” she said.
Olivia Turman, a freshman at Cabell Midland High School in Ona, West Virginia, said she too has seen kids “hit their vape in class.”
The federally funded survey released Monday is conducted by University of Michigan researchers and has been operating since 1975. This year’s findings are based on responses from about 45,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 in schools across the country. It found 1 in 5 high school seniors reported having vaped nicotine in the previous month.
After vaping and alcohol, the most common thing teens use is marijuana, the survey found. About 1 in 4 students said they’d used marijuana at least once in the past year. It was more common in older kids — about 1 in 17 high school seniors said they use marijuana every day.
Overall, marijuana smoking is about the same level as it was the past few years. Vaping of marijuana rose, however.
More teens, however, are saying no to lots of other substances. Usage of alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, heroin and opioid pills all declined.
Experts say it’s not clear what’s behind those trends, especially since the nation is in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic ever.
“What is it that we’re doing right with teenagers that we’re not doing with adults?” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federal agency that funds the Michigan study.
One leading theory is that kids today are staying home and communicating on smartphones rather than hanging out and smoking, drinking or trying drugs.
“Drug experimentation is a group activity,” Volkow said.
What about vaping? “Vaping mostly is an individual activity,” said David Jernigan, a Boston University researcher who tracks alcohol use.
The vaping explosion is a big worry, however. Health officials say nicotine is harmful to developing brains. Some researchers also believe vaping will make kids more likely to take up cigarettes, and perhaps later try other drugs.