Leprosy drug to improve TB vaccine

The common vaccine for tuberculosis – the Bacillus Calmette Guerin or BCG vaccine – might be more effective if administered along with and anti-leprosy drug, according to researchers at the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

The researchers conducted tests in which they treated BCG-vaccinated mice with the anti-leprosy drug clofazimine for a month and then exposed the mice to tuberculosis bacteria. At the end of 60 days they found that the bacterial load in mice treated with the BCG vaccine and clofazimine was 50 times lower than mice treated with only the vaccine. The findings have been published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The BCG vaccine’s efficacy depends on long lasting memory cells generated by the bodies immune system that can kill tuberculosis bacteria. But the vaccine’s efficacy falls with time because, in a tuberculosis endemic country like India, people are constantly exposed to the bacteria and the pool of memory cells generated by the vaccine gets depleted. The anti-leprosy drug helps to double the number of memory cells and so keep the vaccine effective for longer.

Central obesity contributes to risk of breast cancer

Central obesity maybe a high risk factor for breast cancer in Indian women. A study at leading cancer hospital Tata Memorial has shown that central obesity, defined as a high waist-to-hip ratio or a waist circumference of more than 80 centimeters, can increase the risk of breast cancer by two to three times.

Furthermore, the study shows that central obesity affects every type f breast cancer, whether in pre-menopausal or post-menopausal women. The study narrows down the link between weight and the risk of breast cancer showing that body mass index is not as good an indicator as central obesity is. "Indians are known to be heavier than Caucasians with the same BMI,” Dr Rajesh Dikshit, one of he authors of the paper published in the European Journal of Cancer, told the Times of India. “So, a woman with normal BMI but high waist-to-hip ratio has a higher risk of breast cancer."

Anxiety most common among new cancer patients

A new study has shown that distressing symptoms experienced by newly diagnosed cancer patients are grossly underreported and inadequately addressed by oncologists. In an attempt to sensitise oncologists and incorporate palliative care principles in early a team of researchers from the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research have attempted to quantify the experience of cancer patients.

Anxiety tops the list of distressing symptoms among people who have just been diagnosed with cancer, they found. The second most common symptom seen among these patients is depression. Among 89 patients asked to fill a questionnaire more than 97% said that they experienced anxiety more than 89% experienced depression and tiredness and more than 86% described pain.

The study conducted in 2014 has just been published in the Indian Journal of Palliative Care.

The head transplant controversy

Thirty-one year old Valery Spiridonov, a Russian who runs an education software company in Moscow, has volunteered to be the subject of the world’s frst head transplant. Spiridonov has Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, which is a genetic disorder that lays waste to muscles and motor neurons and is usually fatal.

The controversial surgery is being planned by Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren and Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero . Ren was part of a team of doctors who performed the first successful hand transplant. Canavero announced is intention to try a human head transplant in 2013. The doctors now say it might be possible to conduct the surgery in 2017. The risky procedure involves very precise surgery with a diamond blade so thin that it is transparent and plenty of polyethylene glycol that could help severed nerves heal and regrow.

But as the Washington Post reports, “Many scientists and ethicists have derided the project as “junk science” that raises false hopes. One says that if Spiridonov dies – a not-unlikely outcome – the doctors should be prosecuted for murder.”