In the news: A possible HIV cure, the Nobel Prize for medicine and China's clinical trial fraud

Headlines in the world of health.

A breakthrough in HIV research?

Scientists in the United Kingdom testing a combination of anti-HIV drugs have reported that a test patient showed no sign of the virus after treatment, making it a possible breakthrough in the hunt for a cure for HIV and AIDS.

The treatment being tested is a combination of standard antiretroviral drugs with a drug that reactivates dormant HIV and a vaccine that triggers immune system activity to destroy cells infected with HIV. The combination tricks the virus, that is resilient because it hides in the body, to emerge and then attack it – a process called “kick and kill”.

Antiretroviral drugs have in recent years transformed HIV from a progressive and mostly fatal infection to a chronic condition that can be managed for decades with continuous treatment. While antiretroviral drugs can stop the virus, they cannot eradicate the infection. The new drug treatment could the first serious attempt at a full cure for HIV.

The treatment will still have to cross many tests and trials. In previous cases of treatments thought eradicate HIV, the virus has re-emerged. If this treatment proves to be a successful cure it would change the fate of 37 million people in the world living with HIV.

Nobel Prize for autophagy research

Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of mechanisms of autophagy – processes by which cells in the human body detoxify and repair themselves.

Autophagy is how the body identifying old and dying cells and recycles them to extract energy or to build new cells necessary for the continuous process of growth and metabolism. Little has been known about how the the body performs this essential function. In a series of experiments in the early 1990s, Ohsumi identified genes essential for autophagy using baker's yeast. he then fund similarities between the mechanisms in yeast and in human cells.

As The Guardian reports Ohsumi chose to study autophagy even though it was not a fashionable subject “I am not very competitive, so I always look for a new subject to study, even if it is not so popular,” he said in a 2012 interview. “If you start from some sort of basic, new observation, you will have plenty to work on.”

New universal flu vaccines

A new generation of influenza vaccines, one of which can protect against 88% of known viral strains, could be the solution to global influenza pandemics. Researchers at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom have devised two universal vaccines that can can prevent up to half a million deaths annually around the world.

While one vaccine can provide immunity to 88% of known flu strains in a single shot, the second fights of 95% of known US flu strains, the researchers said.

The vaccines are based on short flu virus fragments called epitopes that are known to be recognized by the immune system and trigger an immune response. The epitopes are selected not to target a specific flu strain but the widest possible population and so to generate antibodies that can fight off a wide range of viruses upon infection.

Odisha’s encephalitis outbreak

With at least 21 people having died of Japanese encephalitis in Odisha’s Malkangiri district, the government has ordered health officials to keep a watch of the spread of the disease and is preparing to send more doctors to the affected area.

Twenty-seven people, mostly children, are reported to have contracted Japanese encephalitis in the district. The Japanese encephalitis virus spreads from pigs to humans through mosquitos. The state government’s animal husbandry department is working to identify infected pigs and health officials are considering relocating pig farms away from villages as well as mosquito control measures, according to news reports.

China’s massive clinical trial scam

More than 80% of data used clinical trials of new pharmaceutical drugs in China have been fabricated, according to a Chinese government investigation report. The report uncovered fraud at almost every level of clinical trials including pharmaceutical companies hiding or deleting records, tampering with data and suppressing of potentially adverse effects of the drugs being tested.

The report has resulted in 80% of drug applications pending approval in China for mass production to be cancelled.

The investigation, conducted by the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration analysed data from 1,622 clinical trials for new pharmaceutical drugs. The investigation revealed that many of the 'new' drugs awaiting approval were actually combinations of existing drugs. Blatant manipulation was also evident hen records showed that many clinical trial outcomes were written before the trials had been conducted.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.