Monthly Archives: December 2013

Malaria Vaccine May Be On The Horizon

Malaria is the seventh deadliest illness in the developing world, infecting more than 200 million people a year and causing over 600,000 deaths in 2012. The good news is that these numbers are at an all-time low, thanks to eradication campaigns, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Now, as what may be the final nail in malaria’s coffin, new research is helping fuel advances in the fight against malaria, with researchers taking important steps on the road to a vaccine.

The primary tools of malaria control currently target the mosquitoes that spread the disease. When malaria was nearly eliminated in the United States in the early 20th century, it was accomplished with bed nets treated with insecticides and the digging of drainage ditches—more than 30,00 miles of them—to get rid of standing water where mosquitoes congregate. The disease can be treated, but no vaccine has yet been found to be effective against all forms of the parasite that causes the disease.

According to a study at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, combining vaccines effective against different strains of the malaria parasite—members of the same species with slight genetic differences that are enough to make them different from a medical perspective—makes a sort of supervaccine that works against strains other than the ones associated with the individual vaccines involved.

In tests, a combination of just four vaccine strains was effective against 26 strains of parasite. Although malaria does not spread directly between humans, a combination of human-to-mosquito and mosquito-to-human transmission mean it can spread easily in areas with high populations of humans and mosquitoes. Broad spectrum vaccination would stop mosquito-to-human transmission, and eventually stop human-to-mosquito transmission as well, eliminating the disease.

This doesn’t mean mosquito netting, insecticide, and drainage ditches don’t continue to have a role in anti-malaria efforts. International humanitarian organizations are deeply involved in helping communities in poor tropical regions get the resources and develop the infrastructure to lessen the scourge of malaria even in the absence of a vaccine. Deaths due to malaria among children in these areas were cut in half between 2000 and 2012.

Our top 6 stories of 2013

Let's take a look back at 2013 and some of the top articles of the year:

1. Preventing infections in hospitals
Health care-associated infections can cause serious problems for patients, which is why we addressed the issue in October. Some of the most common types of HAIs include:

  • catheter-associated urinary tract infections
  • central line-associated bloodstream infections
  • gastrointestinal infections
  • surgical site infections
  • ventilator-associated pneumonia

However, most of these issues can easily be avoided. Taking simple steps such as putting prevention policies and guidelines in place is a good start. However, staff members need to be followed up with to make certain that they are following protocol.

2. Descriptions of important diabetic supplies
Patients who suffer from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes know the importance of having the proper medical supplies on hand at all times. Key products for treating the disease are:

  • infusion sets
  • lancing devices
  • control solutions
  • diabetic socks

There are a number of other diabetic supplies, all of which are sold by Medex Supply. It's vital for family members of those with diabetes to know about the different equipment and how it is used to manage the condition. So, take a look at our article from the beginning for an overview of these supplies.

3. Control blood sugar with these foods
While it's always important for diabetics to control their blood sugar, this can be especially tricky during the winter season. Some of the best snacks to enjoy year-round include:

  • avocados
  • hummus and veggies
  • nuts
  • peanut butter on sourdough

Or, you may want to consider cooking with:

  • brown rice
  • chia seeds
  • cinnamon
  • garlic
  • lentils

As each of these ingredients can benefit blood-sugar management. When proper diet is paired with quality diabetic supplies, patients can rest easy that they are in good shape.

4. Keep your family safe from leftovers
Whether you're eating out or at parties over the New Year, it's important to keep foot safety in mind when it comes to leftovers. Here are a few tips for avoiding food borne illnesses due to improper storage:

  • Refrigerate food within two hours of preparation
  • Reheat and eat all leftovers within three to four days of storage
  • Stir food while reheating
  • Keep fridge at an internal temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit

When it comes to food, it's best to toss it in the garbage if you're unsure whether or not it's safe for consumption. This can go a long way in preventing infection.

5. Tips for proper wound care
When kids get a little too rough or an accident happens around the house, it's important for parents to know how to care for the wound. Some key advice for treating minor injuries or burns you should know include:

  • Stopping the bleeding by applying light pressure to the area
  • Cleaning the wound with the appropriate supplies
  • Using an antibiotic ointment to prevent germs from causing an infection
  • Covering the area with a bandage for protection

So you can be ready for anything, order a set of wound care supplies from Medex Supply online. But be sure to solicit the help of a professional if the injury is severe or won't stop bleeding for more than 30 minutes.

6. New surgical equipment may help sleep apnea sufferers
In August, we discussed the use of transoral robotic surgery for treating patients who suffer from sleep apnea. This procedure was discovered by researchers from Wayne State University, and it may be useful for improving the well-being of these individuals. Sleep apnea can cause issues with an individual's social life in addition to causing other health issues. For instance, the condition can lead to high blood pressure and liver dysfunction, both of which can result in serious complications. If you suffer from sleep apnea, be sure to talk to your doctor about possible treatment options.

Towards A New Understanding Of The Common Cold

The average person gets as many as five colds per year, and scientists still aren’t sure exactly why. Now, however, an Austrian study is making strides in understanding how the cold virus infects people, how the virus spreads, what steps people can take to avoid getting sick or infecting other people, and paths researchers looking for cures might try to take in that direction.

The microbes in the species that is most often the cause of the common cold are called rhinoviruses. The virus consists of a spherical shell called a capsid that encloses four types of proteins, which are responsible for the rhinovirus’s effects. However, exactly how they are responsible—how they get out of the capsid to make people sick—was not known until recently.

What the researchers found is that the virus changes its structure once it is inside the human body. This reshaping makes it possible for the proteins inside to get out and cause inflammation. This discovery may be the biggest advance in the medical understanding of the common cold since the rhinovirus genome was sequenced by American researchers in 2009.

Currently, there is no cure for rhinovirus-caused illnesses, though medications that help fight viruses in the same family as rhinovirus are being investigated. It should be noted that the symptoms you experience when you have a cold are the immune response—when you feel like you have a cold, your body is already doing all it can to fight the infection.

That’s why most treatments for the common cold focus on the symptoms. Nothing intended to shorten the duration of a cold has proven effective in laboratory testing. People with colds are therefore advised to get lots of rest, rink fluids, and avoid situations in which they may transmit the virus to another person. Medications can help alleviate the pain, sore throat, coughing, and itchy, runny, or stuffed nose.

Slow Eating And Weight

One of the most frequently encountered diet or healthy-eating tips is to eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for you to realize how full you are, so eating slowly and waiting a bit before going for a second—or third—helping can make it easier to stop when you’re done, rather than after. Researchers are starting to learn more about why eating slowly can be an important part of maintaining a healthy weight.

Until recently, scientists thought that slower eating meant fewer calories. One study claimed that merely eating more slowly, without any other deliberate changes to diet, could result in weight loss of 20 pounds in a year. However, these studies were limited, not taking into account how being overweight or obese might affect the results. Indeed, the latest studies found that overweight people who eat slowly experience only two-thirds the reduction in calories of normal-weight people.

However, this doesn’t mean slower eating doesn’t have an effect on overweight people. In the study, eating slowly resulted in lower levels of hunger across the board, regardless of the subject’s weight. That means that, while the overweight subjects in the study were consuming almost as many calories at meals eaten slowly as they were at meals eaten more quickly, they still remained satisfied longer, meaning they were eating less overall.

Another factor contributing to less food consumption is that people eating slowly tended to drink more water—fully a third more, according to researchers. In fact, overweight test subjects increased their water consumption by more than normal weight subjects. Drinking more water in general is a good strategy to fight hunger without packing on the pounds, and eating more slowly makes drinking water an easier habit to get into.

Moreover, people have said that eating slowly means they enjoy their food more. By taking the time to savor what you eat, instead of rushing through it, you get a chance to really experience your meals, and you end up more satisfied not only physically but emotionally—you have a happier, less stressful, more mindful life, regardless of what you weigh.

Study finds link between concussions and Alzheimer’s

In both professional and children's athletics, there has been a crackdown on concussions as of late. From new equipment to updated rules and regulations, the population as a whole is taking this injury much more seriously than it has in the past. And while there are a number of reasons why this should be done, new research indicates it may also help prevent some cases of Alzheimer's in the future.

More on concussions
Referred to as a traumatic brain injury by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concussions are caused by some type of severe contact with the head that may lead to brain malfunction.1 This can happen unpredictably, whether you're in a car accident or when a child falls while jumping on the bed. However, it is also common in sports as well. This has become a growing issue as modern medicine learns more about the dangers related to such injuries.

Symptoms can vary greatly, and some signs may not show until even days following the incident that caused the concussion. It's important for patients who have suffered this type of traumatic brain injury not to participate in physical activities until their symptoms have completely subsided for an extended period of time. Potential complications one may face include epilepsy, cognitive impairment or second impact syndrome, which can cause fatal brain swelling.2 So, it's no wonder that the health care industry has pushed to make concussion safety a top priority for athletes.

Effects on Alzheimer's
A group of U.S. researchers got together to find out whether or not head trauma resulted in a greater risk for developing Alzheimer's disease later in life. To do so, 448 patients who were cognitively normal and 141 who had mild cognitive impairment were selected for the study.3 Based on their investigation, the professionals found that participants who suffered self-reported head trauma in which loss of consciousness or memory occurred showed greater amounts of amyloid deposition – a cause of Alzheimer's. This information indicates that injuries such as concussions may increase one's risk for the disease.

"Our results add merit to the idea that concussion and Alzheimer's disease brain pathology may be related," study author Michelle Mielke explained in a statement, according to UPI. "However, the fact that we did not find a relationship in those without memory and thinking problems suggestions that any association between head trauma and amyloid is complex."4

This information solidifies the importance that concussions be taken seriously in all levels of sports. Steps toward prevention, such as designing new protective gear and treatment, may help to reduce the risk. We've already seen these measures at the professional level, and it's important for parents to make sure that their children are receiving the same type of care and consideration.

Caregivers who are treating individuals with Alzheimer's can turn to Medex Supply for all of the medical supplies they need to maintain patient health.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Concussion in sports" July 22, 2013
2 Mayo Clinic, "Concussion: Complications" February 22, 2011
3 Neurology, "Head trauma and in vivo measures of amyloid and neurodegeneration in a population-based study" December 26, 2013
4 UPI, "Concussion, Alzheimer's brain pathology may be related" December 27, 2013

Treating Desperate Leukemia

As many as 3,500 American children are diagnosed with leukemia each year. It is one of the most prevalent forms of childhood cancer, responsible for one in four diagnoses among children. Another 40,000 cases are diagnosed each year in adults. People with leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells sometimes experience seizures and vomiting; other symptoms include painless swollen lymph nodes, bleeding or bruising easily, joint pain, unexplained rapid weight loss, weakness, fatigue, and night sweats.

Current treatments use chemotherapy and anti-cancer drugs. Stem cell therapy has begun to see limited use in recent years, using either donor cells or the patient’s own stored stem cells to create healthy bone marrow. Now a trial treatment is using immune cells to help create individualized therapy that harnesses the full power of the patient’s immune system to vanquish cancer cells. The trial achieved significant success against a particular form of leukemia called acute lymphoblastic leukemia in both children and adults.

"Our results serve as another important milestone in demonstrating the potential of this cell therapy for patients who have no other therapeutic options," said Dr. Stephan A. Grupp, a pediatric oncologist who was one of the doctors leading the study, in a statement. "We are also very excited that this approach has worked and been safe in patients who have relapsed after a bone marrow transplant."

In the treatment, doctors take immune cells called T cells out of the patient’s body and process them. They use these extracted T cells as the basis for cells that are specifically crafted to fight the patient’s cancer cells. The altered immune cells then persist, ready to attack the cancer again if it comes back. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia responds well to drug treatment, but has a tendency to recur, and these relapses typically to not respond to most treatments.

This experimental leukemia treatment uses a surprising medium to deliver the modified cancer-fighting immune cells: HIV. However, because HIV is one of the best-understood of all viruses, it’s possible for doctors to take out the portions that allow it to be infectious, to spread, or to cause disease, leaving only the harmless shell of the virus to enable doctors to upgrade the immune cells.

Advice for drinking with diabetes

As New Year's Eve quickly approaches, it's important that diabetics are aware of the effects alcohol may have on their condition. While it's always best to first consult your doctor about drinking if you have Type 2 diabetes, there are some general rules to follow.

Potential risks
Since alcohol is processed similarly to fats, it can increase blood sugar in diabetics easily. Additionally, most of these beverages are full of empty calories. Some of the worst drinks to indulge in include sweet wine and beer, as there are more carbohydrates in these compared to others. Patients who are on diabetic medications should talk to their doctor to ensure that booze will not have any effects on their prescriptions.1 And, as you may know, when drinking, you may experience a stimulated appetite. That means you may overeat, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels.

Advice for drinking
Some words of advice that everyone can benefit from when drinking alcohol is doing so with caution. Overdoing it can lead to a number of health issues, many which surpass anything related to diabetes. However, when diabetics are drinking with diabetes, some additional tips to follow include:

  • Plan your meal the evening ahead of the celebration. This will help to prevent overeating and making other poor food choices as the ball drops. Additionally, this keeps you from drinking on an empty stomach, which can really mess with your blood sugar levels.
  • Opt for water or diet pops when mixing liquors to drink on New Year's Eve. These will do a much better job of maintaining your blood sugar levels than sugar-filled mixers.2
  • Between drinks, rehydrate with a glass of water or another non-alcoholic beverage.

Whenever you're drinking, it's always best to keep your diabetes identification bracelet or necklace on hand. This way, if anything goes wrong, you're prepared. Before heading out to celebrate the start of 2014, you will want to make sure that your blood glucose is under control.3 If you test your levels and something seems off, it may be better to stick to sparkling grape juice instead.

What to watch for
Even if you've monitored your drinking properly (no more than two drinks daily for men and one for women is recommended4), you may experience negative effects on your diabetes due to consumption. Key symptoms to watch for include sleepiness, disorientation and dizziness. These may all be signs that your blood sugar levels are too low. The difficulty comes into play with the fact that signs of low glucose are similar to drunkenness, which is why its always best to stay on the safe side and not drink any more than is recommended.

Before December 31 arrives, contact Medex Supply to purchase your diabetic supplies for 2014. The online medical supply store provides individuals and health care professionals with everything from infusion sets to insulin syringes, in additional to an array of other medical supplies.

1 WebMD, "Diabetes and alcohol" May 27, 2013
2 Health magazine, "Type 2 diabetes and alcohol: Proceed with caution" April 10, 2008
3 American Diabetes Association, "Food & fitness: Alcohol" November 11, 2013
4 Mayo Clinic, "Alcohol and diabetes: drinking safely" December 9, 2011

Tiny Tim’s Ailment

"Will the child die?" Ebeneezer Scrooge asked of Tim Cratchit in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Since the book was published in 1843, readers have asked a different question: "What is Tiny Tim dying of?" The character was based on the author’s own ailing nephew, Henry Burnett, Jr., but it is not clear that the fictional child had similar symptoms, let alone the same disease. It’s possible that Dickens was trying to describe an ailing child without having a specific condition in mind, but the symptoms described are consistent with particular diseases common among poor children in Victorian England.

What is known about Tiny Tim’s illness:

  • It was treatable in Victorian England
  • Treatment required financial resources
  • It would have been fatal left untreated
  • It stunted his growth
  • It affected his ability to walk unaided.
    • On this basis, several theories have been advanced as to what Tim had. The most common is a kidney disease called renal tubular acidosis. In healthy people, acid in the body is filtered out of the blood by tubes in the kidneys and passed with urine. When this process is interrupted, renal tubular acidosis results in too much acid in the blood. This can lead to inhibited growth, kidney stones, and bone disease—all symptoms Tiny Tim exhibited in the book—and left untreated, results in chronic kidney disease and possibly total failure, which can be fatal. Treatment with citrus and sodium bicarbonate was known and available in the mid-19th century.

      Another possibility is rickets, or vitamin D deficiency. Rickets is rare in the United States nowadays because of fortified milk, but, like other forms of malnutrition, was common among the Victorian poor. Symptoms include skeletal deformity, stunted growth, weakness, muscle spasms, and general sickliness. People with rickets are also particularly prone to tuberculosis, which is epidemic in times and places where sanitation is poor and also fits Tiny Tim’s symptoms.

Alcohol And Health

People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol are actually healthier than the general population, with better cardiovascular function and a lower risk of death than teetotalers. Now researchers can add immune system benefits to that list. According to researchers at from Oregon Health & Science University, alcohol—in moderation—can help fight off infection.

"It seems that some of the benefits that we know of from moderate drinking might be related in some way to our immune system being boosted by that alcohol consumption," Kathy Grant, Ph. D., the senior author on the paper, said in a statement. While the research showed that heavy drinkers had poorer immune function than non-drinkers, immunity to infection was actually enhanced in the moderate-drinking group.

This ties in with observational evidence of the benefits of alcohol. People have long fought colds with Bourbon and brandy, and a component of red wine, called reservatrol, has been found to have beneficial effects on heart health. Reservatrol is an antioxidant, meaning it helps slow the decay of cells and tissue within the body that is responsible, at least in part, for most of the major diseases that primarily affect older people. In addition, alcohol is a blood-thinner, preventing clotting that can lead to stroke. It also helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. All these effects, researchers have found, are due to the alcohol itself, regardless of other lifestyle factors, and are consistent across drinkers.

In fat, a nutrition guide developed by Harvard University researchers recommends moderate alcohol consumption except for people who are specifically likely to be harmed by it or who have had or are prone to problems with substance abuse. Diseases that have been found to be reduced in drinkers include duodenal ulcer, gallstones, kidney stones, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, dementia, type 2 diabetes, hearing loss, and angina pectoris. Furthermore, the ability of alcohol to reduce feelings of stress mean less depression and stress-related physical problems.

Learn to recognize the signs of asthma

There are a variety of symptoms that asthma sufferers may be faced with, depending on the types of triggers they experience. The most common signs include wheezing, shortness of breath and chest discomfort.1 However, before the condition has been diagnosed, there are some issues to watch out for, including:

  • Feeling weak or tired while working out
  • Tiredness leading to bouts of irritability
  • Cold-like symptoms, such as coughing, nasal congestion or a sore throat
  • Difficulty sleeping at night

Some of the most recognizable signs of an asthma attack can include coughing that doesn't stop and rapid breathing. However, a few lesser known signs one might experience are:

  • Blue lips or fingernails, due to lack of oxygen
  • Retractions, or tightened chest and neck muscles
  • Anxious or panicky feelings
  • A pale and sweaty face

Patients should see a doctor or head to the emergency room if their symptoms worsen severely. When no improvement is seen after treatment with a quick-relief inhaler, asthma sufferers may require medical attention.2 Parents and family members of asthma patients should be aware of signs and symptoms so that they recognize when something is wrong.

Medex Supply sells asthma management supplies that can help treat an attack at home or on the go.

1 WebMD, "Asthma symptoms" May 13, 2012
2  Mayo Clinic, "Asthma: Symptoms" May 26, 2012