Current News - Science & Technology - Health & Disease

Average Indian Salt Consumption Exceeds Recommended Limit

According to a recently study, Indians consume an average of 8 grams of salt per day, which is more than the recommended daily limit of 5 grams.

Key Points

  • Salt Intake Higher Than Recommended: Indians consume more salt than recommended, according to a study published in the journal Nature Portfolio.
  • Men, employed individuals, tobacco users, obese individuals, and those with raised blood pressure had a higher salt intake than women, unemployed individuals, non-tobacco users, non-obese individuals, and people with normal blood pressure.
  • Health Risks of High Salt Intake: High salt intake can increase the risk of hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Need for Reduction in Salt Intake: A reduction in salt intake could help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Policy interventions in food labeling and regulation of sodium levels in commercially prepared food could help to reduce salt intake.

Global Hypertension Treatment Gap Revealed

On 19th September, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its inaugural report on the global impact of hypertension, highlighting that approximately 80% of individuals with high blood pressure do not receive adequate treatment.

Key Points

  • Hypertension's Deadly Toll in India: A paper from the South-East Asia region identifies hypertension as India's leading risk factor for death and disability.
  • During 2016–2020, less than a quarter of hypertensive patients in India had their blood pressure under control, although there have been improvements.
  • Rising Prevalence in India: The 2019–2020 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) reports a hypertension prevalence of 24% in men and 21% in women, up from 19% and 17% in the previous round (2015–16).
  • India's India Hypertension Control Initiative is recognized for its positive impact within the primary healthcare system.
  • Global Hypertension Epidemic: WHO reveals that one in three adults worldwide suffers from hypertension, a dangerous condition linked to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage, and other health issues.
  • Between 1990 and 2019, the number of individuals with hypertension doubled to 1.3 billion, with nearly half unaware of their condition.
  • Low and Middle-Income Countries Most Affected: Over three-quarters of adults with hypertension reside in low- and middle-income nations, underscoring the global health disparities associated with this condition.
  • Combatting Hypertension: The WHO advocates lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthier diet, quitting tobacco, and increasing physical activity to lower blood pressure.
  • Medications may also be necessary for effective hypertension management and complication prevention.
  • Cost-Effective Intervention: WHO emphasizes that preventing, detecting, and managing hypertension represent cost-effective healthcare interventions.
  • The economic benefits of improved hypertension treatment programs far outweigh the costs by an estimated 18 to 1.

Nipah Virus Resurfaces in Kerala

Recently, the Nipah virus has re-emerged in Kerala, with two deaths reported in Kozhikode district.

  • Union Health Minister confirmed the cause of death as the Nipah virus and revealed that four suspected cases are under surveillance, with samples sent for testing at the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

Key Points

  • Surveillance and Response: The central government has sent experts to aid the state government in monitoring and reducing response times. Government medical colleges in Kerala have received guidelines and protective kits to manage the situation.
  • Previous Incidents: Nipah virus deaths were previously reported in Kozhikode district in 2018 and 2021.
  • State Government Response: Chief Minister of Kerela expressed concern over the deaths and issued an alert. Close contacts of the deceased are under treatment, and precautionary measures are in place.

Nipah Virus

  • Origin: The Nipah virus, which belongs to the group of zoonotic viruses, was first discovered in 1999 following an outbreak of disease in pigs and people in Singapore and Malaysia.
  • Transmission: The infection is generally transmitted through fruit bats but can also be spread through pigs and animals. It can also be spread through contaminated food.
  • Control Measures: The state government has set up a control room in Kozhikode and advised mask usage as a precautionary measure.

FDA Approves Pfizer Vaccine to Protect Newborns from Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

On 21st August, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval for the first vaccine designed to safeguard newborns from Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

Key Points:

  • Protection for Newborns: Pfizer's newly approved vaccine is intended to safeguard newborns by administering it to mothers during the latter stages of pregnancy.
  • This approach ensures protection for infants during their critical first six months of life.
  • Trial Results: Clinical trials involving over 7,000 pregnant individuals and their infants demonstrated that the vaccine significantly reduced the likelihood of infants requiring medical attention and also decreased instances of infant hospitalization.
  • Understanding RSV: Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) primarily affects the lungs and respiratory tract, posing a significant risk to children and the elderly.
  • It often leads to numerous hospitalizations, with the most severe impact typically occurring during the winter months.
  • The recent RSV season was unusually long and severe, straining children's hospitals.
  • FDA Director's Statement: The vaccine provides an essential option for healthcare providers and expectant individuals to protect infants from this potentially life-threatening disease.
  • Multiple RSV Vaccines: Various vaccines are available to protect individuals from RSV.
  • The recently approved antibody shot is specifically designed to safeguard infants after birth from the virus.
  • Additionally, there are new vaccines accessible for individuals aged 60 and older.

WHO South-East Asia Region Adopts Gandhinagar Declaration

On 17th august, 2023, the WHO South-East Asia Region, which bears the weight of nearly half of the global TB cases and fatalities, has pledged to intensify its efforts to eliminate tuberculosis by 2030.

Key Points:

  • Challenging TB in the Region: Member countries in the region adopted the Gandhinagar Declaration during a ministerial meeting on “Sustain, Accelerate, and Innovate to end TB in the South-East Asia Region.”
  • High-Level Multisectoral Commissions: The declaration calls for the establishment of high-level multisectoral commissions in each country, reporting to the highest political level.
  • These commissions aim to foster collaboration among various stakeholders and monitor the progress toward ending TB and other priority diseases.
  • They can also contribute to building robust health systems and promoting universal health coverage and health security.
  • Equitable TB Services: The declaration highlights the importance of adopting and utilizing science and technology for equitable and human rights-based TB services that are accessible to all, regardless of social, cultural, or demographic differences. An integrated primary health care approach is encouraged.
  • Resource Allocation: The declaration underscores the allocation of necessary resources to meet TB service coverage targets and address social determinants that have a multi-disease impact.
  • Continued Priority: The declaration calls on WHO to maintain TB as a flagship priority program in the coming years and provide leadership and technical support to countries for sustained and accelerated approaches, backed by research and innovation.

India and WHO Collaborate to Launch Global Initiative on Digital Health

India, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), is set to introduce the Global Initiative on Digital Health during the ongoing G-20 summit in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, on August 19, 2023.

Key Points

  • Innovative Global Initiative: This unprecedented global initiative focuses on fostering data convergence, streamlining health platform interfaces, and promoting investments in the digital health realm on a global scale.
  • Its core objective is to facilitate data integration, harmonize health platforms' interfaces, and encourage investments in the burgeoning digital health sector worldwide.
  • Critical Interim Medical Countermeasure: The G-20 summit is also dedicated to implementing an interim Medical Countermeasure (MCM) strategy.
  • This approach adopts a "network of networks" framework to effectively respond to health emergencies before they escalate.
  • Digital Health Platform Features: The global digital platform will encompass various key features, including an investment tracker.
  • It will also incorporate an "ask tracker" to identify specific needs for products and services, along with a repository of existing digital health platforms.
  • Expanding Agendas: Alongside digital health, the summit aims to establish a Climate and Health Initiative (CHI) in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank.
  • Focus on Traditional Medicine: WHO, in collaboration with India's Ministry of Ayush, will convene the Traditional Medicine Global Summit during the G-20 event on August 17 and 18.
  • This summit explores the pivotal role of traditional, complementary, and integrative medicine in addressing pressing health challenges and driving global health progress.

Microplastics Detected in Human Hearts for the First Time

Recently, a startling discovery have been made where microplastics, a growing menace on Earth due to plastic pollution, have now been identified in the human heart tissue for the first time.

Key Points

  • Microplastics Invade Human Hearts: Microplastics, minuscule plastic particles, have been detected in the human heart tissue for the very first time.
  • Widespread Microplastic Presence: The study unveiled that the examined tissue samples contained numerous individual microplastic particles.
  • These microplastics were identified in most of the tissue samples, indicating their pervasive presence.
  • Intrusion into Blood Samples: Notably, plastic fragments were identified not only in heart tissue but also in blood samples taken from the patients.
  • Polyethylene terephthalate and polyvinyl chloride, commonly known as PET and PVC plastics, were among the detected microplastic types.
  • Alarming Implications for Human Health: The research team expressed deep concern over the detection of microplastics in living human bodies.
  • Indirect Health Impact of Microplastics: Microplastics, smaller than 5 millimeters, can enter the human body through various passages, including the mouth and nose.
  • These particles have been linked indirectly to health issues like obesity, diabetes, and chronic liver disease due to their influence on the gastrointestinal tract.

New Variant Eris (EG.5.1) Emerging in UK Raises Covid Cases

A new Covid variant, EG.5.1 or Eris, of the Omicron lineage has been identified in the UK and is contributing to an increase in Covid cases, particularly among the elderly population.

Key Points:

  • Emergence of Eris Variant: The Eris variant (EG.5.1), a member of the Omicron lineage, has surfaced in the UK and is causing a rise in Covid cases, notably among the elderly.
  • Influence on Cases: Currently, 1 out of every 10 Covid cases in the UK can be attributed to the Eris variant, which is associated with an increase in hospitalization rates, particularly among older individuals.
  • Not a Variant of Concern: Although Eris is leading to a surge in cases, it has not yet been classified as a variant of concern by health authorities.
  • Faster Spread: Eris is characterized by its rapid transmission rate, spreading more quickly than the original Covid-19 virus.
  • Severity and Lethality: Experts stress that there is no evidence suggesting that EG.5.1 is more lethal than previous strains.
  • Reason for Case Increase: The rise in cases may be attributed to waning immunity from previous infections or vaccinations, emphasizing the importance of booster shots to enhance defense against the virus.
  • Symptoms of Eris Variant: Similar to previous variants, Eris presents with common Covid symptoms, including running nose, sneezing, cough, fever, and fatigue (mild or severe depending on the individual's constitution).
  • Consistent Preventive Measures: While the emergence of new variants requires vigilance, the treatment and preventive measures remain consistent.
  • Unvaccinated individuals should prioritize getting vaccinated, and booster shots should be administered as recommended.
  • Isolation and testing for symptomatic individuals are essential to control transmission.
  • Impact on Schools: With the resumption of full-scale school activities, the potential for increased cases exists; however, the connection between this wave and hospitalization rates among the younger population remains uncertain.

WHO Adds Polypills to Essential Medicines List for Cardiovascular Diseases

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has added three fixed-dose combinations of cardiovascular medicines, or polypills, to its revised Model Lists of Essential Medicines (EML) for 2023.

Key Points:

  • Inclusion of Polypills: The polypills are intended for use in both primary and secondary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases.
  • The decision was based on evidence from large randomized-controlled trials showing that the use of polypills is associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular events, including fatal and non-fatal myocardial infarction and stroke.
  • Indian Polycap Study: One of the polypills included in the EML is Polycap, manufactured by Cadila in India.
  • Low-cost Public Health Intervention: The polypill is an affordable and straightforward treatment that can be administered with minimal monitoring to a majority of people, effectively preventing millions of cardiovascular events and deaths each year.
  • By improving medication adherence and reducing the need for hospitalizations, the polypill saves costs and offers significant benefits in public health interventions.

Donanemab Offers Hope in Alzheimer's Treatment

A new drug called Donanemab has been hailed as a breakthrough in the world of health, providing hope for people suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Key Points:

  • Slowing Cognitive Decline: Donanemab, developed by Eli Lilly, has shown significant promise in slowing cognitive and functional decline in patients with early-stage Alzheimer's disease.
  • Targeting Amyloid Protein: The drug is a monoclonal antibody that targets amyloid, a sticky protein that damages neurons in the brains of people with dementia.
  • Positive Clinical Trial Results: In a Phase 3 clinical trial involving 1,736 patients with early symptomatic Alzheimer's disease, nearly half of the participants showed no decline in disease severity at one year, and 72% completed treatment by 18 months.
  • Slowing Cognitive Decline by 35%: The trial results were compelling, showing that Donanemab slows cognitive decline by 35% compared to the placebo.
  • Hope for Alzheimer's Patients: The development of Donanemab offers hope for Alzheimer's patients and their families, potentially transforming the treatment landscape for this debilitating brain disorder.
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