Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

First Sexually Transmitted Zika Virus Case Confirmed in Texas -

First Sexually Transmitted Zika Virus Case Confirmed in Texas - 

Health officials confirmed that a man in Texas contracted the Zika virus through sexual transmission in the first case the U.S. has seen on its shores since the virus recently began to sweep across continents at an alarming rate, according to an announcement Tuesday.

Previously, the Zika virus had been spread predominantly via mosquito bites, although researchers had been studying the possibility that it could be spread through sexual intercourse.

The Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed the U.S. man’s condition after it received a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that the man had been infected with the virus after engaging in sexual conduct with a person who had just returned from a country where the Zika virus was present, according to the AP. There are currently no reports of the Zika virus being spread via mosquito bites in Dallas or elsewhere in the U.S.

Previously, there had been reports that the Zika virus had been discovered in a man’s semen in Tahiti, and there had also been an earlier report that a researcher from Colorado who had contracted the virus overseas may have spread it to his wife in 2008, the AP noted.

Brazil, especially, has been severely struck by the Zika virus and its links to to cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains and skulls, according to the BBC. Since October 2015, more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly have been diagnosed in Brazil alone with likely links to the pandemic spread of the Zika virus.

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Seafood could reduce Alzheimer's risk - older adults who eat at least one portion a week -

Seafood could reduce Alzheimer's risk - older adults who eat at least one portion a week -  

Seafood may play a role in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease , research reveals.

A new study found older adults with a particular risk gene for the disease who ate at least one seafood serving a week showed fewer signs of Alzheimer’s-related brain changes.

But experts were cautious about the findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association .

Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This study links moderate seafood consumption with lower levels of Alzheimer’s-related brain changes in elderly people who carry a risk gene for the disease.

“But we must be careful when drawing conclusions about the wider population.”

Read more: Has the elixir of youth been found in a Japanese herbal remedy?

“But we must be careful when drawing conclusions about the wider population.”

She added: “The omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish are an important part of a balanced diet, and previous studies suggest they could play an important role in keeping the brain healthy.

“Current research is underway to investigate the benefits of a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids in those at risk of memory and thinking problems.

“But at this time there is no evidence to suggest fish oil supplements could prevent dementia.

“While higher seafood consumption is linked to greater levels of mercury in the brain, it is encouraging to see that this did not appear to be associated with Alzheimer’s changes in the brain in this study.”

She added: “Dementia risk is a complex mix of age, genetics and lifestyle factors.

“The best current evidence suggests that what’s good for your heart is good for your head and that getting plenty of exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check could help reduce dementia risk.”


Cannabis Vagina Suppositories inserted to 'ease pain' -

Cannabis Vagina Suppositories inserted to 'ease pain' - 

In the latest battle in the war against agonising period pains, suppositories filled with cannabis designed to be inserted into the vagina have hit the US market.

Many women experience period pain - or dysmenorrhoea - as the muscular wall of the womb contracts and presses against neighbouring blood vessels. This cuts off the blood supply to the womb, and causes pain, according to the NHS. 

Similar in shape to tampons, the suppositories are said to deliver the pain-relieving properties of cannabis without making users feel high.

Sold in packs of four for $44 (£30), each FORIA Relief capsule contains 60mg of THC and 10mg of cannabidiol, as well as cocoa butter. 

“Our intention is to share the powerful medicinal properties of this plant while utilizing modern extraction techniques to standardize purity and potency, thereby ensuring a safe and accessible experience for all women,” the FORIA website reads.

The cannabis treatment – which is made using plants grown outdoors in Northern California – interacts with the nerve endings around the uterus, cervix and the ovaries and also blocks mechanisms which cause inflammation.

But does it work? A reviewer for the website Broadly wrote that: “Within 20 minutes, my cramps totally disappeared.”  

She added that while other pain relief methods wore off, “one Foria suppository did its job well into my evening.”

Foria is currently only available in US states where cannabis is legal, including California and Colorado. 

However, women may be put off by the fact that the product is not yet evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration which regulates medications and is responsible for protecting public health.

Discussing her concerns about such a product, Dr Helen Webberley, of the Oxford Online Pharmacy, told the Huffington Post that all medicines in the US must be passed by the FDA. 

“This capsule has not even been studied yet and it hasn't been passed by the FDA. The assumption is that, as cannabis can cause muscle relaxation, it may help to ease period pains.”

“I would be very worried about women using this product before it has been fully evaluated,” she said. 

Dr Webberley's concerns come after women were warned against using "herbal detox pearls" sold by a separate firm, which are inserted in the vagina. The product is marketed as a treatment for endometriosis, ovarian cysts and thrush.

However, Dr Jen Gunter, a US gynaeologist urged women in a blog post not to use the pearls and said they could cause toxic shock syndrome - a potentially fatal condition. 

Tamieka Atkinson, the owner of Embrace Pangaea, told The Independent at the time that the Embrace Pangae balls are "holistic".

"Our product is not a drug by any means, and we make no claims of curing, diagnosing, or treating disease," she said. 


Shocking Study — “BPA-free” Plastics No Safer than BPA, Causing a Slew of Debilitating Side Effects -

Shocking Study — “BPA-free” Plastics No Safer than BPA, Causing a Slew of Debilitating Side Effects - 

In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging. Manufacturers had already dropped the use of BPA after studies linked it to early puberty and a rise in breast and prostate cancers.

“BPA-free” became all the rage, but even in 2014, there were hints that BPA alternatives were not as safe as presumed. A new study by UCLA researchers is adding to the evidence that BPS—the most common alternative—is most likely no safer than BPA.

“Our findings are frightening and important,” said senior author Nancy Wayne. “Consider it the aquatic version of the canary in the coal mine.“
The study, published in the journal Endocrinology, was “the first to examine the effects of BPA and BPS on key brain cells and genes that control the growth and function of organs involved in reproduction.”

In controlled experiments on zebrafish, both chemicals sped up embryonic development, which led to the fish equivalent of premature birth. The effect was observed even at low levels of BPA or BPS equivalent to polluted river water. Zebrafish are commonly used to study the impact of plastic additives because their transparent embryos allow direct observation of cell growth.

“Exposure to low levels of BPA had a significant impact on the embryos’ development of brain cells that control reproduction, and the genes that control reproduction later in life,” said Wayne. “We saw many of these same effects with BPS found in BPA-free products. BPS is not harmless.”

The researchers also discovered that both BPA and BPS acted through an estrogen system and through a thyroid hormone system.

Wayne told CNN: “Because of thyroid hormone’s important influence on brain development during gestation, our work holds important implications for general embryonic and fetal development, including in humans.”

Over the past 20 years, the U.S. has seen a rise in premature births and early onset of puberty. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including BPA and now BPS, are believed to be contributing to these phenomena.

The safety of BPS was beginning to be called into question in 2013 when Texas researchers found that tiny amounts could interfere with the normal functioning of cells. A study in Canada found that BPS caused a higher degree of abnormal effects on neural cell growth than BPA. A rat study found that normal doses of BPS caused heart arrhythmia.

“It’s all pointing in the same direction: BPS is not harmless,” said Wayne. “Consumers should be cautious about the assumption that ‘BPA-free’ means a product is safe.“

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