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Showing posts with label News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label News. Show all posts

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Now Fingerprint will help in finding out if someone has handled or ingested cocaine

In many countries, the use of hard drugs such as cocaine is illegal and punishable by law. When authorities suspect cocaine use, blood tests are the norm. However, these tests require time and a complex supply chain before obtaining the first results. Recently, a team of researchers has developed a device capable of distinguishing, on the basis of a fingerprint, whether the person concerned has ingested or simply handled cocaine, all in less than two minutes.

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A single fingerprint can discriminate if someone has recently touched or actually ingested cocaine. This test can be done in less than 2 minutes, much faster than blood tests, and could be used for forensic investigations or drug testing. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Melanie Bailey of the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and her colleagues have developed a technique that detects traces of cocaine, as well as signs of cocaine use, on human skin. In addition to cocaine, the test detects a molecule called benzoylecgonine, which is excreted through the skin after a person has ingested cocaine. The chemical is also present as an impurity in some samples of cocaine sold on the street.

Mass spectrometry to detect traces of benzoylecgonine

But a person who has ingested cocaine will continue to excrete the molecule through sweat, so even after washing their hands, it is detectable in a fingerprint.

Bailey and his team took fingerprints of people who had touched 99% purity cocaine samples as well as much less pure street samples. They took the fingerprints immediately after handling the medication and again after the participants washed their hands.

Diagram of the mass spectrometry (MS) detection process. Credits: M. Jang et al. 2020

They also took the fingerprints of 26 people at a drug addiction clinic, who said they had used cocaine in the past 24 hours. For the test, the individual presses his finger on a piece of specialized paper for 10 seconds. The paper is then analyzed using a technique called mass spectrometry, to detect the presence of cocaine or benzoylecgonine.

Accurate, fast and reliable detection

In the 86 samples, the fingerprinting technique was 95% accurate. The team found that detection was possible up to 48 hours after contact or ingestion. Unlike blood tests, which are the current standard for testing cocaine use, fingerprint analysis can be done in less than 2 minutes.

(Top): Results of cocaine detection in the fingerprint of three volunteers (D1, D2, D3) at different times during 48 hours after touching 2 mg of 99% pure cocaine (A). And at different times for 12 days after touching 0.5 mg and 2 mg of 99% pure cocaine, respectively (B). (Bottom): Results of cocaine detection in the fingerprints of three volunteers (D1, D2, D3) at different times after washing their hands, after touching 0.5 mg (A) and 2 mg (B) 99% pure cocaine. Credits: M. Jang et al. 2020

The technique is now commercially available and could be used for drug testing. It could also be used in the future as a forensic tool to determine the presence of cocaine in fingerprints left at a crime scene, although the method may require further validation by then, explains David Berry, independent toxicology consultant in the UK.


On the relevance of cocaine detection in a fingerprint

M. Jang, C. Costa, J. Bunch, B. Gibson, M. Ismail, V. Palitsin, R. Webb, M. Hudson & M. J. Bailey

Scientific Reports

volume 10, Article number: 1974 (2020)

Friday, 7 February 2020

Coronavirus 2019-nCoV: Healed people may not develop immunity to the virus

At a time when the coronavirus epidemic that started at the end of December in China continues to spread , virologists are trying to better understand the virus and its effects on infected people. In many cases of infections, people develop antibodies that give them immunity when the same antigen (bacteria, virus, etc.) appears again. However, in the case of the new 2019-nCoV coronavirus, virologists warn that infected people who have recovered may not have developed this immunity, as the antibodies do not persist long enough in the body.

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The new coronavirus 2019-nCoV identified at the end of December has officially infected more than 30,000 people worldwide. The epidemic began in the central city of Wuhan, China. The China Health Commission said on Sunday that of the infected, 475 people have fully recovered and currently 565 have died. The rest are still being processed.

Zhan Qingyuan, director of pneumonia prevention and treatment at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, said that even people who have recovered may not be immune to the virus. “For those patients who have been cured, there is a likelihood of relapse. The antibody will be generated; however, in some individuals, the antibody cannot persist long enough.”

Vaccines and antibodies: they confer immunity to infectious diseases

The largest family of coronaviruses includes the viruses that cause SARS, MERS and the common cold. Most coronaviruses cause mild to moderate upper respiratory infections, and many - including the new strain - spread to humans from animals. When a virus enters a human body, it tries to attach to and infect host cells.

Diagram explaining innate and adaptive immunities. In the case of adaptive immunity, when the antigen presents itself again, the antibodies recognize it and allow its direct destruction. Credits: Sรฉverine Zirah

In response, our immune system produces antibodies: proteins that recognize and kill viruses. This is how humans become immune to certain diseases. Children who have contracted chickenpox, for example, are immune to the disease as adults. Vaccines are another way to build immunity.

Immunity and coronavirus 2019-nCoV: antibodies may be too weak or not persistent enough

“With many infectious diseases, a person can develop immunity against a specific strain after exposure or infection. Often this person will not fall ill again after a subsequent exposure. Regarding this specific strain of coronavirus, scientists are working to answer this question,” explains Amira Roess, professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University.

Doctors and virologists do not yet know enough about Wuhan coronavirus to know if humans develop full immunity after contracting the disease. According to Zhan, doctors aren't sure if the antibodies the patients develop are strong enough or durable enough to keep them from getting the disease again. Viruses can also mutate quickly, so immunity to one strain does not guarantee immunity to another.

Video of the intervention of virologist Zhan Qingyuan:

Monday, 3 February 2020

New study estimates more than 75,000 people in Wuhan infected with coronavirus

Since its emergence in December 2019, the 2019-nCoV coronavirus epidemic has infected just over 9,500 people in China, including around 6,000 people in Hubei province, according to official reports. However, a new study estimates that the cases of people infected in Wuhan could actually amount to more than 75,000. A number which, if confirmed, means that the previously announced death rate would be much lower than expected.

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"We estimate that 75,815 people were infected in Wuhan as of January 25, 2020," reports a team led by Gabriel Leung of the University of Hong Kong in the journal The Lancet . As of January 31, the Chinese government has declared that the number of confirmed cases has exceeded 9,700 for the whole of China, including 213 deaths.

For Hubei province - including Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China - the official figure was nearly 6,000 confirmed cases and just over 200 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that the epidemic was a global health emergency, but said it did not recommend restrictions on international trade or travel.

An increase in cases due to incubation and screening times

"The apparent discrepancy between our modeled estimates of infections at 2019-nCoV and the actual number of confirmed cases in Wuhan could be due to several factors," says Leung. A time lag between infection and onset of symptoms, delays in medical treatment of infected people, and the time it takes to confirm cases with laboratory tests "could all affect the recording and listing of cases".

A) Cumulative number of confirmed cases infected with the new coronavirus 2019 as of January 28, 2020 in Wuhan, in mainland China and outside mainland China. (B) The main outgoing air and rail transport routes from Wuhan during chunyun 2019. The darker and thicker edges represent a larger number of passengers. Outbound international air travel (in yellow) accounted for 13.5% of all outbound air travel, and the top 40 domestic air routes (in red) accounted for 81%. The islands of the South China Sea are not shown. Credits: Joseph T Wu et al. 2020

The study found that each person who contracted the virus, which emerged in December, could have infected an average of two to three people, and that the epidemic had doubled in size every 6.4 days. If the virus spreads so quickly nationwide, "it is possible that epidemics are already developing in several major Chinese cities, with a lag of one to two weeks behind Wuhan" says Joseph Wu, professor at the University from Hong Kong.

A potentially lower mortality rate than previously estimated

If the new case estimate is correct, it would mean that the 2019-nCoV virus death rate is significantly lower than the preliminary figures suggested, with far less than one percent of cases found to be fatal.

But a low death rate can still lead to a large number of deaths if the virus spreads widely. Seasonal flu, for example, kills between 290,000 and 650,000 people a year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the United States, the death rate among people infected with the flu is 0.13%, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The 2002/03 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic started in Guangdong province and killed 774 people out of a total of 8096 infected people.

The 2012 MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic killed 858 of the 2,494 people infected. The respective mortality rates of patients with SARS and MERS were 9.5 and 34.5%, much higher than for the new coronavirus.


Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study

Prof Joseph T Wu, Kathy Leung, Prof Gabriel M Leung, 

Published:January 31, 2020


Thursday, 30 January 2020

Cardiac muscles cultivated in the laboratory were transplanted in humans for the first time

Researchers from the University of Osaka, Japan, have announced that they have successfully performed the very first transplant of heart muscles grown in the laboratory. Rather than replacing the entire heart of their patient, the scientists placed biodegradable leaves containing heart muscle cells on the damaged areas of the heart. If the rest of this procedure goes as planned, it could possibly eliminate the need for full heart transplants for many cases.

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To grow heart muscle cells in the laboratory, the team used the patient's induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). These are stem cells that researchers create on the basis of a sample of cells (often from the skin or blood) and by reprogramming them in their embryonic pluripotent state.

At this point, they can inspire iSP cells to become “the type of cell they want”. In the case of this Japanese study, the researchers created heart muscle cells from iSP cells before placing them on thin biodegradable leaves.

The patient who received the transplant has ischemic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart has trouble pumping blood because the muscles are not getting enough.

Regenerate heart cells to avoid heart transplant

In severe cases, this condition may require a heart transplant. And that's where the Osaka University team comes in. The researchers believe that the muscle cells placed on the leaf, secreting a protein, can help regenerate blood vessels, thereby improving the patient's heart function. Sufficient regeneration to avoid heart transplantation.

Yoshiki Sawa, a professor in the cardiovascular surgery unit at Osaka University, held a press conference on Monday in Suita (Osaka) concerning the very first transplantation of heart muscle cells created from induced pluripotent stem cells. Credits: KYODO

The researchers plan to monitor the patient for a year, and they hope to perform the same procedure on nine other people with the same disease over the next three years.

If clinical trials go ahead as planned, the procedure could become an essential alternative to heart transplants. Not only is it much easier to get iPS cells than finding an appropriate donor heart, but a recipient's immune system is also more likely to tolerate stem cells rather than a new organ.

"I hope that (stem cell transplant) will become medical technology that will save as many people as possible, because I have met many patients that I have not been able to save," researcher Yoshiki sawa told The Japan Times. at the press conference.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

WHO declares Ebola outbreak a global health emergency

A Congolese health worker vaccinating a man in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. | Reuters

Eleven months after the first Ebola virus infections in Congo, the WHO decided on Wednesday to classify the epidemic as a global emergency, in order to draw the attention of the international community to the alarming situation, which could reach Many countries.

Five years after the terrible epidemic in West Africa, which had killed more than 11,000 people until 2016, the Ebola virus strikes again in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with more than 2,500 people infected since August 2018, including 1650 who have died. This new epidemic prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare it a "global health emergency".

This classification is not intended to force governments to do more, but to launch a global alert to make the problem more visible. It must be declared only in exceptional situations where the risk of spread may affect other countries and become an international problem. However, the WHO does not want it to generate a reaction that could affect the economy and efforts of the DRC.

" It's always a regional emergency and not a global threat, " says Robert Steffen, chairman of the emergency committee responsible for classifying the epidemic as a global health emergency. " States must not use this emergency as a pretext to impose restrictions on trade or travel, which would have a negative impact on the reaction, life and livelihoods of the inhabitants of the region ".

His committee had previously made three requests to WHO to classify the epidemic as a global emergency. It is only after the diagnosis of the first case of infection on July 14 in Goma, a border town with Rwanda of almost two million inhabitants and where more than 15'000 people cross each day to pass a country to country, as well as the spread of the epidemic more than 500 km from the epicenter of the infection (city of Beni), which the UN institution decided to take into account their demand, admitting also the failure of containment measures.

The DRC Ministry of Health has accepted the WHO statement, but wonders if it would not have been influenced by individuals who would seek more humanitarian funds by exploiting the epidemic. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had also said that the funds they could raise (54 million) are largely insufficient, and that this will mean that the epidemic will continue for a very long time.

The concern in the city of Goma is not only due to its population and its common border with Rwanda, but also to its international airport, which could favor the appearance of infections in a country far from the DRC. Last month, a five-year-old child and his grandmother died in Uganda after attending a funeral in the DRC for a family member who died for the same reason.

Crime in the Goma and Beni regions is also worrying health officials. More than 198 attacks in medical facilities as well as health workers (including seven who were murdered) have been registered since January. Poorly maintained infrastructure, political violence and the public's loss of confidence in public health officials in the country do little to improve the situation.

Many people applaud the global health emergency declaration. "There is a significant risk of increasing the number or spread to new places. [...] This may be the most complicated epidemic the world has ever faced, but the response in the DRC remains overwhelmed and underfunded, "says the head of the Wellcome Trust Josie Golding.

A vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical Merck has already been distributed to more than 161,000 people in the country, but it is possible that reserves are running out quickly. The health minister has rejected the use of another vaccine still in experimental phase produced by Johnson & Johnson. WHO would like to change his mind, and reassure him on the positive results obtained until today during the tests.

Adam Kamradt-Scott, Global Health Security Specialist at the University of Sydney says the DRC should learn from the epidemic in West Africa.

" It's an epidemic that's happening in a conflict zone. The only way you can help cope with the epidemic is to resolve the conflict, "partly referring to the various acts of violence on health officials in the region, part of which is due to lack of trust from the people to the government.


Friday, 19 July 2019

The genes for developing cephalopod eyes are the same as those forming our legs

The squid totam, the species involved in the study. | Laptew Productions

Scientists presented the results of evolutionary analysis of genes responsible for eye formation in cephalopods. They have shown that they are present in humans, but with a totally different role.

Cephalopods are a class of molluscs that includes marine animals with tentacles such as octopus, squid or cuttlefish. Compared to vertebrates, they have evolved closely. Some of their organs such as the brain or the eyes have developed with such complexity that many scientists are still trying to understand the mechanisms behind this unique evolutionary mystery in these invertebrates.

A team of biologists presented at a meeting, the results of their study on the eyes of cephalopods, which also have a lens whose role is to do the tuning (accommodation), as in humans. This allows them to benefit from excellent vision.

The researchers worked on totam ( Doryteuthis pealeii ) squid embryos and examined which genes are responsible for the first stages of eye formation, and when and under what circumstances they activate or deactivate. After comparing with vertebrate genes, biologists have found that the genes involved in the early stages of lower limb formation are the same as those related to cephalopod eye development.

And yet the formation of these two parts of the body is not identical, and these genes play no role for the eyes of vertebrates, whose development takes place differently.

During lens formation in cephalopods, long membranes emerge to allow overlapping of eye cells and form the typical sphere of the lens, while in vertebrates, degraded cells are kept compacted by a specific protein.

The astonishment of the researchers was considerable during this discovery. To confirm this, they administered small squids of WNT, a well-known protein in developmental biology. The latter naturally stops certain processes of organ formation, including those involved in the formation of the lower limbs, by inhibiting the expression of these genes. They then found that the lens was no longer formed, proving that the genes involved in its formation are the same as those involved in the development of lower limbs in humans.

The group is continuing its research to discover other possible similarities between cephalopods and vertebrates. The next step is to understand the role of each of these genes in the formation of cephalopod eyes.


Monday, 15 July 2019

Contact lenses in the shower: a Britisher becomes blind

The daily shower is usually a relaxing time without risk for most people. But for contact lens wearers, it may be different. This is particularly the case for a 29-year-old British girl who regularly showered while keeping his lenses, until this practice causes the infection of his right eye, leaving him one-eyed, despite the treatments and operations performed thereafter.

Nick Humphreys, 29, of Shropshire, England, usually keeps his contact lenses in the shower, unaware that this practice can increase the risk of eye infections. In 2018, he contracted keratitis in Acanthamoeba , a rare parasitic infection of the cornea. " If I had known how dangerous it was to wear contact lenses in the shower, I would never have asked my doctor, " says Humphreys.

Contact lenses and water: a higher risk of eye infection

The Acanthamoeba is a unicellular amoeba commonly found in water, soil and air, according to the Control Center for Disease Prevention (CDC). Lentil wearers are at risk of contracting this infection if they adopt certain practices, such as cleaning lenses with tap water, swimming or showering while keeping their lenses.

Acanthamoeba observed under a microscope. It exists in two forms: active (left) and dormant (right). Credits: Wikimedia

This amoeba has a particular affinity for contact lens surfaces, which means that lenses can be " a vehicle for hosting and transmitting microorganisms to the eye, " write the authors of a 2010 article. on the subject published in the journal Journal of Optometry .

But when Humphreys started wearing lenses in 2013 to be able to play sports without glasses, he was not aware of this risk in the shower. He often took a shower with his contact lenses after a morning workout. " I did not think about it at the time. I was never told not to wear contact lenses in the shower. There is no warning on the packaging, and my opticians have never mentioned a risk.

From infectious keratitis to blindness

After being diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis in early 2018, eye drops were given to him for the infection, but a few months later, he suddenly became blind in the right eye. He was then prescribed a more powerful medicine, which had to be applied to his eyes every hour, even at night. Humphreys remained confined to his home and felt intense pain in his right eye.

"My eyes hurt too much and the only time I left was to go to the hospital ." He later underwent two operations of the right eye, the first to strengthen the tissues of the cornea and the second to protect the cornea with a tissue transplant from a fetal placenta. This procedure is known as amniotic membrane grafting. Although his infection is resolved, Humphreys remains blind in the right eye.

He should have a cornea transplant in August. This operation replaces damaged corneal tissue with healthy corneal tissue from a deceased donor. Humphreys is now working with the charity Fight for Sighth to raise awareness of the risks of showering or swimming with contact lenses. " It's crucial that people know that this is a reality and that it can happen because of something as simple as taking a shower, " concludes Humphreys.


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