Tag Archives: Avian influenza

Apocynum androsaemifolium

Botanical Name: Apocynum androsaemifolium
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Apocynum
Species: A. androsaemifolium
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales

Synonyms: Milkweed. Dogsbane. Fly-Trap.
Common Names: Fly-trap dogbane, Spreading dogbane,Bitter Root

Habitat: Apocynum androsaemifolium is native to North America.It grows in   open woodland, woodland edges etc, usually on drier soils
Description:
The genus Apocynum contains only four species, two of which Apocynum androsaemifolium and A. cannabinum, or Black Indian Hemp, resemble each other very closely, the roots being distinguished by the thick-walled stone cells, which in the former are found in an interrupted circle near the middle of the bark, and in the latter are absent.
A. a. ndrosaemifolium is a perennial herb, 5 or 6 feet in height, branching, and, in common with the other three members of the genus, yielding on incision a milky juice resembling indiarubber when dry.

The leaves are dark green above, paler and downy beneath, ovate, and from 2 to 3 inches long. The flowers are white, tinged with red, having five scales in the throat of the corolla which secrete a sweet liquid, attractive to flies. These scales are very sensitive, and when touched bend inward, imprisoning the insects…..click & see the pictures

The milky root is found in commerce in cylindrical, branched pieces, about a quarter of an inch thick, reddish or greyish brown outside, longitudinally wrinkled, and having a short fracture and small pith. There is scarcely any odour, and the taste is starchy, afterwards bitter and acrid.

Subspecies and varieties:
*Apocynum androsaemifolium subsp. androsaemifolium – E Canada, W United States
*Apocynum androsaemifolium var. griseum (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky – Ontario, British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan
*Apocynum androsaemifolium var. incanum A.DC. – widespread in Canada, United States, NE Mexico
*Apocynum androsaemifolium var. intermedium Woodson – Colorado
*Apocynum androsaemifolium subsp. pumilum (A.Gray) B.Boivin – British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, California, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada
*Apocynum androsaemifolium var. tomentellum (Greene) B.Boivin – British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada
*Apocynum androsaemifolium var. woodsonii B.Boivin – Alberta, British Columbia, Washington State, Wyoming, Nevada, Idaho

Parts Used for medicine: The dried rhizome, roots.

Constituents: The nature of the active principle is uncertain. A glucoside, Apocynamarin, was separated, but the activity is thought to be due not to the glucoside, but to an intensely bitter principle, Cymarin.
Medicinal Uses:
Apocynum androsaemifolium   is an unpleasantly bitter stimulant irritant herb that acts on the heart, respiratory and urinary systems, and also on the uterus. It was widely employed by the native North American Indians who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints including headaches, convulsions, earache, heart palpitations, colds, insanity and dizziness. It should be used with great caution, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner if taking this plant internally. The root contains cymarin, a cardioactive glycoside that is toxic to ruminants. The root is cardiotonic, cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic and expectorant. It has a powerful action in slowing the pulse and also has a very strong action on the vaso-motor system, it is rather an irritant to the mucous membranes though, so some people cannot tolerate it. The juice of the fresh root has been used in the treatment of syphilis. The sap of the plant has been applied externally to get rid of warts. The roots were boiled in water and the water drunk once a week in order to prevent conception. The green fruits were boiled and the decoction used in the treatment of heart and kidney problems and for the treatment of dropsy. This preparation can irritate the intestines and cause unpleasant side-effects. It is used as an alterative in rheumatism, syphilis and scrofula.

Other  Uses:The bark yields a good quality fibre that is used for making twine, bags, linen etc. It is inferior to A. cannabinum. The fibre is finer and stronger than cotton. It can be harvested after the leaves fall in the autumn but is probably at its best as the seed pods are forming. The plant yields a latex, which is a possible source of rubber. It is obtained by making incisions on the stem and resembles indiarubber when dry.

Known Hazards: The plant is poisonous, due to the cardiac glycosides it contains.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocynum_androsaemifolium
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/bitroo47.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Apocynum+androsaemifolium
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm

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Torticollis

 

Alternative Names : Wry neck; Loxia

DEFINITION:
Torticollis is a twisted neck in which the head is tipped to one side, while the chin is turned to the other.It is a stiff neck associated with muscle spasm, classically causing lateral flexion contracture of the cervical spine musculature. The muscles affected are principally those supplied by the spinal accessory nerve.

CLICK  &  SEE THE PICTURES

Symptoms:
•Limited range of motion of the head
•Headache
•Head tremor
•Neck pain
•Shoulder is higher on one side of the body
•Stiffness of neck muscles
•Swelling of the neck muscles (possibly present at birth)

Types of Torticollis:

Temporary Torticollis: This type of wry neck usually disappears after one or two days. It can be caused by:

*swollen lymph nodes
*an ear infection
*a cold
*an injury to the head and neck that causes swelling

Fixed Torticollis:  Fixed torticollis is also called acute torticollis or permanent torticollis. It is usually due to a problem with muscle or bone structure.

Muscular Torticollis:
This is the most common type of fixed torticollis. It is caused by scarring or tight muscles on one side of the neck

Klippel-Feil Syndrome:
This is a congenital form of wry neck. It occurs when the bones in an infant’s neck have formed incorrectly. Children born with this condition may have difficulty with hearing and vision.

Cervical Dystonia:
This rare disorder is sometimes referred to as spasmodic torticollis. It causes neck muscles to contract in spasms. If you have cervical dystonia, your head twists or turns painfully to one side. It may also tilt forward or backward. Cervical dystonia sometimes goes away without treatment. However, there is a risk of recurrence.

This type of wry neck  or Torticollis can happen to anyone. However, it is most commonly diagnosed in middle age. It affects more women than men.

CAUSES:
Torticollis  can be inherited. It can also develop in the womb. This may happen if the fetus’ head is in the wrong position. It can also be caused by damage to the muscles or blood supply to the neck.

Anyone can develop wry neck after a muscle or nervous system injury. However, most of the time, the cause of wry neck is not known. This is called idiopathic torticollis.

DIAGNOSIS:
Evaluation of a child with torticollis begins with history taking to determine circumstances surrounding birth and any possibility of trauma or associated symptoms. Physical examination reveals decreased rotation and bending to the side opposite from the affected muscle. Some say that congenital cases more often involve the right side, but there is not complete agreement about this in published studies. Evaluation should include a thorough neurologic examination, and the possibility of associated conditions such as developmental dysplasia of the hip and clubfoot should be examined. Radiographs of the cervical spine should be obtained to rule out obvious bony abnormality, and MRI should be considered if there is concern about structural problems or other conditions.

Evaluation by an ophthalmologist should be considered in children to ensure that the torticollis is not caused by vision problems (IV cranial nerve palsy, nystagmus-associated “null position,” etc.). Most cases in infants respond well to physical therapy. Other causes should be treated as noted above.

TREATMENT:
Common treatments  might involve a multi-phase process:

1.Low-impact exercise to increase strong form neck stability
2.Manipulation of the neck by a chiropractor, physical therapist, or D.O.†
3.Extended heat application.
4.Repetitive shiatsu massage.

†An Osteopathic Physician (D.O.) may choose to use Cranial techniques to properly position the occipital condyles – thereby relieving compression of cranial nerve XI in children with Torticollis. This is an example of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment.

Acquired torticollis:
Acquired torticollis occurs because of another problem and usually presents in previously normal children and adults…..

*A self-limiting spontaneously occurring form of torticollis with one or more painful neck muscles is by far the most common (‘stiff neck’) and will pass spontaneously in 1–4 weeks. Usually the sternocleidomastoid muscle or the trapezius muscle is involved. Sometimes draughts, colds or unusual postures are implicated; however in many cases no clear cause is found. These episodes are rarely seen by doctors other than a family physician.

*Trauma to the neck can cause atlantoaxial rotatory subluxation, in which the two vertebrae closest to the skull slide with respect to each other, tearing stabilizing ligaments; this condition is treated with traction to reduce the subluxation, followed by bracing or casting until the ligamentous injury heals.

*Tumors of the skull base (posterior fossa tumors) can compress the nerve supply to the neck and cause torticollis, and these problems must be treated surgically.

*Infections in the posterior pharynx can irritate the nerves supplying the neck muscles and cause torticollis, and these infections may be treated with antibiotics if they are not too severe, but could require surgical debridement in intractable cases.

*Ear infections and surgical removal of the adenoids can cause an entity known as Grisel’s syndrome, a subluxation of the upper cervical joints, mostly the atlantoaxial joint, due to inflammatory laxity of the ligaments caused by an infection. This bridge must either be broken through manipulation of the neck, or surgically resected.

*The use of certain drugs, such as antipsychotics, can cause torticollis.

*Antiemetics – Neuroleptic Class – Phenothiazines

There are many other rare causes of torticollis.

Spasmodic torticollis:
Torticollis with recurrent but transient contraction of the muscles of the neck and esp. of the sternocleidomastoid. “intermittent torticollis . “cervical dystonia”

TREATMENT: Botulinum toxin has been used to inhibit the spastic contractions of the affected muscles.

In animals:.CLICK & SEE
The condition can also occur in animals, usually as a result of an inner ear infection but sometimes as a result of an injury. It is seen largely in domestic rodents and rabbits, but may also appear in dogs and other different animals.

Possible ComplicationsComplications may include:

•Muscle swelling due to constant tension
•Neurological symptoms due to compressed nerve roots

Prognosis:
The condition may be easier to correct in infants and children. If the condition becomes chronic, numbness and tingling may develop as nerve roots become compressed in the neck.

The muscle itself may become large (hypertrophic) due to constant stimulation and exercise.

Botulinum toxin injections often provide substantial relief.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torticollis
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000749.htm
http://www.umm.edu/imagepages/19090.htm

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sternocleidomastoideus.png

http://www.healthline.com/health/torticollis#Causes2

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New Accurate Diagnostic Test for Swine Flu

Scientists have come up with a fast and cost-effective way to detect the emerging H1N1 swine-derived influenza A virus in human clinical   samples using standard lab equipment.

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An article describing the timely and broadly applicable molecular technique, published online ahead of print in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, says that the molecular strategy is based on proven and widely used Real-Time, Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) technology.

The authors of the report say that the new molecular probe improves on the existing PCR assay used to diagnose seasonal influenza and enables detection of both the seasonal and H1N1 influenza A viruses in the same patient sample using a simple test protocol.

In positive samples this is followed by the addition of two probes that are able to discriminate between the seasonal and swine H1N1 viruses to yield a definitive diagnosis.

Early, accurate identification of infected individuals will expedite appropriate antiviral therapy and enhance control and containment efforts.

The new molecular test specifically amplifies and characterizes the viral genetic material, enabling rapid detection of new viral strains as they evolve.

The researchers say that using these genetic sequence data and making minor alterations to the PCR primers used in the assay, the test could be easily modified to detect newly emerging viral variants, including avian influenza strains.

“Early recognition of new influenza strains is vitally important for implementing effective control measures to limit spread. This cost-effective, comprehensive, and rapid test is a highly significant contribution to diagnostics that will greatly enhance our capacity to deal with future influenza outbreaks,” says Stephen Higgs, Editor-in-Chief of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, and Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases, Sealy Center for Vaccine Development and WHO Collaborating Center for Tropical Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

You may click to see for more knoledge:->New accurate diagnostic test for swine H1N1 influenza using RT-PCR technology

Source:
The Times Of India

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Just a Shot Away

Researchers are on the verge of developing a universal vaccine that will provide immunity to all kinds of flu viruses:-

Like all professionals, medical researchers also have grand ambitions. One of the grandest of these ambitions is to find a universal vaccine for influenza. This disease kills about 5 lakh people worldwide every year. Its potential to wreak havoc is enormous, and the only way to stop this virus in its tracks is a universal vaccine. Such a vaccine could protect us from any kind of flu, whether serious or benign. Not long ago this was considered an impossible dream , but now scientists are inching closer to achieving this dream.

At least five research groups in the world — three in the US, one in Belgium and one in Israel — have developed a kind of universal flu vaccine, and they have either already started Phase I clinical trials or will start them this year. Initial results are good in all of them — patients seem to tolerate the low doses and develop an immune response. But the big test is to come in the next year or two, when the vaccine is given to a large population and tested for efficacy. If these vaccines are good enough to stop the disease, the days of global flu-related panic may be over in about five to seven years.

Making a vaccine against a virus is a trivial or an impossible exercise, depending on the nature of the virus. Some viruses are very stable over a long time, which means that they do not mutate quickly. This means that the proteins on their surface remain the same in all varieties, as in the case of small pox, which makes it possible to develop a vaccine that remains effective over long periods. The influenza virus, on the other hand, keeps mutating all the time. Most of the mutations are small, but occasionally they change in a significant way. In fact, even in seasonal flu, the vaccine does not afford full protection because there are different kinds of flu viruses and it is not possible to design a vaccine for all of them.

Periodically, the influenza virus acquires genes from flu viruses that inhabit other animals. This is how the recent swine flu emerged. This mixing of genes makes it literally impossible to design vaccines as it is impossible to predict how and when the genes will mix and in what combination.

However, scientists had not given up trying to develop a universal flu vaccine. And now there are signs that some of them will succeed.


At the Saint Louis University (SLU) in the US, like elsewhere, researchers looked for a portion of the virus that does not change even if the virus mutates. They did find such portions, called M2, on all flu viruses. This portion is involved in most of the universal vaccines under development. “All flu viruses will have an M2 portion,” says Donald Kennedy, professor of infectious diseases at the university. SLU had done Phase I clinical trials on 377 patients and found that it was tolerated well on low doses. People also developed antibodies at levels known to protect against viral infections.

This vaccine is designed to work against the so-called A strains of the influenza virus. It is the cause of two-thirds of all flu infections and all the pandemic cases. Of the other two viruses, the C type is rare and is not fatal and the B type does not cause global pandemics. The current swine flu is an A type flu, and so is the avian flu that periodically causes a pandemic scare.

At the University of Ghent in Belgium, scientist Walter Fiers also used a similar approach to develop a universal vaccine. This vaccine was licensed to the British-American company Acambis, and Phase I clinical trials are over. Acambis had also tested whether vaccinated ferrets could survive an infection from a highly lethal avian flu strain. About 70 per cent of the vaccinated animals survived, while all the placebo controls (ferrets that were administered dummy vaccines) died.

While these two groups (from the US and Belgium) — and a few others — use the M2 portion of the virus, a private company in Israel is using a combination of regions in the virus that remain the same in all types. This company, BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd, licensed the technology from the Weizmann Institute in Tel Aviv. It is using a portion of the virus called M1 in combination with other portions. “It is based on peptides that are conserved in the vast majority of the flu strains,” says Ron Babecoff, president and CEO of BiondVax. A single vaccination is supposed to provide immunity for several years for many kinds of flu viruses.
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Some viruses keep mutating all the time, but while most mutations are small, occasionally they change significantly.
BiondVax has tested the vaccine in animals. In a humanised mouse — a genetically engineered mouse that carries human genes — the vaccine was found to be 95 per cent effective, a level that is good enough for any vaccine. BiondVax has government approval to start human trials, and will do so this month. It is also working on what it calls the second generation universal flu vaccine.

But, at the moment, let us watch the progress of the first one.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Flu Alarm that Fell Flat

Governments in North America ignored warnings that a swine flu strain was circulating in pig farms.

Canadian paediatrician Joan Robinson’s long-planned holiday to Mexico wouldn’t have been jeopardised and the world may not have been teetering on the brink of a pandemic had authorities acted on her words of caution.

Robinson’s late-June vacation destination is at the centre of a potentially pandemic flu outbreak, which has now spread to 14 other countries in five continents, apart from reportedly killing 160 people since mid-April. Her government, like many others, has issued a travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel to Mexico for a while.

Ironically, Robinson, professor of paediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, Canada, had warned as early as February 2008 that a swine flu strain capable of human-to-human transmission is circulating in North America, particularly in some Canadian pig farms.

No one knows whether it is the same flu strain that’s wreaking havoc now as flu viruses mutate notoriously fast. But had the authorities listened to her, the world wouldn’t have been caught by surprise.

Robinson got a whiff of the trouble brewing when a seven-month-old baby living on a community pig farm was diagnosed with a mild swine flu attack in 2006. Subsequently, her team screened 90 people, who lived on the farm, to find 54 of them positive to the strain. Her paper, in early 2008, called for monitoring pig farm workers in Canada and other countries as part of their national influenza pandemic preparedness plans.

“Countries did not take up any surveillance of swine workers, probably because the number of human swine flu symptomatic cases until 2009 was so small that experts did not think this was an important part of pandemic planning,” she told KnowHow. Early recognition of swine strains becoming virulent is key to infection control as well as vaccine development, she said.

Robinson wasn’t alone in waving the red flag. Gregory Gray, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, reported in 2006 that some pig farmers and meat processing workers they studied had elevated levels of antibodies against swine flu in their blood — an indicator that they were exposed to the flu virus. More importantly, a team of researchers from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis picked up signals as early as 1998 that flu viruses in pigs were swapping their genetic material, triggering the possibility of newer — maybe more lethal — strains being in circulation.

Thanks to the H5N1 avian flu outbreaks reported in different parts of the world since 2003, including India, the world is better prepared to deal with the emerging crisis. In less than a week of the outbreak being confirmed, the World Health Organization warned that a pandemic is imminent. “It is because of the concerns with the H5N1 virus that we have been able to pick up this outbreak relatively early, and we are much better prepared because of that,” said Michael Osterholm, who heads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

International public health experts have enough reasons to be alarmed.

For one, the influenza virus is very unpredictable. A flu strain may be harmless, but a slight change in its genetic composition can turn it into an extremely virulent variety. “The flu virus constantly surprises us,” said Nancy Cox who heads the flu division at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at Atlanta. The source of this surprise — not really a pleasant one though — is the ability flu viruses have to swap their genetic material when two or more of them co-habit. “Analysis of the early isolates suggests that the genetic make up of this new virus is a mixture of the avian, swine and human viral genomes. It is too early to tell how this virus evolved,” said Ram Sasisekharan, professor of biological engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US.

Then, the fact that the virus originated from pigs was the biggest worry for public health authorities. Pigs have been the ideal mixing vessel for flu viruses afflicting different species: humans, birds and pigs. While it is very rare for other species to accommodate more than one flu strain at any point in time, pigs do that happily, that too without being sick.

Further, the 1918 Spanish flu which killed anything between 50 million and 100 million across the globe too was of swine origin. The similarities, however, seem to end there. Though they are both H1N1 viruses, the novel swine flu does not appear to share any of the genetic markers of the virulence that 1918 pandemic flu virus possessed, according to a CDC statement.

But, there is one thing that makes virologists happy. Genetic analysis of the strains isolated from affected countries — Mexico, the US, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands and Germany — indicates that the strain has so far stayed steady, and hasn’t mutated. All genes of these strains have 99 per cent to 100 per cent similarity. This makes producing a vaccine easier, said Cox.

If that is true, the scientists may have to find why the same strain is behaving differently in two different populations. While the number of deaths in Mexico is frightening, there hasn’t been any serious case outside Mexico. While 159 people reportedly died in Mexico (but of these only sixteen are laboratory-confirmed swine flu deaths), there was only one death outside: in the US.

What, however, is puzzling is that the 159 deaths have come from some 2,500 cases reported in Mexico, pointing to a very high fatality rate (the ratio between number of cases and deaths). The Mexican government has stopped reporting suspected cases and deaths since April 30, 2009.

Some of the questions scientists already asking are: Is this because a huge number of Mexicans have been infected? Is that because many of the deaths in Mexico are due to other causes, since only a minority of the people who died were actually tested for swine flu? Is that because Hispanic people have a different response to this virus than white people do? Is that because Mexicans were more likely to be infected by a household member and most others were infected by more casual contact, and so got a smaller dose of the virus? How capable is this virus of efficiently spreading from person to person multiple times?

“Until we have answers to some of these questions, we do not know if the current outbreak will be over shortly (the 1976 US swine flu outbreak lasted 21 days) or will ultimately prove to be a pandemic,” said Robinson.

According to Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at the Imperial College in London, the outbreak in Mexico may not have such a high case fatality rate. “We don’t know how many people may have been infected but didn’t get very ill,” he says. Every normal pandemic has a case fatality rate of 1 to 2 per cent. “This is the type of figure that governments should have planned for in any pandemic,” Barclay told KnowHow. “But anything beyond 5 per cent could be really bad.”

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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