News briefs

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust 2015; 203 (5): 206-208. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.n0907
Published online: 7 September 2015

“Post-Ebola syndrome” dogs survivors

Many survivors of the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa are now returning to clinics complaining of mysterious symptoms: chronic headaches, debilitating joint pain, even eye problems that can progress to blindness, Wired reports. Doctors in the region have begun calling the suite of problems “post-Ebola syndrome” (PES) and they’re developing clinics devoted to caring for Ebola survivors. Until the latest epidemic, evidence of PES has been hard to find because survivors were rare. “But this most recent outbreak was unusual in the number of people who survived it — a new population to study. With 15 000 or so confirmed survivors in West Africa, epidemiologists ought to be able to nail down which symptoms are caused by Ebola infection”, rather than other suspects like Lassa fever or malaria.

Jail sentences for Bangladeshi paracetamol syrup poisoners

Six senior employees of the now-closed drug company BCI Bangladesh have been handed 10-year jail sentences for making toxic paracetamol syrup which allegedly killed hundreds of children in the 1990s, AFP reports. The men were charged in 2009 after it was found that the syrup had been adulterated with diethylene glycol, commonly used in the leather industry, and 10 times cheaper than the safe propylene glycol. Only one of the six men will go to jail, however, as the other five are still on the run. “Mohammed Hanif, a top paediatric nephrologist, has told AFP that local hospitals first started seeing children with kidney failure in late 1982. But it took another 10 years to establish the deaths were due to diethylene glycol. By then, Hanif says several thousand children had died.”

Second case of plague reported in California

Californian health officials are investigating another possible case of plague in a tourist who fell ill after visiting Yosemite National Park, the Sierra National Forest and surrounding areas — the second case in less than a month, Associated Press reports. “A child fell ill with the plague after camping with his family at Yosemite’s Crane Flat Campground in mid-July. The park reopened Crane Flat last week after treating it for four days with an insecticide. Park officials closed the Tuolumne Meadows Campground from noon Monday through noon Friday so authorities can treat the area with a flea-killing insecticide after two squirrels died of plague in the area.” A spokesperson for the Californian Department of Public Health said the risk to human health “remains low”.

Zebrafish doing their bit for diabetics

ScienceDaily reports that a group of American scientists are claiming to have identified 24 drug candidates that increase the number of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, via experiments with 500 000 genetically modified zebrafish embryos. The transparent zebrafish embryos were modified so their insulin-producing pancreatic cells glowed yellow, and non-insulin-producing cells glowed red. Using high-throughput screening — using robotic equipment to dose tens of thousands of samples daily — researchers tested thousands of compounds from a Johns Hopkins library of drugs for ones that increased the amount of yellow glow. Originally reported in eLife, Associate Professor Jeffrey Mumm, professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, says that while more research was needed, “we think there’s potentially no limit on the diseases this screening technique could be applied to other than the human imagination”.

Pilots’ prostates can rest easier

Pilots concerned their risk of prostate cancer was elevated can breathe easier after the retraction of a recent meta-analysis that found they are at least twice as likely to develop the disease, Retraction Watch reports. The paper, recently published in Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, was retracted for “including inappropriate data from two studies that should be ineligible”. The paper reviewed eight studies, but included two articles that reported on prostate cancer in all United States Armed Forces servicemen, and not just pilots. First author David Raslau, from the Mayo Clinic, apologised, saying: “I was at the infancy of my training in Aerospace Medicine … When I began working on this research project, the phrase ‘Air Force servicemen’ seemed equivalent to the term pilots to me. Now after having completed training in this field, I can easily see the folly of this assumption”.

  • Cate Swannell



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