Drug derived from Caribbean reefs may treat psoriasis, MS

A biotechnology company developing an unusual drug—derived from the venom of a sea anemone to treat autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and multiple sclerosis—reported encouraging results from a phase 1 clinical trial.

Seattle-based Kineta Inc. said it expects early next year to begin recruiting patients for the next stage of the drug’s development, a phase 2 clinical trial. Kineta said the drug, called dalazatide, is intended to block only the white blood cells that cause many autoimmune diseases. Traditional treatments for autoimmune disorders suppress the entire immune system, putting patients at risk for infections.

Phase 1 trials are preliminary, meant to test the safety and tolerability of a new drug in a small group of patients. The bulk of new drugs tested fail to advance to phase 2 trials, which test a product’s efficacy among a larger group.

Autoimmune diseases affect as many as 23.5 million people in the U.S., especially women, according to the National Institutes of Health. Prevalence of the diseases, in which the immune system attacks the body’s own organs, tissues and cells, is increasing, for reasons that aren’t clear. There is no cure.

“The results of this trial indicate an important advance in developing next-generation treatments for autoimmune disease that specifically regulate the immune response without broad immune suppression,” said Dr. Shawn Iadonato, Kineta’s chief scientific officer.

Source: fox news

Discussions underway to address nursing shortage in Caribbean

Discussions underway to address nursing shortage in Caribbean

Jamaica’s minister of health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, says that discussions are underway to facilitate the seamless movement of nurses throughout the Caribbean in order to address needs in various areas.

The aim is to address imbalances, which challenge the delivery of quality healthcare in each territory.

Ferguson, who was addressing the opening ceremony of the 41st annual general meeting of the Regional Nursing Body in Kingston on Tuesday, said that, while there is an overall shortage of nurses throughout the region, particularly in specialist areas, there is an oversupply in some territories, and in some categories.

“We have opened discussions aimed at tapping into this pool of available nursing resources and have a situation where there can be a seamless movement of the talent, between territories, that it will fulfill identified needs, and address the imbalance,” he stated.

Ferguson said more on this development will be announced at a later date.

He said that as far as Jamaica is concerned, “I have directed that we limit looking extra-regionally for nurses at this time, except for those instances when we need specialist skills that are not available locally.”

The health minister said the government does not have the capacity to absorb the number of nurses that are produced by the various institutions each year.

“Even though the private sector is responding, we still have some issues… we are of the view that at this time, we must look internally, to ensure that those persons who are unemployed, we must create opportunities for them,” he said.

Ferguson said that his vision for Jamaica is the creation of a healthcare delivery system that will become the hub for the Caribbean, and be a major player, in the Americas.

In her address, chair of the Regional Nursing Body, Elnora Warner, explained that the body was established to set and maintain standards of nursing education and practice in member territories, through regional cooperation, with the expressed purpose to raise the standard of nursing service to the people of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Source; caribbean news now

Puerto Rico declares chikungunya epidemic

Puerto Rico declares chikungunya epidemic

The health officials in Puerto Rico declared an epidemic of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has been confirmed in more than 200 cases across the island as of late last month.

Health Secretary Ana Rius said the majority of those cases were reported in the capital of San Juan and nearby areas.

The virus was introduced into the Caribbean region late last year and the first case in Puerto Rico was reported in late May.

Meanwhile, Jamaican health officials reported the nation’s first confirmed case on Thursday. Dr Kevin Harvey, chief medical officer for Jamaica, said chikungunya was found in someone who had recently travelled to a country where the virus has been transmitted locally.

As of July 11, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recorded more than 354,000 suspected and confirmed cases of chikungunya across the Caribbean.

The first locally-transmitted case in the Western Hemisphere was confirmed in December in the French Caribbean territory of St Martin.

Chikungunya symptoms take three to seven days to appear in those who have contracted it. The virus results in high fever for up to five days and a longer period of severe joint pain in the extremities that renders patients largely immobile.

Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Younger patients usually make a full recovery in 5 to 15 days. Older patients can take up to two months to regain full strength, and elderly patients even longer.

The virus is rarely fatal, according to health officials. There is no vaccine yet, so treatment largely consists of pain medication.

Source; caribbean news now

UWI and University of Havana discuss Caribbean challenges

UWI and University of Havana discuss Caribbean challenges

On June 24 and 25, representatives of the University of West Indies (UWI) and the University of Havana, Cuba, met at the Institute of International Relations located at the UWI’s St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago to discuss “Development challenges and possibilities for a deeper integration”.

This first workshop on Contemporary Caribbean was coordinated by Professor Milagros Martínez, chair of Caribbean Studies (Cátedra de Estudios del Caribe) at the University of Havana together with Dr Mark Kirton of the Institute of International Relations.

Participants debated major problems of the contemporary Caribbean, especially the challenges associated with small island developing states and the regional integration recent dynamics. The cases of Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba were specifically examined.

Source: caribbean news now

Grenada investigates reports of chikungunya virus

Grenada investigates reports of chikungunya virus

The ministry of health in Grenada has intensified its campaign against the imminent threat from the chikungunya virus, as investigations continue into reports of the presence of the virus on the sister Isle of Carriacou.

Meanwhile, efforts are continuing by the ministry of health, wellness and the environment in St Vincent and the Grenadines to address a chikungunya outbreak there, with vector control measures and public sensitization programs currently taking place across the nation.

In the latest news update from Grenada, chief medical officer (CMO) Dr George Mitchell, said health officials were called in to investigate chikungunya-like symptoms in the village of Windward.

Mitchell, who is spearheading the ministry’s response, said that teams of health officials are on the ground and that specimens are being tested.

The CMO said one of the measures being undertaken is a fogging campaign of the immediate vicinity where the suspected cases were reported.

However the senior public health official said the healthcare providers will continue to carry out their work while they await laboratory confirmation of the suspected cases.

Public health officials are also calling on the public to ensure the cleanliness of their surroundings as well as the reduction and removal of mosquito breeding sites in and around the home. The chikungunya virus is primarily spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is black and white in colour.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the health ministry said to date some 396 cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been recorded there. The majority of those cases have been confined to the Grenadines island of Bequia.

Efforts aimed at eradicating the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the virus have intensified.

The Insect Vector Control Unit in the ministry is continuing to carry out vector control measures on the mainland and also in the Grenadines. Fogging operations have also been targeting specific areas where mass crowds are expected to gather for the Carnival activities.

Clean up activities have also been taking place in several communities as part of efforts to deprive the mosquito of a breeding ground.

In addition to the vector control measures, the Health Promotion Unit has embarked on a public education campaign which includes visits to schools, communities and business places to sensitize individuals on the virus and provide information on how they can better protect themselves.

Given that there is no current cure for the chikungunya virus, the best course of action is to avoid mosquito bites. Signs and symptoms include an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.

Source: caribbean news now

Chikungunya virus infects 12 more in Guyana


Guyana is reporting at least 12 more cases of a mosquito-borne virus that causes severe joint pain and fever for many of its victims.

Health Minister Bheri Ramsarran says the Caribbean Public Health Agency confirmed the new cases of chikungunya among 130 blood samples sent from the South American country.

The minister said late Wednesday that the infections occurred near the border with Suriname and about 32 kilometres from where the first two cases were documented last week.

The government is spraying pesticides to control the two species of mosquitoes that spread the virus.

The Pan American Health Organization reports more than 100,000 cases of chikungunya since the first locally transmitted case on the generally non-fatal virus in the Caribbean in French St. Martin in December.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested local public health departments perform surveillance for chikungunya cases in returning travellers and be aware of the risk for possible local transmission in areas where Aedes species mosquitoes are active.

“Local transmission has been identified in 17 countries or territories in the Caribbean or South America (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Saint Maarten),” the CDC’s weekly report on illness and death said.

“As of May 30, 2014, a total of 103,018 suspected and 4,406 laboratory-confirmed chikungunya cases had been reported from these areas.”

Source: cbc news

Caribbean: 1 In 5 Unaware Of TB Diagnosis, Says Health Organisation

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) says one in five people infected with tuberculosis in the Americas, including the Caribbean, remains unaware of the disease.

PAHO said this is due to “failure to access health services or because they are not properly diagnosed.” In 2012, PAHO said regional countries reported 220,000 cases of tuberculosis, and an estimated 19,000 people died from the disease.

But it said an additional 60,000 people are believed to have TB, who have not yet been diagnosed.

“This situation not only endangers their lives, it also facilitates further transmission of TB, producing more disease and generating socioeconomic costs for individuals, families and communities,” PAHO warned.

It issued the statement in commemoration of World TB Day that sought to raise awareness on the tuberculosis burden in the world, as well as the efforts made for its prevention and control.

Throughout the years, PAHO said this commemoration has offered the opportunity to mobilize the political, economic and social commitment for the prevention and control of TB in the countries.

For the 2014 campaign, PAHO said it will follow the worldwide focus on TB diagnosis and case detection of those still not reached, “with emphasis in the Americas on vulnerable populations, social determinants and large cities.”

Source; National news agency of Bernama

New robotic surgical institute opens in the Dominican Republic

This week the Metropolitan Hospital of Santiago (HOMS), in the Dominican Republic, opened the first robotic surgery institute in the Caribbean. Named for Dr. David Samadi, a pioneer in robotic prostate surgery and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team, it is sure to draw patients from the United States as well from the Caribbean and South America.

Nearly one million Americans seek health care outside the U.S. every year. Medical tourism is increasingly popular in the Caribbean both in terms of its high quality, cost savings of up to 75 percent, and of course, you can’t beat the beautiful surroundings. The Dominican Republic has long been a tourist destination known for its inexpensive plastic surgery and dental procedures.

Now you can add to that the state-of-the-art Davinci robot which is like at avatar where the surgeon uses precision robotic arms to perform delicate procedures. Recovery with this kind of surgery is remarkable – you can get in and out of the hospital in a day. At a time when America is debating its health care future, our latest and greatest technology is still being exported.

Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina is opening the new facility along with Dr. Raphael Sanchez Espanol, CEO of HOMS hospital and, himself, a renowned surgeon.

“You’re going to change the lives of many, many people out there, and to be part of the first robotic institute in the Caribbean, this is a huge blessing and for the humanitarian part… for us to be part of this we’re very proud,” said Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The institute will include treatment of prostate, kidney, gynecologic and surgical cases. Doctors operating in the Dominican Republic will now be able to use techniques developed by Samadi, who performed the country’s first procedure, to treat prostate cancer as well as other delicate surgeries in a safer, more effective manner with minimal blood loss.

“Big decisions have transformed into small decisions,” said Dr. Espanol. “I like to say, with less trauma – the less trauma facilitates an amazing recovery of the sick.”

“This is a huge step in this country and it’s going to bring a lot of patients from the entire Caribbean to this hospital,” Samadi said.

And beyond the Caribbean, with more and more regulations and restrictions coming our way on American soil, many patients will look elsewhere for their surgeries. The new David Samadi Robotic Institute is one of the places they will be looking.

Source: Fox news

Guinea Rushes to Curb Measles Outbreak

Health authorities in Guinea are scrambling to contain a measles outbreak that has killed one child, infected 37 others and spread to half of the country’s 33 districts.

More than 400 suspected cases, nearly all of them in children under 10 years old, have been registered. A vaccination campaign targeting over 1.6 million children is to be launched in the coming weeks.

“We have moved from three affected districts in Conakry before the end of last year to the whole city now being affected. Five more districts out of Conakry are also affected. It means that it could spread throughout the country,” said Felix Ackebo, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) deputy representative for Guinea.

“One of the causes is the nature of the disease. The other is the social/political instability. Many bilateral donors stopped support, awaiting the holding of legislative elections. The whole health system has been weakened. The government was restricted on what it could purchase, and this affected [availability of] vaccines and other important drugs. Many of the basic social services have suffered from this pause in investment,” Ackebo told IRIN. “In the past, we have been obliged to buy measles vaccines and others because the government could not.”

Only 37 percent of Guinean children are fully vaccinated, according to the 2012 Demographic Health Survey. The country’s last measles epidemic, in 2009, infected 4,755 people and killed 10.

Keita Sakoba, head of disease prevention at the Ministry of Health, said that the current stock of measles vaccine, meant for routine immunization, was insufficient for the vaccination drive. He explained that the outbreak was likely due to the accumulation of unvaccinated children.

“We will launch a vaccination campaign in the 15 affected districts and carry out targeted immunizations in districts neighbouring the affected ones,” Sakoba said.

Source: All Africa