• Tick Bites Can Render You Allergic to Red Meat

    Tick Bites Can Render You Allergic to Red Meat

    Tick bites can render you allergic to red meat. This comes from the alpha-gal syndrome, which is a type of food allergy. It is a tick with the name of Lone Star tick that transmits this syndrome in the southeastern United States. Deer carries the Lone Star tick into other parts of the US. The bite of the tick … [Read More...]

  • Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Pose a Risk to Eyes

    Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Pose a Risk to Eyes

    A new study from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC showed that erectile dysfunction drugs pose a risk to eyes. UBC researchers studied 213,000 insurance claims of serous retinal detachment, retinal vascular occlusion, and ischemic optic neuropathy. They found that there was a close association with … [Read More...]

  • What Works for Permanent Weight Control

    What Works for Permanent Weight Control

    A recent publication examined what works for permanent weight control and what not. The study came from the Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., AdventHealth, Fla. and the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Ala. 320 sedentary adults who were overweight or had obesity were treated by monitoring alone or by doing … [Read More...]

  • The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

    The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

    This article describes the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. The environmental working group (EWG) defined the “dirty dozen” as crops, which farmers pollute by repetitive spraying. Notably, this is a list of the 12 most insecticide-sprayed crops like strawberries, spinach, tomatoes and others. It is important to … [Read More...]

  • Immune System Responses against Covid-19 or anti-Covid Vaccination

    Immune System Responses against Covid-19 or anti-Covid Vaccination

    This article is about immune responses against Covid-19 or anti-Covid vaccination. Investigations of the immune system showed that people who had Covid-19 and subsequently were vaccinated had an immune response that lasted for at least one year. In the following a discussion follows about the details why this is … [Read More...]

  • Adolescents’ Lifestyles Are Linked to Faster Aging in Adulthood

    Adolescents’ Lifestyles Are Linked to Faster Aging in Adulthood

    A longitudinal study found that adolescents' lifestyles are linked to faster aging in adulthood. The study started with a baseline examination in a group of adolescents around the age of 15. 30 years later doctors examined the same individuals again. The researchers found that smokers, obese people and people with … [Read More...]

    Aug
    07
    2021

    A New Disease, Long Covid

    Some of the Covid cases do not resolve; this created a new disease, long Covid. The German news magazine “Der Stern” described this in detail. I summarized this in  English here. The English literature also mentions long Covid. Certainly, physicians learnt from observing the course of many Covid-19 cases. It is important to realize that they did not all heal. Some of them seemed to resolve, but then they reoccurred. Other patients suffer from ongoing exhaustion, shortness of breath, tiredness and pains.

    When do physicians diagnose long Covid?

    If symptoms of Covid-19 do not resolve within 4 weeks after the beginning, physicians diagnose this condition as long Covid. Different subtypes exist.

    • Persistent symptomatic Covid-19: Covid-19 symptoms persist between 4 and 12 weeks from the beginning of Covid-19.
    • Post Covid-19 syndrome: After more than 12 weeks the patient still has Covid-19 symptoms.
    • Long Covid: when a patient develops new Covid-19 symptoms or still has symptoms beyond 4 weeks after Covid-19 physicians diagnose the patient with long Covid.

    Who is getting long Covid?

    A longitudinal study showed that about 1 in 10 Covid-19 cases can turn into long Covid. In some cases, this can develop out of relatively benign courses of Covid-19 cases. In other cases, a severe Covid-19 case can develop into long Covid. Notably, a research study identified risk major factors for developing long Covid. They found that increasing age, an increased body mass index and female sex were risk factors for developing long Covid. Persistent symptoms of headaches, fatigue, difficulties to breathe and a loss of smell characterize the presence of long Covid. Another criterion was whether a person had to be treated in an ICU setting during the acute phase of Covid-19. These people are at a higher risk to develop long Covid at a later time.

    Long Covid symptoms

    The most common symptoms of long Covid are tiredness, headaches, problems breathing, concentrating and circulation problems. But fast heart beats, sleeping disorders, chronic pains and hypersensitivity to light and sound are also part of the symptom complex. Researchers found that in 70% of patients with long Covid one or more organs were damaged by the virus. All the affected organs had ACE2 cell receptors. Many patients with long Covid have lung problems.

    Pre-existing lung problems

    According to one review it was mainly patients with pre-existing lung problems, older patients or patients who had other pre-existing health problems who developed lung complications. 3-5% of long Covid patients can also develop heart problems. Most patients have reduced pumping capacity, heart muscle inflammation, pericardial inflammation or scarred heart tissue. One symptom is very common: fatigue, which is a state of persistent tiredness, exhaustion and listlessness that cannot be managed with sleep. These are the symptoms of a new disease, long Covid.

    Treatment possibilities for long Covid patients

    The therapy is based on the symptoms. A guideline on post/long Covid, which was recently published jointly by several professional societies, states that there is still no scientifically reliable evidence for a specific therapy. The guideline lists diagnostic recommendations as well as therapy options for various symptoms such as fatigue, olfactory disorders, cardiological, neurological and psychiatric aspects.

    Oxygen therapy

    The researchers are currently working on a variety of different treatment approaches. Oxygen therapy is one of them. Hyperbaric oxygen tanks are used for this. Patients breathe pure oxygen in these tanks for about two hours a day for several weeks. The first patients treated with this oxygen therapy have reported positive effects according to Dr. Ullrich Siekmann in Aachen, Germany. Further studies, however, are required to confirm these preliminary investigations.

    Blood washing or HELP apheresis

    Doctors see another possibility of treatment in blood washing. With the so-called “HELP apheresis“, the blood is freed from harmful substances in a similar way to dialysis in kidney failure patients. Blood washing is already in use for people who have had strokes or heart attacks and where other medicines do not help. Researchers used this procedure also for long Covid patients.

    Supplements that may help

    According to Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, a board-certified internist, these supplements may be helpful: N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), glutathione, CuraMed (a curcumin supplement), and omega-3 supplementation. These supplements treat chronic inflammation.

    A New Disease, Long Covid

    A New Disease, Long Covid

    Conclusion

    Long Covid is a sub-category of Covid-19 in patients whose symptoms do not resolve. This is subject to intensive research, which I summarized here. These patients have characteristic symptoms. Newer treatment options seem to consist of pressurized oxygen therapy and of blood washing with the name of “HELP apheresis”. Certain supplements that are anti-inflammatory may also be of benefit. Despite these new efforts this leaves many patients with organ damage and continuing chronic symptoms.

    Jul
    10
    2021

    Extreme Heat and Heat Related Deaths

    Extreme heat and heat related deaths are closely linked. A record heat wave hit the North West of the US and British Columbia in late June/early July. Many people died from heat stroke and from cardiovascular problems. Here I like to review the medical literature regarding extreme heat and heat related deaths. Also, why is it important to cool down? Much of what I like to communicate was published in a review article by CNN. But I also reviewed many other websites and added links below.

    How does global warming contribute to the summer heat?

    There are a few explanations how global warming drives the heat in summer even higher.  Essentially, what weather experts are saying is that the jet stream can get stuck in one place during a summer heat wave and the heat keeps getting more intense. Global warming is responsible for heat waves that are higher than in the past. Conversely, in winter global warming can produce cold waves that are colder than in previous years.

    Why is extreme heat dangerous for us?

    According to the CDC between 2004 and 2018 an average of about 700 Americans died from heat-related causes. The majority of deaths occurred between May and September. There are a number of observations that explain why more people die during a heat wave.

    In 2006 there were widespread heat waves and as a result there was a peak in heat related deaths.

    • When people have pre-existing cardiovascular disease, this gets aggravated during a heat wave and the death rate from cardiovascular disease increases during a heat wave. About 25% of heat related deaths are due to an underlying cardiovascular disease.
    • Age by itself plays a big role in heat related deaths. People above the age of 65 are several times more likely to die from a heat related cardiovascular disease than the general population.

         Under reporting of heat related deaths

    • Many times, it is not clear whether a death is due to a medical condition or due to exposure to heat. A death certificate that reports a heart attack as the cause of death during a heat wave will be missed when statisticians attempt to get a number for heat related deaths after a heat wave.

    Medical causes why extreme heat and heat related deaths are linked

    Our body is used to an inside temperature range between 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 to 37.2 degrees Celsius). The body can compensate in two ways to counter a rise of the body temperature from heat exposure.

    1. When the brain senses a rise in body temperature, the sweat glands open up and sweat is produced. The evaporating sweat cools down the body temperature.
    2. The body has a second coping mechanism to cool you down. The body can dilate its blood vessels and increase the heart rate. This brings the blood more to the surface. This is when your forehead and the extremities give off heat and you lower your body temperature.
    3. But with exposure to extreme high temperatures both of these mechanisms are not enough to decrease your core temperature.

    Avoiding heat-related illness

    • The Mayo Clinic link explains that it is important to drink enough fluids to avoid dehydration. This helps with the second coping mechanism mentioned that cools you down (see above).
    • When the outside temperature rises beyond 86 degrees Fahrenheit (=30 degrees Celsius) it is wise to stay inside air-conditioned premises. This could be your house, if you have air-conditioning, an air-conditioned mall or a public building. A cool pool, bathtub, or cold cloths applied to your arms, legs and torso cool you down as well. Otherwise, intermittent cold showers or cold baths will do the same.

    Health conditions that are a higher risk for heat related deaths

    The population group at higher risk for developing heat-related illness and eventual deaths are infants and children up to age 4. In addition, anybody older than 65 years is also at risk. Pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung disease (COPD) increase the risk of dying from excessive heat exposure. Being overweight or obese is also a risk factor. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are conditions that require hospitalization.

    Common heat-related symptoms

    Symptoms of heat exhaustion are: profuse sweating, a pulse that is fast and weak, clammy skin, vomiting and nausea. In addition, there can be cramps in muscles, weakness, tiredness, dizziness, headaches and fainting.

    Symptoms of heat stroke are: high fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (= 40 degrees Celsius) or higher. Take the temperature with a rectal thermometer to get the core temperature. Other symptoms of heat stroke are altered mental state (confusion, agitation, delirium and seizures). Further, the skin may turn red as the temperature increases, and there may be rapid and shallow breathing. The heartbeat races and the head may throb from a severe headache. Both patients with heat exhaustion and heat stroke need hospital care. Call an ambulance.

    Extreme Heat and Heat-Related Deaths

    Extreme Heat and Heat Related Deaths

    Conclusion

    We have to take extreme heat and heat related deaths seriously. Only when we employ counter measures will the death toll from heat related deaths go down. Prevention is everything. But if a person develops heat exhaustion and heat stroke swift transportation to a hospital is a must. This can often save a life. We all need adopt an awareness what our risks are regarding heat and heat related deaths. We need to apply early countermeasures by getting into cooler areas and by drinking enough fluids to prevent dehydration. Prevention is everything regarding extreme heat and heat related deaths.

    Jun
    26
    2021

    Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

    A British study concluded that being a morning person can prevent depression. It was reviewed also in CNN. The study used sleep data from 85,000 UK participants in the Great Britain Biobank Study. They wore wrist activity monitors that provided sleep data. Researchers compared the sleep data with the self-reported mood changes. They found that if the sleep pattern is misaligned with the circadian rhythm, those who are night owls are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders. The controls were those who were morning persons. They were not affected by the misalignment effect.

    Normal sleep pattern

    Natural sleep habit or the circadian rhythm starts between 10 PM and 11 PM and continues for 7 to 8 hours. Your hormones are replenished during your sleep. This helps your body’s hormones and the immune system to restore itself overnight.

    “The health problems associated with being a night owl are likely a result of being a night owl living in a morning person’s world, which leads to disruption in their body’s circadian rhythms”. This is what sleep specialist Kristen Knutson said. She is an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

    Reclaim your natural sleep habit

    The key is to learn to live within your circadian rhythm pattern. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and will stop you from falling asleep. For this reason, it is best to avoid caffeine-containing beverages. If you cannot live without your favourite cup of java, switch to the decaffeinated version. Stop using LED lights (from TV, computers, tablets or smartphones) 2 hours prior to your bedtime. Use dark curtains and enjoy a comfortable bed. Maybe read that thriller, earlier in the day instead of making it your bedtime story. And do yourself a favour: you do not need the eleven o’clock news on TV!  They will probably stop you from falling asleep. Go to sleep between 10PM and 11PM.

    Children can have problems with sleep disturbances and depression

    Another study published March 22, 2021 in the Jama Network showed that depression had an association with sleep disturbances in youth and children.

    A meta-analysis of 16 publications looked at depression and disturbed sleep. It showed that depression was 1.5-fold higher in sleep disturbed youths/children compared to controls with a normal sleep pattern.

    Other studies re. being a morning person can prevent depression

    Another study with Dr. Knutson as the lead author appeared in 2018. The authors found that various health conditions, mood disorders and mortality were on the increase the more the sleep rhythm deviated from the circadian rhythm. Morning persons were protected from this effect. But night shift workers and night owls were at a higher risk of disease. Specifically, they found the following associations for evening types.

    • Evening types compared to morning types had a 1.94-fold risk of psychological disorders
    • The risk of diabetes was 1.30-fold for evening types
    • Neurological disorders had a 1.25-fold risk in evening types
    • Gastrointestinal/abdominal disorders occurred 1.23-fold more often in evening types
    • respiratory disorders were 1.22-fold more common in evening types
    • Evening types had a 10% increased risk of all-cause mortality

    The researchers concluded that externally imposed timing of work and social activities has potentially serious health consequences.

    Circadian misalignment responsible for disease

    Dr. Knutson also said: “Circadian misalignment could also lead to inadequate sleep duration and quality, which could also impair mood and exacerbate mood disorders.”

    In other words, circadian misalignment to circadian rhythm problems. This can cause mood disturbances, but eventually lead to the diseases listed above.

    Evidence of health risks in night shifts workers

    The medical literature is full of examples that the health of night shift workers is significantly affected by circadian misalignment. Here are a few examples.

    1.Here is a random selection to illustrate the health risks of night shifts workers. A study from 2015 examined the sleep patterns of 315 shift nurses and health care workers in Iranian teaching hospitals. They found that 83.2% suffered from poor sleep and half of them had moderate to excessive sleepiness when they were awake.

    2.This South Korean study examined 244 male workers, aged 20 to 39 in a manufacturing plant. Researchers compared blood tests from daytime workers to blood tests from night shift workers. They also obtained inflammatory markers like the C-reactive protein and leukocyte counts. Night shift workers had significantly higher values. The investigators concluded that shift workers have increased inflammatory markers. This is a sign of a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

    Higher mortality and higher cancer risk in nighttime workers

    3. A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 2.6-fold higher mortality over a control group of daytime white-collar workers.

    4. Another study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 1.47-fold higher mortality rate in the night shift workers.

    5.In a study from China 25,377 participants were part of a study that investigated cancer risk in males with more than 20 years of night shift work. They had a 2.03-fold increased risk to develop cancer compared to males working day shifts. Women with night shift work in this study showed no effect with regard to cancer development.

    Healthy telomeres with healthy sleep pattern

    It is true that you can suffer multiple health problems, as all of your hormones depend on the resetting during your deepest sleep between 2AM and 4AM triggered by the nighttime melatonin response. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep.

    One example of such a study comes from Milan, Italy. https://oem.bmj.com/content/75/Suppl_2/A480.1

    In this 2018 study researchers compared 46 nurses who had worked in night shifts with 51 nurses working day shifts. Among the night shift workers breast cancer was common, but not among day workers.

    Shortened telomeres, hypomethylation of BRC1 gene and p53 gene

    In the night shift nurses from Milan there was hypomethylation of the breast cancer gene BRC1. There was also hypomethylation of the general cancer gene p53. At the same time significant telomere shortening occurred in night shift nurses who had worked night shifts for more than 15 years. This likely all worked together in causing night nurses to develop breast cancer more frequently.

    Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span. The reason for this is that people with shortened telomeres develop heart attacks, strokes and cancer. This is what shortens the life span. How do we avoid this risk? Go back to healthy sleep habits. As mentioned above it is best to start going to sleep between 10PM and 11PM and sleep for 7 to 8 hours. Night owls delay going to sleep by 2 to 3 hours.

    Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

    Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression (click image to enlarge)

    Conclusion

    A publication in Molecular Psychiatry demonstrated that evening person (night owls) are more likely to develop depression. This is in comparison to morning persons. As discussed, other researchers showed that evening persons also can develop diabetes and neurological disorders. In addition, respiratory disorders and gastrointestinal disorders are more common in night owls as well. When it comes to mortality, evening persons have a 10% increase of mortality over morning persons. There is a large body of literature regarding diseases of night shift workers. Night Shift work is perhaps the most extreme example of a circadian misalignment. It leads to poor sleep, inflammation in the body, increased cancer risk and higher mortality compared to day shift workers.

    Prevent telomere shortening

    Even the telomeres get shortened in night owls and night shift workers. We can prevent problems like these by going to bed in time and sleeping according to our circadian rhythm. If you had a poor night’s sleep, make up for it with the help of an afternoon nap. Do not sleep all afternoon though; half an hour or one hour will be enough. Even a short, restful nap after coming home from work can restore your feeling of wellness.

    May
    15
    2021

    Research about Side Effects of the AstraZeneca Vaccine

    Research about side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine revealed some worrisome facts. An article that appeared in the German “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” explained that people should not worry about the vaccine.

    The heading of the article was:” People no longer have to be afraid of the AstraZeneca-Vaccine.” But subsequently it describes how vaccinating with the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 developed blood clots in some people. Researchers at the University of Greifswald examined 7 cases where following the vaccine blood clots developed.  Dr. Andreas Greinacher is Head of the department of Transfusion Medicine in Greifswald, Germany. He said that blood clots are extremely rare following vaccinations. The 7 people who did form clots in sinuses (big vein structures) of the brain had all antibodies against platelets. Normally platelets help with hemostasis for wounds, but when specific antibodies bind to platelets, they can cause blood clots.

    Research about side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine identified blood clots as a problem

    The Greifswald medical team said that they know how to treat this blood clot condition when it occurs. They are using blood clot dissolving medication like heparin and warfarin to dissolve the clots. But if this treatment is not instituted right away, the patient could get a stroke or pulmonary emboli, which is a life-threatening condition. Normal minor side effects of the vaccine occur on the first and second day after the vaccination. If blood clots appear in brain veins, symptoms of severe headaches develop on day 4 or 5 following the vaccination. Other patients might develop a painful leg due to a blood clot in the leg veins. If this should happen, the patient must present immediately at the emergency department of a hospital. Physicians will start anticoagulation therapy right away. The 7 patients who developed blood clots did so between day 5 and 14 following the AstraZeneca vaccination.

    European decision to reinstate the AstraZeneca vaccine

    The European Medical Agency stated that the benefits would outweigh the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine. They recommended reinstatement of vaccinations with the vaccine. However, there remain problems with the vaccine. First, the effectiveness of the vaccine was initially determined to be 79%, but retesting showed it is only 76%. Next the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut that monitors complications of medical procedures in all of Germany determined 31 cases of blood clots. 9 patients died from them.

    Interestingly, the EMA has reversed their opinion about the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 6, 2021 as can be seen from this press statement. Now they are saying that there is a clear association between the vaccine and rare blood clots in the brain.

    In the US the CDC and FDA have not approved the AstraZeneca vaccine. The CDC also said that the Johnson-Johnson’s vaccine should be put on hold until a re-examination of the blood clot issue is clarified.

    Discussion

    The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are pure RNA vaccines that are known to have very few complication rates. Researchers stated that only very few people develop clots in their brain or leg veins. They also stated that the majority of people benefit from the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is a simplification. There are other vaccines that doctors can use as alternatives that do not produce clots. It would be better to ask why there is clot formation with the AstraZeneca Vaccine!

    The AstraZeneca vaccine contains a DNA adenovirus

    The AstraZeneca vaccine contains remnants of a DNA virus, namely an adenovirus. Researchers added the gene for the coronavirus spike protein to the DNA adenovirus.

    The DNA shell from the adenovirus helps to protect the vaccine at fridge temperatures, which increases the shelf life of the vaccine. But as with other DNA vaccines there are more complications possible. This question was reviewed here already 10 years ago.

    In the end we are still faced with RNA vaccines against Coved-19 that work, versus a DNA vaccine that has possible complications with blood clots. I for one would not accept anything else but an RNA vaccine that does not have the clot formation side effect. I feel that the authorities should stop the AstraZeneca vaccine for now. The researchers should carry out further studies to see whether improvements can make the vaccine safer.

    Research about Side Effects of the AstraZeneca Vaccine

    Research about Side Effects of the AstraZeneca Vaccine

    Conclusion

    The AstraZeneca vaccine contains a deactivated DNA adenovirus. Researchers added the gene for the coronavirus spike protein to the adenovirus. This is a completely different approach from the RNA vaccines that do not have these side effects. The fact that some patients developed blood clots is likely explainable on the grounds that they received a DNA vaccine. In my opinion the authorities released the AstraZeneca vaccine prematurely. They should put a hold on this vaccine until scientists can develop improvements to the vaccine. In the meantime, people should receive the safer RNA vaccines.

    To continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca vaccine is unacceptable

    I disagree that governments allow a vaccine that has serious complication rates for which doctors offer anticoagulation therapy. It is only a matter of time that a few deaths occur, because the blood clots escaped diagnosis. The company has now renamed the vaccine as Vaxzevria. This seems to be a move of AstraZeneca to move away from the complications of the AstraZeneca vaccine. This does nothing to help solve the problem with the blood clots that don’t only occur “in a few cases”. We are dealing with a serious side effect, and you should ask yourself the question, whether it is worth the risk.

    May
    01
    2021

    The Power of a Placebo

    A publication in Nature Communications investigated the power of a placebo. Specifically, they wanted to know whether there is a difference between a hidden and a known placebo. With a hidden placebo the patient is unaware whether a pill is a placebo pill or a real medication. With a non-deceptive or known placebo, the patient knows it is a placebo. In this study the investigators wanted to know whether a non-deceptive placebo still can have an effect. As we shall see below the answer is: yes, non-deceptive placebos still have an effect. This was also summarized in this review.

    Literature review

    The authors reviewed the literature about placebo effects. They found 26 studies that reported positive effects with placebos, but they were mostly self-reporting. However, 8 studies measured objective markers. Only one study found improvement with a placebo therapy, namely by performing a task. The researchers also learnt that physical conditions do not respond to a placebo therapy. Examples of such physical conditions are wound healing, healing of fractures or appendicitis requiring surgery. In contrast, the conditions responding to either hidden placebo or non-deceptive placebo involved emotional distress. This was what the subsequent experiments concentrated on.

    The experiments

    62 men and women participated in experiment 1. Experiment 2 had a nonclinical sample from another large university in the Midwest.  Only females were accepted for experiment 2. The investigators wanted no sex differences in brain structure, brain formation and emotion processing.

    The first experiment

    For the first experiment the researchers recruited 62 healthy male and female students between the ages of 18 and 30. They were from two universities, namely the Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. Before the experiment started the hidden placebo group read an article about pain treatment. They were also given nasal placebo drops with the remark that this would help making the measurements more accurate. The known placebo group read another article that explained how placebos work. The text included a passage that explained that placebos work even in the case where the person knew they were a placebo. The same nasal drops were given with the remark that there was no active ingredient in it, but it “would help reduce their negative emotional reactions to viewing distressing images if they believed it would. “

    Results of first experiment

    The researchers asked participants to view a series of 20 images with negative and cruel content. The subjects also viewed 10 images that were neutral in content. The participants viewed each image for a few seconds, then the investigators asked how they felt on a scale of 1-9. The group who knew that the nasal spray was a placebo felt less negative after viewing the distressing images compared to the other group.

    The second experiment

    In the second experiment the researchers showed a mixed sequence of neutral and distressing images to female subjects. The purpose was to measure the brain activity as a result of invoking various feelings. The investigators employed a modified continuous electroencephalography (EEG) recording of the brain activity to measure the processing of feelings. They showed a neutral screen between the negative and neutral images and asked the participants to clear their mind. The researchers scanned the brain activity at two time points. The first point measured the patient’s immediate reaction. The second point measured the brain activity at the end of emotional processing and understanding of the image. As discussed below this experiment showed the power of the placebo.

    Results of the second experiment

    There was no difference of the known placebo group and the control group (the deceptive placebo group) with regard to the initial reaction to the images. However, the placebo group showed less activity in the second period. The researchers monitored the brain activity with a modified EEG and in comparison to the control group. According to the authors the known placebo group was able to process their emotional response to the distress better than the control group.

    The authors attempted to correct for confounding variables.  In the process they found out that those who did not believe in the power of a placebo still reacted the same way as the placebo group did. The researchers performed the second experiment only on women as the brains and processing modes are sex-specific. They did not want to introduce confounding variables unwittingly. At this point we do not know how males as a group react in similar experiments.

    "The

    Conclusion

    With a hidden placebo the patient is unaware whether a pill is a placebo pill or a real medication. With a non-deceptive or known placebo, the patient knows it is a placebo. In a study with two experiments the investigators wanted to know whether a non-deceptive placebo still can have an effect. The result of the experiments showed that non-deceptive placebos still have an effect. The proof for his was with placebo nasal drops. The subjects viewed 20 upsetting images and subsequently 10 neutral images. They scored on a scale of 1-9 how upset they felt about the distressing images. The group who knew that the nasal spray was a placebo felt less negative after viewing the distressing images in comparison to the other group.

    Placebo helps to process emotional response better than control group

    In the second experiment investigators employed a modified continuous electroencephalography (EEG) recording of the brain activity to measure the processing of feelings. The investigators showed alternating upsetting images and neutral images to a female group of students. According to the authors the non-deceptive placebo group was able to process their emotional response to the distress better than the control group. This showed the power of the placebo. The authors concluded that these results may help develop new treatment plans for depression, emotional disorders and emotional distress.

    Apr
    17
    2021

    Which are the Most and Least Contaminated Crops

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    Farmers are spraying many crops with pesticides, so which are the most and least contaminated crops? Recently, the Environmental Working Group’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce was published. The various fruit and vegetables are also called the “dirty dozen”. You see from this readily that the most contaminated crops are strawberries, followed by spinach and kale, collard and mustard greens. Nectarines, apples and grapes are next followed by cherries, peaches and pears. The list is made complete by bell and hot peppers, celery and tomatoes.

    Safety of food

    This means that it is not safe to eat any of these fruit and vegetables from regular crops, as they are all contaminated by pesticides. It is advisable to exchange these crops and buy the organic version of each instead. This is easy to do, and I have done this for years. If you have a garden or access to a community garden, you can also grow some of them yourself.

    What pesticides do in the body

    People can acquire pesticides orally as contamination of crops. But people can absorb them as well by inhalation or through the skin. People affected by pesticides may complain about a sore throat, a cough, eye and skin irritation. They also may develop a headache, loss of consciousness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In the worst case there can be profound weakness, seizures and death.

    You may think:” Why worry? There is probably just a little bit left, and this surely will not harm me.” But make no mistake: many of the pesticides are hormone disruptors, and that “little bit” does matter!

    Action of hormone disruptors

    Hormone disruptors may have a molecular structure similar to estrogen. As a result, laboratory analysis may show smaller semen counts in males causing infertility.  Women can develop cysts in the ovaries, menstrual bleeding abnormalities and breast cancer. With pregnancy pesticides can cause early miscarriages. In addition, women can also have fertility problems as a result of hormone disruptors.

    A French study showed that consumption of organic food reduces cancer risk

    One way to find out what pesticides (insecticides) are doing to the body is to do a comparative study. In France researchers compared cancer rates between people who consumed organic food and others who ate regular food (treated with pesticides). Researchers recruited 68,946 French adults for the study. More than ¾ of the study population were women in their mid 40’s. Researchers divided these subjects into 4 groups depending on how many of 16 organic food groups they were consuming.

    Details of the French study (organic food intake versus non-organic food intake)

    First of all, the type of foods included fruit and vegetables, ready-to-eat meals, meat and fish, vegetable oils and condiments, dietary supplements and other products. Also, the investigators followed this population for an average of 4 ½ years. Finally, during that time 1,340 cancers developed. 459 breast cancers occurred, 180 prostate cancers, 135 skin cancers, 99 colorectal cancers and 47 non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

    Those who ate the most organic food developed 25% less cancer on average. When it came to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, organic food consumers developed 73% less of it than people on regular food. Postmenopausal breast cancer was 21% less frequent among those who had the highest amount of organic food.

    The least contaminated fruit and vegetables

    The Environmental Working Group’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide for the least contaminated fruit and vegetables lists the following. Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples and onions. Papayas, frozen sweet peas, eggplant, asparagus, broccoli and cabbage are next. Finally, kiwifruit, cauliflower, mushrooms, honeydew and cantaloupe complete the list of the least contaminated crops. This means that you can buy these crops without concern whether or not you should buy the organic version. It is good to know what is acceptable and what you need to avoid by buying the organic version.

    GMO foods and Roundup

    It is interesting that there is no law in the US and in Canada that GMO foods should have a label that identifies crops with genetic modifications. This is changing rapidly as people realize that in many countries of Europe all GMO foods require labeling. Here is a publication that shows that the GMO labeling campaign is gaining momentum.

    Genetically modified corn and soy contains the Bt toxin; it has been found in babies as mentioned in this article. Bt toxin damages the small bowel (the ileum) through Cry1Ab (the protein produced in genetically modified corn and soy). This in turn disables the absorption of vitamin B12. We know that this causes anemia. Historically the cause of pernicious anemia was due to a lack of vitamin B12 absorption.

    Effects of Roundup

    In a publication dated April 2013 Drs. Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff discuss the effects of Roundup. They noticed that glyphosate inhibits the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes in the liver. This is a crucial detoxification enzyme complex. When toxicity studies of glyphosate in mammals emerged, this was not common knowledge. The CYP enzymes in the liver are important to metabolize and eliminate estrogens and also help to detoxify xenobiotics, which are estrogen-like substances (residues from insecticides).

    Glyphosate amplifies the effect of environmental toxins

    Thus glyphosate (=” Roundup”) amplifies the damaging effect of environmental toxins and chemical residues from non-organic food that we eat. Researchers have shown a build-up of estrogens and xenoestrogens that are responsible for the development of many cancers (atypical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer etc.). Based on this data it makes sense to switch to as much organic food as you can afford. Organic food does not contain Roundup. For the sake of your health at least stay away from the “dirty dozen”!

    Which are the Most and Least Contaminated Crops

    Which are the Most and Least Contaminated Crops

    Conclusion

    The poisoning of the food chain is a real concern. As far as pesticides (insecticides) are concerned the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce has been extremely useful. They publish a yearly guide of the “dirty dozen”, but also of the least contaminated fruit and vegetables. Regular crops with pesticide residues can cause infertility in both men and women. They also can cause early miscarriages in pregnant women. Generally speaking, they can cause headaches, loss of consciousness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In the worst case there can be profound weakness, seizures and death. A French study showed that subjects on organic food developed 25% less cancer on average. When it came to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, organic food consumers developed 73% less of it than people on regular food. Postmenopausal breast cancer was 21% less frequent among those who had the highest amount of organic food.

    The above contains parts from this blog.

    Apr
    03
    2021

    Pollen Allergies Make Covid-19 Infection Rates Worse

    A recent study showed that pollen allergies make Covid-19 infection rates worse. This was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in March 2021.

    The study determined that airborne pollen exposure enhances susceptibility to respiratory viral infections. Specifically, this includes SARS-CoV-2 infections as well. There were 130 test sites in 31 countries across 5 continents where measurements were made. Pollen concentration, air humidity and temperature, population density and lockdown effects on Covid-19 figures were measured. In countries with high pollen counts, high humidity and higher temperatures the Covid-19 rates were up to 44% higher than in countries with low pollen counts and colder climates.

    PNAS study in more detail

    In the following I am discussing the PNAS study in more detail. The SARS-CoV virus from the SARS epidemic in 2002 and the present SARS-CoV-2 virus are both capable to suppress the body’s interferon response to either virus. Additionally, there are intracellular proteins with the name “inflammasomes”, which the SARS-CoV-2 virus activates. With excessive activation this causes a cytokine storm, where inflammation spreads through the whole body. In the blood this leads to disseminated coagulopathy with multi organ failures. In the lungs severe acute respiratory syndrome occurs with severe viral pneumonia. On average mortality is 3.4%.

    Tree and weed pollen can weaken the immune response

    A study from South Korea examined what happens with exposure in asthmatic and allergic school-aged children to tree and weed pollen. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091674919311856.

    Allergic reactions make allergic children more prone to rhinovirus infections by reducing interferon in the blood. In addition, allergic reactions stimulate inflammasomes. When the SARS-CoV-2 virus affects an allergic child, both interferon depletion and excessive inflammasome activation make Covid-19 much more severe than in a child without allergies.

    Warm spell in the Northern Hemisphere

    On March 12, 2020 the WHO announced the Covid-19 pandemic when over 33% of the world’s countries were affected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, at the same time there was a large-scale warm spell across the Northern Hemisphere with tree pollens being distributed across the same regions. This resulted in an exponential increase of Covid-19 cases. The researchers determined that the rates of Covid-19 infections were highest in areas where there was a high tree pollen count, crowding of people and high humidity/temperatures. The researchers used data from 248 airborne pollen monitoring sites in 31 countries. The highest exponential growth rates of Covid-19 occurred in the countries with the highest pollen counts. 6 out of 8 countries studied with regard to high pollen counts showed a significant correlation with regard to Covid-19 infections in excess to just person-to person virus transmission.

    Population density and lockdown affecting daily SARS-CoV-2 virus rate

    Some countries had a complete lockdown when rates of infection were high. This reduced transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus by 50%. Those countries with only a partial lockdown still experienced a significant reduction of infection rates. Rural areas had significantly less daily SARS-CoV-2 virus rates compared to very densely populated cities.

    The researchers observed the following:

    • There was a lag effect of 4 days between the increase of pollen concentration in the air and infection increase with the SARS-CoV-2 virus
    • Pollens in the air caused infection rates of SARS-CoV-2 to rise by 10 to 30%, but in some high pollen areas even up to 44%.
    • Lockdowns reduced infection rates of SARS-CoV-2 by 50%
    • Higher environmental temperatures and higher humidity of the air also increased infection rates of SARS-CoV-2, although this may have occurred indirectly by increasing the pollen count in the air

    Discussion

    1. The authors added a thorough discussion of the multiple factors regarding the increase of the infection rate of Covid-19 in 2020. They pointed out that climatic factors, air pollutants, or pollen, often exert their effects at the same time. They quantitated the contribution of the pollen count in the air easily. In contrast, pollution and climatic factors were not predictable in their effects.
    2. The infection rate of the SARS-CoV-2 virus always lagged behind the increase in pollen count by 4 days. The researchers observed this in all those countries where increasing pollen counts were a significant factor.
    3. The epithelial lining of the nasal cavity is the target of inhaled pollen. The researchers cited several publications regarding reduced interferon production as a result of exposure to pollens in the nasal mucous membranes. This leaves the immune system with a weakness, which the SARS-CoV-2 virus exploits. Recently specialists discussed the use of intravenous interferon to interrupt the cytokine storm caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

    Pollen Allergies Make Covid-19 Infection Rates Worse

    Pollen Allergies Make Covid-19 Infection Rates Worse

    Conclusion

    In a recent publication researchers showed that pollen allergies make Covid-19 infection rates worse. The investigators had 130 test sites in 31 countries across 5 continents where they took measurements. They measured pollen concentration, air humidity, temperature, population density and lockdown effects on Covid-19 figures. In March of 2020 there was a warming trend in the Northern Hemisphere. This caused pollen counts to significantly rise in many countries. The result was that the mucous membranes in the nasal cavity weakened. This made it easier for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to multiply and invade. A lag period of 4 days occurred between the rise of the pollen count and the start of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The authors recommend that those who react to pollens in the air should wear pollen filtering masks in the spring season. This minimizes the danger of getting viral infections including SARS-CoV-2 infections following pollen exposure.

    Mar
    06
    2021

    Plastics are Harmful to Babies’ Brains

    Over the years research showed that plastics are harmful to babies’ brains. Companies that make plastic products use a chemical family of compounds, the phthalates. The reason is that they soften the plastic materials and in other instances harden them. February 18, 2021 a study appeared online by a commission that suggests to eliminate phthalates altogether.

    CNN summarized the evidence of what phthalates do to the brain of the unborn late in pregnancy and in early childhood.

    Exposure to phthalates

    Phthalates are also called the “everywhere chemical”.  Researchers found them in food and personal care items, in the car and in the home. You find them in food packaging, older vinyl flooring, in detergents, clothing and shower curtains.  Phthalates are in rain and stain-resistant products, but also in hair spray, shampoos, soap and nail polish. They make fragrances last longer. Phthalates must be listed as part of the ingredient list except when they are in use for fragrances. In that instance the FDA allows up to 20% of the product content to consist of phthalates and the manufacturer can label them only as “fragrances”. This is still a big loophole.

    Effects of phthalates on the young brain

    The recent review of phthalates as neurotoxins has taken into consideration more than 30 studies on prenatal exposure. Different tests assessed cognitive development in young children. The strongest association between phthalate exposure and a decline in cognitive function was found with hyperactivity, emotional problems, delinquent behaviors, other signs of attention deficit disorders (ADHD), defiance and aggression. One study examined children from mothers who had high phthalate levels in their blood in the last trimester. The researchers compared these children to children from mothers whose phthalate levels were normal at the end of their pregnancy. The risk was 3-fold higher to develop ADHD in the children of mothers with high phthalate levels.

    Another study showed that when women in the latter part of their pregnancy had higher phthalate levels, the children at the age of 7 were subsequently found to have an average IQ level 7 points less than controls.

    Elimination of phthalates from the body

    Unlike heavy metals that tend to accumulate in the body, the kidneys and the liver eliminate phthalates fast through urine and bile. Phthalates have much shorter biological half-lives compared to heavy metals that stay in the body for decades. David Bellinger is a professor of neurology and psychology at Boston Children’s Hospital. He said that once there is phthalate exposure to the baby’s brain in the womb, permanent damage sets in. The authors of the review paper call for a total ban of phthalates. This they say prevents high-risk people from getting exposure to products that harmed them in the past. The high-risk people are women of reproductive age, pregnant women, infants and children.

    Manufacturer’s behavioral change

    Lead author Stephanie Engel is a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina. She is teaching at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. She said: “We’re exposed to multiple phthalates, and that mixture can come within a single product, but also across multiple products that people are exposed to in a day. The reality is that we need to think of phthalates as a class because that’s how people are exposed to them.” She added that it is possible to remove an entire class of phthalates. She went on to say that the industry is showing us already that it is possible to do that.

    Products are appearing on the market that are phthalate-free

    For instance, Apple has removed phthalates as a class from almost all products. CVS and Home Depot have removed phthalates from personal care and beauty products, household products and vinyl flooring.  Another success story was the removal of BPA (Bisphenol A) from baby bottles and sippy cups. The organization “angry moms” was responsible for this action. Professor Engel suggested that the public at large needs to show what they believe in by only buying products that do not contain phthalates. This economic engine will shift the balance and make manufacturers produce phthalate-free products.

    Chemicals allowed in food and food packaging

    There are over 10,000 chemicals that the FDA has allowed to be in food and food packaging. Now there is a petition in front of the FDA, that asks them to re-review interactions of various chemicals in food and food packaging. Plastics, phthalates, perfluoroalkyl substances and many other substances we need to consider to eliminate. A tablecloth or new carpet do not have to be totally stain repellent. And if you eat out and have leftover food you can bring along a clean glass container where your leftover food food goes in. This gets rid of another Styrofoam container or coated paper container. I mentioned toxins in the bathroom in this blog before.

    Plastics are Harmful to Babies’ Brains

    Plastics are Harmful to Babies’ Brains

    Conclusion

    Industries use phthalates a lot. It is a chemical group of substances that coat food containers, make plastic soft, are in use with vinyl flooring and many other applications. They are even present in personal care, beauty products and household products. The problem is that adults can eliminate these substances very quickly in urine and bile (in the stool). But the fetus and newborns are very sensitive with regard to their brain development. Young kidneys and young livers are slower to eliminate phthalates from the body.

    Damage to the brain of the fetus late in pregnancy

    A publication in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) has published an article on phthalates and other chemicals in our food chain and the environment. They pointed out that with exposure to phthalates in the late pregnancy leads to damage of the brain in the fetus. This leads to a permanent IQ loss, which a research group measured at the age of 7. A normal control group without exposure to phthalates in comparison to a group with exposure to phthalates showed a loss of 7 points on the IQ scale.

    Some companies are starting to produce phthalate-free products

    Fortunately, several manufacturers like Apple, CVS and Home Depot have started to produce items without phthalates. The consumer needs to show with their wallets that we will only buy phthalate-free products. This likely will turn the tide at the manufacturing level.

    Feb
    20
    2021

    Two Articles Showed that Fish Oil Reduces Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality

    Recently two articles showed that fish oil reduces cardiovascular disease and mortality.

    British study recording the effects of fish oil over 10 years

    For one thing, the British Medical Journal published an article comparing people who supplemented with fish oil with people who did not. In this case, the ones who supplemented had a lower risk of mortality and had lower cardiovascular disease than the control group. In brief, 427,678 subjects were enrolled in this British study between 2006 and 2010. Questionnaires at the beginning of the study revealed how many capsules of fish oil the subjects consumed. Hospital records and death certificates provided information about cardiovascular disease mortality at the end of 2018. Altogether, 31% of the subjects said that they were taking fish oil supplements regularly.

    In short, here are the results of the study showing what fish oil did.

    • 7% lower cardiovascular events
    • 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality
    • 20% lower mortality risk from heart attacks
    • 13% lower risk of death from any cause (when compared to people who did not use fish oil)

    Discussion

    Given these points, the authors stated that it was the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil that caused all the beneficial effects. This included lowering of blood pressure, triglycerides and reducing the heart rate. Fish oil was also responsible for improvement of endothelial function, inflammation and blood clotting. In addition, fish oil protects against cardiac arrhythmias. They stated: “Fish oil supplementation could be an inexpensive, quick, safe way of increasing an individual’s omega-3 fatty acid intake”.

    Mayo Clinic study of taking higher doses of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

    A study dated Sept. 17, 2020 showed the cardiovascular benefits of higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids. This was the second of two articles that showed that fish oil reduces cardiovascular disease and mortality. It was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. This metaanalysis involved 40 interventional studies and 135,000 patients. Two types of omega-3 fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA were studied with regard to the prevention of cardiovascular disease. EPA and DHA supplementation had the following effects.

    • 35% reduction of risk of a fatal heart attack
    • 13% reduction of heart attacks in general
    • 10% reduced risk of coronary heart disease occurrence
    • 9% reduction of mortality from coronary heart disease

    The researchers described that the higher the dose of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, the greater the protection.

    An extra dose of 1000 mg per day of EPA and DHA reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease as follows. There was a reduction of cardiovascular disease by 5.8% and of heart attacks by 9%. I take 1800 mg of EPA/DHA twice a day, a total of 3600 mg per day.

    Two Articles Showed that Fish Oil Reduces Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality

    Two Articles Showed that Fish Oil Reduces Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality

    Conclusion

    Two independent studies of fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids came to similar conclusions.  Heart attacks and strokes are significantly reduced. And mortality in the group that used fish oil supplementation was also significantly reduced. An extra dose of 1000 mg per day of EPA and DHA reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease as follows. There was a reduction of cardiovascular disease by 5.8% and of a heart attack by 9%. Based on these findings the researchers recommended that patients should use EPA/DHA supplementation to reduce cardiovascular risk. EPA/DHA supplementation lowers blood pressure, triglycerides and the heart rate. Fish oil was also responsible for improvement of endothelial function, also for the prevention of inflammation and blood clotting. In addition, fish oil protects against cardiac arrhythmias. The end result is that you live a healthier life.

    Jan
    23
    2021

    Review about Human Oncolytic Virus Research in 2020

    The British Medical Journal published a review about human oncolytic virus research in 2020. That is to say, the BMJ published this report in July 2020. On the negative side, the report is rather complex with many technical terms. With this in mind, I will keep it as simple as possible for this summary. Notably, oncolytic viruses are a new way of treating cancer. Adenovirus was the most common oncolytic virus in use by cancer research in the past 20 years. It must be remembered, researchers applied this to mainly melanoma and gastrointestinal cancers. In the past I discussed the use of oncolytic viruses in a related post.

    History of licencing of oncolytic viruses

    1. The first oncolytic virus was licenced in 2004 in Latvia. This was an RNA virus derived from the native ECHO-7 strain of a picornavirus, called Rigvir. This oncolytic virus was approved for treating melanomas.
    2. Shortly after, in 2005, China approved a genetically modified adenovirus, H101 as an oncolytic virus. The approval was for the treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma combined with chemotherapy.
    3. In 2015, the U.S. the FDA approved T-VEC (Talimogene laherparepvec), an attenuated herpes simplex virus, type 1. This new oncovirus encodes granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). This is effective for the local treatment of inoperable, recurrent melanoma. It works for cutaneous, subcutaneous and nodal lesions in patients with recurrent melanoma after initial surgery.

    Review of 20 years of human oncolytic virus research

    The investigators reported about 97 clinical trials with oncolytic viruses performed between 2000 and 2020. That is to say, this involved 3233 patients with cancer. Most of these trials were phase I (50.5%) trials. There were an additional 6.2% studies, which were phase I/II. 11.3% were phase II clinical trials and only 2.1% were phase III clinical trials. 29.9 % of the literature did not specify what type of trial the investigations were about. However, they likely belonged into the phase I category as they reported on first trials of a therapy on man.

    Oncolytic viruses derive from various types of viruses 

    The number of studies that used a certain virus-derivative are included in brackets. It must be remembered that most of the studies dealt with six viruses: adenoviruses (30), herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) (23), reovirus (19), poxvirus (12), Newcastle disease virus (NDV) (5) and measles virus (3).

    Stimulation of the immune system through GM-CSF

    In 24 studies the researchers introduced GM-CSF transgene into an oncolytic virus. GM-CSF is a glycoprotein that is normally produced by granulocytes, a type of white blood cell. In this case, it stimulates dendritic cells, the precursors of T cells to produce killer T cells. Notably, this stimulates the immune system to better fight cancer.

    Types of cancer targeted with oncolytic viruses

    It is important to realize that the majority of the studies treated melanoma cases and gastrointestinal cancers. Namely, gastrointestinal cancers included esophageal cancer, gastric (stomach) cancer, colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer. There were 30 studies involving melanomas with 1000 patients. There were 76 clinical trials regarding gastrointestinal cancers with 577 patients.

    Moreover, other cancers where oncolytic viruses were studied were head and neck cancer (15 studies) breast and gynecological cancers (31 studies), genitourinary cancers (26 studies), and sarcomas (16 studies).

    Other drugs given along with oncolytic viruses

    It must be remembered that of the 97 total studies 62.9% were clinical trials where oncolytic viruses were the only therapy. In 37.1% of the studies physicians gave the oncolytic viruses along with cytotoxic chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiotherapy.

    Side effects of treatment with oncolytic viruses

    The safety profile for treatment with oncolytic viruses appears to be tolerable. Fever was common, as were chills. Some patients reported nausea and vomiting, flu-like symptoms, fatigue and pain. But these symptoms disappeared within a few days.

    Suppression of the bone marrow for a period of time was common, but more so when there was a combination of  oncolytic viruses with chemotherapy. None of the patients transmitted viruses to household contacts or the healthcare team.

    Antitumor activity in clinical trials with involvement of oncolytic viruses

    An analysis of clinical responses to oncolytic virus therapy showed the following:

    • 1% had disease control, which broke down as follows (items 2,3 and 4)
    • 4% complete control (=cure)
    • 7% partial control
    • 12% stable disease
    • 9% No response to treatment with oncolytic viruses

    HSV-1 derived oncolytic viruses had the best response. The responses were not as good with adenovirus, reoviruses and with vaccinia viruses.

    Discussion

    Researchers of the BMJ publication analysed 97 clinical trials regarding oncolytic viruses over the past 20 years. This showed a number of points worth mentioning.

    1. The goal of oncolytic virus therapy is to induce tumor cell death. Physicians could achieve this indirectly by stimulating the immune system. Oncolytic viruses can stimulate both the innate immune system and the tumor-specific adaptive immune response.
    2. In the earlier years a lot of clinical trials investigated the safety of oncolytic viruses. But it became clear that oncolytic viruses were safe and fairly well tolerated.
    3. Many clinical trials involved oncogenic viruses with GM-CSF recombinant genes. This gene makes the oncolytic virus produce the GM-CSF protein, which stimulates dendritic cells. The end result is that the immune system produces more killer T cells that attack cancer cells, which results in higher cure rates.

    More problems with oncolytic viruses

    1. There are still many questions about how oncolytic viruses stimulate the immune system. More basic research is necessary in this field. Despite 20 years of research the cure rate of 3.4% and achieving partial control and stable disease in another 17.7% is not acceptable. Perhaps combinations with other cancer treatment methods may improve the cancer cure rates. The reviewers suggested one such combination, namely immune checkpoint blockade with oncolytic virus therapy.
    2. There is no resolution about which route of administering oncolytic viruses is best. Intratumor application in melanoma cases seems the be optimal. But other solid tumors are difficult to reach. In these cases, intravenous applications were a choice. In this case oncolytic viruses experience dilution in the blood and do not have a high enough concentration when they arrive at the cancer.

    Review about Human Oncolytic Virus Research in 2020

    Review about Human Oncolytic Virus Research in 2020

    Conclusion

    In a review researchers discussed the use of oncolytic viruses in cancer therapy over 20 years . Oncolytic viruses are derivatives mostly from adenoviruses, herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), reovirus, poxvirus, Newcastle disease virus (NDV) and the measles virus. In various clinical trials researchers found that disease control was achieve in only 21.1% of treated cases. There was a cure rate of 3.4%, but another 17.7% had partial control of the cancer or stable disease. But 78.9% of treated patients showed no response to treatment with oncolytic viruses. Obviously more research is necessary to improve the cure rates in cancer patients treated with oncolytic viruses. Clinical trials with combinations of immune checkpoint blockade and oncolytic virus therapy would also be helpful. All in all, oncolytic therapy is at this point not yet an effective form of treatment for cancer.