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Gut Bacteria Could Control Your Mind

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Researchers suggest that gut bacteria may affect our cravings and mood to get us to eat what they want, the discovery may have an impact on curing obesity and even cancer.

It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us - which outnumber our own cells about 100-fold - may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.

In an article published in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behaviour and dietary choices to favour consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.

Gut Bacteria Could Control Your Mind

Manipulative Bacteria

Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem - our digestive tracts - they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis.

While it is unclear exactly how this occurs, the authors believe this diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system and the nervous system, those signals could influence our physiologic and behavioural responses.

"Bacteria within the gut are manipulative," said Carlo Maley, corresponding author on the paper." "There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not."

Fortunately, it's a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberating altering what we ingest, Maley said, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.

"Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut," Maley said. "It's a whole ecosystem, and it's evolving on the time scale of minutes."

There are even specialised bacteria that digest seaweed, found in humans in Japan, where seaweed is popular in the diet.

Probiotics to the Rescue

Research suggests that gut bacteria may be affecting our eating decisions in part by acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.

"Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good," said Aktipis.

In mice, certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior. In humans, one clinical trial found that drinking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.

Maley, Aktipis and first author Joe Alcock, from the University of New Mexico, proposed further research to test the sway microbes hold over us. For example, would transplantation into the gut of the bacteria requiring a nutrient from seaweed lead the human host to eat more seaweed?

The speed with which the microbiome can change may be encouraging to those who seek to improve health by altering microbial populations. This may be accomplished through food and supplement choices, by ingesting specific bacterial species in the form of probiotics, or by killing targeted species with antibiotics. Optimising the balance of power among bacterial species in our gut might allow us to lead less obese and healthier lives, according to the authors.

"Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating," the authors wrote.

In fact, the evolution of tumors and of bacterial communities are linked, points out Aktipis, who said some of the bacteria that normally live within us cause stomach cancer and perhaps other cancers.

"Targeting the microbiome could open up possibilities for preventing a variety of disease from obesity and diabetes to cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the importance of the microbiome for human health," she said. - MM

Pune Mirror
19 Aug 2014

Ebola Virus Disease

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Key facts

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%.
  • EVD outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus.
  • Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

Genus Ebolavirus is 1 of 3 members of the Filoviridae family (filovirus), along with genus Marburgvirus and genus Cuevavirus. Genus Ebolavirus comprises 5 distinct species:

1. Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV)
2. Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV)
3. Reston ebolavirus (RESTV)
4. Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV)
5. Taï Forest ebolavirus (TAFV).

BDBV, EBOV, and SUDV have been associated with large EVD outbreaks in Africa, whereas RESTV and TAFV have not. The RESTV species, found in Philippines and the People’s Republic of China, can infect humans, but no illness or death in humans from this species has been reported to date.

Mosquito-Borne West Nile Virus Shows Polio-Like Symptoms

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Two months after the country earned its polio-free tag, a mosquito has emerged as a fresh concern. Mosquito-borne West Nile virus has been found to be causing acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), the main symptom of poliomyelitis, for the first time in India. The symptom is the most common sign of acute polio and is used for surveillance during polio outbreaks.

However, unlike polio which is a childhood disease, West Nile induced AFP is seen in adults. So, the finding is not going to undermine the success of polio-free certification, say researchers, but is still reason for concern. Nationwide AFP surveillance is the gold standard to detect polio cases.

Neurologists from hospitals in Kochi, Kerala along with virologists from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) designated virology laboratory Manipal Centre for Virus Research (MCVR), Manipal University have reported three laboratory confirmed cases of West Nile virus induced AFP, a syndrome historically associated with infection by polio virus.

Vaccination Policy Review To Tame Encephalitis Epidemic Threat

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With the health ministry having announced a national emergency to tame the rising threat of encephalitis it is time to revisit the existing policy in regard to voluntary administration of the preventive vaccine against the disease.

The mortality rate of the disease is very high at around 26 per cent.

“This is a national emergency,” said Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan here on Tuesday on the latest deaths in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar due to Japanese Encephalitis (JE). The toll from encephalitis has risen to 25 and counting with 10 more children dying in Muzaffarpur (Bihar) in the last 12 hours, officials said.

Even though there is no cure for the disease, there is a preventive vaccine. Former Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had launched an indigenous vaccine for the disease.

In October 2013, Azad launched the indigenously produced Japanese Encephalitis vaccine JENVAC. The vaccine had been jointly developed by scientists of National Institute of Virology, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Bharat Biotech Ltd.

Detaining Patients Over Unpaid Bills `Inhuman': HC

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The Bombay high court on Thursday denounced the "inhuman" practice of hospitals detaining patients till their medical bills were paid. A division bench of Justices VM Kanade and P D Kode heard a petition filed by Sanjay Prajapati (25) urging it to direct MIDC Police, Andheri (East), to act against doctors and staff of SevenHills Hospital, for wrongfully confining his brother over a disputed bill. He urged the court to direct the police to get the patient discharged and admitted to a suitable hospital for further treatment.

The petitioner said his brother Chinku suffered head injuries after a fall at home on March 29, 2014, and was admitted to SevenHills Hospital where he was operated upon. Prajapati later wrote to the CEO alleging improper treatment and bogus billings, but got no response. Finding no improvement in his brother's condition, he decided to shift him elsewhere but the hospital refused to discharge him till the disputed bills were cleared.

​Detaining Patients Over Unpaid Bills `Inhuman': HC

Diwakar Dwivedi, Prajapati's advocate, told the HC that out of a total bill of Rs 4.56 lakh, Rs 2.76 lakh was deposited and according to the hospital a balance of Rs 1.80 lakh was payable. "I have disputed it. I now want to shift my brother but they are refusing to discharge him unless the bills are paid. They cannot detain a patient in this manner," the petitioner said. The judges agreed. "It is a practice at all hospitals to detain patients as long as money is not paid. It is inhuman. It is happening even in government hospitals. It is surprising" said Justice Kanade. The judge recounted how a court staff was detained in a government hospital even after he stood guarantee for payment of the bill. He said the man had high blood pressure but was told he would be operated upon only after a deposit of Rs 2 lakh. Justice Kanade said he gave an undertaking for making the payment. "Government reimbursements are usually delayed. He was detained for 10 days," said Justice Kanade.

Prosecutor FR Shaikh remarked that hospitals have been "commercialized". The judges said people are expected to shell out a huge amount at a short notice and it is unfortunate that patients are refused discharge for payment. Prajapati's petition alleged that the surgeon at SevenHills, Dr Kishore Choudhary, was charging his visiting fees for the period when he was on leave. He claimed when he took up the issue of bogus visiting charges, he was allegedly threatened that the bills would be inflated further. He alleged that the hospital and its staff behaved badly with him and his brother as they were poor. "The patient has been ill-treated, humiliated and neglected by doctors as well as the staff," his petition stated. The judges have asked the state to take instructions and inform the court on Friday.

However, hospital authorities denied that the patient was being detained and told TOI that he was being extended the best care. "There is no question of holding back a patient. He is fit to be discharged and can walk out of the hospital whenever the family wishes to take him," said Anand Garg, CEO of SevenHills Hospital. He said doctors at the hospital have given Prajapati a new lease of life after he came with a broken skull. Garg however admitted that initially there was some erroneous billing. "There was some discrepancy in the initial bill that was sorted out soon after the family pointed it out to us. Our billing is automated so it was more of a technical error," he said. He insisted that the patient was not denied any second surgery. "The patient does not need that immediately," he added. Garg also said that the family was provided every medical record and diagnostic report that they had asked for.

Times Of India
13 June 2014
Mumbai, India
by: Rosy Sequeira

Disclaimer: The news story on this page is the copyright of the cited publication.This has been reproduced here for visitors to review, comment on and discuss. This is in keeping with the principle of ’Fair dealing’ or ’Fair use’. Visitors may click on the publication name, in the news story, to visit the original article as it appears on the publication’s website.

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