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AstraZeneca admits Covishield jab raises TTS risk. Should you be worried?

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New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) Thrombosis Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) — a blood clot disorder — is a rare side effect of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine, and the risks far outweigh the benefits of the jab, said doctors here on Tuesday.

This comes after reports said that AstraZeneca has for the first time accepted in court documents that its vaccine, developed in partnership with Oxford University, can raise the risk of a rare and serious blood clot.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, sold as Covishield in India and Vaxzevria in Europe is a viral vector vaccine developed using the modified chimpanzee adenovirus ChAdOx1.

Covishield manufactured and marketed in India in partnership with Serum Institute of India (SII), was widely administered in the country — to almost 90 per cent of the Indian population.

“Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome (TTS) is one of the rare but very serious adverse effects that has happened as part of Vaccine-induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (VITTP). The incidence has been as low as one in 50,000 (0.002 per cent), but in a huge population, the number becomes sizeable,” infectious disease expert Dr. Ishwar Gilada, told IANS.

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“TTS is a very rare condition resulting from an abnormal immune response. Although it has several causes, it has also been linked with adenovirus vector vaccines and the WHO published a report on May 27, 2021 about it,” Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, co-chairman of the Indian Medical Association’s National Covid-19 Task Force, told IANS.

What is the case? The British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company has admitted for the first time in the UK court documents that its Covid vaccine can cause a rare blood clot risk, the Telegraph reported.

About 51 cases have been lodged in the UK High Court against the pharmaceutical giant over claims that its Covid vaccine caused death and serious injury.

The victims and grieving relatives have sought damages, estimated to be worth up to 100 million pounds, the report said.

Although AstraZeneca is contesting the claims “it has accepted, in a legal document submitted to the High Court in February that its Covid vaccine ‘can, in very rare cases, cause TTS’”, the report said.

TTS causes people to have blood clots and a low blood platelet count.

AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine and link to TTS? In India, almost 90 per cent of people who received Covid vaccine, received the AstraZeneca vaccine which in India is called Covishield. It is made from a harmless cold virus, which is from chimpanzees and it is called adenovirus.

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“Once this virus is genetically modified or engineered to match the SARS-CoV-2, a causative organism for Covid-19, this works on a spike protein. So, the vaccine is incorporated with the S spike protein genetic sequence,” said Dr. Ishwar, Secretary General People’s Health Organisation-India, Mumbai.

Explaining the mechanism of potential TTS risk, he said that the vaccine is injected in the arm which is in the deltoid muscle. However, “sometimes instead of just getting into muscles, it also enters the bloodstream. Once it enters the bloodstream, the adenovirus in the vaccines acts like a magnet, with a special affinity to a type of protein in the blood called platelet factor 4 (PF4),” the doctor said.

“While PF4 is normally used by the body to promote coagulation in blood, in rare instances, the body’s immune system confuses it as a foreign body or foreign invader and then releases antibodies to attack it — called mistaken identity.

“It is theorised that such antibodies then react and clump together with PF4, forming the blood clots that have become so heavily linked with the vaccine. Such clots in the brain and heart can cause disastrous adverse effects,” the doctor said.

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Should all Covishield vaccine takers be worried?

“No, we need not because it has happened to a very few people,” Dr. Ishwar said.

“The difficulty is to distinguish between the complications that are caused by Covid itself or long-Covid or the vaccine. That remains debatable and indistinguishable for the scientific community as also the legal fraternity,” he added.

Importantly, Dr. Rajeev said, “People who are vaccinated have an overall lower risk of death from Covid as well as complications such as post-Covid heart attacks and strokes afterward”.

“Although there are extremely rare serious side effects for vaccines, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Covid vaccines have prevented hundreds of thousands of people from dying. For example, in the US, 232,000-318,000 people have died from Covid, due to refusal to vaccinate from disproportionate fear of vaccination,” he added.

–IANS

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Ayush Ministry, WHO to organise key meet on traditional medicine on Monday

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New Delhi, June 22 (IANS) The Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) under the Ayush Ministry will organise a national consultative meet on traditional medicine in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.

To be organised in the national capital, the meet titled ‘Research Priority Settings in Traditional Medicine’ will be held in collaboration with the WHO-SEARO (World Health Organization-South-East Asia Regional Office) and WHO-GTMC (Global Traditional Medicine Centre).

This marks a pioneering effort in aligning traditional medicine research with global standards and priorities, the Ayush Ministry said.

Key topics to be addressed include medicinal plant research, quality, safety, and efficacy studies, pre-clinical validations, rational use of traditional medicines, clinical trial monitoring, medical anthropology, and the digitalisation of ancient medical literature.

Approximately 100 stakeholders and experts from the Ayush sector are likely to participate in the event, which aims to identify and prioritise key research areas across various traditional medicine systems such as ayurveda, siddha, unani, and homeopathy.

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This initiative is in accordance with the WHO mandate in traditional medicine, according to Vaidya Rabinarayan Acharya, Director General, CCRAS.

The meet aims to lay the groundwork for a decade-long research strategy in traditional medicine, fostering the exchange of ideas among the stakeholders and aligning the efforts with WHO guidelines.

Recently, the National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage (NIIMH), a peripheral institute of CCRAS in Hyderabad, was designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for ‘Fundamental and Literary Research in Traditional Medicine’.

–IANS

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Older adults likely to continue using wearable tech if get aid from healthcare peers: Study

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New Delhi, June 22 (IANS) Older adults living in the community are more likely to continue using Wearable Monitoring Devices (WMDs), such as trackers, pedometers, and smartwatches, if they get support from healthcare professionals or peers, a new study has found.

In the study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the researchers from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University studied data from three randomised controlled trials involving over 150 older adults.

“Healthcare professionals play a pivotal role in facilitating the adoption of wearable monitoring devices among older adults,” said Dr Arkers Kwan Ching Wong, who led the research.

The data indicated that interventions focused on increasing awareness of monitoring and utilising collaborative goal-setting and feedback tools, such as the SystemCHANGE approach, improved adherence to WMDs.

WMDs can offer helpful health insights, but their long-term use can be challenging for older adults who may not be comfortable with technology or do not see the value in using it, the researchers noted.

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However, the research highlighted that providing targeted support to assist older adults overcome these barriers and integrate WMDs into their daily routines can help maximise the potential health benefits of these devices.

“By working with healthcare professionals to set specific goals related to the use of wearables, older adults are more likely to benefit from these devices in the long term,” the researchers said.

–IANS

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Researchers use diabetes medication as effective drug therapy for sleep-related disorder

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London, June 22 (IANS) A team of researchers have demonstrated the potential of tirzepatide, known to manage type 2 diabetes, as the first effective drug therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a sleep-related condition characterised by repeated episodes of irregular breathing due to complete or partial blockage of the upper airway, a new study has said.

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted the treatment’s potential to enhance the quality of life for millions worldwide affected by OSA.

“This study marks a significant milestone in the treatment of OSA, offering a promising new therapeutic option that addresses both respiratory and metabolic complications,” said Atul Malhotra, MD, lead author of the study, professor at UC San Diego Health.

OSA can cause low blood oxygen levels and raise the risk of cardiovascular problems such as hypertension and heart failure. Recent research, also led by Malhotra, suggests that there are approximately 936 million OSA patients globally.

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The study involved 469 participants diagnosed with clinical obesity and living with moderate-to-severe OSA.

The participants were administered either 10 or 15 mg of the drug by injection or a placebo. The impact of tirzepatide was assessed over 52 weeks.

Researchers found that tirzepatide led to a significant drop in the number of breathing interruptions during sleep, a key indicator used to measure the severity of OSA.

“This improvement was much greater than what was seen in participants that were given a placebo,” the study mentioned.

In addition, the researchers noted that some participants who took the drug reached a point where CPAP therapy might not be necessary.

The therapy also improved other factors related to OSA, such as reducing the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases and improving body weight.

“This new drug treatment offers a more accessible alternative for individuals who cannot tolerate or adhere to existing therapies. We believe that the combination of CPAP therapy with weight loss will be optimal for improving cardiometabolic risk and symptoms,” said Malhotra.

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–IANS

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Weight loss linked with reduced cancer risk in people with obesity: Study

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San Francisco, June 22 (IANS) Real-world weight loss is linked with a decreased risk of obesity-related cancers, a new study has said.

The study published in the journal American Diabetes Association comprised 172 patients including 100,143 in the control arm and 5,329 cases.

The median body mass index (BMI at censoring (kg/m2.) was 34.2 for cases and 34.5 for controls, which are considered to have obesity according to the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For each cancer endpoint, logistic regression models were used to assess the association of body mass index (BMI) change with three, five, and 10-year intervals before cancer diagnosis (for cases) versus controls.

The study found that the risk was reduced for renal cell carcinoma (three years), multiple myeloma (10 years), and endometrial cancer (three and five years) among primary cancer endpoints.

“This study reinforces how crucial it is to treat obesity as a chronic disease,” said Kenda Alkwatli, MD, Clinical Fellow at Cleveland Clinic, and author of the study.

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“We are hopeful that these results can help us better understand how we can use weight loss to address comorbidities including cancer in patients with obesity,” she added.

As per the researchers, obesity is linked to higher risks of at least 13 types of cancer due to excess estrogen and elevated insulin, including breast, kidney, ovary, liver, and pancreatic cancer.

–IANS

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Bird flu outbreak at US dairy farms cause public health concerns

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Los Angeles, June 22 (IANS) The ongoing bird flu outbreak at US dairy farms has heightened concerns among public health experts as more dairy herds have tested positive for the virus in recent months.

The influenza A (H5N1) virus, commonly known as bird flu, is widespread in wild birds worldwide and has been circulating in US poultry since 2022, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, the situation escalated in late 2023 when the virus is believed to have jumped from birds to dairy cows at a Texas farm.

This was followed by a human infection in April linked to exposure to infected cattle. To date, three human cases of infection have been reported, bringing the total number of US H5N1 cases to four, including one case in 2022 linked to poultry exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The virus had been confirmed in at least 115 dairy herds across 12 states as of Thursday, according to the latest tally posted on the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.

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In a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers found “small, detectable amounts of infectious (H5N1) virus remained in raw milk samples with high virus levels” when treated at 72 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds — one of the standard pasteurisation methods used by the dairy industry, according to an NIH press release last week.

The CDC noted that while the current public health risk is low, it is watching the situation carefully and working with states to monitor people with animal exposures.

But public health experts have paid attention to the government’s slow response and inadequate testing.

“Failures in testing continued. This was a serious problem in the early months of COVID-19, in mpox, and now with H5N1. There will be future disease emergencies — we have to do better,” wrote Gigi Gronvall, an immunologist, on social media X on Thursday.

Gronvall, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, called for a public-private partnership between the government, test developers, and clinical laboratories to streamline testing rollout and information sharing at the beginning of an event.

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The World Health Organization considers bird flu a public health concern, as these viruses, including the H5N1 strain, can result in mild to severe illness and death and have the potential to mutate to become more contagious, says the organisation on its website.

While infections have been confirmed in cattle across the country, only 45 individuals have been tested for novel influenza A since March, with 550 under monitoring, according to the CDC’s latest update on June 14.

Aside from the limited availability of bird flu tests, experts said the low trust of farm owners and farm workers towards the government also makes it difficult to detect potential cases.

“The United States’ response to H5N1 — ‘bird flu’ — has taken too long, showing how risky gaps in coordination and trust can be,” wrote Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC, in an analysis published by CNN on Tuesday.

“Trust toward the United States government is low, especially among rural Americans who are on the front line of these outbreaks,” added Frieden, president and chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives.

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Many dairy farm workers in the United States are undocumented immigrants or migrants who may distrust the government or be hesitant to miss work if they test positive, CDC Principal Deputy Director Nirav Shah told Axios in a Tuesday report.

Despite the allocation of federal funds to incentivise farm cooperation, no farms have enrolled in the voluntary on-site milk testing program, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

–IANS

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