Afro-Americans More Prone To Asthma

Asthma a leading chronic disease affects some populations more severely than others. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have observed that Afro-American children are twice likely to be asthmatic than the white Americans and Afro-Americans stand a 10 times greater chance of death due to asthma complications. Scientists from the University of California, San Francisco have taken it upon themselves to address this claim by looking for reasons in the genetic makeup of the most prone population and also at Mexican American and Puerto Rican children’s genes to better understand drug responses in each population.

Marquitta White, a renowned Geneticist, recently published findings that since the majority of genetic studies have been studied in Caucasian or European descent populations, the results and medications vary greatly from those of the Afro-American populations and is the main reason for poor care and responsiveness to available medication and treatments. For example, there is a common asthma medication called Advair that particularly specifies that it is not suitable for African Americans and that it poses an 8 fold risk of death. Albuterol another commonly administered drug for asthma has adverse effects on Puerto Rican and African American children. Both these populations have a high mortality rate.

It is essential to include minority populations too in clinical studies. The case is a reminder of the time when heart diseases were studied only in men due to which women underwent a very difficult time of diagnosis and treatment. Disease etiology and treatment need to be studied in individual populations due to the differences in genetic makeup. Genetics of a population contributes greatly to their well-being, survival traits and health risks. Asthma often is associated with the environment the patients live in and mostly are observed in those with a history of asthma in the family. Way back in 1993, the Congress had passed a legislation that publicly funded medical studies must include more minorities, although this has not yet been put to practice effectively.

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Zika Virus May Be Linked To Guillain-Barre

Zika virus was discovered in Africa and was common in Asia. Recently it spread out to other parts of the world and caused health concerns. Usually, Zika virus causes a mild disease from which people can recover from with proper care and rest, but it becomes a major concern when it leads to birth defects in pregnant women and spikes in cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome which causes temporary paralysis.

A paper published in The Lancet already suggests a link between the outbreak of Zika and cause of Guillain Barre Syndrome following infection. The study takes into account the outbreak of Zika in the islands of French Polynesia in 2013. During the outbreak out of the 270,000 population, two thirds were infected within a period of six months. The symptoms are as simple as fever, muscle pain, conjunctivitis and rash. Apart from this about 50 infected people became partially paralyzed as a result of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). The Zika virus causes the patients’ immune system to attack its own nerves and cause paralysis. The infected people recovered after intensive care and three months of treatment.

There are more reports from El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia, Suriname and Brazil on increasing incidence of neurological conditions like microcephaly that is possibly linked to Zika virus. The research team studied blood samples of Zika infected patients, GBS patients and uninfected individuals for antibodies and observed that 88% GBS patients’ blood contained neutralizing antibodies against the Zika virus establishing the suggested link. The research also cleared out dengue as not being a causative of GBS.

The evidence although not very conclusive is strongly suggestive of the link between Zika virus and GBS incidence. The chances of suffering GBS due to a Zika infection are very rare and all victims of the French Polynesian colonies survived and recovered completely. There will be rising concerns in case of an epidemic.