In France, 90 people took an experimental drug (a fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitor for pain relief) at various dose levels for Phase 1 clinical trials by a Portuguese pharmaceutical company called Bial. Of these drug trial participants, one is dead and five others are seriously ill of which some have irreversible neurological damage. All were in good health prior to taking the oral medication. The trial has been suspended, all participants are being heavily monitored, and the French state prosecutor has opened an inquiry into the situation. The medical reason(s) behind this tragedy have sparked considerable speculation and discussion in the scientific community. However, crucial details on the drug involved and prior studies leading to the involvement of humans is not well documented. The source article describes possible reasons for the trial's fatal error by explaining the likely chemical structure of the drug and the development and testing of other FAAH inhibitors that have progressed to clinical trials. It provides a good ethical balance of evidence-based speculation in comparison to the multitude of commentary pieces currently on newsstands.
Bial News Release: January 19th 2016
Sierra Leone was declared free of Ebola on Nov. 7th 2015, with further regional clearance on Jan 14th 2016, when Liberia was added to the list according to a World Health Organization (WHO) media release. Tests conducted by British health authorities on the remains of a person who died in northern Sierra Leone proved positive for the Ebola virus. Back tracking of who the person came into contact with is underway. Although Ebola clearance was provided to the country, WHO has warned that flare-ups are to be expected and that a strong surveillance and response systems will be critical in finalizing the battle to erradicate the virus. To date, 10 post out-break flare-ups have been reported, which have been speculated as being due to virus persistence after patient recovery (e.g., in rare cases it can remain in semen for as long as 1 year). Approximately 4,000 people have died of Ebola in Sierra Leone and 11,000 people across the region since December 2013.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that every patient receive a prompt laboratory confirmation if suspected to have contracted malaria, via a microscopic review or Rapid Diagnostic Tests. Although microscopy has been considered a ‘gold standard’ in laboratory malaria confirmation, the Fyodor Urine Malaria Test (UMT) has the potential to increase the number of people tested within 24 hours of symptom onset as it uses a dipstick submerged for 25 minutes in urine to determine test results. The rapid detection test UMT looks for proteins produced by the malaria parasite - histidine rich protein 2 (HRP2) is produced by Plasmodium falciparum which is the most common malaria species in Africa. Benefits of such a test include the facilitation of patients receiving the right treatment at the right time, improvement of febrile patient outcomes (and other medical conditions), reduced use of unnecessary antimalarials, and potential reduction of drug resistance spread.
According to the Mayo Clinic, between 10-15% of Americans struggle with infertility conditions with many using assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Tel Aviv University scientists have developed a microscopic technology that does not require staining sperm and will increase a couple's chances of successful pregnancy without congenital defects. A cost-effective “black box” is attached to an existing microscope and in conjunction with software, it produces a thickness map of the sample as well as other physical parameters to evaluate sperm viability.
In other published work, a German science team has conceptualized a unique solution to infertility issues associated with low mobility of sperm. Based on previous work with micromotors, mini-metal motorized helices were constructed to fit around the tail of a sperm. With the use of a rotating magnetic field, the tool can drive the sperm to an egg for fertilization.
Press Release: New microscopy may identify best sperm cells
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