The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides an evidence based blog that describes growing support for connecting the recent rise of birth defects in Central and South America with the parallel spread of the Zika virus. Several studies have been funded by NIH to investigate this correlation and the potential for casual effect.
Two major pieces of evidence:
1) the Zika virus can kill human neural progenitor cells which give rise to the cerebral cortex and can cause microcephaly, and
2) a group of pregnant women infected by the virus had significantly more rates of microcephaly in the fetus.
Further concerns over the impact of the Zika virus, have shown in The New England Journal of Medicine article (88 healthy pregnant woman enrolled in the study, 72 were confirmed to be infected):
Of the Zika-infected women, almost a third had developing babies that showed signs of very serious abnormalities by ultrasound.
- 5 babies showed growth restrictions with or without microcephaly.
- 7 had other abnormalities of the central nervous system.
- 7 babies showed abnormally low levels of amniotic fluid or blood flow to the brain or umbilical cord.
- Two babies in the study were stillborn just weeks before their due dates.
These and the other studies mentioned in the article strengthen the case that the Zika virus is behind the rise of microcephaly.
In a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Theranos has been accused of reporting potentially inaccurate results for the monitoring and therapy adjustment considerations for patients taking warfarin (Coumadin). The blood test for 81 patients over a six month period has been called into question due to evidence that suggests the tests were run even though erratic results from quality control checks were identified. Information provided by the Centre of Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) inspectors found ‘deficient practices’ in five categories of lab tests that posed immediate threat to patients. In the allegations, the company has also been reported to have used expired reagents in certain prothrombin time tests and lacked the proper qualified staffing model for their quality control program. Beth Waldron, an anticoagulation expert from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill stated, "Anticoagulants are the most common medication to cause adverse events for good reason… Too little drug in the body can cause clotting while too much can cause bleeding and both these extremes bring potentially fatal consequences. Warfarin is a finicky drug which requires daily vigilance by patients like myself to ensure a good outcome. The anticoagulant effect of warfarin is highly influenced by diet, lifestyle and concomitant medications. This is why the PT/INR test is so vital...it tells us how we're doing given all these influences, at staying within the optimal blood thinning target range and it guides our dosage adjustments accordingly." Theranos continues to work to rectify their current situation under great scrutiny of the media.
Of the five malaria parasites species that attacks humans, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax cause the most deaths and is most widely spread, respectively. Walter Reed Army Institute of Research has investigated the P. vivax malaria vaccine in 30 immunized human volunteers. Using three levels of the vaccine dose and a control group, the volunteers were infected by mosquitos with malaria. Vivax malaria protein 1 (VMP001), a novel chimeric protein that incorporates the amino- and carboxy- terminal regions of the circumsporozoite protein (CSP) and a truncated repeat region that contains repeat sequences from both the VK210 (type 1) and the VK247 (type 2) parasites, was developed as a vaccine candidate for global use. Published in the PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the results identified that the vaccine was well tolerated and immunogenic but did not prevent malaria infection. However, it did significantly delay the parasitemia in 59% of the participants albeit small compared to the control group (examination of blood smears). Although the results have negative indications for the vaccine’s use, the study did provide valuable information on how to improve it and develop the next-generation version as stated by Lt. Col. Robert Paris, M.D., Director of the U.S. Military Malaria Research Program.