Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Health news from the University of Massachusetts

Not all the health news from the University of Massachusetts has been about the third American doctor infected with Ebola and the the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  There is another minor epidemic sweeping parts of the country that UMass has been reporting on, as the University of Massachusetts Medical Center explains in Pediatrician explains enterovirus D68 illness.

The Centers for Disease Control is warning of a spike in cases of a rare respiratory illness identified as enterovirus D68 that is sickening children in about a dozen states, though none have yet been reported in New England.
More in Expert’s Corner: UMMS pediatrician explains rare respiratory illness outbreak in parts of country By Bryan Goodchild on September 11, 2014.
“Enterovirus D68 is not a new virus,” said pediatrician Christina Hermos, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics. “What is different about this outbreak is that it seems to be larger than previous outbreaks. There are reports out of Denver and Kansas City of several hundred children presenting for care and a good proportion of them needing respiratory support until they are able to fight off the virus.”
This is not as serious a threat as Ebola, but it's much more immediate.  I'll do my best to keep abreast of it.

Follow over the jump for more health news from UMass.

Next, a subject close to my stomach heart, health and food as the University of Massachusetts Medical Center is Prescribing farm fresh food.

Three UMass Medical School students launched a “prescription” program for free, fresh produce for patients at Family Health Center of Worcester, according to an article in the Telegram & Gazette.
More in Telegram: UMMS students write ‘prescription’ program for fresh produce.
Second-year medical students Elizabeth Rosen, Kathryn Bailey and Rachel Erdil started the Farm to Health Center Initiative in July, offering free vegetables and fruits to hundreds of families on Thursday mornings at the health center to help address the high level of food insecurity among patients. The Community Harvest Project in Grafton, a non-profit farm that grows food for area food banks, has provided thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit for the program.

"The less-expensive food tends to be calorie dense and nutritionally poor. You get a lot of fat and sugar, but not a lot of vitamins," Rosen told the Telegram.

The program has been enormously successful, with hundreds of families turning out for the food. This past Thursday alone, 1,200 pounds of food was distributed in just 35 minutes.
That was cool.

Now the rest of the health news from past two weeks of Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

University of Massachusetts Medical Center: New UMMS study shows medications of questionable benefit used in advanced dementia
By Lisa M. Larson
September 08, 2014
Nursing home residents with advanced dementia often receive medications of questionable benefit with costly consequences, according to a new study by researchers at UMass Medical School, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine on Sept. 8.

In the nationwide study of 5,406 nursing home residents with advanced dementia, researchers found the majority (54 percent) were prescribed at least one medication of questionable benefit during the 90-day observation period between 2009 and 2010. The mean 90-day expenditure for medications with questionable benefit was $816, accounting for 35 percent of total average 90-day medication expenditures for residents with advanced dementia prescribed these medications.

Data for the cross-sectional study were derived from the prescription dispensing database of a national long-term care pharmacy that serves approximately half of the 1.3 million long-term care facility residents in the United States.
University of Massachusetts: Knowing How Bacteria Take Out Trash Could Lead to New Antibiotics
UMass Amherst biochemists reveal molecular mechanisms crucial for bacteria growth
September 4, 2014
AMHERST, Mass. – A collaborative team of scientists including biochemist Peter Chien at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has reconstructed how bacteria tightly control their growth and division, a process known as the cell cycle, by specifically destroying key proteins through regulated protein degradation.

Regulated protein degradation uses specific enzymes called energy dependent proteases to selective destroy certain targets. Because regulated protein degradation is critical for bacterial virulence and invasion, understanding how these proteases function should help to uncover pathways that can be targeted by new antibiotics.

All organisms use controlled degradation of specific proteins to alter cellular behavior in response to internal or external cues, says Chien, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.And, a process that has to happen as reliably and stably as cell division also has to be flexible enough to allow the organism to grow and respond to its ever-changing environment. But little has been known about the molecular mechanics of how cells meet these challenges.
There may be more news in the future from one of my adopted home states, depending on whether the Governor's contest is competitive.  If Martha Coakley, who won the Democratic primary manages to walk away with the election, I'll focus my attention elsewhere.

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