Hospital injects kids with HIV+ blood

February 11, 2010

Courtesy by:

Jodhpur, Feb 10: In an incident that screams for better blood screening system and steps to counter medical negligence, a hospital in Jodhpur, Rajasthan injected human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) tainted blood to children suffering from a inherited blood disease.

While some media reports say that the number of children affected by this fatal case of medical negligence are five, another says that the hospital turned six children suffering from thalassemia HIV positive.

Reports say that children contracted the HIV during blood transfusion at Umaid Hospital.

The hospital authorities are trying to wash their hands off the allegations saying that the infection might have happened from elsewhere.

In another report, Dr DR Dabi, hospital superintendent is quoted as saying, the blood screening system for HIV prescribed by the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) is not foolproof.

While a report submitted to the government gives a clean chit to the hospital, Rajasthan State AIDS Control Society had sought a detailed report from the hospital.

New Haven’s Helix Gets $500,000 Backing

January 14, 2010

Courtesy by:

Helix Therapeutics LLC of New Haven has received $500,000 in venture capital from Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public authority responsible for technology investing.

Helix also received $100,000 from a combination of individual investors and LaunchCapital, a venture capital firm with an office in New Haven. This follows a $515,000 investment from Connecticut Innovations in March 2009, which was part of a $965,000 funding round involving LaunchCapital, individual investors and a line of credit from Webster Bank.

Helix, which comes out of Yale University research, is trying to find gene therapies that could treat or cure sickle cell anemia, B-Thalassemia, Hurler syndrome, Gaucher’s Disease or HIV.

This latest investment in Helix represents Connecticut Innovations’ sixth investment since the state’s fiscal year began in July.

Iran to jab individuals against H1N1 for free

January 10, 2010

Courtesy by:

Iranian officials are preparing to mount a free campaign to inoculate at-risk individuals against A/H1N1 flu in the coming days.

Latest figures have revealed a considerable decline in the number of cases that had tested positive for the flu in Iran. No new deaths have been reported in the past two weeks.

Officials, however, predict upcoming waves of the disease in the world as well as Iran, bringing up the need for inoculating high-risk individuals against the disease.

“At-risk individuals such as pregnant women, immunocompromised patients, HIV positive individuals and those suffering from underlying diseases — such as heart, renal and respiratory disorders or active cancer, liver cirrhosis, uncontrolled diabetes, thalassemia, sickle cell anemia and morbid obesity — along with children aged younger than 19 and individuals who are incapable of excreting their sputum will receive the H1N1 vaccine,” said Minou Mohraz, the head of the Iranian association for infectious disease and a member of the National Influenza Committee.

She stressed that healthcare providers who are in close contact with affected patients are in the priority for receiving the vaccine.

Mohraz continued to say that the vaccine will be distributed by the Universities of Medical Sciences in different parts of the country free of charge in order to overcome any possible black-marketing of the drug.

She stressed that the quality of the vaccine has been approved by the Iranian Ministry of Health, suggesting that no certain complication would be reported.

The head of the Iranian association for infectious disease said healthy individuals do not need to be jabbed against A/H1N1, adding that following simple precautionary measure can ward off the flu in these individuals.

Positive response to premarital test

January 3, 2010

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DOHA: An awareness campaign on pre-marital health screening being waged by the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) focusing major shopping malls in the city has generated a positive response from the public, the SCH said yesterday.

Qatar launched the mandatory pre-marital tests on December 13. The Communication and Media Department at SCH launched the campaign earlier this month to raise public awareness about the tests through a variety of programmes.

The SCH has set up stalls at shopping malls to provide detailed information about the tests to the visitors and clear their doubts.

Trained nurses are available at the stalls to interact with the visitors and answer to their queries. Informative posters, flyers, booklets, and CDs about pre-marital screening are also being distributed to the visitors.

A video highlighting the importance and procedures of the screening has been shown at these stalls. The stalls are open from 5pm to 9pm daily and from 2pm to 10pm during the week-ends.

“These stalls have been attracting a good number of visitors daily. One of the most frequently asked questions by the visitors is regarding the confidentiality of the tests,” SCH said in a statement yesterday.

SCH has already made it clear that the special committee dealing with pre-marital tests will ensure strict confidentiality to protect the rights of all the concerned parties.

Physicians and paramedical staff, such as nurses, lab technicians and others should strictly abide by the commitment not disclose any medical secrets that come to their knowledge.

Regarding the individuals intending to get married and their relatives who are subject to the medical examination process, a special non-disclosure declaration is developed to be signed by both parties to maintain confidentiality.

The screening aims to prevent the spread of hereditary, genetic and communicable diseases in the society and create a more healthy future generation.

The inherited and contagious diseases included in pre-marital screening are: sickle cell ; hemoglobin abnormalities, i.e. thalassemia and sickle cell; testing the clotting factor to discover Hemophilia (A &B) if there is a family history or any medical indicators of the disease; syphilis, HIV (AIDS), hepatitis B & C. The tests have been conducted in five primary health care centers- Airport, Rayyan, Gharrafa, West Bay, Al Khor.

What is Thalassemia?

December 10, 2009

Courtesy by: 24medica

Thalassemia is an inherited condition that causes a problem in the production of hemoglobin. This leads to anemia, which is a low red blood cell count.

What is going on in the body?
Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. It also carries away the waste product of carbon dioxide. In thalassemia, something goes wrong with the production of hemoglobin. When defective hemoglobin is incorporated into red blood cells, the red blood cells do not function properly. They are more likely to die off. This leads to anemia.

Thalassemia is an inherited disorder. In a person with thalassemia, one or both parents are positive for the disease. When one parent is positive, the child will have thalassemia minor. When both parents are positive, the child will have thalassemia major.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Thalassemia is a common genetic disease. It is more common in people of African, Mediterranean, and Asian heritage.

What are the treatments for the disease?
With severe thalassemia, regular blood transfusions are needed. The person will also require folic acid and other nutritional supplements.

An individual who has frequent red blood cell transfusions can develop iron overload. This can be avoided with chelation therapy. This is a process that removes excess iron from the body. This therapy may need to be started early in childhood.

Some treatments for thalassemia are still being tested in clinical trials. These include:
– changing the abnormal hemoglobin genes using medications similar to those used in cancer chemotherapy
– bone marrow transplant and infusions of stem cells, which are starter cells
– specific gene therapy targeted at the abnormal chromosomes

These approaches are usually reserved for severe thalassemia.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Frequent blood transfusions can lead to an iron overload. Excess iron can end up in various body tissues and cause skin discoloration, liver disease, and diabetes. Chelation, which involves daily injections of an iron-binding agent, can help eliminate the excess iron from the body.

There are risks with any blood transfusion. These include an allergic reaction, infection, and sometimes hepatitis or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Bone marrow transplants can cause the body to attack the new bone marrow. Or the new bone marrow may not function at all.

What happens after treatment for the disease?
A person with severe thalassemia may need frequent blood transfusions for the rest of his or her life.

How is the disease monitored?
Thalassemia is monitored by frequent blood tests. The person will need to be followed closely by the healthcare provider. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the provider.

Pre-marital medical check-up from Dec 13

December 10, 2009

Courtesy: gulf-times

The mandatory pre-marital medical check-up being proposed in Qatar since 2007 will be officially launched on December 13, Media and Communication department director of Supreme Council of Health, Jassim Fakhroo, said yesterday.

A media campaign aimed at creating awareness on the process among residents, especially would-be couples, begins today.

The launch of the medical check-up, sponsored by Qatar Petroleum and Qtel, was initially scheduled for September 2007, but was delayed due to some technical reasons.

The compulsory pre-marriage check-up will test couples for infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis and genetic and hereditary ailments to prevent them from giving birth to children with complicated diseases, deformities or abnormalities.

Pre-marital medical screening is a religious and civilised requirement which has been endorsed by the Arab League with some Arab countries, including Qatar, passing laws and regulations on the testing.

In 2006, HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani had passed instructions to issue the Family Law No. 22 for 2006, which stipulates – in its Article No. 18 – mandatory pre-marital screening for all, with the aim of maintaining better health for tomorrow’s generations, and building up the society of health and wellness.

An Emiri decree was issued on June 29, 2006 enforcing the provisions of the Family Law, and Article 18, chapter three of the decree stipulates that a separate medical certificate shall be provided by the competent authorities to each one of the couple concerned before certifying the marriage contract.

However, while maintaining the confidentiality of the test results, the pre-marital committee would not stop couples from getting married in case of negative results.

According to documents made available to mediapersons by the SCH officials yesterday, in the Arab world – including Qatar – there are certain prevalent genetic diseases, which are hereditary anemias (sickle cell anemia and thalassemia), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), inherited metabolic diseases in general particularly homocystinuria in Qatar and cystic fibrosis.

In the report, professor of Paediatrics and Genetics at Well Cornell Medical College-New York and Qatar and an adviser to SCH professor Ahmad Teebi said all the diseases were transmitted through autosomal recessive genes that are driven primarily by cousin marriages.

“The married couples are usually cousins or distant relatives, that is why such diseases spread in most Arab countries due to the prevalence of cousin marriages. However, marriage of non-related couples does not guarantee the birth of healthy children free from genetic disorders and birth defects,” he explained.

Professor Teebi said pre-marital screening was highly important regardless of the degree of relationship between the couples (future husband and wife).

“In other words, pre-marital screening is equally important for relatives and non-relatives,” he added.
He stressed that pre-marital screening for both man and woman will reveal if one or both are carriers for the same disorder tested.

“The advice is to avoid the marriage if both are carriers as their chance to have children affected with the disease is 25% or one in four in each pregnancy,” he cautioned.

“We all know that the person carrying the hereditary disease is not a sick person or looking abnormal. On the contrary, he/she is fit but only carrying disease genes that can be transmitted to his/her children,” professor Teebi explained.

He mentioned that on average each human carries around three deleterious recessive genes. If the same gene is shared with a partner the chance of having affected children will be high. When one of the couple is a disease carrier, and the other is not, there will be no problem.

Examination clinics’ schedule
A number of health centres in the country have been designated as pre-marital examination clinics.
The health centres will operate according to the following time schedule:
* Morning: Airport Health Centre
* Evening: Al Khor Health Centre
* Morning: Al Gharrafa Health Centre
* Evening: Airport Health Centre
* Morning: Al Rayyan Health Centre
* Evening: West Bay Health Centre
* Morning: Al Khor Health Centre
* Evening: Al Rayyan Health Centre
* Morning: West Bay Health Centre
Clinic working hours:
Morning: 8:00 – 1:00pm
Evening: 5:00pm – 10:00pm

Saudi tests spotlight risks of intermarriage by cousins – Feature

November 15, 2009

Courtesy by:

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – The departure lounge at Riyadh’s airport was quiet. People waiting for the early flight to Ha’il were sleepy. They watched two seated boys of primary school age, one of whom was speaking gibberish and incessantly wiggling his legs. The other boy, a little older, had a slightly crooked back. Next to them sat their father, in a bodyshirt as traditionally worn by Saudi men, with both of his black-cloaked wives, the boys’ mothers.

The boys were born before 2004, when the Saudi government introduced compulsory premarital blood tests mainly aimed at reducing the number of children with inherited diseases. Relatives in the ultraconservative Islamic kingdom still marry each other despite the known health risks to their offspring.

There are three premarital screening centres in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. Couples who have applied for a marriage licence are required to visit a centre together. Since the prospective bride and groom are forbidden from being alone together before marriage, the couple is usually accompanied by a male member of the woman’s family.

“If the doctor determines that one of the two carries an inherited disease, we inform the couple, who can then do whatever they want,” said Dr Shadia Matbouli, a physician at King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Jeddah.

Saudi couples are not prohibited from marrying if they have been rated “high-risk,” nor do Saudis marry without intending to start a family. The concept of a childless marriage based on love is socially unacceptable in Saudi Arabia, where having five or more children is normal.

Initial results of the premarital screening programme, which has included tests for AIDS and hepatitis since 2008, are rather sobering. According to a study published in 2007, of 488,315 individuals tested, 2,375 couples were rated “high-risk.” A total of 89.6 per cent of these couples went ahead and got married anyway.

Common genetic blood disorders in Saudi Arabia include sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Of the individuals tested, 4.20 per cent had sickle cell trait, 0.26 per cent had sickle cell disease, 3.22 per cent had thalassemia trait, and 0.07 per cent had thalassemia disease.

“People were sceptical at first and many baulked at the screening. But now it’s fairly well accepted since a lot of families with generations of consanguineous marriages among their kin have suffered greatly from these diseases,” Matbouli remarked.

She added that intermarriage between cousins was less common in Jeddah, a port city that has attracted immigrants and travellers for centuries, than in places like Al-Hufuf and Al-Hassa.

Al-Jawhara al-Sherif, a young Saudi woman who works in Jeddah for an international company that makes paper towels and likes getting together in coffeehouses with girlfriends in the evening, is all for the screening programme — and not only because it can reduce the risk of conceiving children with inherited diseases.

She said it also protected women from the double standard practiced by many Saudi men. Premarital sex in Saudi Arabia is illegal, and women generally obey the law. Men, however, often do not, particularly on trips abroad, where they can have sex with casual acquaintances or prostitutes.

“The tests prevent a man infected abroad with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or other sexually transmitted diseases from passing them on to his Saudi wife,” al-Sherif said.

A recently published study said that premarital screening had detected 49 HIV infections in 10 months. As a precaution against infection shortly before a wedding, test results are recognized for six months only. So postponing a wedding can mean having to retake the tests.

In addition, men must be screened prior to each of their marriages. The divorce rate is relatively high in Saudi Arabia, and a man may have up to four wives at a time if he is able to support them, according to Sharia, or Islamic law.

Among those passing through the screening programme have been numerous girls between eight and 12 years of age offered as brides to older men by their fathers. In these cases, too, if the people involved are determined to marry despite all warnings and counseling, the doctors are powerless to stop them.

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