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Vaccine-related blood clotting explained

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With news spreading of the death of a second person due to an extremely rare blood clotting disorder after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, Australians are still feeling hesitant about getting the jab.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA), the blood clotting condition, known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), is likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Of the 3.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that have been administered so far, 48 people have developed blood clots, with 31 recovering after a hospital stay.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite the concerns over the vaccine, experts have said we’ve come a long way in understanding the disorder - as well as how to detect it and treat it.</span></p> <p><strong>How are blood clots detected?</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The first step in detecting the blood clot relies on getting the timing right, said Vivien Chen, a haematologist specialising in coagulation disorders at the University of Sydney.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The first entry point is being a patient within the right time frame after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Dr Chen said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The first dose appears to be of particular concern.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">TTS symptoms - including severe headaches that don’t go away, abdominal pain, blurred vision, and leg pain or swelling - appear within four to 30 days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, with most occurring within six to 14 days.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you experience any of these symptoms after getting vaccinated, it’s recommended you go to your GP in order to get a blood test known as a platelet count.</span></p> <p><strong>What are platelets?</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Platelets are fragments of cells that come from the bone marrow and play a vital role in blood clotting, including preventing excessive bleeding following a cut or scrape.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Normal platelet levels hover between 150,000 and 450,000 per microlitre of blood.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A platelet count lower than 150,000 results in a condition called thrombocytopenia, which usually results in excessive bleeding. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">But when it follows a vaccination, abnormal blood clotting can occur.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For a small number of people, the immune system triggers antibodies that recognise COVID-19 proteins and platelets. These antibodies can then activate the platelets, cause them to cluster and go into blood-clotting mode.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The consequences of this is the platelets are getting used up in the blood clot and their count drops,” Dr Chen said.</span></p> <p><strong>Next steps</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If the platelet count is low, doctors will look at blood samples to find protein fragments called D-dimers, which are produced by the body to break down blood clots.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If the level of D-dimers is five times higher than that of normal blood, it can be a sign of TTS.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When a low platelet count and high D-dimer level have been detected, clinicians then look for antibodies that target a protein called platelet factor 4, or PF4. The PF4 antibodies are also tested to determine whether they can activate platelets and cause TTS.</span></p> <p><strong>Detection speeds</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Vaccine-related clots can be detected via blood tests as soon as symptoms appear - whether that’s four or 20 days after getting the jab - but not before that.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In most cases, [antibodies] can only be found after people feel unwell and present at hospital,” said Jose Perdomo, a haematologist at the University of New South Wales.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Patients presenting at the emergency department of a metropolitan hospital with TTS symptoms can receive results from the blood-screening tests within one hour. But, wait times can be longer in regional hospitals.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Once initial tests have confirmed platelet and D-dimer levels, patients can commence treatment while waiting for their PF4 antibody test results.</span></p> <p><strong>Treatment</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Two different types of treatment are combined to battle TTS.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To start with, patients start taking blood-thinning medication to slow down the formation of blood clots.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Patients also receive a large dose of immunoglobulins - proteins that are part of the body’s defence system - to calm down the immune system.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This essentially swamps the antibody system, so that vaccine-induced antibodies can’t activate the platelets,” Dr Chen said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This combined treatment can help return blood platelet levels to normal within a few days, according to Dr Chen.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In more severe cases, it can take longer but it’s a rapid response to commencement of new therapy,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She also said this treatment is safe to use even if the blood clots end up being unrelated to the vaccine.</span></p> <p><strong>What to do if symptoms appear</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the risk of getting a blood clot following the vaccine is very low, Dr Chen said it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and take action as soon as they appear.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you have a headache that won’t go away after taking painkillers, you should visit your GP.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But if you notice more severe symptoms - including numbness, difficulty speaking, or passing blood in bowel movements - head straight to the emergency department instead.</span></p>

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How much does COVID-19 weigh?

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The total mass of COVID-19 globally is currently between 100g and 10kg, according to an estimate </span><a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/118/25/e2024815118"><span style="font-weight: 400;">recently published</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> by Ron Milo of the Weizmann Institute of Science and his colleagues.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The article also details exactly how the team calculated the estimate.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Using the typical viral load of tissues and fluids in the body during the peak of an infection, the researchers estimated that an individual would carry between 1-100 billion viral particles, with a total mass of between 1 and 100 micrograms (between 0.0001 and 0.1 milligrams) during peak infection.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The team then calculated the global mass of the virus by multiplying the viral load by the number of cases globally.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The total number of viral particles globally was also calculated, with the researchers estimating that there have been between one hundred quadrillion and ten quintillion viral particles at any given time, assuming there has been between 1 million to 10 million people infected at close to peak infection over the course of the pandemic.</span></p> <p><strong>Why this matters</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It was also noted that, for every person infected with COVID-19, the virus particles enter cells and replicate between three and seven times. Each of these replications can also introduce mutations, though not all of them will result in new variants of the virus.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This allows researchers to calculate an estimated rate of the formation of new genetic variants and form a better understanding of how many cells in different areas of the body can become infected.</span></p>

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Why one man donated 600 litres of blood

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Bob Goninon, a Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteer firefighter, has donated enough blood to fill a 600-litre tanker.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Individuals can only donate plasma and platelets every fortnight, and blood every 12 weeks. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It has taken Mr Goninon 51 years and 700 donations of blood and plasma to reach the milestone.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Originally I had a personal problem where on a regular basis I would have nosebleeds that would run for anywhere up to three hours,” he said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“One particular day, one just didn’t want to abate, and I was going through towels and an ambulance was called and I was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital … where a doctor could start plugging my nose.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“At the end of that process he strongly advised that I bottled this product, preferably not straight from my nose, so the blood bank is where I went.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though Mr Goninon said donating blood helped stem the nosebleeds for quite some time, he decided to continue donating through a desire to help others.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I think any emergency services worker will agree that from time to time you see a lot of situations such as road trauma, house fires, emergency in the home, cancer patients – all of these people who unfortunately during a certain time in their life require blood,” he said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“And the only way that they can get that product to enhance their quality of life is via a donor.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, a third of Aussies will need blood or blood products in their lifetime.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But only one in 30 donate each year.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We need more donors, I’m not getting any younger, so we need the younger brigade to start stepping up,” Mr Goninon said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though he recently made his 703rd donation, Mr Goninon said it wasn’t about achieving milestones, but about doing his part for the community.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: cfavic / Instagram</span></em></p>

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Pure happiness: How a Sydney teen's rare disease was found and fixed

<p>High school student Leilani Innes was just 16 when she fell suddenly ill to the point where it became painful for her to eat, in October of 2019.</p> <p>Instantly her family watched hopelessly as she turned from an elite athlete to a young girl suffering from a baffling, invisible illness.</p> <p>"I had been drinking a protein smoothie and within 10 minutes I was curled up in a fetal position crying in pain," Leilani told <em>nine.com.au.</em></p> <p>While the pain went away quickly, the 10th grader said it happened again while drinking another smoothie.</p> <p>The bouts of excruciating pain and nausea would come and go for months on end before she would seek help from medical professionals.</p> <p>She revealed eating became painful, and in just a month her weight plummeted by almost 10kg.</p> <p>She and her family would attend over 80 medical appointments in just a little over 13 months.</p> <p>"They would always ask if I was anxious, and was I stressed about school? Did I have a history of eating disorders?" she said.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7841806/lri.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/8ffe6f0bded84e2ab9615c198bce7bea" /></p> <p>"They would say that it's all in your head and I knew that it wasn't. But when you have every doctor telling you that for months on end it's quite a hard thing."</p> <p>Doctors were convinced it was a mental illness she suffered from and referred Leilani to an eating disorder clinic.</p> <p>Leilani became bedridden, missed almost an entire year of school and forced herself to eat just one meal a day so she would not be forced to eat through a feeding tube.</p> <p>"We don't know how she did it, but she pushed through the pain to eat," Leilani's mother, Elizabeth Innes, said.</p> <p>"There were definitely times at dinner where it was all so upsetting and I would just start crying," Leilani said.</p> <p>Mrs Innes and her daughter found after extensive research that the young teen may have Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome (MALS).</p> <p>Those who suffer with MALS have celiac artery and surrounding nerves in the abdomen which are compressed and become inflamed, sometimes causing extreme pain.</p> <p>They soon found after connecting online with families in the US who had been affected by MALS, that their were other stories of young girls suffering from symptoms alike to Leilani.</p> <p>"They were so eerily similar. It gave us hope that we could eventually find a doctor who would listen to us," Leilani said.</p> <p>Mrs Innes sent her daughter’s medical records to a surgeon in North Carolina who quickly diagnosed her with MALS.</p> <p>Her tickets to the US to fix her diagnosis were quickly booked, but her family was forced to cancel the trip as the COVID-19 situation worsened.</p> <p>Not all hope was lost, as a Sydney surgeon, Dr David Yeo, told the family he was willing to conduct a specific test for MALS which involves anaesthetising the celiac arteries and surrounding nerves.</p> <p>Patients are then told to eat a meal and, if they are able to eat without pain, a diagnosis of MALS is confirmed.</p> <p>Leilani says the effect of the test was almost immediate.</p> <p>"I was able to eat my first meal in 13 months without pain," she said.</p> <p>"It was such a surreal experience and I couldn't stop crying that day. It was pure happiness, that my problems had been found and I had relief."</p> <p>Leilani has since undergone surgery to free her celiac arteries and nerves. It has been the fourth such surgery Dr Yeo has performed, and it was a success.</p> <p>"I am definitely feeling so much better since the surgery," she said.</p> <p>"I'm able to eat and go out to restaurants. When I'm with my friends at school I can eat with them at lunchtime, rather than sitting there watching everyone else eat."</p> <p>Leilani says being able to help other girls who suffer with the same disease has been encouraging for her.</p> <p>"I've been contacted by some girls my age online that have heard about my story.</p> <p>"There was one girl that was actually about to be committed into an eating disorder clinic in a month when she turned 18.</p> <p>"After putting her in touch with Dr Yeo she has now been diagnosed with MALS and will be able to have surgery."</p> <p>Mrs Innes said her daughter's medical journey had been eye-opening.</p> <p>"If we weren't able to do that then Leilani would still be sick," she said.</p>

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A history of blood clots is not usually any reason to avoid the AstraZeneca vaccine

<p>As haematologists, we look after many patients who have had blood clots in the past or take blood thinners. They often ask: “should I have the AstraZeneca vaccine?”</p> <p>The answer is usually a definitive “yes”. The blood clots we’ve seen following the AstraZeneca vaccine are completely different to other types of blood clots, such as deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism, or the clots that cause heart attacks and strokes.</p> <p>People with a history of these sorts of conditions don’t appear to be at any <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/joint-statement-from-atagi-and-thanz-on-thrombosis-with-thrombocytopenia-syndrome-tts-and-the-use-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca">increased risk</a> from the AstraZeneca vaccine.</p> <p>In fact, people in this group could be <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30566-3/fulltext">at greater risk</a> from COVID-19, so shouldn’t delay getting vaccinated.</p> <p><strong>First, how does blood form clots?</strong></p> <p>Blood flows through our body’s vessels as a liquid, carrying oxygen, nutrients, proteins and immune cells to every organ. But if we get injured or undergo surgery, our body needs to plug the wound to stem bleeding.</p> <p>Our blood contains components that allow it to quickly transform from a fluid into a semi-solid <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507795/">clot</a> in a few seconds.</p> <p>At the first sign of damage, the smallest of the blood cells — the platelets — stick to the damaged vessel wall, and together with the damaged wall itself, attract a legion of clotting proteins, which amass on the damaged site and bind the wound.</p> <p><strong>Venous clots</strong></p> <p>Sometimes theses natural clotting and anti-clotting processes in the blood become unbalanced, putting a person <a href="https://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-gb/70">at risk</a> of developing blood clots in their veins. This can occur in people:</p> <ul> <li> <p>with cancer or an infection</p> </li> <li> <p>who are pregnant</p> </li> <li> <p>who are taking an oestrogen-containing contraceptive pill</p> </li> <li> <p>who are immobilised during and after surgery or following major trauma</p> </li> <li> <p>who have certain inherited conditions.</p> </li> </ul> <p>In all of these cases, an abnormal blood clot can develop in the deep veins of the thigh and groin (deep vein thrombosis), or the lung (pulmonary embolism).</p> <p>Very rarely, blood clots occur in other places — for example, the veins of the abdomen or the brain.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/405257/original/file-20210609-15-qsrh0l.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="An illustration of a blood clot." /> <span class="caption">Our blood needs to clot to a degree.</span> <span class="attribution"><a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-illustration/3d-rendered-medically-accurate-illustration-blood-1440889268" class="source">Shutterstock</a></span></p> <p><strong>Arterial clots</strong></p> <p>Arteries supplying blood to the heart, brain and lower limbs can <a href="https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis">become narrowed</a>, usually due to risk factors including smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure and cholesterol.</p> <p>A clot forming in these sites can obstruct blood flow, causing, for example, a heart attack or stroke.</p> <p><strong>What is TTS?</strong></p> <p>The AstraZeneca vaccine is associated with a rare condition called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/learn-about-covid-19-vaccines/about-the-astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine#thrombosis-with-thrombocytopenia-syndrome-tts">or TTS</a>. Cases of the condition have also been reported following the <a href="https://post.parliament.uk/covid-19-vaccines-safety-and-blood-clots/">Johnson &amp; Johnson COVID vaccine</a>, though this one isn’t available in Australia.</p> <p>We now know a lot more about this condition than we did a few months ago.</p> <p>TTS is caused by an abnormal <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2105385">immune response</a>, resulting in the development of an <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2104882">antibody directed at the platelets</a> (blood cells which prevent bleeding). This causes the platelets to become hyperactive, which triggers blood clots in the body, including in places we don’t normally see clots, like in the brain or the abdomen.</p> <p>This process also consumes platelets, which results in a low platelet count. In the name “thrombosis” refers to clots, and “thrombocytopenia” to low platelet count.</p> <p>The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recently estimated the risk of TTS in Australia at <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-update-following-weekly-covid-19-meeting-26-may-2021">around 1.6 in 100,000</a> doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine administered in people 50 and older, although this data may change as more people are vaccinated.</p> <p>Fortunately, <a href="https://www.thanz.org.au/documents/item/591">diagnosis and treatment</a> for TTS has progressed rapidly. Doctors now know the symptoms to look out for, and haematologists have identified <a href="https://www.thanz.org.au/documents/item/590">treatments for the condition</a>. These include intravenous immunoglobulin (a concentrate of antibodies from healthy donors) and blood thinners.</p> <p>Outcomes for people with TTS have improved significantly worldwide since the condition was first recognised earlier in the year. In Australia, <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/periodic/covid-19-vaccine-weekly-safety-report-03-06-2021">most patients</a> with TTS have recovered or are recovering.</p> <p><strong>Don’t delay getting the vaccine</strong></p> <p>There’s <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2105385">no evidence</a> people who have previously experienced blood clots, have an inherited risk of blood clots, or who take blood thinners or related medications, <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/joint-statement-from-atagi-and-thanz-on-thrombosis-with-thrombocytopenia-syndrome-tts-and-the-use-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca">have any increased risk</a> of TTS.</p> <p>As an immune-driven disease that causes platelet over-activity, the mechanism for TTS is completely different from other types of blood clots.</p> <p>In this light, ATAGI recently advised the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe for these people.</p> <p>As a precaution, Australian <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/joint-statement-from-atagi-and-thanz-on-thrombosis-with-thrombocytopenia-syndrome-tts-and-the-use-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca">guidelines</a> recommend certain people should avoid the AstraZeneca vaccine and have the Pfizer jab instead. These include people:</p> <ul> <li> <p>who have had a previous episode of <a href="https://ashpublications.org/bloodadvances/article/2/22/3360/16129/American-Society-of-Hematology-2018-guidelines-for?searchresult=1&amp;_ga=2.77625169.45941325.1623216140-342682804.1622272004">heparin-induced thrombocytopenia</a> (a “cousin” of TTS)</p> </li> <li> <p>who have had venous blood clots in their brain or abdomen</p> </li> <li> <p>who have a very rare antibody-driven clotting disease called <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antiphospholipid-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20355831">antiphospholipid syndrome</a></p> </li> <li> <p>who are aged under 50.</p> </li> </ul> <p>It’s crucial to remember that people with risk factors for heart attacks and strokes, including <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(20)30271-0/fulltext">diabetes</a> and high blood pressure, are at increased risk of developing <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30566-3/fulltext">severe COVID-19</a> if they are infected. Further, <a href="https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/56/1/2001608">COVID itself</a> makes the blood more “sticky” and significantly increases the risk of blood clots.</p> <p>So we advise our patients: even if you’ve had deep vein thrombosis, a pulmonary embolism, a heart attack or a stroke previously, you’re not at increased risk of TTS from vaccination. You should get vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/161889/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sant-rayn-pasricha-9134">Sant-Rayn Pasricha</a>, Division Head, Population Health and Immunity, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/walter-and-eliza-hall-institute-822">Walter and Eliza Hall Institute</a></em> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-monagle-1237963">Paul Monagle</a>, Professor, Department of Paediatrics, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-history-of-blood-clots-is-not-usually-any-reason-to-avoid-the-astrazeneca-vaccine-161889">original article</a>.</p>

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What causes dry lips, and how can you treat them? Does lip balm actually help?

<p>As we head into the colder weather, many of us might be afflicted with the irritating ailment of dry and chapped lips.</p> <p>People have been trying to figure out how to fix dry lips for centuries. Using beeswax, olive oil and other natural ingredients have been reported as early as Cleopatra’s <a href="https://nationalpost.com/entertainment/movies/secret-gloss-a-brief-history-of-lip-balm-from-earwax-to-clorox">time</a>, around 40 B.C.</p> <p>In 1833, there were even reports of human earwax being <a href="https://www.google.com.au/books/edition/The_American_Frugal_Housewife/-YYSAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&amp;gbpv=1&amp;dq=the+American+Frugal+Housewife,+Dedicated+to+Those+who+are+Not+Ashamed+of+Economy&amp;printsec=frontcover">recommended</a> as a successful remedy for dry, cracked lips. Not long after, the first commercial lip balms hit the market.</p> <p>So what causes dry lips, and which lip balms actually help? The key is to avoid lip balms that contain certain additives which might worsen the problem.</p> <p><strong>They need to be soft but resilient</strong></p> <p>Our lips are constantly exposed to the elements, such as sunlight, wind, dry air, and cold weather. They have to withstand our daily lifestyle, including contact with food, cosmetics, biting, picking, rubbing against clothes, kissing and more.</p> <p>So, although they look soft and fleshy, our lips need to be resilient and tough.</p> <p>Lips sit at the junction where our outside facial skin transitions into the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsrlJn2cDh0&amp;t=58s">tissue</a> layers lining the mouth. As such, the lips are structured similar to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507900/">mucous membranes</a>, but with the addition of a <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s004030050453">protective</a> outside layer of skin. Lips don’t have hair follicles, or sweat, saliva and oil glands.</p> <p>This unique structure means they’re particularly prone to dryness as they have a much lower ability to hold <a href="https://europepmc.org/article/med/15030342">water</a> than the rest of the face’s skin.</p> <p><strong>What causes dry lips?</strong></p> <p>Many of us get dry lips at certain times of the year. This can occur naturally, or be brought on by many different factors, including:</p> <ul> <li> <p>inflamed lips, known as <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6531998/">cheilitis</a>. This can be due to a skin condition, or an infection such as herpes or cold sores</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://journals.lww.com/dermatitis/Abstract/2007/12000/Allergic_Contact_Cheilitis_from_Benzophenone_3_in.8.aspx">allergies</a></p> </li> <li> <p>medications which impact the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12974516/">salivary glands</a>, the mouth’s surrounding <a href="https://youtu.be/UNyKlwO23w4">muscles</a>, or sensations throughout the lip area</p> </li> <li> <p>tongue injuries, teeth that rub against the lips, or other dental issues</p> </li> <li> <p>poor oral health. This can be brought on by general neglect, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22750232/">eating disorders</a>, or bad oral hygiene habits</p> </li> <li> <p>burns, such as eating food that’s too hot, or sunburn. Burns can result in the lips swelling, <a href="https://youtu.be/T-FnAH9y1N4">scarring</a> and blistering, and it may take a long time for the pain to alleviate</p> </li> <li> <p>some diseases or disorders, such as <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19445445/">Sjögren’s syndrome</a></p> </li> <li> <p>dehydration, heat stroke, <a href="https://youtu.be/BxgEoLmOACo">fever</a>, or excessive heat</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647520300988?via%3Dihub">nasal</a> congestion, which leads to chronic mouth-breathing. This can sometimes be a result of illness, such as when you have a common cold</p> </li> <li> <p>cold weather or cold wind that runs along the lips and removes moisture</p> </li> <li> <p>persistent licking, which can create a wet-dry cycle that excessively <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647520300988">dries</a> out your lips.</p> </li> </ul> <p>The dryness can also lead to pain, itching or stinging.</p> <p>If dry lips start causing serious issues, it may be helpful to discuss this with a medical professional.</p> <p><strong>How can you treat dry lips?</strong></p> <p>It is important to identify what’s causing dry lips. If it’s due to lip licking, then you need to make habitual changes to stop the practice. If it’s due to cold, windy or dry weather, then certain balms and ointments can help protect the lips.</p> <p>Drinking adequate amounts of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647520300988">water</a> can assist, because this helps prevent dry skin in general.</p> <p>If this isn’t enough, bland, non-irritating, unflavoured lip balms can help, as they act as a film covering the lip surface, keeping moisture in.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/403497/original/file-20210531-15-u2nxjk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Man with beard applying lip balm" /> <span class="caption">It’s best to choose a bland lip balm that doesn’t contain fragrances, flavours and colours.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></p> <p>In many cases these use petroleum jelly as a base (although it’s not <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ics.12533">required</a>), along with refined mineral oils to remove any <a href="https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jchem/2019/1680269/">hazardous</a> compounds, and other ingredients that can assist in retaining and maintaining a <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ics.12583">barrier function</a>.</p> <p>In the race to appeal to consumers, cosmetic manufacturers have trialled a number of new ingredients in their lip balms. Popular lip balms often contain additives which can make the balm smell or taste nice, or soften the feel when it rubs against the lips.</p> <p>Some of these extra ingredients can help. For example, if you’re out in the sun a lot, lip balm with included sunscreen is a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1227745/">great</a> addition.</p> <p><strong>Products to avoid</strong></p> <p>In many cases, these compounds provide the feeling of immediate relief on the lips but don’t actually help with the barrier function. And in some cases, they can become irritants and even worsen the dryness.</p> <p>When choosing a lip balm, try to avoid products containing these ingredients:</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6477564/">fragrances</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-016-0076-7">flavours</a>, such as mint, citrus, vanilla, and cinnamon</p> </li> <li> <p>shiny <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/not-just-lip-service-gloss-can-invite-skin-cancer-flna1c9459959">glosses</a>, which can intensify damage from the sun’s rays</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredient-names/color-additives-permitted-use-cosmetics">colours</a>, which can cause irritation and do nothing to assist the barrier function</p> </li> <li> <p>menthol, phenol or salicylic acid, which can actually make your lips <a href="https://health.clevelandclinic.org/7-signs-your-lip-balm-use-is-just-a-bad-habit/">drier</a></p> </li> <li> <p>additional, unnecessary <a href="https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/dry/heal-dry-chapped-lips">ingredients</a> such as camphor, lanolin, octinoxate, oxybenzone or propyl gallate.</p> </li> </ul> <p>And be sure to stop biting, picking or excessively licking your lips.</p> <p>Staying hydrated and applying a bland lip balm should be a routine incorporated into your every day lifestyle for healthy, protected, and moisturised lips.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/161264/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christian-moro-121754">Christian Moro</a>, Associate Professor of Science &amp; Medicine, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/charlotte-phelps-1187658">Charlotte Phelps</a>, PhD Student, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-causes-dry-lips-and-how-can-you-treat-them-does-lip-balm-actually-help-161264">original article</a>.</p>

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The 100-year-old drug that has saved millions of lives

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">100 years ago, two scientists in a lab in Canada made a discovery that would save countless lives.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Frederick Banting and Charles Best were the first to successfully isolate insulin from the ground-up pancreas of a laboratory dog and keep a second dog with severe diabetes alive for 70 days.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After months of development, they administered their first dose of insulin to a human.</span></p> <p><strong>Saving Phyllis</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Phyllis Lush was just six years old when she became the first Australian and one of the first in the world to receive a life-saving dose of insulin in 1922.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When her father heard of the Canadian experiments, he wrote to the scientists pleading for them to save his daughter.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We’re close, keep her alive,” came the reply.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After being diagnosed with the disease one year prior, Phyllis weighed less than 10 kilograms and survived on a lettuce leaf, a teaspoon of butter and whey each day until her first dose.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It was nothing. She was skin and bone,” her son Studley Lush told AAP.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Before mother got insulin, her sister who was about two was bigger than she was.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Almost immediately after the first of the 65,000 injections she would receive in her lifetime, Phyllis felt better and ate her first proper meal.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“They gave her half a SAO biscuit and she remembered it as the best meal she’s ever had,” Mr Lush said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“And then they were told she should probably live until she was nine. She lived until she was nearly 82.”</span></p> <p><strong>100 years on</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A century after its discovery, 45,000 Australians rely on the hormone every day to regulate their blood sugar.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Massive strides have been made in managing the disease since then too.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most people with diabetes now use a synthetic “human” insulin rather than the original form created from cows and other animals.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The tools have changed drastically too, from cumbersome needles to the small single-use pins now available.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“These new devices can pretty much do what a pancreas would do in a person whose own doesn’t create insulin,” Diabetes Australia chief executive Professor Greg Johnson said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though Phyllis would marvel at the progress that has been made since she passed away in 1998, Mr Lush said she would be disappointed that we haven’t achieved one thing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Her greatest wish in life was that they would find a cure.”</span></p>

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Newly approved Alzheimer’s drug raises serious concerns

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">United States health officials have approved the first new drug to treat Alzheimer’s in twenty years.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But independent advisors and some Alzheimer’s experts have said the approval comes without enough evidence that the drug can help patients with the brain-destroying disease.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Food and Drug Administration said it approved the drug, aducanumab, based on results that its benefits for Alzheimer’s patients were “reasonably likely”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Aducanuman, which will go by the brand name Aduhelmm, is produced by American biotechnology company Biogen and is to be administered as a monthly infusion.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the first approved treatment to directly attack the disease process of Alzheimer’s instead of just treating the symptoms like anxiety and insomnia, the drug is intended to slow the cognitive decline in those with mild memory and thinking problems.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The drug is thought to reduce harmful clumps of plaque in the brain in order to slow the progression of the deadly disease.</span></p> <p><strong>Why this matters</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the approval of the treatment despite limited evidence that it works, experts are concerned it could set a precedent for the approval of future experimental therapies that only show incremental benefits.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Currently only five medications have been approved by the FDA for patients with Alzheimer’s, though these only delay cognitive decline for several months.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a result, patient advocacy groups lobbied for approval to expand the number of treatments available of Aduhelm, with other more-promising candidates likely to be three to four years away from potential approval.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, the FDA advisory committee, as well as an independent think tank and several prominent experts - including Alzheimer’s doctors who were involved in clinical trials of the drug - have said the evidence raises doubts about its effectiveness. Concerns have also been raised about the small benefits being outweighed by the risk of swelling or bleeding in the brain that occurred during the trials.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The risk of bleeding is also heightened for those with the APOE4 gene, which is associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Caleb Alexander, an FDA advisor who recommended against the drug’s approval, said he was “surprised and disappointed”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The FDA gets the respect that it does because it has regulatory standards that are based on firm evidence. In this case, I think they gave the product a pass,” said Dr Alexander, a medical researcher at John Hopkins University.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Patrizia Cavazzoni, the FDA’s director of the Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research wrote on the agency’s website: “The data included in the applicant’s submission were highly complex and left residual uncertainties regarding clinical benefit,” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, she said the agency had approved the drug through a program called accelerated approval, which is designed to provide earlier access to therapies for diseases with few treatments, “and where there is an expectation of clinical benefit despite some residual uncertainty regarding the benefit.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Cavazzoni also told reporters: “The data supports patients and caregivers having the choice to use this drug.”</span></p> <p><strong>What happens next</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though approved, the FDA has required the drug manufacturer to conduct a follow-up study to confirm the benefits. If this study fails to show the drug's effectiveness, the FDA can - but isn’t required to - withdraw the drug from the market.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Biogen has said it aims to complete the follow-up trial by 2030.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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New cancer-fighting drug is already saving lives

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Australian researchers have made a breakthrough while trialling a new drug that has already saved lives of those battling melanoma.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Over 700 Australians were involved in the clinical trial with Melanoma Institute Australia, including Sydneysider Andrew Bennett.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The 57-year-old dad had melanoma tumours spreading through his leg that had disappeared in the six months after he underwent immunotherapy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“You get your life back. It’s hard to express. When you think you’re going somewhere else and you’re not. It was sort of life-changing in many respects,” Mr Bennett said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Immunotherapy treatment uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer using drugs called “checkpoint inhibitors”.</span></p> <p><strong>How does immunotherapy work?</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Immune checkpoints are part of the immune system and prevent immune responses from being so strong it destroys healthy cells.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To do this, proteins on the surface of immune cells bind to proteins on other cells and stop the immune response.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, these proteins can also bind to those on tumour cells, which means that the immune system is stopped from attacking the cancer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Checkpoint inhibitors stop these proteins from binding to cancerous cells so that the immune system can destroy the cancer.</span></p> <p><strong>A new option</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Until now, only two checkpoint inhibitors have been used for treating melanoma, and the breakthrough means a third option is now available.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new treatment, called Relatlimab, is the first to target LAG-3, a protein in immune cells.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When used in combination with drugs already available, it has been found to be less toxic for patients.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Successful trial of new cancer treatment led by <a href="https://twitter.com/ProfGLongMIA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ProfGLongMIA</a> AO, to be presented at <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ASCO2021?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ASCO2021</a> this w/e. Relatlimab, immunotherapy targeting LAG-3 protein, is new weapon to save lives from <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/melanoma?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#melanoma</a>, with potential for other cancers. <a href="https://twitter.com/ASCO?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ASCO</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/syd_health?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@syd_health</a> <a href="https://t.co/VTBhnwWlXA">https://t.co/VTBhnwWlXA</a></p> — Melanoma Institute (@MelanomaAus) <a href="https://twitter.com/MelanomaAus/status/1400256672564715524?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 3, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It means that the patient tolerates the treatment better with a lower chance of side effects,” said Professor Georgina Long AO, senior lead author of the trial.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“And in fact, they have a very high quality of life. Most people are able to work full-time and enjoy life as if they didn’t know they had cancer.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Clinical trials have commenced to test the effectiveness of the drug on other cancers including lung, liver, head and neck, and kidney cancer.</span></p>

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Mum-of-three makes tragic mistake

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Three children have died after their mum used a toxic solution to treat a lice infestation in their hair.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The mother used sheep dip, supplied by their dad, to treat the kids’ hair.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The incident occurred in the Ungra commune in the Transylvania region of Romania.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The girls’ mum had obtained the treatment from her husband, who was also the girls’ father and worked as a shepherd.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sheep dip, also known as Tomaxan, is normally used to wash sheep and stop animals suffering from skin infections and insect bites. But it is extremely toxic to humans and can be absorbed through the skin.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">All three girls, aged 7, 8, and 9, went into cardiac arrest shortly after their mum applied the Tomaxan to their hair.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The seven-year-old and nine-year-old were pronounced dead at their home after emergency medical workers attempted to resuscitate them for an hour.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The parents came with children in their arms. The children were in cardiorespiratory arrest,” said Elena Napar, an employee of Rupea City Hospital where the ambulance came from.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The fact they were in a closed room, which meant that they breathed in the fumes, and that the children had wet hair soaked in the solution, which meant it was easily absorbed into the skin, unfortunately, mattered a lot.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The eight-year-old was transported to Mures County Hospital by helicopter but was pronounced dead the next day.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The childrens’ mother and grandmother were also treated for respiratory problems and were discharged sometime later.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Once she was able to leave, the mother was taken into custody where she and her husband were questioned.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Authorities have said the couple face charges of culpable homicide and culpable bodily harm.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The investigation is ongoing.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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Mind-blowing lettuce hack to help you fall asleep in seconds

<p>If you find yourself laying in bed at night unable to sleep, then you may want to pop the kettle on.</p> <p>But rather than making a cuppa right before bed, try boiling lettuce in a mug, a hack people claim is putting them to sleep in seconds.</p> <p>While it sounds absolutely insane, there is some truth to the mind-blowing hack, according to the experts, and it's a sure way to tackle insomnia.</p> <p>TikTok user Shapla Hoque first made the claim in a clip she shared online, which has garnered over 4.8 million views.</p> <p>In the clip, Ms Hoque boiled a kettle and poured the boiling water on some washed lettuce leaves which were shoved in a mug, before removing them as she sipped on the water.</p> <p>Worried it would taste disgusting, she popped in a peppermint tea bag for taste, however this isn't a required step - you could try camomile instead which is known to induce sleep.</p> <p>At first, the nightcap makes her "a bit drowsy" and then in what seems like no time at all, she's completely knocked out in her bed.</p> <p>Desperate for a decent sleep, people took to the comments and revealed they would give it a go, with one admitting: “On my way to the shop to buy 30 lettuces.”</p> <p>While someone else said, “My mum used to do this for me, boiled water and leave it in the pan for 5 min on a minimum heat, always worked a treat and it’s all natural.”</p> <p>So how does it actually work? Studies from 2013 and 2017 say that lettuce, particularly romaine, contains a phytonutrient, called lactucarium, which is said to induce sleep and relieve pain.</p> <p>According to<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.ladbible.com/" target="_blank">LadBible</a>, the 2017 report stated: “Lactuca sativa (lettuce), an annual herb which belongs to the Compositae family, is known for its medicinal value. Traditionally, lettuce has been suggested to have a sedative-hypnotic property.”</p> <p>And concluded: “The results of this study show that lettuce, especially romaine lettuce, is an interesting and cheap source of sleep-potentiating material and antioxidant polyphenols.</p> <p>“The seed and leaf extracts derived from romaine lettuce potentiates the pentobarbital-induced sleeping behaviour in mice.”</p>

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5 unbelievable facts about the human body

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The human body is home to all sorts of complicated machinery, which come with a few unusual quirks.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here are five facts about the human body, which are as unbelievable as they are true.</span></p> <p><strong>1. Wisdom teeth have no purpose (anymore)</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Having not needed them for over 10,000 years, wisdom teeth have become an annoyance that sometimes requires removal. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The teeth are believed to have been useful when our ancestors used to eat coarse, rough food, like nuts, meats, leaves, and roots. As humans started to eat softer foods and their brains grew bigger, the space in the mouth reduced and effectively crowded out this third set of molars.</span></p> <p><strong>2. Fingernails don’t keep growing after you die</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While it might look like nails continue to grow after death, they aren’t actually growing. Instead, dehydration in the skin causes it to retract around the nail, making it appear longer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The same optical illusion also applies to hair.</span></p> <p><strong>3. We breathe through one nostril at a time</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you stop to notice your breathing, you might realise that as you breathe through your nose that the air goes in through one nostril and out the other.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is known as the nasal cycle, and the nostrils will swap roles every few hours.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is also why you’ll notice it’s harder to breathe when only one nostril is blocked, even though the other is free of congestion.</span></p> <p><strong>4. Thumbs have their own pulse</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When taking your pulse, you will have been taught to take it from your wrist and using your fingers rather than your thumb.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is because your thumb has its own pulse that you can feel, which differs from your </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">actual</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> pulse and can cause confusion.</span></p> <p><strong>5. Our tongues are made up of eight muscles</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The eight muscles are classified into two groups: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic muscles are responsible for changing the shape of the tongue and aren’t attached to bone, while the extrinsic muscles change the position of the tongue and are anchored to bone.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This structure is similar to that of an elephant’s trunk or an octopus’ limb.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: Getty Images</span></em></p>

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I’m over 50 and hesitant about the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. Should I wait for Pfizer?

<p>It’s been well documented that there’s a significant level of <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/older-australians-especially-older-women-most-concerned-about-covid-vaccines-20210519-p57tc4.html">vaccine hesitancy</a> in the Australian community at the moment. This appears to be a particular issue among adults over 50 concerning the AstraZeneca vaccine, for which this group is now eligible.</p> <p>Hesitancy over the AstraZeneca vaccine, likely to be stemming largely from the very small risk of blood clots, is leading <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-21/experts-urge-over-50s-to-get-astrazeneca-covid19-vaccine/100154574">some people to ask</a>: can’t I just wait and get the Pfizer vaccine later?</p> <p>It didn’t help things when federal health minister Greg Hunt <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/may/20/do-not-wait-to-be-vaccinated-greg-hunt-says-after-earlier-comments-sparked-confusion">said yesterday</a> there will be enough supply of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) later in the year for anyone concerned about the AstraZeneca shot. Hunt has since pedalled back on his remarks.</p> <p>Despite the mixed messaging, you shouldn’t wait for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine later. There are a number of benefits to getting the AstraZeneca jab now.</p> <h2>Thinking about the blood clot risk</h2> <p>Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (<a href="https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/learn-about-covid-19-vaccines/about-the-astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine#thrombosis-with-thrombocytopenia-syndrome-tts">TTS</a>), an unusual blood clotting disorder, has been associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.</p> <p>It’s important to emphasise it’s not unreasonable to have concerns about the risk of a potentially serious side effect from the AstraZeneca vaccine, or any other vaccine. The challenge is in understanding the magnitude of this risk, putting this risk into perspective, and then weighing up the risks versus the benefits before making a decision.</p> <p>The difficulty is your brain plays a variety of tricks on you when you try to make sense of risks like this. For example, we have a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5773401/">tendency to perceive</a> the risks of very rare adverse outcomes (such as TTS) as being greater than they are.</p> <p>We also tend to be more concerned about negative consequences that may arise as a result of our actions than our inactions. That is, we’re generally <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2020.614113/full">more worried</a> about a potential adverse outcome from taking a vaccine than any adverse outcome that may result from not taking it. This of course isn’t logical, but is another one of the errors we make in processing risks.</p> <p>In terms of assessing the risk of TTS associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 50s, we’ve always known the risk is very low.</p> <p>At the time of writing this article the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/periodic/covid-19-vaccine-weekly-safety-report-20-05-2021">COVID-19 weekly vaccine safety report</a> reported there had been 21 confirmed cases of TTS out of about 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine administered. This is equivalent to one case per 100,000 vaccinations.</p> <p>Importantly, as we’ve got better at detecting and treating this condition, the <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/national/nsw/thousands-of-astrazeneca-shots-pile-up-in-federal-run-clinics-as-gps-wait-20210520-p57tqp.html">likelihood of severe outcomes</a> from TTS have come down considerably. So the rare risk of serious illness from this syndrome looks to be even rarer than we first thought.</p> <p>To put TTS into perspective, it’s also useful to note we see around <a href="https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/blood-clot-death-likely-linked-to-astrazeneca-covi">50 blood clots</a> unrelated to TTS every day in Australia.</p> <h2>Weighing the risks against the benefits</h2> <p>The benefits of getting the AstraZeneca vaccine are considerable for over 50s, from both an individual and a community perspective.</p> <p>When opting to get a vaccine, you’re protecting yourself against the future risk of infection and possible severe illness. For over 50s who contract COVID the risk of severe illness and death is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/older-adults.html">very real</a>. We’re also learning many people who get COVID-19 suffer with ongoing and sometimes debilitating symptoms, a phenomenon called “<a href="https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/long-covid">long COVID</a>”.</p> <p>Another factor which may be driving hesitancy around the AstraZeneca vaccine is the perception the Pfizer vaccine works better. But the most recent data suggest any difference in the performance of these vaccines may be smaller than we originally believed.</p> <p>Although phase 3 clinical trial data indicated the AstraZeneca vaccine had an efficacy of <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32661-1/fulltext">around 70%</a>, new real-world data <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/world/europe/two-astrazeneca-shots-could-be-85-90-per-cent-effective-uk-data-suggests-20210521-p57ttr.html">from the United Kingdom</a> tells us it could be as much as 85%-90% effective in protecting against symptomatic COVID-19.</p> <p>This is positive news and not far off the 95% figure for the Pfizer vaccine seen in <a href="https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-conclude-phase-3-study-covid-19-vaccine">clinical trials</a> and in <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/pfizer-vaccine-coronavirus-israel-data-b1842617.html">the real world</a>.</p> <p>And apart from effectively protecting against severe illness and death from the original strain, the AstraZeneca vaccine appears to work <a href="https://theconversation.com/im-over-50-and-can-now-get-my-covid-vaccine-is-the-astrazeneca-vaccine-safe-does-it-work-what-else-do-i-need-to-know-159814">almost as well</a> in protecting against more severe outcomes for variants of concern, such as the UK variant. Early signs also suggest the vaccine is working quite well to reduce transmission of the virus.</p> <p>It’s also important to understand — and this applies to all age groups — that we’re getting vaccinated for the health of the community as a whole.</p> <p>Although a great deal of the success or failure of the vaccination program has been framed in terms of reaching herd immunity, we don’t need to reach a certain threshold for the community to reap benefits. Every vaccine delivered makes a difference as the greater the proportion of the population vaccinated, the more difficult it is for the virus to spread.</p> <p>As we’ve seen in <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-57153195">Taiwan</a> in recent weeks, being complacent about COVID is flirting with danger.</p> <p>Even though we don’t have community transmission of COVID in Australia now, and we may feel safe and secure in this climate, we need to remember things could change very quickly.</p> <p> </p> <h2>Get the jab</h2> <p>There’s really no logical reason for someone over 50 to wait for an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine, like Pfizer or Moderna. If you do choose to wait, there’s no guarantee when any alternative might be available, and in the interim you risk leaving yourself vulnerable.</p> <p>By stepping up to get your vaccine as soon as you can, you protect yourself against severe COVID and make a significant contribution to putting this pandemic behind us, including getting Australia closer to opening up international borders.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Correction: this article previously referred to data from the Department of Health on the prevalence of TTS. But this was international data; the TGA figures are the most up-to-date for the Australian context.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/161283/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hassan-vally-202904">Hassan Vally</a>, Associate Professor, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/la-trobe-university-842">La Trobe University</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/im-over-50-and-hesitant-about-the-astrazeneca-covid-vaccine-should-i-wait-for-pfizer-161283">original article</a>.</p>

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Malaria found in new hiding place in the body

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Malaria is known for entering the bloodstream via a mosquito bite, but it has been found to have another trick up its sleeve.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Scientists have found that the deadly parasite can lurk undetected in the spleen, which filters blood.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Not only does this discovery change what we know about the biology of the disease, but it has significant implications for malaria elimination programs, according to the researchers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“What we found is that there are some people walking around that have malaria parasites in their spleen and not in their [circulating] blood,” said lead author Steven Kho, from the Menzies School of Health Research.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Kho says one of the other problems is people with infected spleens show no symptoms, so they are unlikely to seek medical treatment.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This means they could be carriers and able to transmit the disease if a mosquito bites them and once the parasite moves back into the bloodstream.</span></p> <p><strong>Why the spleen matters</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Playing a critical role in the immune system, blood flows in and out of the spleen to filter out abnormal and dead blood cells.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This filtering process puts the spleen under a large amount of pressure and people in areas where malaria is common often have enlarged spleens.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If the spleen only removes parasites, we should only see parasite remnants or evidence of dead parasites [in the spleen],” Dr Kho said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Instead, the researchers found live malaria parasites in 95 percent of the spleens they examined, collected from 22 people living in the Indonesian province of Papua who had their spleens removed after rupturing during an accident.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These people showed no symptoms of the disease and no parasites were found in their blood, large amounts of the two most common species were found in their spleen.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This discovery could mean that the spleen acts as a hiding place for the first stage of the parasites, before they enter blood cells and cause disease.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“That shows if they are viable, they can come out again, so there’s a possibility for reseeding an infection that makes someone feel sick, but also able to transmit it onward,” said Dr Justin Boddey of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, who was not involved in the research.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I can see this [discovery] having a huge influence in the way we understand malaria transmission into the mosquito and back out of the mosquito, and the disease itself,” Dr Boddey said.</span></p>

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Five back pain myths debunked

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When it comes to back pain, our knowledge of it has grown and changed a lot in recent decades. But this means that there is just much outdated knowledge still out there.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ken Niere, a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist from the Australian Physiotherapy Association, is busting seven common myths he hears in practice.</span></p> <p><strong>1. Back pain requires extended rest</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though bed rest was often prescribed to those with back pain, Niere says continuing your daily activities is better for you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Many years ago, people would be in hospital for weeks because they had acute back pain,” he says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“But they’d just become deconditioned - they would get better quicker if they were out moving around and exercising.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though it is important to not push yourself before you have recovered, especially if you have a lot of pain, Niere recommends a maximum of two days of bed rest so your recovery isn’t jeopardised.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“You also don’t want to do too much too early - you’ve got to respect the pain, but it’s important to do normal activities of daily living as long as it doesn’t flare up,” he says.</span></p> <p><strong>2. Back pain means spine damage</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since pain is a complex bodily function, many patients are confused when they learn that the tears or fractures they swear they have do not show up on X-rays and scans.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There’s not a good correlation between lower back pain and the imaging results,” Niere says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“People think, ‘If my pain is severe, then the damage must be severe as well’, but that’s often not the case.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The amount of pain we can tolerate also differs, meaning that it is often disproportionate to the amount of damage.</span></p> <p><strong>3. Back pain always come from your back</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While we might assume a sore back means that it’s the source of our pain, Niere says it often comes from tightness or damage in another part of the body.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It might be tight hamstrings; or an arthritic hip that’s causing mechanical strain on the back, which then causes pain; or that their core muscle control is not good and that’s causing more strain on the joints and ligaments, which is causing the pain,” Niere says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Determining the cause of back pain often requires an examination from a physio, where they consider whether habits or activities that occurred before the pain started are the culprit.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It might be postural or inappropriate activity, or that someone spent three days in the garden and they’re not used to that amount of activity,” he says.</span></p> <p><strong>4. Once a bad back, always a bad back</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though back pain does have a high recurrence rate, Niere says it’s often because the pain isn’t managed well from the start.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There’s something like an 80 percent recurrence rate in 12 to 24 months [but] it goes back to them not looking at the underlying cause of the pain,” he says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“They treat the symptoms with rest of mediation and their pain settles down, but if their sitting posture or their tight hamstrings keeps putting strain on the back and they don’t address the underlying cause, then of course it will come back.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, it is possible to have a good turn-around by adopting a good program and addressing any contributing factors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sometimes you might need to address psychological factors too, where being convinced that you have a ‘bad back’ could contribute to the pain returning.</span></p> <p><strong>5. Massages fix back pain</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When back pain starts, the first thought for many people might be finding the nearest massage shop to get some relief.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Although manual therapy can offer temporary relief, Niere says it’s still important to deal with the issue that caused the pain in the first place.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It can be a bit like taking Panadol, which will give you some short-term relief, but may not necessarily address the underlying causes,” he says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I would be careful about only having passive therapies, whether it’s heat or manual therapy - they address the symptoms, but not necessarily the underlying causes.”</span></p>

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Scientists find “important missing piece” to combat COVID-19

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Two teams of scientists from Queensland and the US have co-developed a new antiviral treatment that could effectively kill COVID-19.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The “gene-slicing” treatment has been dubbed an “important missing piece” in the arsenal combating the virus.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Professor Nigel McMillan and his team from the Menzies Health Institute at Griffith University, along with scientists from the US City of Hope research centre, said this “next-generation” approach could stop the virus from replicating in the lungs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Professor McMillian said stage one clinical trials found the treatment reduced the viral load - the amount of viral cells in blood - in mice lungs by 99.99 percent. </span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">🎉🎉Congratulations to MHIQ's Professor Nigel McMillan, Professor Kevin Morris and their research team, on their discovery of an anti-viral treatment that can cut COVID-19 viral load by 99.9%. 👏👏<br />Read the full article:<a href="https://t.co/YPs1SdZIvw">https://t.co/YPs1SdZIvw</a> <a href="https://t.co/hcguACVfrv">pic.twitter.com/hcguACVfrv</a></p> — MenziesHealth (@MenziesHealth) <a href="https://twitter.com/MenziesHealth/status/1394800019815878656?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 18, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Traditional antiviral treatments such as Tamiflu and remdesivir reduce symptoms and help people recover faster, but this new technology directly attacks the virus’ genome, using small interfering RNA (siRNA) to stop the virus from replicating.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The siRNA will be delivered to the lungs using lipid nanoparticles designed at Griffith University and City of Hope.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Professor McMillan said the treatment was quite effective in their mouse trials.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Treatment with virus-specific RNA reduces viral load by 99.99 percent,” he said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“These stealth nanoparticles can be delivered to a wide range of lung cells and silence viral genes.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When the nanoparticles are injected into the bloodstream, they head straight for the lungs and go into “just about every lung cell”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Where there’s a virus, it will find it, bind to the genome and destroy it,” Professor McMillan told ABC News.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This is kind of like taking the engine out of your car. The car won’t go anymore. The virus is dead, it can’t replicate anymore.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It doesn’t do anything to normal cells.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the scientists are yet to determine how late into the disease they could treat someone, Professor McMillan told ABC News that the animal studies were encouraging.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This allows the immune system to come and clean it all up and give you that ultimate cure … With that sort of reduction in viral load, people won’t transmit the virus and have a good chance of recovery,” he said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Because the treatment “targets ultra-conserved regions in the virus’ genome”, it can work on the original SARS virus, SARS-CoV-2 (which causes coronavirus), and any new variants.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The researchers are hoping to progress to the next stage of the trial by the end of the year, and if proven effective, the treatment could be available commercially by 2022.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image credit: Menzies Health Institute / Twitter</span></em></p>

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Why you should turn your poop blue

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A new trend has taken over social media, and this time it involves “blue poop”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, this viral trend might actually be beneficial.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Blue Poop challenge involves eating food made with blue food colouring - usually two muffins - for breakfast to turn your poop blue.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Why, you might ask? Because the viral challenge, started by nutrition research company ZOE, wants you to find out the state of your gut health by tracking how long it takes for food to travel through.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Poop is like a message from your gut, and it has a lot to say,” gut health nutritionist Amanda Sauceda, RDN, said in a </span><a href="https://joinzoe.com/bluepoop"><span style="font-weight: 400;">video</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> about the challenge.</span></p> <p>How does it work?</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You can bake the muffins using a </span><a href="https://joinzoe.com/bluepoop/bake-blue-muffins"><span style="font-weight: 400;">blue muffin recipe</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on ZOE’s website, and you should eat two for breakfast and record the time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you see the blue or green-tinted poop, write down the time again so that you can find out just how healthy your gut is via the </span><a href="https://bluepoop.joinzoe.com/why"><span style="font-weight: 400;">ZOE website</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The recipe can also be altered to be gluten-free, but the company advises to use enough blue dye for the test to work.</span></p> <p>Why blue poop?</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Sarah Berry, leader of nutrition sciences at King’s College London, worked with ZOE to publish a study asking participants to eat specially-tinted muffins to measure their transit time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There are several scientific ways of measuring gut transit time, such as swallowing a special capsule or small wireless device,” Dr Berry said in a statement.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“But these methods are complicated and invasive and can’t easily be done at home. Our data shows that transit time, tracked with blue dye, is an indicator of gut health, and is better than other non-invasive methods.”</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">My blue muffins for the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bluepoopchallenge?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#bluepoopchallenge</a> <a href="https://t.co/PA1zvK3U4c">pic.twitter.com/PA1zvK3U4c</a></p> — Livia Văduva (@shamrockraver) <a href="https://twitter.com/shamrockraver/status/1394747513467514880?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 18, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Scientists found that transit time - the amount of time it takes for food to move through your gut - varied from under 12 hours to several days, with an average of around 29 hours.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to </span><a href="https://joinzoe.com/post/bluepoopchallenge"><span style="font-weight: 400;">ZOE</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the tests showed that shorter transit times were generally linked with better health, having less abdominal fat, and healthier responses to food.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gut transit time is affected by diet, lifestyle, hydration, and the gut microbiome - the trillions of bugs living in the gut.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Those who took more time to poop had more microbes that fed on protein and fewer fibre-loving bugs that produce short-chain fatty acids, helpful molecules that are linked to better gut health.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Interestingly, we also found that people with longer transit times were more likely to have a greater diversity of microbes in their gut, which is often associated with better gut health. This suggests that more microbiome diversity may not always be a sign of better health for people who don’t poop very often,” it said in a statement.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“People with the very fastest transit times, suggesting they had diarrhoea, tended to have a less healthy gut microbiome,” the statement continued.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Professor Tim Spector, epidemiologist at King’s College London and scientific founder of ZOE, said: “The Blue Poop Challenge is a simple way to find out what is going on in your gut. All you need are a couple of blue muffins and a spirit of curiosity to take that first step,”</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image credit: ZOE / Instagram</span></em></p>

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Our bodies or infection: What actually kills us?

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A growing body of evidence suggests that our immune systems may be responsible for the deaths of others from infectious diseases such as COVID-19.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since a virus doesn’t “want” to kill the host - us - and has a sole goal of surviving and reproducing, it might be that our bodies are the cause of death following infection.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In an effort to stop the virus in its tracks, the body can harm major organs that include the lungs and heart. This has led some doctors to focus on reducing the immune response of infected patients in order to save them.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, the question still remains: what’s the point of having an immune system if it kills us?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The answer may be to do with our evolutionary history and require us to think about immunity in terms of communication and behaviour alongside biology. And, the more that researchers can understand how our immune system originated, the more likely they are to develop better ways of dealing with it.</span></p> <p><strong>What does behaviour have to do with immune systems?</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This ties into the concept of the behavioural immune system. Feeling disgusted or repulsed by something because it makes us feel like it poses a threat to our health is just one example.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Animals do this too, with </span><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25256957/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">research showing</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that some animals avoid others that show signs of illness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, unlike other animals, humans are likely to be compassionate towards those with symptoms of illness or injury, according to more recent </span><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27405223/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">theoretical research</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to this theory, that is why people tend to exclaim when feeling pain, rather than silently moving away.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some psychologists argue that this is because immune responses involve communication just as much as they do self-maintenance, since people who have received care in the past have probably tended to do better than those trying to survive on their own.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In evolutionary literature, these kinds of displays of pain are referred to as kinds of “signals”, which can be faked to exploit the world around us.</span></p> <p><strong>Faking it is an evolutionary thing</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">How many times have you faked being in pain or sick to avoid an obligation? If your answer is ‘all the time’, you’re not alone. People feign these signals frequently to get support from others, avoid obligations or give themselves more time to complete a task. And this is an important part of any signalling system, where the response to a particular signal will start to dictate how and why that signal is used.</span></p> <p><strong>People aren’t the only ones looking to benefit</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Germs also use immune signals for their own gain.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While some viruses hijack human immune responses such as coughs and sneezes to get passed on to new hosts, germs like SARS-COV-2 - which causes COVID-19 - can prevent our signalling to others that we are sick so it can spread without anyone realising.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Viewing immunity as more than just a biological system could help us understand and even predict how particular infections will interact with a patient’s immune system, where </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/immune-response-might-be-more-about-signalling-to-others-that-you-need-help-and-less-about-protecting-your-body-160133"><span style="font-weight: 400;">future research</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> could help us sort the immunity hijackers from other germs.</span></p>

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Toddler survives ordeal with flesh-eating bug

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A mother in Melbourne has spoken out about the terrifying ordeal her family went through after her daughter almost lost her leg to a flesh-eating infection caused by Strep A.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At just 11 months old, Eden contracted the bug after a bout of severe colds that affected her for weeks.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On the night she was rushed to hospital with a fever, it was discovered she had Strep A that was affecting her leg.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We were obviously very scared because it was a very dangerous bug that got into her system quickly,” Eden’s mother Tania O’Meara </span><a href="https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/melbourne-toddler-almost-loses-her-leg-to-strep-a-as-murdoch-childrens-research-institute-trial-vaccines-c-2808830"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told 7NEWS</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Luckily the doctors were able to save her leg, but Eden was left scarring on her right calf.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It was a very precarious point in her life,” O’Meara said.</span></p> <p><strong>The need for a vaccine</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr Josh Osowicki from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute said Strep A is a “high-priority” bug for vaccine development.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As part of their efforts, researchers at the institute are deliberately infecting healthy volunteers with the bacteria to trial different vaccines and treatments.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We’ve kept the participants in an inpatient environment and we had really close clinical support and we’ve watched them really closely,” Dr Osowicki said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We hope the vaccine can stop other children going through what Eden went through,” O’Meara said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Strep A causes a lot of different disease, from a strep throat or a mild skin infection to really severe and dangerous infections,” Dr Osowicki said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The infection kills more than 500,000 people globally every year, with young children, the elderly, and pregnant women especially at risk.</span></p> <p><strong>Image credit: 7NEWS</strong></p>

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Warning issued for women with breast implants

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An urgent warning has been issued by health authorities after a link was found between breast implants and a rare cancer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) has been found in a small number of women who have undergone breast reconstruction surgeries, with the cancer developing between three and 14 years after the procedure.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The cancer cells usually grow in the fluid and scar tissue that develops around the implant.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Safer Care Victoria issued a public safety notice that urges women who have undergone the procedure to keep an eye out for swelling, caused by fluid around the implant, and any pain, rashes, or lumps.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Please speak to your GP immediately if you notice a chance, as this cancer is highly curable if diagnosed and treated early,” Safer Care Victoria said in a statement.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“If you don’t have symptoms, there is no need to remove your implants. Removal of implants, as well as the use of anaesthetics, come with a surgical risk.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to experts, the risk of developing BIA-ALCL depends on the type of implant used, with the risk estimated to be between one in 1000 and one in 10,000.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the cause of BIA-ALCL is still unconfirmed, the prevailing theory is that bacterial contamination occurs when the implant is inserted or in the period just after surgery, causing a low-grade bacterial biofilm. According to the theory, the biofilm causes chronic irritation over time that triggers the body’s immune system which causes the number of lymphocyte cells to rapidly increase. The lymphocyte cells can then transform into cancer cells and become ALCL.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration is aware of 76 cases of BIA-ALCL nationally, while New Zealand’s Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority has recorded six cases.</span></p>

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