We host news of discoveries in various fields of science with the focus on space, medical treatments, fringe science, microbiology, chemistry and physics, while providing commercial and cultural contexts and deeper insight. @http://koyalgroupinfomag.com/blog/

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag - Prototype Paper Test Can Detect Ebola Strains

DNA-programmed blotting paper could soon be giving doctors a simple disease test that will reveal an infection in 30 minutes for just a few pence.

Researchers have proved the technique works by developing a prototype Ebola test in just 12 hours, and using just $20 of materials.

The smart diagnostics use a soup of biological ingredients including the genetic material RNA.

The researchers say this can be freeze-dried and preserved on ordinary paper.

Team leader Jim Collins, who has joint appointments at Boston and Harvard Universities, says the biological powder can be reactivated by simply adding water, like living powdered soup.

"We were surprised at how well these materials worked after being freeze dried," he told the BBC.

"Once they're rehydrated, these biological circuits function in these small paper disks as if they were inside a living cell."

Genetic hacking
Jim Collins is a leading pioneer in the field of synthetic biology, whose 2000 paper showing genetic circuits could be created in the same way as electronic circuits can be programmed, helped launch the discipline.

Since then, synthetic biology has become a powerful tool in fundamental biology, with researchers hacking the genetic programmes of microbes to study their life processes, or give them the power to compute using logic like a digital processor.

Collins' group has previously reprogrammed bacteria to become cellular spies, recording events as they pass through an animal's bowels.

But the discipline has required specialist skills, so that few laboratories can take advantage of the techniques. The researchers' avowed intention in the new work, described in the journal Cell, is to make synthetic biology widely available.

They've definitely succeeded, says Professor Lingchong You, an expert in cellular reprogramming at Duke University.

"This paper-based approach is incredibly attractive. It feels like you could use it in your garage! It'll give scientists a synthetic-biology playground for a very low cost."

'Biochemical soup'
The materials in the powdered biochemical soup include simple enzymes that bacteria need, molecules to power the chemical reactions, amino acids which are the bricks of cell biology, and importantly ribosomes, giant molecular machines that read genetic material and use it to assemble the bricks into functioning proteins.

In liquid form, these cell extracts are routinely used in biology labs. Linchong You gives credit to Collins for having the imagination to freeze dry them with synthetic genes.

"With hindsight, it's obvious it should work. But most of us don't think in this direction - there was a real leap of faith. But the fact you can leave these freeze-dried systems for a year, and they'll still work - that's quite remarkable."

Alongside the paper-based biochemistry, Jim Collins' team - in collaboration with Peng Yin, also at Harvard University's Wyss Institute - has also introduced a new way of programming RNA, the molecular cousin of DNA which ribosome machines read. Their method makes the gene-circuits far more flexible than previous approaches.

The new type of RNA can be programmed to react and respond to any particular biochemical input, and then switch on the rest of the genetic machinery.

"This gives us a programmable sensor that can be readily and rapidly designed," Collins explains.

The Ebola test they experimented with is a proof of principle showing how flexible the programming step is.

"In a period of just 12 hours, two of my team managed to develop 24 sensors that would detect different regions of the Ebola genome, and discriminate between the Sudan and the Zaire strains."

In contrast, conventional antibody tests take months and cost thousands of pounds to devise, the researchers argue.

Quick response

The genetic test kit gives a simple colour output, turning the paper from yellow to purple, with the change visible within half an hour. By changing the input trigger, variants of the test could be used to reveal antibiotic resistance genes in bacterial infections or biomarkers of other disease conditions.

Their Ebola test is not suitable for use in the epidemic areas at the moment, Collins emphasises, but it would be simple to devise one that is.

The arrays of programmed paper dots would be easy to mass produce. Lingchong You envisions an "entire fabrication process carried out by computer-aided circuit design, robotics-mediated assembly of circuits, and printing onto paper."

And price is not the only consideration. Collins points out the freeze-dried circuits are stable at room temperature. In large parts of the world where electricity is unreliable, or there are no refrigerators, this would be a particular advantage.


"We are very excited about this," he added. "In terms of significance, I rank this alongside all the other breakthroughs I've been involved in."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag: Professor with Irish roots wins Nobel for medicine

Professor John O'Keefe speaks at a news conference in London. Reuters


AN Irish-American scientist and a Norwegian husband-and-wife research team yesterday won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the brain's navigation system - the inner GPS that helps us find our way in the world - a revelation that one day could help those with Alzheimer's.

The research by John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser represents a "paradigm shift" in neuroscience that could help researchers understand the sometimes severe spatial memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease, the Nobel Assembly said.

"This year's Nobel Laureates have discovered a positioning system, an 'inner GPS' in the brain, that makes it possible to orient ourselves in space," the assembly said.

O'Keefe (75), a professor at the University College London, discovered the first component of this system in 1971 when he found that a certain type of nerve cell was always activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room. He demonstrated that these "place cells" were building up a map of the environment, not just registering visual input.

Thirty-four years later, in 2005, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser, married neuroscientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, identified another type of nerve cell - the "grid cell" - that generates a coordinate system for precise positioning and path-finding, the assembly said.

It was the fourth time that a married couple has shared a Nobel Prize and the second time in the medicine category.

Meanwhile, it was also announced yesterday that Professor O'Keefe is to receive an honorary doctorate from UCC. Professor O'Keefe, whose father hailed from Newmarket, Co Cork, and who still has family in the area, will also be guest speaker at a major symposium organised by UCC's Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience in advance of the ceremony.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag: 21 Numbers That Explain Why The Time To Address Climate Change Is Right Now, Or Maybe Yesterday

As this week's viral photo of 35,000 walruses crammed on an Alaskan shore reminds us, the climate crisis is still very much a thing. For those who missed it, a lack of Arctic ice evidently forced the poor creatures to huddle together on a narrow piece of land out of desperation -- normally, they're observed lying more spread out. (The same thing happened last year as well.)

The plight of the walruses is striking, but climate change is also having all kinds of other, less readily visible effects. It's been shown to produce heat waves around the world, contribute to global wildlife extinction and maybe even reduce gravity.

Below, we give you 21 numbers to help explain one of the most pressing global issues of our time.

alaska 35000 walrus

0.01%
Percentage of working climate scientists who reject man-made global warming. According to research by the geologist James Lawrence Powell, among 9,136 scientists who published a combined 2,258 peer-reviewed climate articles between November 2012 and December 2013, just one person rejected the idea that humans are changing Earth's climate. Another review looked at 4,000 peer-reviewed papers on climate change and found that a full 97 percent identified humans as the cause.

90%
Percentage of 108 climate change denial books published between 1982 and 2010 that were not peer-reviewed. The books variously denied that climate change is happening, that humans are at fault, that climate change is having a negative effect on the environment, or any combination of the three. A strong link was also found between the books and conservative think tanks. Seventy-two percent of the books were published by an author or editor with a verifiable affiliation to some such group.

800,000 to 15,000,000
Number of years it's been since carbon dioxide levels were as high as they are now. Not only did humans not exist back then, but the oceans were 100 feet higher than they are today and the world's surface temperature was 11 degrees warmer than it is now.

industrial revolution factories

1895
The year Svante Arrhenius presented a paper describing the impact of increased carbon dioxide on Earth's greenhouse effect. Arrhenius, a Swedish physicist and chemist, hypothesized that changes in concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could have a significant impact on the planet's surface temperatures. While Arrhenius was not the first to suggest humans might be capable of influencing the climate, his research shows that the basic science of global warming has been understood for more than a century. Yet somehow, there are still public figures in the U.S. debating whether it's real.

42%

The percentage by which atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen since the Industrial Revolution. Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide, two other important greenhouse gases, have risen 153 percent and 21 percent from pre-Industrial levels, respectively.

2°C
The generally accepted maximum increase in average global temperature that humans can sustain without dangerous consequences. It was proposed as a policy target by the EU in 1996, and again in the Copenhagen Accord of 2009. After the planet warms by more than two degrees Celsius, or roughly 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, relative to pre-Industrial times -- as it is currently on track to do -- humans could face more of the negative consequences of climate change, such as more frequent food shortages, extreme weather and mass extinction of plant and animal species.

800,000,000,000
Estimated total number of metric tons of carbon that humans can pump into the atmosphere before average global temperatures rise more than two degrees Celsius. According to a 2013 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 800 billion tons is Earth's "carbon budget," and we've already used up close to two-thirds of it.

19.6
The number of pounds of carbon dioxide produced by burning one gallon (6.3 pounds) of gasoline. One gallon of diesel fuel does even more damage, releases 22.38 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that gasoline- and diesel-fueled transportation added 1,522 million metric tons of carbon to the environment in 2013.

25%
The percentage increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 1959 and 2013. That's a rise from 316 parts per million to 397 ppm. Over the past two decades, the average annual increase rose from 1.9 ppm to 2.1 ppm.

shanghai smog

400,000
Estimated number of annual deaths due to factors influenced by climate change. A 2012 report published by the European nonprofit DARA estimated the average number of fatalities due to "hunger and communicative diseases" related to extreme weather affected by climate change. These conditions appear to hit the children of developing countries particularly hard. A group of doctors recently estimated that up to 7 million people may face premature death as a result of indoor and outdoor air pollution linked to fossil fuel consumption.

$696,000,000,000
Loss in 2010 global GDP estimated to have been caused by climate change. By 2030, researchers estimate that 3.2 percent of annual global GDP will be lost due to climate change, through consequences such as negative effects on crop yields. In developing countries, the loss may be even greater -- up to 11 percent of a nation's GDP.

1.7 to 3.2
The average number of feet by which global sea levels are expected to rise by 2100. This estimate by the IPCC assumes that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to climb at present-day rates. Sea levels around the globe are not expected to rise evenly, and some regions, such as the Mid-Atlantic U.S., are believed to be particularly vulnerable.

4
Number of feet global sea levels could rise if the increasingly unstable West Antarctic ice sheet should collapse. The sheet is already thinning, and one study has called its eventual collapse "unstoppable." However, while the ice sheet's melt would cause already-rising global sea levels to climb even higher, researchers do not believe that will start any time soon -- in a worst-case scenario, rapid collapse might begin 200 to 1,000 years from now.

2041
Year when it will become too late to stop Miami from slipping below sea level, due to greenhouse gas emissions already built up in the atmosphere. This doesn't mean Miami will actually be underwater by 2041 -- but if emissions continue at their current rates, 2041 is the year there will be no way to reverse the sort of sea-level rise that would end up drowning most of the city.

climate march 2014

11.5°F
High-level projection for average global temperature increase by 2100. A low-level projection puts the average global increase at 2 degrees Fahrenheit, but changes in temperature are expected to vary by location.

0.3°C to 0.5°C
Estimated decrease in regional temperature by 2100, if certain presently non-forested areas of Europe are converted to deciduous forest. Though it's unlikely to happen, a 2013 study illustrated the benefits of using vegetation as a weapon against climate change.

70-plus
Number of days in 2011 when the temperature in parts of the U.S. was at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Climate Assessment. Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Southern California were particularly hard-hit with scorching hot weather that year, a trend that is expected to increase with climate change.

14.9
Average number of days each year when temperatures in New York City exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That's based on data collected between 1870 and 2013. The last year when New York City had only one day of 90-plus temperatures was 1902.

69
High-level estimate of how many days per year New York City will have temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit if emissions aren't curtailed. That's the projection for the year 2100. A low-level estimate puts that number at 18 days. Other cities could face a much hotter future. In Miami, by 2100, almost 200 days out of the year could be 90 degrees or above.

9
Number of the top 10 hottest years on record that have occurred in the 21st century. The other year was 1998, and 2010 was the hottest year of all since record-keeping began in 1880.

71%
The percentage increase in very heavy precipitation events recorded in the Northeastern U.S. between 1958 and 2012. Only Hawaii saw a decrease in precipitation (12 percent) during that time frame. The Midwest experienced a 16 to 37 percent rise in heavy precipitation, and the South saw a 27 percent increase.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag: Ebola experts worry virus may spread more easily

U.S officials leading the fight against history's worst outbreak of Ebola have said they know the ways the virus is spread and how to stop it. They say that unless an air traveler from disease-ravaged West Africa has a fever of at least 101.5 degrees or other symptoms, co-passengers are not at risk.

"At this point there is zero risk of transmission on the flight," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said after a Liberian man who flew through airports in Brussels and Washington was diagnosed with the disease last week in Dallas.

Other public health officials have voiced similar assurances, saying Ebola is spread only through physical contact with a symptomatic individual or their bodily fluids. "Ebola is not transmitted by the air. It is not an airborne infection," said Dr. Edward Goodman of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where the Liberian patient remains in critical condition.

Yet some scientists who have long studied Ebola say such assurances are premature — and they are concerned about what is not known about the strain now on the loose. It is an Ebola outbreak like none seen before, jumping from the bush to urban areas, giving the virus more opportunities to evolve as it passes through multiple human hosts.

Dr. C.J. Peters, who battled a 1989 outbreak of the virus among research monkeys housed in Virginia and who later led the CDC's most far-reaching study of Ebola's transmissibility in humans, said he would not rule out the possibility that it spreads through the air in tight quarters.

"We just don't have the data to exclude it," said Peters, who continues to research viral diseases at the University of Texas in Galveston.

Dr. Philip K. Russell, a virologist who oversaw Ebola research while heading the U.S. Army's Medical Research and Development Command, and who later led the government's massive stockpiling of smallpox vaccine after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also said much was still to be learned. "Being dogmatic is, I think, ill-advised, because there are too many unknowns here."

If Ebola were to mutate on its path from human to human, said Russell and other scientists, its virulence might wane — or it might spread in ways not observed during past outbreaks, which were stopped after transmission among just two to three people, before the virus had a greater chance to evolve. The present outbreak in West Africa has killed approximately 3,400 people, and there is no medical cure for Ebola.

"I see the reasons to dampen down public fears," Russell said. "But scientifically, we're in the middle of the first experiment of multiple, serial passages of Ebola virus in man.... God knows what this virus is going to look like. I don't."

Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC in Atlanta, said health officials were basing their response to Ebola on what has been learned from battling the virus since its discovery in central Africa in 1976. The CDC remains confident, he said, that Ebola is transmitted principally by direct physical contact with an ill person or their bodily fluids.

Skinner also said the CDC is conducting ongoing lab analyses to assess whether the present strain of Ebola is mutating in ways that would require the government to change its policies on responding to it. The results so far have not provided cause for concern, he said.

The researchers reached in recent days for this article cited grounds to question U.S. officials' assumptions in three categories.

One issue is whether airport screenings of prospective travelers to the U.S. from West Africa can reliably detect those who might have Ebola. Frieden has said the CDC protocols used at West African airports can be relied on to prevent more infected passengers from coming to the U.S.

"One hundred percent of the individuals getting on planes are screened for fever before they get on the plane," Frieden said Sept. 30. "And if they have a fever, they are pulled out of the line, assessed for Ebola, and don't fly unless Ebola is ruled out."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag News: Some Creepy and other Not-so-Believable Science Research Discoveries

Have you ever imagined what the future would be like? Here is a hint as to what the latest discoveries will unfold within our lifetime. Unfortunately, we also found some unlikely stories about the past that try to make the advances of scientific development a kind of joke. Read on!

1. Last year, personalized embryonic stem cells became experimentally more viable with the successes made by the Oregon Health and Science University in cloning human embryos and collecting stem cells from them. Using those derived cells, they were able to produce cells into specialized cells usable for the skin or heart. This will allow doctors in the future to use such cells to generate entire organs or parts of them for transplant procedures.

Cut off your finger with a knife or lost an eye in an accident? A replacement can be generated, perhaps, in a matter of days or weeks, perhaps, using your own body as the source of original cells to produce cloned body parts since they claim that they may be able to generate such cells without using embryos. It is like real-life imitating fiction. Exciting but a bit scary and reminiscent of Frankenstein.

2. Was there water on Mars? Well, if NASA has it right, there might have been. Or wasn’t there? NASA’ Curiosity rover allegedly found a lake on the red planet which “could have supported” life more than three billion years ago. But the conclusion appears to be a big leap of faith, so to speak, for researchers to claim. Just because there is water does not mean there could have been life on Mars. Comets, perhaps hundreds or thousands of them. are basically made of ice and where they got that water somewhere in outer space would lead us to suppose that there is a lot of life out there. So far, we seem to be alone.

Besides, where is all that supposed lake water now? Could that lake have been formed by some other liquid or fluid, more volatile than water, such as methane, ammonia or some kind of mineral-based acid? Or could that lake have been merely a crater formed by an asteroid like many meteor-formed lakes we have on our planet?

In fact, the photo has all the evidences of a crater formed from a ballistic impact of a meteor rather than a lake that once held water. Notice the exact center where the tell-tale rebound of rock materials formed a small peak. Remember the popular slow-mo drop of water rebounding out? That is what happens with a meteor impact on solid ground. It forms a small peak on the center from the debris that are is thrown upward. A more exacting scientific inquiry and not speculations should be made before coming out with such “desperate” conclusions.

This piece of news is far from being a vindication of NASA. We need more proof of life — intelligent, if possible — to make us applaud. Even a college student will see through this unfounded claim.

3. A skull discovered in the Republic of Georgia apparently showed more ancient and more recent human characteristics. Evolutionists would feel confounded by this news as it would disrupt there belief that there was progression in the development of the Homo Sapiens species that we are. The conclusion the scientists reached, rather conveniently, was that more archaic humans apparently mated with the more advanced Homo Erectus or the first primitive erect humans before our “species” emerged.

Now this might be a rather surprising admission; but it is again a desperate and illogical hypothesis that throws cold water on the whole Theory of Evolution. It is basically saying that because some fossils show mixtures of pre-evolved and post-evolved characteristics then it could have only been the result of the reproduction of the two. But that is exactly like saying that a “zebronkey” – a mutant zebra that had features of a zebra and a donkey documented in Manila back in the 1970’s – was the product of the mating of a zebra and a donkey.

Again, it seems evolutionary scientific research has a lot of credibility check it has to undergo before we can accept its farfetched conclusions. Besides, a single toe bone does not a whole human being or so-called whole humanoid. With such sparse evidence, we wonder how scientists could confidently brag about their “latest discoveries”.

There are, to be sure, legitimate and amazing scientific discoveries out there; but these few we found online seem to be more like press release materials for fund-raising purposes rather than acceptable results of serious scientific inquiry.

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We host news of discoveries in various fields of science with the focus on space, medical treatments, fringe science, microbiology, chemistry and physics, while providing commercial and cultural contexts and deeper insight.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag: 29-Year 100 Billion Animal Study Reinforces Safety Of GM Foods


Visit almost any anti-GMO website and you will find alarming headlines about the alleged dangers of GMO foods. They kill pigs, cows and sheep on farms and in lab studies! Humans are next!

“Monsanto’s GMO Feed Creates Horrific Physical Ailments in Animals,” screams a typical article, in AlterNet, a popular anti-GMO site. It touts “new research” but as is typical of such articles and such sites, it neither quotes a study nor links to any independent research.

Although there have been more than 2,000 studies documenting that biotechnology does not pose an unusual threat to human health and genetically modified foods are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods, questions remain in the minds of many consumers.

What does the research say?

Animal feeding studies are the basis for evaluating the safety of GMO crops. One-off studies of lab animals have occasionally shown some problems. Gilles-Eric Séralini, in his retracted GM corn study (later republished in a non-peer-reviewed anti-GMO journal), claimed rats fed genetically engineered corn developed grotesque cancerous tumors—the kind no farmer would miss among his animals if this cause-effect was genuinely in place.

Anti-GMO crusader Jeffrey Smith, on his personal website, the Institute for Responsible Technology, lists more than a dozen cases in which he claims animals fed GMOs exhibited abnormal conditions, including cancer and early death. He also references his own self-published book, and anecdotal evidence that pigs fed GM feed turned sterile or had false pregnancies and sheep that grazed on BT cotton plants often died.

“Nearly every independent animal feeding safety study on GM foods shows adverse or unexplained effects,” he writes. “But we were not supposed to know about these problems…the biotech industry works overtime to try to hide them.”

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine—an alternative medicine group that rejects GMOs and believes that vaccines are dangerous—claims, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.

Is there any basis to these allegations? After all, globally, food-producing animals consume 70% to 90% of genetically engineered crop biomass, mostly corn and soybean. In the United States alone, animal agriculture produces over 9 billion food-producing animals annually, and more than 95% of these animals consume feed containing GE ingredients. The numbers are similar in large GMO producing countries with a large agricultural sector, such as Brazil and Argentina.

Estimates of the numbers of meals consumed by feed animals since the introduction of GM crops 18 years ago would number well into the trillions. By common sense alone, if GE feed were causing unusual problems among livestock, farmers would have noticed. Dead and sick animals would literally litter farms around the world. Yet there are no anecdotal reports of such mass health problems.

But we don’t need to depend on anecdotes to address these concerns. Writing in the Journal of Animal Science, in the most comprehensive study of GMOs and food ever conducted, University of California-Davis Department of Animal Science geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam and research assistant Amy E. Young reviewed 29 years of livestock productivity and health data from both before and after the introduction of genetically engineered animal feed. [NOTE: article is behind a paywall until October 1.]

The field data represented more than 100 billion animals covering a period before 1996 when animal feed was 100% non-GMO, and after its introduction when it jumped to 90% and more. The documentation included the records of animals examined pre and post mortem, as ill cattle cannot be approved for meat.

What did they find? That GM feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed. There was no indication of any unusual trends in the health of animals since 1996 when GMO crops were first harvested. Considering the size of the dataset, it can reasonably be said that the debate over the impact of GE feed on animal health is closed: there is zero extraordinary impact.

The Van Eenennaam study corresponds to other reviews of animal feeding data, some multi-generational and as long two years.

Several recent comprehensive reviews from various authors summarize the results of food-producing animal feeding studies with the current generation of GE crops (Deb et al., 2013; Flachowsky, 2013; Flachowsky et al., 2012; Tufarelli and Laudadio, 2013; Van Eenennaam, 2013). Studies have been conducted with a variety of food-producing animals including sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, quail, cattle, water buffalo, rabbits and fish fed different GE crop varieties. The results have consistently revealed that the performance and health of GE-fed animals were comparable with those fed near isogenic non-GE lines and commercial varieties.

Here is a comprehensive list of animal feeding studies. Many of these studies are independent. The list included systematic reviews, all of which conclude that GMO feed is safe.

As Dr. Steven Novella notes on his blog Neurologica:

[T]his data is observational, meaning the authors are looking at data collected out there in the world and not part of any controlled prospective experiment. Observational data is always subject to unanticipated confounding factors. However, robust observational data is still highly useful, and has the potential to detect any clear signals.

The findings also comport with long-term GMO feeding laboratory studies. The GENERA database, found at Biology Fortified online, lists more than three-dozen examples of multi-year studies. A recent review of 24 of these studies by Snell et. al found: “Results…do not suggest any health hazards and, in general, there were no statistically significant differences within parameters observed.” There have been a few outlier studies, such as the retracted GMO corn research. But if Séralini’s data were real and 80% of food was poison, animals and people would be dropping like flies.

The authors also found no evidence to suggest any health affect on humans who eat those animals. No study has revealed any differences in the nutritional profile of animal products derived from GE-fed animals. Because DNA and protein are normal components of the diet that are digested, there are no detectable or reliably quantifiable traces of GE components in milk, meat, and eggs following consumption of GE feed.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag Millions of patients given flu drugs with little or no benefit, study finds

Millions of patients may have taken influenza drugs that have little or no benefit to them, according to an Australian-led study.

The study found that researchers paid by pharmaceutical companies were more likely to recommend antiviral drugs for flu and produced different recommendations to independent researchers conducting the reviews.

The study analysed 26 systematic reviews, a type of study considered to be the gold standard of evidence because they assess all existing studies on a topic using stringent guidelines.

Adam Dunn, lead author of the study and a health informatics expert at the University of NSW, said: “Systematic reviews summarise available evidence following strict protocols, so we expect findings from them to be consistent.

“But we found reviewers with ties to pharma introduced bias, as we found a disconnect between what their results showed and what they went on to recommend.”

The study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that benefits of the class of drugs, known as neuraminidase inhibitors, may eventually be found to have been inflated, which could prove highly costly to governments.

“Global stockpiling of antivirals was recommended by a panel from the World Health Organisation in 2002 and in 2009, governments around the world spent $6.9bn building stockpiles of oseltamivir [Tamiflu], an investment that remains poorly supported by available clinical evidence,” the study said.

Almost 80% of reviews written by researchers with financial ties were favourable towards the drugs, while 17% on independent reviews were positive, the study found.

Ray Moynihan, a senior research fellow at Bond University who has authored books on the pharmaceutical industry and overdiagnosis, described the work of Dunn and his colleagues as “highly valuable, critical work”.

“It’s incredibly encouraging to see this issue being examined in Australia, and that our researchers are at the cutting edge of some of the big, international debates occurring in medical and scientific evidence,” Moynihan said.

“We know from very reliable evidence that clinical trials that are sponsored by pharma tend to favour the sponsor’s drug, but what this paper is showing is that this bias has crept into what is considered the most reliable form of medical evidence, the systematic review.”

It was a worrying finding for patients, he said.

There needed to be a stronger push for independent research to be conducted without drug industry funding, he said, adding that public funding available through bodies like the National Health and Medical Research Council should be used instead.

“It is clear we have likely been misled about the benefits and harms of these drugs because so much of the evidence is tainted by a pro-industry or pro-drug bias,” Moynihan said.

“This is a cause for alarm as billions of dollars of public money has been invested into these drugs.”

Addressing concerns that harmful movements, like the anti-vaccination campaign, may use papers like Dunn’s as evidence not to trust doctors and medical advice, Moynihan said the study reinforced the importance of scientific evidence.

“Far from making people sceptical about science, this should reinforce its value in medicine,” Moynihan said.

“What we have in medicine is unfortunately a lot of marketing disguised as science, and this paper helps us realise that bring the best of the scientific methods forward to debate medical evidence can improve our knowledge.”

Much greater transparency in medical and scientific research and by drug companies was also needed, he said.

Dr Florence Bourgeois, a co-author of the paper and emergency medicine specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital in the US, said it was important that doctors talk to their patients about the safety and efficacy of the drugs.

But she acknowledged that could be difficult given the contradictions and uncertainties around them.

“The best thing is for patients to have a conversation with their healthcare provider about whether these drugs are the right choice for them,” she said.


“Clinicians, in turn, should decide on a case-by-case basis which patients are good candidates for the drugs, weighing the benefits and harms.”