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Scientists reveal why Zika virus causes microcephaly

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Washington, Sep 29: Chinese researchers said on Thursday they might have solved the mystery of why the Zika virus causes microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies.

In a study published in the US journal Science, a team led by Cheng-Feng Qin of the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology reported that one single genetic change, likely acquired in 2013, gave the mosquito-borne virus the ability to cause severe fetal microcephaly.

“Our findings offer a reasonable explanation for the unexpected causal link of Zika to microcephaly, and will help understand how Zika evolved from an innocuous mosquito-borne virus into a congenital pathogen with global impact,” Qin said.

Zika was first identified in 1947 in Uganda, and until its recent emergence in the Americas, was a little known one that sporadically causes mild infections, Xinhua reported.

Then, it rapidly swept through South and Central America in 2015, and due to its link to congenital brain abnormalities, especially microcephaly during pregnancy, the World Health Organisation declared in early 2016 the current epidemics a public health emergency of international concern.

However, scientists remain unable to determine why the virus evolved into a pathogen triggering severe neurological syndromes.

By comparing contemporary Zika virus strains from the 2015 and 2016 South American epidemics with an ancestral Cambodian virus that was circulating in 2010, Qin and colleagues found one critical mutation that conferred the ability to cause microcephaly in mouse models of fetal infection.

That one change, S139N, which replaced a serine amino acid with an asparagine at the 139th position of a Zika protein called prM, also made the virus more lethal to human neuron precursor cells in culture compared with the ancestral form.

Zika accumulated numerous changes throughout its genome between 2010 and 2016, of which S139N caused substantially more severe microcephaly and embryonic lethality in mouse models.

Evolutionary analyses revealed that the S139N change likely arose sometime around 2013, which coincided with initial reports of microcephaly.

It was then stably maintained during subsequent spread to the US.

“The discovery should provide guidance for the study of pathogenetic mechanisms of the Zika virus and for the development of vaccines and treatments,” Qin said.

IANS

Health

Breastfeeding secrets every mom should know

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New Delhi, Jan 23: Breastfeeding seems to be a most natural process, but to some, it may be a challenge. Be patient and feed often, say experts.

Mimansa Malhotra (PT), Lactation Consultant and Lamaze child birth educator on behalf of Philips, and Shilpi Srivastava, Lactation Consultant at Mamma Mia, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, list some tips to keep in mind:

* Try to nurse within the first hour after delivery. That’s when your breast produces colostrum, or first milk. It is packed with nutrients in a small amount. And a small amount is just what a newborn needs.

* Feed often to increase supply. The rule is simple. The lesser you nurse, the lesser milk your body will produce. Ensure you are eating well and getting enough rest. You will need both as your body converts your calories to milk.

* Ensure that when your baby is latched, his/her mouth should take in as much of the dark part of your breast, the areola, as possible. The baby squeezes the milk ducts beneath that area to draw the breast milk out. If your baby is only sucking on the nipple, it will pinch and hurt you. Also, the baby won’t be able to get as much milk.

* Don’t be in a hurry to offer the second breast. It is perfectly alright to leave your baby on the first breast until he/she comes off on his/her own and then offer the second breast. Many babies take one breast at some feedings and both breasts at some. Don’t be rigid and don’t be scared.

* As the experts say breastfeeding is a learning process in which both the counterparts are learning, hence it needs a lot of patience and it may take a few days to weeks to master it.

* During the first week, the baby seems hungry all the time as the baby is trying to cope with the new environment and frequent breast feeds will not only help him in adjusting but also help your body to make more milk to meet baby’s demand.

* Breastfeeding is easier with the right help. It is always advisable to seek help from an expert if you are facing difficulty in breastfeeding, because getting the right help at the right time will make lot of difference to your breastfeeding experience.

* Breastfeeding is an art. Lactation consultant or the healthcare provider will guide you about the technique of latching and holding the baby to make breastfeeding more comfortable for you and for your baby.

* Breastfeeding helps in bonding. It promotes skin to skin contact and lets you spend a lot of time with your new born, helping in understanding his cues and requirements.

IANS

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Why mothers’ response to baby’s babbling is important

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New York, Jan 21: Do not stop your little ones when they are babbling. According to new research, babies tend to listen to mothers’ verbal languages that further helps them in learning language skills.

Babies organise mothers’ verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction and infant babbling is the key, the research said.

Published in the journal Developmental Science, the study maintained that babies modify their sounds to become more speech-like in response to feedback from their caregivers and that they learn things have names by caregivers naming objects.

Researchers recorded and recombined the vocalisations of 40 nine-month-olds and their mothers, using a “playback paradigm”, to assess how specific forms of sounds and actions by infants influenced parental behaviour.

“We expected that mothers would respond more often when babbling was more mature and they did. The increased rate of response meant more language-learning opportunities for the baby,” said Michael Goldstein, Associate Professor of Psychology at Cornell University.

“The mothers’ speech was also more likely to contain simplified, learnable information about linguistic structure and the objects around the baby. Thus, by varying the form and context of their vocalisations, infants influence maternal behaviour and create social interactions that facilitate learning,” Goldstein said.

The researchers also found that mothers responded more often and more informatively to vocalisations directed at objects than those that were undirected.

“We suspected this would be the case because the object the baby is looking at creates an opportunity for the mother to label it, so she’s more likely to respond with specific information than when a baby is babbling at nothing,” said Rachel Albert, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Lebanon Valley College.

“These results contribute to a growing understanding of the role of social feedback in infant vocal learning, which stands in contrast to the historical view of prelinguistic vocalisations in which babbling was assumed to be motor practice, with no function in the development of communication and language,” Albert added.

IANS

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Medical tourism in India on rise

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India Tourism has been seeing a year on year growth; there has been an increase in domestic travellers as well as foreigners travelling to India. India also attracts patients from several countries for Medical treatments.

Medical tourism or health and wellness tourism refers to the industry where people from across the world travel to other countries to get medical, dental or surgical care and at the same time visit local attractions of that country.

Out of the total Medical tourism across globe approximately 63% is shared between Singapore, Thailand and India with Singapore and Thailand being the leaders in the field.

India has seen a regular growth in Medical tourism traveller’s and from 2013 -2016, the medical visas issued annually has grown from 1.22 lacs to 1.78 lacs.

Following are some of the reasons why people choose India for their treatment:

– World Class facilities and services available in India
– Good qualified doctors
– Cost (Some of the major surgeries in India cost 10-20% of the cost incurred in Western Countries)
– No waiting period for treatments

Some challenges which need to be addressed for patients choosing India as preferred Medical tourism hub

– Improve perception on hygiene and service across the globe
– Ensure quality and service
– Step down facilities for Post Surgical care for recovery. India lacks in centers that can take care of recovery needs post treatments and the patient has to spend more days at a hospital.
– Medical Visa – Procedure to obtain medical visa needs simplification as it can get quite cumbersome as per current regulations

Based on statistics released by the government, Delhi, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are the top destinations for visitors travelling for Medical tourism. Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi have the large number of quality hospitals and take the maximum share of the pie as of today. These cities have a several hospitals to choose from and offer good connectivity across the globe.

Medical tourism or health and wellness tourism can be divided in to 2 different types:

Curative: This is where the traveller’s come in for specific treatments, a few of the preferred treatments are listed below:

Cardiac Surgeries including bypass surgeries

Knee / Hip Replacement surgeries

Orthopedic surgeries

Cosmetic surgeries

Ophthalmology

Rejuvenation: Traveller’s want to explore the ancient treatments and traditional medicines offered in India and hence they come to India, a few are listed below

Ayurveda
Yoga
Siddha
Yunani
Naturopathy

Considering that we can excel in various parameters catering to medical tourism, our country has tremendous potential to increase our share in the Medical Tourism segment.

Jay Kantawala, Founder of WIYO Travel says, “Medical tourism in India has been seeing a year on year growth in the past decade and is expected to grow 2 ½ times in the coming 8-10 years and become a US$ 1.6 Billion market in coming decade. This industry will get a boost if Visa process is simplified and simple cross border payments. In addition to this we are seeing Health care institutions opting for certifications for NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers) and JCI (Joint Commission International) accreditations, which help in building trust amongst travelers”.

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