1. Flu vaccine pill in the works

On 12 March 2018, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation reported that the researchers from Cardiff University, UK made a prototype oral flu vaccine which does not require fridge or freezer storage, unlike the current injected vaccines.

The new technology used synthetic pathogen-like proteins that are “mirror images” of those found in real flu viruses. When tested in culture dish, the study found that the prototype triggered a strong antibody response in human cells. Moreover, when tested in mice, the test vaccine was found to be as effective as standard biological vaccines.

However, researchers acknowledged that more research was needed to develop these synthetic vaccinations for the entire population and for other diseases. They added that it was likely to take several years before such a vaccine could be tested on people.

2. Improving cancer treatment with green tea-based drug carriers

The research team at IBN that developed the green tea nanocarriers. Clockwise from right: Dr Kun Liang, Dr Motoichi Kurisawa, Dr Joo Eun Chung, Dr Shu Jun Gao and Dr Nunnarpas Yongvongsoontorn. Photo credit: IBN of A*STAR
The research team at IBN that developed the green tea nanocarriers. Clockwise from right: Dr Kun Liang, Dr Motoichi Kurisawa, Dr Joo Eun Chung, Dr Shu Jun Gao and Dr Nunnarpas Yongvongsoontorn. Photo credit: IBN of A*STAR

The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of A*STAR, Singapore reported superior results using new green tea-based nanocarriers to kill liver cancer cells, compared to existing drug delivery systems. IBN Team Leader and Principal Research Scientist, Dr Motoichi Kurisawa, and his group published their findings in the scientific journal Advanced Materials on 23 February 2018.

The team made new nanocarriers from epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG) – a known antioxidant found in green tea – and doxorubicin. These nanocarriers can carry up to 88% of their weight in drugs. The green tea-doxorubicin nanocarriers, when tested on a liver cancer mouse model, displayed superior tumour-killing performance and stability with minimal unwanted toxicity.

Dr Kurisawa concluded, “We are hopeful that our technology would lead to fewer side effects in patients.”

3. Older antibiotic combinations to tackle drug-resistant infections

An explanation of the method used in finding the right drug combinations. Photo credit: SGH
An explanation of the method used in finding the right drug combinations. Photo credit: SGH

A team of pharmacists at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) is creating cocktails made up of ‘older’ antibiotics – which had been on the market for several years and had become less effective – to curb the issue of drug-resistant infections. While older drugs may not be effective when used separately, a combination with other drugs can help to cure drug-resistant infections.

The research found that 13% of people treated with the in-house drug combinations – which consist of more than 100 drug combinations that had been concocted in-house from 12 antibiotics – eventually died from their infections. However, the figure was double for the other two methods used, where a group of patients received individual antibiotics and another group received drug combinations used in studies conducted overseas.

4. Probiotics consumption during pregnancy linked to lower eczema risk for children

A study found that probiotic use during the final weeks of pregnancy and the first six months of breastfeeding were associated with a 22% lower risk of young children developing eczema. This is equivalent to the prevention of 44 cases of eczema for every 1,000 children.

“There was already some evidence that probiotic exposure in early life may reduce risk of eczema in an infant,” said senior study author Dr Robert Boyle of Imperial College London and the University of Nottingham in the UK. This study further proved that the consumption of probiotics during pregnancy and lactation improves the protection for the infant when compared to adding the probiotics directly into the infant’s diet.

5. Detecting deadly sepsis through pin-prick blood test

In a study published on Nature Biomedical Engineering, scientists had unveiled a quick and cheap way to detect sepsis.

In clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the researchers singled out sepsis patients in a few hours with 95% accuracy. A thumb-size filtering device was used to analyze a single drop of blood that isolates neutrophil.

“We believe that this approach may allow us to identify patients at risk of developing sepsis earlier than any other method,” said Jarone Lee, director of an intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of the study. MIMS

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Read more:
Malaysia Health Director-General: More than half cancer cases are detected late
Albert Sabin – The man behind the vaccine that saved the world
News Bites: New molecule able to kill drug-resistant bacteria, FDA approves at-home breast cancer risk test

Sources:
1. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-43385777
http://www.thevaccinereaction.org/2018/03/synthetic-flu-vaccine-created-as-a-pill/#_edn1
https://www.jci.org/articles/view/91512
2. https://www.a-star.edu.sg/News-and-Events/News/Press-Releases/ID/5876
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adma.201706963
https://www.nature.com/articles/nnano.2014.208
3. https://www.sgh.com.sg/about-us/newsroom/News-Articles-Reports/Pages/Antibiotic-cocktails-to-fight-infections-resistant-to-drugs.aspx
4. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-pregnancy-probiotics-eczema/probiotics-during-pregnancy-tied-to-lower-eczema-risk-for-kids-idUSKCN1GR29S
http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002507
5. http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/leisure/2018/03/20/pin-prick-blood-test-detects-deadly-sepsis-study-says/
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41551-018-0208-z