News Bites brings you 5 weekly news in bite-sized forms.

1. It only costs USD1 to test for Zika and dengue viruses

A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new blood test that can quickly distinguish between Zika and dengue viruses – costing only USD1.

Current conventional tests often confuse the two viruses via means of cross-reaction due to their inherent similarities – both Zika and dengue cause infected cells to release slightly different version of the protein NS1. The new test leverages that quirk by using antibodies to identify those specific Zika or dengue NS1 proteins.

The 15-minute test works simply by applying a blood sample on paper strip embed with gold nanoparticles. If the virus is present in the blood sample, a red dot would form on the paper strip. The test currently can identify 81% of infections and has only a 14% error rate in negative samples.

Each paper strip currently costs USD5; but, the team is hoping to bring that number down to USD1 with commercialisation and mass market production.

2. FDA approves new inhaler therapy for COPD

On 18 September, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the once-daily, single inhaler triple therapy fluticasone furoate/umeclidinium/vilanterol (FF/UMEC/VI) for the long-term, once-daily, maintenance treatment of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Sold under the brand name Trelegy Ellipta, the new inhaler combination therapy is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and Innoviva.

This makes it the first inhaler therapy for the treatment of COPD. The new inhaler therapy is targeted at patients suffering from chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema who are already on medication yet, require additional treatment of airflow obstruction. Trelegy Ellipta is not indicated for relief of acute bronchospasm or the treatment of asthma.

With the FDA’s approval, Trelegy Ellipta will soon be available in the US market. Regulatory applications for sale in other countries including the European Union, Australia and Canada are currently underway. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has issued a positive opinion on the new inhaler therapy. With hope, this new inhaler therapy for COPD would breathe new life into people suffering from this chronic condition.

3. Same-day hip replacement surgery

Hip replacement surgeries are often reserved as a last resort when the joint is no longer viable. This is in large part to the longevity of the joint and the associated recovery period which may often take weeks to months. Now, a team of orthopedic surgeons at Calgary’s Peter Lougheed Center in Canada have adopted a new surgical approach which reduces recovery period dramatically.

Traditional hip replacement involves cutting through the muscle and other tissue to reach the hip joint. With the new anterior approach method, the surgeons cut significantly less muscles and tendons resulting in less pain and faster recovery times. The anterior approach method may have been used within the United States and Europe for close to a decade but, Canada is only beginning to adopt the new approach.

One of their youngest patients, John O’Shaugnessy, 40, only required one day to recover before he was able to mobilize again. Aside from a faster recovery, patients also experience less side effects such as hip dislocations and save money due to reduced hospital costs.

4. No association between genetics and toothaches

Everyone is born with microbes in their mouth that they inherited from their parents and often include the streptococcus bacteria which promotes the formation of cavities. However, a recent US study discovered that the microbes are not associated with toothaches and cavities.

Rather, it is the bacteria associated with our diet which more closely relate to the presence of cavities. The study which looked at 485 pairs of twins and one set of triplets, found that children who consumed more sugar more commonly had bacteria that were associated with the formation of cavities.

“Cavities are formed when specific microbes in your mouth degrade sugar, producing acid as a byproduct, which then dissolves our teeth,” said study co-author Chris Dupont.

While the study is small and does not carry on into looking at oral bacteria in adulthood, it does serve to reiterate a very important point about oral hygiene. Not only do children need to be introduced to good oral care at a young age by brushing teeth – sugary food and drinks should also be avoided.

5. Fat burning skin patches

A group of researchers from the Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC), New York and the University of North Carolina has successfully developed a skin patch that can melt fat in mice.

Using nanotechnology, the patch raises the body’s metabolic rate and converts energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat. When tested on the mice, the researchers saw a 20% reduction in body fat over the course of four weeks.

"Many people will no doubt be excited to learn that we may be able to offer a non-invasive alternative to liposuction for reducing love handles," said study co-author, Li Qiang, also an assistant professor of pathology and cell biology at CUMC.

More than just losing fat, the team aims to develop the patch as a safe and effective means of treating obesity and diabetes. Conventional treatments include pills or injections – but, the new patch is able to deliver the treatment directly to the fat tissue. While initial results are good, more work is needed before the patch can be tested in humans. MIMS

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