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New research suggests that drinking lots of coffee may reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

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FEBRUARY

Drink up, coffee lovers: Neurologists say a healthy appetite for coffee may reduce your risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

We’re not talking a cup or two of joe in the morning. Even a triple espresso might not be enough to register a difference.

In a new study, researchers found that Americans who downed at least four cups of coffee per day were one-third less likely to develop multiple sclerosis than their counterparts who drank no coffee at all. They also found that Swedish adults who guzzled at least six cups of coffee each day were also one-third less likely to get MS.

 

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TIME

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Statins can lower cholesterol and even tamp down inflammation to keep the risk of heart disease down. But these commonly prescribed drugs may increase the risk of diabetes, and by a considerable amount

drugs that are among most prescribed drugs in America. In a study published in Diabetologia, scientists from Finland found that men prescribed statins to lower their cholesterol had a 46% greater chance of developing diabetes after six years compared to those who weren’t taking the drug. Doctors may have to weigh a serious potential risk before prescribing statins, the cholesterol-lowering What’s more, the statins seemed to make people more resistant to the effects of insulin—which breaks down sugar—and to secrete less insulin. The impact on insulin seemed to be greatest among those who started out with the lowest, and closest to normal, levels of blood glucose. And the higher the dose of the statin, and the longer the patients took them, the greater their risk of diabetes.

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Dr. Marie Goreti Harakeye, Head of HIV/AIDS, TB & OID Division Under the AU Department of Social Affairs

The African Union (AU) is planning to establish a pan-African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (African CDC) by mid-2015.

First proposed by Ethiopia and approved by the AU Commission in 2013 at the 22nd ordinary session in Abuja, Nigeria, the idea of establishing the Centre has since been discussed in a series of AU summits and extraordinary sessions, says Dr. Marie Goreti Harakeye, Head of HIV/AIDS, TB & OID Division Under the AU Department of Social Affairs.

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A cheap and simple way to obtain the main type of disease-supressing antibody in human blood could help save the lives of patients in the developing world with malfunctioning immune systems.

The method of collecting immunoglobulin G (IgG) may enable more patients with primary immunodeficiencies (PID) to get the regular antibody doses they need.

Immunoglobulins bind to bacteria and viruses in the blood, fighting infections such as Ebola. Doses of the antibodies are normally prepared in sophisticated laboratories. These labs require blood plasma donations from around 30,000 people to produce economically viable amounts of antibodies. Read more

The spread of Ebola

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A panicky response in the West may worsen conditions in west Africa

Oct 11th 2014 | From the print edition

THE death toll from Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three most affected countries in west Africa, now stands at around 3,900. Among cases diagnosed outside Africa, the total is one: Thomas Duncan, a Liberian national, who died in Texas on October 8th. Yet fear of Ebola in relatively unaffected countries risks making the tragedy in Africa worse.

On October 3rd Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, called for flights from “Ebola-stricken” countries to America to be suspended. Other Republican politicians have done the same. Plenty of African countries have already introduced flight bans. Some Western airlines have also altered their schedules. Read more

Stuck in the waiting room

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A long-touted health-care revolution may at last be about to arrive

Oct 11th 2014 | ROME | From the print edition

THE idea of telemedicine—health care provided using telecommunications equipment—has a lengthy history. Radio News, an American magazine, devoted its cover to a patient at home consulting a doctor in his surgery via a television link as long ago as 1924. When NASA began monitoring astronauts in space in the 1960s, fantasy became reality. It has been touted as health care’s future ever since.

But even smartphones and tablets have failed to usher in the telemedicine revolution: most health care still happens face to face. Now, enthusiasts think the wait is nearly over. Governments have been slow to embrace an approach that could improve coverage and outcomes, as well as saving money. But they are under increasing pressure from ageing populations and a surge in chronic diseases, just as public budgets are being squeezed.

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Ebola

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Searching for a new way to attack Ebola, companies and academic researchers are now racing to develop faster and easier tests for determining whether someone has the disease.

Such tests might require only a few drops of blood rather than a test tube of it, and provide the answer on the spot, without having to send the sample to a laboratory.

The tests could be essential in West Africa, where it can take days for a sample to travel to one of the relatively few testing laboratories, leaving those suspected of having the disease in dangerous limbo.

Rapid tests might also be used to screen travelers at airports, providing a more definitive answer than taking their temperatures.

“There’s a great deal of interest in a technology that can screen large numbers of people from a finger prick in only a few minutes,” said Cary Gunn, chief executive of Genalyte, a company in San Diego that says its approach can do just that. “You can imagine testing an entire planeload of passengers and screening through them cost-effectively.” Read more

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Dr. Rick Sacra, a missionary who contracted Ebola in Liberia this August, was first treated there. Each nurse on the ward cared for 15 or 20 patients, and none could work for more than an hour at a time because the protective gear was so suffocatingly hot. They never drew his blood for lab tests. There was no lab.

“A nurse makes rounds maybe once every eight hours,” Dr. Sacra said. A doctor came by once a day. “The staff is so few.”

After he was evacuated to Nebraska Medical Center, a nurse stayed in his room all the time, and dozens of people were involved in his care. He had daily blood tests to monitor his electrolytes, blood count, liver and kidneys, and doctors used the results to adjust what went into his intravenous lines.

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