Tag Archives: treatment

State pension warning as certain Britons set to incur ‘large costs’ for NHS treatment

State pension warning as certain Britons

Many State Pensioners will decide to retire abroad in the hopes of pursuing later life overseas. While state pension payments can offer important support financially, these Britons are being warned of additional costs which may arise. New rules mean UK citizens who have moved to the European Union since December 31, 2020 will not be able to get free NHS healthcare when they come back to the UK on visits.

Gavin Pluck, Group Managing Director at Blacktower Financial Management Group, commented on the matter.

He said: “It’s frustrating for UK expats to hear they will no longer be entitled to free NHS healthcare when returning to the UK on visits.

“However, it is important to note that those who left UK soil to become residents of the EU before December 31, 2020 are still entitled to NHS healthcare and will not be affected.

“This will result in large costs for many expats who return to the UK for treatment.

“But it is now – more than ever – important to emphasise how crucial it is to purchase travel insurance that covers health costs in the UK.”

Taking out travel insurance is likely to be a priority for individuals who have pre-existing healthcare conditions.

However, if a person chooses to return to the UK permanently, then their entitlement will change.

The Government website states these individuals are considered as “ordinarily resident” in the UK and will have free NHS care restored immediately.

Previously, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “The NHS is free at the point of use for UK residents.

“Visitors will be entitled to accident and emergency support and urgent services that they need.

“Visitors who require secondary care are required to cover the costs of this – unless they are exempt – and we recommend they ensure they are covered through personal medical or travel insurance before coming to the UK.”

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This post originally posted here Daily Express :: Finance Feed

Oncologist Accused of Inappropriate Treatment ‘Provided Exceptional Care’

MANCHESTER—Leading oncologist Professor Justin Stebbing has told a medical tribunal he provided “exceptional standards of care” to a cancer patient he’s accused of giving chemotherapy when there was no evidence it would bring any benefit.

Prof Stebbing, a cancer medicine and oncology professor at Imperial College London with a private practice in Harley Street, claimed the patient would have died without the chemotherapy and  immunotherapy treatment led to him living for another 2 years.

He’s appearing before a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) fitness to practise hearing and is accused of failing to provide good clinical care to 12 patients between March 2014 and March 2017.

In some cases, Prof Stebbing is accused of inappropriately treating patients given their advanced cancer or poor prognosis, overstating life expectancy and the benefits of chemotherapy, and continuing to treat patients when it was futile and they had just weeks to live.

The 36 charges – 21 of which he’s admitted – also include failing to keep proper records and failing to gain informed consent for treatment from patients.



Patient B

Prof Stebbing’s international reputation for innovative treatments has led to wealthy, terminally ill cancer patients from around the world turning to him in the hope of extending their lives.

The tribunal heard about one lung cancer patient – known only as Patient B – from Spain he treated between May 2014 and October 2015.

Prof Stebbing is accused of offering doublet chemotherapy to the patient beyond six cycles, despite evidence emerging he was developing impaired renal function.

He’s also accused of continuing the treatment at a higher dose after 10 cycles despite a “lack of efficacy” and “evidence of harm emerging”.

It’s alleged the chemotherapy would have exposed the patient to risks “without any conceivable prospect of improving health”.

However, Prof Stebbing defended his actions saying he’d explained to the patient that if he stopped chemotherapy at any time “his disease would progress rapidly and he would die”.

He said immunotherapy “typically took 3 months to work” and because the patient’s lung cancer hadn’t progressed it was evidence the chemotherapy had worked.

It was possible to provide chemotherapy in cases of renal failure, he said, and he’d only given it in small doses.

“This is one of two patients in the bundle who has an exceptional standard of care,” he said.

“If you look at the problem with his kidneys, this was the minimus in my terms.

“I think I made some very, very difficult decisions that other people may not have made but I got them right and, as a result, he lived very happily for another 2 years.”

‘Guidelines Are a Guide’

But Sharon Beattie, for the GMC (General Medical Council), claimed he’d ignored guidelines and there was no data to support the position he’d taken.

Prof Stebbing replied: “The guidelines are a guide, they are helpful, they do not replace the skill of an individual doctor.

“There were no guidelines for a patient like this. I’m absolutely amazed you’re saying, ‘You should have just let him die because there were no guidelines.'”

Ms Beattie pointed out that Prof Stebbing had accepted that he’d stopped the chemotherapy treatment in October 2015 because it was clear there was evidence of “toxicity and waning efficacy”.

But he claimed there were only “grade one” levels of toxicity and “mild” disease progression.

At that stage, he said, he realised he was approaching the “end of the line’ with the treatment and he was “thinking out of the box” to get immunotherapy for the patient.

Earlier, Prof Stebbing said the chemotherapy had been “a bridge” to the patient’s immunotherapy treatment but it had “never been clear” it would be available.

He said: “The whole point of the extended duration chemotherapy was to try to get him to immunotherapy if it was available.

“It was a very exciting, new possibility. I didn’t know if it was going to be available but I wanted the patient to have every chance of it being available.

“The longer he lived for with stable disease the more likelihood it had of becoming available.”

Prof Stebbing denies failing to discuss the risks and benefits of chemotherapy with the patient and failing to maintain adequate records.

He told the tribunal that he had discussed both the chemotherapy and immunotherapy but he accepted he’d had “problems” with documenting his decisions.

The tribunal continues.

Ian Leonard is a freelance journalist experienced in covering MPTS hearings.

Author: Ian Leonard
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New Guideline for Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of C diff

The American College of Gastroenterology has issued new guidelines on management of Clostridioides difficile infection that now include roles for fecal microbial transplant (FMT), combination testing, and bezlotoxumab.

The ACG’s previous guidelines on the diagnosis, management, and treatment of what was then still called Clostridium difficile were published in 2013. Since then, the organism’s name changed to Clostridioides difficile, and that’s just the beginning of the changes reflected in the scientific literature, wrote lead author Colleen R. Kelly, MD, of Brown University, Providence, R.I., and colleagues.

“Other developments include the increased recognition of diagnostic challenges in the era of nucleic acid amplification–based testing, new therapeutic options for treatment and prevention of recurrence, and increasing evidence to support fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in recurrent and severe infection,” the authors said.

The guidelines, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, include 23 graded recommendations addressing issues of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, prevention of recurrence, and guidance for special populations in the management of C. difficile infection (CDI).

New Faces Among Familiar Ones

In terms of diagnosis, the new guidelines recommend using both a highly sensitive testing modality and a highly specific one to help distinguish colonization from active infection. Specifically, the authors recommend that stool is first tested using a highly sensitive test, either nucleic acid amplification testing or glutamate dehydrogenase, followed by an enzyme immunoassays for its high specificity.

Changes to treatment recommendations include the initial use of oral vancomycin or oral fidaxomicin for cases of nonsevere CDI. Oral metronidazole may be considered for initial nonsevere CDI in low-risk patients, the authors noted. The evidence is strong for the continued recommendations of vancomycin (125 mg four times daily for 10 days) and fidaxomicin (200 mg twice daily for 10 days) for patients with severe CDI. For patients with fulminant CDI, the recommendations call for medical therapy including volume resuscitation and oral vancomycin, although combination therapy with parenteral metronidazole may be considered despite the very low quality of evidence.

A notable update to the guidelines is the recommendation of fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) for both severe and fulminant CDI cases that are resistant to antibiotics and to prevent recurrence in at-risk patients. Although the quality of evidence is ranked as low, the recommendation is strong, the authors wrote. “Beyond improved cure rates, FMT may result in decreased rates of CDI-related colectomy and sepsis and may offer survival benefit in this critically ill patient population.” However, most patients in studies of FMT required multiple treatments in combination with anti-CDI antibiotics.

Other recommendations to prevent recurrence include oral vancomycin prophylaxis during the subsequent use of systemic antibiotics in patients with a history of CDI. The guidelines also recommend bezlotoxumab for prevention of CDI recurrence in high-risk patients, and advise against discontinuing antisecretory therapy in CDI patients if there is an appropriate indication for use.

Based on the lack of quality evidence, the guidelines recommend against the use of probiotics for preventing CDI in patients being treated with antibiotics and for prevention of recurrent infection.

Special Populations

For patients with inflammatory bowel disease, the guidelines recommend C. difficile testing when these individuals present with acute flares and diarrhea, and the use of vancomycin for treatment. In addition, the authors strongly recommended FMT for recurrent CDI in these patients. For pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding patients with CDI, the guidelines recommend vancomycin, and either vancomycin or fidaxomicin may be used for treating CDI in immunocompromised patients, the authors noted.

The updated guidelines are designed to complement those issued by the Infections Disease Society of America and Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists of America, the researchers noted.

Reflecting the Research

The previous guidelines for C. difficile were issued in 2013, and much has changed since then in terms of epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment, and infection control, Sahil Khanna, MBBS, MS, of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., said in an interview.

Notably, diagnostic testing has “made leaps and bounds” and new treatments have become available that were not included in earlier guidelines, said Khanna. In particular, the new guidelines are recommending a two-step diagnostic assay; “the diagnostic algorithm has changed, and hopefully that will help us change practice” to identify active infection more quickly and efficiently.

Another important update is the recommendation of fidaxomicin as an option for initial nonfulminant CDI as an alternative to vancomycin, Khanna said, noting that metronidazole remains an option for low-risk patients. An additional change is the advice to use a different treatment for a second recurrent infection rather than repeating the initial treatment.

The recommendation of bezlotoxumab for prevention of CDI recurrence in patients who are at high risk of recurrence is the first time this drug has appeared in major guidelines, Khanna observed.

The recommendation in support of fecal microbiota transplant is a key update to the management of CDI, including the guidance that the procedure can be repeated if necessary, he said.

Looking ahead, “Additional research is needed to fully understand the best testing algorithms for CDI,” Khanna explained. “More studies also are needed to show how FMT fully fits into the picture, and some current studies are looking at its potential earlier in the course of infection.”

The guidelines were developed in collaboration with the Practice Parameters Committee of the American College of Gastroenterology and received no outside funding. Kelly disclosed serving as a site investigator of a clinical trial for Finch Therapeutics and is an unpaid clinical advisory board member for OpenBiome. Khanna has coauthored previous guidelines on  C. difficile . He disclosed consulting relationships with Finch, GlaxoSmithKline, Jetson, ProbioTech, and Shire/Takeda, as well as research support from Rebiotix, Seres, and Vedanta.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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Spain: Canary Islands ‘should have a different treatment’ – green list decision slammed

Among the holiday hotspots expected to make it onto the UK’s travel green list today was Spain‘s Balearic and Canary Islands, based upon their COVID-19 rates and vaccination roll-out. However, the archipelagos were served a blow when the UK Government confirmed no new additions would be made to the UK’s green list.

According to Canary Islands Government Tourism Advisor Christina Del Rio, the islands “should have a different treatment” due to how “safe” they are.

Ms Del Rio told BBC News: “We have been working on the pandemic situation for a year and a few months. We have developed strategies to make it a safe destination.

“Most of our population is already vaccinated.

“We’re in a really quick evolution of the vaccination procedure. By the end of July 70 percent of our people will be vaccinated and I have checked this information with the health department of the Canary Islands so we can confirm that 70 percent of people over the age of 16 will be vaccinated.

READ MORE: Canary and Balearic Islands green list snub – hopes dashed

At the time of writing, El Hierro has no confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The accumulated incidence over the previous seven days in the Canary Islands stands at 32.72 cases per 100,000 of the population.

By comparison, in the UK this number is 32.1 as of May 28.

Ms Del Rio continued: “The Canary Islands and the rest of the archipelagos should have a different treatment in this situation.

“We can control [COVID-19] much better and we can show it.

“You have shown it in the UK and we can show it in the Canary Islands. The treatment and the procedures should be much more flexible for tourists.”

There are also major concerns for the “economic situation” in the Spanish archipelago which is heavily reliant on tourism from the UK.

“We have a very strong relationship with airlines and traders and we understand customers need a clearer situation to fly,” said Ms Del Rio.

“We understand the Government but we also understand the situation of the tourism sector.”

Airlines have already hit out at the Government for its “confusing” decision.

A British Airways spokesperson said: “This is incredibly disappointing and confusing news, not just for aviation but also for our customers. The UK has reached a critical point and urgently needs travel with low-risk countries, like the US, to re-start the economy, support devastated industries and reunite loved ones.

“With high levels of vaccinations in the UK being matched by other countries, we should see the UK Government adding destinations to ‘green’ as soon as possible – not turning its back on a traffic light model which we were led to believe was based firmly on scientific data.”

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Early Start to Laser Treatment in Infants With Port Wine Stains

Treating port wine birthmarks with pulsed dye laser (PDL) can be safely done within the first few days after birth as an in-office procedure without any complications, results from a single-center study showed.

“The current modality of choice for the treatment of port wine birthmarks is pulsed dye laser,” Chelsea Grimes Fidai, MD, said during the annual conference of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. “When performed by a highly trained expert at efficient frequencies, PDL is a safe, effective treatment that is successful in the majority of patients. We know that earlier treatment yields maximal clearance. However, just how early can you initiate treatment?”

To find out, Fidai, Roy G. Geronemus, MD, and colleagues at the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York, conducted a retrospective chart review of 39 infants with port wine birthmarks who were treated with a 595-nm PDL between 2015 and 2020 at the center. Of the 39 infants, the average age at first treatment was 18 days, with a range from 5 to 29 days. The youngest patient was born prematurely at 35 weeks’ gestation and presented for his first treatment even before his expected due date. Most (74%) had facial lesions with the remaining distributed on the trunk or extremities. The average number of treatments was 15 over the course of 15 months.

The initial settings chosen for facial lesions were a 10-mm spot size, a fluence of 8.0 J/cm2, and a 1.5-millisecond pulse duration. For body lesions, the typical initial settings were a 12-mm spot size, a fluence of 6.7 J/cm2, and 1.5-millisecond pulse duration. Corneal eye shields were placed for all cases with port wine birthmarks approaching the eyelid. “We do recommend a treatment interval of every 2-3 weeks, with longer intervals for patients of darker skin type until the child is 2 years old, at which time the interval is increased to every 3-6 months,” said Fidai.

Patients in the study experienced the expected short-term side effects of erythema, edema, purpura, and mild transient postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, but there were no cases of atrophy, scarring, infection, or permanent pigmentary change.

“Families seeking early treatment of port wine birthmarks can be reassured that it can be safely initiated within the first few days after birth,” Fidai concluded. “This procedure can be quickly and confidently performed as an in-office procedure without any complications. The early intervention allows for treatment without general anesthesia and it maximizes the chance of significant clearance as early in life as possible.”

During a question-and-answer session, the abstract section chair, Albert Wolkerstorfer, MD, PhD, expressed concern about the effect of PDL on developing infants. “We do repeated treatments at this young age without any type of anesthesia,” said Wolkerstorfer, a dermatologist at the Netherlands Institute for Pigment Disorders, department of dermatology, University of Amsterdam.

“Will that influence the development of the child, especially when I hear there might be 15 or 20 treatments done within the first year of life? I think this is a problem where we need to ask the experts in the field of pain management in children, like pediatric anesthesiologists, to find the right way, because I think that the results that you showed are fantastic. I don’t think we can achieve that at a later age, although there’s no direct comparison at this moment.”

Fidai said that she understood the concern, but pointed to a 2020 article by Geronemus and colleagues that assessed treatment tolerance and parental perspective of outpatient PDL treatment for port-wine birthmarks without general anesthesia in infants and toddlers. “The kids recover pretty quickly after the treatment,” she said. “There has never been any longstanding issue from the parents’ perspective.”

Fidai reported having no financial disclosures. Geronemus disclosed having financial conflicts with numerous device and pharmaceutical companies. Wolkerstorfer disclosed that he has received consulting fees from Lumenis and InCyte and equipment from Humeca and PerfAction Technologies. He has also received grant funding from Novartis and InCyte and he is a member of InCyte’s advisory board.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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Hair loss treatment: Two thirds of men report regrowth after taking finasteride

“In men with male pattern hair loss, finasteride 1 mg/d slowed the progression of hair loss and increased hair growth in clinical trials over two years,” the researchers concluded.

Adverse effects were minimal in the study but finasteride can cause an array of side effects.

“In rare cases finasteride may cause a skin rash, erectile dysfunction, less desire for sex or tenderness in the nipple area,” explains Lloyds Pharmacy.

The health body continues: “If you do experience these side effects, they may well disappear quickly as your body gets used to finasteride.”

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Roger Federer to be given preferential treatment in bid for Wimbledon glory

It is stated that their children will be allowed to stay with them once Wimbledon gets underway, as well as two team members.

While this is not yet confirmed, the All England Club remain in talks with the UK Government to grant the exception.

To help the players with their planning for the tournament, this message has been passed onto them, with a spokesperson for the All England Club revealing planning is well under way.

“Player registration for the hotel has now opened and we are working through this based on the varying requirements of the player groups,” they said.

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This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed

Two Hair loss treatment proven in clinical trials

Doubts about the efficacy of hair loss treatments are understandable – the mechanisms that drive hair loss are intractable and evidence supporting interventions is often patchy at best.  However, some trials have been supported by robust evidence. Dr Gigi Taguri, who is affiliated with Lloyds Pharmacy, singled out two treatments that have passed scientific rigour.
The aim of the study published in the Indian Dermatology Journal sought to assess the efficacy of maintaining hair growth with five percent topical minoxidil fortified with 0.1 percent finasteride in patients with AGA after initial treatment with five percent topical minoxidil and oral finasteride for two years.A retrospective assessment was done in 50 male patients aged 20 to 40 years with AGA.

All the patients had been initially treated with topical minoxidil and oral finasteride for a period of two years, after which the oral finasteride was replaced with topical minoxidil fortified with finasteride.

Five of 50 patients had discontinued the treatment for a period of eight to 12 months and were then resumed with only topical minoxidil fortified with finasteride.

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The patients’ case sheets and photographs were reviewed by independent observers and the efficacy of minoxidil-finasteride combination was assessed.

What did the researchers find out?

Of the 45 patients who underwent a continuous treatment for AGA, 84.44 percent maintained a good hair density with topical minoxidil-finasteride combination.

Of the five patients who discontinued oral finasteride for eight to 12 months, four demonstrated good improvement in hair density when treatment was resumed with topical minoxidil-finasteride combination.

Precautions

Oral finasteride is associated with side effects such as decreased libido and sexual dysfunction.

Some wigs are available on the NHS, but you may have to pay unless you qualify for financial help.Other treatments for hair loss include:

  • Steroid injection – Injections given into bald patches
  • Steroid creams – Cream applied to bald patches
  • Immunotherapy – Chemical applied to bald patches
  • Light treatment – Shining ultraviolet light on bald patches
  • Tattooing – Tattoo used to look like short hair and eyebrows
  • Hair transplant – Hair is removed from the back of the head and moved to thinning patches
  • Scalp reduction surgery – Sections of scalp with hair are stretched and stitched together
  • Artificial hair transplant – Surgery to implant artificial hairs.

Some of the above treatments may not be available on the NHS.

If your hair loss is causing you distress, your GP may be able to help you get some counselling,” adds the NHS.

Hair loss can caused by chemotherapy, for example, can add to the emotional affects of cancer.

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This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Health Feed
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COVID Delay of nAMD Treatment Less Harmful than Expected

Many people with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD) lost less vision than expected during treatment delays imposed by COVID-19, researchers say.

The finding suggests that physicians may be overtreating these patients, said James Talks, MB BChir, a consultant ophthalmologist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.

“If you delay people with macular degeneration, they’re likely to get worse,” he told Medscape Medical News. “We’ve quantified that, to some extent. And you could argue it wasn’t as bad as you might have thought.”

The study was presented at the virtual Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2021 annual meeting.

Intravitreal injections with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) treatments have proved potent in improving the visual acuity of people with nAMD. But the injections are uncomfortable and require frequent visits, imposing a burden on both patients and the healthcare system.

So most ophthalmologists have adopted a treat-and-extend approach, increasing the intervals between injections while monitoring to make sure the patient’s vision doesn’t deteriorate.

Deciding how much to delay is an inexact science. The pandemic created an accidental test of what happens when the intervals between injections stretch out much longer than what has been tested in a clinical trial.

Physicians at the Royal Victoria Infirmary treat their patients with aflibercept (Eylea). After the first few weeks, they typically extend the gap between injections to about 8 weeks, Talks said.

National guidelines in the United Kingdom recommended delaying treatment only in those patients with diabetic macular edema or retinal vein occlusion, which would have been about a quarter of all the patients getting anti-VEGF treatment at the clinic.

But many patients with nAMD decided to delay treatment as well, either because they feared contracting COVID-19 or because they didn’t want to impose a burden on healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients, Talks said. Altogether, 67% of the clinic’s anti-VEGF patients delayed treatment.

To see how well these patients fared, Talks and his colleagues randomly sampled 681 eyes in 585 patients who had received treatment between January 1, 2020 and March 23, 2020, when the United Kingdom went into lockdown.

They found that the mean number of weeks of delay was 12.7 weeks and that 8.2% of patients had not yet returned at the time of follow-up, whereas 28.5% had delayed treatment before returning and 63.3% had continued treatment on schedule.

The patients who delayed treatment but eventually returned dropped 4.9 letters, from 60.1 to 55.2. Those who did not delay dropped an average of 1.5 letters, from 61.4 to 59.9 letters. The difference was statistically significant (P = .001). By November, 74.6% of eyes had returned within 5 letters of baseline vision.

The researchers analyzed the optical coherence tomography (OCT) images of the patients’ eyes to see if they could figure out which ones were most likely to have lost vision.

The delayed eyes’ central macular thickness increased from 311 µm to 342 µm. A majority (73%) of the eyes with delayed treatment showed evidence of intraretinal or subretinal fluid. They were about evenly divided among subretinal fluid, intraretinal fluid, and the combination.

But there was no clear pattern that could have been used to predict which patients were most likely to lose vision, Talks said.

The best method for determining which patients could have their treatments delayed is to try longer intervals in a treat-and-extend regimen, he said. “Say they came back after an 8-week gap today. If it was dry, we could then maybe treat and bring them back at 10 weeks, and that would be a 2-week extension. And if it was still dry, we treat and bring them back at 12 weeks.”

Another possible lesson from the pandemic is that patients were less likely to delay treatment if they had one eye with better vision that was being treated. They were motivated to preserve the vision in that eye because they couldn’t fall back on the other eye, Talks said.

This lesson could apply in the event of another lockdown, he said. “If you’re under pressure, you should prioritize those in whom you’re treating their better eye.”

As expected, patients with diabetic macular edema lost less vision than those with nAMD.

Ophthalmologists in the United States are also trying to measure the damage the pandemic caused to their patients’ vision, said Jayanth Sridhar, MD, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida.

If another lockdown were to occur, he would like to see more effort devoted to educating patients and primary care doctors about key symptoms that should lead patients to most urgently seek care from an ophthalmologist.

Better technology for mobile monitoring and screening, such as home OCT, is important in those patients getting anti-VEGF treatment, he said. “If we can get those things out, they’ll help if there are future pandemics.”

Dr John Wells

John Wells, MD, of the Palmetto Retina Center in Columbia, South Carolina told Medscape Medical News that the clinic did whatever it could to respond to patients’ fears. “We actually had some patients who refused to come into the office and we would go out to their car and inject them,” he said. “Kind of like a drive-through injection clinic.” 

Talks disclosed financial relationships with Alimera, Allergan, Bayer, Novartis and Roche. Wells disclosed relationships to Adverum, Genentech, Roche, Alimera, Bayer, Iveric Bio, Kodiak, Neurotech, and Regeneron. Sridhar disclosed a relationship to Regeneron.

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2021 annual meeting: Abstract. Presented May 6, 2021.

Laird Harrison writes about science, health and culture. His work has appeared in national magazines, in newspapers, on public radio and on websites. He is at work on a novel about alternate realities in physics. Harrison teaches writing at the Writers GrottoVisit him at www. lairdharrison.com or follow him on  Twitter: @LairdH

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Type 2 diabetes: Tarantula venom could be a breakthrough treatment finds new research

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The primary mechanism that spurs on the development of type 2 diabetes is impaired insulin production. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar – the main type of sugar found in blood. Unconstrained blood sugar levels can cause a cascade of health problems, some of which can be life-threatening. However, a novel treatment has been discovered that can boost insulin production, stabilising blood sugar levels in the process.

A molecule found in tarantula venom may be responsible for countering the key mechanism that drives type 2 diabetes.

The findings, presented today at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference (DUKPC) 2021, builds on previous research led by Professor Nigel Irwin at Ulster University, which found the venom of the Mexican blonde tarantula increases insulin production and lowers blood sugar levels.

These new findings, by PhD student Aimee Coulter Parkhill, pinpoint the molecule that could hold the key: ΔTRTX-Ac1.

To test their hypothesis, the research team led by Parkhill developed a synthetic version of ΔTRTX-Ac1, to uncover whether it has the same effect on insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas in lab conditions, as well as in mice.

READ MORE: Type 2 diabetes: High blood sugars can cause four painful gastrointestinal symptoms

Beta cells are unique cells in the pancreas that produce, store and release the hormone insulin.

The researchers found that ΔTRTX-Ac1 increased insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells in the lab more than two-fold.

The venom molecule may be controlling channels on the surface of beta cells, acting as the gatekeeper that allows other molecules to flow in and out of the cells.

ΔTRTX-Ac1 also improved beta cell growth, and didn’t damage the cells, making it a potential future treatment that warrants further investigation.

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When injected into mice alongside glucose, ΔTRTX-Ac1 steadily reduced blood sugar levels over the course of an hour, suggesting it is able to ramp up insulin release in mice, as well as in cells in the lab.

ΔTRTX-Ac1 also reduced food intake in mice, suggesting it may act to suppress appetite.

Next, the researchers plan to uncover exactly how ΔTRTX-Ac1 functions, as well as assessing its effectiveness over longer periods of time in animal models of diabetes.

Aimee Coulter Parkhill, PhD student at Ulster University, said: “Tarantula venom contains millions of biologically active molecules that may have therapeutic potential. This research highlights one specific molecule from the venom of the Mexican Blonde tarantula which shows promise in treating diabetes. We are excited to follow up on our pilot studies to understand how ΔTRTX-Ac1 could in future help people living with type 2 diabetes.”

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, which funded the study, said: “This innovative research has revealed a promising new treatment avenue that could in future help improve or restore beta cell function in people living with type 2 diabetes. It is hoped that research such as this will ultimately lead to the development of new therapies to help people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition better and reduce their risk of serious diabetes-related complications.

“We look forward to further studies to explore whether tarantula venom-based therapy could be developed to be effective and safe in people, providing a new weapon in the armoury for treating type 2 diabetes.”

Other ways to enhance insulin production

There are other possible ways to reduce the effects of insulin resistance, which can help to stabilise blood sugar levels.

According to Diabetes.co.uk, effective methods include:

  • Low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets
  • Very-low-calorie diets
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Taking a lot of exercise in combination with a healthy diet.

“These methods share a similar way of working in that they all help to reduce the body’s need for insulin and help people to lose weight,” explains the health body.

How do I know if I have type 2 diabetes?

Many people have type 2 diabetes without realising. This is because symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feling thirsty all the time
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision.

“See a GP if you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes or you’re worried you may have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes,” advises the NHS.

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