A screening test for children starting school that could accurately detect early signs of a persistent stutter is a step closer, experts say.
The Wellcome Trust team says a specific speech test accurately predicts whose stutter will persist into their teens.
About one in 20 develops a stutter before age five – but just one in 100 stutter as a teen and identifying these children has so far been difficult.
Campaigners said it was key for children to be diagnosed early.
Stuttering tends to start at about three years old. Four out of five will recover without intervention, often within a couple of years.
But for one in five, their stutter will persist and early therapy can be of significant benefit. Continue reading “A Step Closer to a Screening Test for Stuttering” »
Scientists have found new evidence that resistance to the front-line treatments for malaria is increasing.
They have confirmed that resistant strains of the malaria parasite on the border between Thailand and Burma, 500 miles (800km) away from previous sites.
Researchers say that the rise of resistance means the effort to eliminate malaria is “seriously compromised”.
The details have been published in The Lancet medical journal.
For many years now the most effective drugs against malaria have been derived from the Chinese plant, Artemisia annua. It is also known as sweet wormwood.
In 2009 researchers found that the most deadly species of malaria parasites, spread by mosquitoes, were becoming more resistant to these drugs in parts of western Cambodia.
This new data confirms that these Plasmodium falciparum parasites that are infecting patients more than 500 miles away on the border between Thailand and Burma are growing steadily more resistant.
The researchers from the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit measured the time it took the artemisinin drugs to clear parasites from the bloodstreams of more than 3,000 patients. Over the nine years between 2001 and 2010, they found that drugs became less effective and the number of patients showing resistance rose to 20%.
Prof Francois Nosten, who is part of the research team that has carried out the latest work, says the development is very serious.
“It would certainly compromise the idea of eliminating malaria that’s for sure and will probably translate into a resurgence of malaria in many places,” he said.
Another scientist involved with the study is Dr Standwell Nkhoma from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute.
“Spread of drug-resistant malaria parasites within South East Asia and overspill into sub-Saharan Africa, where most malaria deaths occur, would be a public health disaster resulting in millions of deaths.”
The scientists cannot tell if the resistance has moved because mosquitoes carrying the resistant parasites have moved to the Burmese border or if it has arisen spontaneously among the population there. Either way the researchers involved say it raises the spectre of untreatable malaria.
“Either the resistance has moved and it will continue to move and will eventually reach Africa. Or if it has emerged, now that artemisinin is the standard therapy worldwide then it means it could emerge anywhere,” Prof Nosten told the BBC.
“If we were to lose artemisinin then we don’t have any new drugs in the pipeline to replace them. We could be going back 15 years to where cases were very difficult to treat because of the lack of an efficacious drug.”
Artemisinin is rarely used on its own, usually being combined with older drugs to help fight the rise of resistance. These artemisinin based combination therapies are now recommended by the World Health Organization as the first-line treatment and have contributed substantially to the recent decline in malaria cases in many regions.
Prof Nosten says the current spread of resistance could be similar to what happened in the 1970s with chloroquine, a drug that was once a front-line treatment against the disease.
“When chloroquine resistance reached Africa in the middle of the 1970s it translated into a large increase in the number of cases and the number of children who died increased dramatically.”
In a separate paper published in the journal Science researchers have identified a region of the malaria parasite genome that is linked to resistance to artemisinin.
Dr Tim Anderson, from Texas Biomed who led this study, says that while mapping the geographical spread of resistance can be challenging it may be hugely beneficial.
“If we can identify the genetic determinants of artemisinin resistance we should be able to confirm potential cases of resistance more rapidly. This could be critically important for limiting the further spread of resistance.”
According to the World Malaria Report 2011 malaria was responsible for killing an estimated 655,000 people in 2010 – more than one every minute. A majority of these were young children and pregnant women.
The BBC Science Reporter
HIV patients in Africa frequently suffer shame and depression but the continent’s health systems are ill-equipped to handle the issue, which not only affects their quality of life, but can lead to poor adherence to HIV treatment regimens.
GENEVA — The Western Black Rhino of Africa has been declared officially extinct, and two other subspecies of rhinoceros are close to meeting the same fate, a leading conservation group said Thursday.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature said a recent reassessment of the Western Black Rhino had led it to declare the species extinct, adding that the Northern White Rhino of central Africa is now “possibly extinct” in the wild and the Javan Rhino is “probably extinct” in Vietnam, after poachers killed the last animal there in 2010.
A small but declining population of the Javan Rhino survives on the Indonesian island of Java, it added.
“A lack of political support and willpower for conservation efforts in many rhino habitats, international organized crime groups targeting rhinos and increasing illegal demand for rhino horns and commercial poaching are the main threats faced by rhinos,” the group said in a statement accompanying the latest update of its so-called Red List of endangered species.
About a quarter of all mammals are at risk of extinction, IUCN said, adding that some species have been brought back from the brink with successful conservation programs.
The Southern White Rhino numbered just 100 animals at the end of the 19th century, but has since flourished and now has a population of over 20,000.
The Przewalski’s Horse, a type of wild horse from Central Asia, has come back from extinction after a successful breeding program in captivity.
The Red List now contains almost 62,000 species of plants and animals, whose status is constantly monitored by conservationists.
The quest for the world's first malaria vaccine appears to have taken a big step: A study in Africa shows experimental shots cut the risk of disease in young children by half. The initial results from a final stage of vaccine testing were released Tuesday, and the vaccine's developers called it a milestone in helping to tame one of the world's most devastating killers
The cause of a rare and severe form of hypoglycaemia – or very low levels of sugar in the blood – is genetic, say researchers.
The life-threatening condition means the body does not have enough energy to function.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge say mutations in the AKT2 gene are to blame.
Writing in the journal Science, they say there are already cancer drugs which target a similar process.
Hypoglycaemia can be caused by a disruption in the balance between the hormone insulin and sugar. Insulin lowers the level of sugar in the blood.
The condition is commonly associated with Type 1 diabetes, when the patients inject too much insulin, miss a meal or drink alcohol.
Details were still sketchy, but the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center and NASA say that the bus-sized satellite first penetrated Earth’s atmosphere somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. That doesn’t necessarily mean it all fell into the sea. NASA’s calculations had predicted that the former climate research satellite would fall over a 500-mile swath.
The two government agencies say the 35-foot satellite fell sometime between 11:23 p.m. EDT and 1:09 a.m. EDT. NASA said it didn’t know the precise time or location yet.
Some 26 pieces of the satellite – representing 1,200 pounds of heavy metal – were expected to rain down somewhere. The biggest surviving chunk should be no more than 300 pounds.
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is the biggest NASA spacecraft to crash back to Earth, uncontrolled, since the post-Apollo 75-ton Skylab space station and the more than 10-ton Pegasus 2 satellite, both in 1979.
Russia’s 135-ton Mir space station slammed through the atmosphere in 2001, but it was a controlled dive into the Pacific.
Before UARS fell, no one had ever been hit by falling space junk and NASA expected that not to change. NASA put the chances that somebody somewhere on Earth would get hurt at 1-in-3,200. But any one person’s odds of being struck were estimated at 1-in-22 trillion, given there are 7 billion people on the planet.
Researchers are to expand a clinical trial of a new malaria vaccine after promising results in a preliminary study in Burkina Faso. The trial was designed to test safety, but researchers found that vaccinated children had high levels of protection. Around a hundred different malaria vaccine candidates have been developed to date but the MSP3 vaccine tested in Burkina Faso is only the second one to show a substantial level of protection against the illness.