Meningitis

A fairly recent issue which has become important and an area of interest where I live is meningitis. Therefore, I have decided to make a post in which I will list the symptoms of meningitis in order to make others more aware of this infection.

Meningitis can affect anyone, but it is more common in younger people, therefore babies, children, teenagers and young adults are more at risk. It is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, also called the meninges (hence the name meningitis). This infection can be bacterial or viral with each effecting the individual differently. Bacterial meningitis is more severe but thankfully less common.

The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • High temperature (38ºC or over)
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Blotchy rash – will not fade when a glass is rolled over it (seek immediate medical attention)
  • Stiff neck
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • A dislike for bright light

What’s the outcome? In serious cases, meningitis can cause septicaemia -life-threatening blood poisoning- and permanent damage to the brain and/or nerves. However, only 1 in 10 cases are fatal and the prognosis is usually good. Viral meningitis often gets better on its own within 7-10 days and bacterial infections that are treated quickly will result in a full recovery. In other cases, whilst the patient may recover they are left with long term problems such as:

  • Hearing loss / vision loss (partial or total)
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Recurrent seizures (epilepsy)
  • Co-ordination, movement and balance problems
  • Loss of limbs – amputation of affected limbs sometimes necessary

So how I can I avoid catching meningitis? The infection is spread through contact and airborne transmission, such as sneezing, coughing and kissing. Meningitis is normally caught from those who carry the virus but are not ill themselves, this makes it hard to know who and when to distance yourself from someone to avoid contracting the disease, therefore vaccinations are the best way to combat meningitis. These vaccinations are typically given to babies with a booster in the teenage years, to immunise themselves from the infection.

 

 

References

Author unavailable, (11/4/18),  Health Shares Meningitis Advice Amid Concerns. Guernsey PressAvailable at: <https://guernseypress.com/news/2018/04/11/health-shares-meningitis-advice-amid-concerns/> Accessed: [29/4/18]

NHS (12/4/16), Meningitis. Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/> Accessed: [29/4/18]

 

Can the Gene for Huntington’s Really Cure Cancer?

 

A few months ago, as I flipped through medical articles, seeing advancement after advancement, one specific article greatly interested me. The title of this article was, ‘Molecule behind Huntington’s disease found to be cancer-killing super assassin.’ The notion that this degenerative disorder can now be viewed in a positive light rather than solely being looked upon negatively prompted me to research this topic further.

Huntington’s disease is a result of the overproduction of a particular RNA sequence in the gene huntingtin. This repeating sequence attacks genes, especially those in the nerve cells located in the brain, leading to the psychological issues linked to Huntington’s. Whilst Huntington’s itself has no cure, according to research by Northwestern Medicine scientists, it is possible that it could be a treatment for cancer; those suffering from Huntington’s have up to eighty percent less cases of cancer than the general population.

Marcus Peter and Dr. Shad Thaxton delivered the huntingtin molecule, labelled as a “super assassin against all tumour cells”, using nanoparticles to mice infected with human ovarian cancer. The result was reduced tumour growth with no toxicity to the mice. In addition, the tumours did not develop resistance to the treatment. Therefore, it was concluded that the defect in the RNA sequence is highly toxic to tumour cells.

Andrea Murmann developed this testing and used the molecule to treat more types of cancer, both human and mouse, such as, ovarian, breast, prostate, liver, brain, lung and skin. It was successful in both cases.

Murmann had previously worked with Peter on research to identify a ‘kill switch’ in all cells which can destroy cancer. Believing there could be a “situation where this kill switch is overactive in certain people, and where it could cause loss of tissues.” Merman, having researched diseases which have a lower rate of cancer, found that Huntington’s was the most notable disease to display this. A fact that is attributed to the similar composition that the gene huntingtin has to the kill switch previously discovered, both contain a high abundance of C and G nucleotides.

The next issue that has to be considered is the ethics behind this and the chance of problematic outcomes. By treating cancer patients with huntingtin, doctors are effectively infecting the patient with a gene that causes a degenerative disease. The question that must be asked is, will this treatment lead to patients developing Huntington’s? The requirement to avoid this by product means that this type treatment would have to be limited. It was concluded that the Huntingtin molecule could be used for short-term treatment in which the cancer cells could be destroyed without inflicting the neurological issues associated with Huntington’s.

Overall, I believe that the discovery of this link between the degenerative disorder, Huntington’s, and cancer provides a positive outlook for the future of cancer treatments. I look forward to when I next come across an article with a title announcing the discovery of a method that uses this research for treatment without the limitations currently facing it.

References

Paul, M., (12/2/18) Huntington’s disease provides new cancer weapon, available at: <https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2018/february/huntingtons-disease-provides-new-cancer-weapon/> [accessed 21/2/18]

Haridy, R., (13/2/18) Molecule behind Huntington’s disease found to be cancer-killing super assassin, available at: <https://newatlas.com/huntingtons-disease-cancer-killing-molecule/53373/> [accessed 21/2/18]