Medical News Today: Is turmeric good for your skin?

Turmeric is a vivid, fragrant, and bitter spice. It has been used in Indian and Chinese traditional medicine for purposes as diverse as treating cancer to repelling mosquitoes.

People have attributed turmeric with seemingly miraculous healing properties for nearly 4,000 years. The bright yellow powder derived from the root of the turmeric plant is also known as Golden Goddess and Indian Saffron. Turmeric is also widely used as a food colorant and dye.

In this article, we look at whether turmeric can be beneficial for skin health, including psoriasis and acne.

What are the potential benefits for the skin?

turmeric root and powder on a board
The turmeric plant is related to the ginger plant and its yellow color derives from curcumin.

The bright yellow color of turmeric derives from its active component, curcumin.

Studies have suggested that curcumin has protective effects against skin-damaging chemicals and environmental pollutants.

Curcumin protects the skin by combating free radicals and reducing inflammation. There is also evidence to suggest that curcumin may help the following skin conditions:

Skin cancer

Melanoma may benefit from curcumin treatment. Curcumin is thought to clean-up dysfunctional cellular components. It may also inhibit the growth of melanoma cells and tumor progression.


Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin and joint disease that has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Curcumin is thought to inhibit the immune pathways responsible for psoriasis.


Scleroderma causes the immune system to attack otherwise healthy connective tissue, resulting in scarring. This scarring usually occurs under the skin and around internal organs and blood vessels.

Curcumin’s positive effects on scar formation are thought to help manage the effects of scleroderma.


Vitiligo is a condition that causes skin depigmentation, resulting in white patches of skin. In some cases, curcumin may prevent oxidative stress in the epidermal skin cells that are responsible for producing melanin.


Acne is a common skin condition characterized by blackheads, whiteheads, and pustules. A skin cream containing curcumin can potentially be used to regulate skin sebum production, which may help people who have acne.

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How to use turmeric for the skin

Curcumin from turmeric is poorly absorbed when taken orally. It metabolizes quickly and is soon eliminated from the body.

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, increases the absorption and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin. For this reason, it is often combined with medicinal turmeric products.

Turmeric preparations can be directly applied to fresh wounds, rashes, bruises, and insect bites. Medicinal turmeric comes in a range of forms, including:

turmeric capsules
Medicinal turmeric may come in capsules and tablets.

  • capsules and tablets

  • ointments

  • fluid extract

  • tincture

  • oil

Curcumin is also found in the following products:

  • energy drinks

  • soaps

  • cosmetics

What are the risks?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared turmeric and its active component curcumin as generally safe for use and consumption. However, natural remedies can trigger side effects, cause allergies, and may react in unwanted ways with other herbs, supplements, or medications.

Claims that all curcumin-containing supplements contain 95 percent curcuminoids have not been confirmed by the FDA. The FDA does not monitor turmeric or curcumin supplements, so a person should take care to purchase a reputable brand.

Medication for any of the following conditions should not be used with medicinal turmeric or curcumin without first talking to a doctor:


This type of medication may become more potent when combined with curcumin-based remedies, which may increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Blood thinners

Curcumin has blood-thinning properties, and people should not take it with other blood thinners, including aspirin. Doing so may increase the risk of bleeding.

Curcumin should not be taken for 2 weeks before surgery because it has blood-thinning properties.

Stomach acid

Turmeric may interfere with the action of drugs that reduce stomach acid and increase the production of stomach acid.

Curcumin-containing supplements, which are available without a prescription in the U.S., may cause gastritis and peptic ulcers if taken on an empty stomach.

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Turmeric has assumed an almost mythical status in some cultures for its use in an extraordinarily broad range of ailments. Turmeric is thought to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties.

While it has been used in Indian and Chinese medicine for thousands of years, its biological characteristics have only been identified in the mid-twentieth century. The medicinal value of turmeric has since become the subject of scientific studies and clinical trials.

While some early outcomes seem to back up at least some of the healing qualities long since attributed to it, a recent study into its medicinal chemistry concluded that curcumin does not appear to have the properties required for a good drug candidate.

Anyone wanting to take supplements or herbs should discuss it with a doctor first to avoid negative interactions with medications or disease management.

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Medical News Today: Diabetes drug cuts Parkinson’s risk by 28 percent, study finds

a woman tipping medication into her hands
The type 2 diabetes drugs glitazones could reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, say researchers.
A class of drugs currently used to treat diabetes could lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s, a new study reveals, offering hope of new prevention and treatment strategies for the disease.

By analyzing more than 100 million drug prescriptions in Norway, researchers found that patients who used glitazones (GTZs) saw their risk of Parkinson’s disease reduced by more than a quarter.

GTZs – also known as thiazolidinediones – are approved in the United States for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. They work by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

Study co-author Charalampos Tzoulis, from the University of Bergen in Norway, and colleagues recently reported their results in the journal Movement Disorders.

Studies have investigated the use of GTZs for the prevention of Parkinson’s disease, but they have produced conflicting results. A study published in the journal PLOS Medicine in 2015, for example, identified a lower incidence of Parkinson’s in patients who used GTZs, while another found no link between GTZ use and Parkinson’s risk.

“Based on current evidence, it remains unclear whether GTZs have a neuroprotective effect in PD [Parkinson’s disease],” note Tzoulis and colleagues.

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GTZs reduced Parkinson’s risk

Aiming to gain a better understanding of the link between GTZ use and Parkinson’s risk, the researchers analyzed data from the Norwegian Prescription Database, which holds data on all medications dispensed in pharmacies across Norway, as well as information on the patients to whom these medications are prescribed.

The researchers looked at the link between the use of GTZs, metformin – which is the primary drug prescribed for type 2 diabetes – and the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Over a 10-year period between January 2005 and December 2014, the team identified 94,349 metformin users and 8,396 GTZ users who met the study criteria.

The study revealed that, compared with users of metformin, patients who used GTZs were 28 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

They are unable to explain the precise mechanisms behind their findings, but they speculate that GTZs might improve the function of mitochondria. These are organelles that produce energy for cells, enabling them to function.

In a previous study, Tzoulis and team found that patients with Parkinson’s disease experience a reduction in mitochondrial production. “It is possible,” they say, “that GTZ drugs ameliorate these defects by increasing mtDNA [mitochondrial DNA] synthesis and overall mitochondrial mass.”

Still, the team says that further studies are needed to investigate this possible mechanism. “If we understand the mechanisms behind the protection, then we have a chance to develop a new treatment,” says Tzoulis.

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A ‘step toward solving the Parkinson’s riddle’

The researchers cite a number of limitations to their study. For instance, the team did not have data on the GTZ or metformin dose each patient was using, so they are unable to determine the dose-response relationship between diabetes medication and the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Also, the researchers note the lack of information on the diabetes stage of each patient. “However,” they say, “as diabetes has not been shown to have a definite effect on the risk for PD, we find it unlikely that treatment stage would significantly bias our results.”

Because the study only included patients who had been diagnosed with diabetes, the findings cannot be generalized to the population as a whole.

That said, the team believes that the study could lead to new prevention and treatment strategies for Parkinson’s disease, a condition that is diagnosed in around 60,000 people in the U.S. every year.

We have made an important discovery, which takes us a step further toward solving the Parkinson’s riddle.”

Charalampos Tzoulis

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Medical News Today: How to get an Adonis belt

The Adonis belt – sometimes called Apollo’s belt – refers to two V-shaped muscular grooves on the abdominal muscles alongside the hips.

This feature of the abdominal muscles takes its name from Adonis, the legendary god of fertility, youth, and beauty.

The grooves of the Adonis belt are, in fact, ligaments, not muscles. This means that cultivating an Adonis belt requires the loss of fat, not the creation of muscle.

What is the Adonis belt?

Torso of man with adonis belt
The two shallow grooves of the adonis belt are ligaments rather than muscles.

The Adonis belt is a thick band of connective tissue that runs through the external oblique abdominal muscles, across the groin, and into the front portion of the iliac spine.

People who are relatively physically weak may have a visible inguinal ligament, while powerful and fit people might not. Instead, the Adonis belt is associated with body fat.

People with less body fat are more likely to have a visible Adonis belt.

This means a person could spend several hours each day on abdominal exercises and still not develop an Adonis belt or any other visible sign of abdominal strength.

For a person to have visible abdominal muscles, their percentage of body fat needs to be below 15 percent. For the Adonis belt to make an appearance, body fat might need to be as low as 6-13 percent.

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How to get an Adonis belt

protein rich food
A protein rich diet may boost feelings of fullness and aid weight loss.

To get an Adonis belt, one might think it makes sense to exercise the abdominal and hip muscles.

The problem is that this strategy does not work. The notion that it is possible to reduce fat in a particular area of the body with targeted exercises is a myth.

Strengthening a muscle to increase its size will not make it visible under the fat. Both diet and exercise play a role in reducing body fat.

Because genetics can affect body fat percentage, it is easier for some people to develop an Adonis belt than others.

Dieting for an Adonis belt

Eating fewer calories than the body needs for energy can support fat loss. That means cutting down on total caloric intake. It can also help to cut back on sweetened snacks and carbohydrates.

Some foods also require more energy to burn than others. Protein is one such food. It can also promote feelings of fullness, making it an ideal choice for people trying to avoid overeating.

And because protein is vital for muscle development, increasing protein intake can support healthy, visible abdominal muscles.

Exercises for reducing body fat

Activities that involve large groups of muscles and which get the heart pumping burn more fat than targeted exercises such as crunches and sit-ups.

Try intensive cardiovascular exercises such as:

  • running

  • swimming

  • jumping rope

  • punching-bag workouts

  • sprints

  • cardio-heavy sports, such as football, tennis, or other athletics

The longer the exercise is performed and the more exhausting it feels, the more calories – and therefore the more fat – it will burn.

Exercises for the Adonis belt

Building muscle can help the body burn more calories, and therefore shed more fat. Strengthening the muscles surrounding the inguinal ligament can help the area look more defined, and support fat burning. Try the following:


Planks strengthen and stabilize the back and abdominal muscles. Lie on the stomach with the elbows bent and forearms flat on the ground. Elevate the trunk off the ground while tensing the abdominal muscles. Hold for 5 seconds, gradually building to longer holds.

Next, try a side plank. Lie on one side with the legs positioned one on top of the other. Rest on a bent elbow. Then engage the abs by tightening them and raise the trunk and hips off the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, building gradually to a hold of 30 seconds or longer. 

Stomach vacuum

Stand up straight and take a deep breath into the stomach. Then exhale all the air from the lungs, drawing the stomach in. Envision the belly button moving toward the spine, sucking the stomach in as far as possible. Hold for 5-10 seconds, and repeat for several breaths. Once the stomach vacuum exercise is mastered, it is possible to perform while lying or sitting.

Lateral heel touches

Lateral heel touches target the obliques, which complement the appearance of an Adonis belt. Lie on the back with the knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep the arms extended out and parallel with the floor. While engaging the abdominal muscles, lift the head, neck, and upper back off the ground. Bend right to touch the right heel, then left to touch the left heel. Repeat for 5-10 repetitions.

Exercise ball crunches

Man doing exercise ball crunches
Exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding the inguinal ligament may give a more defined appearance.

Exercise ball crunches more effectively engage the abs than traditional crunches. Lie on an exercise ball such that the ball is positioned at the small of the back.

With the abs engaged and feet flat on the ground, perform a crunch by lifting the head, neck, and upper torso. The arms can be across the chest, behind the head, or extended straight, but should not be used to make it easier to crunch up. Repeat 5-10 times for 3-5 sets.

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Risks of developing an Adonis belt

In a culture fixated on thinness, it is easy to see body fat as bad. Fat, however, plays a protective role. Everyone needs some fat to be healthy. Women are especially vulnerable to health problems when they shed too much body fat, because they have higher body fat percentages than men. Women with very low body fat may not menstruate, which can undermine or prevent fertility

Women with body fat percentages below 15 percent are at risk of several health problems. This means that it may be difficult, and perhaps even impossible, for women to develop an Adonis belt and remain healthy. For men, health tends to decline when body fat dips below 8 percent, so most men can safely develop an Adonis belt.

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Medical News Today: Hematopoiesis: All you need to know

Hematopoiesis is the production of all of the cellular components of blood and blood plasma. It occurs within the hematopoietic system, which includes organs and tissues such as the bone marrow, liver, and spleen.

Simply, hematopoiesis is the process through which the body manufactures blood cells. It begins early in the development of an embryo, well before birth, and continues for the life of an individual.

What is hematopoiesis?

3d render of red blood cells
Red blood cells transport oxygen through the body.

The blood is made up of more than 10 different cell types. Each of these cell types falls into one of three broad categories:

1. Red blood cells (erythrocytes): These transport oxygen and hemoglobin throughout the body.

2. White blood cells (leukocytes): These support the immune system. There are several different types of white blood cells:

  • Lymphocytes: Including T cells and B cells, which help fight some viruses and tumors.

  • Neutrophils: These help fight bacterial and fungal infections.

  • Eosinophils: These play a role in the inflammatory response, and help fight some parasites.

  • Basophils: These release the histamines necessary for the inflammatory response.

  • Macrophages: These engulf and digest debris, including bacteria.

3. Platelets (thrombocytes): These help the blood to clot.

Current research endorses a theory of hematopoiesis called the monophyletic theory. This theory says that one type of stem cell produces all types of blood cells.

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Where does hematopoiesis occur?

Hematopoiesis occurs in many places:

Hematopoiesis in the embryo

pregnant women and fetus
Hematopoiesis in the embryo provides organs with oxygen.

Sometimes called primitive hematopoiesis, hematopoiesis in the embryo produces only red blood cells that can provide developing organs with oxygen. At this stage in development, the yolk sac, which nourishes the embryo until the placenta is fully developed, controls hematopoiesis.

As the embryo continues to develop, the hematopoiesis process moves to the liver, the spleen, and bone marrow, and begins producing other types of blood cells.

In adults, hematopoiesis of red blood cells and platelets occurs primarily in the bone marrow. In infants and children, it may also continue in the spleen and liver.

The lymph system, particularly the spleen, lymph nodes, and thymus, produces a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. Tissue in the liver, spleen, lymph nodes and some other organs produce another type of white blood cells, called monocytes.

The process of hematopoiesis

The rate of hematopoiesis depends on the body’s needs. The body continually manufactures new blood cells to replace old ones. About 1 percent of the body’s blood cells must be replaced every day.

White blood cells have the shortest life span, sometimes surviving just a few hours to a few days, while red blood cells can last up to 120 days or so.

The process of hematopoiesis begins with an unspecialized stem cell. This stem cell multiplies, and some of these new cells transform into precursor cells. These are cells that are destined to become a particular type of blood cell but are not yet fully developed. However, these immature cells soon divide and mature into blood components, such as red and white blood cells, or platelets.

Although researchers understand the basics of hematopoiesis, there is an-ongoing scientific debate about how the stem cells that play a role in hematopoiesis are formed.

What are the types of hematopoiesis?

Each type of blood cell follows a slightly different path of hematopoiesis. All begin as stem cells called multipotent hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). From there, hematopoiesis follows two distinct pathways.

Trilineage hematopoiesis refers to the production of three types of blood cells: platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells. Each of these cells begins with the transformation of HSC into cells called common myeloid progenitors (CMP).

After that, the process varies slightly. At each stage of the process, the precursor cells become more organized:

Red blood cells and platelets

  • Red blood cells: CMP cells change five times before finally becoming red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes.

  • Platelets: CMP cells transform into three different cell types before becoming platelets.

White blood cells

There are several types of white blood cells, each following an individual path during hematopoiesis. All white blood cells initially transform from CMP cells into to myeoblasts. After that, the process is as follows:

  • Before becoming a neutrophil, eosinophil, or basophil, a myeoblast goes through four further stages of development.

  • To become a macrophage, a myeoblast has to transform three more times.

A second pathway of hematopoiesis produces T and B cells.

T cells and B cells

To produce lymphocytes, MHCs transform into cells called common lymphoid progenitors, which then become lymphoblasts. Lymphoblasts differentiate into infection-fighting T cells and B cells. Some B cells differentiate into plasma cells after exposure to infection.

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Hematopoiesis and health

test tube of blood anemia
Anemia may occur if the blood lacks hemoglobin.

Some blood disorders can affect healthy blood cells in the blood, even when hematopoiesis occurs. For example, cancers of the white blood cells such as leukemia and lymphoma can alter the number of white blood cells in the bloodstream. Tumors in hematopoietic tissue that produces blood cells, such as bone marrow can affect blood cell counts.

The aging process can increase the amount of fat present in the bone marrow. This increase in fat can make it harder for the marrow to produce blood cells. If the body needs additional blood cells due to an illness, the bone marrow is unable to stay ahead of this demand. This can cause anemia, which occurs when the blood lacks hemoglobin from red blood cells.

Hematopoiesis is a constant process that produces a massive number of cells. Estimates vary, and the precise number of cells depends on individual needs. But in a typical day, the body might produce 200 billion red blood cells, 10 million white blood cells, and 400 billion platelets.

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Medical News Today: Nipple discharge: Causes and treatments

Experiencing unusual nipple discharge is the third-most-common reason women visit their doctors for conditions related to their breasts.

This statistic is according to the Journal of Cellular Immunotherapy, who report that nipple discharge is the third most reported symptom in the breast after breast pain and a lump. Nipple discharge can affect men and women and is not always cause for concern.

Men are also subject to nipple discharge, which is significantly more unusual and requires a doctor’s follow-up.

What are the causes of nipple discharge?

Bare chested woman covering her right breast with her left hand.
Nipple discharge can occur in men and women, although it is most common with women.

In women, there are many different potential causes of nipple discharge. One of the most common is a discharge that leaks from a woman’s nipples after she has stopped breast-feeding.

Sometimes, a woman can experience nipple discharge anywhere from 2 to 3 years after she stops breast-feeding.

Additional causes of nipple discharge include:

  • abscess (severe breast infection)

  • breast infection

  • endocrine (hormone) disorder

  • excessive nipple stimulation

  • fibrocystic (irregular cysts) breasts

  • injury or trauma history to the breasts

  • mammary duct ectasia (milk duct under the nipple thickens and becomes wide)

  • Paget’s disease of the breast (a rare cancer of the nipple and areola)

  • periductal mastitis (inflammation)

  • prolactinoma (hormone disorder caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland)

  • a side effect of taking birth control pills

Some medications can also cause nipple discharge. These include:

Use of the drugs cocaine and marijuana can also cause nipple discharge.

Nipple discharge in men

topless man's chest.
Men should not be afraid to see their doctor if they experience nipple dishcharge, as it may be a sign of a range of conditions, including breast cancer.

Men can also experience nipple discharge. Some of the common causes of male nipple discharge include:

  • testosterone deficiency

  • gynecomastia, a condition that causes breast enlargement or tenderness

  • pituitary tumor, this is because the pituitary gland is responsible for releasing hormones that cause milk production in the nipples

  • cancer of the breast

Because the condition is much less common in men, a man should see his doctor if he has nipple discharge.

Babies can also experience nipple discharge immediately after birth due to the presence of their mother’s hormones that are still circulating in their bodies. This side effect usually subsides a few days after birth.

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Types of nipple discharge?

To help find the cause, doctors will often ask questions about the discharge, including what color it is and the consistency of the discharge.

Examples of some of the most common types of nipple discharge include:

  • Milky discharge: This is the most common type of nipple discharge. In women, this can be because the woman has recently stopped breast-feeding or due to hormonal shifts in a premenopausal woman.

  • Bloody discharge: Blood discharge can be caused by a non-cancerous tumor called a papilloma, which can irritate the tissue inside a breast duct. In rare instances, bloody discharge can be due to breast cancer.

  • Clear discharge: Clear discharge from one breast only can be a symptom of breast cancer. Clear discharge from both breasts is usually less concerning, but if a woman is concerned, she should visit her doctor.

  • Green-tinged nipple discharge: Discharge of this color can be a symptom of a cyst underneath the nipple or areola that is draining.

While each of these discharge types can be alarming, they are not always cause for concern. Bloody and clear discharges are the most common presentations associated with breast cancer.

What are the treatment options?

The treatment options depend on the cause and type of the discharge.

Doctors will diagnose the underlying cause and then treat it, which usually resolves the problem.

When should you see a doctor for nipple discharge?

Young female doctor talking with senior female patient.
Seeing a doctor for nipple discharge is always advised, especially if other symptoms are present, such as changes in breast size or shape.

Any time a woman experiences nipple discharge that she is concerned about, she should see her doctor. This is especially true if she experiences any of the following symptoms that are associated with breast cancer:

  • a palpable lump in the breast

  • change in size or shape of the breasts

  • discharge from only one breast

  • blood-tinged discharge

  • discharge that continues over the course of several days 

  • swelling under the armpit or around the collarbone

A doctor will ask the woman about her symptoms and perform a physical exam. The doctor may recommend imaging studies, such as mammogram or ultrasound, to detect potential abnormalities in the breasts.

Following these diagnostic methods, a doctor may recommend other tests, such as biopsy or blood testing, as indicated.

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Is there a link between nipple discharge and cancer?

Nipple discharge can be a symptom of breast cancer, according to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The same journal states that of the women who report nipple discharge of unknown origin, between 7 and 15 percent will have breast cancer.

For the vast majority of women, this means that nipple discharge is not due to cancer. The most common diagnoses for women with cancerous nipple discharge, however, are ductal carcinoma in situ or papillary carcinoma.

If a doctor is unable to establish a clear benign underlying cause for nipple discharge, they will usually recommend an imaging scan to confirm a potentially cancerous lesion is not present. If a person who is at higher risk for breast cancer due to family history experiences nipple discharge, they should speak to their doctor as soon as possible.

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Medical News Today: Good moods may boost flu shot efficacy for seniors

happy senior woman getting injection
Researchers suggest that positive moods may have something to do with how effective flu vaccines are in seniors.
Vaccines are an important preventive measure against influenza, but they are often much less effective in the elderly. A new study suggests that seniors who get their flu shots while in a good mood have a better response to the vaccine.

Flu vaccines are an easy and important preventive measure against seasonal influenza viruses. Many, if not most, of us choose to go through the mild and short-lived discomfort of getting a flu shot each year so that we may avoid coming to more grief later.

The most recent data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that vaccination reduces the risk of catching the virus by 40 to 60 percent among the general United States population.

Overall, however, the vaccines tend to be more effective for children, teenagers, and adults up to 65 years of age. Seniors, studies suggest, tend to have a poorer response, and the vaccines are not always effective in keeping the illness at bay.

Still, the CDC urge adults aged 65 and over to keep getting their flu shots, since influenza viruses can have much more serious effects on seniors, possibly leading to hospitalization and a higher mortality risk.

Now, a study conducted by researchers based at Nottingham University in the United Kingdom looks at why vaccines may be more effective for some older adults, but not for others.

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Prof. Kavita Vedhara and colleagues noted that the vaccine was more effective in seniors who turned up for their flu shot in a good mood, but less so in their unenthusiastic counterparts.

“Vaccinations are an incredibly effective way of reducing the likelihood of catching infectious diseases,” explains Prof. Vedhara. “But their Achilles heel is that their ability to protect against disease is affected by how well an individual’s immune system works.

“So,” she adds, “people with less effective immune systems, such as the elderly, may find vaccines don’t work as well for them as they do in the young.”

This is why she and her team decided to investigate which additional factors may be responsible for good – or poor – outcomes following vaccination in the elderly. The researchers published their findings in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

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Positive thinking tied to higher effectiveness

Prof. Kavita Vedhara and team worked with 138 people aged between 65 and 85 who were due to get vaccinated for influenza. The participants were followed over 6 weeks and monitored for mood, dietary practice, physical activity, and sleep patterns three times each week.

The researchers then tested the effectiveness of the flu shot at 4 weeks and 16 weeks after inoculation, by testing the levels of antibodies in the participants’ blood.

Of all the factors monitored, it was found that positive mood was the best predictor of effectiveness. Participants who were in a good mood on the day of the vaccination itself exhibited an even better response to the flu shot, and the inoculation was significantly more effective for this group of people.

Good mood, the scientists explain, was responsible for between 8 and 14 percent of the difference in antibody levels between participants.

“We have known for many years that a number of psychological and behavioral factors such as stress, physical activity, and diet influence how well the immune system works,” says Prof. Vedhara, “and these factors have also been shown to influence how well vaccines protect against disease.”

Now, it has become apparent just how much psychological factors could influence the “receptiveness” of the immune system.

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Factors tested for single viral strain

One peculiarity of this study, the team explains, is that the vaccine administered to the participants was the same as the one they had received the previous year. The paper indicates that everyone “received a standard dose of the 2014/15 northern hemisphere influenza vaccine.”

This is an extremely rare occurrence, yet it meant that the subjects already had high antibody levels for two of the three viruses contained by the vaccine: the A H3N2 and B viral strains.

As a consequence, Prof. Vedhara and colleagues focused on the response to the third viral strain, A H1N1, to which the participants had not previously developed significant antibody levels.

The researchers emphasize in their paper that this study is the first of its kind, shedding additional light on the factors at play in the context of vaccine effectiveness in old age.

Despite these limitations, this is the first study to comprehensively examine patient behaviors and psychological factors on the vaccine-induced protective antibody response in older adults using a robust methodology.”

Prof. Vedhara and her research team hope that future studies will test the influence of the factors they monitored on multiple viral strains, to confirm the effect of mood on vaccine efficacy in the elderly.

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Medical News Today: Heart failure could be treated using umbilical cord stem cells

small heart held in hands
Scientists offer new hope for heart failure patients.
Using stem cells derived from the umbilical cord, researchers have improved the heart muscle and function of heart failure patients, paving the way for noninvasive therapies.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Jorge Bartolucci, a professor at the Universidad de los Andes (UANDES) in Santiago, Chile, and Dr. Fernando Figueroa, a professor of medicine at UANDES, is the corresponding author.

Dr. Bartolucci and colleagues conducted a trial in which they compared patients who were given an intravenous injection with stem cells from umbilical cords with patients who received a placebo.

The results – which have been published in the journal Circulation Research – were deemed “encouraging” by Dr. Figueroa. He says that the findings could improve survival rates for heart failure patients, which are currently quite disappointing.

Half of all heart failure patients are expected to die within the first 5 years after the diagnosis, and the 10-year survival rate is less than 30 percent. Worldwide, 26 million people are believed to live with the condition.

In heart failure, the heart’s muscles weaken and can no longer pump blood adequately throughout the body. Worryingly, the threat of heart failure is increasing among people in the United States; the number of people affected is currently set at 6.5 million, and this is expected to rise by 46 percent by the year 2030.

The authors of the new study note that previous research has already looked into the potential of stem cells derived from bone marrow for treating heart failure, but they say that umbilical cord-derived stem cells have never been examined.

These are a more desirable avenue for treatment, the authors add, as they are more accessible, do not pose any of the ethical concerns that embryonic stem cells do, and are not likely to elicit a negative immune response.

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Treatment proves safe and effective

In their small trial, Dr. Bartolucci and team divided 30 patients – aged between 18 and 75 – into two small groups: one received treatment, and the other received a placebo.

Patients in both groups had stable heart failure, which was appropriately treated with the standard drugs.

The stem cells used by the researchers were derived from umbilical cords, which were obtained from human placentas. These had been donated by healthy mothers who carried their pregnancy to term and had a cesarean delivery.

It was found that in the stem cell group, the therapy improved the hearts’ ability to pump blood in the year after the treatment. The stem cell therapy also seemed to improve the daily functioning and quality of life of those treated.

No adverse effects or inflammatory immune responses were noted during the treatment, despite the fact that typically, patients who receive blood transfusions are prone to adverse immune reactions.

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The treatment was “feasible and safe,” the authors conclude, and it “resulted in a significant improvement in left ventricular function, functional status, and quality of life.”

“These findings suggest [that the intervention] could have an impact on clinical outcomes, supporting further testing through large clinical trials,” they add.

This type of stem cell therapy may be extremely beneficial to heart failure patients, say the authors, especially when compared with existing treatment options.

“Standard drug-based regimens can be suboptimal in controlling heart failure, and patients often have to progress to more invasive therapies such as mechanical ventricular assist devices and heart transplantation,” explains Dr. Bartolucci.

We are encouraged by our findings because they could pave the way to a noninvasive, promising new therapy for a group of patients who face grim odds.”

Dr. Fernando Figueroa

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Medical News Today: Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBL): Infection and treatment

Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases, or ESBLs, are enzymes produced by certain types of bacteria. These enzymes can break down the active ingredients in many common antibiotics, making them ineffective.

There are at least 200 different types of ESBL enzymes. Researchers still have a lot to learn about them, in part because the infections involving ESBLs were only recently discovered.

The first reported case of infection involving ESBLs occurred in Greece in the 1960s. The United States reported its first case in 1988.

What triggers ESBLs?

Many bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics through random mutation.

So far, ESBLs have only been reported in Gram-negative bacterial infections. Gram-negative bacteria will appear pink during staining in preparation for microscopic examination.

Bacteria have built-in tools to trick the immune system and disable drugs. They can also develop drug-resistance through random mutation and pass on useful mutations to the next generation.

Several different species of bacteria are capable of producing ESBLs. Researchers are still unsure what triggers the bacteria to produce the drug-resisting enzymes, but misuse or overuse of antibiotics is suspected.

It is important to know that within each family and group of bacteria there are usually hundreds of different species, only some of which can produce ESBLs.

Bacterial groups known to produce ESBLs include:

  • Escherichia coli (E.coli)

  • Klebsiella pneumoniae 

  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa

  • K. oxytoca

  • Proteus mirabilis

  • Salmonella enterica

  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae 

  • Haemophilus influenzae 

  • Kluyvera species

  • Enterobacter aerogenes

  • Enterobacter cloacae

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person washing hands in a sink
Thorough hand-washing can help prevent an infection.

Anyone who has contact with a surface, object, animal, or another person that is infected with or has been exposed to ESBL-producing bacteria can spread the infection.

Most ESBL infections, however, develop in healthcare settings and involve exposure to infected fecal matter.

According to a 2015 study, most people infected with ESBL-producing bacteria had been hospitalized for an average of between 11 and 64 days before developing the infection.

While traditionally associated with immune-compromised individuals, hospitals, and nursing homes, the infection is becoming more frequent and widespread.

According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EBSL-producing bacteria are considered a serious threat in the U.S.

It is important to take extra precautions, including increased hand-washing, whenever exposure occurs or is suspected.

Many bacteria can live on the skin’s surface for several days and even be transmitted through a person’s breath. Some people who do not develop an infection or show symptoms can act as carriers, spreading the infectious bacteria without knowing it.

Associated conditions and symptoms

Bacterial infections involving ESBLs are known to cause several associated health conditions. Common complications and symptoms that accompany bacterial infections include:


Most ESBL-producing bacteria are called Enterobacteriaceae, a family of bacteria that normally lives in the gastrointestinal tract without causing infection.

For this reason, many ESBL-related infections irritate the gastrointestinal lining. When the body has an infection, the immune system also encourages increased metabolism and waste removal, causing diarrhea.

Common symptoms of diarrhea include:

  • having three or more loose stools in one day

  • bloody stool

  • gas and bloating

  • fever

  • stomach cramps

  • loss of appetite

Skin infections

Bacterial infections in wounds can cause the skin to become red and swollen. Fluid may also seep out of the wound site.

Several internal bacterial infections can also cause dermatological symptoms, including red, raised bumps.


Pneumonia occurs when bacteria infect the lungs and respiratory tract. Common symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • coughing, often with phlegm or thick mucous

  • difficulty breathing

  • fatigue or unexplained exhaustion

  • shortness of breath

  • fever and chills

  • sweating and shaking

  • nausea and vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • low body temperature

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria overgrowths develop in the urinary tract. Common symptoms of UTIs include:

  • increased need to urinate

  • burning sensation during urination

  • itching, burning sensation in the genital region


Sepsis occurs when an infection causes the immune system to overreact, releasing chemicals into the bloodstream that trigger a full-body inflammatory response. Sepsis is life-threatening and can lead to organ failure and death.

Common symptoms of sepsis include:

  • fever and chills

  • nausea and vomiting

  • feeling disorientated and confused

  • difficulty breathing

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Treatment and outlook

As ESBL-producing bacteria are resistant to common antibiotics, treatment involves using less common medications, which can sometimes be less effective.

Also, many ESBL-producing bacteria have additional tools to disable other types of antibiotics. If a person has had the infection long-term, or when medications are overused, bacteria can evolve and develop immunity to them. 

The first line of treatment for people who have been confirmed as having the infection is usually a class of drugs called carbapenems. The treatment process may involve some degree of trial and error.

It may take several courses of treatment and different medications to resolve a person’s infection completely.

Commonly used medications to treat ESBL-involved infections include:

  • carbapenems (imipenem, meropenem, and doripenem)

  • cephamycins (cefoxitin and cefotetan)

  • fosfomycin

  • nitrofurantoin

  • beta-lactamase inhibitors (clavulanic acid, tazobactam, or sulbactam)

  • non-beta-lactamases

  • colistin, if all other medications have failed

According to the CDC, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae are a very serious developing threat.

Carbapenem-resistant infections are immune to nearly every form of antibiotic available and are responsible for 9,000 infections per year and 600 deaths. Almost half of the people who developed the infection in their bloodstream died.

In some situations, especially if a person has a weakened immune system, hospitalization and isolation may be necessary. Most infections take several weeks or months to treat.


nurse putting gloves on
Preventing ESBL-involved bacterial infections may include avoiding touching the face and mouth, disinfecting surfaces, and wearing gloves in a healthcare setting.

People with long-term conditions and people who are hospitalized are the most at-risk of developing ESBL-involved infections. Extra precautions, such as increased hand washing, should always be used in healthcare settings.

General tips for preventing ESBL-involved bacterial infections include:

  • avoiding close contact with people or animals with bacterial infections

  • wearing gloves in healthcare settings or around infected individuals

  • avoiding touching the face and mouth

  • wearing long-sleeved clothing when around infected individuals

  • washing hands before and after exposure to infected individuals

  • washing all clothing and bedding that may have been exposed to infected individuals in hot water

  • disinfecting surfaces, especially in bathrooms and kitchens

  • disinfecting fixtures, such as doorknobs and faucets

  • taking antibiotics exactly as directed

  • telling a doctor if antibiotics are not improving symptoms of an infection

  • talking with a doctor and taking extra hygiene precautions if several courses of antibiotics are necessary within a short timespan

  • if an ESBL-involved infection is confirmed, avoiding exposure to others or being in public settings, especially crowded areas

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Medical News Today: Carcinoma in situ: What is it and how is it treated?

Carcinoma in situ is a cancer designation where a person has abnormal cells that have not spread beyond where they first formed. The words “in situ” translate to “in its original place.”

These in situ cells have the potential to become cancerous cells and spread to other nearby locations. Other names for carcinoma in situ are stage 0 disease, non-invasive cancer, or pre-invasive cancer.

This article will focus on some of the more common areas where doctors diagnose carcinoma in situ and the treatment approaches that can follow a diagnosis.

Where does carcinoma in situ occur?

Some of the most common types of carcinoma in situ are listed below:

Carcinoma in situ of the urinary bladder

Bladder cancer
Carcinoma in situ commonly occurs in the bladder.

The bladder is a common location where doctors detect carcinoma in situ. According to the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Care Network, an estimated 3 percent of all first-time bladder cancers are carcinoma in situ.

Carcinoma in situ of the bladder is very common in those who have a history of bladder cancer that was previously in remission. Nearly 90 percent of people with bladder cancer see a recurrence.

This cancer type is most commonly detected among male smokers who are between the ages of 60 to 70 years old.

Cervical carcinoma in situ

Doctors may identify cervical carcinoma in situ as pre-cancerous cells that rest on the surface layer of the cervix.

Doctors can treat this pre-cervical cancer type, but the cancer can sometimes recur. For this reason, doctors recommend continued Pap smear tests to check for any further pre-cancerous cells.

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Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

Doctors also call this type of carcinoma in situ intraductal carcinoma. It is one of the most common types of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Ductal means that cells are growing in the milk ducts of the breasts. According to, an estimated 20 percent of breast cancers diagnosed annually in the United States are DCIS, equivalent to about 60,000 cases.

Squamous cell carcinoma in situ or Bowen disease

This skin cancer type is one of the earliest-known forms of squamous cell skin cancers. Again, according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 2 out of 10 skin cancers are squamous cell skin cancers.

The cells in this type of carcinoma in situ most commonly appear on areas of the skin exposed to the sun, such as face, ears, and neck. They are more likely to grow deeper into the skin, as well as spread to other areas of the body.

The disease types listed above are just a few examples of the different areas where carcinoma in situ can occur. 

How is carcinoma in situ treated most effectively?

Some of the common treatments for each type of carcinoma in situ include:

Carcinoma in situ of the urinary bladder

surgeons at work in surgery
Surgery is recommend in the majority of cases for carcinoma in situ of the urinary bladder.

Almost all people with carcinoma in situ of the urinary bladder will undergo surgery to remove the pre-cancerous cells.

Examples of surgical procedures include transurethral resection or biopsy with electrical or laser cautery.

If doctors still detect cancerous cells after these procedures, they may recommend radical cystectomy or surgical removal of the bladder.

However, because older individuals are the most likely to present with this condition, doctors may recommend watchful waiting, as the time it could take for the cancer to progress may be longer than a person’s life expectancy.

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Cervical carcinoma in situ

In this type, doctors will often recommend removal of the precancerous cells to prevent them from turning cancerous and to reduce the likelihood of them spreading.

A doctor can remove the cells using cryosurgery, laser surgery, cold knife conization, or loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP/LEETZ).

If a woman is no longer in her childbearing years, a doctor may recommend a hysterectomy.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

With cases of DCIS, a doctor will discuss treatment options with a woman, depending upon where in the breast the cancerous cells are.

One option is breast-conserving surgery (BCS), where the surgeon removes the cancerous cells, as well as a portion of normal breast tissue surrounding the tumor.

In some instances, a doctor may remove lymph nodes as well. A doctor may also recommend follow-up radiation therapy, to reduce the risk pre-cancerous cells could come back in the breast.

If the area of DCIS is large, a doctor may recommend a mastectomy, which involves removing the entire breast.

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Squamous cell carcinoma in situ or Bowen disease

Doctors will usually recommend removing the pre-cancerous cells in this type of carcinoma in situ. In some instances, a doctor may also recommend radiation to reduce the risk for cancer cell recurrence.

Choosing the right treatments

People should always discuss their treatment options carefully with their doctor.

Questions to ask include:

  1. “What are the chances this treatment will be successful?”

  2. “What are the side effects of this treatment?”

  3. “What happens if cancerous cells are still present afterward?”

Carefully weighing all options can help a person determine what is best for their individual health.

Outlook for carcinoma in situ

While a diagnosis of carcinoma in situ does not always mean the cells will become cancerous, the chances are usually so high the cells will one day be malignant that doctors recommend treatment.

By treating the cells before they become cancerous and can spread, a person will ideally have the greatest likelihood of being cancer-free.

The medical capabilities of identifying carcinoma in situ underlie the importance of a person engaging in preventive visits, such as women getting Pap smear tests and people going to a dermatologist for annual skin checks.

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