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Archive - Aug 31, 2014

A New, Perhaps More Reliable Way to Diagnose Malaria

Over the past several decades, malaria diagnosis has changed very little. After taking a blood sample from a patient, a technician smears the blood across a glass slide, stains it with a special dye, and looks under a microscope for the Plasmodium parasite (image), which causes the disease. This approach gives an accurate count of how many parasites are in the blood — an important measure of disease severity — but is not ideal because there is potential for human error. A research team from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) has now come up with a possible alternative. The researchers have devised a way to use magnetic resonance relaxometry (MRR), a close cousin of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to detect a parasitic waste product in the blood of infected patients. This technique could offer a more reliable way to detect malaria, says Dr. Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical engineering and biological engineering at MIT. "There is real potential to make this into a field-deployable system, especially since you don't need any kind of labels or dye. It's based on a naturally occurring biomarker that does not require any biochemical processing of samples," says Dr. Han, one of the senior authors of a paper describing the technique that as published online on August 31, 2014 in Nature Medicine. Dr. Peter Rainer Preiser of SMART and Nanyang Technical University in Singapore is also a senior author. The paper's lead author is Dr. Weng Kung Peng, a research scientist at SMART. With the traditional blood-smear technique, a technician stains the blood with a reagent that dyes cell nuclei. Red blood cells don't have nuclei, so any that show up are presumed to belong to parasite cells.

Landmark Study Shows Novartis Experimental Drug Far Superior to ACE Inhibitor Enalapril in Reducing Risk of Death Associated with Heart Failure

According to a Novartis press release, on August 30, 2014, at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona, and published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine, the company revealed that its investigational heart failure medicine, LCZ696, was superior to ACE inhibitor enalapril on key endpoints in the largest heart failure study ever done. In PARADIGM-HF patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HF-REF) who were given LCZ696 were more likely to be alive and less likely to have been hospitalized for sudden deterioration of their heart failure than those given the ACE inhibitor enalapril. Patients received LCZ696 or enalapril on top of the current best treatment. The magnitude of benefit with LCZ696 against enalapril in HF-REF patients was highly statistically significant and clinically important. In the study, the benefit of LCZ696 was seen early, was sustained, and was consistent across subgroups. LCZ696 reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular (CV) causes by 20% (p=0.00004), reduced heart failure hospitalizations by 21% (p=0.00004), reduced the risk of all-cause mortality by 16% (p=0.0005). Overall, there was a 20% risk reduction on the primary endpoint, a composite measure of CV death or heart failure hospitalization (p=0.0000002). "By demonstrating a very significant reduction in cardiovascular deaths while improving quality of life, Novartis's new heart failure medicine, LCZ696, represents one of the most important cardiology advances of the last decade," said Dr. David Epstein, Division Head, Novartis Pharmaceuticals.