The Health News – 10 March 2017

Overview:
• Paradigm Biopharma is hoping to start the second phase of a clinical trial to test if Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium (PPS) can be repurposed to treat Ross River virus.

• Kerri McMillan, a mother who lost her 20-year-old son to suicide, made an emotional address at a mental health forum in Victoria and campaigned for more investment in youth programs to tackle mental health.

• Scientists revealed they have successfully treated Tasmanian devils suffering from the deadly devil facial tumour disease for the first time, hoping to speedup development of an effective vaccine.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the  10th of March 2017. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-09/clinical-trials-for-ross-river-virus-treatment-planned/8339214

A Melbourne biotech company is hoping to start the second phase of a clinical trial to test if an existing drug can be repurposed to treat Ross River virus.

Paradigm Biopharma has been working with Griffith University to test the drug pentosan polysulfate sodium (PPS), which has been used to treat and prevent deep vein thrombosis for more than 60 years.

The mosquito-borne virus, which causes fever, joint and muscle aches and fatigue, has plagued parts of Australia this summer.

In a normal year there are about 5,000 cases of Ross River virus reported nationally, but in Victoria alone more than 800 cases have been detected in the north this year, attributed to flooding along the Murray River and other tributaries late last year.

The Western Australian Department of Health has also issued warnings about the increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases, following record rainfall and widespread flooding across the state in February.

Paradigm Biopharma managing director Paul Rennie said currently the only medication doctors prescribed for patients suffering Ross River virus was over-the-counter painkillers to try and stem joint pain and inflammation.

“What we found in [an initial trial] was that PPS [showed] signs the inflammation was being reduced significantly,” he said.

“Also the pain in the joints of the animals was reduced.

“And probably most importantly, the effects on the cartilage in the joints of the hands, feet and knees was preserved, as opposed to the animals that didn’t have the drug, which led to a rapid deterioration that led to viral arthritis.”

Griffith University lead researcher Lara Herrero discovered the potential for PPS to be used as an effective treatment for Ross River virus.

Her pre-clinical research was published in the Journal of Virology in 2015.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-09/mother-calls-for-youth-mental-health-funding-after-sons-suicide/8340810

A mother who lost her 20-year-old son to suicide has pleaded for more investment in youth programs to tackle mental health.

Kerri McMillan made an emotional address at mental health forum in Victoria last night in Mornington in Melbourne’s south.

Hundreds turned out to the event in the bayside suburb, with organisers turning some away due to demand.

Ms McMillan, a kindergarten teacher, lost her son Sam to suicide in 2011 just days before his 21st birthday.

She said too many other young lives are being lost.

“It turns out some of his friends knew he was in trouble, [but] I don’t think it ever occurred to them he was actually going to kill himself.

“They probably thought there was a disloyalty about them had they come to me particularly and said they were worried about him, but in hindsight it could’ve saved him.”

Ms McMillan said she was worried young people did not know where to turn, and called for better tools to be available to help them cope with mental health emergencies.

She suggested something similar to a first-aid kit to help young people recognise warning signs before it was too late.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who has been working with Professor McGorry, described the nation’s suicide crisis as “gut-wrenching”.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-09/scientists-successfully-treat-devils-for-tumour-disease/8339630

Scientists reveal they have for the first time successfully treated Tasmanian devils suffering from the deadly devil facial tumour disease.

The breakthrough is hoped to speed-up development of an effective vaccine, which can be administered to devils in the wild.

The successful treatments have been made on captive animals, with scientists injecting live cancer cells into the infected devils to make their immune system recognise the disease and fight it off.

The international research, led by the University of Tasmania (UTAS), has been published in the scientific journal Scientific Report, and details the effective use of immunotherapy on the species.

Five devils with the disease were treated using the technique over six years, and three survived.

UTAS professor of immunology Professor Greg Woods likened it to “fighting cancer with cancer”.