The News – 20 August 2014

Overview

  • US food manufacturer Heinz has recalled some infant food products in China after a local watchdog said they contained excessive levels of lead.
  • The man responsible for the introduction and use of the world’s only Q Fever vaccine has died at home at the age of 94.
  • The discovery of a link between Alzheimer’s disease and changes in several genes associated with inflammation opens a new frontier for investigation into the cause of the disease.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 20th August 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-19/heinz-infant-cereal-recalled-in-china-over-lead-scare/5682142

US food manufacturer Heinz has recalled some infant food products in China after a local watchdog said they contained excessive levels of lead.

Heinz said it had recalled four batches of a cereal product for infants after regulators in eastern China said they had found lead that exceeded regulation levels in its AD Calcium Hi-Protein Cereal.

Standard levels for infant products should be below 0.2 milligrams per kilogram, according to a 2010 government report.

Heinz, known globally for its ketchup and baked beans, said the recall of the product was a precautionary measure.

The company, which was bought out by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc and private equity firm 3G Capital last year, added that the issue was linked to a skimmed soybean powder ingredient used in the product.

The affected cereal product is aimed at infants aged between six months and three years, according to the packaging.

Heinz apologised for inconvenience caused to consumers and moved to assure shoppers that the firm was committed to food quality and safety.

Experts say exposure to lead is particularly dangerous for children, inhibiting intellectual and physical development.

It can cause poor concentration, disruptive behaviour and even death when subjected to high levels.

A soil survey in April showed that nearly one-fifth of China’s farmland was contaminated by toxic heavy metals and chemicals, and that more than 33,000 square kilometreS – an area the size of Belgium – were unfit for agricultural use.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-19/colleagues-remember-q-fever-vaccine-crusader-barrie-marmion/5682202

The man responsible for the introduction and use of the world’s only Q Fever vaccine has died at home at the age of 94.

Professor Barrie Marmion, a microbiologist and acclaimed academic, spent much of his working life studying the debilitating effects of Q Fever, a disease contracted by thousands of people the world over, most of them living in rural areas and dealing with livestock.

In the 1990s, Adelaide-based Professor Marmion headed a team involved in the development of the Q-Vax vaccine, which was rolled out first to abattoir workers.

That campaign greatly reduced incidence of the disease, eliminating it in some meatworks.

Its success meant other livestock workers, then farmers and their families, were offered the vaccine during a national federally-funded program from 2001 to 2006.

Professor Marmion lobbied the Federal Government and biotechnology company CSL to secure funding and the eventual manufacture of the vaccine.

In 2007, CSL opened the BP Marmion Q Fever Vaccine Manufacturing Facility at Broadmeadows in Melbourne.

The vaccine is credited with not only saving lives, but also millions of dollars in workers compensation payments and lost workdays.

And it prevented the onset of the long-term effects of a chronic Q Fever-related disease Professor Marmion called Post Infection Fatigue Syndrome.

Q Fever has not attracted the public attention given to other infectious diseases such as Legionella or Meningococcal infections, yet Professor Marmion maintained it was among the most costly and severe occupational diseases.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/08/18/4068094.htm

The discovery of a link between Alzheimer’s disease and changes in several genes associated with inflammation opens a new frontier for investigation into the cause of the disease.

Two independent studies, published YESTERDAY in Nature Neuroscience, support an emerging theory that inflammation may play a key role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers in the first study collected post-mortem brain tissue from 708 individuals who were enrolled in studies of ageing. The second study took post-mortem brain samples from four individuals.

Both groups examined the tissue for well-known pathological signs of Alzheimer’s disease, known as neurofibrillary tangles, then analysed the DNA in the brains for ‘epigenetic’ changes.

Epigenetic changes switch particular genes on or off . One of the ways this can occur is by altering the biochemistry of the DNA — a process called DNA methylation.

Both teams of researchers independently identified several genes where DNA methylation was much more common in the individuals who had Alzheimer’s disease, and in the regions of the brain specifically affected by the disease.

These methylations were also present in those who had not shown symptoms of the disease before they died but whose brains showed evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

“This would suggest that somehow these genes are part of the network of genes that are involved in a complex disease like Alzheimer’s disease,” says Bennett.

One particular gene, called ANK1, is known to play a role in inflammation and immune activation.

“So there’s a whole immune system and inflammation, both peripheral and central, that’s now becoming a very high target for understanding, that we never would have gone after before,” Bennett says.

Co-author of the second paper, Dr Jonathan Mill says the ANK1 gene is also associated with type 2 diabetes.

“That’s interesting because we know that individuals with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” says Mill, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

“It may mean nothing but that’s certainly a lead that’s worth investigating.”

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