The News – 4 July 2014

Overview

  • A disfiguring growth has been removed from the face of a seven-year-old Filipino boy by a team of surgeons at Melbourne’s Monash Children’s Hospital.
  • A US study has found the gene that allows Tibetans to cope with life at high altitudes came from an extinct species of human.
  • The state and federal governments will spend $4 million trying to eradicate, two-disease-spreading mosquito species from the Torres Strait.


Stories Discussed
The news on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 4th July 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-02/melbourne-surgeons-remove-growth-from-boys-face/5565270?section=vic

A disfiguring growth has been removed from the face of a seven-year-old Filipino boy by a team of surgeons at Melbourne’s Monash Children’s Hospital.

Jhonny Lameon had a severe neural tube problem that resulted in a membranous sac expanding through his eyes and covering his face.

A team of four surgeons performed a seven-hour operation to remove the mass and reconstruct Jhonny’s entire face in March.

Monash Children’s Hospital plastic surgeon James Leong said it was an urgently needed procedure.

“Someone sent me a message on email with photos and the story of Jhonny with this terrible defect and straight away we really wanted to help him,” Mr Leong told 774 ABC Melbourne.

“So straight away we mobilised all of our resources to bring Jhonny from the Philippines to Melbourne.”

He has since been recovering at Monash Children’s Hospital and the Children First Foundation’s rehabilitation farm at Kilmore, north of Melbourne.

Mr Leong said the condition was quite rare, with about one in 10,000 babies born with the defect.

“Most of these defects are done very early and they’re picked up antenatally on ultrasound, but in Jhonny’s case he lives in a very poor environment and he’s nearly seven.”

Mr Leong said the surgery had to be done in Australia.

“They don’t have the facilities where he comes from… which is the southern part of the Philippines,” he said.

“He required neurosurgery and plastic surgery and an intensive care unit and all sorts of different imaging, so it had to be done here.”

A team from not-for-profit organisation Interplast Australia and New Zealand, which provides free reconstructive surgery for people across the Asia-Pacific region, assessed Jhonny while on a visit to the Philippines.

It decided the complex procedure needed to be performed in Australia and the pro-bono surgery, which involved generous volunteer surgical, theatre, nursing and hospital staff, was organised.

The Children First Foundation then organised to get him to Australia, including visas, passports and flights for Jhonny and his mother.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-03/gene-from-extinct-human-species-fortifies-high-altitude-tibetans/5569246

A US study has found the gene that allows Tibetans to cope with life at high altitudes came from an extinct species of human.

Many Tibetans are known to carry a special blood-diluting gene that enables them to cope with lack of oxygen in high mountains.

People without this variant would be apt to develop thick blood, leading to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

Scientists have discovered Tibetans carry a version of the gene in their DNA from Denisovans, a relative of modern-day humans who lived 50,000 years ago.

At elevations above (4,000 metres), the common form of the gene boosts hemoglobin and red blood cell production, causing dangerous side effects.

The Tibetans’ variant increases hemoglobin and red blood cell levels only modestly, sparing them these effects.

Denisovans are known from a single finger bone and two teeth found in a Siberian cave.

DNA testing on the 41,000-year-old bone indicated Denisovans were distinct from our species and Neanderthals.

“Our finding may suggest that the exchange of genes through mating with extinct species may be more important in human evolution than previously thought,” said Ramus Neilsen, a computational biology professor at University of California, Berkeley and the University of Copenhagen.

The researchers say the study, which has been published in the journal Nature, is the first to show how a gene from an archaic human species has helped modern humans adjust to different living conditions.

The researchers say early modern humans trekking out of Africa interbred with Denisovans in Eurasia en route to China. Their descendants harbour a tiny percentage of Denisovan DNA.

Genetic studies show nearly 90 per cent of Tibetans have the high-altitude gene variant, along with a small percentage of Han Chinese, who share a common ancestor with Tibetans. It is seen in no other people.

The researchers conducted genetic studies on 40 Tibetans and 40 Han Chinese and performed a statistical analysis showing that the gene variant almost certainly was inherited from the Denisovans.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-03/spraying-program-to-tackle-mosquito-invasion/5569428?section=qld

The state and federal governments will spend $4 million trying to eradicate two disease-spreading mosquito species from the Torres Strait.

The Aedes Aegypti mosquito transmits dengue fever and the Asian Tiger mosquito can also infect people with chikungunya and Japanese encephalitis.

Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton says the Asian Tiger mosquito is yet to spread to the Australian mainland.

The Queensland Government will also contribute to the eradication program.

There have been regular outbreaks of dengue in far north Queensland but there have also been cases in the north of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.

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