Health Flash

Health Flash: 11.1.17

earlier parkinson’s diagnosis
Your medical records may provide clues to whether you eventually will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine analyzed the Medicare claims data of more than 200,000 people to develop an algorithm to predict future Parkinson’s diagnoses. The study’s senior author, Dr. Brad Racette, says there are notable differences in the medical histories of people who develop Parkinson’s and those who don’t. “This suggests there are lifelong differences that may permit identification of those likely to develop the disease decades before onset,” he explains. Racette and his colleagues developed the algorithm using medical histories from 2004 to 2009, with about 40 percent of the patients being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009. It correctly identified 73 percent of people diagnosed and 83 percent of those not. Predictors of the disease include tremors, cognitive dysfunction and gastrointestinal problems, as well as other factors like weight loss and kidney disease. The study is available online in the journal Neurology.

staph treatment breakthrough
Saint Louis University scientist Dr. Mee-ngn F. Yap and Nobel laureate in chemistry Ada Yonath have new information about the structure of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, commonly known as Staph, when it hibernates. Ribosomes translate genetic code to proteins; however, that consumes a lot of energy, and under stressful conditions, some cells can suppress the process for conservation purposes. Bacteria do this by switching their ribosomes to an inactive form called hibernating 100S ribosomes. While some bacteria like E. coli switch between their active and hibernating complexes in minutes, according to the presence of nutritional resources, Staph and other gram-positive bacteria always contain 100S structures, even when nutrients are present. This means that gram-positive bacteria form their hibernating 100S complexes in species-specific ways. This information could lead to the ability to hamper the formation of Staph’s hibernation phase, allowing for a unique gram-positive-specific antibacterial treatment. The article is published in Nature Communications.

air pollution and kidney health
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine and The Veterans Affairs St. Louis Healthcare Systemfound that outdoor air pollution may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease and contribute to kidney failure. The research team used national VA databases and air quality levels collected by the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA to evaluate the effects of air pollution on kidney health for nearly 2.5 million people over a period of eight and a half years. The study’s senior author, Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, says that while previous data on the relationship between the two is scarce, they were able to find a clear link. The kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood, and microscopic airborne particles like dust, smoke, soot or liquid droplets in the bloodstream can disrupt normal kidney function. The higher the levels of air pollution, the worse it is for the kidneys, although the study did find that even low levels of particulate matter in the air can have an adverse impact. The study is published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.