Yes, you read well.I ask the organizers of the Ultra Festival to leave us even more garbage next year than this year.I know you’re probably surprised now, but paradoxically, we should be happy that there is garbage, in fact, let it be as much as possible. Because if there is garbage – there are tourists as well as consumption.When we talk about spending last year, the state earned 40 million euros directly from the Ultra Europe Festival alone. And if I add up the consumption in Split and free advertising through all media and social networks, the “earnings” are with a lot of zero, as well as the budget (obtained by free PR) for the promotion of Croatian tourism which is unattainable for both CNTB and the Ministry of Tourism. This year, about 150 visitors from 143 countries are expected to arrive, as well as 500 foreign journalists just because of the Ultra Festival, and guests who visit the Ultra Festival spend an average of more than 125 euros a day. Calculate the expected consumption yourself.However, the motive for writing this article is exactly the first day of the festival, which was canceled due to heavy rain and bora in Split, and which once again revealed the real problems of our tourism. Last night, on the internet, ie Facebook, I stumbled upon a post by Davorin Stetner, entrepreneur and president of the Croatian Network of Business Angels, who published a post about the absurdity of our tourism, which I am transmitting in its entirety:Croatian business of politicians! Friday, Split, Ultra was canceled. 150.000 people are flocking around Split looking for where to have fun and spend money. Among others, we do. We sit in a cafe around 12 to inform the waiter already at 1 that it is over and that we can no longer get booze. I can barely get him to let us have another round. The presenter comes, complaining that a special agent came to him at half past one to announce that he was not there during working hours. Are we normal? Was this an emergency? Couldn’t the mayor of Split personally (yes, working hours are under the jurisdiction of Split) order that all Split’s caterers have their working hours extended extraordinarily? At least on Friday if not the whole weekend! How much could Split caterers earn? How much could the Split Treasury earn in addition? Let’s calculate that each of the 1 people would spend a conservative 150.000 Kn – that’s 100 million Kn to Split caterers! We are nothing but incompetent! And then we marvel at Ibiza, Majorca, Miami…- FB Davorin StetnerThe comment is superfluous, isn’t it? This is just another proof that we do not deal with tourism, but it happens to us. Why didn’t we want to take an extra 15 million? The amount would probably be much higher in reality. The guests are there, they have nowhere to spend their money, they beg for content and hide from the rain – and we close the door. Who’s crazy here?It would be best for guests to just send money, and not even comeIf we were serious about tourism, the city services would react immediately and extend the working hours of caterers, as well as other entities. If we were to deal seriously and strategically with tourism, UNESCO would not threaten to remove Plitvice Lakes from the list of protected world heritage, if their better protection is not enabled. If we were serious about tourism, Lana Jurčević would not sing to us that it is full to be cool and to be a seasonal waiter. Imagine the title – tourist seasonal. So who can feed a family and live all year round as a seasonal worker. If we were serious about tourism, the Dalmatian hinterland would live from agriculture as a service to “sea” tourism, as well as from rural tourism. Yes, a lot of questions and absurdities, and all just because we are not strategically involved in the development of tourism. I wonder, do we want tourism at all?But let’s go back to the topic of the Ultra Festival, ie the electronic music festival as a tourist product.Ultra Festival has changed the tourist image of Split from a transit to a real tourist destination. For years, Split has struggled to keep guests for more than a couple of days, and today is an absolutely different story. Ultra festival was certainly a “game changer” that put Split on the European map of youth, attracted a large number of tourists (just remember the panic for accommodation during Ultra), generated high consumption and most importantly, launched the investment cycle of small and medium-sized businesses in tourism. A buzz was created that started the local economy and created the main motive – and that is earnings. It is estimated that in the three years of the Ultra Europe festival, over half a billion Euros of consumption were generated, and Split attracted over 150.000 visitors from all over the world.It was the private sector that saw the opportunity it took advantage of, and in the last few years various new bars, clubs, restaurants, hostels, hotels and a wide range of private accommodation have been opened in Split. The people of Split are arranging their apartments, moving for a couple of months in order to put their real estate into the function of tourism and, of course, earn additional income.Of course, this does not mean that if Split is left without the Ultra Festival, there will be no tourism, in fact there was tourism before, and there will be after, but certainly Ultra was the “game changer” of the tourist boom of Split a few years ago.City of SplitDoes Croatia want an Ultra festival in Split?After three years of holding the Ultra Festival, various critics of the festival are appearing. From too famous garbage, noise, drugged and drunk tourists, etc.… But this is not a story about the advantages or disadvantages of Ultra, nor whether I like or dislike Ultra festival – the story is much broader, and it is about strategic development of the tourist destination. The Ultra Europe festival has made a great story over three years, we know all the benefits and values that Ultra brings us. So, we look at the Ultra festival as a tourism product. Now, if we want to still have that product in Croatia, we have to pay a certain price for it, if not, Ultra is moving on. There is no emotion and sentiment – it is a job that brings big profits. But this whole debate is actually generating one real problem that I’ve pointed out before – we’re not dealing with tourism, it’s happening to us. Because if we are strategically dealing with the development of a tourist destination, then the answer to this question would be simple – yes or no, in accordance with the long-term plan for the development of tourism in the city of Split.Again, there is no emotion here whether or not we like the Ultra festival. If we had a long-term tourism development strategy (I don’t mean on paper), and if Split, like other tourist destinations, really lived for tourism, then in accordance with the strategy it would attract and develop the tourist products it wants, ie plans.Thank you to the organizers of the Ultra Europe festival for being ambassadors of our tourism and I ask them to make us even more garbage next year.PS Personally, I am not a fan of electronic music and accordingly I do not attend the Ultra festival, nor other festivals of that genre. And yes, this is not a paid advertisement, but a constructive and argumentative presentation of one’s own views. Get involved in an argumentative discussion, because only in this way, as individuals and as a society, can we develop and grow positively in order to be better tomorrow. What is your opinion?
Share Pinterest Share on Twitter States with more restrictive alcohol policies and regulations have lower rates of self-reported drunk driving, according to a new study by researchers at the Boston University schools of public health and medicine and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.The research team assigned each state an “alcohol policy score,” based on an aggregate of 29 alcohol policies, such as alcohol taxation and the use of sobriety checkpoints. Each 1 percentage point increase in the score was found to be associated with a 1 percent decrease in the likelihood of impaired driving, according to the study, published in the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research.“A 10 percent increase in strength among state alcohol policy environments in all states would result in about 404,903 fewer impaired drivers monthly,” the researchers reported. LinkedIn A surprising finding of the study was that laws intended to prevent binge drinking — such as high alcohol taxes, safe serving laws, and retail sales restrictions — were equally as protective against drunk driving as were laws specifically targeting impaired driving, such as sobriety checkpoints. Previous research has shown that states with stronger alcohol policy scores had lower rates of binge drinking.“Basically, our study supports two parallel mechanisms involved in addressing drunk driving: Drinking policies reduce the likelihood of getting drunk, and driving policies prevent drunk folks from getting behind the wheel,” said Ziming Xuan, ScD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health.Nationally, the proportion of motor vehicle crashes that have been alcohol related has remained stagnant at around 33 percent throughout the past two decades.“It is clear that in order for states to comprehensively address drunk driving as a public health issue, more effective policies need to be put into place to address excessive alcohol consumption,” Xuan said. He noted that states making more efforts to address binge drinking have seen decreased rates of self-reported drunk driving.Dr. Timothy Naimi, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of medicine and public health at BU and a physician in general internal medicine at Boston Medical Center, said that while states have done a lot to prevent impaired people from driving, “we haven’t done enough to prevent people from getting drunk in the first place. Drunk driving isn’t just a driving problem — it’s a drinking problem.”The research team concluded: “Our findings support the importance of comprehensive alcohol policies as an effective means to reduce alcohol-impaired driving, and further indicate that strengthening drinking-oriented policies (e.g., increasing alcohol taxes) is a critical component of an overall policy approach.” Share on Facebook Email
LinkedIn Email Share Share on Facebook People who fear relationship conflicts are just as happy when they are single or in a relationship, according to new research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.“It’s a well-documented finding that single people tend to be less happy compared to those in a relationship, but that may not be true for everyone. Single people also can have satisfying lives,” said lead researcher Yuthika Girme, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.In a survey of more than 4,000 New Zealand residents, a nationally representative sample, people with high “avoidance social goals” – who try at all costs to avoid relationship disagreements and conflict – were just as happy being single as other people were in relationships. Being single may remove some of the anxiety triggered by relationship conflicts for those individuals, the study noted. Some previous research has shown that being single usually is associated with slightly lower life satisfaction and poorer physical and psychological health. Share on Twitter Pinterest Conversely, the study found that participants with low avoidance goals who aren’t concerned about the ups and downs of a relationship were less happy when they were single. The study participants ranged in age from 18 to 94 years old with long-term relationships lasting almost 22 years on average. One-fifth of the participants were single at the time of the study. The research was published online in Social Psychological and Personality Science.Trying too hard to avoid relationship conflicts actually may create more problems, Girme said. While high avoidance goals may help people be happier when they are single, it can have negative effects in a relationship, contributing to anxiety, loneliness, lower life satisfaction, and an unhealthy focus on negative memories, according to prior research.With a high divorce rate, solo parenting, and many people delaying marriage to pursue career goals, the number of single people is on the rise. Single people now outnumber married adults in the United States, with more than 128 million singles representing 51 percent of the adult population.The study also analyzed the effects of “approach social goals,” where people seek to maintain relationships by enhancing intimacy and fostering growth together as partners. Study participants with high approach goals were generally more satisfied with their lives – but also experienced the most happiness when they were in a relationship compared to those who were single. The researchers found similar results in a separate survey of 187 University of Auckland students.“Having greater approach goals tends to have the best outcomes for people when they are in a relationship, but they also experience the most hurt and pain when they are single,” Girme said.
“Why does Grandpa keep forgetting my name?Why does Mum do silly things like put salt in my hot chocolate?”With 900,000 Australians expected to be living with dementia by 2050, these are the types of questions more and more children will be asking as they come to know someone living with dementia. But are parents, caregivers and educators prepared for these questions? Email Share on Twitter Pinterest Alzheimer’s Australia’s first national survey of dementia awareness last year would suggest that the answer is no, with people with dementia reporting low community awareness and understanding of the condition.So how do we talk to kids about dementia and what do they want to know? I recently ran focus groups and interviewed over 40 children, people with dementia and the loved ones – including children – of people with dementia. This is what they told me.1. Tell the whole truthChildren want adults to be completely open and honest about dementia. In the words of a 10-year-old boy:I wouldn’t say everything will be okay because I hate – I absolutely hate it – you’d rather someone say to you, yeah, your grandma’s never going to get better.We need to tell children that there is presently no cure for dementia and that the health of the person with dementia will get worse. This may be upsetting, but is important to ensure your child’s trust. If you are unsure about how much to say, let your child ask the questions. This will help you gauge your child’s current level of understanding.2. Remind children that their loved one is still a personRemind your child that Grandpa is still Grandpa, that Mum is still Mum. A 12-year-old girl said:It’s important to know that there is actually a person underneath […] they’re not just some random now they’ve got a disease […] they’re still special.Children with a loved one with dementia were also emphatic that knowing it’s not the fault of the person with dementia, and that they cannot help or control what they do, was the one key thing that helped them understand the change in their loved one.3. Prepare children for the unexpectedParents spoke about the unpredictability of dementia and how it was confusing for their child. Children told me that inconsistencies in the behaviour of a person with dementia made them wonder whether the person was making the behaviour up.Dementia is different for everyone. We need to emphasise this and talk about all the behaviour changes that people with dementia can experience. Children described the changes they saw in a loved one, such as in personality or mood, rather than memory loss, as being the hardest to understand. Fear often comes from the unknown; so by keeping your child informed, it may reduce any fear that your child may feel around your loved one.4. Brainstorm activities for children to do with a loved oneFear or awkwardness around people with dementia can also be because of not “knowing what to do”. Children can listen to music, look at old photos, show videos on their iPad, play games, or do craft with their loved one with dementia.This also means the time spent with their loved one is likely to be fun and happy. Parents should emphasise that showing love and kindness is key and, most importantly, that you do not need a good memory to have a good time.5.Look for positivesThe children described some beautiful positives:they’re cool in a way because they are quirky […] I liked that they were different.We need to seek and share positives with children. Emphasise the good times; for example, take photos of your child and your loved one together during happy occasions.These findings are informing the development of a government-funded education program for Australian schoolchildren about dementia.Some children and grandchildren of people living with dementia have already started the conversation about dementia. They have spoken candidly about what it is like having a loved one with dementia, in a bid to help other children better deal with the condition. You can watch their videos here.Jess Baker, Lecturer in Psychiatry, UNSW AustraliaThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Share LinkedIn Share on Facebook
Both a high-intensity functional exercise programme and a non-exercise group activity, conducted among older care facility residents with dementia, reduced high levels of depressive symptoms. However, exercise had no superior effect on depression, according to a dissertation from Umeå University.“Unfortunately, depression is common among older people, especially in people with dementia,” says Gustaf Boström, doctoral student at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation and author of the dissertation. “Treatment with antidepressant drugs is often ineffective in older people and people with dementia. In addition, the risk of drug-related side effects increases with higher age and poor health, which is yet another reason to find other treatments.”In his dissertation, Gustaf Boström investigated whether 45 minutes of high-intensity exercise, every other weekday for four months, had a better effect on depressive symptoms than a seated group activity, performed with the same duration and frequency, in older people with dementia. The exercise programme included balance- and leg strengthening exercises that mimicked everyday movements, e.g. rising up from a chair, step up and down from a step board, or walking on a path with obstacles. Participants in the seated group conversed, sang, or listened to readings, all with varying themes such as season, wild animals or well-known authors. There was no difference in effect between activities, but high levels of depressive symptoms were reduced in both groups. Email “Previous studies have shown that people with dementia at residential care facilities have few social interactions, which can negatively affect a person’s well-being. The positive effects could therefore be the results of social interactions in these kinds of group activities. However, more research is needed to confirm this,” says Gustaf Boström.Gustaf Boström also investigated if there is a connection between impaired balance, general dependency in activities of daily living, and depression in older age. The study involved 392 participants and results suggest that there is a correlation between impaired balance and depressive symptoms. Regarding dependency in activities of daily living, two specific tasks were related to increases in depressive symptoms — dependency in transfer and dressing.“The link between impaired balance, dependency in transfer or dressing, and depression is an important finding and may be the subject of future studies focusing on prevention or treatment of depression among people in older age,” says Gustaf Boström.Finally, Gustaf Boström analysed if people with dementia or people over the age of 85 had an increased risk of death with ongoing treatment with antidepressants. Previous studies have shown an increased risk of death with antidepressant use in older people with depression. For very old people or people with dementia, who are expected to have a higher risk of drug-related side effects, the knowledge of potential mortality risk associated with antidepressant use is limited. The study showed no significantly increased risk in these groups, but did find gender differences. Among very old people, women had a higher mortality risk with antidepressant use in comparison to men. Among people with dementia, antidepressant use was associated with a reduced mortality risk in men. These differences and the potential risk of initial treatment need to be investigated further in future studies. Share on Facebook LinkedIn Share Share on Twitter Pinterest
In the 1990s, a psychologist named Martin Seligman led the positive psychology movement, which placed the study of human happiness squarely at the center of psychology research and theory. It continued a trend that began in the 1960s with humanistic and existential psychology, which emphasized the importance of reaching one’s innate potential and creating meaning in one’s life, respectively.Since then, thousands of studies and hundreds of books have been published with the goal of increasing well-being and helping people lead more satisfying lives.So why aren’t we happier? Why have self-reported measures of happiness stayed stagnant for over 40 years? LinkedIn Share Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Email Pinterest Perversely, such efforts to improve happiness could be a futile attempt to swim against the tide, as we may actually be programmed to be dissatisfied most of the time.You can’t have it allPart of the problem is that happiness isn’t just one thing.Jennifer Hecht is a philosopher who studies the history of happiness. In her book “The Happiness Myth,” Hecht proposes that we all experience different types of happiness, but these aren’t necessarily complementary. Some types of happiness may even conflict with one another. In other words, having too much of one type of happiness may undermine our ability to have enough of the others – so it’s impossible for us to simultaneously have all types of happiness in great quantities.For example, a satisfying life built on a successful career and a good marriage is something that unfolds over a long period of time. It takes a lot of work, and it often requires avoiding hedonistic pleasures like partying or going on spur-of-the-moment trips. It also means you can’t while away too much of your time spending one pleasant lazy day after another in the company of good friends.On the other hand, keeping your nose to the grindstone demands that you cut back on many of life’s pleasures. Relaxing days and friendships may fall by the wayside.As happiness in one area of life increases, it’ll often decline in another.A rosy past, a future brimming with potentialThis dilemma is further confounded by the way our brains process the experience of happiness.By way of illustration, consider the following examples.We’ve all started a sentence with the phrase “Won’t it be great when…” (I go to college, fall in love, have kids, etc.). Similarly, we often hear older people start sentences with this phrase “Wasn’t it great when…”Think about how seldom you hear anyone say, “Isn’t this great, right now?”Surely, our past and future aren’t always better than the present. Yet we continue to think that this is the case.These are the bricks that wall off harsh reality from the part of our mind that thinks about past and future happiness. Entire religions have been constructed from them. Whether we’re talking about our ancestral Garden of Eden (when things were great!) or the promise of unfathomable future happiness in Heaven, Valhalla, Jannah or Vaikuntha, eternal happiness is always the carrot dangling from the end of the divine stick.There’s evidence for why our brains operate this way; most of us possess something called the optimistic bias, which is the tendency to think that our future will be better than our present.To demonstrate this phenomenon to my classes, at the beginning of a new term I’ll tell my students the average grade received by all students in my class over the past three years. I then ask them to anonymously report the grade that they expect to receive. The demonstration works like a charm: Without fail, the expected grades are far higher than one would reasonably expect, given the evidence at hand.And yet, we believe.Cognitive psychologists have also identified something called the Pollyanna Principle. It means that we process, rehearse and remember pleasant information from the past more than unpleasant information. (An exception to this occurs in depressed individuals who often fixate on past failures and disappointments.)For most of us, however, the reason that the good old days seem so good is that we focus on the pleasant stuff and tend to forget the day-to-day unpleasantness.Self-delusion as an evolutionary advantage?These delusions about the past and the future could be an adaptive part of the human psyche, with innocent self-deceptions actually enabling us to keep striving. If our past is great and our future can be even better, then we can work our way out of the unpleasant – or at least, mundane – present.All of this tells us something about the fleeting nature of happiness. Emotion researchers have long known about something called the hedonic treadmill. We work very hard to reach a goal, anticipating the happiness it will bring. Unfortunately, after a brief fix we quickly slide back to our baseline, ordinary way-of-being and start chasing the next thing we believe will almost certainly – and finally – make us happy.My students absolutely hate hearing about this; they get bummed out when I imply that however happy they are right now – it’s probably about how happy they will be 20 years from now. (Next time, perhaps I will reassure them that in the future they’ll remember being very happy in college!)Nevertheless, studies of lottery winners and other individuals at the top of their game – those who seem to have it all – regularly throw cold water on the dream that getting what we really want will change our lives and make us happier. These studies found that positive events like winning a million bucks and unfortunate events such as being paralyzed in an accident do not significantly affect an individual’s long-term level of happiness.Assistant professors who dream of attaining tenure and lawyers who dream of making partner often find themselves wondering why they were in such a hurry. After finally publishing a book, it was depressing for me to realize how quickly my attitude went from “I’m a guy who wrote a book!” to “I’m a guy who’s only written one book.”But this is how it should be, at least from an evolutionary perspective. Dissatisfaction with the present and dreams of the future are what keep us motivated, while warm fuzzy memories of the past reassure us that the feelings we seek can be had. In fact, perpetual bliss would completely undermine our will to accomplish anything at all; among our earliest ancestors, those who were perfectly content may have been left in the dust.This shouldn’t be depressing; quite the contrary. Recognizing that happiness exists – and that it’s a delightful visitor that never overstays its welcome – may help us appreciate it more when it arrives.Furthermore, understanding that it’s impossible to have happiness in all aspects of life can help you enjoy the happiness that has touched you.Recognizing that no one “has it all” can cut down on the one thing psychologists know impedes happiness: envy.By Frank T. McAndrew, Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology, Knox CollegeThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Pinterest Share LinkedIn Email Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Neuroscientists at MIT and Boston University have discovered that a basic mechanism underlying sensory perception is deficient in individuals with dyslexia, according to study published December 21 in Neuron. The brain typically adapts rapidly to sensory input, such as the sound of a person’s voice or images of faces and objects, as a way to make processing more efficient. But for individuals with dyslexia, the researchers found that adaptation was on average about half that of those without the disorder.The difference may explain some of the challenges people with dyslexia experience, such as discerning speech in a noisy environment and learning to read. “Adaptation is something the brain does to help make hard tasks easier,” says first author Tyler Perrachione, assistant professor of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at Boston University, who completed this research as a graduate student and post-doctoral fellow at MIT. “Dyslexics are not getting this advantage.”Perrachione, who has a background in linguistics, wanted to investigate the theory that reading difficulties in dyslexia come from difficulties in associating sounds with written words. Working in the lab of lead investigator John Gabrieli, professor of Brain and Cognitive Science at MIT, he decided to investigate early, fundamental processes in the brain that could make this association difficult. “Part of the mystery of dyslexia is that the brain doesn’t have an area that evolved for reading,” says Gabrieli. They zoomed in on the process of rapid neural adaptation. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the brains of adults with and without dyslexia as they listened to voices. In some cases, the same voice spoke a series of words; in others, different voices spoke each word.Brains typically adapt to a single, consistent voice within a second or two, but they don’t adapt to many different voices. As brains adapt, the fMRI measures of brain activity in relevant brain areas drop.Individuals without dyslexia adapted to a consistent voice and not to multiple voices. But for dyslexics, brain activity remained high in both cases, suggesting that they did not adapt as much. Dyslexics with better reading skills showed greater adaptation levels. “Brains typically tune in and figure out what is consistent about a voice,” says Perrachione. “We saw much less adaptation in those with dyslexia group compared to typical readers.”These results raised questions, since difficulty understanding speech is not seen in dyslexia. “If you were to talk to someone on the street, you’d have no idea if they were dyslexic or not,” says Perrachione.So Perrachione and Gabrieli decided to look at adaption to visual stimuli, too. They recruited another group of individuals with and without dyslexia and examined adaptation to images of written words, faces, and objects, either in a series of different images or repeated images. Again they saw much less adaptation in participants with dyslexia.The reduced adaptation was observed in the regions of the brain responsible for processing the stimuli in question. “This suggests that adaptation deficits in dyslexia are general, across the whole brain,” says Perrachione.They repeated this experiment with yet another group of individuals, this time focusing on children aged 6 to 9 with and without dyslexia. The results were the same. Overall, the study involved over 150 individuals, and dyslexics on average had adaptation levels about half those of typical readers. “I am surprised by the magnitude of the difference,” says Perrachione. “In people without dyslexia, we always see adaptation, but in the dyslexics, the lack of adaptation was often really pronounced.”Perrachione and Gabrieli speculate that dyslexics don’t struggle with processing of heard speech or seen objects and faces because human brains evolved to process these inputs. The systems that perform this processing are likely very robust. “The brain devotes a lot of infrastructure to solving these problems, and has multiple routes,” says Perrachione. “Adaptation is just one of the things that helps take the load off.”But reading is a different story. It is a learned skill that requires multiple regions of the brain to work together, potentially with the harmony and complexity of a Rube Goldberg machine, says Perrachione. As rapid neural adaptation deficits simultaneously affect auditory and visual processing during reading, they may compound to make reading very difficult. “We have to see letters, map them onto words, map those to sounds, and connect them to semantics,” says Perrachione. “There are lots of places for things to go wrong.”It isn’t known yet exactly where things do go wrong as a result of deficits in rapid neural adaptation. “This study presents strong evidence for a foundational brain difference in dyslexia, but it isn’t clear how to bridge that to the specific properties of reading,” says Gabrieli. “It opens up as many questions as it answers.”
Email Pinterest Share LinkedIn Share on Twitter New research has found evidence to support the so-called Napoleon complex, the popular belief that short men compensate for their height disadvantage by displaying dominant behavior.In the study, which was published in the journal Psychological Science, 206 male participants competed in two types of economic games. In the dictator game, one player had unconditional power over the division of a small sum of money. In the ultimatum game, on the other hand, the player’s division of the money could be rejected and incite retaliation.In each session, two male participants were briefly introduced as each other’s opponent before being led off to separate cubicles. The researchers found that shorter men kept more resources for themselves in the dictator game and but they only kept more resources in the ultimatum game if their opponent was not taller than average. The participants were also given the opportunity to assign their opponent a certain amount of hot sauce to drink, a measure of physically aggressive behavior. But height had no effect, suggesting that shorter men only engage in indirect forms of aggression against taller opponents. “In summary, our results are among the first to show that height differences matter in intrasexual competitions between men. Consistent with predictions from sexual selection theory, and in line with the Napoleon complex, our results showed that short men kept more resources in competitive interactions, using height cues to assess the appropriateness of different behavioral tactics to take these resources from their male rivals,” the researchers concluded.The study, “The Napoleon Complex: When Shorter Men Take More“, was authored by Jill E. P. Knapen, Nancy M. Blaker, and Mark Van Vugt. Share on Facebook
LinkedIn Email Pinterest “Initially my PhD and then subsequent research looked at the associations of psychopathy with different forms of empathy, direct aggression and antisocial behaviour. Examining these associations in the context of the dark triad and more indirect (manipulative) forms of aggression is simply an extension to this research.”The researchers used a dark triad personality survey and a multifaceted measure of empathy to assess 301 participants. Heym and her colleagues also assessed how often the participants engaged in interpersonal acts of indirect aggression, such as trying to embarrass someone, excluding someone from activities, or using emotional blackmail to coerce someone.The three dark triad traits each had their own pattern of empathic responses. The three traits also had different relationships with aggression.Those with high in psychopathy tended to score low on all five facets of empathy and psychopathy was also associated with all forms of indirect aggression.But participants with high Machiavellianism scores only showed reduced empathy in two areas. They were less likely to put themselves in another person’s position by imagining what that person was feeling and also tended to be less responsive to emotional cues in immersive settings.In other words, those high in Machiavellianism tended to disagree with statements such as “I always try to consider the other fellow’s feelings before I do something” and “I often get deeply involved with the feelings of a character in a ﬁlm, play, or novel.”Machiavellianism was also associated with guilt induction, but not any other form of indirect aggression.Participants with high narcissism scores were also less responsive to emotional cues in immersive settings, but actually scored higher in one area of empathy; they were more likely to say they could see things from someone else’s perspective. Narcissism was unrelated to indirect aggression.“Different maladaptive or dark traits are linked to different forms of aggression, and whilst narcissism has been traditionally seen as a dark trait and linked to aggression – this may be simply due to its links (or overlap) with the other two, much darker traits – psychopathy and Machiavellianism,” Heym told PsyPost.“Our research suggests that narcissism is not as badly affected as these – in terms of its preserved empathic capacities and lack of association with indirect manipulative forms of aggression. Thus, just because someone is too self-involved and narcissistic, it doesn’t make them necessarily aggressive or dangerous.”“It’s is therefore questionable whether we should lump these three traits together and see them as equally problematic – personally, I am a splitter and prefer a more fine-tuned approach – that is to look at them individually to better understand their unique impact on behaviour,” Heym explained.“In a similar way, we need to also differentiate amongst different forms of empathic deficits (or capacities) in order to understand more precisely which aspects of functioning are affected, and thus, underpin specific forms of aggressive behaviour.”The study — like all research — includes some caveats.“Firstly, this study measured dark traits in the general population – that is, we did not measure personality disorders at the extreme ends of personality dysfunction. The findings therefore only pertain to individuals from the general population with elevated levels of certain constellations of dark traits. Though they partly mirror what we also see and expect at the extreme ends (e.g., in psychopaths), they need replicating in forensic/clinical populations,” Heym said.“Secondly, indirect aggression was measured using self-reports, which have their own inherent limitations. Future research could include other-reports and more importantly, experimental paradigms to measure aggressive behaviour more directly.”“Thirdly, whilst narcissistic traits were not uniquely (only by association) related to the indirect types of aggression studied (malicious humour, guild induction and social exclusion), it doesn’t mean that they are not aggressive per se. Narcissism, particularly the vulnerable type, may be more likely to behave aggressively in response to ego threat (such as personal criticism) – though as this is a reactive form of aggression, self-control might be a moderating factor here,” Heym explained.The findings suggest that some concerns about narcissism could be overblown.“From a societal viewpoint, there is concern that we live in a more ego-centred, attention seeking and self-obsessed narcissistic society where youth (and old) post never-ending streams of selfies on never-ending streams of social media. Our research is interesting in terms of suggesting that having elevated narcissistic traits is less problematic in the absence of the other dark traits,” Heym told PsyPost.“So one contention is that there is an overlap with certain psychological constructs such as high levels of self-esteem, extraversion and lower levels of neuroticism or anxiety, which might reduce risk for internalising psychopathology (depression, anxiety disorders, etc) in the long term.“On the other hand, the sought perfectionism in appearance might increase risk for vulnerable narcissism and anxiety. However, these notions need to be further studied to better understand the impact of such potential societal transitions towards more online/social media presence,” Heym added.“Currently, I am taking the next step, looking at the Dark Tetrad – that includes sadism – and sexual aggression and violence. Testing different theoretical and aetiological models in order to understand the underpinning of deviant behaviour is important in order to inform intervention strategies.”The study, “Empathy at the Heart of Darkness: Empathy Deficits That Bind the Dark Triad and Those That Mediate Indirect Relational Aggression“, was authored by Nadja Heym, Jennifer Firth, Fraenze Kibowski, Alexander Sumich, Vincent Egan and Claire A. J. Bloxsom. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter New psychology research suggests that the so-called “dark triad” of psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism are three independent personality traits. The findings indicate the dark triad traits are not just different manifestations of the same underlying lack of empathy.The study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.“Aggressive and violent behaviour has serious impact on individuals and society as a whole. I want to understand what drives or underpins aggressive or antisocial tendencies in individuals with maladaptive personality traits,” said Nadja Heym, a senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University and corresponding author of the study. Share
“Mindfulness meditation provides a similar context and thereby may create an opportunity to learn that certain thoughts and sensations are not dangerous,” Sevinc said.The researchers used MRI brain scans and a fear-extinction task to examine changes in neural networks associated with attention and memory following mindfulness meditation training.In the study, 42 participants completed an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program in which they learned formal meditation and yoga practices. Another 25 participants, who served as a control group, completed an 8-week stress management education program in which they were taught about the impact of stress and performed light aerobic exercise.The researchers found that changes in the hippocampus after mindfulness training were associated with an enhanced ability to inhibit fearful associations that had been learned during the fear-extinction task.“Mindfulness training may improve emotion regulation though changing neurobiological responses associated with our ability to remember that a stimulus is no longer threatening,” Sevinc told PsyPost.“Fear and anxiety tend to have a habitual component to them — if something provoked fear in the past and we continue to habitually respond with fear or avoid those contexts, even if there is no actual threat, or a very minor one. By mindfully experiencing a threatening stimulus, in this case a mild shock, we come to realize that perhaps our reactions are overblown.”“The data suggest that mindfulness is also enhancing our ability to remember this new, less fearful reaction to these stimuli, and break the anxiety habit,” Sevinc explained.But the study — like all research — includes some limitations.“One of the major caveats in the study that the number of people in the stress management education was not equal to the mindfulness training group. This impacts the generalizability of the findings and our ability to conclude that the results are uniquely attributable to the mindfulness training,” Sevinc said.“Also, all of the participants were healthy individuals without anxiety. Future studies need to be done with clinical samples and using threatening stimuli relevant to their anxiety (e.g. spiders, cues that trigger panic or traumatic memories such as in PTSD) to determine if similar changes in brain activation occur in these conditions.”“My PhD dissertation focused on moral cognition, particularly on how humans process morally relevant information,” Sevinc added.My interest in mindfulness research stems from the potential of mindful awareness in improving our ability to notice morally relevant stimuli. It may be more likely for a mindful person to notice these stimuli and potentially take action. I’m hoping to explore this relationship in the future.The study, “Strengthened Hippocampal Circuits Underlie Enhanced Retrieval of Extinguished Fear Memories Following Mindfulness Training“, was authored by Gunes Sevinc, Britta K. Hölzel, Jonathan Greenberg, Tim Gard, Vincent Brunsch, Javaria A. Hashmi,Mark Vangel, Scott P. Orr,Mohammed R. Milad, and Sara W. Lazar. Share on Twitter LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share Email Mindfulness meditation programs have shown promise for the treatment of anxiety. Now, new research may help explain why. According to a study published in Biological Psychiatry, mindfulness meditation appears to help extinguish fearful associations.“Mindfulness interventions have been shown to reduce stress and improve emotion regulation skills in numerous studies, however the neural mechanisms are still largely unknown,” said study author Gunes Sevinc, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.“One of the proposed mechanisms is based on the idea that mindfulness meditation provides a context similar to exposure therapy. During exposure therapy, individuals are exposed to otherwise avoided stimuli in a safe environment and gradually learn that these stimuli are no longer threatening.” Pinterest
Jan 25, 2011 Ivory Coast reports yellow fever outbreakTwelve cases of yellow fever have been confirmed in the Ivory Coast, making it the second such outbreak in an African country in recent months. In a statement today the World Health Organization (WHO) said the country notified the agency of the cases on Jan 3. Infections have been detected in central and northern regions. A mid-January field investigation by Ivory Coast’s health ministry, with assistance from the WHO, identified 64 suspected cases, along with 25 deaths. The Ivory Coast launched an emergency vaccination campaign on Jan 22 targeting 840,000 people ages 9 months and older in four districts. The WHO said the four districts are among 61 that were singled out to receive vaccine in a disease-prevention campaign last year, which could not be held due to political problems. Uganda reported a yellow fever outbreak in October, its first in nearly 40 years. A vaccine campaign targeting the northern part of the country started on Jan 22.Jan 25 WHO statement GenVec to develop dengue vaccine with Navy researchersGenVec, Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Gaithersburg, Md., announced today that it has signed a cooperative agreement with the US Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) to develop a vaccine against dengue fever. In a separate contract, GenVec will receive $530,000 in development funding from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. The vaccine uses GenVec’s adenovector technology and its proprietary cell line, the company said in a press release. The NMRC will handle preclinical studies, including trials on nonhuman primates.Jan 25 GenVec press release
Parts of Australia, Bolivia report increased flu activityHealth officials in Australia and Bolivia, two Southern Hemisphere countries just entering their winter flu season, are reporting an increase in flu detections, according to news and surveillance reports. Australia’s health ministry said for the week ending May 13 that overall flu activity is low, though jurisdictions are reporting higher-than-normal numbers of lab-confirmed flu cases for this time of year, especially in the Northern Territory and Queensland. The Australian Medical Association’s Queensland office said 1,600 flu infections have been reported so far this year, with 460 reported over the last 5 weeks, the Brisbane Times reported today. The group’s president, Dr Gino Pecoraro, said the area is experiencing an unusually early start to the flu season, which he attributed to rainy weather that has kept people indoors where the virus can more easily spread.Australian flu surveillance updateJun 1 Brisbane Times storyElsewhere, Bolivia’s health ministry reported an increase in severe respiratory infections along with seven new 2009 H1N1 infections, Xinhua, China’s state news agency, reported yesterday. The country’s health minister, Nila Heredia, said respiratory infections have increased along with cold weather affecting La Paz, Oruro, Potosi, and Cochabamba provinces. She ordered Bolivia’s health centers to take preventive measures to avoid an increase in 2009 H1N1 infections. The Southern Hemisphere’s flu season typically runs from May through October.Meta-analysis finds inactivated seasonal flu vaccines equal, safeA large literature review of all four inactivated seasonal flu vaccine formulations in people who had been primed or vaccinated before suggested that all were safe, well tolerated, and equally effective. The Dutch research group, headed by virologist Dr Albert Osterhaus from Erasmus Medical Center, reported its findings in Vaccine. The researchers included 33 studies published between 1978 and 2009 that compared at least two of the vaccine formulations. The studies included 9,121 vaccinees who received the split-virus vaccine or the subunit plain-aqueous, virosomal, or MF59-adjuvanted version. The group’s analysis confirmed previously reported similar immunogenicity of the two most frequently used inactivated seasonal flu vaccines, the split and aqueous formulations. “The four inactivated vaccine formulations induce more or less similar homologous humoral immunity in primed populations and offer a high chance of clinical protection,” they wrote, adding that although the adjuvanted formulation may provide elevated immunogenicity, it’s unclear if it provides any clinical benefit. They didn’t note any safety concerns for any of the vaccines, but the adjuvanted vaccine was linked to increased levels of injection-site reactions.May 30 Vaccine abstract Jun 1, 2011
Influenza infection can boost the likelihood of bacterial pneumonia 100-fold, according to a new study that teased out the interaction between the two diseases.Increases in pneumonia cases during flu epidemics have been documented over the last two centuries, but different types of studies have yielded inconsistent, puzzling findings about the association between the two illnesses.Pathology studies in individual patients have clearly found that secondary bacterial infections are a factor in deadly and severe influenza infections. However, when scientists look at the relationship between the two diseases at the population level, they find no interaction or only a modest link.A research team from the University of Michigan and their colleagues in Connecticut and Maryland used a computerized model of pneumonia transmission that tested different hypotheses. As they explain today in Science Translational Medicine, they used real flu and pneumonia data in their testing—weekly hospitalizations in Illinois from 1989 to 2009.They used the model to rank the likelihood of three hypothesesThat people with pneumonia contribute more to transmission if they recently had fluThat people with flu are more susceptible to pneumococcal pneumoniaThat flu boosts only the severity of subsequent pneumonia infections.Results showed no evidence to support the transmission or severity hypotheses. However, the team found strong support for the susceptibility hypothesis—that the heightened risk for pneumonia lasted a week after flu infection.Pejman Rohani, PhD, an epidemiologist and population ecologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and senior author of the study, said in a University of Michigan press release that findings about the nature of the interaction between flu and pneumococcal pneumonia were unequivocal. “Simply put, our analyses identified a short-lived but significant—about 100-fold—increase in the risk of pneumococcal pneumonia following influenza infection.”When the group gauged the fraction of pneumonia cases that could be linked to flu, they found that at the peak of the season, flu infections were responsible for as many as 40% of pneumococcal pneumonia cases. However, on a yearly basis, the magnitude was more subtle, at about 2% to 10% of cases. The team said the lower yearly fraction they found might explain why earlier studies did not detect a connection.Rohani said in the press release that according to the study the best way to reduce levels of bacterial pneumonia is to urge the public to get both pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations.In a commentary on the study published in the same issue, Joanne Lello, PhD, a co-infection biology expert at the Cardiff School of Biosciences in Wales, wrote that the researchers have used a well-known model in a new way to address questions about the co-infection dynamics at different levels.She noted that the team focused on one side of the flu-pneumococcus relationship, but there is evidence from mouse models that flu viral titers are also affected by Streptococcus pneumoniae infection. The current approach could be used to probe the role of pneumococcus infection on flu epidemiology and that variations of the modeling approach could be used to explore other types of co-infections.The links between parasite infections, infection risks, and host pathology in co-infections are still poorly understood, and the researchers add a new tool for assessment, she wrote, adding that the next step will be to model unidirectional and multidirectional interactions. “Because knowing which parasites drive infection dynamics in a system will help determine how best to target limited resources for efficacious control strategies.”Shrestha S, Foxman B, Weinberger DM, et al. Identifying the interaction between influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia using incidence data. Sci Transl Med 2013 Jun 26;5(191) [Abstract]Lello J. Coinfection: doing the math. (Editorial) Sci Transl Med 2013 Jun 26;5(191) [Extract]See also:Jun 26 University of Michigan press release
Final phase 3 trial results of a malaria vaccine designed to knock down the high burden of disease in African children showed that it can prevent a substantial number of infections, but the length of protection wasn’t as long as hoped.Greater benefits were seen in young children 5 to 17 months old than in infants, and a booster dose of the RTS,S vaccine given 18 months later prolonged protection in both groups. As the next step, drug regulators and global health officials will now weigh if the vaccine—the world’s first for malaria—should play a role in battling the disease.An international team called the RTS,S Clinical Trial Partnership published its findings yesterday in The Lancet.Years of clinical trialsThe vaccine has been in clinical trials since 1992, and the phase 3 study has involved more than 15,000 children at 11 centers in 7 African countries. The RTS, S malaria candidate vaccine contains an AS01 adjuvant and is given in three doses.Initial phase 3 results in 2011 had suggested that at the 1-year mark, the vaccine halved cases in children ages 5 to 17 months, and the early findings in babies ages 6 to 12 weeks found a more modest benefit for infants.The studies have been funded by the vaccine’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) Malaria Vaccine Initiative.A 2014 study assessing the vaccine’s performance after 18 months showed a vaccine efficacy of about 46% in the older age-group and 27% in infants.Booster dose helpedThe new study was designed to show how the vaccine performed over the next 20 to 30 months and whether a fourth booster dose had an impact on protection. Participants received three doses of RTS,S with or without a booster dose, with older children in the control group receiving the rabies vaccine and younger controls getting a meningococcal vaccine.Researchers found that at the 4-year mark for children in the older age-group who got three doses of vaccine plus a booster, the vaccine reduced clinical malaria infections by 36%, down from the 50% efficacy seen the first year.When the team looked at the vaccine’s impact against severe malaria, they found no significant efficacy among those who didn’t receive a booster dose. For youngsters who got the booster dose, efficacy against the severe form of the disease was 32%, with 35% efficacy against malaria-linked hospitalization.For the infant group, the ones who received the three doses, plus the booster dose, showed a 26% reduced risk of malaria, but the research team found no significant protection against severe disease.Meningitis infections were more frequent in children who received the malaria vaccine, and kids immunized with RTS,S had more adverse reactions. Convulsions after vaccination, though rare, occurred more often in malaria vaccine recipients than in controls.Brian Greenwood, MD, a study author and professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in a Lancet press release that despite the efficacy drop-off, the vaccine is still poised to prevent millions of malaria infections in kids in high burden countries.He added that the European Medicines Agency will now assess the vaccine based on the final data, and if the opinion of its experts is favorable, the World Health Organization (WHO) could recommend the vaccine as early as October.Duration of protection spotlightedIn a commentary in the same Lancet issue, two vaccine experts from the WHO, Vasee Moorthy, MD, PhD, and Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, MD, MPH, congratulated the authors on the quality of the study and said industry involvement in the vaccine’s development has been crucial.They said two WHO advisory groups will consider whether to recommend that the vaccine be added to the vaccine schedule for children in Africa. The committees include the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) and the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee.One key question is likely to be duration of protection, the two wrote. “Unlike many illnesses of infancy, the risk of death from malaria continues through early childhood, even in the face of repeated infection, although the mortality rate drops from the age of 2 years in high-transmission settings.”They noted that, if the vaccine is recommended, the donor community would need to coordinate funding for the vaccine carefully to avoid directing resources away from other measures such as treatments, diagnostic tests, and prevention tools.See also:Apr 23 Lancet studyApr 23 Lancet press releaseApr 23 Lancet commentary
A New Jersey man who was hospitalized after returning from West Africa died last night from a Lassa virus infection, the second case to be detected in the United States since 2014, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement.The CDC said though Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic disease similar to Ebola and common in West Africa, it is less likely to be fatal and spread from person to person. It can cause severe disease, however, as it did in the New Jersey man, and efforts are under way to identify the man’s contacts.Those who were in close contact will undergo 21-day symptom monitoring.Man didn’t have fever during travelOn May 17 the man traveled from Liberia to Morocco to JFK International Airport in New York City. The man didn’t have a fever when he left Liberia, didn’t have symptoms on the plane, and when his temperature was taken upon his arrival in the United States, he didn’t have a fever.The following day he went to a New Jersey hospital with a sore throat, fever, and fatigue. According to the hospital, he was asked about his travel history and did not indicate travel to West Africa.He was sent home the same day, but returned on May 21 when his symptoms worsened. The hospital transferred him to a treatment center that is prepared to treat viral hemorrhagic fevers, where he was in appropriate isolation and died. Samples submitted the CDC were positive for Lassa fever, but negative for Ebola and other viral hemorrhagic fever organisms.According to the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), the 55-year-old man was placed in isolation when he was admitted to the hospital on May 21 with a fever and a sore throat. His condition continued to decline during his hospital stay.The NJDOH said it is working with hospital officials to identify all close contacts, including health workers, family members, and others, out of an abundance of caution.The man’s illness is the sixth known Lassa fever case, not including convalescent ones, in a traveler to the United States reported since 1969. The most recent illness was detected in a Minnesota man who had returned from West Africa in April 2014.Threat to public thought to be lowWest Africa has about 100,000 to 300,000 cases of Lassa fever each year, and about 5,000 of the infections are fatal. The Lassa virus is carried by rodents and spreads to humans through contact with rodent urine and droppings.In humans, the disease can be transmitted through direct contact with a sick patient’s blood or body fluids or mucous membranes, or through sexual contact.The disease is thought to peak in West Africa in the dry season months of late winter.Christina Tan, MD, MPH, New Jersey’s state epidemiologist, said in the NJDOH statement, “Given what we know about how Lassa virus spreads to people, we think the risk to the public is extremely low.”See also:May 25 CDC statementMay 25 NJDOH statementApr 4, 2014, CIDRAP News story “Minnesota Lassa fever case first in US since 2010”
Staph decolonization before joint replacement could cut costs, infectionsA cost-effectiveness analysis indicates a Staphylococcus aureus decolonization protocol for patients undergoing hip and knee replacement could result in cost savings and fewer surgical-site infections (SSIs), Canadian researchers reported yesterday in Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control.For the study, researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta used decision analytic models and a probabilistic sensitivity analysis (PSA) to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of an S aureus decolonization protocol previously studied in US patients undergoing hip and knee arthroplasty. In a 2012 trial, the protocol, in which patients at 16 US hospitals received chlorhexidine gluconate baths and twice-daily 2% intranasal mupirocin 5 days before surgery, was found to cut the rate of complex S aureus SSIs in half.Using data from a hypothetical cohort of nearly 25,000 adult patients who underwent hip and knee replacement in Alberta from April 2012 through March 2015, the analysis found that the average cost for those receiving the decolonization protocol was $20,525, compared with $20,678 for those who received standard care, a cost saving of $153 per person, which would translate into savings of $1.26 million per year. The risk of developing a complex S aureus SSI was reduced from 0.4% to 0.2%. The PSA determined the decolonization protocol would be more effective and less expensive 84% of the time.”Given our findings, we believe health systems should implement a decolonization protocol prior to hip and knee arthroplasty and continue surveillance of complex SSIs to determine if there is a reduction as anticipated,” the authors of the study write.Jul 11 Antimicrob Resist Infect Control study Delayed valley fever diagnosis linked to excess costs, antibioticsA review of patients with coccidioidomycocis (valley fever) has found that nearly 90% had a delay in diagnosis, and such delays were associated with excess costs and extensive antibacterial use, University of Arizona researchers reported yesterday in Emerging Infectious Diseases.The retrospective review looked at the medical charts of 815 patients in Tucson, a coccidioidomycosis-endemic area, who sought care from January 2015 through September 2017. After excluding patients who had prior coccidiodomycosis, mistaken coding, and unconfirmed diagnoses, the researchers identified 276 patients with coccidioidomycosis. Of those, 30 (11%) received a diagnosis at presentation and 246 (89%) had a delay of more than a day, with 43% having a delay of more than a month.Delayed diagnosis was associated with $589,053 in coccidioidomycosis-related costs, and 1,103 antibacterial medication orders submitted before coccidioidomycosis diagnosis. Vancomycin and daptomycin constituted 22% of antibacterial drugs ordered.The authors of the study say the problem is that without specific laboratory confirmation, coccidioidomycosis, which typically manifests as a respiratory syndrome, cannot be distinguished from community-acquired pneumonia. Yet the necessary tests are conducted in less than 13% of patients with community-acquired pneumonia in urban Arizona ambulatory departments, and in only 2.8% of emergency-department patients.”Our results suggest earlier diagnosis will lower costs and provide secondary benefits including patient reassurance, decreased antibacterial drug use, and improved antibiotic stewardship,” they write. “This study reinforces the ongoing challenge to increase coccidioidomycosis awareness for healthcare providers and the urgent need to improve the ease, rapidity, and reliability of coccidioidomycosis testing.”Jul 11 Emerg Infect Dis dispatch French scientists identify promising novel antibiotic classA team of French scientists has developed a novel class of antibiotics based on a natural bacterial toxin, according to a paper this week in PLOS Biology.The team of scientists from Université de Rennes and Inserme, a French public research organization, designed and synthesized the compounds, called peptidomimetics, by imitating a section of a toxin produced by S aureus to kill other bacteria (PepA). In tests against a broad range of gram-positive and gram-negative pathogens, two of four peptidomimetics developed by the team (Pep16 and Pep19) demonstrated effectiveness against methicillin-resistant S aureus (MRSA) in mild and severe sepsis mouse models, and against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and MRSA in a mouse skin infection model.Testing of the compounds on human erythrocytes and kidney cells, zebrafish embryos, and mice showed no toxicity. In addition, after 2 weeks of serial passage performed against multidrug-resistant clinical isolates in vitro, and 4 or 6 days exposure in mice infected with MRSA, the compounds showed no development of resistance.Analysis of the mechanism of action indicates the compounds are able to permeate the cell membranes of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, leading to bacterial death.The scientists conclude, “We have identified potential therapeutic agents that can provide alternative treatments against antimicrobial resistance. Because the compounds are potential leads for therapeutic development, the next step is to start phase I clinical trials.”Jul 9 PLOS Biol study
Saudi Arabia reports 9th MERS case of NovemberIn the latest in a small but steady stream of cases, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) today reported one more MERS-CoV infection, which involves a 75-year-old man from Jeddah.The man’s exposure to the virus is listed as primary, meaning he probably didn’t contract MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) from another patient. His contact with camels isn’t known. His illness marks the ninth case this month.Nov 13 MOH reportMeanwhile, the World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean regional office (WHO EMRO) today posted an overview of 14 MERS-CoV cases reported in October, 3 of them fatal. Thirteen were from Saudi Arabia and one from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The 14 cases for October were up sharply from 4 cases reported in September.One of the cases involved a healthcare worker who was infected while caring for a patient, but there were no other clusters. Two patients had symptom onsets in September, and the three people who died were in the 70- to 79-year-old age-group.As of the end of October, the WHO since 2012 has received reports of 2,482 lab-confirmed MERS-CoV cases, at least 854 of them fatal. The vast majority have been in Saudi Arabia.Nov 13 WHO EMRO situation update Dengue cases in Americas region hit record highAs of the middle of October, the WHO Americas region has experienced the most dengue cases in its history, topping the number reported in the 2015 epidemic year by 13%, the WHO’s Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a Nov 11 update.So far this year, more than 2.7 million cases (44.5% of them lab confirmed) have been reported, along with 1,206 deaths. The proportion of severe dengue infections (0.8%) has exceeded that seen in the previous 4 years.All four dengue serotypes are present in the region, and cocirculation of all four have been detected this year in Brazil, Guatemala, and Mexico. A combination of three serotypes are circulating in seven nations. Of five countries with the highest incidence, four are in Central America: Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Brazil has the fifth highest incidence.Nov 11 PAHO dengue update Department of Defense funds new Marburg virus vaccine candidateIAIV, the non-profit research organization, announced yesterday it received a $35.7 million award from the US Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency to develop a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) vector Marburg vaccine candidate.IAIV has previously used VSV technology to develop HIV and Lassa fever vaccine candidates, both in preclinical development. The Marburg vaccine candidate has shown strong protection from the virus in non-human primate studies.”IAVI looks forward to applying more than a decade of our experience in viral vector vaccines to hasten the development of this viral hemorrhagic fever vaccine candidate,” said Mark Feinberg, MD, PhD, president and CEO of IAVI.The vaccine is based on the same VSV platform as Merck’s Ebola Zaire virus vaccine, which yesterday was given prequalification for licensing by the WHO. Marburg virus, like Ebola, is often deadly and could be used as a bioweapon. Both Marburg and Ebola are filoviruses. Nov 12 IAIV press release
Ask an infectious diseases expert about the upcoming flu season, and how it may affect, or be affected, by COVID-19, and the word you’re likely to hear is “uncertain.”For starters, flu is always unpredictable, they’ll say. Flu activity and severity largely depend on the strains of virus circulating, and how well the vaccine strains, which are selected in advance of each flu season, match up with the circulating strains.”Sometimes we do well, and sometimes we don’t do so well,” Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said recently during an Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) briefing.The virulence of the circulating strains, transmission dynamics, pre-existing population immunity, and the age-groups most prone to infection also play a role in how many people are sickened by the flu each year. Since 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the flu has resulted in 9 million to 45 million illnesses a year, with roughly 39 million sick with flu last year.But in this pandemic year, the coronavirus pandemic adds a whole new layer of unpredictability.Two scenarios emerging”The big concern this year, of course, is that we are going to see what could be a perfect storm of accelerated COVID-19 activity as people gather more inside, in particular, as they become continually fatigued with the mask wearing, the social distancing, and the hand hygiene, and as they are exposed to seasonal influenza,” Marrazzo said.That “perfect storm” could lead to the nation’s hospitals being stretched to capacity, as both flu patients and those infected by SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) seek care. It’s a scenario that Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy Director Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, and Ed Belongia, MD, director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, wrote about earlier this year in an editorial for Science.”Much of the population remains susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, and the stress on hospitals will be greatest if the COVID-19 and influenza epidemics overlap and peak around the same time,” they wrote.But there’s also a scenario in which the efforts being taken to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus—such as physical distancing, masking, and better hand hygiene—help keep the flu at bay.”There’s a lot of variables, and it could go many ways,” Pritish Tosh, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told CIDRAP News.That second scenario could explain the low numbers of flu cases reported in countries in the Southern Hemisphere, where flu season begins in April and wraps up in September.According to the Australian government’s latest influenza surveillance report, influenza and influenza-like-activity (ILI) are lower than average across all systems, and given the low numbers of lab-confirmed cases, there has been “minimal impact on society” due to flu. Health officials in South Africa say the country basically skipped its flu season. Countries in South America, including Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, have all reported lower numbers of flu cases than normal.”One can only imagine that a fair amount of that reduction has to do with what we’re doing to mitigate transmission risk with COVID-19,” Leonard Mermel, DO, ScM, a professor of medicine at Brown University, said during the IDSA briefing. “If you’re masking, you’re staying at home, you’re avoiding large crowds, you’re not going to work when you’re sick, some of the things that are happening with COVID-19 are going to tamp down transmission risk from influenza.”But Mermel said we can’t “pin all our hopes” on that because Americans may not be as vigilant about physical distancing and masking as people in those countries have been, a point echoed by Tosh.”There’s variable community acceptance of these practices, between different countries and within this country,” Tosh said.Tosh pointed out that flu numbers in the United States, especially hospitalizations, drastically declined at the tail end of the 2019-20 flu season, just as coronavirus cases were substantially increasing. But that may have been because of people were avoiding going to emergency department and urgent care clinics, and not because of an actual decline in infections.Testing concernsIf flu activity in the country is at typical levels this season, or higher, and it’s accompanied by a surge in COVID-19 cases, one concern is that testing capacity and supplies (such as swabs and reagents), which have already been strained by the pandemic, could be overwhelmed.As Mermel noted, the symptoms of flu and COVID-19—with the exception of anosmia (loss or decrease of the sense of smell)—are very similar, which means clinicians may have to test for both flu and SARS-CoV-2.When flu is very widespread during a typical flu season, Tosh explained, flu testing is mainly performed on people who are severely ill or require hospitalization. But this season, both for treatment and epidemiologic reasons, clinicians and public health officials will need to know who was the flu and who has a coronavirus infection.”I think we’re going to be needing to test somebody for both COVID and influenza, if they are presenting to healthcare with influenza-like-illness, which of course complicates things in that there’s already supply-chain issues related to testing for COVID,” Tosh said. “I think this could exacerbate an already stressed supply chain for tests both for influenza and for COVID.””My concern is that the system could become rapidly overwhelmed, and individual clinicians are going to be faced with a lot of challenges trying to figure out how to get both of those tests done in a timely fashion,” Marrazzo said.Mermel said that his hospital is currently looking at platforms that can perform rapid tests for both flu and COVID-19.”But if we run out of those tests…that’s going to be problematic,” he said. “We certainly need to have the stockpile of reagents and kits so people on the frontlines can differentiate those two viruses, treat those that need to be treated for influenza, and also alert our public health officials if it’s COVID-19, in terms of quarantine and contact tracing.Flu vaccination more important than everIn preparation for the oncoming flu season, flu vaccine manufacturers have increased production by 15%, with nearly 200 million doses for the United States. Pharmacies and doctors’ offices are putting systems in place for physical distancing. Regardless of how well this year’s flu shot matches up with the circulating strains, public health officials and infectious disease experts say flu vaccination this year is going to be extremely important.”The flu vaccine does work: it prevents hospitalizations, it prevents mortality, it prevents symptomatic illness,” Marrazzo said. “If there’s ever a year that you need to get your flu vaccine, get your kids vaccinated, this is the year, because you really need every single protection you can get.””It’s important to get it [the flu vaccine] every year, but the importance of getting it this year can’t be stressed [enough],” said Tosh.”Now is the time to rise to the fore, get the vaccine, and reduce the risk of having these two life-threatening viruses infect you at the same time or infect your loved ones,” Mermel said.
Today the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved remdesivir for hospitalized patients, as the global COVID-19 total surged past the 41 million mark, driven by rising US cases that are pushing into rural areas and daily record-setting numbers in several European countries.Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) today reported the biggest global 1-day rise in cases, with 423,819 added to its total, based on information reflected on its dashboard.FDA approves remdesivirGilead Sciences today announced that the FDA has approved the antiviral drug remdesivir for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients—adults and children ages 12 and up who weigh at least 108 pounds—marking the first approved treatment for the disease.The company said the approval is based on results from three randomized controlled trials, including one recently published by a team from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that found meaningful improvement against multiple clinical outcomes. In its statement, Gilead said the FDA also issued a new emergency use authorization (EUA) for treating certain pediatric patients.Last week, however, the WHO found little or no benefit for survival for the drug in a large phase 3 trial that looked at four different treatments, including remdesivir. Gilead had raised concerns about the WHO-led trial, noting that its findings were inconsistent with other trials, they hadn’t gone through rigorous peer view, and the trial design had limitations.Rural areas swept up in expanding US case riseYesterday, the United States reported 62,735 new cases, along with 1,124 new deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online tracker. Some of the highest per capita rates of infection are now occurring in rural counties in states like Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska, straining small hospitals that don’t have the beds or staff to handle the crush of cases, NPR reported.However, cases are also rising in urban areas that brought down their cases during earlier spikes, such as Boston, which is reverting to fully remote learning today due to its rise in cases, WBUR reported.Regarding deaths, the latest projection released yesterday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointed to an uncertain trend in the month ahead, predicting 3,500 to 7,600 new deaths for the week ending Nov 14, which could push the total to between 235,000 to 247,000.In a related development, the authors of a new preprint study estimate that COVID-19 has claimed more than 2.5 million years of potential life in the United States since the pandemic began.Evolving CDC guidance on close contacts, student quarantineThe CDC yesterday updated its definition of who is a “close contact” of an infected individual. In its latest guidance, the CDC now defines a close contact as someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, rather than 15 consecutive minutes (see related CIDRAP News scan).Meanwhile, the CDC is exploring ways to shorten the 14-day quarantine for school children who have been in contact with an infected person as a way to speed their return to the classroom, the Wall Street Journal reported.In other US developments:On the economic front, the number of Americans who sought unemployment benefits fell to 787,000 last week, possibly signaling that pandemic-related job losses have eased slightly, the Associated Press And airline industry groups have sent a letter to federal departments and governors pleading for uniform predeparture testing and contact tracing systems to help boost air travel, according to CNN.Regarding vaccines, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said yesterday that he wants the state’s own experts to evaluate a COVID-19 vaccine before distributing it, joining similar announcements from the governors of New York, California, and Michigan. And Moderna said today that it has finished enrolling 30,000 participants in the phase 3 trial of its candidate vaccine, which includes 11,000 from communities of color including groups disproportionately hit harder by the virus.The US total has now reached 8,386,634 cases and 222,766 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.France, Spain lead Europe’s surgeIn international developments, cases in Europe continued to soar, with a number of countries reporting new record daily numbers of cases and Spain and France becoming the latest countries to cross the 1 million case mark.France today reported 41,622 new cases, marking a record daily high. Prime Minister Jean Castex called the situation grave and announced that a curfew in place for greater Paris and eight other cities will be expanded to 38 more administrative regions, France 24 reported.In Spain, health officials reported 20,986 new cases today, also a daily record high, CNN reported. And at a press briefing today, health minister Salvador Illa warned that the country is facing tough weeks ahead and that the central government and 17 regional governments have agreed on criteria for a joint response to the country’s second wave.Other countries reporting daily record highs include the Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Germany.In other developments, the WHO today announced a collaboration with the Wikimedia Foundation—the nonprofit group that administers Wikipedia—to expand access to the most current and reliable information about COVID-19, according to a statement.The WHO said the agreement will make public health information available under a creative commons license at a time when countries are grappling with virus resurgence and as social stability increasingly hinges on a shared public understanding of the facts. The WHO’s infographics, videos, and other public health assets will be widely available on Wikimedia Commons, a digital library of free images and multimedia items.Today the global total climbed to 41,524,733 cases, and 1,134,716 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.