Monthly Archives: April 2017

Are doctors risking patients safety

As much as people would like to wholly trust their doctors, medical errors do occur more often than is comfortable. The numbers indicate that these errors may account for thousands of deaths each year. While we know that doctors’ work proves difficult, are there preventable distractions putting patients’ safety at risk?

According to lead researcher Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, medical errors are rampant in the US. Makary’s data shows the number at 2—3 times higher than previously thought, a whopping 250,000 a year.

In addition, the FDA attests that errors related to medication cost at least 1 life every day and injure over 1 million annually. Regardless of the numbers, doctors and hospitals should put patient safety at the top of their list. In cases of potential risk, they should err on the side of caution every time.


Distracted Surgery

Doctors have a human side, meaning that they will make a mistake at some point. However, patients and concerned loved ones find it alarming when a doctor pulls out his phone during surgery, of all places. Could the distraction of cellular devices be causing many such medical errors?

In Dr. Christopher Spillers’s case, the correlation is likely. His patient, Roseanne Milne, came in for a routine heart procedure but never made it through the surgery.

According to investigations, the doctor used his cell phone to text, call, and surf the Internet over 50 times! Spillers also took a photo of an anesthesia monitor during another occasion and posted it on Facebook.

While the doctor saw no harm in his actions, Milne’s daughter did. According to her, “It was absolutely the worst day of my life. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe I was losing my mother that night.”


Smallpox from scratch in a lab, scientists warn

Scientists have re-created a relative of the smallpox virus in a lab, from scratch.

This virus, called the horsepox virus, is not harmful to humans, but the new findings suggest that it’s possible for people to make the deadly smallpox virus in a lab. That virus was eradicated from the world in 1980, according to the journal Science .

Re-creating the horsepox virus wasn’t a trivial feat, but it did not require extensive resources, either. The researchers ordered the DNA fragments they used to make the virus from a company that makes DNA pieces for researchers, with made-to-order sequences, and sends them through the mail. In total, the project cost $100,000 and took six months, Science reported.

The researchers, from the University of Alberta in Canada, hope their effort could one day lead to a better smallpox vaccine. Although most people no longer receive smallpox vaccination , the shot is sometimes given to people who may be at risk for contracting the disease, such as those who work with smallpox or similar viruses in a lab. A small percentage of those vaccinated with the current vaccine may experience serious, life-threatening side effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Canadian researchers are working with the pharmaceutical company Tonix to develop a smallpox vaccine. In March, Tonix issued a statement announcing that it had used the horsepox virus to develop a potential smallpox vaccine, which showed protective effects in an early study in mice.

Although many researchers assumed it would one day be possible to re-create poxviruses — the family of viruses to which smallpox and horsepox belong — there was still some debate about the issue. David Evans, the lead researcher of the horsepox virus work, told Science that he performed the feat in part to put an end to the debate. “The world just needs to accept the fact that you can do this, and now we have to figure out what is the best strategy for dealing with that,” Evans told Science.

Raise funds for daughter facing incurable genetic disease

A family is in a race against time to save their 6-year-old daughter from a fatal genetic disease that currently has no cure. Mila Makovec, who was diagnosed with Batten disease in December 2016, has already lost her sight and struggles to walk and talk.

“There is no other way to put it – my 6-year-old daughter, Mila, is dying,” Julia Vitarello, Mila’s mother, wrote on the family’s GoFundMe page. “I lie by her side every night when she sleeps and my heart bleeds. My face burns from the tears.”

“Mila could be your child,” she continued. “She splashed in the pool, begged for chocolate ice cream, and sang her favorite songs. She rode bikes. She skied. But at 4 years old, she started to fall over, to bump into things. She pulled books in close, got stuck on words. She was finally diagnosed with Batten Disease, a rare genetic condition that robs normal children of everything. They end up bedridden, on a feeding tube, with seizures, and cognitively impaired. There is no cure.”

Vitarello, her husband, Alek, and Mila’s 3-year-old brother, Azlan, have worked tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for a gene therapy trial that seems promising for Mila and others diagnosed with Batten. Their initial fundraising push helped to fund the work leading up to the trial, but they now need $1 million more by September to get it scheduled.