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25 June 2020

5 recent positive health discoveries that have nothing to do with Covid-19

If Covid-19 news is making you feel a bit drained, here are a few other significant medical developments you might have missed.

  • While the Covid-19 pandemic is rampaging across the globe, research into other diseases must continue
  • During 2020, Covid-19 dominated the headlines, but there were certainly other significant medical discoveries
  • Although these studies might still be in the beginning phases, they hold the key to future progress 

Many scientists around the globe are dedicating their time and energy to the fight against Covid-19, whether it’s for a treatment, cure or vaccine development.

We might feel confused by all the news. As experts are working towards breakthroughs, numbers of cases in South Africa are rapidly rising. But while it may feel like Covid-19 is currently the only disease that matters, many medical experts are still quietly devoting their time and attention to other devastating diseases.

Here are some good news snippets we might have missed:

1. Parasitic worms may offer hope to patients with multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease that can affect the brain and spinal cord. And while several treatment methods are available to prolong patients' quality of life, there is no cure. But new research from the University of Nottingham, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, shows that infecting an MS patient with the hookworm parasite (Necator americanus) can reduce certain responses in the body while boosting production of cells which can help the immune system.

2. A simple blood test could diagnose motor neuron disease

Motor neuron disease affects the brain signals that control movements like gripping, walking, speaking and breathing. As the disease progresses, it can become more debilitating. Currently, diagnosing motor neuron disease is a lengthy process that involves several tests performed by neurologists. The disease can progress silently without a firm diagnosis, which rules out early treatment. Now, scientists at the University of Sussex have identified a potential pattern within the blood of affected people which signals the presence of motor neuron disease, a discovery which could significantly improve diagnosis, according to a news release.  

3. A new drug could help cholesterol patients who can’t take statins

Statins are commonly used to help lower unhealthy cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, statins tend to cause side-effects such as severe muscle pain in 5% to 10% of patients who take them. But a clinical trial, the findings of which were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that bempedoic acid is an alternative approach to statins as it significantly reduced LDL levels in patients.

4. A new pill could help prevent deadly anaphylaxis in those with allergies

Those with food or drug allergies can go into potentially fatal anaphylactic shock when they are exposed to allergens. A new study shows that there might be a pill around the corner to avoid this deadly reaction.

5. Researchers found a new therapeutic target in pancreatic cancer

A new study by a team from Dartmouth, published in the journal Cancer Cell, uncovered a link between how cell mutations lead to pancreatic cancer and how cell growth can be controlled. Although research is still in its early phases, it could open up a host of treatments in the future for this newly-found target.

READ | 5 of the biggest medical advances of the past decade

READ | Could a blood test for breast cancer soon become a reality?

READ | CRISPR gene editing creates 'designer' immune cells that fight cancer

 Image credit: Chokniti Kongchum from Pexels

 
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