Scientists and medical specialists are working tirelessly and effortlessly to discover new methods of treating different diseases and sickness, and their efforts are also advantaged by our technologically advanced world, hence the exponential progresses in medical innovations and discoveries. These innovations and discoveries have now led to the array of treatments for some of the most deadly diseases in the world.
This paper reviews 7 of the most recent and perhaps impactful innovations and advances, in the health sector, since the beginning of 2017. The paper emphasizes the importance of these innovations by giving details/statistics associated with the diseases that these innovations help to alleviate /eradicate. These details are centered on how deadly and widespread the diseases are; regions and countries most prone to these diseases; people affected by these diseases worldwide; and associated death rates from the diseases.
1) Sickle Cell
Sickle cell is a disease that causes the red blood cells to become sickle in shape such that they interlock and obstruct the flow of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body— a condition that may result in excruciating pain and even death.
The world was elated to hear the results of a gene therapy procedure that began 15 months ago at Necker Children's Hospital in Paris. According to the results, healthy red blood cells were produced by altering the genetic instructions in the bone marrow of a 13 year old patient. The Teenager, in whom the procedure was carried out, according to reports, showed no sign of the disease, and has since been taken off medications.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in further development, recently approved Endari (L-glutamine) as the first oral therapy drug to treat sickle cell disease in patients from ages 5 years and older. The drug alleviates symptoms associated with the disease by making the sickle cells flexible enough to travel unhindered through the blood vessels and capillaries, carrying oxygen. This the first sickle cell drug in 20 years to get the nod from the agency.
Impact of the disease
Sickle cell disease is most prone to the regions of the world most affected by malaria. These regions include some African and South Asian countries, and the Middle East. It is particularly common among those whose ancestry originate from the sub-Saharan Africa; Saudi Arabia; India; and Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Turkey and Greece; Spanish-speaking regions in the Western Hemisphere, i.e., South and Central America, and the Caribbean. An estimate of 10—40 % of the people in these regions carry the sickle cell allele; this results in the prevalence of the disease in at least 2% of the total population. Each year, estimates of 300,000 babies worldwide are born with severe form of sickle cell disease. The sickle cell disease is characterized by multiple organ morbidity and early death. According to the population based registry, a total of 615 of 12,143 patients suffering from sickle cell have died.
HIV/AIDS is a condition caused by the virus, HIV (Human immuno-deficiency virus). The virus weakens the human immune system, and an extended weakening of the immune system, which could take years, results in AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The disease can be transmitted through any form of blood exchange and sexual contact. There are no cures for the disease, yet, but drugs are more advanced to alleviate the associated symptoms. The disease will, however, result in fatality if medical attention isn’t sought after as soon as possible.
Recent advances in the fight against HIV/AIDS cannot go unmentioned. The progresses made so far range from:
•The use of gene editing tool, CRISPR, to eliminate HIV virus.
•To discovering new tissue cells, Macrophages, where the HIV/AIDS virus can hide.
The CRISPR tool, which was successfully used in mice to eradicate the HIV virus, is a most welcome development. Fingers are crossed for the best in human trials regardless of the controversy that surrounds the functionality of the tool.
On a different note, in the fight against HIV/AIDS, scientists now have a better understanding of the disease via the recent discovery of new cells, Macrophages, where HIV/AIDS virus can hide. This discovery holds the potential to aid in the complete elimination of the disease.
Another added bonus to the above advances, according to recent reports, is that current medications seem to have increased the life span of HIV infected folks, by 10 years, as compared to those who started using the then existing medications from 1996 (Figure 2).
Impact of the disease
Global 2015 statistics state that 78 million people were infected with the epidemic since it began. 35 million people, about the same period, had died from the AIDS disease while 36.7 million people were living with the HIV virus. 2.1 million People, in 2015, became newly infected with the virus. However, AIDS related deaths have declined by 45% since the peak in 2015. As of June, 2016, 18.2 million people were receiving the antiretroviral drugs as compared to the 15.8 million in June 2015. HIV/AIDS has affected people in different regions all around the world. It has reached every nook and cranny of the globe; however, some regions are heavily infected than others. A huge proportion of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV.
Cancer, in the simplest definition, are groups of cells that grow out of control, act abnormally and are invasive. In other words, for example, older cells that are suppose to die won’t die, and new cells grow where they are not needed. Cancer can lead to death if left untreated. The great news, however, is that there exist various forms of treatments for the disease.
Recently, a lot of progresses have been made in the fight against the disease. One of these advances is the discovery of the relationship between the NAD+ vitamin and the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Scientists have discovered that by boosting the NAD+ vitamin, the body DNA regains the ability to self repair the damaged DNA due to radiation and ageing. Ageing diminishes the ability of the DNA to self repair itself.
Another development in the field of cancer treatment is the recent approval of the drug, Keytruda. The drug targets cancer cells regardless of their original location in the body. It works by going after cancer cells of certain traits. Keytruda, according to FDA, is approved for serious cancer conditions such as those that have spread all over the body, or for solid tumors that cannot be operated on.
Further development in the fight against cancer is the CAR T-cell therapy. This involves removing a patient’s blood and boosting the T-cells in the blood to fight cancer, and then infusing the blood back into the patient’s body. This procedure has been successfully used in the eradication of lymphoma in a man in Vancouver, Washington.
The FDA, very recently, is on the verge of approving a therapy, CTL019, which is similar in methodology to the CAR T-cell therapy. The method works by engineering the T-cells, using disabled HIV virus, to fight leukemic cells. This is a most welcome development in the fight against leukemia in Folks, aged 3-25 years.
Impact of the disease
Cancer is described as common, in 2017, if the annual incidence is over 40,000 cases. Among the top 5 common cancers, Breast cancer has over 255,000 new cases expected in the year 2017 in USA. Colorectal cancer, leukemia, prostate cancer and lung cancer are expected to have 135,430; 62,130; 161,360 and 225,500 cases in 2017 respectively. The estimated deaths from these top cancers are: colorectal cancer—50,260, leukemia—24,500, lung cancer—155,870, prostate cancer—26,730 and breast cancer—40,610. The regions mostly affected include Europe, Asia, Oceania, and North America. Denmark has the highest cancer rate for both men and women.
4) Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive abnormality in the nervous system that impacts movement /basic motor skills. These skills control, for example, bladder movement and swallowing. The disease is yet to have a cure; however, there are medications that can improve a patient’s health condition. Late stage of this disease may lead to symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Fatalities result from incidents associated with the disease.
5) Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, is a progressive degenerative disorder of the mental process that results in memory loss, thinking and behavior. The symptoms associated with the disease can be treated, but unfortunately, the disease itself is yet to have a cure. Most fatalities are caused by secondary infections in the incapacitated patient.
Progresses have been made to delay the age at which these diseases are likely to begin since both Alzheimer and Parkinson’s diseases are age related. Based on this notion, scientists are working on an anti-aging process by restricting nutrients in the body without the side effect of malnutrition. They discovered that by doing this, the protein production in the body will be reduced causing the cells, in the body, to focus their energies on proteins that maintain cell balance and health, thus extending a human’s life span.
Secondly, in addition to discovering the first sign (decline in glucose level) for the onset of the Alzheimer disease, scientists have also discovered the age for the onset of the Alzheimer disease based on 31 genetic markers.
Another bonus in the fight against the Alzheimer disease is the recent FDA approved DNA home test kit From the Company, 23andMe. The kit enables the testing for genes related to Alzheimer disease.
The CRISPR tool, in an effort to combat Parkinson’s diseases, is being used to monitor the brain protein, alpha-synuclein. The protein is said to be associated with the disease which makes it an excellent proxy for monitoring the disease. The goal is to use the proxy to better understand Parkinson’s diseases and determine the best method of treatment.
Impact of the diseases
The highest numbers of people suffering with Parkinson’s disease are in China (more than 1.7 million people). Other regions affected include Egypt (prevalence rate of 1,103 per 100,000), North East America (970 per 100,000), Albania (800 per 100,000), and India (328 per 100,000).
Estimates of 47 million people are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease globally. 2013 statistics indicate that the Alzheimer disease was responsible for about 3% of all deaths globally and for more than 10% of all deaths in these countries: Italy, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Switzerland and America. The percentage of the people living with the disease increases with age. It is estimated that 700,000 people aged 65 will die from the disease. It is also estimated that 5.5 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s disease. It was recently stated that the rate of Alzheimer’s disease increased by 55% over 15 years In the United States of America.
6) Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system, often unpredictable and disabling. The disease disrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body and also within the brain. The disease is said to be caused by a combination of factors: compromised immune system, genetics, infectious factors and the environment. In other words, the cause of the disease is still unknown. There are no cures for the disease, but it can be alleviated by certain drugs. Fatalities are often from secondary inflictions that are associated with the disease.
A major leap, in the fight against multiple sclerosis, is the discovery of specific cells in the immune system that aid brain repair. Scientists are of the notion that these cells could be boosted to aid brain recovery. This discovery may also be effective in the treatment of other brain related diseases like Alzheimer.
In addition to the above discovery, the FDA, this year, 2017, approved a relatively cheaper and more effective drug, Ocrevus, for the treatment of the severe form of multiple sclerosis.
Impact of the disease
An estimate of 2.5 million people worldwide are suffering from multiple sclerosis; between 2 and 3 women have the disease for every man with the condition. There is an uneven worldwide distribution of the disease: there are low levels of multiple sclerosis in Asia, Africa and parts of America that lie close to the equator. High numbers of cases are reported in Canada, and Scotland (Figure 7).
The highest number of deaths due to multiple sclerosis has been reported in the United States (2,844), followed by Germany (917), Poland (457) and Canada (415). Mexico has the least number of deaths (153) due to the disease.
7) Tuberculosis Disease
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease, caused by the bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease is said to affect the lungs and sometimes, the brain and the spine. The disease is also transmittable, but fortunately, it can be cured by taking simple antibiotics; however, it does take 6—9 months to treat. The disease can lead to death if left untreated.
Scientists recently discovered that genome sequencing can be used to identify the right strain of the tuberculosis infection. The early detection of the disease would enable patients to be precisely and correctly diagnosed within a matter of days. This advancement in the fight against the disease would reduce the spread of the infection to other part of the body due to quicker treatment.
Impact of the disease
Countries that account for the high prevalence of tuberculosis include India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa and Pakistan (About 60% of global tuberculosis). The largest number of cases were reported in Asia (61%) followed by Africa (26%). More than 95% of deaths due to tuberculosis occur in low and middle income countries. It is the leading killer of people living with HIV. The incidence rate of the disease has reduced since the year 2000 till date.