Category Archives: Infectious Diseases

Filipino scientists seek to unravel mysteries of Kawasaki disease

Mysterious disease affecting children may be caused by infection, according to scientists from University of the Philippines – National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (UP-NIMBB).

Kawasaki disease is a disease that causes inflammation of medium-sized blood vessels around the body. Mostly affecting children below five years old, it is the most common cause of acquired heart disease in children such as abnormalities in the coronary artery. If left untreated, the disease may result to death.

First reported in Japan in January 1961, more than half a century later, scientists from all over the world are still baffled with what was causing of the disease. Some studies point out that the disease may be caused by an infection of a still unknown causative agent. Other studies hypothesize that the disease may be hereditary as it is commonly seen on Asian descents.

Results of the study on Kawasaki disease on Filipino children supported claims of that the disease may be triggered by an infectious agent.

UP-NIMBB researchers found that the T cells of participating patients were activated by a superantigen. T cells are a type of white blood cells that helps the body’s immune system. During an infection, the T cells are activated as response to the release of antigens of the invading germs such as viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents. While ordinary antigen can trigger only about .001-.0001% of the body’s T-cells, a superantigen can activate as much as 25% of the immune system’s T cells.

During the study, the UP-NIMBB researchers performed tests on the patients’ T cells. Results of study showed that all Kawasaki disease patients were found to have dramatic elevation of T cells, suggesting involvement of a superantigen. Researchers discussed that the result of study supported claims of other studies that the disease might be triggered by an infection.

Even though it was not able to pinpoint the infectious agent that causes the illness, researchers believe that the study has been significant as it the first ever to be conducted on Filipino Kawasaki disease patients. They insisted that because most studies were done to Japanese and Korean patients, studies on the disease as it relates to the Filipinos are unheard of. The UP-NIMBB researchers believe their research laid down the foundation for future studies on Kawasaki disease in the Philippines.

Reference:

Natividad, M., Torres-Villanueva, C., & Saloma, C. (2013). Superantigen involvement and susceptibility factors in kawasaki disease: profiles of tcr vβ2 t cells and hla-drb1, tnf-α and itpkc genes among filipino patients. International Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Genetics, 4(1), 70–76.

Filipino poor are more at risk of hepa B, study says

If two Filipinos are to be tested for hepatitis B, the one who is getting less annual salary is more likely to be tested positive than his richer counterpart, according to a study.

People usually measure the gap between the rich and poor in terms of what they can readily observe. One drives a car while the other commutes. One buys a house while the other rents. One dines at fine dining; the other boils instant noodles for dinner.

But a collaborations of researchers from various academic and medical institutions explained that evidence of gap between the two social classes may not be as obvious as the examples above, such as in the prevalence of hepatitis B.

A seroprevalence study of 2,150 randomly selected participants nationwide showed that poor Filipinos are disproportionately infected by hepatitis B as compared to others who have bigger annual income.

Describing annual income as the only predictor of the likelihood to testing positive in hepatitis B test, the researchers explained that the phenomenon reflects inequity in the access of healthcare.

Researchers discussed that health care services such as preventive vaccination are often neglected by or inaccessible for people at the lower socioeconomic levels. Poor Filipinos are more likely to miss or delay the hepatitis B vaccination (HBV), giving a window of opportunity of contracting the hepatitis B infection.

In a country where people living below the poverty line hovers around 27%, researchers insisted on the importance of government-subsidized actions that focuses on prevention of the disease.

Treatment and management of a patient with liver cirrhosis due to hepa B infection can range from US$185-1,321 in Asian countries like the Philippines. The cost can skyrocket to US$49,000-66,000 if the patient needs a liver transplant. Researchers lamented that the staggering cost of treatment, management and liver transplant usually falls in the shoulder of the patient with very little government assistance.

Arguing with the old adage that “prevention is always better than cure,” researchers insisted that focusing on preventive measures such as immunization programs would be more cost-effective to implement than coverage for treatment on full blown liver diseases.

Citing the success of immunization programs in decreasing the prevalence of hepatitis B infection in Northeast China and South Korea, researchers expressed their support to the Philippines’ Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), which include universal infant vaccination with HBV.

Reference:

Wong, S., Ong, J., Labio, M., Cabahug, O., Daez, M., Valdellon, E., Sollano, J., & Arguillas, M. (20013). Hepatitis B infection among adults in the Philippines: a national seroprevalence study. World Journal of Hepatology, 5(4), 214–219.