mitali-adlakha

Mitali Adlakha

Is a contributor to The Almost Doctor’s Channel.

Autoimmunity: Immune System Takes a Toll On Itself

There has been an evident rise in autoimmune diseases during recent years. According to National Institute of Health (NIH) approximately 24 million Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases and the prevalence is rising. Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease and asthma are some common examples. Autoimmune diseases are some of the most complex and hard-to-treat immune system related diseases. The first step towards cure is understanding Your immune system is essentially your detailed security; it can distinguish between what belongs in your body and what doesn’t. When a virus, bacteria, parasite or any other dangerous external pathogen targets your body, the immune system shoots and kills it. Unfortunately, though this is not always perfect. Sometimes the immune system starts targeting our own body and if this persists, it can lead to an autoimmune disease or autoimmunity. “Auto” means self, so autoimmunity basically means that your body takes an aim at itself. There are 90 characterized autoimmune diseases and this number has been on a stark rise in the recent years. Since the 1950s, the incidence of celiac disease alone has quadrupled, lupus rates have tripled and type 1 diabetes has escalated by 23% in the last decade alone. Autoimmune diseases vary greatly in the organs they affect and in their clinical manifestations, with some being limited to particular tissues and others being systemic or disseminated. Because most patients with...

Do Herpesviruses Cause Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of people around the world, but what ultimately causes dementia is unknown. It is typically thought to be caused due to unusual buildup of the protein amyloid plaques in the brains. Though small these plaques can grow into large clusters that are toxic to neurons. However, recently, a new study presented another potential causative agent of the disease. Decades ago, certain scientific studies came up with correlative data linking Herpesvirus infections to Alzheimer’s disease. The idea was long-dismissed but was recently rejuvenated by a new study. The study also found evidence that the viruses can interact with brain cells in ways that could accelerate the Alzheimer’s disease. Herpes viruses 6 and 7 are widely present in humans, but poorly understood. They infect nearly every human, typically during infancy, and have been closely linked to the childhood rash called roseola, according to the HHV-6 Foundation. These viruses can get to the brain and remain inactive for decades. Brains riddled with Alzheimer’s disease contain high levels of these two strains of human herpes virus. But just having herpes virus present in the brain isn’t enough to cause Alzheimer’s. Something needs to activate the viruses, which causes them to begin replicating. However, the trigger for activation of these viruses in not known. In the study — one of the most detailed analyses of Alzheimer’s brain tissue done to date — the team...

Cancer Immunotherapy To The Rescue: Commanding The Immune System To Fight!

Written by Sahil Chopra and Mitali Adlakha A pioneering new therapy saves the life of a woman with terminal breast cancer. Judy Perkins, an engineer from Florida was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. While traditional chemotherapy and hormone therapies failed for Judy, she showed a dramatic recovery after receiving a personalized immunotherapy. Although few years ago she was just preparing to die, this experimental treatment gave her a new life. What seems like a modern-day medicine miracle is in reality a path paved by over a century of extensive scientific studies. Immunotherapy is a revolutionary technology that uses your body’s immune system as a tool to fight cancers. The immune system is your body’s own defense mechanism against invaders such as bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Our immune system has a number of tools in its arsenal to launch an ‘immune response’ to fight these invaders. Some of the most striking tools from your immune arsenal are the T cells, B cells, dendritic cells and other immune cells. Cancer is a life-threatening disease and also the leading cause of death worldwide. By 2030, the estimated cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 23.6 million. Cancer occurs when certain cells in your body keep multiplying without stopping. Although, the immune system would fight these cells and stop them from spreading; yet these cancer cells can outsmart the...

Climate Change and the Spread of Infectious Diseases

Global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice, decreased snow cover, ocean acidification and rise in sea levels. Do these terms sound familiar? These terms are indeed stark reminders of how human beings continue to damage the planet. Climate change is one of the most severe threats to human health and well-being. While the scientific community has made tremendous progress in eradicating many diseases, not a lot of research has been put towards the perplexing topic of climate change and the spread of infectious diseases. Long before the role of infectious agents was discovered, humans knew that climatic conditions affect epidemic diseases. Roman aristocrats spent their summers in hill resorts to avoid Malaria. South Asians preferred curried foods in summers to avoid diarrhea. Climate change refers to long-term shifts in weather conditions and patterns of extreme weather events. Appropriate climate and weather conditions are necessary for the survival, reproduction, distribution and transmission of disease pathogens. Thus, long-term climate change and weather shifts tend to favor the spread of several infectious diseases and extreme weather conditions might create opportunities for newer outbreaks or outbreaks at non-traditional places. It has been known for a while now that warming temperatures can help certain diseases. Malaria, which kills an estimated 650,000 people a year, thrives in the hot and humid areas where the Anopheles mosquito can live. The link between malaria and extreme climatic events has...

Reflecting on Vaccines After World Immunization Week

Vaccines, heralded as one of the greatest medical breakthrough of the modern era save millions of lives each year. Despite the magnificent success of vaccinations against formerly fearsome diseases, fraudulent anti-vaccine claims thrive today. In the spirit of World Immunization Week 2018, I decided to dive into the scientific data that unambiguously demonstrates how effective vaccines are at preventing the most devastating diseases. Vaccines work on the simple principle of preventing the disease, they help our body’s defense system (immune system) to fight infections effectively and at a much faster rate. When we get a vaccine, we are exposed to small amounts of weakened or dead pathogens, which doesn’t make us sick but all it does is spark our immune system. Once the immune system is sparked it remembers the pathogen, and on our next exposure to the pathogen, our body is ready to fight off the pathogen. This protection that we develop against a disease is defined as immunity, which in many cases lasts for a lifetime. The story of vaccines begins with smallpox. In the 20th century, smallpox killed an estimated 300 million people, making it one of the deadliest diseases known to humankind. Before doctors knew how to prevent this highly infectious disease from spreading, Dr. Edward Jenner carried out one of the most pivotal experiments in the history of medicine that led to the discovery of...

Causing Seasonal Misery: The “Flu” and the “Flu-like” Virus

It’s almost the middle of winter and you start feeling sick. Runny nose, cough, sore throat, breathing problems, fever, headache, and diarrhea- all these dreaded symptoms sound familiar to you? And most certainly you attribute this seasonal misery to “common cold” or the flu. Most people use the terms common cold and flu interchangeably, however, the flu is very different from common cold. While a “common cold” can be caused by more than 200 different viruses, the “flu” is an abbreviation for influenza. This respiratory virus is dreaded for its ability to spread rapidly through communities. When someone with the influenza coughs or sneezes, the influenza virus is expelled into the air, and anyone who inhales it can become infected. The virus can also be spread if someone touches a contaminated hard surface such as a door handle and then places their hand on their mouth or nose. Each year millions of people suffer from flu symptoms to varying degrees of illness. For instance, children, old people, and people with weakened immune systems are more prone to the illness. Other secondary bacterial infections may follow after the flu. This season has been a particularly tough flu season. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention (C.D.C) reports1 (as of February 17, 2018) for flu activity during the year 2017-2018, 161,129 positive tests were performed by clinical laboratories and 35,544...

Your Microbial Self: What Does Your Gut Tell You?

When most people think of bacteria within your body, what comes to their mind are these nasty unfriendly creatures that cause certain diseases and make them sick. However, that is true only to a certain extent and does not apply to all species of bacteria. Research has actually determined that there are trillions of beneficial bacteria inside our body that help us in performing life-sustaining functions at all times. These good bacteria indeed make up our internal ecosystem that we call the ‘microbiome’. The microbiome inhabits everything from our skin and genitals, to our mouths and eyes, and a vast majority of them reside in our intestines and are known as our ‘gut microbiota’. The total number of genes represented by our microbiome likely exceeds the number of our human genes by at least two orders of magnitude! Appropriately so, we are but an amalgamation of our human selves and our ‘microbial selves’. These diverse organisms in our microbiome govern nearly every function in the human body. Traditionally, it was thought that the gut microbiota effects are limited to the host’s digestive tract but more recent research has proven that the effects of the microbiome on our health are far-reaching, hence making it vital for our survival. You can think of the microbiome as an intricate web that connects to virtually all processes in our body. The current scientific...