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Anchor lead: Last year’s flu season was bad. How can you protect yourself this year? Elizabeth Tracey reports

In the wake of CDC data reporting 80,000 plus deaths last year due to the flu, your best strategy to avoid infection this year remains getting vaccinated. That’s according to Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection control at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Maragakis: The best case scenario is that the flu vaccine prevents you from acquiring the flu at all and so that you don’t get sick. However it has other benefits, and that could be that people who do get the flu are not as severely ill as they otherwise would have been. And this is really because the vaccine boosts your immune response to the influenza virus, and so even if it doesn’t completely keep you from acquiring the virus it can limit the duration of symptoms and the severity of symptoms.  :30

Maragakis notes that certain groups of people, including those with cancer, pregnant women, elderly people and others who may have compromised immune systems, are especially vulnerable and should discuss vaccination with their physician promptly. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: About 80,000 people died last year due to influenza infection, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Influenza and its complications killed over 80,000 people last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported. Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection control at Johns Hopkins Hospital, says that should motivate everyone to get a flu shot.

Maragakis: The flu vaccine is imperfect at best but, that being said we know it’s the best thing we have right now to prevent influenza and to reduce influenza complications and influenza deaths. The effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year and unfortunately it was only about 40% effective last year in the midst of this very widespread, bad flu season. A lot of research and work is ongoing right now to try to develop better flu vaccines.  :31

Maragakis is hopeful that the so-called universal flu vaccine may be available soon, as well as improved flu vaccines using methods other than eggs to produce them, but reiterates that getting the vaccine is the best choice to avoid infection. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

 

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Anchor lead: The CDC has projected a doubling of dementia rates by 2060, Elizabeth Tracey reports

The number of people expected to develop dementia by 2060 will double from where it is today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated. Constantine Lyketsos, an Alzheimer’s disease expert at Johns Hopkins, says the price tag for dementia is already staggering.

Lyketsos: Depending on who you talk to I think we’re already now at about $150 billion to $200 billion per year. Its not just the numbers of people that are affected but it’s the broader societal impact. Folks with dementia live a long time, they become increasingly disabled, they have a lot of care needs and over the lifetime of their illness each person has two to three caregivers. These individuals have to be addressed as well because the cost of caregiving and the impact of caregiving on their health, their mental health, is substantial.  :29

Lyketsos says that while treatments to stave off or cure the condition don’t yet exist, there are many strategies to help manage symptoms as they develop and help people with dementia remain at home longer, as well as assist caregivers. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Can you reduce your risk of dementia with training? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Project Talent tested many teenagers in the 1960s and followed them until recently, finding that men with lower mechanical ability and women with lower linguistic ability had a higher risk for dementia. Constantine Lyketsos, an Alzheimer’s expert at Johns Hopkins, says education helps.

Lyketsos: On top of that can we do specific types of training? And the answer is probably yes, but we get into all kinds of questions: what kind of training, at what part of life, how much do you have to maintain it, how hard is it to do the training, how hard is it to get people to do the training. :16

Lyketsos says there’s a hypothesis behind more training.

Lyketsos: There’s this idea that the more we build up your reserve well before, the better off you’re going to be when you get into the ago of risk, so that you might get a lot of plaques, amyloid and tau in your brain but not get symptoms, you don’t care about how much amyloid and tau in your brain as you care that you don’t get symptoms.  :17

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Can we tell even in teenagers who may be at risk for dementia? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Project Talent may be one of the biggest studies you’ve never heard of, testing teenagers in the 1960s and now looking at their rates of dementia. Constantine Lyketsos, an Alzheimer’s disease expert at Johns Hopkins, wonders at the outcome.

Lyketsos: So does that get you to think at all about how the brains of men and women differ? I think that’s reflecting resilience, that’s reflecting reserve. The more of their gender unique reserve that men have the better off they are versus other men, and the corollary is relevant to women.  :16

Lyketsos notes that men with lower mechanical ability and women with lower linguistic ability were more at risk.

Lyketsos: Can we improve reserve? Can we improve resilience? By training in areas that we think are preventative? And on one level we do that all the time without realizing it, is that we’ve advanced the education level of our population and that’s building reserve. And education is inversely related to the development of dementia. :19

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Taking a look at all the genes in tuberculosis can help design more effective treatments, Elizabeth Tracey reports

A look at genes, mutations, and resistance to drugs in tuberculosis bacteria published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine should help design better diagnostic tests and lead to more efficacious treatments. That’s according to Richard Chaisson, a TB expert at Johns Hopkins.

Chaisson: It looked for the relationship between genetic mutations and TB and resistance to drugs. We have genetic tests that we use now, regularly, that are fairly recent but they’re very good. And what this study did is it did whole genome sequencing, so it looked at all the genes in TB, and looked at mutations in those genes and associated them with resistance to drugs. From a technical point of view its extremely helpful, it’s really good basic science information that can now be used to develop better diagnostic tests. :33

Chaisson says global TB containment and eradication must integrate such approaches, along with strategies to reduce the amount of time it takes to get the infection diagnosed, which may be a year or longer in some areas. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: TB vaccines are needed for the minority of people who can’t fight the infection off, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Most people are capable of fighting off tuberculosis infection on their own, but now a new vaccine offers hope to those who don’t have the ability, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports. Richard Chaisson, a TB expert at Johns Hopkins, reviews the risk.

Chaisson: Not everybody is resistant, and you can have conditions like HIV infection, cancer chemotherapy, other forms of immunosuppression, that increase your risk. But for the average healthy person without conditions that increase risk, 80% or more will fight off TB on their own with no help, because we’ve become immune to it over the centuries. And what we have to do is focus on that 15 to 20% who can’t fight it off, but account for 10 million cases a year of tuberculosis.  :29

Chaisson notes that TB remains one of the top ten causes of death worldwide, with the spread of strains like multidrug resistant and extreme drug resistant tuberculosis of particular concern. He says a vaccine is just one part of a multifaceted approach needed to combat the disease. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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