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Archive for the ‘Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Category


Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

The term ‘antibiotic’ was introduced by Selman Waksman as any small molecule, produced by a microbe, with antagonistic properties on the growth of other microbes. An antibiotic interferes with bacterial survival via a specific mode of action but more importantly, at therapeutic concentrations, it is sufficiently potent to be effective against infection and simultaneously presents minimal toxicity. Infectious diseases have been a challenge throughout the ages. From 1347 to 1350, approximately one-third of Europe’s population perished to Bubonic plague. Advances in sanitary and hygienic conditions sufficed to control further plague outbreaks. However, these persisted as a recurrent public health issue. Likewise, infectious diseases in general remained the leading cause of death up to the early 1900s. The mortality rate shrunk after the commercialization of antibiotics, which given their impact on the fate of mankind, were regarded as a ‘medical miracle’. Moreover, the non-therapeutic application of antibiotics has also greatly affected humanity, for instance those used as livestock growth promoters to increase food production after World War II.

 

Currently, more than 2 million North Americans acquire infections associated with antibiotic resistance every year, resulting in 23,000 deaths. In Europe, nearly 700 thousand cases of antibiotic-resistant infections directly develop into over 33,000 deaths yearly, with an estimated cost over €1.5 billion. Despite a 36% increase in human use of antibiotics from 2000 to 2010, approximately 20% of deaths worldwide are related to infectious diseases today. Future perspectives are no brighter, for instance, a government commissioned study in the United Kingdom estimated 10 million deaths per year from antibiotic resistant infections by 2050.

 

The increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, alongside the alarmingly low rate of newly approved antibiotics for clinical usage, we are on the verge of not having effective treatments for many common infectious diseases. Historically, antibiotic discovery has been crucial in outpacing resistance and success is closely related to systematic procedures – platforms – that have catalyzed the antibiotic golden age, namely the Waksman platform, followed by the platforms of semi-synthesis and fully synthetic antibiotics. Said platforms resulted in the major antibiotic classes: aminoglycosides, amphenicols, ansamycins, beta-lactams, lipopeptides, diaminopyrimidines, fosfomycins, imidazoles, macrolides, oxazolidinones, streptogramins, polymyxins, sulphonamides, glycopeptides, quinolones and tetracyclines.

 

The increase in drug-resistant pathogens is a consequence of multiple factors, including but not limited to high rates of antimicrobial prescriptions, antibiotic mismanagement in the form of self-medication or interruption of therapy, and large-scale antibiotic use as growth promotors in livestock farming. For example, 60% of the antibiotics sold to the USA food industry are also used as therapeutics in humans. To further complicate matters, it is estimated that $200 million is required for a molecule to reach commercialization, with the risk of antimicrobial resistance rapidly developing, crippling its clinical application, or on the opposing end, a new antibiotic might be so effective it is only used as a last resort therapeutic, thus not widely commercialized.

 

Besides a more efficient management of antibiotic use, there is a pressing need for new platforms capable of consistently and efficiently delivering new lead substances, which should attend their precursors impressively low rates of success, in today’s increasing drug resistance scenario. Antibiotic Discovery Platforms are aiming to screen large libraries, for instance the reservoir of untapped natural products, which is likely the next antibiotic ‘gold mine’. There is a void between phenotanypic screening (high-throughput) and omics-centered assays (high-information), where some mechanistic and molecular information complements antimicrobial activity, without the laborious and extensive application of various omics assays. The increasing need for antibiotics drives the relentless and continuous research on the foreground of antibiotic discovery. This is likely to expand our knowledge on the biological events underlying infectious diseases and, hopefully, result in better therapeutics that can swing the war on infectious diseases back in our favor.

 

During the genomics era came the target-based platform, mostly considered a failure due to limitations in translating drugs to the clinic. Therefore, cell-based platforms were re-instituted, and are still of the utmost importance in the fight against infectious diseases. Although the antibiotic pipeline is still lackluster, especially of new classes and novel mechanisms of action, in the post-genomic era, there is an increasingly large set of information available on microbial metabolism. The translation of such knowledge into novel platforms will hopefully result in the discovery of new and better therapeutics, which can sway the war on infectious diseases back in our favor.

 

References:

 

https://www.mdpi.com/2079-6382/8/2/45/htm

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19515346

 

https://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(11)00184-2/fulltext

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21700626

 

http://www.med.or.jp/english/journal/pdf/2009_02/103_108.pdf

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

The bacterial makeup of human milk is influenced by the mode of breastfeeding, according to a new study. Although previously considered sterile, breast milk is now known to contain a low abundance of bacteria. While the complexities of how maternal microbiota influence the infant microbiota are still unknown, this complex community of bacteria in breast milk may help to establish the infant gut microbiota. Disruptions in this process could alter the infant microbiota, causing predisposition to chronic diseases such as allergies, asthma, and obesity. While it’s unclear how the breast milk microbiome develops, there are two theories describing its origins. One theory speculates that it originates in the maternal mammary gland, while the other theory suggests that it is due to retrograde inoculation by the infant’s oral microbiome.

 

To address this gap in knowledge scientists carried out bacterial gene sequencing on milk samples from 393 healthy mothers three to four months after giving birth. They used this information to examine how the milk microbiota composition is affected by maternal factors, early life events, breastfeeding practices, and other milk components. Among the many factors analyzed, the mode of breastfeeding (with or without a pump) was the only consistent factor directly associated with the milk microbiota composition. Specifically, indirect breastfeeding was associated with a higher abundance of potential opportunistic pathogens, such as Stenotrophomonas and Pseudomonadaceae. By contrast, direct breastfeeding without a pump was associated with microbes typically found in the mouth, as well as higher overall bacterial richness and diversity. Taken together, the findings suggest that direct breastfeeding facilitates the acquisition of oral microbiota from infants, whereas indirect breastfeeding leads to enrichment with environmental (pump-associated) bacteria.

 

The researchers argued that this study supports the theory that the breast milk microbiome is due to retrograde inoculation. Their findings indicate that the act of pumping and contact with the infant oral microbiome influences the milk microbiome, though they noted more research is needed. In future studies, the researchers will further explore the composition and function of the milk microbiota. In addition to bacteria, they will profile fungi in the milk samples. They also plan to investigate how the milk microbiota influences both the gut microbiota of infants and infant development and health. Specifically, their projects will examine the association of milk microbiota with infant growth, asthma, and allergies. This work could have important implications for microbiota-based strategies for early-life prevention of chronic conditions.

 

References:

 

https://www.genomeweb.com/sequencing/human-breast-milk-microbiome-affected-mode-feeding#.XIOH0igzZPY

 

http://childstudy.ca/2019/02/13/breastmilk-microbiome-linked-to-method-of-feeding/

 

https://gizmodo.com/pumping-breast-milk-changes-its-microbiome-1832568169

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190213124445.htm

 

https://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/fulltext/S1931-3128(19)30049-6

 

https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/news-and-research/baby-friendly-research/infant-health-research/epigenetics-microbiome-research/

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Clostridium difficile-associated disease, a significant problem in healthcare facilities, causes an estimated 15,000 deaths in the United States each year. Clostridium difficile, commonly referred to as C. diff, is a bacterium that infects the colon and can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Clostridium difficile-associated disease (CDAD) most commonly occurs in hospitalized older adults who have recently taken antibiotics. However, cases of CDAD can occur outside of healthcare settings as well.

 

Although antibiotics often cure the infection, C. diff can cause potentially life-threatening colon inflammation. People with CDAD usually are treated with a course of antibiotics, such as oral vancomycin or fidaxomicin. However, CDAD returns in approximately 20 percent of people who receive such treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

Multiple research studies have indicated that fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an effective method for curing patients with repeat C. diff infections. However, the long-term safety of FMT has not been established. Although more research is needed to determine precisely how FMT effectively cures recurrent CDAD, the treatment appears to rapidly restore a healthy and diverse gut microbiome in recipients. Physicians perform FMT using various routes of administration, including oral pills, upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, colonoscopy, and enema.

 

A research consortium recently began enrolling patients in a clinical trial examining whether FMT by enema (putting stool from a healthy donor in the colon of a recipient) is safe and can prevent recurrent CDAD, a potentially life-threatening diarrheal illness. Investigators aim to enroll 162 volunteer participants 18 years or older who have had two or more episodes of CDAD within the previous six months.

 

Trial sites include Emory University in Atlanta, Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Each location is a Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU), clinical research sites joined in a network funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. This randomized, controlled trial aims to provide critical data on the efficacy and long-term safety of using FMT by enema to cure C. diff infections.

 

Volunteers will be enrolled in the trial after completing a standard course of antibiotics for a recurrent CDAD episode, presuming their diarrhea symptoms cease on treatment. They will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group (108 people) will take an anti-diarrheal medication and receive a stool transplant (FMT) delivered by retention enema. The second group (54 people) will take an anti-diarrheal medication and receive a placebo solution delivered by retention enema.

 

Participants in either group who have diarrhea with stools that test positive for C. diff shortly after the enema will be given an active stool transplant for a maximum of two FMTs. If participants in either group have another C. diff infection after receiving two FMTs, then they will be referred to other locally available treatment options. Investigators will evaluate the stool specimens for changes in gut microbial diversity and infectious pathogens and will examine the blood samples for metabolic syndrome markers.

 

To learn more about the long-term outcomes of FMT, the researchers will monitor all participants for adverse side effects for three years after completing treatment for recurrent CDAD. Investigators will also collect information on any new onset of CDAD, related chronic medical conditions or any other serious health issues they may have.

 

References:

 

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/clinical-trial-testing-fecal-microbiota-transplant-recurrent-diarrheal-disease-begins

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4749851/

 

https://bmjopengastro.bmj.com/content/3/1/e000087

 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2635633

 

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gastroenterology_hepatology/clinical_services/advanced_endoscopy/fecal_transplantation.html

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecal_microbiota_transplant

 

https://www.openbiome.org/about-fmt/

 

https://taymount.com/faecal-microbiota-transplantation-fmt

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

During pregnancy, the baby is mostly protected from harmful microorganisms by the amniotic sac, but recent research suggests the baby could be exposed to small quantities of microbes from the placenta, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood and fetal membranes. One theory is that any possible prenatal exposure could ‘pre-seed’ the infant microbiome. In other words, to set the right conditions for the ‘main seeding event’ for founding the infant microbiome.

When a mother gives birth vaginally and if she breastfeeds, she passes on colonies of essential microbes to her baby. This continues a chain of maternal heritage that stretches through female ancestry for thousands of generations, if all have been vaginally born and breastfed. This means a child’s microbiome, that is the trillions of microorganisms that live on and in him or her, will resemble the microbiome of his/her mother, the grandmother, the great-grandmother and so on, if all have been vaginally born and breastfed.

As soon as the mother’s waters break, suddenly the baby is exposed to a wave of the mother’s vaginal microbes that wash over the baby in the birth canal. They coat the baby’s skin, and enter the baby’s eyes, ears, nose and some are swallowed to be sent down into the gut. More microbes form of the mother’s gut microbes join the colonization through contact with the mother’s faecal matter. Many more microbes come from every breath, from every touch including skin-to-skin contact with the mother and of course, from breastfeeding.

With formula feeding, the baby won’t receive the 700 species of microbes found in breast milk. Inside breast milk, there are special sugars called human milk oligosaccharides (HMO’s) that are indigestible by the baby. These sugars are designed to feed the mother’s microbes newly arrived in the baby’s gut. By multiplying quickly, the ‘good’ bacteria crowd out any potentially harmful pathogens. These ‘good’ bacteria help train the baby’s naive immune system, teaching it to identify what is to be tolerated and what is pathogen to be attacked. This leads to the optimal training of the infant immune system resulting in a child’s best possible lifelong health.

With C-section birth and formula feeding, the baby is not likely to acquire the full complement of the mother’s vaginal, gut and breast milk microbes. Therefore, the baby’s microbiome is not likely to closely resemble the mother’s microbiome. A baby born by C-section is likely to have a different microbiome from its mother, its grandmother, its great-grandmother and so on. C-section breaks the chain of maternal heritage and this break can never be restored.

The long term effect of an altered microbiome for a child’s lifelong health is still to be proven, but many studies link C-section with a significantly increased risk for developing asthma, Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and obesity. Scientists might not yet have all the answers, but the picture that is forming is that C-section and formula feeding could be significantly impacting the health of the next generation. Through the transgenerational aspect to birth, it could even be impacting the health of future generations.

References:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/shortchanging-a-babys-microbiome/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23926244

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26412384

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25290507

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25974306

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24637604

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22911969

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25650398

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27362264

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27306663

http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/14/11/2036

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4464665/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24848255

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26412384

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28112736

http://ndnr.com/gastrointestinal/the-infant-microbiome-how-environmental-maternal-factors-influence-its-development/

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University Children’s Hospital Zurich (Universitäts-Kinderspital Zürich), Switzerland – A Prominent Center of Pediatric Research and Medicine

Author: Gail S. Thornton, M.A.

Co-Editor: The VOICES of Patients, Hospital CEOs, HealthCare Providers, Caregivers and Families: Personal Experience with Critical Care and Invasive Medical Procedures

 

University Children’s Hospital Zurich (Universitäts-Kinderspital Zürich —  http://www.kispi.uzh.ch), in Switzerland, is the largest specialized, child and adolescent hospital in the country and one of the leading research centers for pediatric and youth medicine in Europe. The hospital, which has about 220 beds, numerous outpatient clinics, a day clinic, an interdisciplinary emergency room, and a specialized rehabilitation center, is a non-profit private institution that offers a comprehensive range of more than 40 medical sub-specializations, including heart conditions, bone marrow transplantation and burns. There are approximately 2,200 physicians, nurses, and other allied health care and administrative personnel employed at the hospital.

Just as important, the hospital houses the Children’s Research Center (CRC), the first research center in Switzerland that is solely dedicated to pediatric research, and is on par with the largest children’s clinics in the world. The research center provides a strong link between research and clinical experience to ensure that the latest scientific findings are made available to patients and implemented in life-saving therapies. By developing highly precise early diagnoses, innovative therapeutic approaches and effective new drugs, the researchers aim to provide a breakthrough in prevention, treatment and cure of common and, especially, rare diseases in children.

Several significant milestones have been reached over the past year. One important project under way is approval by the hospital management board and Zurich city council to construct a new building, projected to be completed in 2021. The new Children’s Hospital will constitute two main buildings; one building will house the hospital with around 200 beds, and the other building will house university research and teaching facilities.

In the ongoing quest for growing demands for quality, safety and efficiency that better serve patients and their families, the hospital management established a new role of Chief Operating Officer. This new position is responsible for the daily operation of the hospital, focusing on safety and clinical results, building a service culture and producing strong financial results. Greater emphasis on clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and partnering with physicians, nurses, and other medical and administrative staff is all part of developing a thriving and lasting hospital culture.

Recently, the hospital’s Neurodermatitis Unit in cooperation with Christine Kuehne – Center for Allergy Research and Education (CK-Care), one of Europe’s largest private initiatives in the field of allergology, has won the “Interprofessionality Award” from the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences.  This award highlights best practices among doctors, nurses and medical staff in organizations who work together to diagnose and treat the health and well-being of patients, especially children with atopic dermatitis and their families.

At the northern end of Lake Zurich and between the mountain summit of the Uetliberg and Zurichberg, Children’s Hospital is located in the center of the residential district of Hottingen.

 

childrens-hospital4childrens-hospital3childrens-hospital2childrens-hospital1

Image SOURCE: Photograph courtesy of Children’s Hospital Zurich (Universitäts-Kinderspital Zürich), Switzerland. Interior and exterior photographs of the hospital.

 

Below is my interview with Hospital Director and Chief Executive Officer Markus Malagoli, Ph.D., which occurred in December, 2016.

How do you keep the spirit of innovation alive? 

Dr. Malagoli: Innovation in an organization, such as the University Children’s Hospital, correlates to a large extent on the power to attract the best and most innovative medical team and administrative people. It is our hope that by providing our employees with the time and financial resources to undertake needed research projects, they will be opened to further academic perspectives. At first sight, this may seem to be an expensive opportunity. However, in the long run, we have significant research under way in key areas which benefits children ultimately. It also gives our hospital the competitive edge in providing quality care and helps us recruit the best physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers and administrative staff.

The Children’s Hospital Zurich is nationally and internationally positioned as highly specialized in the following areas:

  • Cardiology and cardiac surgery: pediatric cardiac center,
  • Neonatal and malformation surgery as well as fetal surgery,
  • Neurology and neurosurgery as well as neurorehabilitation,
  • Oncology, hematology and immunology as well as oncology and stem cell transplants,
  • Metabolic disorders and endocrinology as well as newborn screening, and
  • Combustion surgery and plastic reconstructive surgery.

We provide patients with our special medical expertise, as well as an expanded  knowledge and new insights into the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prophylaxis of diseases, accidents or deformities. We have more than 40 medical disciplines that cover the entire spectrum of pediatrics as well as child and youth surgery.

As an example, for many years, we have treated all congenital and acquired heart disease in children. Since 2004, specialized heart surgery and post-operative care in our cardiac intensive care unit have been carried out exclusively in our child-friendly hospital. A separate heart operation area was set up for this purpose. The children’s heart center also has a modern cardiac catheter laboratory for children and adolescents with all diagnostic and catheter-interventional therapeutic options. Heart-specific non-invasive diagnostic possibilities using MRI are available as well as a large cardiology clinic with approximately 4,500 outpatient consultations per year. In April 2013, a special ward only for cardiac patients was opened and our nursing staff is highly specialized in the care of children with heart problems.

In addition to the advanced medical diagnostics and treatment of children, we also believe in the importance of caring and supporting families of sick children with a focus on their psychosocial well-being. For this purpose, a team of specialized nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers are available. Occasionally, the children and their families need rehabilitation and we work with a team of specialists to plan and organize the best in-house or out-patient rehabilitation for the children and their families.

We also provide therapeutic, rehabilitation and social services that encompass nutritional advice, art and expression therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, psychomotor therapy, a helpline for rare diseases, pastoral care, social counseling, and even hospital clowns. Our hospital teams work together to provide our patients with the best care so they are on the road to recovery in the fastest possible way.

What draws patients to Children’s Hospital?

Dr. Malagoli: Our hospital depends heavily on complex, interdisciplinary cases. For many diagnosis and treatments, our hospital is the last resort for children and adolescents in Switzerland and even across other countries. Our team is fully committed to the welfare of the patients they treat in order to deal with complex medical cases, such as diseases and disorders of the musculo-skeletal system and connective tissue, nervous system, respiratory system, digestive system, and ear, nose and throat, for example.

Most of our patients come from Switzerland and other cantons within the country, yet other patients come from as far away as Russia and the Middle East. Our hospital sees about 80,000 patients each year in the outpatient clinic for conditions, such as allergic pulmonary diseases, endocrinology and diabetology, hepatology, and gastroenterology; about 7,000 patients a year are seen for surgery; and about 37,000 patients a year are treated in the emergency ward.

We believe that parents are not visitors; they belong to the sick child’s healing, growth, and development. This guiding principle is a challenge for us, because we care not only for sick children, but also for their families, who may need personal or financial resources. Many of our services for parents, for example, are not paid by the Swiss health insurance and we depend strongly on funds from private institutions. We want to convey the feeling of security to children and adolescents of all ages and we involve the family in the recovery process.

What are the hospital’s strengths?

Dr. Malagoli: A special strength of our hospital is the interdisciplinary thinking of our teams. In addition to the interdisciplinary emergency and intensive care units, there are several internal institutionalized meetings, such as the uro-nephro-radiological conference on Mondays, the oncological conference and the gastroenterological meeting on Tuesdays,  and the pneumological case discussion on Wednesdays, where complex cases are discussed among our doctors. Foreign doctors are welcome to these meetings, and cases are also discussed at the appropriate external medical conferences.

Can you discuss some of the research projects under way at the Children’s Research Center (CRC)?

Dr. Malagoli: Our Children’s Research Center, the first research center in Switzerland focused on pediatric research, works closely with our hospital team. From basic research to clinical application, the hospital’s tasks in research and teaching is at the core of the Children’s Research Center for many young and established researchers and, ultimately, also for patients.

Our research projects focus on:

  • Behavior of the nervous, metabolic, cardiovascular and immune system in all stages of growth and development of the child’s condition,
  • Etiology (causes of disease) and treatment of genetic diseases,
  • Tissue engineering of the skin and skin care research: from a few cells of a child,  complex two-layered skin is produced in the laboratory for life-saving measures after severe burns and treatment of congenital anomalies of the skin,
  • Potential treatment approaches of the most severe infectious diseases, and
  • Cancer diseases of children and adolescents.

You are making great strides in diagnostic work in the areas of Hematology, Immumology, Infectiology and Oncology. Would you elaborate on this particular work that is taking place at the hospital?

Dr. Malagoli: The Department of Image Diagnostics handles radiological and ultrasonographic examinations, and the numerous specialist labs offer a complete  range of laboratory diagnostics.

The laboratory center makes an important contribution to the clarification and treatment of disorders of immune defense, blood and cancer, as well as infections of all kinds and severity. Our highly specialized laboratories offer a large number of analyzes which are necessary in the assessment of normal and pathological cell functions and take into account the specifics and requirements of growth and development in children and infants.

The lab center also participates in various clinical trials and research projects. This allows on-going validation and finally introducing the latest test methods.

The laboratory has been certified as ISO 9001 by the Swiss Government since 2002 and has met the quality management system requirements on meeting patient expectations and delivering customer satisfaction. The interdisciplinary cooperation and careful communication of the laboratory results are at the center of our activities. Within the scope of our quality assurance measures, we conduct internal quality controls on a regular basis and participate in external tests. Among other things, the work of the laboratory center is supervised by the cantonal medicine committee and Swissmedic organization.

Additionally, the Metabolism Laboratory  offers a wide variety of biochemical and molecular diagnostic analysis, including those for the following areas:

  • Disorders in glycogen and fructose metabolism,
  • Lysosomal disorders,
  • Disorders of biotin and vitamin B12 metabolism,
  • Urea cycle disorders and Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD),
  • Congenital disorders of protein glycosylation, and
  • Hereditary disorders of connective tissue, such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Marfan Syndrome.

Screening for newborn conditions is equally important. The Newborn Screening Laboratory examines all newborn children in Switzerland for congenital metabolic and hormonal diseases. Untreated, the diseases detected in the screening lead in most cases to serious damage to different organs, but especially to the development of the brain. Thanks to the newborn screening, the metabolic and hormonal diseases that are being sought can be investigated by means of modern methods shortly after birth. For this, only a few drops of blood are necessary, which are taken from the heel on the third or fourth day after birth. On a filter paper strip, these blood drops are sent to the laboratory of the Children’s Hospital Zurich, where they are examined for the following diseases:

  • Phenylketonuria (PKU),
  • Hypothyroidism,
  • MCAD deficiency,
  • Adrenogenital Syndrome (AGS),
  • Galactosemia,
  • Biotinide deficiency,
  • Cystic Fibrosis (CF),
  • Glutaraziduria Type 1 (GA-1), and
  • Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD).

Ongoing physician medical education and executive training is important for the overall well-being of the hospital. Would you describe the program and the courses?

Dr. Malagoli:  We place a high priority on medical education and training with a focus on children, youth, and their families. The various departments of the hospital offer regular specialist training courses for interested physicians at regular intervals. Training is available in the following areas:

  • Anesthesiology,
  • Surgery,
  • Developmental Pediatrics,
  • Cardiology,
  • Clinical Chemistry and Biochemistry,
  • Neuropediatrics,
  • Oncology,
  • Pediatrics, and
  • Rehabilitation.

As a training hospital, we have built an extensive network or relationships with physicians in Switzerland as well as other parts of the world, who take part in our ongoing medical education opportunities that focus on specialized pediatrics and  pediatric surgery. Also, newly trained, young physicians who are in private practice or affiliated with other children’s hospitals often take part in our courses.

We also offer our hospital management and leaders from other organizations professional development in the areas of leadership or specialized competence training. We believe that all executives in leadership or management roles contribute significantly to our success and to a positive working climate. That is why we have developed crucial training in specific, work-related courses, including planning and communications skills, professional competence, and entrepreneurial development.

How is Children’s Hospital transforming health care? 

Dr. Malagoli: The close cooperation between doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers is a key success factor in transforming health care. We strive for comprehensive child care that does not only focus on somatic issues but also on psychological support for patients and their families and social re-integration. However, it becomes more and more difficult to finance all the necessary support services.

Many supportive services, for example, for parents and families of sick children are not paid by health insurance in Switzerland and we do not receive financial support from the Swiss Government. Since 2012, we have the Swiss Diagnosis Related Groups (DRG) guidelines, a new tariff system for inpatient hospital services, that regulates costs for treatment in hospitals all over the country and those costs do not consider the amount of extra services we provide for parents and families as a children’s hospital. Those DRG principles mostly are for hospitals who treat adult patients.

Since you stepped into your role as CEO, how have you changed the way that you deliver health care?

Dr. Malagoli: I have definitely not reinvented health care! Giving my staff the space for individual development and the chance to realize their ideas is probably my main contribution to our success. Working with children is for many people motivating and enriching. We benefit from that, too. Moreover, we have managed to build up a culture of confidence and mutual respect – we call it the “Kispi-spirit”. “Kispi” as abbreviation of “Kinderspital.” Please visit our special recruiting site, which is www.kispi-spirit.ch.

I can think of a few examples where our doctors and medical teams have made a difference in the lives of our patients. Two of our physicians – PD (Privatdozent, a private university teacher) Dr. med. Alexander Moller and Dr. med. Florian Singer, Ph.D. – are involved in the development of new pulmonary functions tests which allow us to diagnose chronic lung diseases at an early stage in young children.

  • Often times, newly born babies have a lung disease but do not show any specific symptoms, such as coughing. One of these new tests measures lung function based on inhaling and exhaling pure oxygen, rather than using the standard spirometry test used in children and adults to assess how well an infant’s lungs work by measuring how much air they inhale, how much they exhale and how quickly they exhale. The new test is currently part of a clinical routine in children with cystic fibrosis as well as in clinical trials in Europe. The test is so successful that the European Respiratory Society presented Dr. med. Singer, Ph.D., with the ‘Pediatric Research Award’ in 2015.
  • Another significant research question among the pediatric pulmonary disease community is how asthma can be diagnosed reliably and at an earlier stage. PD Dr. med. Moller, chief physician of Pneumology at the hospital, has high hopes in a new way to measure exhaled air via mass spectrometry. If it succeeds, it will be able to evaluate changes in the lungs of asthmatics or help with more specific diagnoses of pneumonia.

In what ways have you built greater transparency, accountability and quality improvement for the benefit of patients?

Dr. Malagoli: Apart from the quality measures which are prescribed by Swiss law, we have decided not to strive for quality certifications and accreditations. We focus on outcome quality, record our results in quality registers and compare our outcome internationally with the best in class.

Our team of approximately 2,200 specialized physicians largely comes from Switzerland, although we have attracted a number of doctors from countries such as Germany, Portugal, Italy, Austria, and even Serbia, Turkey, Macedonia, Slovakia, and Croatia.

We recently conducted an employee satisfaction survey, which showed about 88 percent of employees were very satisfied or satisfied with their working conditions at the hospital and the job we are doing with patients and their families. This ranking is particularly gratifying for us as a service provider for the children and families we serve.

How does your volunteer program help families better deal with hospitalized children?

Dr. Malagoli: We have an enormous commitment from volunteers to care for hospitalized children and we are grateful to them. We offer our patients and their families child care, dog therapy, and even parenting by the Aladdin Foundation, a volunteer visiting service for hospitalized children to relieve parents and relatives and help young patients stay in hospital to recover quickly. The volunteers visit the child in the absence of the parents and are fully briefed on the child’s condition and care plan. The handling of care request usually takes no more than 24 hours and is free of charge. The assignments range from one-off visits to daily care for several weeks.

malagoli_m_905

Image SOURCE: Photograph of Hospital Director and Chief Executive Officer Markus Malagoli, Ph.D., courtesy of Children’s Hospital Zurich (Universitäts-Kinderspital Zürich), Switzerland.  

Markus Malagoli, Ph.D.
Director and Chief Executive Officer

Markus Malagoli, Ph.D., has been Hospital Director and Chief Executive Officer of the University Children’s Hospital Zurich (Universitäts-Kinderspital Zürich), since 2007.

Prior to his current role, Dr. Malagoli served as Chairman of Hospital Management and Head of Geriatrics of the Schaffhausen-Akutspital, the only public hospital in the Canton of Schaffhausen, from 2003 through 2007, where he was responsible for 10 departments, including surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, rheumatology/rehabilitation, throat and nose, eyes, radiology, anesthesia, hospital pharmacy and administration. The hospital employs approximately 1,000 physicians, nursing staff, other medical personal, as well as administration and operational services employees. On average, around 9,000 individuals are treated in the hospital yearly. Previously, he was Administrative Director at the Hospital from 1996 through 2003.

Dr. Malagoli began his career at Ciba-Geigy in 1985, spending 11 years in the company. He worked in Business Accounting in Basel, and a few years later, became Head of the Production Information System department in Basel. He then was transferred to Ciba-Geigy in South Africa as Controller/Treasurer and returned to Basel as Project Manager for the SAP Migration Project in Accounting.

Dr. Malagoli received his B.A. degree in Finance and Accounting and a Ph.D. in Business Administration at the University of St. Gallen.

He is a member of the Supervisory Board of Schaffhausen-Akutspital and President of the Ungarbühl in Schaffhausen, a dormitory for individuals with developmental impairments.

Editor’s note:

We would like to thank Manuela Frey, communications manager, University Children’s Hospital Zurich, for the help and support she provided during this interview.

 

REFERENCE/SOURCE

University Children’s Hospital Zurich (Universitäts-Kinderspital Zürich —  http://www.kispi.uzh.ch)

Other related articles

Retrieved from http://www.swisshealth.ch/en/patienten/spitaeler/Kispi.php

Retrieved from http://hospitals.webometrics.info/en/europe/switzerland%20

Retrieved from http://www.gruner.ch/en/projects/university-childrens-hospital-zurich

Retrieved from http://www.ebmt-swiss-ng.org/university-childrens-hospital-zurich.html

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Multiple copies of the alpha tryptase gene drive Tryptase elevations may contribute to symptoms of dizziness and lightheadedness, skin flushing and itching, gastrointestinal complaints, chronic pain, and bone and joint problems

 

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

Monday, October 17, 2016

NIH scientists uncover genetic explanation for frustrating syndrome

Previously unexplained symptoms found associated with multiple copies of a single gene.

Other studies have indicated that four to six percent of the general public has high tryptase levels. While not all of these people experience symptoms, many do, raising the possibility that this mildly prevalent trait in some cases drives the symptoms, although how it does so remains unclear.

“This work suggests that multiple alpha tryptase gene copies might underlie health issues that affect a substantial number of people,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “Identifying one genetic cause for high tryptase opens the door for us to develop strategies for diagnosing and treating people carrying this genetic change.”

Previously,NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) researchers had observed that a combination of chronic and sometimes debilitating symptoms, such as hives, irritable bowel syndrome and overly flexible joints, runs in some families and is associated with high tryptase levels. Many affected family members with high tryptase also reported symptoms consistent with disorders of autonomic nervous system function (dysautonomia), including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which is characterized by dizziness, faintness and an elevated heartbeat when standing up.

SOURCE

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-scientists-uncover-genetic-explanation-frustrating-syndrome

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