Materia Medica Malaysiana

April 28, 2008

Big hope for ‘warrior’ Aedes

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:20 am

NST: KLANG: The Health Ministry will consider all factors when conducting field trials using genetically modified (GM) Aedes mosquitoes.
Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said it was too soon to conclude whether the method would be a success as it was at the research stage.
“It is a technological breakthrough and we are hoping that it can control the disease,” he said, adding that research was also being done on vaccines.
Liow was commenting on fears expressed by environmentalists that the release of GM Aedes mosquitoes could cause more harm than good.
The New Sunday Times reported yesterday that the Institute of Medical Research and a company partly owned by the University of Oxford would release “warrior” mosquitoes in Pulau Ketam off Selangor to combat the den-gue scourge.
Speaking at a press conference after officiating the Federation of Alumni Associations of Taiwan Universities, Mal-aysia annual general meeting in Centro Mall yesterday, Liow said there was a shortage of about 9,000 doctors in the country, adding that in the past five years, more than 100 Malaysian specialists practising abroad had applied to return.
He said those who returned could apply for research grants from the government.
He said the eight Taiwanese universities that were recognised by the government were Medical School of Taiwan, Defence Medical School, Yang Ming Medical School, Chung Kung Medical School, Taipei Medical School, China Medical School, Chung Shan Medical School and Kaoshiung Medical University.

Medical student wins British Council award

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:19 am

NST: MEDICAL student Stephanie Siew Jean Tiew’s passion and dedication in saving the lives of babies has won her the International Student of the Year 2008 award, and a cash prize of STG2,000 (RM12,500).
The fourth year student of University of Manchester was among more than 1,500 students representing 127 nationalities in the annual competition by the British Council.
The competition aims to shine the spotlight on international students and their unique contributions to life in the UK.
Siew, who established the “Save a Baby’s Life” Society with fellow students, goes to local communities to teach parents and carers of babies about basic life support skills. She also raises funds for the society.
Present to hand over the prize to Siew at the award ceremony last Wednesday was Datuk Jimmy Choo.
Siew was one of 12 finalists to vie for the award and the entry letter that she submitted, detailing her achievements that helped make her time in the UK so rewarding, moved the judges.
In her letter, Siew said: “Since coming to the UK, I feel the sky is the limit and I have dared to dream. This is a place full of opportunities and endless possibilities. The supportive culture in campus, be it from faculty staff or peers, has knitted an extraordinary student life for me. I am a simple country girl who has blossomed into a confident and capable woman.”
Despite her busy schedule, Siew finds time to counsel local teenagers interested in a career in healthcare and writes for the medical school newsletter, Mediscope, while also representing the university in debating tournaments.
On her award, she said: “I am thrilled and delighted to have been chosen as an ambassador for my university and country.”
Siew has also won the prestigious Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Student Prize and has been invited to present one of her papers at an international conference.
Martin Davidson, chief executive of the British Council, said: “The British Council knows that international students make a huge contribution and commitment to life in the UK.
“This competition provides a fantastic opportunity for them to earn some well-deserved recognition for their achievements, a great chance for them to show the world what they’ve achieved while in the UK.”

Beware of work risks, says Niosh

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:18 am

Star: PETALING JAYA: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) wants workers to examine the risks related to their jobs in conjunction with World Health Day for Safety and Health at Work today.
The International Labour Organisation has chosen the theme “My Life, My Work, My Safe Work – Managing Risk in the Work Environment” for the international campaign promoting safety and health at work.
“Some industries are inherently more hazardous than others. Workers must respect and apply measures designed to protect them from occupational hazards,” Niosh chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said.
Nonetheless, Lee said employers were responsible for building and maintaining a safety and health culture that addresses prevention, hazard identification, risk assessment and control, information and training.
“Groups such as migrants and other marginalised workers are often more at risk as poverty frequently forces them into unsafe occupations. The Government, employers and workers’ organisations should conduct awareness-raising activities for employees,” he said.
According to Socso, costs related to occupational safety and health came to more than RM900mil last year due to compensation, lost working time, interruption of production, training and medical expenses.

Better pay for specialists

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:18 am

Star: KLANG: The Health Ministry is stepping up efforts to get Malaysian specialists overseas to return home by offering them better remuneration.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the Ministry would offer these specialists salaries in the top-most higher management tier, Jusa grades A to C, depending on their experience.
“This will enable them to earn more than RM10,000 a month including allowances,” he said.
This was an upgrade from the current U54 senior officer post offer, which offers less than RM10,000, he added.
Only 112 overseas specialists had returned to Malaysia in the last five years, and the ministry hoped more would come home and serve the people, Liow said.
Asked why some Malaysian specialists abroad had complained that they experienced difficulty in returning home to work, he said it likely had to do with negotiations on salary, perks and working conditions.
“We were using all kinds of means to overcome the shortage of doctors – increasing intake, hiring foreign doctors and increasing incentives. These did not solve the problem.
“Now we are asking the specialists to come home,” he said.
With the country short of 9,000 doctors, he urged general practitioners to return to government hospitals and clinics once or twice a month to contribute their services, just like private specialists are doing.
These doctors would be paid RM80 an hour, he said after launching the Taiwanese graduates’ alumni annual general meeting yesterday.
On a plan to release genetically-modified (GM) “killer” Aedes mosquitoes in the fishing village of Pulau Ketam in Selangor as part of international field trials to fight dengue, he said it would be a breakthrough if it was successful.
However, for now, the ministry would look into environmental and other concerns.
It was reported in an English newspaper yesterday that the GM male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes would be released into the wild to eliminate the Aedes mosquito, which spreads dengue fever.

April 27, 2008

Health Ministry to test drive-through project at Penang Hospital soon

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:17 am

Star: PETALING JAYA: Patients with chronic ailments may soon enjoy “drive through” facilities to collect their medication instead of having to wait at government hospital pharmacies.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said a pilot project would begin at the Penang Hospital in three months to study its feasibility.
The service, which would also operate after hours, would be enjoyed by those who suffered from illnesses like diabetes and hypertension.
“They will not have to come on their work day. They can get their medication after office hours or on weekends,” he said.
Ismail said the move was to make pharmacies at the hospitals less congested.
He said patients would be able to make a telephone call or send an SMS to the pharmacy ahead of making the collection.
“Right now, we do not give medication out every three or six months anymore. It is now on a monthly basis and patients have complained that this is inconvenient,” he said.
Furthermore, he said patients with chronic ailments would not need to see the doctor if it was merely repeating one’s medication.
Dr Ismail said “e-prescribing” – the computerisation of medicine prescriptions – had seen a decrease of the number of prescription errors.
The programme has been implemented at the Putrajaya, Selayang and Sungai Buloh hospitals.
Teaching hospitals like Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and University Malaya Medical Centre have also recognised the benefits of computerisation and e-prescribing, he said.
Ismail said there were now more pharmacists in government hospitals particularly after September 2005 when compulsory service for them was introduced.
By the end of last year, 78% of vacancies for U41 pharmacists had been filled. He said there were 2,288 pharmacists in the public sector.

‘Warrior’ mosquitoes to fight dengue scourge

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:12 am

NST: The days of the Aedes mosquitoes appear to be numbered, thanks to the efforts of a British bio-tech company and Malaysia’s Institute of Medical Research, writes P. SELVARANI.
MILLIONS of genetically modified (GM) “warrior” Aedes mosquitoes will soon be released into the fishing village of Pulau Ketam off Selangor as part of international field trials to fight the dengue scourge.
The GM male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry killer genes, will be released into the wild to eliminate the Aedes mosquito population which spreads dengue fever.
The field trials will be undertaken by the Health Ministry’s Institute of Medical Research (IMR) in collaboration with British-based Oxitec Ltd, an insect bio-tech company part-owned by the University of Oxford.
This follows the success of confined lab trials which were conducted under the supervision of the IMR over the past year.
The field testing is expected to be conducted on a wider scale on Pulau Ketam at the end of the year or early next year.
The team is undertaking a baseline survey of the island, which is reported to have a high number of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
Oxitec has advertised on its website vacancies for the Pulau Ketam field-testing job, which includes a position for a senior entomologist.
The field trials on the island, which is a 30-minute boat ride from Port Klang, are expected to be carried out over a year.
Health Ministry and IMR officials did not want to comment on the tests.
In February, Oxitec had announced that it planned to release the GM mosquitoes in Malaysia on a large scale in three years, following its successful trials.
Calcutta’s The Telegraph newspaper had quoted Oxitec’s head of public health, Seshadri S. Vasan, as saying that the first confined field study under the supervision of the IMR “yielded encouraging results”.
Sources said the controlled lab tests done here were the first in the world and was a breakthrough in the fight against dengue, which has grown to alarming proportions across the globe in recent years.
The technique involves releasing GM male Aedes mosquitoes to mate with the female Aedes mosquito. The lethal genes cause the larvae to die.
(Only a female mosquito can transmit the disease-causing germ because it, and not the male mosquito, has a proboscis that is capable of piercing the human skin.)
The Aedes mosquito is the main vector for dengue and chikungunya fever and conventional methods such as fogging have been ineffective in controlling the spread of these diseases.
However, environmental non-governmental organisations fear that releasing these GM mosquitoes in the wild may affect the ecosystem and cause further damage.
Gurmit Singh, the chairman of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, said: “Like all GM organisms, once they have been released in the wild, how do you prevent them from interacting with other insects and producing mutants which may be worse than the Aedes mos-quito?”
It is learnt that if the Pulau Ketam field trials prove successful, the next step would be to introduce the killer mosquitoes in bigger towns which have a high incidence of dengue.
The Telegraph had also reported that the sterile insect technique (SIT), which involves releasing millions of sterile male insects over a wide area to mate with the native female ones, had been around for decades.
It said the conventional sterilisation programmes using radiation or chemical treatment to foster sterility, which were tried on mosquitoes as well, did not work.
Irradiation rendered these mosquitoes so sickly and unattractive that their female counterparts shunned them for the wild ones.
On the other hand, mosquitoes subjected to Oxitec’s proprietary technique, called RIDL-SIT, remained healthy and attractive enough to woo the native female insects.
This was proved in independent case studies in Oxford and France and in contained semi-field trials in Malaysia.
Vasan was quoted as saying that the latest study in Malaysia showed that “up to 50 per cent of the wild type female mosquitoes chose to mate with Oxitec’s RIDL male mosquitoes”.
The paper added that Oxitec had received regulatory and import permits for confined evaluation in the US, France and Malaysia.

April 25, 2008

Ministry awaits starfruit case report

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:16 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is still waiting for the report from a hospital in Shenzhen, China, to find out why a retired assistant headmaster suffered a seizure after eating starfruit and slipped into a coma.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry was just as anxious as the media and public to know the reason for Tang Gon Seang’s coma and the current condition of his health.
Some health experts, nutritionists and starfruit industry players feel that pesticide residue on the fruit is the reason why Tang, 66, had to be hospitalised.
However, when commenting on Tang’s case at a press conference on Tuesday, Professor Dr Tan Si Yen of the University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) said some medical experts think the fruit is dangerous to renal failure patients.
This is because it contains a particular neurotoxin and has a high level of oxalic acid.
MCA public service and complaints bureau chief Datuk Michael Chong, when contacted, said that Tang was still comatose and had shown no improvement.
He said Tang’s family was making arrangements to bring him back by the end of the month so that he could be admitted at the UMMC.
Meanwhile, Wisma Putra said that it had been in touch with Chong and Malaysia’s consulate-general in Guangzhou to get updates on Tang’s condition and to help Tang’s family, if they request it, to fly him back.
“There are procedures to be adhered to, including obtaining letters from the relevant parties, to fly him back to Malaysia.
“There is a need to ensure that nothing happens to him during the flight,” said a spokesman from Wisma Putra.
Tang, a former assistant headmaster of SRJK (C) Kwong Hwa in Butterworth, went to China on Feb 18 with his wife, Teoh Hui Fong, 58, to visit their son, who works there as an engineer.
Tang fell unconscious there on March 29 and slipped into a coma soon after being admitted to hospital.
A specialist diagnosed his condition as being caused by the starfruit he had eaten.
More than 10 patients at the Shenzhen hospital also suffered similar symptoms after eating starfruit.

Docs can’t register ‘excessive’ number

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:16 am

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: It is unacceptable for doctors to register an “excessive” number of clinics under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act.
“If you say you have got three clinics and you are at one clinic in the morning, another in the afternoon and another at night, it is reasonable. But you cannot register five or six or even 10 clinics. That is unacceptable. It is impossible,” Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai told reporters Thursday after launching World Glaucoma Day.
“We want to ensure that for every clinic, there is a doctor responsible for it.”
He was asked to comment on a Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) statement where president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin warned private clinic doctors of legal action if they failed to register their establishments under the Act.
Dr Khoo had said more than 6,000 or 96% of doctors had already registered with the ministry.
Liow added that doctors should self regulate where the registration allowed them to practice and treat patients.
He also said the ministry was setting up a “structured” mechanism where the public could complain if they were charged exorbitant fees by private medical establishments.
The mechanism would be placed under the ministry’s medical practices division where investigations could be carried out swiftly.
Discussions would also be held with relevant parties such as the MMA and the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia.
On 66-year-old Malaysian, Tang Gon Seang, who is among more than a dozen people in a coma after eating star fruits in Shenzhen province in China, Liow said the ministry was waiting for a report from their Chinese counterparts.
In a bid to help to prevent eye diseases among Malaysians, Liow said ophthalmologists would visit rural areas more frequently to carry out checks on residents there.
The visits could range from weekly to monthly ones, he said.
He also asked for the more than 700 optometrists to help in carrying out eye checks, as the number of qualified ophthalmologists within the ministry was only about 140.
The leading cause of blindness in Malaysia was still cataracts while glaucoma caused 1.8% of the 78,000 blindness cases.
Among the risk factors for glaucoma are having family members who suffered from the disease, diabetes, high eye pressure or intraocular pressure, short sightedness, and prolonged and frequent usage of steroids. Those aged 45 years and above are also at risk.
Symptoms include blurred vision, red eye, problem focussing in darkness and loss of peripheral sight.

April 23, 2008

Dystonia patient gets life back after surgery

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:29 am

NST: KOTA BARU: Three years ago, Zakaria Taib’s life was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with a movement disorder called Dystonia.
Since then, the 62-year-old retired teacher suffered continuous pain with severe cramps that often left him bedridden. He even had difficulty talking.
But after undergoing a corrective surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) therapy treatment at Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital (HUSM) in Kubang Kerian on Jan 31, the father of nine is now able to walk, talk and even drive.
Zakaria was a picture of happiness when met at a press conference in HUSM yesterday.
He was accompanied by his wife Khadijah Hassan, 53, and the team of doctors who treated him, led by HUSM neurosurgeon and neuroscience department head, Professor Dr Jafri Malim Abdullah.
“I am the happiest man alive as I got my life back. Before this, I couldn’t walk and talk or do simple tasks. After undergoing the DSB treatment, I can drive my car and read newspaper everyday.”
He said that his wife had to quit her teaching job to take care of him.
“My wife and family had to help carry me around. I required help even for basic tasks like eating and bathing. It was very hard on them and I am grateful that they were there for me.
“Although I have not recovered 100 per cent, my condition is now much better, thanks to the doctors,” he said.
Dr Jafri said Dystonia patients can undergo treatment at the hospital at less than the cost charged by private hospitals.
Since performing its first operation last year, he said they had two more patients including Zakaria.
The procedure involved inserting two electrical wires in their brain that would be connected to a battery implanted in their chest. The battery can last for five years and can be replaced.
While private practice charges around RM200,000 for the treatment, he said HUSM charged up to RM140,000 including the battery that costs RM20,000.
“So far, only HUSM offers an alternative for patients, especially from the lower income group, to get their treatment at a reasonable cost,” he said.

Dept mulls check-ups for NS trainees

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:28 am

NST: KUANTAN: The death of a National Service (NS) trainee and the case of a female participant giving birth may see trainees undergoing medical checkups before joining the camp.
At present, trainee are only required to make a declaration on their health status when registering at the respective camps.
NS Training Department director-general Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang Kechil said the department would get feedback from the Health Ministry and NS Training Council before making a proposal for the compulsory medical checkup.
“I will bring this matter up in the next meeting with ministry officials and council chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,” he said after opening a motivational talk by NS icon Mej Dr Faiz Khalid at the Cahaya Gemilang NS camp in Cherating near here yesterday.
Abdul Hadi said in the two recent cases, the trainees did not know or declare their health status as required. “Both had indicated in the declaration forms that they were fit to join the programme.”
He said the student who delivered her baby after joining the programme in Kemaman had only asked for exemption from physical training as she claimed that she had piles.
As for the trainee from the Tapah camp, he was given proper treatment before he died of “pulmonary haemorrhage” due to infection at the Teluk Intan Hospital.

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