The Health Ministry has designated the Hebrew University’s Sanford Kuvin Center
for the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases as the country’s national
laboratory for leishmaniasis. The disease, which is transmitted by the bite of
certain species of sandfly, is caused by protozoan parasites that belong to the
genus Leishmania and can be serious and disfiguring. The ministry’s recognition
of the Kuvin Center highlights the leading role of its researchers, who have
worked together on the disease for many years along with colleagues from around
An estimated 12 million cases of leishmaniasis are reported
worldwide, with 1.5 million to two million new cases a year. There are also
cases in Israel, especially in the Jordan Valley, where it is known as the Rose
of Jericho, and in Ma’aleh Adumim outside Jerusalem and
Depending on the parasite species, symptoms of leishmaniasis
can include skin sores, which erupt weeks to months after the person affected is
bitten by the sandflies, as well as other consequences such as fever, damage to
the spleen and liver, and anemia. In the latter case, the disease is fatal if
The Kuvin Center’s mission is to study the cause and effect of
vector-borne diseases and to find and implement strategies to reduce or
eliminate the impact of those diseases. The center is part of the medical
faculty’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada.
Kuvin, founder and international board chairman of the center, said that the
ministry’s declaration is a tribute to the excellence of the center’s scientists
and presents it as the main address for infectious and tropical disease research
in the Middle East.
JUST ONE SERVING OF JUNK FOOD AFFECTS ARTERIES
single serving of junk food composed mainly of saturated fat is harmful to the
arteries, while no damage occurs after consuming a Mediterranean-diet meal rich
in good fats such as mono-and polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to
researchers at the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Center at the
Montreal Heart Institute. A Mediterranean meal may even have a positive effect
on the arteries. The findings were recently presented at the Canadian
Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto by Prof. Anil Nigam.
He undertook the
study to compare the effects of junk food and typical Mediterranean food on the
endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels. By measuring endothelial
function, it is possible to determine how easily the arteries will dilate after
a temporary, fiveminute occlusion following the consumption of the two types of
foods. This is a very interesting analysis, as endothelial function is closely
linked to the long-term risk of developing coronary artery disease.
study also revealed that participants with higher blood triglyceride levels
seemed to benefit more from the healthy meals. Their arteries responded better
to the Mediterranean food compared to people with low triglyceride
“We believe that a Mediterranean-type diet may be particularly
beneficial for individuals with high triglyceride levels, such as patients with
metabolic syndrome, precisely because it could help keep arteries healthy,” said
A total of 28 non-smoking men underwent tests for their baseline
endothelial function and ate the Mediterranean-type meal first and then the junk
food-type meal a week later. The researchers then tested the effects of each
The first was composed of salmon, almonds and vegetables cooked in
olive oil, of which 51 percent of total calories came from fat (mostly
monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats.) The second meal consisted
of a sandwich made of a sausage, an egg and a slice of cheese and three
hash-brown potatoes, for a total of 58% of total calories from fat: extremely
rich in saturated fatty acids and containing no omega-3s. At two hours and four
hours after each meal, participants underwent further ultrasounds to assess how
the food had impacted their endothelial function.
The team found that
after eating the junk food meal, the arteries of the study participants dilated
24% less than they did when in the fasting state. In contrast, the arteries were
found to dilate normally and maintain good blood flow after the
“These results will positively alter how we eat
on a daily basis. Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant
precursors of atherosclerosis.
It is now something to think about at
every meal,” Nigam said.
VITAMIN D FOR PREGNANT WOMEN TO REDUCE MS RISK
The connection between living in countries with little sunlight and contracting
the neurological disease multiple sclerosis has been known for years. But now
researchers whose work has been published in the Journal of Neurology
Neurosurgery and Psychiatry recommend that pregnant women take vitamin D
supplements to ward off MS, as not enough of the vitamin is produced in the skin
from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
The risk of developing MS is highest in
the month of April and lowest in October, according to the analysis of the
The findings, which include several populations at
latitudes greater than 52 degrees from the equator, for the first time strongly
implicate maternal exposure to vitamin D during pregnancy.
previous research and prompt the authors to conclude that there is now a strong
case for vitamin D supplementation for pregnant women in countries where
ultraviolet light levels are low between October and March.
researchers compared previously published data on almost 152,000 people with MS
with expected birth rates for the disease in a bid to find out if there was any
link between country of birth and risk of developing multiple
At latitudes greater than 52 degrees from the equator,
insufficient ultraviolet light of the correct wavelength (290 to 315 nanometers)
reaches the skin between October and March to enable the body to manufacture
enough vitamin D during the winter months, say the authors.
indicated a significant excess risk of 5% among those born in April compared
with what would be expected.
There was a significant increase in risk
among those born in April and May and a significantly lower risk among those
born in October and November. No studies from the southern hemisphere were
included in the analysis, largely because so few have been carried out, so the
results should be viewed in light of that, caution the authors.
conclude: “Through combining existing data-sets for month of birth and subsequent
MS risk, this study provides the most robust evidence to date that the month of
birth effect is a genuine one. This finding, which supports concepts
hypothesized some years previously, surely adds weight to the argument for early
intervention studies to prevent MS through vitamin D supplementation.”