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Concept: Diseases and disorders


Background Increased nut consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, the association between nut consumption and mortality remains unclear. Methods We examined the association between nut consumption and subsequent total and cause-specific mortality among 76,464 women in the Nurses' Health Study (1980-2010) and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2010). Participants with a history of cancer, heart disease, or stroke were excluded. Nut consumption was assessed at baseline and updated every 2 to 4 years. Results During 3,038,853 person-years of follow-up, 16,200 women and 11,229 men died. Nut consumption was inversely associated with total mortality among both women and men, after adjustment for other known or suspected risk factors. The pooled multivariate hazard ratios for death among participants who ate nuts, as compared with those who did not, were 0.93 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.90 to 0.96) for the consumption of nuts less than once per week, 0.89 (95% CI, 0.86 to 0.93) for once per week, 0.87 (95% CI, 0.83 to 0.90) for two to four times per week, 0.85 (95% CI, 0.79 to 0.91) for five or six times per week, and 0.80 (95% CI, 0.73 to 0.86) for seven or more times per week (P<0.001 for trend). Significant inverse associations were also observed between nut consumption and deaths due to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Conclusions In two large, independent cohorts of nurses and other health professionals, the frequency of nut consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality, independently of other predictors of death. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation.).

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Disease, Diseases and disorders, Death, Hypertension, Diabetes mellitus, The Canon of Medicine


Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) is unique among the rheumatic diseases because it presents the challenge of managing a chronic multisystem autoimmune disease with a widespread obliterative vasculopathy of small arteries that is associated with varying degrees of tissue fibrosis. The hallmark of scleroderma is clinical heterogeneity with subsets that vary in the degree of disease expression, organ involvement, and ultimate prognosis. Thus, the term scleroderma is used to describe patients who have common manifestations that link them together, whereas a highly variable clinical course exists that spans from mild and subtle findings to aggressive, life-threatening multisystem disease. The physician needs to carefully characterize each patient to understand the specific manifestations and level of disease activity to decide appropriate treatment. This is particularly important in treating a patient with scleroderma because there is no treatment that has been proven to modify the overall disease course, although therapy that targets specific organ involvement early before irreversible damage occurs improves both quality of life and survival. This review describes our approach as defined by evidence, expert opinion, and our experience treating patients. Scleroderma is a multisystem disease with variable expression; thus, any treatment plan must be holistic, yet at the same time focus on the dominant organ disease. The goal of therapy is to improve quality of life by minimizing specific organ involvement and subsequent life-threatening disease. At the same time the many factors that alter daily function need to be addressed, including nutrition, pain, deconditioning, musculoskeletal disuse, comorbid conditions, and the emotional aspects of the disease, such as fear, depression, and the social withdrawal caused by disfigurement.

Concepts: Medicine, Diseases and disorders, Rheumatology, Autoimmune disease, Lupus erythematosus, Systemic disease, Scleroderma, Systemic scleroderma


Amyloidosis of the gastrointestinal tract, with biopsy-proven disease, is rare. We reviewed a series of patients who presented with biopsy-proven gastrointestinal amyloidosis and report their clinical characteristics, treatments, and survival. This is a retrospective review of data prospectively collected from January 1998 to December 2011 in a tertiary referral center; 2,334 patients with all types of amyloidosis were evaluated during this period. Seventy-six patients (3.2%) had biopsy-proven amyloid involvement of the gastrointestinal tract. Their median age was 61 years (range, 34-79). Systemic amyloidosis with dominant gastrointestinal involvement was present in 60 (79%) patients, whereas the other 16 (21%) patients had amyloidosis localized to the gastrointestinal tract without evidence of an associated plasma cell dyscrasia or other organ involvement. Of the 60 systemic cases, 50 (83%) had immunoglobulin light-chain, five (8%) had familial lysozyme, three (5%) had wild-type transthyretin, and two (3%) had mutant transthyretin amyloidosis. The most frequent symptoms for all patients were weight loss in 33 (45%) and gastrointestinal bleeding in 27 (36%). Incidental identification of amyloidosis on routine endoscopic surveillance played a role in the diagnosis of seven patients with systemic immunoglobulin light-chain, and four patients with immunoglobulin light-chain localized to the gastrointestinal tract. Amyloid protein subtyping was performed in 12 of the cases of localized disease, and all had lambda light chain disease. Of the 50 patients with systemic immunoglobulin light-chain amyloidosis, 45 were treated with anti-plasma cell therapy. The median survival has not been reached for this group. For the 16 patients with localized gastrointestinal amyloidosis, supportive care was the mainstay of treatment; none received anti-plasma cell therapy. All 16 are alive at a median follow-up of 36 months (range, 1-143). Patients with biopsy-proven gastrointestinal amyloidosis often present with weight loss and bleeding. In localized cases, all that underwent typing were due to lambda light chain amyloidosis and none progressed to systemic disease during the period of follow-up. Most patients with systemic disease had immunoglobulin light-chain, and their tolerance of therapy and median survival were excellent. Although a rare manifestation of amyloidosis, staining for amyloid should be considered in patients undergoing gastrointestinal biopsy who have unexplained chronic gastrointestinal symptoms.

Concepts: Protein, Multiple myeloma, Diseases and disorders, Amyloid, Amyloidosis, Congo red, Immunoglobulin light chain, Transthyretin


A high incidence of orofacial clefts is reported in China, but no data has shown the relation between cleft types and the incidence of other defects so far. The aim of this study is to assess the incidence of congenital heart diseases and other organic defects associated with different types of orofacial clefts.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Genetic disorder, Diseases and disorders, Heart, Heart disease, Congenital heart disease, Prevalence


BACKGROUND: Serum free light chain analysis is now well established in the investigation of monoclonal gammopathies. In the UK there has, until recently, been a single supplier of kits for such analysis. Recently, a second method using monoclonal antisera was introduced. We have compared the performance of these two kits in four routine laboratories. METHOD: Samples submitted for routine analysis (327 samples, 258 [79%] from patients with B-cell lymphoproliferative disease) for serum free light chains were tested by both technologies (Freelite, Binding Site and N Latex FLC, Siemens), according to the manufacturers' instructions. RESULTS: Qualitative data were available by both methods on 313 samples for serum free kappa chains and 324 samples for lambda free light chains. We found poor correspondence of 81% for kappa and 74% for lambda. Five percent of samples were significantly discordant in these assays. CONCLUSIONS: These assays perform very differently in clinical practice. They cannot be used interchangeably, especially if monitoring patient responses to therapy.

Concepts: Lymphocyte, Diseases and disorders, Lymphoproliferative disorders, Immunoglobulin light chain


Objectives To examine the association between intelligence measured in childhood and leading causes of death in men and women over the life course.Design Prospective cohort study based on a whole population of participants born in Scotland in 1936 and linked to mortality data across 68 years of follow-up.Setting Scotland.Participants 33 536 men and 32 229 women who were participants in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947 (SMS1947) and who could be linked to cause of death data up to December 2015.Main outcome measures Cause specific mortality, including from coronary heart disease, stroke, specific cancer types, respiratory disease, digestive disease, external causes, and dementia.Results Childhood intelligence was inversely associated with all major causes of death. The age and sex adjusted hazard ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) per 1 SD (about 15 points) advantage in intelligence test score were strongest for respiratory disease (0.72, 0.70 to 0.74), coronary heart disease (0.75, 0.73 to 0.77), and stroke (0.76, 0.73 to 0.79). Other notable associations (all P<0.001) were observed for deaths from injury (0.81, 0.75 to 0.86), smoking related cancers (0.82, 0.80 to 0.84), digestive disease (0.82, 0.79 to 0.86), and dementia (0.84, 0.78 to 0.90). Weak associations were apparent for suicide (0.87, 0.74 to 1.02) and deaths from cancer not related to smoking (0.96, 0.93 to 1.00), and their confidence intervals included unity. There was a suggestion that childhood intelligence was somewhat more strongly related to coronary heart disease, smoking related cancers, respiratory disease, and dementia in women than men (P value for interactions <0.001, 0.02, <0.001, and 0.02, respectively).Childhood intelligence was related to selected cancer presentations, including lung (0.75, 0.72 to 0.77), stomach (0.77, 0.69 to 0.85), bladder (0.81, 0.71 to 0.91), oesophageal (0.85, 0.78 to 0.94), liver (0.85, 0.74 to 0.97), colorectal (0.89, 0.83 to 0.95), and haematopoietic (0.91, 0.83 to 0.98). Sensitivity analyses on a representative subsample of the cohort observed only small attenuation of the estimated effect of intelligence (by 10-26%) after adjustment for potential confounders, including three indicators of childhood socioeconomic status. In a replication sample from Scotland, in a similar birth year cohort and follow-up period, smoking and adult socioeconomic status partially attenuated (by 16-58%) the association of intelligence with outcome rates.Conclusions In a whole national population year of birth cohort followed over the life course from age 11 to age 79, higher scores on a well validated childhood intelligence test were associated with lower risk of mortality ascribed to coronary heart disease and stroke, cancers related to smoking (particularly lung and stomach), respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, injury, and dementia.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Cancer, Disease, Diseases and disorders, Death, Senescence, Demography, Heart


Growing evidence has linked positive psychological attributes like optimism to a lower risk of poor health outcomes, especially cardiovascular disease. It has been demonstrated in randomized trials that optimism can be learned. If associations between optimism and broader health outcomes are established, it may lead to novel interventions that improve public health and longevity. In the present study, we evaluated the association between optimism and cause-specific mortality in women after considering the role of potential confounding (sociodemographic characteristics, depression) and intermediary (health behaviors, health conditions) variables. We used prospective data from the Nurses' Health Study (n = 70,021). Dispositional optimism was measured in 2004; all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates were assessed from 2006 to 2012. Using Cox proportional hazard models, we found that a higher degree of optimism was associated with a lower mortality risk. After adjustment for sociodemographic confounders, compared with women in the lowest quartile of optimism, women in the highest quartile had a hazard ratio of 0.71 (95% confidence interval: 0.66, 0.76) for all-cause mortality. Adding health behaviors, health conditions, and depression attenuated but did not eliminate the associations (hazard ratio = 0.91, 95% confidence interval: 0.85, 0.97). Associations were maintained for various causes of death, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection. Given that optimism was associated with numerous causes of mortality, it may provide a valuable target for new research on strategies to improve health.

Concepts: Psychology, Epidemiology, Disease, Diseases and disorders, Mortality rate, Proportional hazards models, Demography, Actuarial science


Leptospirosis, a spirochaetal zoonosis, occurs in diverse epidemiological settings and affects vulnerable populations, such as rural subsistence farmers and urban slum dwellers. Although leptospirosis is a life-threatening disease and recognized as an important cause of pulmonary haemorrhage syndrome, the lack of global estimates for morbidity and mortality has contributed to its neglected disease status.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Diseases and disorders, Poverty, Demography, Population, Slum, Cholera, Leptospirosis


Populations of at least 20 asteroid species on the Northeast Pacific Coast have recently experienced an extensive outbreak of sea-star (asteroid) wasting disease (SSWD). The disease leads to behavioral changes, lesions, loss of turgor, limb autotomy, and death characterized by rapid degradation (“melting”). Here, we present evidence from experimental challenge studies and field observations that link the mass mortalities to a densovirus (Parvoviridae). Virus-sized material (i.e., <0.2 μm) from symptomatic tissues that was inoculated into asymptomatic asteroids consistently resulted in SSWD signs whereas animals receiving heat-killed (i.e., control) virus-sized inoculum remained asymptomatic. Viral metagenomic investigations revealed the sea star-associated densovirus (SSaDV) as the most likely candidate virus associated with tissues from symptomatic asteroids. Quantification of SSaDV during transmission trials indicated that progression of SSWD paralleled increased SSaDV load. In field surveys, SSaDV loads were more abundant in symptomatic than in asymptomatic asteroids. SSaDV could be detected in plankton, sediments and in nonasteroid echinoderms, providing a possible mechanism for viral spread. SSaDV was detected in museum specimens of asteroids from 1942, suggesting that it has been present on the North American Pacific Coast for at least 72 y. SSaDV is therefore the most promising candidate disease agent responsible for asteroid mass mortality.

Concepts: AIDS, Epidemiology, Diseases and disorders, Death, Vaccination, Solar System, Mars, Jupiter


A considerable amount of disease is transmitted from animals to humans and many of these zoonoses are neglected tropical diseases. As outbreaks of SARS, avian influenza and Ebola have demonstrated, however, zoonotic diseases are serious threats to global public health and are not just problems confined to remote regions. There are two fundamental, and poorly studied, stages of zoonotic disease emergence: ‘spillover’, i.e. transmission of pathogens from animals to humans, and ‘stuttering transmission’, i.e. when limited human-to-human infections occur, leading to self-limiting chains of transmission. We developed a transparent, theoretical framework, based on a generalization of Poisson processes with memory of past human infections, that unifies these stages. Once we have quantified pathogen dynamics in the reservoir, with some knowledge of the mechanism of contact, the approach provides a tool to estimate the likelihood of spillover events. Comparisons with independent agent-based models demonstrates the ability of the framework to correctly estimate the relative contributions of human-to-human vs animal transmission. As an illustrative example, we applied our model to Lassa fever, a rodent-borne, viral haemorrhagic disease common in West Africa, for which data on human outbreaks were available. The approach developed here is general and applicable to a range of zoonoses. This kind of methodology is of crucial importance for the scientific, medical and public health communities working at the interface between animal and human diseases to assess the risk associated with the disease and to plan intervention and appropriate control measures. The Lassa case study revealed important knowledge gaps, and opportunities, arising from limited knowledge of the temporal patterns in reporting, abundance of and infection prevalence in, the host reservoir.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Diseases and disorders, Influenza, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Zoonosis