Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Fire Facials: Crazy Chinese Fire Treatment which sets your face on fire

Women have always had to endure a certain amount of pain to make themselves beautiful. But how far is actually considered too far? Apparently, there isn't a limit to what Chinese women would do to look good, even if it means setting themselves on fire.

The photograph below shows a woman with a thick yellow face-pack, a towel covering half her face and two balls of fire over her eyes. Yet she looks completely unperturbed. Taken by a Chinese girl when she accompanied her mother to the beauty parlor, the pic has been doing the rounds of several websites ever since it was posted on a Chinese message board last month. Along with the pic the girl posted this message: “My mom went to get her face done at the beauty salon so I went with her. What I saw… instantly shocked me… I couldn't look.” Well, she did look long enough to get a nice shot of her mom’s eyes on fire.
Chinese salons claim that the fire treatment is completely safe and harmless, if performed very carefully by highly trained therapists. According to Huo Liao therapist Suzie Lyng, “When administered by a trained therapist, the skin does not get burned but is warmed. Therefore, the procedure is safe.” But an article in the Mail Online says beauticians in the UK are calling it an extremely dangerous treatment.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The father of all men is 340,000 years old

Albert Perry carried a secret in his DNA: a Y chromosome so distinctive that it reveals new information about the origin of our species. It shows that the last common male ancestor down the paternal line of our species is over twice as old as we thought.
One possible explanation is that hundreds of thousands of years ago, modern and archaic humans in central Africa interbred, adding to known examples of interbreeding – with Neanderthals in the Middle East, and with the enigmatic Denisovans somewhere in southeast Asia.
Perry, recently deceased, was an African-American who lived in South Carolina. A few years ago, one of his female relatives submitted a sample of his DNA to a company called Family Tree DNA for genealogical analysis.
Geneticists can use such samples to work out how we are related to one another. Hundreds of thousands of people have now had their DNA tested. The data from these tests had shown that all men gained their Y chromosome from a common male ancestor. This genetic "Adam" lived between 60,000 and 140,000 years ago.
All men except Perry, that is. When Family Tree DNA's technicians tried to place Perry on the Y-chromosome family tree, they just couldn't. His Y chromosome was like no other so far analysed.

Deeper roots

Michael Hammer, a geneticist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, heard about Perry's unusual Y chromosome and did some further testing. His team's research revealed something extraordinary: Perry did not descend from the genetic Adam. In fact, his Y chromosome was so distinct that his male lineage probably separated from all others about 338,000 years ago.
"The Y-chromosome tree is much older than we thought," says Chris Tyler-Smith at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK, who was not involved in the study. He says further work will be needed to confirm exactly how much older.
"It's a cool discovery," says Jon Wilkins of the Ronin Institute in Montclair, New Jersey. "We geneticists have been looking at Y chromosomes about as long as we've been looking at anything. Changing where the root of the Y-chromosome tree is at this point is extremely surprising."
Digging deeper, Hammer's team examined an African database of nearly 6000 Y chromosomes and found similarities between Perry's and those in samples taken from 11 men, all living in one village in Cameroon. This may indicate where in Africa Perry's ancestors hailed from.

Older than humanity

The first anatomically modern human fossils date back only 195,000 years, so Perry's Y chromosome lineage split from the rest of humanity long before our species appeared.
What are the implications? One possibility is that Perry's Y chromosome may have been inherited from an archaic human population that has since gone extinct. If that's the case, then some time within the last 195,000 years, anatomically modern humans interbred with an ancient African human.
There is some supporting evidence for this scenario. In 2011, researchers examined human fossils from a Nigerian site called Iwo Eleru. The fossils showed a strange mix of ancient and modern features, which also suggested interbreeding between modern and archaic humans. "The Cameroon village with an unusual genetic signature is right on the border with Nigeria, and Iwo Eleru is not too far away," says Hammer.
Chris Stringer at the Natural History Museum, London, was involved in the Iwo Eleru analysis, and says the new Y chromosome result highlights the need for more genetic data from modern-day sub-Saharan Africans. "The oldest known fossil humans in both West Africa at Iwo Eleru and Central Africa at Ishango [in Democratic Republic of the Congo] show unexpectedly archaic features, so it certainly looks like we have a more complex scenario for the evolution of modern humans in Africa."

Journal reference: American Journal of Human Genetics,

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Fugitive Profiles

OIG Fugitive: Poul Thorsen

Poul Thorsen
  • From approximately February 2004 until February 2010, Poul Thorsen executed a scheme to steal grant money awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC had awarded grant money to Denmark for research involving infant disabilities, autism, genetic disorders, and fetal alcohol syndrome. CDC awarded the grant to fund studies of the relationship between autism and the exposure to vaccines, the relationship between cerebral palsy and infection during pregnancy, and the relationship between developmental outcomes and fetal alcohol exposure.
  • Thorsen worked as a visiting scientist at CDC, Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, before the grant was awarded.
  • The initial grant was awarded to the Danish Medical Research Council. In approximately 2007, a second grant was awarded to the Danish Agency for Science, Technology, and Innovation. Both agencies are governmental agencies in Denmark. The research was done by the Aarhaus University and Odense University Hospital in Denmark.
  • Thorsen allegedly diverted over $1 million of the CDC grant money to his own personal bank account. Thorsen submitted fraudulent invoices on CDC letterhead to medical facilities assisting in the research for reimbursement of work allegedly covered by the grants. The invoices were addressed to Aarhaus University and Sahlgrenska University Hospital. The fact that the invoices were on CDC letterhead made it appear that CDC was requesting the money from Aarhaus University and Sahlgrenska University Hospital although the bank account listed on the invoices belonged to Thorsen.
  • In April 2011, Thorsen was indicted on 22 counts of Wire Fraud and Money Laundering.
  • According to bank account records, Thorsen purchased a home in Atlanta, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, an Audi automobile, and a Honda SUV with funds that he received from the CDC grants.
  • Thorsen is currently in Denmark and is awaiting extradition to the United States.                                                                                                                                                                                          

    OIG Fugitive: Patricia Chisanga

    Patricia Chisanga
  • On November 7, 2012, Patricia Mubanga Chisanga was indicted on charges of health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Previously, Chisanga's co-conspirator Uche Ben Odunzeh plead guilty one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and was .
  • Emerald Medical Services (Emerald) is a durable medical equipment company operating in the District of Columbia and purportedly providing wheelchairs and other medical equipment to Medicaid patients.
  • Chisanga is listed as the Vice President of Operations on the business records for Emerald.
  • Investigators believe that authorization forms necessary for the submission of claims to Medicaid were altered after they were signed by the prescribing physician. These forms were allegedly used by Emerald to bill Medicaid for more expensive equipment than was actually provided to the patients.
  • Emerald would provide patients with a lower level power wheelchair when, in fact, a higher level wheelchair was authorized.
  • From approximately January 2008 through March 2011, Emerald collected $480,000 from Medicaid for durable medical equipment that was never provided.
  • OIG Special Agents confronted Chisanga about her participation in the scheme. After this confrontation, she fled the United States to Ethiopia, then took a flight to her native Zambia.
  • Chisanga remains at large.                                                                                                                                                                                            

    Lilit Galstyan (aka Nina Galstyan), Julieta Ghazaryan, and Marine Movsisyan

    Lilit Galstyan Julieta Ghazaryan Marine Movsisyan
  • In September 2010, Lilit Galstyan, Julieta Ghazaryan, and Marine Movsisyan were indicted on charges of health care fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Galstyan, Ghazaryan, and Movsisyan, along with their co-conspirators, allegedly billed Medicare, using stolen provider identities, for more than $40 million in false claims for services that were never rendered.
  • According to the indictment, Galstyan, Ghazaryan, Movsisyan and their co-conspirators allegedly stole personal identifying information of physicians and Medicare beneficiaries to submit claims to Medicare for equipment for beneficiaries whom the physicians never saw. They also allegedly employed visa holders from eastern European countries and used the visa holders' identities to submit false claims to Medicare for services never rendered.
  • Although the crime ring was based in the Los Angeles area, investigators believe that the trio and their co-conspirators traveled throughout the country to open fake businesses. These "false fronts" were opened in over 40 States and were located far from the physicians' actual practices in order to conceal the false billings from the physicians. The locations served as "mail drops" so that the conspirators could receive documents used to further the scheme, including Medicare correspondence and bank checks, according to the indictment.
  • Investigators believe that the trio and their co-conspirators received more than $19 million in reimbursements from Medicare for services that were never provided. A large portion of the profits from the alleged schemes were laundered through shell businesses owned by the visa holders, according to the indictment.
  • Co-conspirators Eduard Oganesyan and Karen Chilyan previously pled guilty and were sentenced to 11 years' and 8 years' incarceration, respectively. In addition, Oganesyan and Chilyan were ordered to pay joint and several restitution in the amounts of $10.6 million and $7.7 million, respectively. A third co-conspirator, Arus Gyulbudakyan, also previously pled guilty and was sentenced to 13 months' imprisonment and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution, joint and several. Gyulbudakyan will be deported to Armenia after she has served her time in jail.
  • Galstyan, Ghazaryan, and Movsisyan remain at large.

OIG Fugitive: Jose Argos

Jose Argos
  • In September 2007, Jose Argos was indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, health care fraud, submission of false claims, money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering. According to court documents, Argos allegedly caused the submission of approximately $2.7 million in claims to Medicare for durable medical equipment (DME) that his company never provided to Medicare patients.
  • Argos was president and registered agent of MedStar Services, a DME company in Miami, Florida. Investigators believe that Argos conspired with OIG Most Wanted Fugitive Gustavo Smith and others to defraud Medicare by submitting false claims for reimbursement.
  • Argos, Smith, and their co-conspirators acquired MedStar and obtained a Medicare provider number to submit claims to Medicare for DME that the company purportedly provided. The defendants received approximately $1.5 million in reimbursements from Medicare for DME that was never prescribed or provided to Medicare patients. Smith and Argos then attempted to transfer the proceeds to a foreign country.
  • Both Argos and Smith remain fugitives from justice. 

OIG Fugitive: Vivian Yusuf

Vivian Yusuf
  • In March 2011, Vivian Yusuf was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Investigators believe that Yusuf and her co-conspirators billed Medicare for more than $3.4 million for durable medical equipment (DME) that was neither medically necessary nor prescribed by a physician.
  • Yusuf owned and operated Ivy Health Care Supply, a DME company based in Stafford, Texas. According to court records, Yusuf and her co-conspirators allegedly improperly acquired Medicare patient information to submit false claims to Medicare. The defendants then forged physicians' signatures on prescriptions and certificates of medical necessity (CMN). They also altered prescriptions and CMNs after they had been signed by physicians. The defendants then billed Medicare for power wheelchairs, orthotic equipment, and other medical supplies that were not prescribed or otherwise authorized by a physician, were not medically necessary, and were not requested by the beneficiaries.
  • Investigators believe that Yusuf and her co-conspirators falsely billed Medicare for claims for nearly 800 Medicare patients, primarily located in Texas and Louisiana. Based on these claims, Ivy Health Care Supply was reimbursed approximately $1.6 million from Medicare. Yusuf and her co-conspirators allegedly diverted these funds from her business for their own personal use and benefit, as well as that of others.
  • Federal authorities believe that Yusuf fled the United States in January 2011 and is currently residing in Nigeria. 

Anush Sahakyan & Karo Gotti Blkhoyan (aka Blkhoyan Karo Gotti)

Anush Sahakyan Karo Gotti Blkhoyan
  • In August 2012, Karo Gotti Blkhoyan and Anush Sahakyan were indicted for conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering. According to the indictment, Blkhoyan, Sahakyan and their co-conspirators billed Medicare for approximately $1.1 million in false and fraudulent claims for services never rendered and were paid more than $300,000.
  • According to the indictment, Blkhoyan, Sahakyan, and their co-conspirators conspired to defraud Medicare. Together, they owned and operated Pinnacle Group Services (PGS), a medical clinic located in Columbia, South Carolina, from October 2009 until August 2010. PGS was a sham entity; no patients ever went there and the identities of physicians were stolen to bill Medicare for services.
  • The co-conspirators have been arrested and are awaiting the judicial process.
  • Blkhoyan and Sahakyan remain at large and are believed to be in Los Angeles, California. 

Osman E. Yousif, Amir Bala Elamin, Mudar A.M. Ismail, and
Elsiddig H. Elfaki

Osman Yousif Amir Elamin Mudar Ismail Elsiddig Elfaki
  • In March 2008, Osman E. Yousif, Amir Bala Elamin, Mudar A.M. Ismail, and Elsiddig H. Elfaki were indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, health care fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, and aiding and abetting. According to the indictment, the co-conspirators were paid approximately $970,000 by Medicaid.
  • These co-conspirators created six ambulette companies in Youngstown, Ohio, that appeared to be distinct, separate companies. However, they acted as a single ambulette transportation company, sharing provider billing information, business and/or residential addresses, transportation services, patient lists, and money.
  • Yousif was the owner of ON Time Transportation, Elamin was the owner of Niles Transportation, Ismail was the owner of Nobility Express Transportation, and Elfaki was the owner of Townjet Transportation.
  • These co-conspirators allegedly shared or rotated Medicaid patients to create the impression that the patients were receiving ambulette transportation from different providers.
  • Ismail was convicted after a jury trial and sentenced. He fled before reporting to prison. Yousif,
  • Elamin, and Elfaki fled prior to trial. All the co-conspirators remain at large.
  • Investigators believe that they are residing in Sudan. 

OIG Fugitive: Won Suk Lee

Won Suk Lee
  • In July 2012, Won Suk Lee was indicted on charges of health care fraud, aiding and abetting, and causing an act to be done. According to the indictment, Lee and his co-conspirators are responsible for approximately $2.1 million in false claims submitted to Medicare.
  • Lee owned and operated Won Suk Lee Acupuncture and Herb, Inc. (aka Huntington Park Acupuncture Clinic and Variety Choice, Inc.), two clinics located in Huntington Park, a suburb of Los Angeles. Lee, an acupuncturist, and his staff allegedly provided acupuncture and massage services to Medicare patients from August 2009 through February 2011. However, these services were not covered by Medicare.
  • Investigators believe that Lee provided Medicare beneficiaries' health identification cards and other personal and medical information to California Neuro-Rehabilitation Institute, Inc. (CNR), a clinic enrolled as a Medicare provider for physical therapy services.
  • CNR then allegedly submitted false claims to Medicare for Medicare-covered services, such as physical therapy, even though the beneficiaries did not receive any services from CNR. Lee's co-conspirators created patient files for the beneficiaries that included false documentation for covered services allegedly provided at CNR to support the fraudulent Medicare claims. CNR received approximately $1.2 million from Medicare for these fraudulent claims.
  • Lee remains a fugitive and is believed to be residing in South Korea.

OIG Fugitive: Iftikhar Ghouri

Iftikhar Ghouri
  • In May 2009, Iftikhar Ghouri was indicted on charges of Health Care Fraud, Payment of Kickbacks, and Criminal Forfeiture. Investigators believe that Ghouri and his co-conspirators submitted approximately $9 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for physical and occupational therapy services and treatments that were not provided or were medically unnecessary.
  • According to court documents, Ghouri operated All American Rehab Care, Inc. (AARC), a purported physical and occupational therapy provider. Ghouri allegedly paid kickbacks to health care professionals to persuade them to refer patients to AARC for therapy.
  • Additionally, Ghouri and his co-conspirators allegedly created false physical and occupational therapy files using information that they either purchased or stole from Medicare beneficiaries. The files were then given to approved Medicare providers, who billed Medicare for physical and occupational therapy services that were not provided.
  • Investigators believe that Ghouri went to Canada in September 2007 and has since traveled to Pakistan, where he was born and may be currently residing.

OIG Fugitive: Asher Vanounu

Asher Vanounu
  • In May 2004, a criminal indictment was filed against Asher Vanounu, charging him with health care fraud. Investigators believe that Vanounu billed Medicare for approximately $817,700 and received approximately $258,500 in reimbursements for durable medical equipment (DME) that either was not provided to patients or was not medically necessary.
  • Vanounu owned and operated Valley View Medical Supply, a DME supplier in Las Vegas. According to the indictment, Vanounu allegedly caused fraudulent bills to be submitted to Medicare that falsely claimed that DME was provided to Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact it was not. The DME billed to Medicare included back braces, leg braces, powered air mattresses, commode chairs, and semi electric hospital beds.
  • Investigators believe that Vanounu fraudulently listed the same referring physician on all the DME claims that Valley View submitted to Medicare. However, the physician never examined the patients, nor did the physician certify the medical necessity for the items ordered.
  • Investigators believe Vanounu fled the United States and remains a fugitive at-large. 

OIG Fugitive: Pedro Luis Perez

Pedro Perez
  • In June 2012, Pedro Luis Perez was indicted on charges of health care fraud and aggravated identity theft.
  • RP Best Choice Corp., a durable medical equipment (DME) company, owned by Pedro Luis Perez, fraudulently billed for Medicare patients who lived out of State and had never been to Texas. The majority of the patients were from Florida. Perez's company billed Medicare by falsely claiming that doctors in McAllen, Texas, whose billing information he had stolen, had referred their patients to RP Best Choice for DME.
  • From January 2010 through August 2011, RP Best Choice Corp. was paid over $520,000 in fraudulent Medicare reimbursements for equipment never provided to patients.
  • Investigators believe that Perez never resided in McAllen, Texas, and operated his business from Miami, Florida.
  • Perez remains at large and is believed to be in Cuba. 


Monday, 4 March 2013

Seven genetic risk factors found to be associated with common eye disorder

An international group of researchers has discovered seven new regions of the human genome — called loci — that are associated with increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness. The AMD Gene Consortium, a network of international investigators representing 18 research groups, also confirmed 12 loci identified in previous studies. The findings are reported online today in the journal Nature Genetics. Supported by the National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, the study represents the most comprehensive genome-wide analysis of genetic variations associated with AMD.
“This compelling analysis by the AMD Gene Consortium demonstrates the enormous value of effective collaboration,” said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. “Combining data from multiple studies, this international effort provides insight into the molecular basis of AMD, which will help researchers search for causes of the disease and will inform future development of new diagnostic and treatment strategies.”
AMD affects the macula, a region of the retina responsible for central vision. The retina is the layer of light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye that houses rod and cone photoreceptor cells. Compared with the rest of the retina, the macula is especially dense with cone photoreceptors and is what humans rely on for tasks that require sharp vision, such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces. As AMD progresses, such tasks become more difficult and eventually impossible. Some kinds of AMD are treatable if detected early, but no cure exists. An estimated 2 million Americans have AMD.
Scientists have shown that age, diet, and smoking influence a person’s risk of developing AMD. Genetics also plays a strong role. AMD often runs in families and is more common among certain ethnicities, such as people of Asian or European descent.
Since the 2005 discovery that certain variations in the gene for complement factor H — a component of the immune system — are associated with major risk for AMD, research groups around the world have conducted genome-wide association studies to identify other loci that affect AMD risk. These studies were made possible by tools developed through the Human Genome Project, which mapped human genes, and related projects, such the International HapMap Project which identified common patterns of genetic variation within the human genome.
The AMD Gene Consortium combined data from 18 research groups to increase the power of prior analyses. The current analysis identified seven new loci near genes. As with the previously discovered 12 loci, these seven loci are scattered throughout the genome on many different chromosomes.
“A large number of samples was needed to detect additional genetic variants that have small but significant influences on a person’s disease risk,” said Hemin Chin, Ph.D., NEI associate director for ophthalmic genetics, who assembled the consortium and helped coordinate the study. “By cataloging genetic variations associated with AMD, scientists are better equipped to target corresponding biological pathways and study how they might interact and change with age or other factors, such as smoking.”
The consortium’s analysis included data from more than 17,100 people with the most advanced and severe forms of AMD, which were compared to data from more than 60,000 people without AMD. The 19 loci that were found to be associated with AMD implicate a variety of biological functions, including regulation of the immune system, maintenance of cellular structure, growth and permeability of blood vessels, lipid metabolism, and atherosclerosis.
“Like a map that identifies neighborhoods where the electricity has been knocked out by a storm, the AMD Gene Consortium’s study effectively tagged regions within the genome where researchers are most likely to find short circuits in DNA that cause AMD,” said Anand Swaroop, Ph.D., chief of the NEI Laboratory of Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration and Repair, and one of the group leaders of this consortium effort. “Once you are in the right neighborhood, going block to block or house to house to look for downed power lines goes much faster. Likewise, by limiting their search to the 19 genomic regions identified by the AMD Gene Consortium, scientists can more efficiently search for specific genes and causative changes that play a role in AMD.”
As with other common diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, an individual person’s risk for getting AMD is likely determined not by one but many genes. Further comprehensive DNA analysis of the areas around the 19 loci identified by the AMD Gene Consortium could turn up undiscovered rare genetic variants with a disproportionately large effect on AMD risk. Discovery of such genes could greatly advance scientists’ understanding of AMD pathogenesis and their quest for more effective treatments. 
Lead authors of the study include Gonçalo R. Abecasis, D. Phil., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Lindsay A. Farrer, Ph.D., Boston University; Iris Heid, Ph.D., University of Regensburg, Germany; and Jonathan L. Haines, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, Nashville.
For more information about AMD, visit

Scientists Report First Cure of HIV In A Child, Say It's A Game-Changer

Scientists believe a little girl born with HIV has been cured of the infection.
She's the first child and only the second person in the world known to have been cured since the virus touched off a global pandemic nearly 32 years ago.
Doctors aren't releasing the child's name, but we know she was born in Mississippi and is now 2 ½ years old – and healthy. Scientists presented details of the case on Sunday at a scientific conference in Atlanta.
The case has big implications. While fewer than 130 such children are born each year in the U.S., an estimated 330,000 children around the world get infected with HIV at or around birth every year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
And while many countries are striving to prevent these mother-to-child infections, many thousands of children will certainly get infected in coming years.
Until now, such children have been considered permanently infected. Specialists thought they needed lifelong antiviral drugs to prevent HIV from destroying their immune system and killing them of AIDS.
The Mississippi child's surprising cure came about from happenstance – and the quick thinking of a University of Mississippi pediatric infectious disease specialist named Hannah Gay.
"The child came to our attention as a high-risk exposure to maternal HIV," Gay tells Shots. Her mother hadn't had any prenatal care, she says, so didn't get antiviral drugs during pregnancy.
The fact that the newborn tested positive for HIV within 30 hours of birth is a sign she was probably infected in utero, HIV specialists say.
Gay decided to begin treating the child immediately, with the first dose of antivirals given within 31 hours of birth. That's faster than most infants born with HIV get treated, and specialists think it's one important factor in the child's cure.
In addition, Gay gave higher-than-usual, "therapeutic" doses of three powerful HIV drugs rather than the "prophylactic" doses usually given in these circumstances.
Over the months, the baby thrived and standard tests could detect no virus in her blood, which is the normal result from antiviral treatment.
Then, her mother stopped bringing the child in for checkups.
"The baby's mom was having some life changes, that's about all I can say," Gay reports. "I saw her at 18 months, and then after that did not see her for several months. And we were unable to locate her for a while."
Gay enlisted the help of Mississippi state health authorities to track down the child. When they found her, the mother said she'd stopped giving antiviral drugs six or seven months earlier.
At that point, Gay expected to find that the child's blood was teeming with HIV. But to her astonishment, tests couldn't find any virus.
"My first thought was, 'Oh my goodness, I've been treating a child who's not actually infected,' " Gay says. But a look at the earlier blood work confirmed the child had been infected with HIV at birth. So Gay then thought the lab must have made a mistake with the new blood samples. So she ran those tests again.
"When all those came back negative, I knew something odd was afoot," Gay says. She contacted an old friend, Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga at the University of Massachusetts, who has been studying pediatric HIV/AIDS for two decades.
That was last August. Since then, Luzuriaga's lab and those in San Diego, Baltimore and Bethesda, Md., have run ultra-sensitive tests on the baby's blood.
A couple of tests have intermittently found pieces of HIV DNA and RNA, but no evidence that the virus is actively replicating in the child's cells.
Luzuriaga tells Shots this amounts to what's called a "functional cure."
She says that "means control of viral replication and lack of rebound once they come off anti-retroviral medications."
The only other such case known to AIDS researchers is the so-called Berlin patient – a San Francisco man named Timothy Brown. But his treatment involved a bone marrow transplant in Germany – essentially, he was given the immune system of a donor who's genetically resistant to HIV. That's not something that can be easily duplicated.
By contrast, the Mississippi child's cure involved readily available medications.
Luzuriaga says researchers believe they have ruled out other possible reasons for the unexpected cure. For instance, the mother did not have a less virulent strain of HIV. And the child does not have known mutations in her immunity genes that confer protection against HIV.
"We think it was that very early and aggressive treatment," she says, "that curtailed the formation of viral reservoirs" – that is, hideouts for the virus within the child's immune cells.
Previous research indicates that once these hideouts are established, it can take 70 years or more of steady, three-drug antiviral treatment to eliminate them.
Luzuriaga says the toddler's cure has electrified researchers searching for an HIV cure.
"It's exciting to us," she says. "Because if we were able to replicate this, I think it would be very good news."
Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins University Medical School, who presented the case at the Congress on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, calls the Mississippi cure "definitely a game-changer."
"This case is sort of the inspiration and provides the rationale to really move forward," Persaud tells Shots.
Kevin Robert Frost of the Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR, agrees that the finding will stimulate a lot of further work. The group helped fund studies to determine if the Mississippi toddler is really cured.
"If this approach is proven effective, we could dramatically change the way children born with HIV are treated," he tells Shots.
Plans are under way to mount studies to see if early, aggressive treatment can cure other children of HIV. But Persaud says it will be a while before researchers can figure out when it might be safe to stop antiviral drugs deliberately.
This research will undboubtedly be high-priority, given the birth of nearly 1,000 HIV-infected newborns a day in the developing world.
AIDS researchers foresee a day when the same treatment could give many of these children a lifetime free of toxic and costly antiviral drugs.

Swadeshi Andolan – An open letter to Som Mittal, President, NASSCOM

NASSCOM needs to revisit the Swadeshi commerce model if growth of the “Made in India" brand is to be achieved, believes tech entrepreneur Sanjay Mehta.
His views are reproduced below verbatim:
Respected Mr. Mittal,
The pride of being a NASSCOM member can never be overstated, and thus my membership in this organization, is one of my most prized. Thank you for the honor; few years back I was invited to be the Regional Council Member for West Region at NASSCOM.
Since its inception, NASSCOM has been the designated torch-bearer for the Indian IT industry. NASSCOM, I believe is stagnating because of obsolete vision statement - "To be an effective and engaging global trade organization, complemented by the pi¬¬¬llars of trust and credibility". Indian IT has already proven its mettle, and long passed-by this vision statement. NASSCOM can no longer gloat over the achievements of its members: each of whom are a success case story and have become members after attaining a fair level of success. I am sure you will completely agree that there's much more to the Indian IT industry than my 1350 NASSCOM colleague companies.
By profession, I am a technology entrepreneur, having founded well-admired and regarded, purely Indian ‘Swadeshi’ product companies in my career. My current role requires me to connect with enterprise Indian CIO community at large and in my past avatar, I was managing an Indian SMB user base of over 20K. I am also part of an Angel Investment network with a few portfolio companies along with being a speaker in various technology forums on topics such as Big Data, analytics, entrepreneurships and digital marketing and product business in India market scenarios among others.
I am reaching out to you sir, to bring to your immediate attention on the need to build a climate where software intellectual property is developed, nurtured and enabled for success in India and across the globe.
Re-imagining NASSCOM
Let's first check if NASSCOM has defined or understood the product IP company’s problem statement well enough to answer it. Does the existing NASSCOM team have the drive and bandwidth to solve that problem statement? Allow my dissent as I state that we, the NASSCOM members, now represent a bourgeoisie or an exclusive club. We have chosen to ignore the rest of our compatriots who could potentially be better than us in building global IT products. These compatriots are our fellow Indian IT businesses, and they will realize their potential, despite our blind-eye. And once having their potential they too shall become fellow blue-bloods.
Indian IT services, IT enabled business process services, among others have made great strides and have become the story of our nation’s growth over the last two decades. Thanks to NASSCOM for its all round enabling efforts over the years since its formation. While this is greatly appreciated and highly regarded by me, there is also a feeling within me, and many others who have survived with difficulty, that we have achieved much lesser compared with peers in other countries, and overall produced very little intellectually property as a nation over the same period.
Fortunately, Indians are a talented bunch, a fact proved by so many international product brands having development centres in India. But this great talent pool barely gets converted into scalable global product business brands owned by Swadeshi Company. We, as ‘Swadeshi’ Indian origin product companies, have far more challenges than skilled labor arbitrage offering companies, which make up the biggest chunk of NASSCOM members.
Office bearers in NASSCOM have very little or no clue as to the ground realities and the requirements of IP product engineering companies, hence the lack of focus. The programs or services designed has not much adoption with Swadeshi focused IT product community nor its CIO technology buyers.
Building the ‘Made in India’ brand
Till now, only point solutions have come from NASSCOM, which don't solve growth pangs, aspiration of next generation of innovative Swadeshi companies or the Indian CIO technology buyer’s problems. The responsibility for such national or international level growth, policies with framework mobilization towards Swadeshi product IP-focused companies, ultimately rests with a NASSCOM leadership team.
NASSCOM generally succeeds in whatever it tries, so maybe we did not try, or bother to try hard enough? Critically, NASSCOM will have to figure out how to manage multiple distinct businesses like BPO, IT, gaming, product IP etc. NASSCOM should focus equally on giving Swadeshi product companies the tools they need to grow nationally and overseas. It's now time to start asking questions, and retrospect. Unless we do so, Indian IT might soon accept John Milton's "Paradise Lost", as its anthem. Sir, it is time to give value to the "Made in India" badge.
NASSCOM was born in the country of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji envisioned a nation where development would begin with the last, poorest, most excluded person. Shouldn't we, at NASSCOM consider the smallest of Indian IT companies as deserving protagonists, for a truer analogy? If NASSCOM fails to accept responsibility, or rejects this as a course of its destiny, I believe Indian ‘Swadeshi’ may have to soon become the true face of Indian IT. So what stops NASSCOM from rising to the challenge and manage all these expectations? Please introspect. The victory of NASSCOM in past looks more like defeat as it has ignored the local country focus/requirements over global exports.
Recalibrating priorities
NASSCOM needs to negotiate with conflicting groups, ideologies and viewpoints within the industry. Sir, NASSCOM needs to draw out Swadeshi emerging product companies from its silence. Luxuries today will be imperatives tomorrow, so it's time for NASSCOM leadership to step up. IT Consumers in India and the world over are migrating in droves to mobile devices, social media and cloud, so does NASSCOM have a current and future strategy for its members or industry as a whole?
To me, the most critical thing in the Indian ecosystem right now is the lack of good local product engineering courses, policies for loans, grants and COE for IP building. Will we see quality software scalable products for enterprise or consumers being written for the global market from India or for that matter, for the Indian market? It's imperative to initiate policies that address the Swadeshi product IP vacuum in the country. The policy framework within NASSCOM has to encourage the right kind of minds into NASSCOM’s Swadeshi product community.
Nothing would please Swadeshi companies more than being able to hire more product programmers and inundate the market with good IP products in the mobile, social media or software space. Start with a comprehensive listing of Swadeshi product companies irrespective of whether they are members of NASSCOM or not. Subsequently hone the skills of these Swadeshi companies under the guidance of successful IP product leaders through a defined process. Help them go global with right access to markets. Create success stories of Swadeshi products nationally and internationally and market them for others to follow.
Time to set newer goals
Sir, In the NASSCOM annual report 2012-13, the message from the Chairman N Chandrasekaran reads, and I quote “The vibrant start-up ecosystem in the country is creating innovative products and solutions that are targeted at the global and Indian market; enterprise and SMB user. NASSCOM is creating a focused program to support these start ups and encourage greater entrepreneurship in the country.” We look forward to these first steps hopefully in this year itself from NASSCOM —programs which are long term, large enough and well thought through for Swadeshi companies.
Opening the avenues to increase our flock, in terms of shapes and sizes, is my suggestion. Becoming a cradle and not just a catalyst must be NASSCOM’s future role. It is time to open the doors, welcome younger Swadeshi product businesses and encourage new Indian aspirants. It is time to provide a better, wholesome industry platform for Indian IT product companies. It's now time to set newer goals, and higher aims. NASSCOM as a body has a potential to touch billions of lives every day.
The Swadeshi commerce consumption model has a credible provenance in Indian history. It has been used before to help local businesses grow. NASSCOM needs to revisit that Swadeshi commerce model if growth of the “Made in India" brand is to be achieved. Youth and seasoned professionals today are increasingly inclined towards taking up technology entrepreneurship more and more. Support from NASSCOM if given now, is going to take them down the growth path faster; take our country a long way and massively boost industry confidence.
Sir, it is important for NASSCOM to advocate or even get a mandate for pushing technology buyers in India, CIOs, Enterprises, SMBs, Government and Consumers to look at procuring Swadeshi products first. Sir, you will appreciate that discontent is the root of success, this is why I desire it.
I am thankful for being the member of NASSCOM and what it is today, and hopeful for NASSCOM to act on the behalf of Swadeshi companies for future of this country. Let’s help make the Swadeshi IP product brand story successful and welcomed all over.