ISLAMABAD – People who are depressed after a stroke may have a tripled risk of dying early than those without the mental health disorder, according to a study.

“Up to one in three people who have a stroke develop depression,” said study author Amytis Towfighi, MD, with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “This is something family members can help watch for that could potentially save their loved one.”

Towfighi noted that similar associations have been found regarding depression and heart attack, but less is known about the association between stroke, depression and death.

The research included 10,550 people between the ages of 25 and 74 followed for 21 years. Of those, 73 had a stroke but did not develop depression, 48 had stroke and depression, 8,138 did not have a stroke or depression and 2,291 did not have a stroke but had depression.

After considering factors such as age, gender, race, education, income level and marital status, the risk of dying from any cause was three times higher in individuals who had stroke and depression compared to those who had not had a stroke and were not depressed. The risk of dying from stroke was four times higher among those who had a stroke and were depressed compared to people who had not had a stroke and were not depressed.

“Our research highlights the importance of screening for and treating depression in people who have experienced a stroke,” said Towfighi. “Given how common depression is after stroke, and the potential consequences of having depression, looking for signs and symptoms and addressing them may be key.”

The study was recently presented at the American Academy of Neurology`s 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Pap test could screen for ovarian, uterine cancer: Study

Turns out the pap smear — a routine test women undergo each year or two to screen for cervical cancer — could help screen for other types of cancer as well, a new study said this week. A new test takes the same fluid swab from the cervix and tests it for the presence of certain cancer-specific mutations.

The scientists were hoping to catch cases of ovarian and endometrial cancer — two common and deadly cancers which, until now, were not able to be screened for routinely.

In the pilot study, the test was able to accurately detect each of 24 endometrial cancers, a 100 percent success rate, according to results published in the US journal “Science Translational Medicine.” The test also detected nine of 22 ovarian cancers, for a 41 percent success rate during the pilot study.

And in no cases were healthy women in the control group mis-identified as having cancer during the study. The scientists cautioned that the process must be tested on a much larger scale before being made available to the public.

But if their findings hold up, the test could be a powerful tool in fighting these two cancers of the ovaries and the uterus lining.

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, the CDC notes, adding that treatment is most effective when it is caught in its early stages.

Likewise, endometrial cancer is the most commonly diagnosed gynecologic cancer, the CDC said, and is best treated when caught early.

“Genomic-based tests could help detect ovarian and endometrial cancers early enough to cure more of them,” Johns Hopkins graduate student Yuxuan Wang said in a statement.

She noted that the cost of the test could be similar to current cervical fluid HPV testing, which is less than $100. “Our genomic sequencing approach may offer the potential to detect these cancer cells in a scalable and cost effective way,” added lab director Luis Diaz.

He explained that the test works because the cervical fluid collected during the pap test occasionally contains cells shed from ovaries or the uterine lining. So it followed that any cancer cells present in those organs could also be present in the cervical fluid.

But the 44 women included in the pilot study had already been diagnosed with either endometrial or ovarian cancer. The test must now be conducted on women who appear healthy, to determine if it could detect cancers in their early stages.

They also aim to search for ways to increase the test`s accuracy in detecting ovarian cancer.

Coconut oil combats tooth decay

Coconut oil is a natural antibiotic that attacks the bacteria causing tooth decay. It could be incorporated into commercial dental care products, say scientists. Researchers from the Athlone Institute of Technology, Ireland, tested the antibacterial action of coconut oil in its natural state and coconut oil that had been treated with enzymes, in a process similar to digestion.

They found that enzyme-modified coconut oil strongly inhibited the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria which commonly inhabit the mouth, including Streptococcus mutans - an acid - producing bug that is a major cause of tooth decay. Damien Brady who is leading the research at Athlone, said: “Dental carries is a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60-90 percent of children and the majority of adults in industrialised countries.”

Additional testing by the Athlone Institute found that enzyme-modified coconut oil was also harmful to the yeast Candida albicans that can cause thrush. Researchers suggest that enzyme-modified coconut oil has potential as a marketable antimicrobial which could be of particular interest to the oral health care industry, according to an Athlone statement.

“Incorporating enzyme-modified coconut oil into dental hygiene products would be an attractive alternative to chemical additives, particularly as it works at relatively low concentrations.

Also, with increasing antibiotic resistance, it is important that we turn our attention to new ways to combat microbial infection,” added Brady.