Dr Jos Vandelaer, World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland, say: "Although easily prevented by maternal immunisation with tetanus toxoid vaccine, and aseptic obstetric and postnatal umbilical-cord care practices, maternal and neonatal tetanus persist as public-health problems in 48 countries, mainly in Asia and Africa."
Tetanus is caused by a neurotoxin produced by Clostridium tetani, spores of which occur worldwide in soil and in the gastrointestinal tracts of animals, including humans. The condition is characterised by muscle rigidity and painful muscle spasms caused by tetanus toxin's blockade of inhibitory neurons that normally oppose and modulate the action of excitatory motor neurons. Tetanus muscle rigidity usually begins in the masseter muscles, resulting in trismus (lockjaw). About 90% of newborn babies with tetanus develop symptoms within the first 3-14 days of life. As disease severity increases, muscle rigidity extends and spasms begin. In severe tetanus, sudden generalised contractions of all muscle groups can occur, while consciousness is preserved, making the disease "truly dreadful."
The advent of mechanical ventilation in the 1960s and 70s, plus the development of benzodiazepines, means that mortality rates of 20% or less are increasingly common for tetanus patients who have access to a modern intensive care ward. However, even in limited resources, basic medication, experienced medical supervision and high-quality nursing can bring the mortality rate down below 50%. The Seminar discusses the immunology of tetanus and the benefits/ methods of vaccination against it, and also the maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination initiative, which since its inception in 1990 has made great progress towards eliminating the disease.
With available and pledged funding, the authors believe that elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus can be expected in all but 11 countries* by 2009. However sustaining elimination could be problematic, with improvements in the number of deliveries attended by trained personnel, improvements in antenatal care practices, and routine vaccination of women of childbearing age all required.
The authors conclude: "The rejuvenated worldwide commitment to improvement of maternal and child health, and special attention to the importance of neonatal survival, catalysed by the child and maternal mortality Millennium Development Goals, is heartening.
"Since tetanus spores cannot be removed from the environment, sustaining elimination will require improvements to presently inadequate immunisation and health-service infrastructures, and universal access to those services."
Tony Kirby | alfa
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Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
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