• Getting to the root of the matter Editorial

  • Over the hills & far away: rural health in Cuba Feature

    Conner Gorry, MA
  • Use of cuban recombinant human erythropoietin in Parkinson's disease treatment Original Research

    Pedroso, Ivonne; Bringas, María Luisa; Aguiar, Anubis; Morales, Lilia; Álvarez, Mario; Valdés, Pedro A.; Álvarez, Lázaro

    Abstract in English:

    INTRODUCTION Recombinant human erythropoietin is used primarily to treat anemia. There is evidence of its neuroprotective capacity from preclinical studies in Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Recombinant human erythropoietin produced in Cuba (ior-EPOCIM) is registered and approved for use in humans in Cuba and in a number of other countries. OBJECTIVE Assess safety and possible neuroprotective effect of ior-EPOCIM in a group of Parkinson's disease patients. METHODS A three-phase exploratory study (proof of concept) was conducted from August 2008 to April 2009: preliminary assessment, treatment (weeks 1-5), and post-treatment (weeks 6-35). Participants were 10 Parkinson's disease patients (8 men, 2 women) from the outpatient clinic at the International Neurological Restoration Center, all at least one year post onset, aged 47-65 years. The ior-EPOCIM was administered subcutaneously in a once-weekly dose (60 IU/kg body weight) for five weeks. Therapy with patients' antiparkinsonian drugs was maintained throughout the study, except during motor examination, conducted following a 12-hour withdrawal (OFF condition). Safety was evaluated primarily by recording adverse events (by intensity and causality) from start of treatment until the study's completion. Hematological parameters and blood pressure were also measured because of their direct relationship to the medication's action. To evaluate possible neuroprotective activity, variables were included related to patients' motor function and cognitive and affective status, measured using internationally recognized scales. All variables were evaluated before, during and after treatment. Data were processed using a fixed-effects linear model, with a repeated-measures design (significance level p < 0.05). RESULTS Three patients experienced mild adverse events (precordial discomfort and hypertension in one; leg fatigue in another; renal colic in a third), with a possible causal relationship in the first two that was neither life threatening nor required hospitalization. Hemoglobin was the only hematological parameter that showed a growing and significant increase (p < 0.001), but without reaching pathological levels. The other variables presented clinically positive and statistically significant changes compared to pretreatment assessment: motor function (p < 0.001), cognitive status (p < 0.001) and mood (p = 0.013). CONCLUSIONS At the dosage used, ior-EPOCIM was safe and well tolerated in these Parkinson's disease patients. Further studies are needed to corroborate these results and evaluate the medication's possible neuroprotective effect.
  • Lipid levels as predictors of silent myocardial ischemia in a type 2 diabetic population in Havana Original Research

    Peña, Yamilé; Fernández-Britto, José E.; Bacallao, Jorge; Batista, Juan F.; León, María L. de

    Abstract in English:

    INTRODUCTION Silent myocardial ischemia is frequent in type 2 diabetics, therefore, symptoms cannot be relied upon for diagnosis and followup in these patients. Various studies relate blood lipid levels to cardiovascular diseases, and several authors describe certain lipoproteins as independent predictors of ischemia. OBJECTIVE Identify blood lipid levels that predict silent myocardial ischemia in a type 2 diabetic population in Havana. METHODS From May 2005 through May 2009, assessment was done of 220 asymptomatic type 2 diabetics in ten polyclinics in Havana using laboratory tests and Single-Photon Emission-Computed Tomography, synchronized with electrocardiogram, known as gated SPECT (gSPECT). Coronary angiography was used for confirmation when gSPECT detected ischemia. Patients were classified into two groups: gSPECT positive and gSPECT negative. Descriptive statistics (mean and standard deviation) were calculated for all variables and mean comparison tests were conducted. Classification trees were developed relating lipid values to gSPECT results, identifying optimal cutoff points for their use as indicators of silent myocardial ischemia in the total study population and for each sex separately. RESULTS GSPECT found silent myocardial ischemia in 29.1% of those examined, and 68.4% of angiograms found multivessel disease. gSPECT-positive diabetics had higher levels of total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides (p < 0.05). HDL levels were lower in this group (p < 0.05). Classification trees showed optimal cutoff points, indicators for silent ischemia, for: HDL <44 mg/dL, LDL >119.9 mg/dL, and triglycerides >107.2 mg/d; 80.4% of diabetics with these HDL and triglyceride values had ischemia. HDL was the most important normalized variable when the entire population was analyzed. Analysis by sex showed a greater percentage of silent ischemia in men (33.3%) than in women (24.8%). The most important normalized variables were LDL of >100.8 mg/dL for men and HDL of <44 mg/dL for women. CONCLUSIONS A considerable percentage of the study population had silent myocardial ischemia. Type 2 diabetics with ischemia had higher levels of total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. HDL levels were significantly lower in these patients. The association of low HDL with high triglycerides was a strong indicator of myocardial ischemia in type 2 diabetics without clinical cardiovascular signs.
  • HIV-2 antibody detection after indeterminate or negative HIV-1 Western blot in Cuba, 2005-2008 Original Research

    Díaz, Dervel F.; Ortiz, Eva; Martín, Dayamí; Nibot, Carmen; Rizo, Adis; Silva, Eladio

    Abstract in English:

    INTRODUCTION Differentiating between HIV-1 and HIV-2 infection is the first step to understanding HIV transmission, epidemiology and pathogenesis in geographical areas where both viruses circulate. In Cuba, positive results in mixed HIV-1/2 screening assays are confirmed by HIV-1 Western blot. Indeterminate results constitute the main limitation of this test and HIV-2 infection is among their possible causes; hence the importance of second-stage screening and confirmatory tests for HIV-2 infection. OBJECTIVE Investigate the contribution of HIV-2 antibodies to negative or indeterminate HIV-1 Western blot results in serum samples from 2005 through 2008 in Cuba. METHODS HIV-2 reactivity was studied using the ELISA DAVIH-VIH-2 diagnostic kit (Cuba) in 1723 serum samples with negative or indeterminate results for HIV-1 Western blot from January 2005 through December 2008. Duplicate sera reactive by ELISA were confirmed by HIV-2 Western blot, results interpreted according to WHO criteria. The epidemiological interview established by Cuba's National Program for Prevention and Control Sexually-Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS was applied to HIV-2 Western blot-positive patients. RESULTS Among all sera studied, HIV-2 ELISA identified 12 reactive serum samples (0.70%) and 1711 non-reactive (99.30%). Western blot analysis of the 12 ELISA-reactive samples confirmed two positive samples (16.67%), 4 negative (33.33%) and 6 indeterminate (50%). Positive samples reacted against the p16, p26, gp36, p53, p56, p68 and gp105 proteins. All 12 ELISA-reactive samples belonged to the HIV-1 Western blot indeterminate group. The two HIV-2-positive samples showed well defined reactivity to gp160, p53, p55 and p34 of HIV-1. HIV-1 seroconversion was observed in all 10 remaining samples during serological followup. CONCLUSIONS Two new HIV-2 seropositive cases were diagnosed using DAVIH-VIH-2 and HIV-2 Western blot in indeterminate HIV-1 Western blot samples. Results support the recommendation that HIV-2 Western blot be included in the diagnostic algorithm for HIV-1/2 to followup negative or indeterminate HIV-1 Western blot results.
  • Endoscopic findings and associated risk factors in primary health care settings in Havana, Cuba Original Research

    Galbán, Enrique; Arús, Enrique; Periles, Ulises

    Abstract in English:

    INTRODUCTION Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, traditionally performed in Cuba in specialized hospitals, was decentralized to the primary health care level in 2004 to make it more patient-accessible. OBJECTIVES Describe frequency and distribution of the principal symptomatic diseases of the upper gastrointestinal tract and their relation to the main risk factors associated with each in a sample of urban adults who underwent upper gastrointestinal endoscopy in primary care facilities in Havana in selected months of 2007. METHODS A multicenter cross-sectional study was conducted, including 3556 patients seen in the primary health care network of Havana from May through November 2007. The endoscopies were performed at the 22 polyclinics (community health centers) providing this service. Diagnostic quality and accuracy were assessed by experienced gastroenterologists using a validated tool. Patients responded to a questionnaire with clinical, epidemiologic, and sociodemographic variables. Univariate and multivariate analyses (unconditional logistical regression) were used to identify associated risk factors. The significance level was set at p < 0.05 (or confidence interval excluding 1.0). RESULTS The diagnoses were: gastritis (91.6%), duodenitis (57.8%), hiatal hernia (46.5%), esophagitis (25.2%), duodenal ulcer (15.8%), gastric ulcer (6.2%) and malignant-appearing lesions (0.4%). Overall prevalence of Helicobacter pylori infection was 58.4%. The main risk factors for duodenal ulcer were H. pylori infection (OR 2.70, CI 2.17-3.36) and smoking (OR 2.08, CI 1.68-2.58); and for gastric ulcer, H. pylori (OR 1.58, CI 1.17-2.15) and age >60 years (OR 1.78, CI 1.28-2.47). H. pylori infection was the main risk factor for gastritis (OR 2.29, CI 1.79-2.95) and duodenitis (OR 1.58, CI 1.38-1.82); and age >40 years for hiatal hernia (OR 1.57, CI 1.33-1.84). External evaluation was "very good" or "good" for 99.3% of endoscopic procedures and 97.9% of reports issued. CONCLUSIONS Gastrointestinal endoscopy performed in primary care yielded high quality results and important information about prevalence of the most common diseases of the upper GI tract and associated risk factors. This study provides a reference for new research and can inform objective recommendations for community-based interventions to prevent and control these diseases. The existence of a network of universally accessible diagnostic endoscopy services at the primary care level, will contribute to conducting further research.
  • Vaccine-related adverse events in cuban children, 1999-2008 Original Research

    Galindo, Belkys M.; Concepción, Damarys; Galindo, Miguel A.; Pérez, Antonio; Saiz, Jesús

    Abstract in English:

    INTRODUCTION Cuba has implemented an effective National Immunization Program since 1962. The schedule, administered primarily to children, comprises 11 vaccines (8 domestically produced) protecting against 13 diseases. In 1999 Cuba launched a national vaccine adverse event surveillance system to monitor and assess the safety of the immunization program, its vaccination procedures and the products administered. OBJECTIVES Describe adverse events following vaccination reported in children aged <16 years in Cuba from 1999 through 2008. METHODS A retrospective descriptive study was conducted of adverse events following vaccination reported from January 1999 through December 2008. Variables used: year, number of adverse events, province, type of vaccine, type and severity of adverse events (common minor, rare, severe), vaccination program errors, number of deaths, and final results of investigations of severe events. Percentages and rates per dose administered were calculated. Adverse event rates were calculated per 100,000 doses administered and by percentages of individual effects among events reported. RESULTS A total of 45,237,532 vaccine doses were administered, and 26,159 vaccine-associated adverse events were reported (overall rate: 57.8 per 100,000 doses). The group aged 0-5 years reported the highest rate of vaccine-associated adverse events (82/100,000 doses). The DTwP vaccine exhibited the highest rate of adverse events. Common minor events were: fever (17,538), reactions at injection site (4470) and systemic side effects (2422). Rare events (by WHO definition) reported were: persistent crying (2666), hypotonic-hyporesponsive episodes (3), encephalopathy (2) and febrile seizures (112). Severe events included: anaphylaxis (2), respiratory distress (1), multiple organ failure (1), sudden death (1), vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (2), toxic shock syndrome (3), and sepsis (1). The 10 deaths and 3 cases of disability were investigated by an expert commission, which concluded that 8 of the 13 severe events were vaccination-related. CONCLUSIONS Low rates of severe vaccine-associated adverse events observed in this study underline the low risk of vaccination relative to its demonstrated benefits in Cuba. Decision-making for the continued success of the National Immunization Program is supported by reliable information from comprehensive national surveillance with standarized reporting, along with multidisciplinary expert analysis of rare and severe adverse events and program errors.
  • A Cuban perspective on management of persistent vegetative state Special Article

    Machado, Calixto; Estévez, Mario; Rodríguez, Rafael; Pérez-Nellar, Jesús; Gutiérrez, Joel; Carballo, Maylén; Olivares, Ana; Fleitas, Marcia; Pando, Alejandro; Beltrán, Carlos

    Abstract in English:

    The Cuban Group for Study of Disorders of Consciousness is developing several research protocols to search for possible preservation of residual brain and autonomic functions in cases of persistent vegetative and minimally conscious states. We present examples showing the importance of 3D anatomic reconstruction of brain structures and MRI tractography for assessing white matter connectivity. We also present results of use of proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy technique to follow up cognitive recovery in persistent vegetative state patients transitioning to minimally conscious state. We have demonstrated recognition of a mother's voice with emotional content after zolpidem administration, indicating high-level residual linguistic processing and brain activation despite the patient's apparent inability to communicate. Hence we differ with current thinking that, by definition, subjects in persistent vegetative state are isolated from the outside world and cannot experience pain and suffering. We also consider "vegetative state" a pejorative term that should be replaced.
  • Organization and startup of the Gambia's new Community-Based Medical Programme Lessons from the Field

    Chávez, José A.; Suárez, Lázaro V.; del Rosario, Odalis; Hechavarría, Suiberto; Quiñones, Judith

    Abstract in English:

    The shortage of health professionals in developing countries and especially in their poorest regions imperils the vision of health for all. New training policies and strategies are needed urgently to address these shortages. The Gambia's new Community-Based Medical Programme is one such strategy.
  • Cuban research in current international journals Abstract

  • The mosquito hypothetically considered as the transmitting agent of yellow fever Reprint

    Finlay, Carlos J.
  • A personal reflection on rural service 50 years later Viewpoint

    Ochoa, Francisco Rojas
Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba Oakland - California - United States
E-mail: editors@medicc.org