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“You Don’t Want to Lose That Trust That You’ve Built With This Patient…”: (Dis)Trust, Medical Tourism, and the Canadian Family Physician-Patient Relationship

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Background

Recent trends document growth in medical tourism, the private pursuit of medical interventions abroad. Medical tourism introduces challenges to decision-making that impact and are impacted by the physician-patient trust relationship—a relationship on which the foundation of beneficent health care lies. The objective of the study is to examine the views of Canadian family physicians about the roles that trust plays in decision-making about medical tourism, and the impact of medical tourism on the therapeutic relationship.

Methods

We conducted six focus groups with 22 family physicians in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Data were analyzed thematically using deductive and inductive codes that captured key concepts across the narratives of participants.

Results

Family physicians indicated that they trust their patients to act as the lead decision-makers about medical tourism, but are conflicted when the information they are managing contradicts the best interests of the patients. They reported that patients distrust local health care systems when they experience insufficiencies in access to care and that this can prompt patients to consider going abroad for care. Trust fractures in the physician-patient relationship can arise from shame, fear and secrecy about medical tourism.

Conclusions

Family physicians face diverse tensions about medical tourism as they must balance their roles in: (1) providing information about medical tourism within a context of information deficits; (2) supporting decision-making while distancing themselves from patients’ decisions to engage in medical tourism; and (3) acting both as agents of the patient and of the domestic health care system. These tensions highlight the ongoing need for reliable third-party informational resources about medical tourism and the development of responsive policy.

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Article
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Life Expectancy of HIV-Positive Individuals on Combination Antiretroviral Therapy in Canada

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Background

We sought to evaluate life expectancy and mortality of HIV-positive individuals initiating combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) across Canada, and to consider the potential error introduced by participant loss to follow-up (LTFU).

Methods

Our study used data from the Canadian Observational Cohort (CANOC) collaboration, including HIV-positive individuals aged ≥18 years who initiated ART on or after January 1, 2000. The CANOC collaboration collates data from eight sites in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. We computed abridged life-tables and remaining life expectancies at age 20 and compared outcomes by calendar period and patient characteristics at treatment initiation. To correct for potential underreporting of mortality due to participant LTFU, we conservatively estimated 30 % mortality among participants lost to follow-up.

Results

9997 individuals contributed 49,589 person-years and 830 deaths for a crude mortality rate of 16.7 [standard error (SE) 0.6] per 1000 person-years. When assigning death to 30 % of participants lost to follow-up, we estimated 1170 deaths and a mortality rate of 23.6 [SE 0.7] per 1000 person-years. The crude overall life expectancy at age 20 was 45.2 [SE 0.7] and 37.5 [SE 0.6] years after adjusting for LTFU. In the LTFU-adjusted analysis, lower life expectancy at age 20 was observed for women compared to men (32.4 [SE 1.1] vs. 39.2 [SE 0.7] years), for participants with injection drug use (IDU) history compared to those without IDU history (23.9 [SE 1.0] vs. 52.3 [SE 0.8] years), for participants reporting Aboriginal ancestry compared to those with no Aboriginal ancestry (17.7 [SE 1.5] vs. 51.2 [SE 1.0] years), and for participants with CD4 count <350 cells/μL compared to CD4 count ≥350 cells/μL at treatment initiation (36.3 [SE 0.7] vs. 43.5 [SE 1.3] years). Life expectancy at age 20 in the calendar period 2000–2003 was lower than in periods 2004–2007 and 2008–2012 in the LTFU-adjusted analyses (30.8 [SE 0.9] vs. 38.6 [SE 1.0] and 54.2 [SE 1.4]).

Conclusions

Life expectancy and mortality for HIV-positive individuals receiving ART differ by calendar period and patient characteristics at treatment initiation. Failure to consider LTFU may result in underestimation of mortality rates and overestimation of life expectancy.

Document type: 
Article
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The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Handbook in Mongolia: A Cluster-Randomized, Controlled Trial

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Objective

To assess the effectiveness of the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) handbook in Mongolia to increase antenatal clinic attendance, and to enhance health-seeking behaviors and other health outcomes.

Methods

A cluster randomized trial was conducted using the translated MCH handbook in Bulgan, Mongolia to assess its effectiveness in promoting antenatal care attendance. Pregnant women were recruited from 18 randomly allocated districts using shuffled, sealed envelopes. The handbook was implemented immediately for women at their first antenatal visit in the intervention group, and nine months later in the control group. The primary outcome was the number of antenatal care visits of all women residing in the selected districts. Cluster effects were adjusted for using generalized estimation equation. Masking was not possible among care providers, pregnant women and assessors.

Findings

Nine districts were allocated to the intervention group and the remainder to the control group. The intervention group (253 women) attended antenatal clinics on average 6•9 times, while the control group (248 women) attended 6•2 times. Socioeconomic status affected the frequency of clinic attendance: women of higher socioeconomic status visited antenatal clinics more often. Pregnancy complications were more likely to be detected among women using the handbook.

Conclusion

The MCH handbook promotes continuous care and showed an increase in antenatal visits among the intervention group. The intervention will help to identify maternal morbidities during pregnancy and promote health-seeking behaviors.

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Article
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Modest Attenuation of HIV-1 Vpu Alleles Derived from Elite Controller Plasma

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

In the absence of antiretroviral therapy, infection with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) can typically not be controlled by the infected host and results in the development of acquired immunodeficiency. In rare cases, however, patients spontaneously control HIV-1 replication. Mechanisms by which such elite controllers (ECs) achieve control of HIV-1 replication include particularly efficient immune responses as well as reduced fitness of the specific virus strains. To address whether polymorphisms in the accessory HIV-1 protein Vpu are associated with EC status we functionally analyzed a panel of plasma-derived vpu alleles from 15 EC and 16 chronic progressor (CP) patients. Antagonism of the HIV particle release restriction by the intrinsic immunity factor CD317/tetherin was well conserved among EC and CP Vpu alleles, underscoring the selective advantage of this Vpu function in HIV-1 infected individuals. In contrast, interference with CD317/tetherin induced NF-κB activation was little conserved in both groups. EC Vpus more frequently displayed reduced ability to downregulate cell surface levels of CD4 and MHC class I (MHC-I) molecules as well as of the NK cell ligand NTB-A. Polymorphisms potentially associated with high affinity interactions of the inhibitory killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) KIR2DL2 were significantly enriched among EC Vpus but did not account for these functional differences. Together these results suggest that in a subgroup of EC patients, some Vpu functions are modestly reduced, possibly as a result of host selection.

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Article
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Injuries, Death, and Disability Associated with 11 Years of Conflict in Baghdad, Iraq: A Randomized Household Cluster Survey

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Background

The objective of this study was to characterize injuries, deaths, and disabilities arising during 11 years of conflict in Baghdad.

Methods

Using satellite imagery and administrative population estimated size for Baghdad, 30 clusters were selected, proportionate to population size estimates. Interviews were conducted during April and May 2014 in 900 households containing 5148 persons. Details about injuries and disabilities occurring from 2003 through May 2014 and resultant disabilities were recorded.

Findings

There were 553 injuries reported by Baghdad residents, 225 of which were intentional, and 328 unintentional. For intentional injuries, the fatality rate was 39.1% and the disability rate 56.0%. Gunshots where the major cause of injury through 2006 when blasts/explosions became the most common cause and remained so through 2014. Among unintentional injuries, the fatality rate was 7.3% and the disability rate 77.1%. The major cause of unintentional injuries was falls (131) which have increased dramatically since 2008, followed by traffic related injuries (81), which have steadily increased. The proportion of injuries ending in disabilities remained fairly constant through the survey period.

Interpretation

Intentional injuries added substantially to the burden of unintentional injuries for the population. For Baghdad, the phases of the Iraqi conflict are reflected in the patterns of injuries and consequent deaths reported. The scale of injuries during conflict is most certainly under-reported. Difficulties recalling injuries in a survey covering 11 years is a limitation, but it is likely that minor injuries were under-reported more than severe injuries. The in- and out-migration of Baghdad populations likely had effects on the events reported which we could not measure or estimate. Damage to the health infrastructure and the flight of health workers may have contributed to mortality and morbidity. Civilian injuries as well as mortality should be measured during conflicts, though not currently done.

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Article
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Identification of CD4-Binding Site Dependent Plasma Neutralizing Antibodies in an HIV-1 Infected Indian Individual

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Dissecting antibody specificities in the plasma of HIV-1 infected individuals that develop broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) is likely to provide useful information for refining target epitopes for vaccine design. Several studies have reported CD4-binding site (CD4bs) antibodies as neutralization determinants in the plasma of subtype B-infected individuals; however there is little information on the prevalence of CD4bs specificities in HIV-infected individuals in India. Here, we report on the presence of CD4bs antibodies and their contribution to virus neutralization in the plasma from a cohort of HIV-1 infected Indian individuals. Plasma from 11 of the 140 HIV-1 infected individuals (7.9%) studied here exhibited cross-neutralization activity against a panel of subtype B and C viruses. Analyses of these 11 plasma samples for the presence of CD4bs antibodies using two CD4bs-selective probes (antigenically resurfaced HXB2gp120 core protein RSC3 and hyperglycosylated JRFLgp120 mutant ΔN2mCHO) revealed that five (AIIMS 617, 619, 627, 642, 660) contained RSC3-reactive plasma antibodies and only one (AIIMS 660) contained ΔN2mCHO-reactive antibodies. Plasma antibody depletion and competition experiments confirmed that the neutralizing activity in the AIIMS 660 plasma was dependent on CD4bs antibodies. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to report specifically on the presence of CD4bs antibodies in the plasma of a cohort of HIV-1 infected Indian donors. The identification of CD4bs dependent neutralizing antibodies in an HIV-1 infected Indian donor is a salient finding of this study and is supportive of ongoing efforts to induce similar antibodies by immunization.

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Article
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Incidence and Prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease among Aboriginal Peoples in Alberta, Canada

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Background

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major respiratory disorder, largely caused by smoking that has been linked with large health inequalities worldwide. There are important gaps in our knowledge about how COPD affects Aboriginal peoples. This retrospective cohort study assessed the epidemiology of COPD in a cohort of Aboriginal peoples relative to a non-Aboriginal cohort.

Methods

We used linkage of administrative health databases in Alberta (Canada) from April 1, 2002 to March 31, 2010 to compare the annual prevalence, and the incidence rates of COPD between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cohorts aged 35 years and older. Poisson regression models adjusted the analysis for important sociodemographic factors.

Results

Compared to a non-Aboriginal cohort, prevalence estimates of COPD from 2002 to 2010 were 2.3 to 2.4 times greater among Registered First Nations peoples, followed by the Inuit (1.86 to 2.10 times higher) and the Métis (1.59 to 1.67 times higher). All Aboriginal peoples had significantly higher COPD incidence rates than the non-Aboriginal group (incidence rate ratio [IRR]: 2.1; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.97, 2.27). COPD incidence rates were higher in First Nation peoples (IRR: 2.37; 95% CI: 2.19, 2.56) followed by Inuit (IRR: 1.92; 95% CI: 1.64, 2.25) and Métis (IRR: 1.49; 95% CI: 1.32, 1.69) groups.

Conclusions

We found a high burden of COPD among Aboriginal peoples living in Alberta; a province with the third largest Aboriginal population in Canada. Altogether, the three Aboriginal peoples groups have higher prevalence and incidence of COPD compared to a non-Aboriginal cohort. The condition affects the three Aboriginal groups differently; Registered First Nations and Inuit have the highest burden of COPD. Reasons for these differences should be further explored within a framework of social determinants of health to help designing interventions that effectively influence modifiable COPD risk factors in each of the Aboriginal groups.

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Article
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Screening of the Pan-African Natural Product Library Identifies Ixoratannin A-2 and Boldine as Novel HIV-1 Inhibitors

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

The continued burden of HIV in resource-limited regions such as parts of sub-Saharan Africa, combined with adverse effects and potential risks of resistance to existing antiretroviral therapies, emphasize the need to identify new HIV inhibitors. Here we performed a virtual screen of molecules from the pan-African Natural Product Library, the largest collection of medicinal plant-derived pure compounds on the African continent. We identified eight molecules with structural similarity to reported interactors of Vpu, an HIV-1 accessory protein with reported ion channel activity. Using in vitro HIV-1 replication assays with a CD4+ T cell line and peripheral blood mononuclear cells, we confirmed antiviral activity and minimal cytotoxicity for two compounds, ixoratannin A-2 and boldine. Notably, ixoratannin A-2 retained inhibitory activity against recombinant HIV-1 strains encoding patient-derived mutations that confer resistance to protease, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase, or integrase inhibitors. Moreover, ixoratannin A-2 was less effective at inhibiting replication of HIV-1 lacking Vpu, supporting this protein as a possible direct or indirect target. In contrast, boldine was less effective against a protease inhibitor-resistant HIV-1 strain. Both ixoratannin A-2 and boldine also inhibited in vitro replication of hepatitis C virus (HCV). However, BIT-225, a previously-reported Vpu inhibitor, demonstrated antiviral activity but also cytotoxicity in HIV-1 and HCV replication assays. Our work identifies pure compounds derived from African plants with potential novel activities against viruses that disproportionately afflict resource-limited regions of the world.

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Article
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Smoke Rings: Towards a Comprehensive Tobacco Free Policy for the Olympic Games

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Background

The tobacco industry has long sought affiliation with major sporting events, including the Olympic Games, for marketing, advertising and promotion purposes. Since 1988, each Olympic Games has adopted a tobacco-free policy. Limited study of the effectiveness of the smoke-free policy has been undertaken to date, with none examining the tobacco industry’s involvement with the Olympics or use of the Olympic brand.

Methods and Findings

A comparison of the contents of Olympic tobacco-free policies from 1988 to 2014 was carried out by searching the websites of the IOC and host NOCs. The specific tobacco control measures adopted for each Games were compiled and compared with measures recommended by the WHO Tobacco Free Sports Initiative and Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). This was supported by semi-structured interviews of key informants involved with the adoption of tobacco-free policies for selected games. To understand the industry’s interests in the Olympics, the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu) was systematically searched between June 2013 and August 2014. Company websites, secondary sources and media reports were also searched to triangulate the above data sources.

This paper finds that, while most direct associations between tobacco and the Olympics have been prohibited since 1988, a variety of indirect associations undermine the Olympic tobacco-free policy. This is due to variation in the scope of tobacco-free policies, limited jurisdiction and continued efforts by the industry to be associated with Olympic ideals.

Conclusions

The paper concludes that, compatible with the IOC’s commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles, a comprehensive tobacco-free policy with standardized and binding measures should be adopted by the International Olympic Committee and all national Olympic committees.

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Article
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A Physical Interaction between the Dopamine Transporter and DJ-1 Facilitates Increased Dopamine Reuptake

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

The regulation of the dopamine transporter (DAT) impacts extracellular dopamine levels after release from dopaminergic neurons. Furthermore, a variety of protein partners have been identified that can interact with and modulate DAT function. In this study we show that DJ-1 can potentially modulate DAT function. Co-expression of DAT and DJ-1 in HEK-293T cells leads to an increase in [3H] dopamine uptake that does not appear to be mediated by increased total DAT expression but rather through an increase in DAT cell surface localization. In addition, through a series of GST affinity purifications and co-immunoprecipitations, we provide evidence that the DAT can be found in a complex with DJ-1, which involve distinct regions within both DAT and DJ-1. Using in vitro binding experiments we also show that this complex can be formed in part by a direct interaction between DAT and DJ-1. Co-expression of a mini-gene that can disrupt the DAT/DJ-1 complex appears to block the increase in [3H] dopamine uptake by DJ-1. Mutations in DJ-1 have been linked to familial forms of Parkinson’s disease, yet the normal physiological function of DJ-1 remains unclear. Our study suggests that DJ-1 may also play a role in regulating dopamine levels by modifying DAT activity.

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Article
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