Research Articles (General Internal Medicine)

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    Effect of SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnancy on maternal and neonatal outcomes in research collaboration
    (2020-12) Nachega, Jean B; Sam-Agudu, Nadia A; Budhram, Samantha
    In the African context, there is a paucity of data on SARS-CoV-2 infection and associated COVID-19 in pregnancy. Given the endemicity of infections such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis (TB) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), it is important to evaluate coinfections with SARS-CoV-2 and their impact on maternal/infant outcomes. Robust research is critically needed to evaluate the effects of the added burden of COVID-19 in pregnancy, to help develop evidence-based policies toward improving maternal and infant outcomes. In this perspective, we briefly review current knowledge on the clinical features of COVID-19 in pregnancy; the risks of preterm birth and cesarean delivery secondary to comorbid severity; the effects of maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection on the fetus/neonate; and in utero mother-to-child SARS-CoV-2 transmission. We further highlight the need to conduct multicountry surveillance as well as retrospective and prospective cohort studies across SSA. This will enable assessments of SARS-CoV-2 burden among pregnant African women and improve the understanding of the spectrum of COVID-19 manifestations in this population, which may be living with or without HIV, TB, and/or other coinfections/comorbidities. In addition, multicountry studies will allow a better understanding of risk factors and outcomes to be compared across countries and subregions. Such an approach will encourage and strengthen much-needed intra-African, south-to-south multidisciplinary and interprofessional research collaborations. The African Forum for Research and Education in Health’s COVID-19 Research Working Group has embarked upon such a collaboration across Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.
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    Serum amyloid A binds to fibrin(ogen), promoting fibrin amyloid formation
    (Nature Research (part of Springer Nature), 2019-02-28) Page, Martin J.; Thomson, Greig J. A.; Nunes, J. Massimo; Engelbrecht, Anna-Mart; Nell, Theo A.; De Villiers, Willem J. S.; De Beer, Maria C.; Engelbrecht, Lize; Kell, Douglas B.; Pretorius, Etheresia
    Complex associations exist between inflammation and thrombosis, with the inflammatory state tending to promote coagulation. Fibrinogen, an acute phase protein, has been shown to interact with the amyloidogenic ß-amyloid protein of Alzheimer’s disease. However, little is known about the association between fibrinogen and serum amyloid A (SAA), a highly fibrillogenic protein that is one of the most dramatically changing acute phase reactants in the circulation. To study the role of SAA in coagulation and thrombosis, in vitro experiments were performed where purified human SAA, in concentrations resembling a modest acute phase response, was added to platelet-poor plasma (PPP) and whole blood (WB), as well as purified and fluorescently labelled fibrinogen. Results from thromboelastography (TEG) suggest that SAA causes atypical coagulation with a fibrin(ogen)-mediated increase in coagulation, but a decreased platelet/fibrin(ogen) interaction. In WB scanning electron microscopy analysis, SAA mediated red blood cell (RBC) agglutination, platelet activation and clumping, but not platelet spreading. Following clot formation in PPP, the presence of SAA increased amyloid formation of fibrin(ogen) as determined both with auto-fluorescence and with fluorogenic amyloid markers, under confocal microcopy. SAA also binds to fibrinogen, as determined with a fluorescent-labelled SAA antibody and correlative light electron microscopy (CLEM). The data presented here indicate that SAA can affect coagulation by inducing amyloid formation in fibrin(ogen), as well as by propelling platelets to a more prothrombotic state. The discovery of these multiple and complex effects of SAA on coagulation invite further mechanistic analyses.
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    Post-tuberculosis health-related quality of life, lung function and exercise capacity in a cured pulmonary tuberculosis population in the Breede Valley District, South Africa
    (AOSIS, 2019) Daniels, Kurt J.; Irusen, Elvis; Pharaoh, Hamilton; Hanekom, Susan
    Background: Pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) remains a major concern worldwide. Albeit curable, PTB continues to negatively affect patients’ health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and functioning even after cure. Objectives: To describe the demographics, respiratory symptoms, pulmonary airflow patterns, HRQoL and exercise capacity of cured PTB patients, in the Breede Valley district of South Africa. Methods: A cross-sectional study conducted at five primary health care facilities included adult patients diagnosed with PTB, who had completed anti-tuberculosis treatment. Post-treatment bronchodilator lung function, HRQoL and 6-min walk distance (6MWD) were measured. Results: Three hundred and twenty-four patients were screened. Specific challenges resulted in 45 patients being included (male n = 25 [56%]; mean population age 39.9 [± 10.2]). HRQoL was assessed using the short-form 12v2, part of the burden of lung disease core questionnaire. In general, self-reported physical scores (physical health component summary score = 45) were higher than mental scores (mental health component summary score = 39). The mean 6MWD was 294.5 m (± 122.7) m (range 110 m – 600 m), which is well below normal reference values. Forty-eight percent (48%) of the sample presented with abnormal lung function, including obstructive (n = 9; 21%), restrictive (n = 11; 25%) and mixed (n = 1; 2%). Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that most cured PTB patients have decreased HRQoL, exercise capacity and abnormal lung function. This study is the first to describe the combination of these three outcomes in a South African population.
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    Reconceptualising health professions education in South Africa
    (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2018) Volmink, Jimmy
    No abstract available.
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    Hereditary angio-oedema in the Western Cape Province, South Africa
    (Health & Medical Publishing Group, 2018-03-28) Coovadia, K. M.; Chothia, M-Y.; Baker, S. G.; Peter, J. G.; Potter, P. C.
    Background. Hereditary angio-oedema (HAE) is an autosomal dominant condition caused by a deficiency in the C1-esterase inhibitor protein, resulting in increased bradykinin release. It presents clinically with recurrent attacks of angio-oedema, commonly affecting the limbs, face, upper airway and gastrointestinal tract. Little is known about this condition in sub-Saharan Africa. Objectives. To analyse and report on the clinical presentation and treatment of patients with HAE in the Western Cape Province, South Africa. Methods. A retrospective analysis was conducted on a series of 60 cases of HAE seen between 2010 and 2015 at the Allergy Diagnostic and Clinical Research Unit, University of Cape Town Lung Institute, and the Allergy Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town. The findings in 43 cases of type 1 HAE are described. Parameters assessed included age, gender, age of diagnosis, duration of illness, family history, identifiable triggers, average duration of attack, number of attacks per year and type of attack. Results. A total of 43 patients were included in this study. Of these, 65.1% (28/43) were female. The median age at diagnosis was 20 years (interquartile range (IQR) 10 - 27) and the median duration of illness 10.5 years (IQR 6 - 22). Of the patients, 62.8% (27/43), 32.6% (14/43) and 4.7% (2/43) were of mixed ancestry, white and black African, respectively; 51.2% (22/43) were index cases, with the remaining 48.8% (21/43) diagnoses via family member screening, 12 families making up the majority of the cohort. The mean (standard deviation) duration of an acute attack was 49 (25.8) hours, and 64.3% (27/42), 71.4% (30/42), 14.3% (6/42) and 88.1% (37/42) of patients experienced facial or upper airway, abdominal, external genitalia and limb attacks, respectively. Danazol for long-term prophylaxis was used in 21 patients, while C1-inhibitor concentrate (Berinert) was accessed for short-term prophylaxis in only four patients. Acute life-threating attacks were treated with fresh frozen plasma in 11 patients, and only four accessed icatibant. The mortality rate for the period 2010 - 2015 was 4.5% (2/43). The prevalence of HAE in the Western Cape was estimated to be 1:140 000. Conclusions. HAE occurs in South Africans of all ethnicities, and life-threatening attacks occur in almost two-thirds of patients. Despite limited therapeutic options and very limited access to gold-standard therapies available in the developed world, our mortality rate is very low, with both the deaths related to inability to access emergency treatment rapidly.