Sunday, December 13, 2009

The marigold extract that appears to have saved one man's sight

Worth a try in the absence of anything else, I suppose. Could be a spontaneous remission though

As a retired optician, Harry Marsland knew better than most how serious it was when he was diagnosed with an untreatable eye condition. But his tale of despair has turned into an astonishing story of recovery - thanks to the marigold plant. Mr Marsland, who at one stage needed help just to walk, could be the first person in the UK to have recovered from a devastating condition that causes blindness.

Within months of starting to take a food supplement containing marigold extracts he is driving a car again, reads without a magnifier and has near-perfect vision in the affected eye.

Mr Marsland, 73, suffered from age-related macular degeneration, which is responsible for half the cases of blindness in the country. After a number of standard vitamin treatments, which can only slow decline anyway, failed to work, he was handed a flyer that had been gathering dust in a doctor's drawer for almost a year. It promoted a vitamin supplement called Macushield, which contains mesozeaxanthin, derived from marigolds. 'I now know, professionally that I have recovered almost completely from the effects in my left eye,' he said yesterday. 'I am the first person to have such good fortune.'

Mr Marsland, from Oundle, Northamptonshire, started taking a 2mg capsule daily in April 2007. He paid £150 for it as it is not available on the NHS.

He has been blind in one eye since gambling on an experimental laser treatment in 2001, but the vision in his other eye is now 95 per cent as good as it was before. 'It was in August my wife Nina picked up my magnifying glass and realised it was dusty,' he said. 'She was the first to realise I no longer needed to use it. 'A few months later we were walking in the dark and I suddenly realised I was no longer holding on to my wife. It's miraculous, considering at one point I was literally blind in the dark.' Dry age-related macular degeneration happens when light-sensitive cells slowly break down.


Swine flu panic subsides

Like many similar panics before it

The swine flu pandemic is "considerably less lethal" than feared, with a death rate lower than 0.1 per cent, research by England's chief medical officer showed today. Twenty-six people have died for every 100,000 cases in England, an analysis of deaths to November 8 revealed. About 1per cent of the population in England has had swine flu with symptoms, of which 0.026 per cent died, the research added.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government's chief medical officer for England, led the study, published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which described the low death rates as "fortunate". His study concluded: "The first influenza pandemic of the 21st century is considerably less lethal than was feared in advance."

Sir Liam wrote, however, that a lower impact than feared was not justification for "inaction". It was right to vaccinate people at risk - such as those with asthma, diabetes, heart disease and pregnant women - and to extend the programme, he went on.

"Viewed statistically, mortality in this pandemic compares favourably with 20th century influenza pandemics," he said. "A lower population impact than previous pandemics, however, is not a justification for public health inaction. "Our data support the priority vaccination of high risk groups. "Given that a substantial minority of deaths occur in previously healthy people, there is a case for extending the vaccination programme and for continuing to make early anti-viral treatment widely available."

The paper showed the estimated death rate was lowest among children aged five to 14, with around 11 deaths per 100,000 population. It was highest for those aged over 65, with 980 per 100,000. In the 138 people in whom the confirmed cause of death was pandemic flu, the typical age at death was 39. The analysis showed many of the patients who died were high risk and would have been eligible for vaccination.

"Two thirds of patients who died (92 or 67%) would now be eligible for the first phase of vaccination in England. "Fifty (36%) had no, or only mild, pre-existing illness. "Most patients (108, 78%) had been prescribed anti-viral drugs, but of these, 82 (76%) did not receive them within the first 48 hours of illness."

Sir Liam compares the pandemic with previous ones, saying "improvements in nutritional status, housing and health care availability might explain some of the apparent decrease in case fatality from one pandemic to the next". He added: "Since the most recent pandemic there have been major advances in intensive care medicine. "Many more patients may have died in England without the ready availability of critical care support, including mechanical ventilation."


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