Wasp Venom May Combat Lung Diseases

Wasp Venom May Combat Lung Diseases

When you think of wasp venom, you typically associate it with disrupting a person’s breathing, not improving it. However, along with toxic properties, some insect venom is full of compounds that kill bacteria.

The venom’s toxicity makes it impossible for us to use it as an antibiotic drug, but variants of a peptide with antimicrobial properties could be an alternative to some antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have repurposed peptides from Brazilian wasp (Polybia paulista) venom to make an antibiotic drug that isn’t toxic to humans.

One study tested the wasp venom peptides on mice with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a deadly bacteria strain that is resistant to most antibiotics. This bacteria causes infections in the respiratory system that could spread throughout the body. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is also known to cause pneumonia and urinary tract infections in people with weak immune systems, a complication that is common for patients with cystic fibrosis.

Prior to being tested on the mice, the refined peptides were tested for toxicity on human kidney cells that were grown in a lab. The most promising peptides were then tested on mice with Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The presence of the bacteria was significantly reduced after several peptides were tested against it. The infection was eliminated by a high dosage of variant peptides.

Comparison to Traditional Antibiotics

Antibiotics we use today must be taken for one or two weeks to clear an infection. The compound derived from wasp venom cleared an infection in just four days. However, researchers are still testing whether the drug is equally as effective with a lower—and therefore safer—amount of wasp venom. They are hopeful that infections could be cleared with lower doses once additional variants are created.

In the United States alone, the CDC reports that antibiotic-resistant bacteria causes over 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year. The World Health Organization has long warned of the threat these bacteria pose.

One of the most important parts of this discovery is the precedent it sets. Principles that were discovered in this study could be applied to other peptides derived from nature, which improves our ability to discover new treatments for diseases that were previously untreatable.

Surgical Menopause May Lead to Decreased Sleep Quality

Surgical Menopause May Lead to Decreased Sleep Quality

Most women experience menopause naturally. It is the stage when a woman permanently stops having menstrual periods. The average age of menopause is 51, but it can vary.

Nearly 26 percent of postmenopausal women report severe sleep disturbances, making insomnia one of the most common symptoms of menopause. This symptom often begins during perimenopause, which is a 3- to 10-year period of time before menopause occurs.

A study published in 2018 suggests that sleep quality is often worse for women who undergo surgical menopause than for women who experience menopause naturally.

What is Surgical Menopause?

Medical procedures that interfere with ovarian function can often cause premature menopause. For example, if a premenopausal woman has one or both ovaries removed, she may experience abrupt menopause. Surgical menopause may also stem from radiation of the pelvis and ovaries during cancer treatment.

Potential Causes of Increased Sleep Issues

Menopause can be challenging for any woman, but women who undergo surgical menopause tend to have increased symptoms of menopause. This includes a decrease in sleep quality. One possible cause for the difference is that surgical menopause results in a sharper drop in estrogen levels as opposed to the more gradual hormonal changes that result from natural menopause.

In one study, women were twice as likely to suffer from insomnia if they experienced surgical menopause. They also reported worse sleep quality, especially regarding the duration of sleep.

Hot flashes and night sweats are two well-known symptoms of menopause, which only serves to worsen sleep quality. Since all menopausal symptoms tend to be more intense in women who undergo surgical menopause, these severe physiological symptoms may make it psychologically harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The Importance of Early Treatment

Poor sleep quality can cause daytime fatigue, lower quality of life and a higher risk for other serious health conditions if the insomnia persists. The most common treatment for menopausal symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but treatment may vary on a case-by-case basis.

Women who are experiencing sleep problems after natural or surgical menopause should consult their doctor to determine the best course of treatment for their condition.

Caring for a Child with Cystic Fibrosis

Caring for a Child with Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a complex genetic disease that requires a consistent care plan. Children and infants with CF rely on parents and caretakers to be proactive with their treatment, which can be a time-consuming part of each day.

For many families, adhering to a care routine becomes easier over time. There are proactive steps to help protect a child’s health as the years go on.

Become Educated on Care Practices

After a child or infant is diagnosed with CF, doctors provide resources to help the adults in the child’s life learn about the disease and recommended treatments. Understanding the disease will make it easier to see the importance of consistent treatment.

Commit to Your Routine

The treatment regimen for a CF patient starts in the morning and ends at bedtime, making it a staple in the lives of both a child and those around them.

Throughout the day, caring for a child’s CF will typically take over an hour. Chest physiotherapy — also known as airway clearance treatment — is usually done at least once a day but may be prescribed more frequently. These treatments loosen mucous from the child’s lungs, helping to maintain pulmonary function.

Try to develop a ritual that makes the treatment an important part of each day, making the experience as pleasant for the child as possible.

Take Precautions to Prevent Germs

Children with CF are at a higher risk of developing lung infections. To reduce the risk of infection for a child with this chronic disease, make sure you and other household members have up-to-date vaccines. If someone has a contagious disease, you should ask them to physically distance themself from the child until the illness subsides. Practicing proper hygiene is also crucial.

Don’t Skip Health Check-Ups

Regular health check-ups can aid in managing a child’s symptoms. The doctors will look for signs of complications and provide much-needed support. Ask your child’s doctor how often you should have checkup appointments to monitor your child’s health.

Encourage Children to Be Involved in their Treatment

As a child gets older, they can be more active participant in their CF treatment. When a child takes more responsibility for their care, it teaches self-management skills and independence.

Start by talking to the child about their condition, including how to tell other people about it. Eventually, they can assume the responsibility of using therapeutic equipment and taking medications. Remember that the quality of treatment should always take priority, so treatment should be supervised until the child is ready.

It’s estimated that only 12 to 16 percent of children with cystic fibrosis receive the recommended caloric intake per day. Other important aspects of treatment, such as airway clearance, completing aerosolized medications and taking enzymes are also lacking in many cases. There is a need to understand and address barriers that prevent children from adhering to a regular schedule of treatment.

Pregnant? Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Baby

Pregnant? Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Baby

Sleep apnea can have serious health implications for anyone, but the risk is amplified for pregnant women if the disease goes untreated.

Millions of Americans live with sleep apnea, but many are never diagnosed. The disease is not only dangerous for the health of a pregnant woman, but also the health of their unborn child.

Causes and Risk Factors

Sleep disorders are fairly common during pregnancy. This is because of both hormonal and physiological changes.

Obstructive sleep apnea is more prevalent in women who were overweight before pregnancy because excess tissue in the airway can block airflow during sleep. High blood pressure and gestational diabetes are two additional risk factors for developing sleep apnea.

Physiological changes can contribute to sleep apnea during pregnancy. For example, excess hormones may cause congestion in mucous membranes, increasing the likelihood of sleep apnea. There is also a genetic component.


Pregnant women with sleep apnea are more likely to experience complications before, during and after childbirth. Examples include preeclampsia, congestive heart failure, pulmonary embolism, a longer hospital stay and an increased likelihood of admission to the intensive care unit. Sleep apnea may also increase cognitive decline over time.

Sleep apnea during pregnancy can affect the baby, as well. Serious complications may include:

  • Preterm delivery
  • Low birth weight
  • A higher likelihood of admission to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit)
  • Low Apgar scores

Sleep apnea is also linked to impaired fetal growth, according to a 2017 study.

Luckily, early diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea during pregnancy can mitigate these complications.

Managing Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy

Any pregnant woman who suspects a sleep disorder should consult their doctors immediately. Symptoms include snoring, pauses in breathing while asleep, and sputtering after a pause in breathing. Daytime tiredness, depression and headaches can also indicate a sleep disorder, but there are other potential causes for those symptoms. (Sleep Disorders May Affect Women Sooner than Men)

The most definitive test for sleep apnea is a sleep study. The study allows doctors to diagnose the sleep apnea and determine the best course of treatment. (5 Things to Know Before Your Sleep Study)

Most common treatments are the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine or oral appliances, but surgery is sometimes necessary.

By diagnosing a maternal sleep disorder in the early stages, both mom and baby have the best chance of avoiding complications.

PCCMA Hires Four New Medical Staff

Independent practice adds experienced physician and supporting medical staff to growing practice

Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Associates

LEMOYNE, Pa. — Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine Associates (PCCMA), an independent medical practice based in Lemoyne, today announced four new hires to meet increasing demand for its pulmonary, critical care and sleep lab services.

Dr. Charles Inner, M.D. joined PCCMA as a physician and Cara Centrella joined as a physician assistant. Kellie Shapiro and Sherry Ayler joined as nurse practitioners. The new team members increase the practice’s total number of employees to 50 with expectations of adding additional staff throughout 2019.

“We are very excited to expand our medical team and continue to provide our patients with expert and compassionate care,” said Jason Alexander, Executive Director of PCCMA. “Charles, Cara, Kellie and Sherry add a wealth of diverse experience to our clinical team. We are proud of our continued growth as Central Pennsylvania’s largest independent pulmonary practice group.”

Dr. Inners will focus on seeing pulmonary patients at PCCMA’s Lemoyne office. He has served as president of the medical staff at LifeCare Hospitals of Mechanicsburg since 2013. Dr. Inners graduated first in his class at John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Centrella will work with the practice’s outpatient pulmonary and sleep patients. She previously worked as a family medicine physician assistant at UPMC Pinnacle Health Medical Group. She received her master of science degree in physician assistant studies from Marywood University.

Ayler will serve as a nurse practitioner supporting outpatient and sleep patients. She has worked in nursing for more than 23 years. Ayler’s previous experience includes 16 years at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. She received her master of science degree in nursing from Millersville University.

Shapiro will support pulmonary and sleep lab patients and will spend time in community hospitals and clinics. Shapiro previously worked as an adjunct and assistant professor at Harrisburg Area Community College teaching classes for licensed practical nursing (LPN). She received her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Marywood University and is expected to receive her master of science in nursing from Purdue Global in May.

In addition to its Lemoyne office, PCCMA also has offices in Carlisle and York and is UPMC Pinnacle’s select provider of pulmonary and critical care at UPMC Pinnacle hospitals in Central Pennsylvania.

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Smoking?

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Smoking?

It’s a well-established fact that smoking increases a person’s risk of lung disease, respiratory problems, cancer, stroke and heart attack. Many smokers know the negative health effects, but have trouble quitting due to the addictive nature of nicotine. Read on to find out how long it takes the body to recover from smoking and tips to get you on the path to healthier lungs.

Smoking and Your Lungs

Smoking causes irreversible scarring of the lungs that can lead to permanent damage. Quitting won’t repair that damage, but it can prevent further scarring.

Cilia are hair-like projections that keep airways clear of dirt and mucus, helping the breathing process. Cigarette smoke paralyzes and damages cilia in the lungs. They start to regain normal function soon after a person quits smoking. Therefore, it’s normal to cough more than usual at first. Coughing is a sign that cilia in the lungs are beginning to clean the airways again, which also improves the immune system.

Within just two weeks, people who quit smoking report improved lung function. Within one to nine months of quitting, coughing and shortness of breath will decrease. Additionally, the cessation of smoking prevents emphysema, a chronic disease caused by damaged air sacs in the lungs. (Learn more about a new FDA approved treatment for emphysema.)

Tips for Quitting

Many people testify that the hardest part about quitting is making the firm decision to quit. Every person is different, but here are a few tips to try:

  • Talk with your doctor
  • Set a firm date for your last cigarette
  • Start a new physical activity you enjoy
  • Save the money you would have spent on cigarettes and use it to buy a reward for yourself
  • Use medicine to help cope with nicotine withdrawal
  • Follow these tips from the Center for Disease Control

Most importantly, remember that smokeless tobacco, cigars and vaping are not safer alternatives to cigarettes. (Does Vaping Cause Cancer?)

It’s Never Too Late to Quit Smoking

Quitting can improve your health and the health of those around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous to friends, family and even pets. This is especially true for people with existing heart or lung disease, as well as children and infants.

Even older adults can benefit from quitting, regardless of age or how long they have been a smoker. In addition to improved breathing, quitting will help the body lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve taste and smell, and lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Patient Freedom of Choice Notification


Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine Associates (PCCMA) Physicians will no longer be providing pulmonary and intensivist care medical services at Geisinger Holy Spirit Hospital, effective May 1, 2019.

PCCMA physicians will continue to provide pulmonary and critical care medical services at all UPMC Pinnacle facilities, including Harrisburg Hospital, West Shore Hospital, UPMC Pinnacle Carlisle Hospital, and Community General Osteopathic Hospital.

Every patient has the right under federal and state law to be treated by the physician or specialist they choose. You can exercise your right to patient freedom of choice by advising your primary care physician or specialist that you would like to be treated by our PCCMA physicians.

If you are a patient with questions, please call our office at 717–234–2561. We encourage you to exercise your legal rights to receive treatment from the physician of your choice.

5 Things to Know Before Your Sleep Study

5 Things to Know Before Your Sleep Study

The average adult requires between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for their body to function optimally throughout the day. Unfortunately, up to 70 million adults in the U.S. have a sleep disorder that prevents them from getting consistently restful sleep.

To diagnose and treat sleep disorders, medical professionals often recommend that patients undergo a sleep study.

About Sleep Studies

A sleep study, also known as a polysomnography, is an overnight exam that provides insights into your brain and bodily functions while you sleep.

The test is used to diagnose sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, circadian rhythm disorders and other sleep-related problems.

What to Know Before the Sleep Study

  1. Your comfort is a priority

    Our sleep studies take place at a medical facility, but the room has the look and comfort of a hotel room. You’re encouraged to bring personal items, such as pajamas and a toothbrush.

    The sleep study itself is painless and noninvasive. Tiny sensors will be placed on your head and body to monitor various bodily and brain activity, but the sensors will not restrict your movement during sleep. The sensors may feel awkward at first, but we do our best to make you as comfortable as possible.

  2. Come prepared

    A sleep study won’t drastically change your daily routine, but there are a few steps to take before arriving for the study.

    You should wash and dry your hair prior to the study, but avoid putting any product in your hair. Any oils or sprays can make it difficult for the sensors to adhere to your scalp. You should also try to avoid naps the day of the study and stay away from caffeinated beverages later in the day.

  3. Communication is key

    You should enter your sleep study with a basic understanding of the process, so don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during the study.

    You should also be fully honest with staff about any prescription and recreational drugs you take, as well as any special needs you have (i.e. physical limitations, trouble getting out of bed, nocturnal enuresis, etc.).

  4. Help is always close

    Although you’ll have privacy during the sleep study, staff is always nearby in case of emergency.

  5. Results are not instantaneous

    It can take up to two weeks for sleep study results to be processed. Once your doctor evaluates all the data from the study, they will schedule a follow-up visit to discuss your results and formulate a treatment plan, if necessary.

If you have specific questions about sleep studies, call the PCCMA office at (717) 234-2561. To learn more about sleep apnea, join us at our upcoming community discussion April 27!

New Inhalation System Treats Premature Babies with Lung Disease

New Inhalation System Treats Premature Babies with Lung Disease

Fifteen million preterm babies are born each year worldwide. Oftentimes, the lungs of infants born prematurely haven’t had time to fully develop.

Premature newborns often need artificial ventilation to supplement existing lung function. While necessary, this treatment can sometimes cause bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a chronic lung disease.

Because premature infants have suppressed immune systems, they also have an increased risk of infection. Lung infections are best treated with inhaled drugs, generally allowing for a lower treatment dose than other delivery options.

Therein lies the problem; inhalation systems that work well for children and adults are not adapted to efficiently treat premature babies and infants. Infants take between 40 to 60 breaths per minute, which is rapid compared to children and adults. Their tiny lungs also hold a smaller volume of air.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine (ITEM) are developing a system that shows promise for alleviating the current barriers of treating infants who require inhaled drug treatment.

The Gentle Approach

By combining a nasal prong with a miniature aerosol valve, researchers have found an effective treatment method that is gentler on the newborns’ small lungs.

The aerosol valve is applied directly to the premature infant’s nose, and is controlled by a sensor film. The film detects movement in the upper abdomen. Just as the baby is taking a breath, aerosol is released.

They call it a “breath-triggered inhalation system” because the treatment is delivered in a rapid, targeted manner. The aerosol release timing is controlled by an intelligent algorithm that allows for accuracy of about 20 milliseconds.

In tests, this treatment showed a 60 percent increase in efficiency when compared to conventional inhalation technology.

The inhalation system is currently not production-ready, but it should be fully developed within three to five years.

Further Research

In addition to this initiative, the same research team is researching applications for administering dry-powder formulas via inhalation. This method would be used to treat preterm babies with infant respiratory distress syndrome, which can occur in underdeveloped lungs.

Lemoyne: 50 N. 12th Street, Lemoyne, PA 17043
Carlisle: 220 Wilson Street, Suite 104, Carlisle, PA 17013
York: 1750 5th Ave, Suite 300, York, PA 17403

Phone: (717) 234-2561

For medical emergencies, call 911.

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