5 newly discovered diseases every physician should become familiar with

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx
Published February 7, 2020

Key Takeaways

The “coronavirus” is making headlines across the world, but it’s not a new disease per se. Coronavirus actually refers to a large family of viruses commonly found in animals. Other coronaviridae include Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

However, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)—also known as the Wuhan coronavirus—is a newly discovered member of the fam. It was recently discovered as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness in Wuhan, China. Symptoms of 2019-nCoV infection include fever, lower respiratory disease, and even death. To date, 31,526 cases and 636 deaths secondary to 2019-nCOV infection have been reported in China. On January 30, 2020, the CDC confirmed the first US case of the virus, which has increased to 12 confirmed cases as of February 7. Of note, the CDC is actively investigating an additional 100 individuals suspected of 2019-nCoV infection.

In addition to the 2019-nCoV, other newly discovered illnesses—not just infectious—have recently made headlines. Here’s a look at five.

Autoimmune syndromes induced by adjuvants (ASIA)

Despite what anti-vaxxers claim, serious adverse effects from vaccination are very uncommon and, as every physician knows, definitely no reason to avoid vaccination. Nevertheless, a case involving a man who developed transverse myelitis 2 months after immunization with influenza A (H1N1) points to vaccine adjuvants as a possible etiology. Other case reports have also supported this markedly rare association, referred to as autoimmune syndromes induced by adjuvants (ASIA).

Seminoma-associated paraneoplastic syndrome

In a case report published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers discovered that kelch-like protein 11 (KLHL11) auto-antibodies were linked to a novel presentation: paraneoplastic encephalitis in men with testicular cancer. 

The authors described the case of a man who received a diagnosis of left testicular seminoma at age 32. Following treatment with orchiectomy and chemotherapy, he experienced 45 months of remission. Over a 9-month period, however, he developed progressive neurological symptoms concordant with encephalitis, including vertigo, ataxia, diplopia, nystagmus, intention tremor, and gait disturbance. Results from an initial T2-weighted MRI exhibited a non-enhancing hyperintense area near the level of the fourth ventricle. These findings were supported by samples from 12 other patients with similar neurologic features and testicular disease.

Sick building syndrome/building related illness

Ever thought that your building might be making you sick? Well, you may have a valid concern. Sick building syndrome (SBS) and building related illness (BRI) are two closely related health conditions that can affect some building occupants.

“The term ‘sick building syndrome’ (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building,” according to the EPA. 

“In contrast, the term ‘building related illness’ (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants,” the agency noted

With SBS, building occupants complain of symptoms including headache; eye, nose, or throat irritation; itchy or dry skin; nonproductive cough; fatigue; trouble concentrating; and odor sensitivity. Symptoms often subside after exiting the building. Although the causes of SBS are unknown, some experts have suggested that inadequate ventilation, biological contamination, or chemical contamination may be to blame.

Unlike SBS, the causes of BRI are apparent. Those with BRI tend to complain of cough, chest tightness, chills, fever, and muscle aches. After exiting the building, it can take much longer to recover from BRI compared with SBS.

Gaming disorder

Although controversial, the WHO recognizes gaming disorder—what is essentially an addiction to video games—as a diagnosable mental health condition. Furthermore, gaming disorder is included in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), and it is currently being assessed for classification in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Here are six signs of gaming disorder to watch out for, according to the WHO:

  1. Lost control over gaming

  2. Gaming ends up overtaking other activities of daily life, leading to distress and decreased function

  3. Gaming continues despite repercussions

  4. Gaming takes up a large chunk of waking hours

  5. Gaming interferes with sleep, fitness, and nutrition

  6. Aforementioned signs persist for at least 12 months

Nanoparticle toxicity

Nanoparticles are a hot topic in medicine because they offer hope for the health of future generations. When they enter the body, however, they invariably elicit unintended interactions with immune cells. These immune interactions could increase the risk of infection, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.

According to some in vitro and in vivo studies, nanoparticles may stimulate inflammation, allergic reactions, and activation of the complement system. Moreover, nanoparticles can also act as adjuvants or haptens, thus triggering an immune response. Finally, they could result in immunosuppression.

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