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Fri, 24.05.24

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March 2024
Marco Harari MD

Since 1980 dermatologists have been interested in the exceptional healing reported by patients who underwent treatments at the Dead Sea. Tens of thousands of patients have visited this area and more than 10,000 cases have been the subject of clinical and laboratory studies since this natural therapeutic option was discovered for psoriasis management. Through evaluation of the published articles on climatotherapy, we tried to reach a global assessment of the usefulness of this approach and to discover whether this treatment still can be recommended in the era of biologic treatments. I conducted a review of the available literature on clinical trials through PubMed, Medline, and Google Scholar using the terms psoriasis and Dead Sea. I found 26 studies published between 1982 and 2021. Assessment of patients showed major improvement through several selected parameters. Length of the stay and medical supervision positively influenced the major outcomes observed. Duration of improvement and possible long-term side effects of this natural treatment still need to be more precisely determined. Exposure to the unique climatic factors of the region, essentially the sun and the sea, induces fast and significant results with high clearance rates of psoriasis plaques. Dead Sea climatotherapy still has its place for the control of psoriasis symptoms.

December 2022
Reem Abbasi MPH, Ruthie Harari-Kremer MSc, Alon Haim MD, Raanan Raz PHD

Background: Congenital hypothyroidism (CH) is the most common preventable cause of mental retardation and delayed growth in children. Several prenatal and environmental factors might be associated with the disease.

Objectives: To determine the prevalence and risk factors of permanent CH and transient congenital hypothyroidism (TCH) in Israel.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of the Israeli national newborn screening program database from 2011 to 2015. Chi-square and logistic regression were used to assess the association of the demographic and gestational factors with the CH and TCH.

Results: Of the 889,033 live births screened between 2011 and 2015, 860 were diagnosed with CH (9.76 per 10,000 live births) and 298 with TCH (3.35 per 10,000 live births). In multivariate analyses, CH was positively associated with female sex, gestational ages < 38 or > 39 weeks, birth weight < 3000 grams, and winter birth. A decreased risk of TCH was detected in Arabs and neonates from high socioeconomic areas. An increased risk was independently associated with gestational ages < 38 weeks, low birth weight, and winter birth.

Conclusions: Several demographic, gestational, and geographical factors are associated with the development of CH and TCH. Future studies are needed to further investigate the pathogenesis in Israel.

April 2019
Elisabeth Dramsdahl MD, Dag Gundersen Storla MD and Marco Harari MD

Background: Multidisciplinary biopsychosocial rehabilitation for patients presenting with rheumatic diseases has been shown to produce better results in a warm climate. Dead Sea Climatotherapy (DSC) has been successfully used for decades to treat many patients with rheumatic diseases.

Objectives: To evaluate the short-term improvement of Norwegian patients who presented with chronic pain following a multidisciplinary biopsychosocial approach to treatment combined with DSC. Both objective and subjective clinical parameters were evaluated.

Methods: This retrospective study included a statistical analysis of 938 patients presenting with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (n=105), osteoarthritis (n=342), fibromyalgia (n=374), and other orthopedic conditions (n=117). Clinical assessments were conducted before and after a 3 week treatment program at the Dead Sea.

Results: Six parameters improved significantly in the rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis group as well as in the osteoarthritis group. Five parameters in the fibromyalgia group improved, while two improved in the orthopedic conditions group. Overall, major significant changes occurred in the pain self-assessment, joint motility, and daily activities scores.

Conclusions: A 3-week multidisciplinary biopsychosocial program combined with DSC induced positive changes in the clinical parameters of Norwegian patients presenting with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

December 2017
Nili Elior MD, Diana Tasher MD, Elli Somekh MD, Michal Stein MD, Orna Schwartz Harari MA and Avigdor Mandelberg MD

Background: Nebulized hypertonic saline (HS) treatment is unavailable to large populations worldwide.

Objectives: To determine the bacterial contamination and electrolyte concentrations in homemade (HM-HS) vs. pharmacy made (PM-HS).

Methods: We conducted three double-blind consecutive trials: 50 boiled-water homemade 3%-HS (B-HM-HS) bottles and 50 PM-HS. The bottles were cultured after 48 hours. Electrolyte concentrations were measured in 10 bottles (5 per group). Forty bottles (20 per group) were distributed to volunteers for simulation of realistic treatment by drawing 4 ml HS three times daily. From each bottle, 4 ml samples were cultured after 1, 5, and 7 days. Volunteers prepared 108 bottles containing 3%-HS, sterilizing them using a microwave oven (1100–1850W). These bottles were cultured 24 hours, 48 hours, and 1 month after preparation.

Results: Contamination rates of B-HM-HS and PM-HS after 48 hours were 56% and 14%, respectively (P = 0.008). Electrolyte concentrations were similar: 3.7% ± 0.4 and 3.5% ± 0.3, respectively (P = NS). Following a single day of simulation B-HM-HS bottles were significantly more contaminated than PM-HS bottles: 75% vs. 20%, respectively (P < 0.01). By day 7, 85% of PM-HS bottles and 100% of B-HM-HS bottles were contaminated (P = 0.23). All 108 microwave-oven prepared bottles (MICRO-HS) were sterile, which was significantly better than the contamination rate of B-HM-HS and PM-HS (P < 0.001). Calculated risk for a consecutive MICRO-HS to be infected was negligible.

Conclusion: Microwave preparation provides sterile HS with adequate electrolyte concentrations, and is a cheap, fast, and widely available method to prepare HS.

 

September 2014
Mahmoud Abu-Shakra MD, Amit Mayer MD, Michael Friger PhD and Marco Harari MD

Background: Low back pain (LBP) is chronic disease without a curative therapy. Alternative and complementary therapies are widely used in the management of this condition.  

Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy of home application of Dead Sea mud compresses to the back of patients with chronic low back pain (LBP).

Methods: Forty-six consecutive Patients suffering from chronic LBP were recruited. All patients were followed at the Soroka University Rheumatic Diseases Unit.  The patients were randomized into two groups: group 1 was treated with mineral-rich mud compresses, and group 2 with mineral-depleted compresses. Mud compresses were applied five times a week for 3 consecutive weeks. The primary outcome was the patient’s assessment of the overall back pain severity. The score of the Ronald & Morris questionnaire served as a secondary outcome.

Results: Forty-four patients completed the therapy and the follow-up assessments: 32 were treated with real mudpacks and 12 used the mineral-depleted packs. A significant decrease in intensity of pain, as described by the patients, was observed only in the treatment group. In this group, clinical improvement was clearly seen at completion of therapy and was sustained a month later. Significant improvement in the scores of the Roland & Morris questionnaire was observed in both groups.

Conclusions: The data suggest that pain severity was reduced in patients treated with mineral-rich mud compresses compared with those treated with mineral-depleted compresses. Whether this modest effect is the result of a “true” mud effect or other causes cannot be determined in this study. 

February 2013
E. Kopel, A. Levi, M. Harari, T. Ruzicka and A. Ingber
 Background: It is well known that quality of life is an integral part in the outcome evaluation process of psoriasis treatment. Very few studies, however, examined the effect of climatotherapy at the Dead Sea on quality of life of such chronically ill patients.

Objectives: To determine the effect of the Dead Sea climatotherapy on the quality of life of patients with psoriasis vulgaris and psoriatic arthritis.

Methods: A total of 119 patients participated in an observational prospective study carried out at the Deutsches Medizinisches Zentrum clinic, a medical skin care center specializing in climatotherapy. The patients completed questionnaires (Skindex-29) to quantify their quality of life at different time points: the day of arrival, the day of departure, and 3 and 6 months after the end of treatment.

Results: Marked improvement in the quality of life scores was measured between the time of arrival to time of departure and to 3 months after the end of treatment.

Conclusions: Dead Sea climatotherapy has a significant positive influence on the quality of life of patients with psoriasis vulgaris and psoriatic arthritis.

June 2012
I. Shlomi Polachek, L. Huller Harari, M. Baum and R.D. Strous

Background: While many are familiar with postpartum depression, the phenomenon of postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is less well known and investigated. Objectives: To assess the prevalence of postpartum PTSD in a cohort of women in Israel, and to examine factors affecting its development.

Methods: Eighty-nine women completed several ratings immediately after delivery and one month later. The factors examined related to the pregnancy, childbirth expectations, and delivery. Rating scales comprised evaluations of attachment, personality, PTSD, and demographic variables.

Results: The prevalence of post-partum PTSD was 3.4% (complete PTSD), 7.9% nearly complete PTSD, and 25.9% significant partial disorder. Women who developed PTSD symptoms had a higher prevalence of "traumatic" previous childbirth, with subsequent depression and anxiety. They also reported more medical complications and “mental crises” during pregnancy as well as anticipating more childbirth pain and fear. Instrumental or cesarean deliveries were not associated with PTSD. Most of the women who developed PTSD symptoms delivered vaginally but received fewer analgesics with stronger reported pain. Women with PTSD reported more discomfort with the undressed state, stronger feelings of danger, and higher rates of not wanting more children.

Conclusions: The study results indicate a) the importance of inquiring about previous pregnancy and birthing experiences, b) the need to identify at-risk populations, and c) increased awareness of the disorder. The importance of addressing anticipatory concerns of pain prior to delivery and of respecting the woman’s dignity and minimizing the undressed state during childbirth should not be underestimated. A short questionnaire following childbirth may enable rapid identification of symptoms relevant to PTSD.
 

April 2011
M. Harari, E. Dramsdahl, S. Shany, Y. Baumfeld, A. Ingber, V. Novack and S. Sukenik

Background: Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are required by the skin for the production of vitamin D. The intensity of UVB at the Dead Sea area is the lowest in the world. Low vitamin D levels are often associated with musculoskeletal symptoms.

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of climatotherapy at the Dead Sea on the production of vitamin D in Norwegian patients suffering from various rheumatic diseases and to investigate possible associations between increased vitamin D serum levels, musculoskeletal symptoms and disease severity.

Methods: Sixty Norwegian patients who came to the Dead Sea area for 21 days of medical rehabilitation were divided into three groups according to their diagnosis: chronic pain syndromes, i.e., low back pain or fibromyalgia (Group 1, n=33); rheumatoid arthritis (Group 2, n=16); and osteoarthritis (Group 3, n=11). Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH-D) levels were determined at arrival and prior to departure. The treatment protocol included daily sun exposure (climatotherapy), bathing in the Dead Sea and mineral spring water (balneotherapy), mud applications and fitness classes.

Results: 25-OH-D serum levels increased significantly from 71.3 ± 26.6 nM at arrival to 89.3 ± 23.2 nM prior to departure (P < 0.001). Adjusted for the initial levels of pain (assessed by a visual analog scale) and disease severity, a direct correlation was observed between increased 25-OH-D serum levels and pain reduction (P = 0.012) and reduction of disease severity (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: Climatotherapy at the Dead Sea induces significant changes in vitamin D. Increased 25-OH-D serum levels are associated with reduced musculoskeletal pain and disease severity.
 

December 2010
S. Lurie, H. Asaala, O. Schwartz Harari, A. Golan and O. Sadan

Background: Although the presence of bacteria in the cervix is not a sign of disease, the majority of pathogens involved in pelvic inflammatory disease originate from this "normal" flora.

Objectives: To assess the distribution of cervical non-gonococcal and non-chlamydial bacteria in hospitalized women with PID[1] and the bacteria's antibiotic sensitivity.

Methods: We retrospectively evaluated the cultures obtained from the uterine cervix over a 1 year period (2008) at Wolfson Medical Center, Holon. The distribution of cervical non-gonococcal and non-chlamydial bacteria in women with PID and the bacteria's antibiotic sensitivity was compared to that in our previous 1 year study that was performed at Kaplan Medical Center, Rehovot (1988–89). 

Results: In 2008, a total of 412 cultures were obtained of which 126 (30.5%) were sterile. The prevalence of negative cultures was similar in 2008 and in 1988, namely, 30.5% and 33.7%, respectively (P = 0.23). PID was finally diagnosed in 116 patients with positive cultures. The most prevalent bacteria in the 2008 study were Enterococcus species and Escherichia coli – 24.0 % and 26.4% respectively compared to 18.0% and 38.1% in the 1988 study, with the decrease in E. coli isolates being significant (P = 0.0003). In 2008 the antimicrobial sensitivity for various antibiotics ranged from 44.3% to 100.0% (median 90.2%) while in 1988 it ranged from 2.9% to 80.1% (median 51.9%).

Conclusions: The cervical bacterial flora in hospitalized women with PID did not vary significantly between 1988 and 2008. However, antimicrobial sensitivity of the isolated bacteria increased dramatically, probably due to a decrease in resistance to antibiotics.






[1] PID = pelvic inflammatory disease


February 2009
G. Sherman, L. Zeller, A. Avriel, M. Friger, M. Harari and S. Sukenik

Background: Balneotherapy, traditionally administered during a continuous stay at the Dead Sea area, has been shown to be effective for patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.

Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of an intermittent regimen of balneotherapy at the Dead Sea for patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Methods: Forty-four patients with knee osteoarthritis were included in a prospective randomized single-blind controlled study. The patients were divided into two groups: a treatment group (n=24), which were treated twice weekly for 6 consecutive weeks in a sulfur pool heated to 35–36°C, and a control group (n=20) treated in a Jacuzzi filled with tap water heated to 35–36°C. Participants were assessed by the Lequesne index of osteoarthritis severity, the WOMAC index, the SF-36 quality of health questionnaire, VAS scales for pain (completed by patients and physicians), and physical examination.

Results: A statistically significant improvement, lasting up to 6 months, was observed in the treatment group for most of the clinical parameters. In the control group the only improvements were in the SF-36 bodily pain scale at 6 months, the Lequesne index at 1 month and the WOMAC pain score at the end of the treatment period. Although the patients in the control group had milder disease the difference between the two groups was not statistically significant.

Conclusions: Intermittent balneotherapy appears to be effective for patients with knee osteoarthritis.

January 2005
N. Notzer, H. Abramovitch, R. Dado-Harari, R. Abramovitz and A. Rudnick

Background: Many medical school curricula include training for ethical considerations, legal comprehension, implementation of patients' rights, awareness of cultural differences and communication skills (ELCE).

Objectives: To explore medical students' perceptions of their ELCE training during the clinical phase as well as the relationship between humanistic practice skills' experiences and the quality of clinical training.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out in two cohorts during their clinical year period at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine at the end of their internal medicine and surgery clerkships in the 2002 academic year. The research tool was an 18 item Likert-type questionnaire (ELCEQ), based on the literature of biomedical ethics, legal aspects and behavior of practice skills. The content validation of the questionnaire was established by consulting experts among the school's faculty. It was circulated among the students by representatives of the Unit of Medical Education.

Results: The response rate was 88%. Students reported only a few opportunities for gaining experience in humanistic practice skills. A weak correlation was found between students' assessment of the quality of clinical training and their experiences in humanistic practice skills.

Conclusions: A wider and more relevant range of active experiences in humanistic practice skills should be available to students during the clerkships. Correspondingly, there is a need for the clinical faculty to find innovative ways to internalize their task as role models and ensure that students acquire and are able to practice those skills.
 

September 2000
Paul Froom, MD, Estela Kristal-Boneh, PhD, Samuel Melamed, PhD, Gil Harari, MSc, Jochanan Benbassat, MD and Joseph Ribak, MD, MPH

Background: The degree to which serum total cholesterol predicts cariovascular disease is uncertain. While most authors have placed TC among the most powerful risk indicators of CVD, some have claimed that it predicted CVD in women only, or even not at all.

Objective: To determine the predictive value of serum total cholesterol relative to diabetes, smoking, systolic blood pressure and body mass index (kg/m2), for cardiovascular disease mortality in 3,461 occupationally active Israeli males.

Methods: A prospective follow-up was carried out for the years 1987-1998 to determine the effect of age, smoking habits, a history of diabetes, SBP, BMI and TC, at entry, on CVD mortality.

Results: There were 84 CVD deaths during a total of 37,174 person-years follow up. The hazard ratios (95% confidence intervals) for CVD mortality with respect to variables at entry were: diabetes 5.2 (2.1-13.2), age 2.2 (1.7-2.9), smoking 1.3 (1.0-1.8), SBP 1.4 (1.1-2.0), TC 1.5 (1.0-2.1) and BMI 1.2 (0.7-2.2). Among non-obese, non-diabetic, normotensive subjects the hazard ratio of TC adjusted for age and smoking was 1.16 (1.09-1.22) per 10 mg/dl. In the remaining subjects it was 1.04 (0.98-1.12) only. There was a significant interaction between TC and diabetes, hypertension or obesity (P=0.003).

Conclusions: In this population of Israeli males we found an interaction between TC and other risk indicators for CVD. Confirmation is required for the unexpected finding that the predictive value of TC for CVD mortality among non-diabetic, non-obese and normotensive subjects exceeded that among subjects with either of these risk factors.
 

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