RSCH 610: Introduction to Scientific Writing

MUIH Competencies: Inquisitiveness, Integrity, Community and Discernment

Course Description:

Formal scientific writing provides a method to communicate ideas and to persuade readers about the validity of scientific argument and discovery. A written exploration of concepts offers an important method for defining the boundaries within an academic discipline. This course offers students an introduction to scientific writing. The focus will be on using evidence-based information and data pertaining to integrative health. Students will be exposed to primary research papers, review papers, and lay articles about science. The experience will improve their ability to make complex scientific research understandable.

My thoughts on this course:

As I complete this course, I realized I have come from a mindset of apprehension to one of enthusiasm. I would not consider scientific writing my strength; however, I decided to enter this course with openness and a beginner’s mind – as we are so often taught to do at MUIH. After the first week I felt a real excitement for the work. This energy propelled me to gain a better understanding of paragraph transitions, scientific writing protocols, the importance of the participants in a study, self-critiquing my work, using current citations, critical thinking, and developing a strong PICO and clinical question.

Although I don’t have any immediate writing goals, I do know that this training will help me convey ideas better to clients. I can use these gained skills to developing informative, evidence-based handouts, newsletters and information sheets that clients and anyone coming to my website and social sites can access. I also gained knowledge on PubMed and EBSCO searches. This course helps me stay connected to the biomedical community by providing me with research tools that will keep me aware of new herbal and medical therapies. It helps to facilitate my goal of lifelong learning in the area of Western herbal phytotherapy.

As an herbal clinician, I hope to continue a life of learning by seaking new theories, studies, and data about herbs that happen in the research world. this course has help me fine-tune my research technique. My goal is to stay current and up-to-date on new research finding in my field as well as the health field so that I can better serve my clients as an herbalist. I do love to learn and am committed to keep this part of my path.

Class Project:

Research Summary: In adults with the common cold, is the use of echinacea extract more effective than placebo in reducing the incidence and/or severity of the cold?

INTRODUCTION

The remedy for the common cold has eluded humans for some time. According to the NIH, the cold is the most common illness and affects over 1 billion people in the United States alone (Wein, 2009). The search for a cure, something to ease symptoms, and/or reduce the incidence of a cold have been the focus of many studies. According to the NIH, some preparations of Echinacea are more effective than a placebo, but clinical relevance of its treatment is weak (NIH, 2019). Echinacea has been claimed to help but studies have had conflicting results. This review looks at two studies that attempt to answer the question of the effectiveness of Echinacea extract compared to a placebo in reducing the incidence and/or severity of the common cold. To follow are summaries of the two relevant and conflicting evidence-based studies.

METHODS

The first study was conducted with a volunteer cohort study that was blinded and placebo-controlled. Three preparations of Echinacea extract were studied in this clinical trial and did not have any significant effects on the rhinovirus. 437 volunteers were blindly assigned either Echinacea or a placebo. Participants were infected with rhinovirus 39, isolated for 5 days and were evaluated for symptoms each morning.  Results show no significant effect on the infection rate of each group, and no change in virus titer was reported. The effectiveness of Echinacea to lower the incidence and severity of a cold is unproven in this study (Turner, et al., 2005). The next study uses a different preparation of Echinacea and showed differing results.

The second study is a randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial. Using a high-quality echinacea extract as early intervention for an upper respiratory tract infection yielded a reduction in the severity of symptoms. Unvaccinated (flu) volunteers in good health were randomly and blindly administered either Echinacea extract or a placebo look-alike at the onset of first cold symptoms. Participants took the appropriate dose for six days and kept a daily log of their symptoms. Remarkable results were shown for symptoms such as nasal discharge, sore throat and stuffy nose. Early intervention with Echinacea standardized extract helped to enhance the immune response and lead to a faster recovery (Goel, et al., 2004).

RESULTS

The marked difference in these two trials is the form of Echinacea used. The first study used three preparations of the extract that resulted in an unproven result. The second study used a standardized form of Echinacea purpurea extract. Using a standardized form of Echinacea extract as an early intervention provided significant results that could be measured. This may be the adjustment needed to build the foundation of future trials.

Each study shows relevant and conflicting outcomes. A deeper dive into the reason for the differing results is needed. What are the important differing factors between each of these studies and how might we learn from them to improve future studies?

DISCUSSION

What is important is having a standardized extract as the intervention. Future studies may provide significant answers to this clinical question. The questions that remain are: a) can this result be duplicated using a standardized extract, b) would the results be the same for a different population (children, elderly or at risk individuals),  c) what dose of the standardized extract is needed to result in a faster immune response and recovery from the common cold, and d) do these two studies include any limitations.

Possible limitation may include sample sizes, type of participants and collection data methods. Although 437 is a nice sample size, a larger participant base would provide clearer results. Instead of using volunteer participants, using a more detailed selection process and/or age, gender or population requirement might result in more powerful outcomes. Using cutting-edge scientific methods of collecting data from the participants may provide better results.

CONCLUSION

In adults with the common cold, is the use of echinacea extract more effective than placebo in reducing the incidence and/or severity of the cold? Given the methods in each study differed by type of extract used, the answer to this clinical question remains unanswered. The first study showed no clinical significance with the preparations used. The second study showed clinical significance in the reductions of symptoms and a faster recovery with the standardized Echinacea extract. More research using a standardized extract form is needed to answer this question.

References:

Turner, R., Bauer, R., Woelkart, K., Hulsey, T., Gangemi, D. (2005). An Evaluation of Echinacea angustifolia in Experimental Rhinovirus Infections. New England Journal of Medicine, 353 (4), 341-348.

Goel, V., Lovlin, R., Barton, R., Lyon, M., Bauer, R., Lee, T., Basu, T. (2004). Efficacy of a standardized echinacea preparation (Echinillin) for the treatment of the common cold: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 29, 75-83.

NIH. (2019). The Common Cold and Complimentary Health Approaches: What the Science Says. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from NCCIH Clinical Digest for health professionsl: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/the-common-cold-and-complementary-health-approaches-science

Wein, H. (2009). Understanding a Common Cold Virus. Retrieved May 31, 2020, from nih.gov: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/understanding-common-cold-virus

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