Cord blood ‘may prevent type 1 diabetes’

In a world-first clinical study, Australian researchers are hoping to prevent or delay the onset of type 1 diabetes by using stem cells from the patient’s own umbilical cord blood.

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They hope that injecting unique immune cells back into the patient, the disease could be avoided entirely.

“A number of animal studies have shown that infusion of regulatory T-cells from cord blood actually does prevent type 1 diabetes,” says Associate Professor Maria Craig, a paediatric endocrinologist at Sydney’s Westmead Children’s hospital.

“So there’s a very strong scientific basis for undertaking the study.”

But researchers say to reap the benefits of cord blood, parents have to make the decision to have it stored.

Currently in Australia there are around 25,000 samples stored. Researchers hope that successful results in this trial will help increase awareness of storing cord blood.

“Australia has one of the lowest rates of cord blood collection in the world really, in the developed world,” says Cell Care’s medical director, Associate Professor Mark Kirkland.

“Certainly for people with a family history of diseases such as diabetes, I think it’s something they really need to be thinking about.”

Australia has one of the highest rates of type 1 diabetes in the world.

Scientists believe cord blood infusion could also be used to treat a wide range of auto immune diseases.

Still, it’s not a cheap process and not every family will be able to afford it.

There’s also no guarantee the treatment will transfer to humans, says Professor Craig, but there’s every reason to be hopeful.

“We do hope this is the first of many studies investigating this very novel approach to preventing type 1 diabetes.”


Napoli to present new recruit Higuain on Thursday

The club said on Thursday on their Twitter feed Higuain would be presented to the media at 1730 GMT at the club’s training camp in Dimaro, northern Italy.

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Higuain’s move ends a six-and-a-half year stint in the Spanish capital, where he won three La Liga titles and a King’s Cup, and he is the third player to move from Real to Napoli in recent weeks following Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol.

Napoli are looking to strengthen their squad for their domestic and Champions League campaigns and had cash to spend after last week agreeing the sale of Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani to Paris St Germain for a reported fee of 64 million euros ($84.6 million).

Higuain cost them 37 million euros plus a possible 3 million more in performance-linked bonuses, while forward Callejon and defender Albiol were around 9 million each, Spanish media reported.

Born in Brest, France where his father was playing professional soccer, Higuain joined Real from Argentina’s River Plate in December 2006 but initially struggled to win a place in the starting line up.

He established himself by netting 22 league goals in the 2008-09 season and was the club’s top scorer with 27 goals the following year before a back injury sidelined him for most of the 2010-11 campaign.

He scored 22 goals in Real’s championship-winning season under Jose Mourinho in 2011-12 but finished with a disappointing 16 in La Liga last term.

Never a favourite of Real president Florentino Perez, who was not in charge of the club when he joined, Higuain was regularly touted as the player most likely to make way for the latest “galactico” signing.

He showed resilience to silence his critics but made clear his desire to leave the nine-times European champions after captaining the side in the final game of last season.

Nicknamed “Pipita” after his father Jorge, who was known as “Pipa”, Higuain could have opted to play for France as he holds a French passport.

Diego Maradona brought him into the Argentina squad in the run up to the 2010 World Cup finals, where he finished as his nation’s leading scorer with four goals.

($1 = 0.7565 euros)

(Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Tobyb Davis)


Greek pensioner left suicide note of economic despair

A retired pharmacist who shot himself in the head in Athens’ busiest square, sparking clashes between protesters and police, left a suicide note lamenting poverty and despair, excerpts showed.

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The 77-year-old man, who killed himself under a cypress tree in Syntagma Square on Wednesday, about hundred metres (yards) from parliament, said government austerity cuts had “wiped out” his pension and left him in penury.

Violence broke out after about 1,000 people poured into the square in a spontaneous anti-government protest following the suicide, rallied by messages on social media.

The dead man had also compared the government, which is implementing an unpopular economic overhaul in return for EU-IMF loans, to the regime imposed by Greece’s Nazi German occupiers in 1941.

“The occupation government… has literally wiped out my ability to survive, based on a respectable pension which I had paid for during a 35-year period,” the pensioner said in an excerpt published in Greek newspapers.

“I find no other solution for a dignified end before I start sifting through garbage to feed myself,” he allegedly wrote in red ink.

A police source said the man had cancer. Greek newspaper reports said he had a daughter but was separated from his wife.

On Wednesday, scuffles broke out with riot police after a group of around 50 youths threw stones at them. The police fired tear gas and charged the protesters after they began smashing the entrance of a luxury hotel.

At least two journalists were roughly-handled during the fracas despite their efforts to identify themselves, according to state television NET journalist George Gerafentis who said he had fallen to the ground.

The station showed footage of a second journalist being pushed to the ground and a riot policeman attempting to kick her.

An investigation has been ordered into the incident, a police source said.

Ten people were detained but later released.

Mourners had left flowers, candles and handwritten messages in the square, which for two years has been the main rallying point for protests against austerity measures designed to haul Greece from its fiscal crisis.

Some of the notes called for an “uprising of the people”.

Hundreds of thousands of Greeks have lost their jobs in the last year, and unemployment currently tops one million, a quarter of the workforce.

Greece has been forced to drastically cut state spending, and has slashed civil servant salaries and pensions by up to 40 percent to secure bailout loan payments from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

IMF spokesman Gerry Rice offered his condolence’s over the man’s suicide.

“What I’d like to say is we’re deeply saddened to learn of any death in these circumstances, and just to express our sympathies,” he said.

Greece has a lower suicide rate than the European Union average but cases are multiplying after two years of tough austerity that have left over a million people jobless.

Economic difficulties have caused despair across the European South where governments in Italy, Portugal and Spain are applying similarly tough austerity policies.

In neighbouring Italy, five people have killed themselves in the last two weeks.

Greece’s Ta Nea daily gave an estimate of more than 450 suicides and 600 attempted suicides in the country last year, though it was not clear if the economic crisis was the cause.

The incident comes ahead of parliamentary elections expected in early May.

IMF spokesman Rice recalled that the two largest political parties in Greece have publicly supported the rescue.


Factbox: Main points of Euro group-Cyprus deal

These are the main points of a deal reached early between the eurozone nations and Cyprus, as presented in a statement released by the Eurogroup of finance ministers.

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— Cyprus’s Popular Bank — Laiki in Greek — will be effectively shut down “with full contribution of equity shareholders, bond holders and uninsured depositors.”

It is understood that deposits up to 100,000 euros ($130,000) are insured, and thus not subject to any tax or “haircut.”

— Laiki will be broken up into an institution with valid assets and a “bad bank” that takes on the risky ones. The bad bank will be slowly dissolved.

— The valid part of Laiki will be integrated into the Bank of Cyprus (BoC).

That integration will be assisted with 9.0 billion euros of Emergency Liquidity Assistance provided by the European Central Bank (ECB). “Only uninsured deposits in BoC will remain frozen until recapitalisation has been effected, and may subsequently be subject to appropriate conditions.”

— The ECB governing council will continue to provide the BoC with liquidity “in line with applicable rules.”

— The BoC is to be recapitalised “through a deposit/equity conversion of uninsured deposits with full contribution of equity shareholders and bond holders.”

— The conversion, details of which remain to be determined, “will be such that a capital ratio of 9% is secured by the end of the programme.”

A capital ratio is that of a bank’s own capital and reserves to its total assets and serves as a measure of its ability to withstand financial shocks.

— “All insured depositors in all banks will be fully protected in accordance with the relevant EU legislation.”

— Loans by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, expected to total up to 10 billion euros, “will not be used to recapitalise Laiki and Bank of Cyprus.

“The Eurogroup is convinced that this solution is the best way forward for ensuring the overall viability and stability of the Cyprus financial system and its capability to finance the Cyprus economy,” the statement concluded.


Factbox: What is dengue fever?

By Scott Ritchie, James Cook University

Dengue is caused by four different serotypes (strains) of the dengue virus that can cause mild to severe illness in people, who are infected via mosquito bites.

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Dengue has been spreading through most urbanised areas in the tropics in the last 30 years. Up to 40% of the global population live in dengue-infected tropics, and an estimated 50 to 100 million cases occur annually.

Classical dengue, the most common type of the illness, is characterised by a high fever, splitting headaches, vomiting, a rash and body aches. It’s referred to colloquially as “breakbone fever”. The severe form of the illness, dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), is rare and its symptoms include blood plasma leakage, which may lead to shock and, potentially, death.

There’s no vaccine or specific medication to prevent dengue but both types can be treated with early diagnosis and fluid-replacement therapy. While fatalities are rare (less than 1% of cases), dengue epidemics can bring illness to thousands of people within weeks, causing chaos in communities and costing millions of dollars.

Dengue in Australia

The illness was once common in eastern Australia from the late-19th century through mid-20th century, stretching south nearly to Sydney. Large epidemics occurred in eastern New South Wales and Queensland. But with the demise of rainwater tanks after World War II and the advent of piped water, dengue-carrying mosquitoes retreated to north Queensland, where ample rains provide year-round breeding sites.

The prevalance of rainwater tanks could result in more dengue in Australia. Michael Jefferies

Dengue is now limited to the urban areas of north Queensland, the only region in Australia that has the carrier Aedes aegypti mosquito. Highly urbanised and feeding almost exclusively on humans, this mosquito loves unscreened old Queensland houses.

And the area is increasingly subject to outbreaks of the illness. Since 2000, there have been 36 dengue outbreaks in north Queensland, resulting in 2,364 confirmed cases that led to three deaths – all this from the bite of a rather innocuous-looking mosquito.

The increase in dengue activity overseas is also responsible for an escalation of imported cases into Australia. In the dengue-receptive cities of Cairns and Townsville, the number of imported dengue cases has jumped from ten a year to between 30 and 50 a year in the last four years. All four dengue types have been active in the area, resulting in multiple outbreaks.

To date, Queensland Health staff based in Cairns and Townsville have been able to eliminate the virus in each of the 40 different outbreaks in the region since 1995, preventing the virus from becoming established (endemic) in north Queensland. This is important as persistent outbreaks of multiple dengue viruses is associated with increased incidence of severe illness and deaths.

Current global dengue trends suggest the virus will become more common in Australia. Rainwater tanks are again decking suburban yards, and outbreaks of the virus have increased overseas (like the current epidemic in India), which means more imported cases of dengue.

Controlling dengue outbreaks

While mosquitoes breed in obvious stagnant water sites such as tyres, buckets, pot plant bases and boats under the mango tree, they also exploit hidden, flooded “cryptic containers” that are even harder to remove or treat. These include sump pits, telecommunication pits, septic tanks, roof gutters and rainwater tanks.

Water buckets provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. How Big/Flickr

Dengue cases are also hard to isolate, especially the all-important index case (the initial case imported from overseas that kicks off an outbreak). Australia’s love affair with Bali has resulted in hundreds of cases among cash-flushed youth seeking a brief tropical holiday. And the epidemic in India could have a strong impact unless controlled before the end-of-year holidays.

All of Queensland’s recent large outbreaks, from the 500 cases in 2003 to the recent 1,000 cases in 2008-09, were initiated by a traveller who was not detected by the health system for over four weeks. By the time Queensland Health knew about the ignition point for the outbreak, several other people had been infected, and had spread the virus throughout the Cairns area.

Dengue control involves careful synchronisation of a multi-disciplinary team of public health nurses, epidemiologists, entomologists and mosquito control experts, and health promotion workers. Loss of any part of this team can seriously impact the overall success of a control program.

While some control methods in development hold some promise – the Wolbachia bacteria that blocks dengue infection in mosquitoes, for instance, and Sumitomo’s smokeless mosquito coil that repels and kills mosquitoes in the house – they’re still in some years away from becoming available.

Given the increase in dengue activity overseas, the need to support current dengue infrastructure has never been greater.

Scott Ritchie receives funding from FNIH, NHMRC, Queensland Govt., CSIRO


White inspires a revival in Australia’s capital

Four wins in 16 matches had left the twice champions a pitiful 13th in the 15-team competition and they limped to the season’s end with a record-equalling 41-7 defeat at the hands of the New South Wales Waratahs.

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Little more than two years on and the team from Australia’s capital are just 80 minutes away from claiming the southern hemisphere’s provincial crown for a third time.

The odds may be stacked against them in Saturday’s final against the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton but even a heavy defeat would not detract from the impact the World Cup-winning former Springboks coach has had in Canberra.

White, in his first head coaching job after leading South Africa to the 2007 World Cup, wasted no time in transforming the Brumbies off the pitch, as Wallabies prop Ben Alexander recalled this week.

“After the 2011 Super Rugby season, I did not imagine the Brumbies playing in a final two years later,” Alexander, one of the few survivors of that moribund campaign, told the Australian newspaper.

“But when I came back to the Brumbies after the World Cup, I could see changes in the work ethic and culture.

“I definitely knew then that during Jake White’s tenure at the Brumbies, we would be more than capable of getting to the final and winning it.”

White’s assistant coaches Laurie Fisher and Stephen Larkham provided a link to the Super Rugby successes of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Brumbies reached the final five times and won it in 2001 and 2004.

WINNING

The transformation on the pitch was not as immediate but there was a gradual improvement over the 2012 season and the Brumbies came within a whisker of returning to the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

A home defeat to the Auckland Blues in the last match of the campaign put paid to that hope but the foundation had been laid and local pride was restored with home and away wins over the Waratahs.

The Brumbies really hit their stride at the start of the 2013 season by winning their first four matches, including an away win over the Sharks in Durban.

A 14-12 win by a weakened side over the British and Irish Lions – the first by an Australian provincial team over the tourists since 1971 – further boosted the team’s credentials.

Call it good luck or clever planning but White was even able to ride the loss of Wallabies openside flanker David Pocock for the season with a knee injury by virtue of having 33-year-old George Smith on the bench.

The former Wallabies captain was given permission by his Japanese club to remain for the rest of the season and has had a glorious year, including a man of the match display in last week’s semi-final win over the Bulls in Pretoria.

That win bolstered White’s reputation for building teams that can do the unexpected but perhaps his greatest success in Canberra has been in identifying talent and developing players.

Although White missed out on the Wallabies job when Robbie Deans resigned in the wake of the Lions series defeat, Australian rugby is still benefiting from his work.

Only four Brumbies were included in the Australia party which departed for the 2011 World Cup. Last week, new Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie named 12 in his first squad.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)


Clarke shelves retirement to inspire Aus

Captain Michael Clarke says he has no plans to walk away from Test cricket despite the impending doom hanging over Australia’s Ashes campaign.

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Clarke has declared he’s in it for the long haul and is determined to lift Australia’s young and inexperienced side out of the mire and back to the summit.

The skipper’s ailing back has prompted speculation he could announce his retirement as early as this summer, following the return Ashes series in Australia.

But Clarke, 32, says his back isn’t affecting his performance and retirement talk is simply not true – hinting he intends to play on until his mid 30s.

Heading into the third Test at Old Trafford starting on Thursday, Australia are staring some unwanted history squarely in the face.

Losing at Manchester will consign them to seven straight Test losses – equal with their worst ever run.

It will also mean the urn stays with England for a third straight series, the first time that’s happened since the 1950s.

As skipper, Clarke knows his name will forever sit alongside those records should they come to pass.

But turning history back in Australia’s favour is what’s motivating him to play on.

“It’s extra drive I guess. It certainly gets you out of the bed in the morning. Generally around five o’clock,” Clarke said.

“I’m not retiring in the near future.

“I love the game as much now as I ever have that’s for sure. I have no intention to walk away from this game right now.

“I’m 32 and not 36 so luckily I’ve got a few years before I have that discussion.

“I’m in it to achieve all I can as captain of this team and as a player. I feel like my game still has a lot of improvement left in it.

“That’s why I come to training and work my backside off every day.

“When I think I can’t get any better and I have nothing else to give to the team then my time is finished.”

Clarke knows his team are up against it at Old Trafford.

The pitch is dry and mysteriously patchy, and he recognises his team have struggled both with spin bowling and facing spin since Shane Warne’s retirement.

Australia have won just one from their past 11 Ashes Tests on UK soil.

But Clarke says the climactic finish at Trent Bridge in the first Test, proved England aren’t unbeatable.

Australia aren’t proud of the losing streak that’s extended back to the first Test in India earlier this year, and there’s only one way to rewrite the wrongs.

“You have to try not to think about it,” he said.

“That record is irrelevant. Unfortunately, or fortunately, records are made to be broken. This is one we don’t want to break. I was part of the team that won 16 in a row, so I guess I’m seeing both sides.

“We’ve got to play better cricket but like I said after Lord’s I’m confident we can turn it around, I really am.

“I’m confident we can win these next three Test matches and win the series. I know it seems a long way away to a lot of people … but if we play our best cricket we’ll give it a good shake.”

Likely Australian team: Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Usman Khawaja, Michael Clarke (capt), Steve Smith, David Warner, Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird.

Likely England team: Alastair Cook (capt), Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen/James Taylor, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson


‘We heard screams… then it hit’: Nepal avalanche survivors

Huddled in their sleeping bags, the climbers first heard the avalanche roar towards them and then the sound of screaming before being swept hundreds of metres down the slopes of “Killer Mountain”.

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Survivors of the weekend tragedy on Nepal’s Manaslu mountain, which killed at least nine people, said the scene resembled a war zone, with an entire camp destroyed by the wall of snow.

“We were sleeping in our tent after having dinner, when all of a sudden we heard the noise of other climbers screaming. Within moments, we were hit by the avalanche,” said Andreas Reiter, one of the trek’s survivors.

Reiter was among a group of European adventurers who were near the peak of the 8,156-metre (26,759-foot) Manaslu when the avalanche struck. They were asleep. It was 4:00 am on Sunday.

“I witnessed one of the team members die,” the 26-year-old German, who has broken his back, was quoted as telling The Himalayan Times as he recovered in hospital in Kathmandu.

Rescuers scaled down the search Monday for two French climbers and a Canadian still missing on Manaslu, the world’s eighth-highest peak and one of the most challenging.

Pravin Nepal, an orthopaedic surgeon at Norvic Hospital in Kathmandu, told AFP Reiter’s spinal cord was broken.

“He is undergoing an MRI test. He can speak and move his hands and legs.”

Another German being treated at the hospital was being treated for frostbite, the medic said.

Also among the survivors was Glen Plake, 48, a three-time freestyle skiing world champion from California. He described the site of the avalanche as “a war zone”.

“It was a major, major accident… There were 25 tents at camp three and all of them were destroyed,” he told the Epic TV video subscription service.

“Twelve tents at camp two were banged up and moved around.”

Plake told the company’s blog he was reading when he and a companion with whom he was sharing his tent heard a roar.

“Greg looked at me and said ‘that was a big gust of wind’, then a second later, ‘No, that was an avalanche’.

“Then it hit us. I was swept 300 metres over a serac and down the mountain and came to a stop still in my sleeping bag, still inside the tent, still with my headlamp on.”

Christian Trommsdorff, of France’s national union of mountain guides, said the avalanche happened at about 7,400 metres and carried away part of camp number three at 6,800 metres.

Expedition leader Garrett Madison said he and his team were sleeping at camp two, further down the mountain, when they were awoken by “snow, wind and ice penetrating our tents”.

“Fortunately everybody in our group was okay. However when we climbed up to camp three shortly after to investigate we discovered the debris from a massive avalanche and found many climbers in distress,” Madison wrote on the Alpine Ascents blog.

“During the rescue and recovery in the following hours we were able to coordinate and assist evacuating over a dozen climbers on 10 helicopter flights from just below camp three.”

Manaslu is nicknamed “Killer Mountain” by locals because a series of snowslides have claimed the lives of scores of mountaineers since it was first conquered in 1956.

The latest deaths mean at least 62 people have died, according to an AFP tally.

It saw its worst disaster when a South Korean expedition was buried by snow while attempting to climb the northeast face in 1972. The 15 dead included 10 Sherpas and the Korean expedition leader.


India polio-free one year on

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The mission for polio vaccinators around the world remains a dangerous, even deadly, one despite today marking the one-year anniversary since the last reported case of polio in India.

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Polio is still endemic in three countries, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and massive recent efforts have seen a decline to some 200 global cases reported in 2012.

However, as long as there is a single case, children in all countries remain at risk from polio unless they are regularly vaccinated.

But it’s those countries with epidemic polio that are the biggest challenges to vaccination, with misinformation creating distrust of vaccinators.

In February, a gunman suspected of belonging to a radical Islam sect shot and killed about nine women on a vaccination drive in northern Nigeria.

Clerics there reportedly claimed the vaccines were part of a western plot to sterilise young girls.

Another nine Pakistani health workers were killed last year, in a country that is seeing soaring polio rates due to growing militant attacks, despite historically successful attempts to vaccinate.

UNICEF is the world’s largest distributor of vaccines to the developing world and Australian Rod Curtis is the head of UNICEF’s Polio Eradication Unit in India.

He says polio vaccination programs have not always been welcome there.

“It wasn’t always the case, ten years ago we had vaccination teams having bricks and acid thrown at them,” he said.

“We worked extremely closely with Muslim leaders and religious institutions such as universities who tested the vaccines and put out statements on our behalf that the vaccine is safe and effective.”

But religious opposition is not the only reason why children are not receiving vaccination.

“[In] Northern Nigeria for instance, there are serious issues with the vaccination campaign in the sense that there have been whole villages that have not been on a micro plan – we are starting to institute house-to-house micro planning built on the Indian system.”

Mr Curtis said that with the remaining isolated patches of polio, we are now the “closest we’ve ever been to polio eradication”.

A two-part documentary “Cold Chain Mission”, featuring UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Ewan McGregor starts on tonight on SBS ONE.

INTERACTIVE:FOLLOW EWAN MCGREGOR’S MISSON IN INDIA BELOW

The polio program in India today launches its five-day National Immunisation Days program to immunise 172 million children under the age of five against polio.

Those wishing to donate can visit: 南宁桑拿网,www.unicef.org.au/polio


40 Indonesians missing after boat sinks

Rescuers were searching for 40 missing Indonesians including women and children after a boat carrying them home to celebrate the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan sank off Malaysia.

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Two ships, four speedboats and two helicopters have been dispatched to scour the seas off Malaysia’s southern Johor state to look for the missing, said Amran Daud, an official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).

“Our operations are ongoing but we have found nothing yet,” Amran told AFP.

The boat, thought to be carrying 44 passengers, sank in heavy seas Thursday night around 13 nautical miles (24 kilometres) off the coast, he said, adding four were rescued on Friday.

It is thought the Indonesians chose to travel on the boat because they were working illegally in Malaysia and wished to bypass border controls on their trip home.

The boat sank roughly three hours into its journey from Tanjung Sedili on the state’s east coast to Indonesia’s Batam island with its passengers hoping to return for Eid al-Fitr, the most important Muslim holiday, Amran said.

“The condition of the boat was believed to be questionable,” Amran said, adding that authorities were still investigating the cause of the wooden boat’s sinking.

Three of the survivors were rescued by passing fishermen, while another was saved by authorities who started search and rescue efforts after being alerted by the fishermen.

“Only four of those on board were rescued by fishermen and MMEA after floating 15 hours in the sea,” Amran said.

Another maritime official, Hairi Nizam, added those rescued were found clinging on to plastic drums in the water. None of them were wearing life jackets.

After being sent to hospital for treatment, the four men, aged between 26 and 31, were in custody while the incident was being investigated, Hairi said.

Shipping accidents off Malaysia’s coast are common as thousands of people from poorer regional neighbours, such as Indonesia and Myanmar, risk journeys in flimsy boats to work illegally in the relatively affluent country.

They fill low-paying jobs shunned by locals on plantations, construction sites and in factories.

Many Indonesians try to leave the country during Ramadan to return home to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their families. The holiday begins on Thursday.

Authorities said last month they were beefing up patrols to prevent illegal immigrants from making the sea voyage across the waterway separating Malaysia and Indonesia.

Aegile Fernandez, an official with migrant labour rights group Tenaganita, urged authorities to implement “concrete measures” to stop such journeys, such as further stepping up patrols and charging boatmen and any official found taking bribes to allow them.

“It’s been happening year after year, and we have not learned from this lesson… You should not close one eye,” she told AFP. “They (the migrants) are in a very vulnerable situation.”

Malaysia is also a transit point for asylum seekers fleeing unrest in their home countries, such as Myanmar.

Many of them sneak into Malaysia via boat or land and then try to reach Australia in boats via Indonesia in the hope of a better life there.

Australia announced a new policy last month to send asylum-seekers to its Pacific neighbour Papua New Guinea to discourage such journeys after a record number of boatpeople arrived in 2013 — more than 17,300 — and a spate of drownings.

An Indonesian woman died and seven people went missing after their wooden boat overturned in mid-July, also off Johor state and heading to Batam island.

The boat, which was smuggling them out of the country, suffered an engine failure. Twenty-seven Indonesians were rescued.