Friday, December 29, 2006

Study Finds The Air Rich With Bacteria

Want biodiversity? Look no further than the air around you. It could be teeming with more than 1,800 types of bacteria, according to a first-of-its-kind census of airborne microbes recently conducted by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

The team used an innovative DNA test to catalog the bacteria in air samples taken from the Texas cities of San Antonio and Austin. Surprisingly, they found a widely varied bacterial population that rivals the diversity found in soil. They also found naturally occurring relatives of microbes that could be used in bioterrorist attacks - although many of these relatives are harmless.

“Before this study, no one had a sense of the diversity of the microbes in the air,” says lead author Gary Andersen of Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division.

The research, which will be published this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, serves two purposes. It paves the way for regional bacterial censuses that will help a Department of Homeland Security bioterrorism surveillance program differentiate between normal and suspicious fluctuations in airborne pathogens. It will also help scientists establish a baseline of airborne microbes, which they can use to track how climate change affects bacterial populations.

“We want to determine the background levels of airborne pathogens and other microbes because only very limited work has been conducted on cataloging organisms in the air,” says Andersen. “This work underscores how much we don’t know about airborne bacterial populations, or where the bacteria come from.”

In the past, scientists relied on bacterial cultures to determine what microbes are present in an air sample. In this method, the culture media is exposed to the sample, and whatever grows is counted. Unfortunately, this approach leaves out all of the organisms that can’t survive in the culture, which in some cases is as much as 99 percent of the bacteria in a sample.

In this census, however, Andersen and colleagues used a vastly more comprehensive test developed by Todd DeSantis, who is also with Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division. Their DNA microarray probes air samples for a gene involved in making proteins, called 16S rRNA, which is found in all bacteria. The square-shaped microarray, which is called PhyloChip and is roughly the size of a quarter, can detect up to 9,000 different types of this gene, each unique to a different type of bacteria. The microarray is sensitive enough to differentiate among these thousands of gene sequences, meaning it can analyze an air sample and list every type of organism present.

To conduct the study, daily air samples were taken at several locations in San Antonio and Austin over a 17-week period. The samples were sent to Berkeley Lab where they were analyzed by the microarray. It found 1,800 types of bacteria, including some pathogens, wafting in the air over the two cities. This diverse population matches the complexity of soil populations, which is considered to be one of the richest habitats for microbes.

The scientists also sought to determine whether background levels of airborne bacteria change from city to city, or are generally the same throughout a region. To explore this question, they chose Austin and San Antonio because the two cities have similar population densities, elevation and topography, and they are only about 100 kilometers apart. After taking into account these common characteristics, they determined that the two cities shared a similar microbial composition.

“This gives us hope that we can eventually develop a regional airborne microbial census, perhaps even a nationwide or global census,” says Andersen. “This will also help us determine the sources of airborne bacteria. Does it come from nearby farms and water treatment plants, or is it imported by the wind from another state or country?”

The team also determined that location was not as strong a source of microbial variation as time and weather. Specifically, the time of the year during the 17-week testing period was the most significant source of variation, followed by atmospheric conditions. For example, warmer and dryer conditions led to increased amounts of spore-forming bacteria.

“This information may help explain temporal spikes, which is important in bioterror surveillance,” adds Eoin Brodie, also with Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division. “A spike may not be due to a biological attack, but to normal weather fluctuations that draw bacteria up from their natural reservoir.”

In this way, bacterial censuses can help explain whether a pathogen’s presence is natural or indicative of a biological attack. In one example, the team detected relatives of Francisella tularensis, a naturally occurring bacterium that causes tularemia, also known as rabbit fever. This especially potent bacterium is a possible candidate as a bioterror weapon. But it’s also very common. Tularemia has been reported in all U.S. states except Hawaii. This natural background can confound the detection of a terrorist attack and trigger false alarms. The trick is to determine whether the amount of F. tularensis detected in an air sample is in synch with normal levels, or if it’s suspicious.

“Almost all of the bacterial bioterror pathogens are in the environment and in the air naturally, so we need to find their natural backgrounds,” says Andersen.

An airborne bacterial census will also enable scientists to track how climate change impacts the microbial composition of the atmosphere. This process is already occurring. Wind-blown dust and biomass from Africa’s expanding Sahara desert are reaching North America in significant quantities. Recent research links this dust to an increase in asthma cases in the Caribbean.

“We need to determine what’s in the air, so we can determine how climate change affects microbial diversity,” says Andersen. “We found that there are a lot of airborne bacteria, including pathogens, which we did not know are out there.”

“Urban aerosols harbor a diverse and dynamic bacterial population” is published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to Andersen, Brodie and DeSantis, fellow Earth Sciences Division scientists Jordan Moberg, Ingrid Zubietta, and Yvette Piceno contributed to the research. The research was funded by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Contact: Dan Krotz
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


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Cooking, Cleaning And Washing Helps You Ward Off Breast Cancer

A study of 200,000 European women has found that doing housework is more likely to protect you against breast cancer than job- or leisure-based physical activity.

The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

The research was funded by Cancer Research UK and led by Petra Lahmann of the Department of Epidemiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbr├╝cke, in Nuthetal, Germany, and a widely constituted international team of researchers.

While much research extols the virtue of physical exercise as a way to reduce breast cancer risk, the evidence on precisely what type of activity is most beneficial is scanty.

Petra Lahmann and colleagues used data on over 200,000 premenopausal and postmenopausal women aged between 20 and 80, from 9 European countries.

They used statistical regression models to work out a metabolic-equivalent rate for the various forms of exercise the women undertook so that they could compare the "physical activity value" of the different forms of exercise.

They also took into account demographic, social and medical factors such as age, age when menstruation started, body mass index, education, geographical location, alcohol consumption, age at first pregnancy, oral contraception and hormone replacement therapy.

The women's physical activities were classified into three groups: recreational, household, and occupational, and a total of all three was also calculated. The women were followed up over a 6.4 year period, during which time 3,423 invasive breast cancers occurred in the group.

The results suggest that total physical activity reduces risk of breast cancer only in postmenopausal women. However, and perhaps more surprisingly, housework on its own reduces breast cancer risk in both pre- and postmenopausal women - the former by 19 per cent and the latter by 29 per cent. The study found no significant link between reduced breast cancer risk and either leisure or work-related physical activity.

The women spent an average of 16 to 17 hours a week on household chores such as washing, cooking and cleaning.

The researchers mention in the study that their findings on housework and reduced breast cancer risk are in line with other research, but point to the low numbers of women in the study who were classed as "active" in job-related activity as to the possible reason why no link was found in that area.

Their main conclusion is that this study supports the growing body of evidence showing strong links between physical activity and reduced breast cancer risk. This is in line with the general message from Cancer Research UK who promote taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight as the main way to reduce cancer risk.

"Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Risk: The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition."
Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, Published online first on December 19, 2006

Click here for Abstract.

Written by: Catharine Paddock
Writer: Medical News Today

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Pre-School Obesity Risk In US Poor Is Highest For Hispanic Toddlers

A US study of poorer families has found that Hispanic toddlers are twice as likely to be obese as white or black children. It has also found that in the poorer communities, pre-school obesity it strongly linked to whether the child takes a bottle to bed and whether its mother is obese.

The research study was led by Dr Rachel Kimbro from the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and two colleagues from Columbia and Princeton Universities.

The study is published in American Journal of Public Health.

Dr Kimbro and her colleagues looked at the ethnic and racial differences and levels of obesity in 2,000 three-year old toddlers in a nationwide sample drawn from low-income urban families in 20 cities. 35 per cent of the children were classed as overweight or obese.

Their methods included observing and interviewing the families at home at three points in the toddlers' lives: aged 0 (at birth), 1 and 3 years. They analyzed the data statistically using regression analysis to find out how ranges in overweight and obesity levels varied with race/ethnicity and what they observed.

The results showed that the Hispanic children were twice as likely to be overweight or obese as black or white children, but they could not find out why. However, they did show that weight at birth and whether the baby took a bottle to bed were strongly linked to obesity risk. 14 per cent of the Hispanic toddlers took a bottle to bed at age 3, as compared with 6 per cent of the whites and 4 per cent of the blacks.

Another significant factor was the weight of the mother - obese 3 year olds were more likely to be linked to with obese mothers.

The researchers wondered whether cultural differences, might explain some of these variances. For instance, is it possible that Hispanic communities regard chubbiness as a healthy sign in toddlers?

The researchers concluded that even as early as aged 3, problems with being overweight are evident, and that in low-income families, Hispanic children with overweight mothers are the ones most likely to be obese themselves.

"Racial and Ethnic Differentials in Children’s Overweight and Obesity Among 3-Year-Olds."
Rachel Tolbert Kimbro, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Sara McLanahan.
AJPH Dec 28, 2006, 10.2105/AJPH.2005.080812
First Look, published online ahead of print.

Click here for Abstract.

Written by: Catharine Paddock
Writer: Medical News Today

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FDA Says Food From Cloned Animals Is Safe To Eat

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to rule that food from cloned animals is as safe to eat as food from conventionally reared ones.

The proposed ruling was issued yesterday, December 28th, and is currently in draft status, until the 90-day public consultation elapses after which it will be made final.

The FDA's proposed ruling is in three parts: a risk assessment, a risk management plan, and information for the food industry.

The risk assessment proposes that eating meat and milk from cloned adult cattle, pigs, goats and their offspring is as safe as eating those products from animals reared in the conventional way. Sheep are not mentioned because there is not enough evidence on sheep cloning to give a reliable risk assessment.

The FDA investigated the relevant scientific evidence and an independent panel of experts on animal health and cloning reviewed and agreed with their findings. The findings are in line with a 2002 report from the National Academies of Sciences.

Dr Stephen Sundlof, Director of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine said in a press release yesterday: "Based on FDA's analysis of hundreds of peer-reviewed publications and other studies on the health and food composition of clones and their offspring, the draft risk assessment has determined that meat and milk from clones and their offspring are as safe as food we eat every day."

Dr Sundlof adds that cloning presents no added risk when it is compared to the "other assisted reproductive technologies" currently used by US farmers.

The risk management plan outlines measures that the FDA recommends for the care of animals used in or resulting from cloning technology. They also ask that producers hold back from selling food from cloned animals until the consultation process has elapsed, its outcome is reviewed and the FDA's final ruling is made.

Cloning is where a cloned animal is a genetic copy of its donor "sibling" - in the same way as identical twins have the same genetic code because they come from the same egg and sperm. The difference is that the clone does not start life in the womb alongside its "sibling", but at a later stage, from cells taken from an adult donor. So it is like having identical twins but one is already an adult when the other is born.

The cells from the donor are inserted into an egg from which the DNA has been removed, so that only the donor's DNA is present in the ensuing embryo, which gestates in the womb of a "surrogate mother" and is born in the normal way.

Dolly the sheep, born in 1997 and named after Dolly Parton, is a famous example of a cloned animal.

Cloning happens in the plant world all the time - every time you take a cutting and grow it into a mature plant you have cloned an identical specimen. Some grape vines today are clones of originals that existed in the Roman times over 2,000 years ago.

Cloning is not the same as genetic engineering (also called genetic modification (GM), or gene splicing). Genetic engineering involves altering the gene pattern of an existing organism, and does not result in the production of a genetically identical "twin". Genetic engineering technology now lies behind the production of human insulin (produced from genetically altered bacteria), herbicide resistant crops, and many other medicine and food related applications.

Click here to view the Draft Risk Assessment Papers on Animal Cloning (FDA).

Click here to read about Dolly the sheep, 1996-2003 (Science Museum, UK)

Written by: Catharine Paddock
Writer: Medical News Today

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Theme Parks Now Offering You Trans-Fat Free Food

Following in the footsteps of the public initiative in New York restaurants, Universal Studios has announced it is introducing healthier side dishes and aims to eliminate artificial trans-fats from its menus. This began on Christmas Eve with certain adult and children's meals in many of the theme parks. Fries not cooked in artificial trans-fats will be on offer in some of the parks in Orlando and Hollywood, as will side salads and fruit and a range of healthier beverages. The aim is for all theme parks to be 100 per cent free of artificial trans-fats by the end of 2007.

In making this announcement Universal Studio's executive chef of Parks and Resorts, Steven Jayson, said that they while they want their guests to feel good about their food, they also want them to retain the element of choice, "that is why our program is about choices rather than absolutes". Universal Studios have been researching healthy alternatives and eliciting customer feedback and Jayson adds that "We did not want to sacrifice taste or quality. It’s important for our guests to know that healthy food can taste good."

Artificial trans-fats are made from vegetable oils that are hydrogenated to make them easier to use in processed foods such as pastry and confectionery, and to keep it semi-solid like butter for frying and spreading and to extend its shelf-life because it takes longer to go rancid. While this makes it more convenient for food producers, research has shown that a diet high in trans-fats contributes to obesity and heart disease.

Natural trans-fats do exist but they form a very small proportion of the natural fat we eat, so the term "artificial trans-fat" has become shortened to "trans-fat".

Trans-fats are not saturated fats (their chemical structure includes double carbon-carbon bonds, whereas saturated fats have only single carbon-carbon bonds), they are in fact partly saturated, retaining the same ratio of hydrogen to carbon atoms as naturally occuring poly-unsaturated fats. It is thought the problem lies in the structure of the trans-fat molecule.

The term "trans" comes from the shape of the fat molecule that is produced when the vegetable oil is hydrogenated. Hydrogenation simply means the double and triple bonds between some of the carbon atoms in the poly- or mono-unsaturated vegetable oils are broken to cause hydrogen atoms to become attached to them instead.

The problem with trans-fats seems to lie in the fact that when hydrogen atoms are added to the carbon-carbon bonds, they form a transverse pattern, lying on alternating opposite sides of the carbon-carbon link. This is different to the "cis" configuration, more common in naturally occuring fatty acids, where the hydrogen atoms lie next to each other on the same side of the carbon-carbon link.

It is possible that it is this "trans" spatial configuration that interferes with the fat's properties, for example when it interacts with cholesterol. Although chemically different to saturated fats, trans-fats act like them by raising the level of bad cholesterol (LDL). However, unlike saturated fat they have another undesirable effect - trans-fats also lower the level of good cholesterol (HDL).

So in a way, trans-fats are even more harmful than saturated fats as a prime source of fatty acids in our diet. That's what all the fuss is about.

The average person in the US consumes 2.2 kg (nearly 5 pounds) of (artificial) trans-fats in a year.

Healthy Eating Pyramid from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Announcement and dining options at Hollywood Universal Studios.

Written by: Catharine Paddock
Writer: Medical News Today

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Belly Size Predicts Heart Disease Better Than Obesity

A new study suggests that the size of your belly is a better predictor of heart disease than how obese you are overall.

The research was led by Carlos Iribarren of the Research Division of Kaiser Permanente of Northern California in Oakland and is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Body Mass Index (BMI) was once used as a measure to predict heart disease risk. However, you could have a high BMI because you are muscular as opposed to fat. So the scientists in this study decided to look at another factor known as SAD, short for sagittal abdominal diameter, a measure of "visceral obesity".

SAD is also called "supine abdominal height" which has been used to predict mortality in men, and is a measure of the girth around the abdomen at a height that is half way between the top of your pelvis and your lower ribs. It is considered a more reliable measure of a person's girth than the waistline, and the measurement is taken by a health professional using a caliper.

The scientists performed a cohort study involving 101,765 male and female members of the Kaiser Permanente of Northern California who had been through health checks between 1965 and 1970 where their SAD was recorded, and who were followed up 12 years later.

After adjusting for a number of social and lifestyle factors such as age, sex, education, BMI, smoking, alcohol and HRT in women, they found that men in the top 25% of SAD girth measurement had a 42 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) than those in the bottom 25% of SAD girth measurement. For women the figure was 44 per cent.

Iribarren and his team also looked at the results within categories of BMI. They found that within the same BMI range, the SAD measure was a reliable predictor of CHD risk. In other words, two people with the same Body Mass Index (even if their weight was "normal") would effectively have different risks of developing CHD depending on the size of their belly - the larger the belly the bigger the risk.

They also found that SAD was a consistent predictor for CHD across racial groups. However, the younger a person was, regardless of race, the stronger the link between SAD and eventually having CHD. The team found this to be unsurprising since the younger you are when you develop a large belly the more likely you are to have complications later in life.

The researchers concluded that "standing sagittal abdominal diameter was a strong predictor of CHD independently of BMI and added incremental CHD risk prediction at each level of BMI".


"Value of the Sagittal Abdominal Diameter in Coronary Heart Disease Risk Assessment: Cohort Study in a Large, Multiethnic Population."

Carlos Iribarren, Jeanne A. Darbinian, Joan C. Lo, Bruce H. Fireman and Alan S. Go.
American Journal of Epidemiology 2006 164(12):1150-1159; doi:10.1093/aje/kwj341

Association for the Study of Obesity (UK).

Written by: Catharine Paddock
Writer: Medical News Today

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Anemia During Pregnancy May Be Caused by an Iron Deficiency

Anemia during pregnancy is a somewhat common problem. If you think you might be anemic it's important to seek care for the sake of your own health and that of your baby.

Anemia is described as a condition in which your red blood cell count is low. Red blood cells help carry oxygen to the rest of your body. An anemic person is not making enough red blood cells and as a result their health may suffer.

When you are pregnant your red blood cells generally increase. Plasma also increases but at a quicker rate. A hemocrit reading is recommended to get an adequate measure the amount of red blood cells in your bloodstream. The hemoglobin level is also tested which analyzes the amount of protein in your blood. Anemic people tend to have a hemocrat reading that is lower than 37 and their hemoglobin is fewer than 12.

Hemocratic testing is usually done at the first prenatal visit along with other routine lab work. It will likely be re-tested when you are further along and more often if you are anemic or show signs of possible anemia.

One problem with anemia during pregnancy is that once you go into labor you're at an increased risk of losing large amounts of blood and requiring a transfusion. If you are anemic, special care may be provided and it's wise to follow your care provider's advice on diet changes and the use of supplements.

Some signs of possible anemia include: sleepiness and getting worn out easily, faster than average heart beat especially when you are exercising or pushing your body too much, headache, shortness of breath, lack of ability to concentrate for long periods of time, pale skin, leg cramps, and dizziness.

There are several different kinds of anemia but during pregnancy the most likely type is iron-deficiency. If you are lacking iron then your body is unable to produce adequate amounts of red blood cells which results in iron-deficiency anemia. During pregnancy the baby uses some of your body's storage of iron to make its own blood so it's important to make sure you have enough iron stored up for yourself as well. Some signs of iron-deficiency include: fatigue, weakness and pica cravings (wanting to eat things such as clay, ice, soap, toilet paper).

While iron deficiency can possibly lead to anemia it's not always the case. It should be monitored and tested by your midwife or OB so that you and your baby can be healthy and continue developing properly.

Other less common forms of anemia include sickle cell anemia, lead poisoning anemia, b12 deficiency anemia, and chronic red blood cell destruction. Each have different signs and symptoms as well as treatment plans so it's important to see a health care provider if you suspect you might be anemic, especially if you are pregnant or would like to conceive in the near future.

By: Katherine Maestas

Read the Original Article

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Deadly Lung Diseases that Affect Millions

COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. COPD claims well over one hundred thousand lives each year, with eighty to ninety percent of those individuals being smokers. COPD refers to a pair of conditions, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, that affect the person's lungs, making it harder and harder for them to breathe. COPD is one of this country's most rapidly growing health problems, with sixteen million people suffering from chronic bronchitis and another two million with emphysema.

Although the primary cause of COPD is smoking, it can also be brought about by exposure to air pollution, second-hand smoke, certain industrial pollutants, and some inherited conditions. COPD costs Americans almost forty billion dollars a year in related health care costs. COPD is more common in men, but women are making strides in this race that neither sex wants to emerge victorious in, as more and more women develop COPD, a result of the increase in women smokers after World War II. COPD patients have a poor quality of life in the majority of cases, and the toll that COPD can take on family and loved ones can be devastating.

Someone with chronic bronchitis will experience chronic inflammation of the large air tubes of the respiratory system as a result of the steady exposure to cigarette smoke. This inflammation causes these bronchial airways to narrow, and glands in the lining of these airways secrete excess mucus, causing even more narrowing, with airflow being blocked. This form of COPD will produce a constant cough that will produce sputum composed mainly of mucus, along with a shortness of breath. COPD increases the chance of infection, as chronic bronchitis victims have damaged cilia in their lungs. These minute hairs are responsible for ridding the airways of foreign particles and bacteria, but when they cannot do their job, infections can take hold. Chronic bronchitis worsens over time, and the person afflicted with it often does not realize how serious the problem is

COPD caused by emphysema sees the individual distressed with the condition overproduce an enzyme called elastase. This is a consequence of smoking, and it results in irreversible harm to a protein in the lungs that maintains the structure of the walls of these organs. Emphysema patients find themselves with less elastic lungs than non-smokers, and they transfer less and less oxygen to the bloodstream because of this. COPD from emphysema victims have a great deal of trouble exhaling, as they cannot keep their airways open. Over ninety percent of those with emphysema are older than forty-five, with most of those older than sixty-five showing that the disease is the result of long-term smoking. Symptoms include coughing and extreme shortness of breath, and those with emphysema cannot tolerate much exercise at all. Those with chronic bronchitis can develop emphysema later on, and both diseases can cause respiratory failure as the blood has an awfully low level of oxygen in it, and elevated carbon dioxide amounts.

As COPD progresses in a patient, they often require supplemental oxygen to be able to breathe. Half of those with COPD will see it affect their ability to work, and seventy percent of these people will be unable to exert themselves normally. COPD treatments cannot cure the condition; they can only help to lessen the symptoms, which will worsen over time. Bronchodilator medications are employed to open airways to allow somewhat easier breathing and can be inhaled in aerosol form or taken orally. COPD patients are extremely vulnerable to infections such as pneumonia and influenza, which ultimately will take their lives, as their resistance to them is incredibly compromised. Vaccinations and antibiotics help towards this end. Corticosteroids can help to block inflammation of the airways and are usually inhaled.

Lung transplants have been successful in some end-stage COPD patients, enabling them to live a little bit longer. Lung volume reduction surgery removes the damaged areas of the lungs and joins the remaining regions together, with a mortality rate of fifteen in a hundred and many complications. The quicker COPD is diagnosed, the better the prognosis for those that are found to have it. Quitting smoking is imperative for those with COPD, as the average survival rate for people who are diagnosed with this disease after they have lost over half of their lung functions is under ten years, but much, much less if they insist on continuing to smoke.

By: Lindell

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Web.Medical.News Update

As most readers have noticed the blog posts on here have been sporadic at best. I have been in the process of moving to my own hosting on some of my blogs and the process has been extremely time consuming. As for Web.Medical.News a major update is in store. I plan on doing an overhaul of the sites theme and increased posting starting tomorrow! Keep an eye on this blog as changes are made to improve your new media experience.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Job in Review: Physician Assistant

Here is a link to my most recent article on Associated Content. It is a Job in Review article about Physician Assistant. I will have the full text on here by tomorrow.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sponsor: Feller Medical

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Severe Acne Treatment Linked With Depression

Researchers have found that a common treatment for severe acne has been linked to depression on tested mice. The drug, Roaccutane, was widely used during the 1980s. This study serves as a follow up to controversial reports that the drug had caused depression and suicidal behavior in users. Prior to this study, drug manufacturer Roche required a warning label on the drug stating potential risks. Those risks associated with the use of Roaccutane include depression, psychosis, and suicidal behavior. Despite this warning, the chemical cause of these conditions had yet to be documented.

Enter a new independent study completed by researchers at the University of Bath and the University of Texas at Austin. In the tests, researchers gave Roaccutane to mice over a six week period and study the resulting response. The found that while the mice showed no loss of physical ability, the mice exhibited more depression related behavior. In tests designed to stimulate a response in the mice, those who received the drug showed much less of a response, an indication of depression.

Despite this finding in mice, it is impossible to conclude whether or not the link exists in people. The study, despite its shortcomings, is still seen as a step forward in the research into the drugs reactions. The response which was elicited in the mice will go a long way in determining what role drugs such as Roaccutane play in overall brain function. Up to this point, the only indications of the drugs effects came from patient accounts. But due to the complications associated with drugs of this type and the role in which severe acne plays on a person, the accounts are not very useful for scientific studies.


Researchers hope to expand the results of this study across broader drug groups to which Roaccutane belongs. Studies of this kind may help develop links between side effects associated with similar drugs. For example, Roaccutane belongs to a group of vitamin A-derived medicines proven to effect the development of a person's nervous system. Although this experiment showed a link to depression related behavior, researchers believe that drugs in this same family may be able to be used in the future to help with brain disorders such as schizophrenia.

This field will be one of significant study in the future. Firstly, scientists will want to map similarities among similar medicines to help determine their effectiveness, side effects, and broad uses against other diseases. For example, drugs derived from vitamin A are shown to have affects on the nervous system and the brain. Future experiments will look to exploit this and use it to our advantage. By breaking the effects of medicine down we should be able to expand our knowledge and use of medicines we already have.

Research will also be done to study just what effects drugs play on the brain and whether anything can be done to prevent such occurrences. Look for frequent studies and developments in this field in the near and distant future.

By: Kris Karkoski from Associated Content

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Music Lessons Increase Brain Development in Children

After a year long comparison between children who had musical lessons and those who didn’t, researchers have found a difference in brain development between the groups. Scientists at McMaster University in Canada say that children who received music lessons had better memories. The study also found a higher literacy and math level among the group. According to the study, it is the first of its kind to study the effects of musical lessons over a complete year.

Findings
This study focused on children aged 4 to 6 years old. Perhaps the most surprising aspect to the entire study was its effect on children as young as 4 years old. The effects of musical lessons stretch far beyond the music itself. The study found that the memory performance related to learning music can be stretched to a wide variety of subjects. Among the subjects improved are verbal memory, literacy, and mathematics. Possibly the broadest finding of the entire study was that music lessons may even improve IQ.

The Study
This research was completed on only twelve children. The twelve were then split up into two groups. The first took no music lessons and was comprised of four boys and two girls. A second group which did participate in music lessons consisted of five boys and a girl. The music lessons the children participated in are known as Suzuki music lessons. The key of these lessons is to allow children to listen to music and attempt to imitate it before they know how to read music.
All of the children were subjected to two different sounds throughout the study and their brain activity was monitored while the sound was played. The first sound was that of a violin and the second was a sound similar to static. Across the board children showed greater brain reaction to sounds with meaning and intention, in this case the sound of the violin. By the end of the study all of the children showed an increased response to the sound due to a greater level of brain maturity. The children who received the music lessons however showed a greater response than those who didn’t.

It is this change, as well as better memory indicated by testing shows the significant effect music lessons play on a child’s developing brain. Extending and applying this finding the research scientists found that music helped to wire the brain for cognitive and memory functions to a greater extent.


Questions Raised
One of the main questions raised following the study was its application to
large groups of children. Only twelve children were tested, a relatively small group for research of this kind. Although the research is believed to be true across all children, this cannot be confirmed to a greater extent until a broader study is completed. Another question which must be asked is whether gender plays any role in childhood brain development as it relates to music. In this study males were the main test subjects. A study into varying development as it relates to gender should also be completed to ensure the validity of results. Overall, more research will have to be completed to confirm the results found in this study.

The team is planning further research into the topic, this time focusing on the effect of music lessons on adult minds. For more information about this study, check out the October issue of Brain. Music lessons linked to increased brain development. Some improvements included memory, literacy, and math skills. An improvement in overall IQ was also indicated. The study focused on only 12 children, 9 boys and 3 girls.

By: Kris Karkoski from Associated Content

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Quintuple Kidney Transplant a Success

With 12 surgeons, 6 operating rooms, 5 donors, and 5 patients the first known transplant of 5 kidneys simultaneously went off without complications. The procedures were conducted at the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center which had done triple transplants of several previous occasions. The five recipient - 3 men and 2 women - were in good health and spirits, as were the donors. The 10 participants came from 5 different states and Canada. 4 of the kidney recipients approached the hospital with family members willing to donate but incompatible with their loved ones. The fifth recipient was on a waiting list to receive a kidney.

The procedure showed just how well hospitals and the health care system can be at linking willing donors with recipients. Organ recipients know all to well how long the wait can be to receive an organ and procedures such as this where compatible strangers are linked may become more common. The procedure took 10 hours to complete and involved 12 surgeons, 11 anesthesiologists, and 18 nurses.

Doctors say the most common form of kind of transplants are paired transplants with triple transplants even being rare. Doctors prefer to use kidneys out of live patients as opposed to cadavers because the success rates with such organs is higher. Live-donor practice is becoming more common every year in the United States as the process becomes more well known and people network for organs across the nation. Live-donor practice involves pairing a kidney recipient and a friend or family member willing to donate an organ, particularly a kidney, with another pair. This reduces the amount of time a needy patient has to wait for an organ and increases the chances of the surgeries success.

Last year, 16,500 kidney transplants were completed in the U.S. 10,000 of the kidneys came from cadavers while the other 6,500 were from live-donors. There are presently 70,000 people waiting for kidneys with an average wait time of 5 years. Nearly half of this number will die before receiving a kidney or become two sick to undergo the surgery.

Altruistic donations, donations by people not related to any of the recipients, are becoming more common as well. Many members of certain Christian groups have donated their kidneys to others whom they have never met before. One of the donors in the quintuple surgery was an altruistic donor never meeting and of the recipients whom her organ was donated to.

The multiple kidney swaps bend the legal boundary as some laws prohibit giving something of value in exchange for an organ. Doctors, hospitals, and patients are looking for clarification and refinement of the law to allow for the life saving donations.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Higer Infant Death Rates Accompany Voluntary C-Sections

If you’ve decided to have your next child via a voluntary c-section, you may want to reconsider. A study to be published in September indicates that infant and neonatal death rates during voluntary c-sections are higher than during vaginal births. Marian MacDorman as well as other researchers took a look at nearly 5.8 million live births and 12,000 infant deaths from 1998 to 2001 in order to determine the infant death risk associated with different types of birth, particularly the rates associated with voluntary c-sections compared to vaginal delivery.

In order to determine as true of a set of results as possible, the study only looked at pregnant women who had no complications with the delivery. This made the only difference between two different births the delivery method. By eliminating women with complications, the study will yield less tainted results.

The study is believed to be the first study to look at the death infant and neonatal death rate associated with voluntary c-section. Prior studies have been completed on risks associated with required c-sections; however, this study goes a step further to analyze those c-sections which are not mandatory and are instead, voluntary. The amount of births completed via c-section has rose from 20.7 percent in 1996 up to 29.1 percent in 2004, a staggering increase. This rise in c-section births has made the study more pertinent than ever.

Infant and neonatal mortality rate among babies delivered via voluntary c-section were 1.77 per 1,000. In contrast, the mortality rate for babies delivered vaginally was .62 per 1,000. A look into the causes to these starkly different figures may be linked to a number of different factors. One cause which researchers have cited is that vaginal labor and delivery releases a hormone which promotes greater and healthier lung functioning. C-sections on the other hand do not release this hormone. Researchers also stress that the force on the infant during vaginal birth pushes fluid from the lungs and prepares the young child to breathe on their own, another thing c-sections are unable to accomplish. Other causes are associated with possible cuts to the infant during the c-section procedure and delayed time before breast feeding can occur.

All of the information which was outlined in the study was drawn from information written on birth certificates. Therefore, the accuracy of the information in the study is only as accurate as it was put onto the birth certificates. The certificates are typically accurate however, so the survey will represent this fact. For low risk women, the risk of infant death is still very rare with an average of only one infant death per every 1,000 infants.

This study needs to be taken with a significant amount of consideration. The key to this entire study is that a higher risk of infant and neonatal death is associated with a voluntary study. The expectant mother will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the procedure and come to a conclusion as to whether the risk is worth the reward. This study will hopefully engage more conversation between OB/GYNs and patients as to whether this study is right for their situation and whether the indicated higher risk to the infant is worth it.

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By: Kris Karkoski from Associated Content


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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Despite New Rules, Medical Interns Still Face Long Hours

"A new study released just recently has indicated that, despite major rules changes enacted in 2003 to put an end to long work hours, interns are still working long hours. In the study, 80 percent of interns have stated that they violate mandatory standards placed on their workplace schedules. The survey covered over 4,000 interns across the United States.

New Rules

In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education refined its standards for medical interns. New rules were set forth due to the rising concern that mistakes in judgment and health care decisions were being made due to a lack of adequate rest under the then current conditions. The council was also concerned about the overall health of the students partaking is extremely tedious work schedules.

The new standards limited interns to working no longer than 30 hours straight. They also stated that the students were not allowed to work more than an average of 80 hours a week over a 4 week period.

No Improvement

Despite the newly implemented rules, a study at Boston ’s Brigham and Women’s hospital indicated that no improvements in intern working conditions were made in 2004; the first year after the rules took effect. 2005 appears to be the same, if not worse than the previous year. Even though new rules were implemented, there appears to be no effect on working conditions. The safety standards are comparable to those of other jobs requiring extensive hand eye coordination such as truckers and pilots. The study indicates that possible reasons for the lack of change include resistance to changes, emergencies, and lack of money.

A Second Study

Another study was completed at the same hospital and tracked accidental needle punctures. The mistakes are most commonly attributed to lack of sleep and expose interns to diseases. This survey was completed just before the new rules came into effect. Since the newest rules had little effect on interns actions it can be assumed the results of this study are still common.

Further Steps Are Needed

More steps need to be taken to ease the problems faced by interns presently. Number one on the priority list is federal legislation aimed at employers violating current rules and laws. Evidence indicates that shifts that exceed 12-16 hours endanger patients and cause interns to not perform to the best of their abilities. Any improvements that have been seen have been marginal at best and have mainly been seen in institutions which had 120 hour work weeks before the new rules took effect. The only locations in compliance with the law now are those which had lower hours before the rules. Despite the health care systems goal of helping patients, they are in fact putting them at increased risk by extending shifts beyond what is recommended."

By: Kris Karkoski from Associated Content

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Buying Scrubs for School and Work

I know that the process of finding just the right scrubs for your work or school needs can be a frustrating challenge. Finding pieces that will match one another, match school or other colors, or that you just look good in can be hard to come by, that's why web sites specialize in finding a solution to just such problems.

If you are a nurse or medical professional, Scrubs Gallery is the place to shop online. By using Scrubs Gallery you can sort through scrubs by type color style and fabric to find the scrub the fits your wants and needs. Not only does the site have many different styles but they are cheaper as well. The next time you are looking for scrubs consider Scrubs Gallery.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Overweight Toddler = Overweight Preteen, Most of the Time

A new study completed by American researchers indicates that toddlers who are overweight or obese at age 2 run a much higher risk of being overweight at age 12 when compared to toddlers of recommended weight. The new study, whose results were released earlier this week, followed children from age 2 through age 12 and tracked not only their weight, but also their levels of weight gain as compared to other children of the same age.

Despite what you may hear, weight and weight gain is important throughout a persons life including when they are very young. It is particularly important to establish healthy eating habits when a child is young in addition to maintaining a healthy weight. Contrary to what many people believe, weight will typically not go away simply as a result of getting older, the study indicated.

By: Kris Karkoski from Associated Content
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Human Body Resists Attempted Weight Loss

"A recent study completed in has determined that the body resists attempts to lose weight. The study comes on the heels of news that obesity in is still on the rise despite efforts to reduce the recent epidemic. The study covering the body’s high resistance is set to be reviewed by obesity experts at the Queensland University of Technology.

Contrast of mechanisms
One doctor associated with the project from the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation has states that the body has very few processes to prevent weight gain, but very strong processes to prevent weight loss. The study showed a long known effect whereby weight loss effectively stops or is drastically reduced once it reaches a certain level.

A plateau effect
The long known plateau effect was demonstrated in this study. The plateau effect marks a point where exercise and reduced calories no longer lead to significant weight loss. In the study, two sets of data were used. The first set involved obese men and women exercising five times a week, but did not regulate the amount of food which they were able to consume. The second survey group tracked was those which utilized both diet and exercise, but it was up to them how much of each they completed.

The first group lost an average of 3kg a week for the first seven weeks but in the eight week, the average net weight loss was only .7kg, a staggering drop. This stoppage of weight loss is evidence of the mechanisms the body has in place to prevent it from losing further weight, or at least from losing it as fast as it had been.

The second group had a wide array of weight losses, mainly due to the fact that the exercise program and diet had been left up to each individual. Despite the difference in total results, most of those surveyed displayed the previously mentioned plateau and major slowdown in weight loss."

By: Kris Karkoski from Associated Content
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Monday, November 13, 2006

Meat Shown to Increase Breast Cancer Risk

According to a study consuming red meat may increase a woman's risk for breast cancer. The study found women who ate more than one and a half servings of red meat daily had nearly two times the risk of developing hormone related breast cancer. Those women who ate only 3 servings of meat a week or less had a much lower rate. The study was published in Monday's issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study tracked women's diets over a two decade period and focused on survey rather than experimentation. The type of breat cancer involved with the study was only those that were hormone driven and not types formed for some other reason. Those who consumed extra meat were also more likely to smoke and be overweight, but with these factors incorporated meat eaters still had a greater risk of the cancer.

The exact reason for the proposed link is unknown although it is believed to be related to the high fat content of red meat and improper portioning.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Severe Acne Treatment Linked With Depression

"Researchers have found that a common treatment for severe acne has been linked to depression on tested mice. The drug, Roaccutane, was widely used during the 1980s. This study serves as a follow up to controversial reports that the drug had caused depression and suicidal behavior in users. Prior to this study, drug manufacturer Roche required a warning label on the drug stating potential risks. Those risks associated with the use of Roaccutane include depression, psychosis, and suicidal behavior. Despite this warning, the chemical cause of these conditions had yet to be documented.

Enter a new independent study completed by researchers at the University of Bath and the University of Texas at Austin. In the tests, researchers gave Roaccutane to mice over a six week period and study the resulting response. The found that while the mice showed no loss of physical ability, the mice exhibited more depression related behavior. In tests designed to stimulate a response in the mice, those who received the drug showed much less of a response, an indication of depression.

Despite this finding in mice, it is impossible to conclude whether or not the link exists in people. The study, despite its shortcomings, is still seen as a step forward in the research into the drugs reactions. The response which was elicited in the mice will go a long way in determining what role drugs such as Roaccutane play in overall brain function. Up to this point, the only indications of the drugs effects came from patient accounts. But due to the complications associated with drugs of this type and the role in which severe acne plays on a person, the accounts are not very useful for scientific studies."

By: Kris Karkoski from Associated Content
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Metal Forces Painkiller Recall

11 million bottles of the common pain killer acetaminophen are being recalled due to the risk of metal contamination. Some of the drugs were sold over 3 years ago. The generic pills were sold to many stores including Wal-Mart, CVS, Safeway, and SuperValu. The 500 mg tablets were also sold under more than 120 other brands.

Acetaminophen is one of the most common painkillers and is most well known under the Tylenol brand name. Along with Asprin and Ibuprofen, it is one of the most widely used pain killers not needing a prescription.

The risk of the pills causing major injury to anyone ingesting the pills is minor with the most common possible effect being stomach discomfort and cuts of the mouth and throat. So far no one is known to have consumed any contaminated pills. The metal ranges from small fragments to wire one-third of an inch long.

The metal was found during routine quality control checks after company employees discovered equipment was wearing down. Out of 70 million pills tested with a metal detector only 200 indicated even a minor metal presence.

The company who manufactures the medication, Perrigo, is touted as the world's largest producer of generic drugs. Affected batch numbers can be found on the FDA website.


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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Duct Tape Doesn't Get Rid of Warts - Study

A study focusing on a popular belief that duct tape can help cure warts has found the tape is an ineffective treatment. In the test duct tape performed only slightly better than a test placebo corn pad. The test composed of just over 100 school children. Some of those who wore the "common cure" of duct tape reported discomfort, itching, and rashes most likely caused from the tapes adhesive.

The tape provides an alternative treatment to much harsher options. Other forms of wart removal include freezing the wart of in a process called cryotherapy or the chemical buring of a wart using a strong acid solution. The study's findings contradict a report published in the same publication which declared duct tape worked better than cryotherapy.

Unless further research is completed, the only effective treatments to remove warts are cryotherapy and chemical burning.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

New Patch May Eliminate Need for "Vaccinations"

A newly developed patch may eliminate the need for conventional vaccinations delivered in a shot. The new skin delivered vaccine patches are undergoing testing on hundreds of volunteers to test effectiveness. Current shots are not perfect and the U.S. government is hoping this patch may solve the problem current shots present. The patches may also be useful in times of epidemics like bird flu for mass vaccination.

The creators of the patch have even broader ideas for the product. They hope that one day a mail man could deliever the patch to your door eliminating the need for a trip to a doctor. Although previous experiments indicate this skin is able to absorb vaccines, this is the first test using patches to administer vaccines such as the flu vaccine. Years of testing lie ahead for the product the could revolutionize one aspect of the health industry.


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Monday, November 06, 2006

New Solution to Old Problem of Head Lice

We all know of head lice: The pesky bugs the terrorize moms and schoolchildren every school year. Well the reign of terror may soon be put to an end by a device called the "LouseBuster". The device dries out lice and their eggs in a half hour preventing them from reproducing. The device is a better alternative than the powerful shampoos currently employed to curb the rampant problem.

In the study nearly all of those tested had no lice present one week after the treatment. The device may be a more feasible option than the hastle of sending children home to parents once lice is detected. Instead, children could be treated at school and return to class.

The device works similar to hairdryers in that it blows heated air, although the similarities end there. The "LouceBuster" pushes twice as much air as most hair dryers and the air is not as hot. Spawned by the discovery of lice dying in dry environments, the device is expected to be around $1000. Although it seems a bit pricey, typical shampoo lice treatments cost upwards of $40. Combining increased effectiveness with its low cost the device would pay for itself in time.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tomatoes Cause of Salmonella Outbreak

Fresh tomatoes tainted with the Salmonella virus have been found as the cause of a recent outbreak of Salmonella that had spread across 21 states. The outbreak, which is now over, sickened approximately 183 people across the United States. No deaths were believed to have been caused by the tainted fruit, although 22 people did have to be hospitalized. The restaurant tomatoes were found to be the cause based on surveys of victims and what they had eaten.

This outbreak came soon after an outbreak involving the E. Coli virus on tainted spinach. That outbreak killed 3 and sickened 200 more.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Surviving Hepatitis C Stops Reinfection

Those who survive Hepatitis C, the liver killing virus, appear to be protected from getting the virus again in the future. The findings came from a study of 3,500 drug users in Canada. The sharing of needles among drug users is the most common reason people contract the Hepatitis C virus. Although many of those tested still possesed the virus, those who had rid themselves of Hepatitis C appeared to protect themselves from future infection.

Despite repeated exposure to the virus, those who had previously had the virus either didn't get the virus again or got it to a lesser degree. There is a painful treatment for those who have Hepatitis C, however medical prefessionals are hesitant to give it because of their continued use of drugs. This new study however may change this. Treating and ridding those of the virus may be beneficial since their chance of reinfection and thus their capability of passing the virus on are reduced. If the findings prove true on wide use, the transmission of Hepatitis C could be severely reduced.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Genes May Determine Who Is Infected With Bird Flu Virus

One of the deciding factors in who does or does not contract the bird flu may lie in the persons genes. The trait makes some people more disposed to getting the deadly infection, partially explaining the previously believed random contraction. This factor has also helped the infection remain rare according to the World Health Organization.

The conclusion was formed based greatly upon the deaths of 7 extended family members in Indonesia. The relatives who shared many genescould have passed the virus to members outside of their family, but the virus only spread among the same family. The disease with over a 50% mortality rate is one of the pressing issues facing the world today. The infection is rarely transmitted to humans from animals nor is it passed from human to human readily except in rare circumstances.

No vaccine is available for the disease and none is seen to be coming in the near future. The chances of a pandemic developing remain possible and very little is known about the bird flu. Research will continue into the infection to determine more about it's cause, treatments, and mutations.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Despite Decline, Heart Disease Still Most Likely Cause of Death


For 10 years the number of deaths caused by heart diseases declined by over 23% leading many to feel better about to common disorder. More effective treatments and drugs only intensified this feeling of control over the situation. Despite this large decline, heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans with nearly 1 million dying annually from the broad disease.

70 million Americans are affected by some form of the disease, but very few know its severity and consequences. As the baby boomer generation continues to age Cardiovascular disorders are expected to rise significantly over the next 10 years. Prevention of the disease is key and there are several things you can do to help your situation. Exercise, healthy eating, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight all reduce a person's risk of heart problems.

Obesity rates continue to rise annually and until the epidemic is challenged heart problems will likely remain the number one cause of death among Americans.

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