July 2, 2008, 10:24 PM CT
MRSA carrier state increases risk of infection
Credit University of Iowa
Patients harboring methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) for long periods of time continue to be at increased risk of MRSA infection and death, as per a new study in the July 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases,
currently available online.
MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacterium that can cause a variety of serious infections. The bacterium most usually colonizes the nostrils, eventhough it can be found in other body sites. Most research has focused on people who are newly colonized by the bacteria and has observed that they are at substantial risk of subsequent infections. The new study shows that the increased risk of infection continues, with almost a quarter of MRSA-colonized patients developing infections after a year or more has passed since the colonization was confirmed. The infections include pneumonia and bloodstream events, and some infections were associated with deaths.
"Since infection risk remains substantial among long-term carriers of MRSA, these patients should be targeted for interventions to reduce subsequent risk of infection along with patients who newly acquire MRSA," said author Susan Huang, MD, MPH.
The scientists built on their prior work in this area, which showed that one-third of new MRSA carriers in a large tertiary care medical center developed infections within the year following the first detection of colonization. But, as, Dr. Huang points out, "risks beyond the first year of carriage were largely unknown".........
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July 2, 2008, 10:16 PM CT
New Drug Candidates to Combat "Bird Flu"
UC San Diego Researchers Identify Potential New Drug Candidates to Combat "Bird Flu"
Using protein structures generated by supercomputers, these renderings of the neuraminidase enzyme may help scientists identify potential new drug candidates to fight Avian flu, as strains of the disease become ever more resistant.
As the specter of a worldwide outbreak of avian or "bird flu" lingers, health officials recognize that new drugs are desperately needed since some strains of the virus already have developed resistance to the current roster of anti-flu remedies.
Now, a team of UC San Diego researchers - with the help of resources at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), also at UC San Diego - have isolated more than two dozen promising and novel compounds from which new "designer drugs" might be developed to combat this disease. In some cases, the compounds appeared to be equal or stronger inhibitors than currently available anti-flu remedies.
"If those resistant strains begin to propagate, then that's when we're going to be in trouble, because we don't have any anti-virals active against them," said Rommie Amaro, a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry at UC San Diego. "So, we should have something as a backup, and that's exactly why we're working on this".
Avian flu has provoked considerable concern since humans have little or no immune protection against the virus. While flu vaccines are being developed, it could take up to nine months for an effective vaccine to be developed against any new strains, and could still be rendered ineffective if any new strains arise over that time. Should the virus gain the capacity to spread from person to person, the result could be a worldwide outbreak or pandemic.........
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July 2, 2008, 10:11 PM CT
Computers to hone cancer-fighting strategies
A graphic representation of a vascular tumor model viewed in different scales is shown.
Credit: Florida State University
A Florida State University faculty member who uses computational techniques to evaluate a new class of cancer-killing drugs is attracting worldwide attention from other researchers.
Kevin C. Chen, an assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering, is using high-powered computers to determine how substances known as recombinant immunotoxins can best be modified in order to attack and kill cancerous tumors while doing minimal harm to a patient's healthy cells.
"Cancer is a disease of tremendous complexity, so the analysis and interpretation of data demands sophisticated, specialized computational methods," Chen said of his research.
Recombinant immunotoxins, Chen explained, are new drugs that are being tested in clinical trials for certain types of cancer treatment. They consist of tiny fragments of antibody proteins that are fused at the genetic level to toxins produced by certain types of bacteria, fungi or plants.
"Once injected into the body, the antibody portion of the immunotoxin targets specific proteins, called antigens, that are massively expressed on the surface of cancer cells," Chen said. "These cells are subsequently killed by the accompanying toxins. Normal, healthy cells, meanwhile, are not recognized and thus are spared".........
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July 2, 2008, 10:07 PM CT
Get smart about what you eat to improve your intelligence
New research findings published online in The FASEB Journal
provide more evidence that if we get smart about what we eat, our intelligence can improve. As per MIT scientists, dietary nutrients found in a wide range of foods from infant formula to eggs increase brain synapses and improve cognitive abilities.
"I hope human brains will, like those of experimental animals, respond to this kind of therapy by making more brain synapses and thus restoring cognitive abilities," said Richard Wurtman, MD, senior researcher on the project.
In the study, gerbils were given various combinations of three compounds needed for healthy brain membranes: choline, found in eggs; uridine monophosphate (UMP) found in beets; and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in fish oils. Other gerbils were given none of these to serve as a baseline. Then they were checked for cognitive changes four weeks later. The researchers observed that the gerbils given choline with UMP and/or DHA showed cognitive improvements in tasks believed to be relevant to gerbils, such as navigating mazes. After these tests were concluded, the scientists dissected the mouse brains for a biological cause for the improvement. They found biochemical evidence that there was more than the usual amount of brain synapse activity, which was consistent with behaviors indicating higher intelligence.........
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July 1, 2008, 9:44 PM CT
Minimum drinking age of 21 saves lives
One of the most comprehensive studies on the minimum drinking age shows that laws aimed at preventing consumption of alcohol by those under 21 have significantly reduced drinking-related fatal car crashes.
Specifically, the study reported in the July 2008 issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention
observed that laws making it illegal to possess or purchase alcohol by anyone under the age of 21 had led to an eleven percent drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths among youth; secondly, they observed that states with strong laws against fake IDs reported seven percent fewer alcohol-related fatalities among drivers under the age of 21.
The study was funded by the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The study, led by James C. Fell, M.S., of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), accounted for a variety of factors, such as improved safety features in cars, better roadways and tougher adult drunk driving laws, that are supposed to have contributed to a reduction in fatalities involving underage drivers who have consumed alcohol. Fell's research controlled for more variables than any other prior study on the topic, accounting for regional and economic differences, improvements in roadways and vehicles, and changes that lowered the illegal blood alcohol content for driving to.08. Yet, as per Fell, the eleven percent drop in youth fatalities is a "conservative" figure.........
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July 1, 2008, 9:41 PM CT
Violence declines with medication use
Some schizophrenia patients become less prone to violence when taking medication, but those with a history of childhood conduct problems continue to pose a higher risk even with therapy, as per a new study by scientists at Duke University Medical Center.
"This is the first large randomized controlled study to compare the effectiveness of several commonly-prescribed medications for schizophrenia on reducing community violence," said Jeffrey Swanson, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the study's lead author. "Serious violent behavior is not frequent among people with schizophrenia, but when it does occur, the results can be costly and tragic".
The study observed that violence declined significantly when patients took antipsychotic medications as prescribed, but only among patients whose previous risk for violence could be associated with psychotic symptoms.
The scientists identified a subgroup of schizophrenia patients with a history of childhood conduct problems who were more likely to be violent at the beginning of the study. Among these patients, violence was not strongly correlation to psychotic symptoms, and did not significantly decline with adherence to prescribed antipsychotic medicine during the six-month study period.
The new results, which are from the National Institute of Mental Health's Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) study, are reported in the recent issue of The British Journal of Psychiatry
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July 1, 2008, 9:38 PM CT
Spiritual effects of hallucinogens persist
In a follow-up to research showing that psilocybin, a substance contained in "sacred mushrooms," produces substantial spiritual effects, a Johns Hopkins team reports that those beneficial effects appear to last more than a year.
Writing in the Journal of Psychopharmacology
, the Johns Hopkins scientists note that most of the 36 volunteer subjects given psilocybin, under controlled conditions in a Hopkins study published in 2006, continued to say 14 months later that the experience increased their sense of well-being or life satisfaction.
"Most of the volunteers looked back on their experience up to 14 months later and rated it as the most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful and spiritually significant of their lives," says lead investigator Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., a professor in the Johns Hopkins departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Neuroscience.
In a related paper, also reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, scientists offer recommendations for conducting this type of research.
The guidelines caution against giving hallucinogens to people who are at risk for psychosis or certain other serious mental disorders. Detailed guidance is also provided for preparing participants and providing psychological support during and after the hallucinogen experience. These "best practices" contribute both to safety and to the standardization called for in human research.........
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July 1, 2008, 9:31 PM CT
Invasive treatment for certain coronary syndromes
An analysis of prior studies indicates that among men and high-risk women with a certain type of heart attack or angina an invasive therapy strategy (such as cardiac catheterization) is linked to reduced risk of rehospitalization, heart attack or death, whereas low-risk women may have an increased risk of heart attack or death with this therapy, as per an article in the July 2 issue of JAMA
Eventhough an invasive strategy is frequently used in patients with unstable angina and nonST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI; a type of heart attack with certain findings on an electrocardiogram), data from some trials suggest that this strategy may not benefit women, with a possible higher risk of death or heart attack, as per background information in the article. "Thus, the benefit of an invasive strategy in women remains unclear. However, individual trials have not been large enough to explore outcomes reliably within subgroups," the authors write.
For this study, an invasive strategy was defined as the referral of all patients with heart attacks and unstable angina for cardiac catheterization (a procedure that allows physicians to find and open potential blockages in the coronary arteries to help prevent heart attacks and death) previous to hospital discharge. A conservative therapy strategy was defined as a primary strategy of medical management and subsequent catheterization only for those patients with ongoing chest pain or a positive stress test.........
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July 1, 2008, 9:29 PM CT
Find ways to predict IVF success
Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have identified a method that can predict with 70 percent accuracy whether a woman undergoing in vitro fertilization therapy will become pregnant. This information may someday help the tens of thousands of couples who want to undergo IVF each year, and their doctors, decide on their course of action.
The new method involves using four factors to determine a woman's chance of becoming pregnant from an IVF cycle. These variables may prove "critical in counseling patients, improving therapy, and ultimately in developing. more customized therapys," the authors wrote in a paper that will appear in the July 2 issue of Public Library of Science-ONE
The research was led by Mylene Yao, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, whose work focuses on early embryo development.
IVF is a therapy given to boost the chances for women to get pregnant. During IVF, a woman is given drugs to stimulate ovulation, and her eggs are removed from the ovaries. The eggs are then combined with sperm in a culture dish in a laboratory.
A typical IVF cycle produces five to 12 embryos, and doctors aim to transfer the "best quality" one or two into a woman's uterus. Doctors use a variety of criteria to identify which embryos are most likely to result in a live birth, including how the embryo looks and whether the embryo has hit certain milestones, such as having reached the eight-cell stage by its third day of existence.........
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July 1, 2008, 9:27 PM CT
Improving memory in Alzheimer's disease mice
Overactivation of proteins known as calpains, which are involved in memory formation, has been associated with Alzheimer disease. Ottavio Arancio and his colleagues, at Columbia University, New York, have now shown that two different drugs that inhibit calpains can improve memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer disease (APP/PS1 mice), leading them to suggest drugs that target calpains might stop or slow down the memory loss that occurs as Alzheimer disease progresses.
It is thought that dysfunctional signaling between nerve cells contributes to the impaired cognition experienced by individuals with Alzheimer disease. In the study, analysis of cells and tissue slices from APP/PS1 mice, specifically cells from the part of the brain known as the hippocampus and hippocampal slices, indicated that exposure to calpain inhibitors restored signaling between nerve cells to normal. The authors therefore suggest that calpain inhibitors improve memory in APP/PS1 mice because they reestablish normal signaling between nerve cells.........
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