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March 15, 2006, 11:41 PM CT

Vaccination Saves Lives

Vaccination Saves Lives
Adults hospitalized for pneumonia who have received the pneumococcal vaccine are at a lower risk of dying from the disease than those who haven't been vaccinated, as per an article in the April 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online. Previous vaccination also reduces patients' risk of developing medical complications and decreases their length of stay in the hospital.

Pneumococci, or Streptococcus pneumoniae, are bacteria that colonize the nose and throat, often without causing harm. When they do cause infection, however, it can be serious, sometimes resulting in pneumonia that could be fatal to people who are elderly or vulnerable due to other illnesses.

Scientists from Pennsylvania, Texas, and New Jersey analyzed data from nearly 63,000 patients hospitalized for pneumonia between 1999 and 2003. Twelve percent of the patients were known to have received pneumococcal vaccination previous to being hospitalized, 23 percent were unvaccinated, and the rest had unknown vaccine status.

Vaccinated patients were 40 to 70 percent less likely to die during hospitalization than either unvaccinated patients or patients with unknown status. Vaccinated patients also had a lower risk of developing respiratory failure, kidney failure, heart attack, or other ailments. In addition, vaccinated patients' average hospital stay was two days shorter than that of unvaccinated patients.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


March 12, 2006, 11:24 PM CT

Smokers' Children Carry Higher Levels of Harmful Bacteria

Smokers' Children Carry Higher Levels of Harmful Bacteria Image courtesy of http://www.globalink.org/
A number of of the medical risks associated with smoking, such as cancer, emphysema and heart attacks, are well-known to physicians and the general public. However, there is new evidence that more children exposed to tobacco smoke carry Streptococcus pneumoniae than children without smoking exposure, as per an article in the April 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.

S. pneumoniae often exists in the nose and throat, and children are more likely than adults to carry it. If the bacteria, also called pneumococci, grow out of control, infection can result in minor illnesses like ear infections or lead to more serious diseases like sinusitis, pneumonia and meningitis.

Scientists in Israel conducted a surveillance study of more than 200 young children and their mothers. They swabbed the noses and throats of the subjects to determine bacterial carriage rates, and then analyzed the data based on the children's and mothers' exposure to smoking. Seventy-six percent of the children exposed to tobacco smoke carried pneumococci, compared to 60 percent of those not exposed. Exposed children were also more likely than non-exposed children to carry pneumococcal serotypes responsible for most of the invasive S. pneumoniae disease. In the mothers, differences were also noted-32 percent of mothers who smoked carried S. pneumoniae, compared with 15 percent of mothers who were exposed to smoking and 12 percent of mothers not exposed to smoking.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


March 12, 2006, 9:22 PM CT

Computer Suggests New HIV Drug Target

Computer Suggests New Hiv Drug Target
For more than a year, scientists watched patiently as a few computer-simulated HIV protease molecules squirmed into more than 15,000 slightly different shapes. In real time, this contortion takes only a fraction of a second. In the end, however, this suspended animation paid off, as the simulations uncovered a potential new drug target to fight drug-resistant AIDS.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers made the discovery while studying how one rare strain of HIV can evade a usually prescribed class of drugs used to treat the virus that causes AIDS. The strain of HIV contained mutations that are often seen after failure of therapy with protease inhibitors, drugs that block the action of the enzyme protease and prevent the virus from making mature, infective copies of itself. When protease inhibitors fail -- as they often do with a fast-mutating virus like HIV -- new drug targets become vital.

"Recognizing these variations in conformation -- the three-dimensional arrangement of the amino acids that make up a protein -- is the first step in identifying a new drug target," said Alex Perryman, first author of the study published early online in the journal Biopolymers on February 28, 2006.

Perryman did the research when he was an HHMI predoctoral fellow in the lab of Andrew McCammon, an HHMI investigator in the Biomedical Sciences program at the University of California, San Diego. Perryman is now an Amgen postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Stephen Mayo, an HHMI investigator at the California Institute of Technology.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


March 12, 2006, 8:21 AM CT

How Fevers Cause Seizures

How Fevers Causes Seizures
It's one of those unavoidable facts of life - kids get sick and have fevers. Usually, those elevated internal temperatures cause only temporary discomfort, but in some small children they spark convulsions called "febrile seizures."

These convulsions are "scary and very upsetting to parents," said Robert L. Macdonald, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Neurology.

They've also been something of an enigma, he said. The epilepsy research community has struggled to understand how fever ignites convulsions and how to treat them.

Macdonald and colleagues including Jing-Qiong Kang, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant professor of Neurology, have now discovered a molecular mechanism that could explain febrile seizures. The research, published last week in The Journal of Neuroscience, may lead to new approaches for preventing recurrent febrile seizures in vulnerable children.

Febrile seizures affect as many as one in 15 children worldwide, generally between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. Most children will suffer no long-term consequences from the convulsions, which tend to be generalized - involving the whole body - but some will go on to develop epilepsy.

"It has been very controversial through the years: do you treat febrile seizures or not?" Macdonald said. Several studies have investigated treating children with anti-seizure medications such as phenobarbital or sodium valproate to prevent recurrent febrile seizures, but the studies showed only limited benefit to the approach, Macdonald said.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 8, 2006, 10:36 PM CT

Benefit of Early Therapy in HIV-infected Infants

Benefit of Early Therapy in HIV-infected Infants
Antiretroviral treatment (ART) for infants born with HIV infection may be most effective when given in their first five months of life, as per a research studyreported in the April 1 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, now available online.

Uncertainty over when to start antiretroviral therapy in children infected with HIV from their mothers revolves around balancing the benefits of preventing disease progression and the risks and costs of life-long treatment begun within months of birth. Policies on when to start ART vary across Europe. Up to this point, the effect of age on clinical outcome has been difficult to assess because CD4 cell counts--an immunological indicator of HIV progression--experience considerable age-related variation.

However, Marie-Louise Newell, MD, and her colleagues in the European Collaborative Study developed a way to standardize CD4 cell counts in relation to age, and thus better evaluate immune status. They call this age-adjusted CD4 cell count the "z-score." Based on data collected over the past 20 years on infected children born to HIV-1 infected women, the researchers concluded that "children who started their most potent ART between 5 months and 5 years of age were almost 60 percent less likely to attain a 20 percent increase in their CD4 cell count z-score at any time, compared to children who started therapy before 5 months".........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


March 7, 2006, 8:12 PM CT

A Database For The Microbes

A Database For The Microbes
Scientists at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech have launched a publicly-available microbial database to host a range of microbial genome sequences.

The VBI Microbial Database (VMD), which is described in a recent article published in Nucleic Acids Research (Vol.34, D379-D381), contains genome sequence and annotation data for the plant pathogens Phytophthora sojae and Phytophthora ramorum. The purpose of the database is to make the recently completed genome sequences of these pathogens as well as powerful analytical tools widely available to scientists in one integrated resource. The work described in the paper was completed by Brett Tyler, VBI research professor and professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science at Virginia Tech, and VBI scientists Sucheta Tripathy, Varun Pandey, Bing Fang, and Fidel Salas.

VMD is an integrated resource that includes community annotation features, toolkits, and resources to perform complex queries of biological information. The project's scientists created a browser, which makes it easy for users to view the genome sequence data and connect to detailed annotation pages for each sequence. The community annotation interface is available for registered members to add or edit annotations.

The database will be expanded in 2006 to include genome sequences for the fungal pathogen Alternaria brassicicola and the oomycete pathogen Hyaloperonospora parasitica, both of which can infect the model plant Arabidopsis. In addition, support for proteomic and microarray data will be added, which will be linked to the functional genomic data and the genome sequences.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


March 1, 2006, 11:21 PM CT

Whites more likely than blacks to die soon after spouse's death

Whites more likely than blacks to die soon after spouse's death
White Americans are far more likely than their black counterparts to die soon after the death of a spouse, as per new research from Harvard University. The longitudinal study of 410,272 elderly American couples indicates that the "widowhood effect" -- the increased probability of death among new widows and widowers -- is large and enduring among white couples but undetectable among black couples, suggesting that blacks may somehow manage to extend marriage's well-documented health benefits into widowhood.

The results, by Harvard sociologists Felix Elwert and Nicholas A. Christakis, are reported in the recent issue of American Sociological Review, available March 1.

"The health effects of a spouse's death differ radically between blacks and whites," says Elwert, a doctoral student in sociology. "We found good evidence of the widowhood effect among white couples: Men were 18 percent more likely to die shortly after their wives' deaths, and women were 16 percent more likely to die shortly after their husbands' deaths. By contrast, the estimated effect of a black spouse's death on the mortality of his or her surviving spouse is essentially zero."

Upon marrying, blacks and whites appear to receive the same health benefits, which prior research has attributed to factors such as emotional support, economic well-being, caretaking when ill, enhanced social support and kinship, and the promoting of healthy behaviors and discouraging of risk-taking. Elwert and Christakis suggest such benefits may be longer-lasting for blacks, persisting even after a spouse's death.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


March 1, 2006, 11:16 PM CT

HPV Infection Is The Top Risk Factor For Cervical Cancer

HPV Infection Is The Top Risk Factor For Cervical Cancer
Human papillomavirus (HPV) was found to be the main risk factor associated with increased incidence of an unusual type of cervical cancer called cervical adenocarcinoma, as per a research studyin the March 1 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The incidence of cervical adenocarcinoma has increased in recent years, even in countries with widespread screening programs, with incidence doubling in relation to all other cervical cancers between 1973 and 1996. HPV is a well-established cause of cervical squamous cell cancer, the most common type of cervical cancer worldwide. Prior studies have suggested HPV may also cause cervical adenocarcinoma, but those studies were small and did not provide information on the role of other factors in the development of this cancer.

To investigate the links between HPV and cervical adenocarcinoma in a multicenter, international sample of women, Xavier Castellsague, M.D., at the Institut CatalĂ  d'Oncologia in Barcelona, Spain, and his colleagues conducted a pooled analysis of eight case-control studies of cervical cancer conducted in countries in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. Women had been interviewed to determine potential risk factors for cervical cancer, and all received a pelvic examination as well as testing for HPV and cervical cancer.........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink         Source


February 27, 2006, 9:27 PM CT

AIDS Rates Alarming In Attijuana, Mexico

AIDS Rates Alarming Attijuana, Mexico
A study by scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine indicates that the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Tijuana, Mexico is increasing, and much higher than had been previously estimated. The findings are based on data compiled by a team of scientists working in San Diego and Mexico to create a population-based model in order to estimate HIV infection rates.

The number of men and women aged 15 to 49 years who are infected with HIV may be as high as one in 125 persons, as per Kimberly C. Brouwer, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in UCSD's Division of International Health and Cross-Cultural Medicine and the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. Brouwer's study would be reported in the March 1 issue of The Journal of Urban Health, a bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine.

Located directly south of San Diego California, Tijuana is a city of 1.2 million people located amidst the busiest land border crossing in the world. Data in this study suggest that Tijuana's HIV infection rate may be close to three times higher than Mexico's national average. The United Nations AIDS Program considers an HIV epidemic to advance from a low level to a concentrated epidemic when more than 1% of the population is infected - a figure that Tijuana may soon approach if preventive steps aren't taken, as per researchers.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


February 21, 2006, 10:13 PM CT

Male Circumcision Protects Female Partners From HIV

Male Circumcision Protects Female Partners From HIV
A statistical review of the past medical files of more than 300 couples in Uganda, in which the female partner was HIV negative and the male was HIV positive, provides solid documentation of the protective effects of male circumcision in reducing the risk of infection among women. Male circumcision also reduced rates of trichomonas and bacterial vaginosis in female partners. The study is thought to bethe first to demonstrate the benefits to female partners of male circumcision.

Specifically, male circumcision reduced by 30 percent the likelihood that the female partner would become infected with the virus that causes AIDS, with 299 women contracting HIV from uncircumcised partners and only 44 women becoming infected by circumcised men. Similar reductions in risk were observed for the other two kinds of infection, but not for other common STDs, including human papillomavirus, syphilis, gonorrhea and Chlamydia.

As per the Hopkins scientists who led the study, Ronald Gray, M.D., and Steven Reynolds, M.D., M.P.H., the findings support efforts to assess male circumcision as an effective means of preventing HIV infection. Circumcision is a practice common in North America and among Jews and Muslims, but not generally in Eastern and Southern Africa, Europe or Asia.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source



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Did you know?
Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have found a genetic marker that may identify individuals at greater risk for life-threatening infection from the West Nile virus. Results of the study are reported in the Nov. 15 print edition of Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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