Wednesday, 29 April 2015

COPD Tied to Raised Risk for Sudden Cardiac Death


Experts weren't surprised, since smoking often contributes to the respiratory disease and heart trouble

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is already the third leading cause of death in the world, and a new European study finds the respiratory illness might also raise a person's odds for sudden cardiac death.

COPD is a progressive and incurable illness that involves a combination of emphysema and bronchitis, and is often tied to smoking. The researchers said that the disease has already been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death in certain high-risk patient populations.

Now, the new study "shows that COPD is a risk indicator for sudden cardiac death in the general population, and that the risk increases with COPD severity," wrote a team led by Dr. Lies Lahousse, a postdoctoral researcher at Ghent University Hospital in Belgium.

One expert in the United States said that even though the study can't prove that COPD helps trigger sudden cardiac death, the European findings aren't surprising.

"Many patients who have COPD are or were smokers, and smoking is the number one cause of heart disease," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"COPD is also associated with cardiac arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation," he added. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat. "These events can lead to sudden cardiac death."

The new study involved more than 13,000 people aged 45 and older, more than 1,600 of whom were diagnosed with COPD.

Over the course of the study, 39 percent of the participants died. Of those deaths, 551 were related to sudden cardiac death. Breaking it down even further, the researchers found that 15 percent of those who died of sudden cardiac death had COPD.

Overall, a diagnosis of COPD increased the risk for sudden cardiac death by 34 percent, the team concluded.

Five years after being diagnosed with the lung condition, however, that risk nearly doubles, according to the study published online April 29 in the European Heart Journal.

After five years of living with COPD, the risk for sudden cardiac death becomes more than threefold higher for people who suffer frequent COPD symptom flare-ups, such as shortness of breath and coughing, the findings showed.

source : COPD Tied to Raised Risk for Sudden Cardiac Death
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Experimental AIDS Vaccine Targets Hidden Virus


HIV-infected patients appear to get an immune system boost, study found

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Randy Dotinga

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Preliminary research suggests that an AIDS vaccine in development can ramp up the body's immune system, boosting the response to medications HIV-positive patients take.

Years of research will be required to confirm that the vaccine works, and researchers don't yet have the major funding needed to continue and push the experimental vaccine toward the market. Still, there's tremendous potential, said study senior author Dr. Barbara Ensoli, director of the National AIDS Center at the National Institute of Health in Rome, Italy.

"Although the results are from infected patients, the vaccine may be suitable for both healthy and HIV-infected patients," said Ensoli. So far, she said, the vaccine appears to be well tolerated, with no signs of significant side effects.

A vaccine has long been the holy grail of research into AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes the disease. While vaccines usually are designed to prevent infection, this one is being tried on patients who are already HIV-positive.

The goal is to use the vaccine to kill more lingering HIV in the body than is possible with current antiviral treatments.

Antiviral drugs "stop ongoing viral replication and block new infections but don't eradicate HIV from the infected individual," explained Ivan D'Orso, an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Instead of vanishing, the virus hides in "reservoirs" within the body, such as bone marrow or the brain.

Enter the experimental vaccine, which targets a protein called Tat that is produced by the AIDS virus. "Without Tat the virus does not efficiently replicate," D'Orso said.

In the new study, researchers gave the vaccine to 168 HIV-positive patients three to five times monthly for 48 weeks. The researchers tracked the patients for up to 144 weeks, or nearly three years.

The Italian team found signs that the vaccine blocked replenishment of the virus lurking in the body, Ensoli said.

"This should translate to a reduced risk or severity of residual disease," she added. "However, those vaccinated will have to be followed for many years to confirm that this is the case and to evaluate if and when a vaccine boost is required."

source : Experimental AIDS Vaccine Targets Hidden Virus
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Monday, 27 April 2015

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Friday, 24 April 2015

Genes May Determine Whether You're Mosquito Bait


Study found DNA-linked body odor attracts or repels biting insects

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Your genes may affect whether mosquitoes prefer to snack on you or someone else, a new study shows.

In experiments with identical and fraternal twins, a team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine discovered that genes influence whether a person's body odor attracts or repels mosquitoes. People who are less attractive to the insects produce natural repellents, which seem to be genetically controlled, researchers said.

The findings could lead to new ways to keep mosquitoes at bay, the researchers said.

"By investigating the genetic mechanism behind attractiveness to biting insects such as mosquitoes, we can move closer to using this knowledge for better ways of keeping us safe from bites and the diseases insects can spread through bites," said senior author James Logan in a school news release. Logan is a senior lecturer in medical entomology.

"In the future we may even be able to take a pill which will enhance the production of natural repellents by the body and ultimately replace skin lotions," he added.

In the study, the team looked at 18 identical and 19 fraternal female twins and found that the identical pairs were more similar to each other in their appeal to mosquitoes than fraternal pairs. Identical twins are much more genetically similar than fraternal twins.

The influence that genes have on whether a person's body odor attracts mosquitoes is similar to that of their effect on height and IQ, the researchers said.

The study was published April 22 in the journal PLOS ONE.

source : Genes May Determine Whether You're Mosquito Bait
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Why Ringing in the Ears May Be Hard to Treat


Study found tinnitus activates much larger area of brain than normal sounds do

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Tinnitus is associated with surprisingly wide-ranging brain activity, researchers report, and this may be why the hearing disorder is hard to treat.

About one in five people have tinnitus, which is the sensation of a steady ringing or buzzing in the ears.

The study included a 50-year-old man who suffered tinnitus in both ears, in association with hearing loss. Researchers monitored his brain activity when his tinnitus was stronger and weaker.

The results revealed that tinnitus causes markedly different brain activity than normal external sounds picked up by the ears, according to the study published April 23 in the journal Current Biology.

"Perhaps the most remarkable finding was that activity directly linked to tinnitus was very extensive, and spanned a large proportion of the part of the brain we measured from," study co-author Will Sedley, of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, said in a journal news release.

"In contrast, the brain responses to a sound we played that mimicked [the man's] tinnitus were localized to just a tiny area," he added.

Activity associated with tinnitus was seen in nearly all of the auditory cortex, along with other parts of the brain, the investigators found.

The findings help explain why it's so difficult to treat tinnitus, and may lead to new therapies, the researchers added.

"We now know that tinnitus is represented very differently in the brain to normal sounds, even ones that sound the same, and therefore these cannot necessarily be used as the basis for understanding tinnitus or targeting treatment," Sedley said.

According to study co-author Phillip Gander, from the University of Iowa, "The sheer amount of the brain across which the tinnitus network is present suggests that tinnitus may not simply 'fill in' the 'gap' left by hearing damage, but also actively infiltrates beyond this into wider brain systems."

source : Why Ringing in the Ears May Be Hard to Treat
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Antibiotic Shortages On the Rise in U.S.


Commonly used medicines are essential, but not profitable for companies, expert says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Shortages of antibiotics, including those used to treat drug-resistant infections, may be putting patients at risk for sickness and death, according to a new report.

Between 2001 and 2013, there were shortages of 148 antibiotics. And the shortages started getting worse in 2007, researchers found.

"Many of the drug shortages were among the only drugs to treat a particular condition, drugs to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and drugs used to treat children," said lead researcher Dr. Larissa May, an associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

"When these drugs are not available, patients may not get the best care, or even die," she said. "If something isn't done, there may be big impacts on health care."

In the study, nearly half the shortages were for antibiotics needed to treat severe infections, including Clostridium difficile, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others.

C. difficile can be picked up in hospitals and doctors' offices, and in 2011 the bacteria was to blame for 500,000 infections and 29,000 deaths. MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that infects some 78,000 people a year and can also be deadly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many of the shortages were of broad-spectrum antibiotics -- injectable drugs for which there were no alternative manufacturers. Moreover, shortages were common among antibiotics used to treat children. Among these drugs, there were few alternatives doctors could turn to, the researchers found.

"Gold-standard" therapies, such as aztreonam, which is used to treat serious infections in patients allergic to penicillin, and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, used to treat pneumocystis pneumonia, were also in short supply during the study period, the findings showed.

May said a variety of factors account for these shortages. Among these are delays or problems with making a drug, including a shortage of raw materials. In addition, when a drug isn't used often, though it is essential for some patients, manufacturers may delay or stop making it, she explained.

source : Antibiotic Shortages On the Rise in U.S.
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Many Breast Cancer Patients Still Opt for Mastectomy Over Lump Removal


Better pre-surgical chemotherapy means more of the breast can safely be saved, researchers say

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Breast cancer surgeries have advanced so that surgeons can often remove the tumor while safely conserving the breast, in what's known as lumpectomy.

But a new study shows that even though this breast-conserving surgery has a high success rate, many patients who are eligible for it still choose to have the entire breast removed.

"We don't have an answer for why this is the case, but we hope that this work encourages more patients and clinicians to think about why this is happening and what we can do to address this," lead researcher Dr. Mehra Golshan, director of Breast Surgical Services at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center in Boston, said in Brigham and Women's Hospital news release.

In the study, Golshan's team focused on women with what's known as triple-negative breast cancer. There are no approved targeted therapies to treat this type of breast cancer, but chemotherapy can shrink tumors so that less breast tissue needs to be removed during surgery, the researchers explained.

The study found that lumpectomy was successful in more than 90 percent of patients who were eligible for it after undergoing chemotherapy.

However, 31 percent of eligible patients still decided to have the entire breast removed, according to the study.

"In general, if possible, we try to offer breast-conserving therapy as a preferred option for women with early-stage breast cancer," Golshan stressed.

"One of the reasons we use chemo first is to potentially allow women who originally needed to have the entire breast removed -- because of more advanced disease -- to now be eligible for breast-conserving therapy," he explained. "We see, though, that a significant number of patients who were eligible still ended up deciding to have their breast removed."

The study is scheduled for presentation Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Surgical Association in San Diego. Findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

source : Many Breast Cancer Patients Still Opt for Mastectomy Over Lump Removal
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Ovary Removal Reduces Breast Cancer Death in BRCA1 Carriers: Study


The sooner, the better, researchers found

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Actress and activist Angelina Jolie made news last month when she announced she had her ovaries removed -- after undergoing a preventive double mastectomy in 2013 -- because she is a carrier of BRCA, a genetic mutation that greatly increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Jolie did not have cancer but underwent both surgeries to reduce her cancer risk. Now, a new study supports preventive ovary removal in women with breast cancer who also carry the BRCA1 mutation. Women can greatly reduce their risk of dying from the breast cancer if they undergo ovary removal ("oophorectomy") -- and the sooner the better, the researchers said.

"By having an oophorectomy done soon after a breast cancer diagnosis, we can increase the chance a woman with a BRCA1 mutation will survive her breast cancer," said study researcher Kelly Metcalfe, professor of medicine and nursing at the Women's College Research Institute of the University of Toronto.

How soon is best? "We're suggesting within the first year," Metcalfe said.

When women find out they are BRCA carriers, Metcalfe said, they are usually advised that their risk of breast and ovarian cancer rises sharply. They are also counseled about preventive mastectomy and oophorectomy. The new study points out the importance of having that surgery as soon as possible, Metcalfe said.

However, the decision is a difficult one. Any surgery carries risks, and ovary removal before menopause causes early menopause.

"Some choose not to remove their ovaries until they are done with childbearing," said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

While the researchers found a link between ovary removal in women with BRCA1 and lower risk of death from breast cancer, they can't prove cause and effect. However, Metcalfe said, the investigators accounted for many factors, such as type of tumor and treatment plan to tease out the effect of the surgery.

For the study, published online April 23 in JAMA Oncology, the researchers followed 676 women who had early stage breast cancers and were carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

source : Ovary Removal Reduces Breast Cancer Death in BRCA1 Carriers: Study
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Heroin Use Levels Off in U.S., But Still High: Report


Number of people needing treatment also rose in recent years

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Levels of heroin use in the United States have stabilized but are still high, federal officials reported Thursday.

In 2013, about 681,000 Americans aged 12 and older said they had used heroin in the past year. That number has remained steady since 2009, but it is still much higher than between 2002 and 2008, when the numbers ranged from 314,000 to 455,000, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report found.

"Heroin use has reached alarming levels throughout our nation, and we must work together to overcome this serious public health threat," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release.

The report also found that 169,000 Americans 12 and older used heroin for the first time in 2013, including 21,000 teens ages 12 to 17 and 66,000 young adults ages 18 to 25.

Overall, an average of 460 Americans a day try heroin for the first time, according to SAMHSA.

Also, the number of Americans who received treatment for a heroin problem rose from 277,000 in 2002 to 526,000 in 2013, the report found.

Conversely, the proportion of people 12 and older who thought heroin would be fairly easy or very easy to obtain fell from 18 percent in 2002 to 15 percent in 2013. The decline was largest -- from nearly 16 percent to 9 percent -- among those ages 12 to 17.

Even though heroin use is still relatively uncommon compared to other illegal drugs, the findings are cause for concern, the report authors said. Heroin is highly addictive and is associated with serious health risks such as exposure to hepatitis C, HIV and other infectious diseases. And potentially fatal overdoses are always a risk, the researchers added.

"It takes collective effort from all parts of our communities to educate and prevent heroin use and addiction," Hyde said. "Everyone needs to know how to identify people with a heroin problem, help them find treatment, and know how to help prevent overdose deaths."

source : Heroin Use Levels Off in U.S., But Still High: Report
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Challenging Job May Help People With Type of Dementia


Study suggests demanding work benefits those with frontotemporal disease

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Having a challenging job may help people live longer after developing a certain type of dementia, a small study suggests.

Researchers analyzed the medical charts of 34 people diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. This type of dementia typically affects people younger than 65 and causes language problems and changes in personality or behavior. It does not affect memory.

The patients survived an average of seven years after diagnosis. However, those who had more challenging jobs survived an average of 9.6 years, compared with six years for those with less challenging jobs.

The researchers also looked at people with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia. In that group, they found that having a more challenging job was not associated with longer survival.

Education level did not affect survival time in patients with either disease, according to the study, published online April 22 in the journal Neurology.

"This study suggests that having a higher occupational level protects the brain from some of the effects of [frontotemporal dementia], allowing people to live longer after developing the disease," study author Lauren Massimo, of Pennsylvania State University, said in a journal news release.

The results also support the "cognitive reserve" theory that factors such as more demanding jobs and greater mental activity may promote connections in the brain that provide some protection against dementia.

However, the study merely found a link between a demanding job and prolonged survival in certain dementia patients; it doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

source : Challenging Job May Help People With Type of Dementia
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Bird Flu Poses Little Threat to People: CDC


Genetic analysis indicates public shouldn't be alarmed, 'cautiously optimistic' health officials say

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The bird flu outbreak that has resulted in the slaughter of millions of chickens and turkeys in the United States has little chance of sickening humans, federal health officials said Wednesday.

The reason: the genetic makeup of the virus behind the outbreak is different from other bird flu viruses that have sickened more than 600 people in 15 countries, according to Dr. Alicia Fry, an epidemiologist and medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

"The CDC considers the risk to humans to be low," Fry said during a morning media briefing. But it's possible there could be some human infections, particularly among farm workers handling infected poultry, she said.

Bird flu is spread by wild birds, particularly waterfowl. The outbreaks outside the United States have occurred in Asia, Africa, the Near East and parts of Europe, according to the CDC.

The bird flu outbreak in the United States began late last year and is the worst in years. In the past two weeks, there has been a sharp rise in the number of cases in Midwest states such as Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Fry said little is known about the H5N2 virus present in the United States because it has only recently been identified. "But we do know that if we look at their genes, we don't see any genetic markers that in the past have been associated with transmission to humans," she said. "So that's a good sign."

Just in case, the CDC is collecting samples of the virus and its assorted strains to see which ones might be good candidates for a possible human vaccine should one be needed. This is a first step in making a vaccine, but at this time the agency has no plans to go beyond this preliminary work, she said.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we will not see any human cases, but there is certainly a possibility that we may," Fry said.

source : Bird Flu Poses Little Threat to People: CDC
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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

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Obese People Fall Into 6 Groups: Study


April 20, 2015 -- A one-size-fits-all approach to treating obesity doesn't work because obese people fall into one of six groups, a study says.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. say strategies tailored to the six groups would be a better use of billions spent each year on weight problems.

The researchers looked at data from the Yorkshire Health Study, which included 4,144 obese people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.

Defining Types of Obesity

They found that obese people could be divided into:

  1. Young males who were heavy drinkers
  2. Middle-aged people who were unhappy and anxious
  3. Older people who were happy despite having health conditions
  4. Younger healthy females
  5. Older, affluent healthy adults
  6. People with very poor health

Mark Green, who led the research, says health policy makers ought to recognize differences in people before trying to help them lose weight.

Targeting the 6 Groups

"Policies designed to tackle obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles often target individuals just because they are obese," Green says in a statement. "But a focus on just the group as a whole is not very efficient. We are all different and different health promotion approaches work for different people.

"Our research showed that those in the groups that we identified are likely to need very different services, and will respond very differently to different health promotion policies."

Green says the researchers hope doctors will keep these six groups in mind when offering advice to patients.

Help With Obesity

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, suggests that messages about cutting back on alcohol could help tackle obesity in young adults.

For middle-aged people who are unhappy and anxious, exercise and counseling could help.

Young healthy females and older, affluent people may not need help beyond basic weight loss.

Those in poor health may need to set modest goals since an exercise program might not be a realistic option.

More than one-third of U.S. adults, or 78.6 million people, are considered to be obese, according to the CDC.

For most adults, a BMI of 30 to 39.9 is considered obese. Anyone with a BMI of 40 or more is considered severely obese.

source : Obese People Fall Into 6 Groups: Study
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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Discovered Tribe’s Bacteria May Point to Our Past

WebMD Health News

April 17, 2015 -- A tribe of Indians found in the remote mountains of Venezuela may have a lot to teach us about the connection between gut bacteria and our health.

The Yanomami Indians have nearly twice as many different kinds of bacteria living in their intestines as Americans do.

Researchers say the discovery offers a peek at an unspoiled microbiome, the collection of trillions of bacteria that live in and on our bodies. We’re still learning about the roles these friendly microbes play in our health. But studies have shown they influence our weight, our digestion, our immune responses, and they help keep disease-causing pathogens from making us sick.

As scientists have begun to appreciate the importance of the microbiome, there’s been growing concern that modern practices may be changing it in ways that lead to disease. These include everything from more and more processed foods in our diets, to the rise in C-sections (which deny infants the chance to be protected by Mom’s bacteria), to the overuse of antibiotics.

And though the villagers told medical workers they’d never before had contact with outsiders, scientists found the bacteria living in and on their bodies had genes to shield it from modern antibiotics. This suggests that the problem of antibiotic resistance may be tougher to undo than experts once thought.

“This population of Yanomami Indians that we studied are naive to [modern] practices. They present a unique opportunity to put our microbial past under the microscope, if you wish, and characterize for the first time a microbiome that perhaps could be similar to that of our ancestors,” says researcher Jose Clemente, PhD, an assistant professor of genetics and genomics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in a news briefing. 

Researchers say the tribe was spotted by helicopter in 2008. A medical team made contact with the group in 2009. They asked permission to collect samples of bacteria swabbed from their mouths, skin, and feces. They collected samples from 34 of the 54 villagers who ranged in age from 4 to 50.

There were some signs of modern life amongst tribe members’ belongings, including T-shirts, metal cans, and machetes. Researchers believe they got these items through trade with other Yanomami groups that had made contact with the outside world. 

Samples of their bacteria were flown back to the U.S. and analyzed from 2011 to 2014.

source : Discovered Tribe’s Bacteria May Point to Our Past
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