- Multi-Drug Approach Needed in Bird Flu Pandemic: Study
- Meningitis B Vaccine Shows Promise
- Vitamin D May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study
- Few U.S. Adults Proficient at Managing Health Care: Report
- New Guidelines Urge Careful Monitoring of Heart Device Patients
- Former Supreme Court Justice Pleas for Alzheimer's Research
- More Americans Taking Drugs for Chronic Health Problems
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Multi-Drug Approach Needed in Bird Flu Pandemic: Study
No single drug alone would be adequate to treat all people who would become infected during a worldwide flu pandemic, and nations need to stockpile more than one type of drug, say scientists at the National Institute for Medical Research in Great Britain.
They analyzed samples of H5N1 bird flu that had infected humans and found a mutation that made it resistant to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu. However, the mutation didn't protect the virus from another drug called Relenza, BBC News reported.
The study appears in the journal Nature.
"In order not to be outflanked by the virus, it will be necessary to have stocks of both existing drugs," said research team leader Dr. Steve Gamblin, BBC News reported. "There is a huge imperative to develop further drugs and it is likely a future pandemic will need to be tackled using a three- or four-pronged approach, much as we tackle HIV today."
Meningitis B Vaccine Shows Promise
Preliminary clinical trials of a vaccine against meningitis B yielded "encouraging" results, according to drug maker Novartis.
Doses of the vaccine were given to 150 British infants at two, four, six and 12 months. One month after the third dose, the children's immune response against three strains of meningitis B was 89 percent, 98 percent and 93 percent. After the fourth dose, the immune response was 100 percent, 98 percent and 93 percent, BBC News reported.
"These initial results... show that the vaccine induces an immune response against strains containing the vaccine components. The next step is to find how broad these responses are against other strains that cause disease," said Dr. Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford. Pollard helped run the study.
This could be a major advance in combating meningitis, Professor David Salisbury, director of immunization, U.K. Department of Health, told BBC News.
"We have vaccinations against three of the four causes of bacterial meningitis. The one we have been waiting for is meningitis B. It has been a challenge for the past 20 years," Salisbury said. "This could be the beginning of getting a solution for meningitis B. The challenge has been to find a vaccine that works across different strains of the disease."
Vitamin D May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study
Vitamin D may be able to prevent prostate cancer, according to University of Rochester Medical Center researchers who found that the vitamin increases the activity of the gene G6PD and its production of an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase.
Increased activity of this enzyme clears cells of free radicals that can damage DNA and lead to cancer, United Press International reported.
The researchers used 1,25-hydroxylvitamin D3, the most powerful and active form of vitamin D in the human body. The study is published in the International Journal of Cancer.
"If you reduce DNA damage, you reduce the risk of cancer or aging," study leader Yi-Fen Lee said in a prepared statement, UPI reported.
"Our study adds one more beneficial effect of taking a vitamin D supplement. Taking a supplement is especially important for senior citizens and others who might have less circulation of vitamin D, and for people who live and work in areas where there is less sunshine," Lee said.
Few U.S. Adults Proficient at Managing Health Care
Only 12 percent of the 228 million adults in the United States have the health literacy skills to manage their own health care proficiently, according to the latest News and Numbers report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research.
Health literacy skills -- which describe a person's ability to obtain and use health information to make appropriate health care decisions -- include weighing the risks and benefits of different treatments, knowing how to calculate health insurance costs, and being able to fill out complex medical forms.
People with poor health literacy skills may have worse health care outcomes and face an increased risk of medical errors.
A 2003 survey found that:
- 12 percent of American adults had proficient health literacy skills.
- 53 percent had intermediate skills, such as being able to read instructions on a prescription label and determine the right time to take medication.
- 22 percent had basic skills, such as being able to read a pamphlet and understand two reasons why a disease test might be appropriate despite a lack of symptoms.
- 14 percent had below-basic skills, which means they could accomplish only simple tasks such as understanding a set of short instructions or identifying what's permissible to drink before a medical test.
New Guidelines Urge Careful Monitoring of Heart Device Patients
People with implanted pacemakers, defibrillators and other devices to regulate heartbeat need to be monitored carefully after the devices begin working, a team of international experts recommended Wednesday.
Almost 2 million people across the globe have had the devices implanted, the Associated Press reported.
While much of the attention so far has been directed to who should get the devices and whether insurance companies would pay for them, the wire service said, experts in San Francisco at a meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society unveiled new guidelines designed to provide follow-up care for people who already have them.
The guidelines recommend:
- Making the doctor who implants the device responsible for follow-up care, including working with the patient's primary care doctor if the patient moves.
- Giving each patient an ID card, which would include information about emergency care and solving potential safety issues.
- Getting a checkup every three to 12 months.
- Urging the government to brand manufacturer recalls as "safety alerts," to avoid scaring patients into thinking they need immediate surgery to remove an affected product.
- Using wireless technology to monitor patients remotely from their homes.
Former Supreme Court Justice Pleas for Alzheimer's Research
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to sit on the nation's high court, is urging Congress to help boost research on Alzheimer's disease.
O'Connor retired from the bench in 2005, when she and her spouse moved to an assisted care center in Phoenix, the Associated Press reported. "My beloved husband John suffers Alzheimer's," she told the Senate Special Committee on Aging. "He is not in very good shape at present."
O'Connor welcomed recently approved legislation to ban discrimination based on genetic testing results. "My own sons I have not wanted to go be tested ... out of fear they would be ineligible for insurance," she told the panel on Wednesday.
More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, the AP reported, a number that's forecast to rise to 16 million by 2050. Some 10 million people are already caring for loved ones with the disease, the Alzheimer's Association estimates.
"I suspect that you will not hear from many of my fellow caregivers directly ... simply because they do not have the resources to take time away from their loves ones in order to come before you," O'Connor said in her prepared testimony.
"Our nation certainly is ready to get deadly serious about this deadly disease," she said.
More Americans Taking Drugs for Chronic Health Problems
A new study suggests that more than half of all insured Americans regularly take prescription drugs to treat chronic health problems, with drugs to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol the most widely used, the Associated Press reported.
The Medco Health Solutions Inc. analysis of prescription records from 2001 to 2007 revealed that 51 percent of American adults and children were taking one or more prescription drugs for a chronic condition in 2007, compared to 50 percent in 2006, and 47 percent in 2001.
Regular use of medications to treat chronic health problems occurred in all demographic groups:
- Three out of four people 65 or older.
- Almost two-thirds of women 20 or older.
- 52 percent of adult men.
- One in four children and teenagers.
The study found that among older Americans, 28 percent of women and nearly 22 percent of men take five or more medicines on a regular basis, the AP reported.
Medco manages prescription benefits for about one in five Americans.
Experts said the study findings reflect both worsening public health and better medicines for chronic conditions and more aggressive treatment by doctors, the AP reported.