Health Highlights: Aug. 24, 2007
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Fatty Diet Linked to Infertility
In mice, a high-fat diet damages eggs in the ovaries and prevents them from becoming healthy embryos, a finding that may help explain infertility problems in obese women, say researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
They discovered that the main cause of diet-induced infertility in mice is a protein called peroxisome proliferator-activated gamma -- found in cells that nourish eggs, Agence France-Presse reported.
"The behavior of this protein helps to determine the way in which the ovaries sense and respond to fats," said researcher Cadence Minge. "Being able to control this protein will be very important in the quest to reverse fertility caused by poor diets."
She and her colleagues found that the anti-diabetes drug rosglitazone helped counter the effects of this protein in mice, resulting in better rates of fetal survival and higher birth weights. However, due to potential side effects, this drug can't be used as a "quick fix" for infertile obese women, AFP reported.
Weight loss is the most effective way for obese women to restore fertility, Minge said.
Human Activities Triggering Emergence of New Diseases: WHO
Changes in sexual behavior, intensive farming and a growing world population are among the reasons for an unprecedented number of emerging diseases in recent decades, says the World Health Organization.
The U.N health agency noted that HIV/AIDS and 38 other pathogens that now affect people were unknown a few decades ago, the Associated Press reported.
"We've seen a shift in a trend that reflects a transition of human civilization," said WHO epidemics expert Dr. Mike Ryan. "The relationship to the animal kingdom, our travel, our social, sexual and other behaviors have changed the nature of our relationship with the microbial world and the result of that is the emergence of new pathogens and the spread of those pathogens around the world."
"We've urbanized a world. We have moved people and food around that world at ever increasing speed," Ryan noted. "We're not saying that's a bad thing. What we're saying is that we must recognize the risk we create in the process and invest to manage those risks."
Intensive poultry farming may have been a factor in the global spread of bird flu, noted WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, who added that the majority of new diseases (including SARS, Ebola and bird flu) stemmed from animals, the AP reported.
Two New Norovirus Strains Identified by U.S. Health Officials
Two new strains of norovirus were identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during an outbreak late last year that made thousands ill and may have killed as many as 19 people.
So far, norovirus has been confirmed as the cause of death in only one case -- a 90-year-old nursing home resident in North Carolina, the Associated Press reported.
The two new strains may have played a role in the unusually high number of cases -- 1,300 outbreaks in 24 states -- reported last winter, says an article in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the CDC.
Noroviruses, sometimes called Norwalk-like viruses, are a group of highly contagious viruses that cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. In recent years, there have been a number of norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships. During last winter's outbreak, many cases occurred in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
False Lab Tests May Explain Rising Whooping Cough Numbers
False lab tests may be behind a reported surge in whooping cough (pertussis) cases in the United States, according to researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They found that a regularly used lab test for whooping cough misdiagnosed cases among suspected outbreaks in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Tennessee, the Associated Press reported.
As a result of those false test results, thousands of people may have taken antibiotics unnecessarily. One New Hampshire hospital even limited the number of patients admitted because it was thought some hospital workers had the sometimes lethal respiratory infection.
Previously, U.S. federal health officials said the number of reported whooping cough cases in the country had tripled since 2001, reaching 26,000 in 2005. But nearly half those cases were diagnosed using this apparently faulty lab test, the AP reported.
AMA Promotes Help for the Uninsured
A multimillion-dollar media campaign aimed at helping people get health insurance was launched Thursday by the American Medical Association.
One in seven Americans doesn't have health insurance. The AMA's proposals include tax credits and more federal funding to expand government programs such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Associated Press reported.
As part of the "Voices for the Uninsured" campaign, the AMA placed full-page color ads in Thursday's New York Times and USA Today.
For the initial part of the campaign -- timed to coincide with the upcoming presidential election -- the AMA is spending $5 million on newspaper, television and radio ads in early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the AP reported.
Next year, the AMA will take the campaign national and lobby Congress to pass legislation to help the uninsured, the wire service said.
Baby Carrots Recalled for Bacteria Contamination
Sweet baby carrots sold in 12 states are being recalled because they may be contaminated with Shigella bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.
Infection with the bacteria -- especially among the very young, elderly, or people with compromised immune systems -- can trigger symptoms including diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Illness usually lasts four to 14 days, the agency said in a statement on its Web site.
The product was sold in packages with two labels. The first was branded "Los Angeles Salad Genuine Sweet Baby Carrots" and distributed by retail stores including Kroger, King Sooper, and Publix in Colorado, California, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida. Affected 7- and 8-oz. plastic bags had a sell-by date up to and including Aug. 16, 2007.
The second label was "Trader Joe's Genuine Sweet Baby Carrots," distributed by Trader Joe's stores in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Affected 7-oz. bags had a sell-by date up to and including Aug. 8, 2007.
The carrots were produced by the Los Angeles Salad Co. At least four people who ate the carrots were sickened in Canada between Aug. 4 and Aug. 6, the FDA said, although none was hospitalized. The source of the contamination is under investigation.
To learn more, contact Los Angeles Salads at 626-322-9017.
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