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Mar 22
Antidepressants during pregnancy don`t affect infants` growth
Taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants during pregnancy do not impact infants` growth over the first year, a new study has found.

There had been concern that antidepressant treatment during pregnancy reduced growth during the first year. Previous data suggested depression during pregnancy also could diminish infant growth.

But the new study from a Northwestern Medicine scientist showed infants born to mothers who took SSRIs during pregnancy had a similar weight, length and head circumference over the first year as infants born to non-depressed women who did not take antidepressants.

The infants whose mothers took antidepressants were shorter at birth, but the difference disappeared by two weeks of age.

In addition, growth measurements for the infants of depressed women who did not take SSRIs were similar to the general population.

"Most women want to know about the effect of their depressive illness or the medication they take during pregnancy not only on the infant at birth, but also on the baby`s longer-term growth and development," said Northwestern Medicine lead author Katherine L. Wisner, M.D.

"This information may help women balance the risks and benefits of continuing their antidepressant treatment during pregnancy," she noted.

Depression has negative impact on a mother`s and infant`s health, Wisner said, noting that women who stop taking SSRIs near the time of conception have a high relapse rate.

Maternal prenatal stress and depression are linked to preterm birth and low infant birth weight, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Depression also affects a woman`s appetite, nutrition and prenatal care and is associated with increased alcohol and drug use. Women with untreated depression have a higher body mass index preconception, which carries additional risks.

Results of her study will be published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in Advance, its online ahead-of-print website.

Mar 22
1,800 children die daily from unsafe water, poor sanitation: UNICEF
The United Nations Children`s Fund (UNICEF) said Thursday that almost 90 percent of children deaths from diarrhoeal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation, or inadequate hygiene.

Globally, an estimated 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhoeal diseases and of these some 1,800 deaths are linked to water, sanitation and hygiene, the UN agency said as the international community is to mark World Water Day, which falls on Friday this year.

"Sometimes we focus so much on the big numbers, that we fail to see the human tragedies that underlie each statistic," says Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF`s water, sanitation and hygiene program.

"If 90 school buses filled with kindergartners were to crash every day, with no survivors, the world would take notice," Wijesekera said. "But this is precisely what happens every single day because of poor water, sanitation and hygiene."

World Water Day has been observed on March 22 since 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly declared the date as World Day for Water.

Almost 90 percent of child deaths from diarrhoeal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation, or inadequate hygiene.

Despite a burgeoning global population, these deaths have come down significantly over the last decade, from 1.2 million per year in 2000 to about 760,000 a year in 2011.

Improvements in water and sanitation would greatly contribute to a reduction in child mortality in these counties, UNICEF said.
Progress made since 1990 shows that with the political will, with investment, with a focus on equity and on reaching the hardest to reach, every child should be able to get access to improved drinking water and sanitation, perhaps within a generation, said Wijesekera.

Mar 21
Lorry drivers who drink coffee 'cut their crash risk'
Long-distance lorry drivers who drink coffee have fewer road traffic accidents, research suggests.

Australian investigators say they found the link while comparing 530 heavy goods vehicle drivers who had recently been in a crash with 517 who had not.

Coffee and other beverages containing the stimulant caffeine cut crash risk, probably because they boost alertness, the British Medical Journal reported.

Road safety experts stressed caffeine was no substitute for sleep.

In the study, more than a third said they drank caffeinated beverages and half of these said they did so in order to stay awake.

The drivers who consumed caffeine to keep them from nodding off behind the wheel were 63% less likely to crash than drivers who had no caffeine.

This was after adjusting for factors such as age, sleep patterns, kilometres driven, breaks taken and night-driving schedules.
Nap advice

If the driver had a poor track record of crashes in the past five years this had an impact on their likelihood of having another crash, raising their risk by 81%.

About 70% of the drivers in the study said they stopped for a nap when they were tired - something that road safety experts strongly recommend.

Lead researcher Lisa Sharwood and colleagues from the University of Sydney say while it is clear that tired drivers should be taking breaks, it still not clear what activities benefit them most during these breaks - napping or drinking coffee.

"The varying extent to which activities such as taking a nap, drinking a cup of coffee, or going for a short walk contribute to subsequent vigilance behind the wheel are not well understood and are therefore recommended for further study," they say.

UK road safety experts say the only real cure for fatigue is sleep.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "Driving tired significantly increases the risk of an accident so we encourage drivers to ensure they are properly rested before climbing behind the wheel.

"Drivers should get a good night's sleep, plan sufficient breaks and pull over if they feel tired.

"The Highway Code is clear that the most effective way to counter sleepiness while driving is to have, for example, two caffeinated drinks and take a short nap."

Mar 21
'Under the skin' blood-testing device developed
Scientists say they have developed a tiny blood-testing device that sits under the skin and gives instant results via a mobile phone.

The Swiss team say the wireless prototype - half an inch (14mm) long - can simultaneously check for up to five different substances in the blood.

The data is sent to the doctor using radiowaves and Bluetooth technology.

The device's developers hope it will be available to patients within four years.

It is designed to be inserted, using a needle, into the interstitial tissue just beneath the skin of the abdomen, legs or arms. And it could remain there for months before needing to be replaced or removed.

Other researchers have been working on similar implantable monitoring devices, but Prof Giovanni de Micheli and lead scientist Sandro Carrara say their under-the-skin test is unique because it can measure many different markers at the same time.

They say it will be particularly useful for monitoring chronic conditions such as high cholesterol and diabetes as well as tracking the impact of drug treatments such as chemotherapy.

Prof De Micheli, of Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, said: "It will allow direct and continuous monitoring based on a patient's individual tolerance, and not on age and weight charts or weekly blood tests."

So far, the researchers have tested their device in the lab and on animals and say it can reliably detect both cholesterol and glucose in blood as well as some other common substances doctors look for.

They hope to begin testing the device on intensive care patients - patients who require a great deal of close monitoring, including repeated blood tests.

The research results will be published and presented at the Design, Automation, and Test in Europe (Date) electronics conference.

Mar 20
Herbal medicines can cause kidney failure, cancer
Millions of people may be exposed to risk of developing kidney failure and bladder cancer by taking herbal medicines that are widely available in Asia, scientists from King`s College London have warned.

The medicines, used for a wide range of conditions including slimming, asthma and arthritis, are derived from a botanical compound containing aristolochic acids.

These products are now banned in the USA and many European countries but the herbs containing this toxic acid can still be bought in China and other countries in Asia and are also available worldwide over the internet.

The scientists reviewed worldwide cases of aristolochic acid nephropathy (AAN) - a type of kidney failure caused by the intake of these acids.

They explained the clinical basis for the disease and propose strategies to help doctors identify it and treat patients more effectively.

They suggested that there might be many thousands of cases across Asia that are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. With the outcome of their study, the researchers hope to raise awareness of the risks of aristolochic acids and reduce the global disease burden from this severe condition.

"We have found evidence that many millions of people continue to be exposed to significant health risk due to these herbal medicines, widely used in China and India," said lead author Professor Graham Lord, Director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at Guy`s and St Thomas` NHS Foundation Trust and King`s College London.

The paper indicates that regulatory measures that have so far been adopted by national and international agencies may be inadequate in preventing harmful exposure to aristolochic acid. The compound is linked to many cases of kidney diseases and urothelial cancer, a form of cancer of which bladder cancer is the most known variant.

The researchers reviewed the latest data on the epidemiology of AAN. They used several search engines to include all publications that are about or refer to aristolochic acid and Chinese herbal nephropathy and identified 42 different case studies and one trial relating to the management of the disease.

While explaining the origin and development of the disease, they propose a protocol that should make it easier to diagnose AAN. In addition, they suggested a new disease classification to help international clinicians better identify AAN patients, and draft guidelines for the treatment of these patients.

The research was published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Mar 20
Bugs in mouth shed light on gum disease
A study of microbes from the human mouth has provided insight into periodontitis, a disease marked by inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have cracked the genetic code of bacteria linked to the condition.

The finding profiles the SR1 bacteria, a group of microbes present in many environments ranging from the mouth to deep within the Earth, that have never been cultivated in the laboratory.

Human oral SR1 bacteria are elevated in periodontitis, a disease marked by inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth.

Scientists also found that the SR1 bacteria employ a unique genetic code in which the codon UGA - a sequence of nucleotides guiding protein synthesis-appears not to serve its normal role as a stop code. In fact, scientists found that UGA serves to introduce a glycine amino acid instead.

"This is like discovering that in a language you know well there is a dialect in which the word stop means go," said co-author Mircea Podar of the Department of Energy lab`s Biosciences Division.

Podar and Dieter Soll of Yale University led the team that also included scientists from DOE`s Joint Genome Institute who contributed to the analysis of the single-cell sequencing data.

The researchers believe the altered genetic code limits the exchange of genes between SR1 and other bacteria because they use a different genetic alphabet.

"In the big pool of bacteria, genes can be exchanged between species and can contribute to increased antibiotic resistance or better adaptation to living in humans. Because SR1 has a change in its genetic alphabet, its genes will not function in other microbes," Podar said.
Podar and colleagues envision this work providing a path toward a better understanding of microbiological factors of periodontitis as well as to the establishment of a framework to help scientists interpret genomic data from this bacterium and others that have the same altered genetic code.

"So far, no one has been able to isolate and cultivate this type of bacterium," said Podar, who noted that there are bugs in our mouth that we have no clue about and, until now, this was one of them.

"The genetic information obtained by sequencing one single cell may offer researchers a key to `domesticating` these organisms and studying them in the laboratory," the researcher added.

The finding was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mar 19
World on verge of drug resistant red plague, warn experts
A new plague of antibiotic resistant infections may emerge with even common urinary tract infections now resistant to conventional treatment, Australia`s superbug experts have warned.

They noted that powerful intravenous antibiotics are now being used to beat urinary tract infections that previously could be treated simply with a pill, reported.

And unless the government regulates antibiotic use medical advances like organ transplants, joint replacements and critical care medicine will be under threat from rampant infections, the stated.

Doctors are warning that these superbugs, which are being called the "red plague" because antibiotic bugs stain red under a microscope, could soon represent the same threat as a plague like the Black Death.

Professor David Looke, the president of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, said that common E. coli infections that cause 80 per cent of urinary tract infections are now resistant to multiple antibiotics.

Writing in Medical Journal of Australia, he said the proportion of E. coli bugs in Australia that were multi-drug resistant rose from 4.5 per cent in 2008 to 7.2 per cent in 2010.

Most people thought antibiotic resistant bugs were caught in a hospital setting but now they were being acquired in the community, he said.

Up to 30 per cent of the staphylococcus bacteria that cause common boil infections acquired in the community were now also resistant to penicillin, he said.

Many forms of sexually acquired gonorrhea were also resistant to most antibiotics.

He blamed the overuse of antibiotics in humans and in animals and farming practices for these growing resistances to treatments.

In India 100-200 million people were thought to harbour antibiotic resistant bacteria. In Asia antibiotics were injected into eggs, used in prawn and chicken farms.

Moreover, pharmaceutical companies have stopped developing new antibiotics that might beat superbug infections, he added.

Infectious diseases experts have suggested that government must set up a new regulatory body that would have control of the use of antibiotics in humans, animals and farming.

Government must also work with the pharmaceutical industry to encourage them to research new antibiotics, Looke concluded.

Mar 19
Dwelling on stressful events can make you ill
A new study has found that fretting over stressful events could trigger inflammation in one`s body.

The study found that levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of tissue inflammation, rose when participants were asked to ruminate on a stressful incident.

This is the first study to directly measure the effect of negative thought on the body.

Peggy Zoccola, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio University, US, the study`s lead author, said: "Much of the past work has looked at this in non-experimental designs."

"Researchers asked people to report their tendency to ruminate, and then looked to see if it connected to physiological issues. It`s been co-relational for the most part."

The study team recruited 34 healthy young women for the project.

The C-reactive protein is primarily produced by the liver as part of the immune system`s initial inflammatory response.

It is widely used as a clinical marker to determine if a patient has an infection, but also if he or she may be at risk for disease later in life.

Mar 18
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to cancer in smokers
Decreased levels of vitamin D may predispose smokers to developing tobacco-related cancer, a new study has revealed.

This study illustrates that simple vitamin D blood tests and supplements have the potential to improve smokers` health.

Cigarette smoking is the primary causal factor for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths, and can lead to multiple kinds of cancer, including bladder, cervical, esophageal, head and neck, kidney, liver, lung, pancreatic, and stomach, as well as myeloid leukemia.

In this new research, Afzal et al. measured plasma vitamin D levels in blood samples collected in 1981-1983 from 10,000 Danes from the general population. They then followed the study participants for up to 28 years through the Danish Cancer Registry.

Of the participants, 1,081 eventually developed a tobacco-related cancer. The researchers determined that the median vitamin D concentration among these participants was only 14.8 ng/mL, versus the higher 16.4 ng/mL median concentration found for all participants together.

These results showed for the first time that the risk of tobacco-related cancers as a group is associated with lower concentrations of vitamin D.

The data also indicate that tobacco smoke chemicals may influence vitamin D metabolism and function, while vitamin D may conversely modify the carcinogenicity of tobacco smoke chemicals.

If further research confirms this, it would be consistent with previous studies demonstrating the anti-tumorigenic effects of vitamin D derivatives, as well as the correlation of vitamin D deficiency with favorable cancer-forming conditions and increased susceptibility to tobacco smoke carcinogens.

Interestingly, though, low vitamin D levels were not connected with risk of other cancer types.

"Our analyses show that the association between lower concentrations of plasma vitamin D and higher risk of cancer may be driven by tobacco-related cancer as a group, which has not been shown before," stated author Borge G. Nordestgaard, MD, DMSc.

"This is important for future studies investigating the association between plasma vitamin D and risk of cancer," he added.

The research has been published online in Clinical Chemistry, the journal of AACC.

Mar 18
Foods that can keep your eyes healthy
It is possible to aid eye health through nutrition and supplements, experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Research by the National Eye Institute (NEI) has shown that high levels of antioxidants and zinc, in the form of a nutritional supplement tablet, reduced the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

"AMD is the leading cause of blindness in older adults," said Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for clinical research in the Department of Ophthalmology.

"These dietary supplements are not a cure for AMD, but they do reduce one`s risk of progressing to the most serious form of the disease," she stated.

UAB School of Optometry Professor Leo Semes, O.D., talked about the importance of diet to eye health.

"You are what you eat; it`s trite but it`s true. It`s been shown that certain habits like eating a high-fat diet are associated with, but not causative, in AMD," Semes said.

One food that has long been connected with improving vision is carrots, but Semes said carrots alone would not accomplish significant gains in eye health.

"The basis for this belief is that carrots are high in beta-carotene. But beta-carotene alone is not going to be protective enough. There`s also a tangential relationship that a lack of vitamin-A, a cousin of beta-carotene, is implicated in poor darkness adaptation," Semes said.

Seeing well when moving from light to dark declines with age.

Semes serves on the American Optometric Association Health and Nutrition Committee, which developed a list of specific foods and nutrients that have been found to be beneficial to eye health.

Fruits and vegetables - Vitamin C can help minimize cataracts and AMD

Fleshy fish (tuna or salmon) and lean meats - Fatty acids protect against AMD

Red meats and whole grains - Zinc deficiency can lead to cataracts

Vegetable oil - Vitamin E can slow progression of AMD

Semes suggested a consultation with an optometrist for evaluation of any ophthalmic problems so possible solutions can be reviewed.

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