Health Highlights: April 1, 2008

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Many Drugs Can Cause Eye Problems: Report

There are 62 drugs that can cause eye problems, and patients and doctors need to be aware of the risk, Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, says in a new posting on its WorstPills.org Web site.

The eye is made up of numerous types of cells and drugs can affect each type of cell. The 62 drugs can cause a number of eye problems, including cataracts, glaucoma, optic nerve diseases, retinal abnormalities, eyelid and conjunctival diseases, and eye surgery complications, says the Public Citizen posting, which summarizes an article published in Drug Safety.

While many doctors and patients are aware of the adverse effects drugs can have on other parts of the body, potential risks to the eyes are often not considered, Public Citizen said.

Drugs that can cause eye problems include: chloroquine and hydroxycholoroquine, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, amoebae and malaria; the antibiotic linezolid; ethambutol, used to treat tuberculosis; corticosteroids; alpha-1 blockers; botulinum toxin (Botoxz); morphine; and drugs in the anticholinergic and adrenergic categories, Public Citizen said.

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CDC Said to Ignore Scientist's Pleas About Formaldehyde Threat

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ignored urgent requests to warn Gulf Coast hurricane victims about formaldehyde dangers in federal government-issued trailers, says a top CDC scientist.

At a House Science and Technology subcommittee hearing Tuesday, Christopher De Rosa also said his bosses told him last year not to write e-mails about his warnings of a "pending public health catastrophe" that could be caused by formaldehyde in the trailers, the Associated Press reported.

Formaldehyde, which can cause respiratory problems, has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and a probable carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The House of Representatives subcommittee is looking into how the CDC and other agencies dealt with complaints about formaldehyde levels in the trailers issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Democrats have accused FEMA of manipulating scientific research to minimize the potential dangers, and charge that the CDC helped FEMA mislead people living in the trailers, the AP reported.

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Transplant Patients Develop Cancer

Four U.S. transplant patients developed cancer after receiving organs last year from a 15-year-old boy with undiagnosed lymphoma. Two of the patients have since died of the same type of cancer, and the two other recipients are undergoing chemotherapy.

The donor was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. However, a month after his death, officials at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York told his parents that he actually died of a rare lymphoma, Newsday reported.

Stony Brook and New York University Medical Center -- which received two of the donor's organs -- were cleared in a recently concluded investigation by the New York state Department of Health.

Since the incident, NYU and the University of Minnesota -- which also received one of the donor's organs -- have changed their policies and now require stronger proof of bacterial meningitis in donors, Newsday reported.

The case was the subject of an article in the American Journal of Transplantation.

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Tai-Chi Benefits Diabetes Patients: Studies

The gentle, controlled movements of the ancient Chinese exercise tai-chi can help people with type 2 diabetes, according to new studies by researchers in Australia and Taiwan.

Both studies found that diabetes patients who did tai-chi for a few hours a week for three months showed significant improvements in health compared to control groups, Agence France-Presse reported.

Improved blood glucose levels, weight loss, stronger immune system, better sleep, and more energy were among the benefits noted in those who did tai-chi. The findings appear in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Previous research has shown that other types of moderate exercise can help keep type 2 diabetes under control, but tai-chi is easy to learn and doesn't require any complicated or expensive equipment, noted some of the researchers, AFP reported.

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Fat Droplets Help TB Bacteria Survive

U.K. scientists have found that many types of tuberculosis bacteria have protective fat droplets that may help them survive difficult conditions as they're passed in the sputum of an infected person to another person, BBC News reported.

The finding, by researchers at the University of Leicester and St. George's, University of London, may help lead to new treatments for the disease, which kills about two million people worldwide each year. The study appears in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine.

"This work forms the foundation to develop a new drug that works effectively against these fat and lazy bacteria," said Prof. Philip Butcher of St. George's, BBC News reported.

The study "helps us understand just why the TB bug is an extremely tough cookie built to survive," addedDr. John Moore-Gillon, of the British Lung Foundation, which co-funded the study. "It adds to our knowledge of why TB bacteria are so difficult to eradicate from the body and why drug resistant strains develop."

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Recalled Salad Dressing Has Undeclared Ingredients

Bay Valley Foods is recalling 535 cases of America's Choice Classic Caesar Dressing because the bottle labels don't warn about the presence of fish, soy and wheat. Consumers who have allergies to these ingredients may suffer a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume the dressing.

The incorrect labels on the bottles contain information for Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing. To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with the mislabeled Caesar Dressing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

The recalled dressing comes in 16-ounce plastic bottles marked with a "best before" date code of 02-09-09, which can be found on the back label. Consumers with the recalled dressing should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. The recalled bottles of dressing were distributed through Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) stores including A&P, Super Fresh, Food Basics USA, and Waldbaum's in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and the District of Columbia.

For more information, phone Bay Valley Foods at 1-800-983-0823.

Posted: April 2008


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