Health Highlights: March 4, 2014

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

U.S. Travelers to Phillipines Need Measles Vaccinations: CDC

Many of the 54 measles cases reported in the United States so far this year originated in the Philippines, federal health officials say.

Eighteen cases involved unvaccinated Americans and four cases involved visitors from other countries. A dozen of those 22 cases originated in the Philippines and 10 in other countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NBC News reported.

The remaining 32 cases of measles were in people who were infected by U.S. travelers to, or visitors from, other countries, or in people who didn't know how they became infected.

Of the 54 reported cases of measles in the U.S. so far this year, 21 were in California, Dr. Jane Seward, the CDC's deputy director for the division of viral diseases, told NBC News.

The CDC said that people traveling to the Philippines need to be vaccinated against the measles. There were 1,163 cases of measles reported there in early January.

On average, the U.S. has about 60 cases of measles a year, but there were 189 cases last year, NBC News reported.

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Rare Mutation Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes: Study

Scientitsts who identified a rare mutation that protects people from developing type 2 diabetes say the finding may lead to the development of new drugs that can prevent the disease.

The mutation -- which shields even overweight people from diabetes -- was pinpointed by the researchers after they conducted genetic tests on 150,000 people, The New York Times reported.

The mutation wipes out a gene used by cells in the pancreas, where insulin is produced. People with the mutation appear to make a bit more insulin and have somewhat lower blood sugar levels than others.

The findings from the study, which began four years ago, were published in the journal Nature Genetics.

"The study is a tour de force, and the authors are the top people in the field," Dr. Samuel Klein, director of the center for human nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine, told The Times. He was not involved in the study.

Drug makers Pfizer and Amgen were associated with the study and have launched efforts to develop drugs that mimic the mutation. However, it can take 10 to 20 years for a discovery about genetics and disease to lead to the introduction of a new drug, noted Timothy Rolph, a Pfizer vice president.

The mutation is so rare that it could only be identified by analyzing data from a huge number of people, according to scientists.

This is the first time in diabetes research that investigators have found a gene-destroying mutation that is beneficial, Louis Philipson, director of the Kovler Diabetes Center at the University of Chicago, told The Times.

The research team -- led by Dr. David Altshuler, deputy director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT -- is now trying to determine if the mutation has any harmful effects. So far, there appear to be none.

Posted: March 2014


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