Health Highlights: May 18, 2008

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

UK Scientists Report Possible 'Breakthrough' for New Drug to Fight Staph

British scientists believe they are close to developing a new antibiotic to fight methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterial infection that causes thousands of illnesses and deaths in hospitals each year.

BBC News reports that researchers at Destiny Pharma, a pharmaceutical company in Brighton, have developed a compound they describe as a "breakthrough" in killing MRSA.

In the last quarter of 2007 more than 1,000 cases of MRSA were reported in England, the BBC says, most of them in hospitals and public facilities. The drug, called XF-73, is applied as a gel into patients' noses.

Initial reports from clinical trials indicated that MRSA did not develop any resistance to the compound after 55 applications, a finding BBC reports Destiny Pharma's chief executive Dr. Bill Love as saying was "quite amazing." If further tests have similar results, the drug may be available in British hospitals by 2011, the BBC says.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MRSA can cause skin infections that may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. More serious infections may cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or surgical wound infections.

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Misuse of Syringes Found as Cause of Hepatitis C Outbreak

It was the re-use of syringes and vials containing medicine that caused a hepatitis C outbreak resulting in 84 patients becoming infected at two Las Vegas clinics, the Associated Press reports.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was first contacted early in 2008 after two people had come down with hepatitis C, the wire service reports. CDC investigators said in their report they observed clinic employees reusing syringes to administer a sedative, and followup interviews indicated it was a common practice, the wires service reported. "This was considered the most likely mode of transmission," the report concluded.

The two clinics in question, the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center -- both now shut down -- treated about 50,000 patients over this amount of time, the A.P. said. Law enforcement officials from Las Vegas, Nevada and the U.S. government are pursing criminal investigations, according to the wire service.

The doctors who ran the clinics, Dipak Desai and Eladio Carrera, have had their medical licenses suspended and paid a $50,000 fine, the A.P. reported.

Brian Labus, a senior epidemiologist with the Southern Nevada Health District, told the A.P. that the link between being treated at the clinics and contracting Hepatitis C was strong. "We know they [the 84 patients] didn't have a positive test before they went to the clinic, and now they're positive," he said.

State officials are worried that all 50,000 patients who were treated at the clinics between March, 2004 and Jan. 11, 2008 may have been exposed to Hepatitis C, which can linger in a person's system for years without symptoms. The disease can result in liver failure.

Post-Concussion Activity Levels Affect Recovery

The activity level of athletes after they've suffered a concussion affects brain function and speed of recovery, says a U.S. study in the Journal of Athletic Training.

Athletes who engage in high levels of activity following a concussion showed impaired brain function, while those who engaged in moderate levels of activity had the best performance on brain function tests, the study found.

"We surmise that most athletes in the highest-intensity activity group probably experienced a less severe initial injury, but by continuing with high levels of activity, they began to exhibit similar symptoms to those who initially experienced a more severe concussion," researcher Jason P. Mihalik, a certified athletic trainer at the University of North Carolina, said in a prepared statement.

The study also found differences in recovery based on age and gender, which suggests that different post-concussion strategies may be needed for certain groups of athletes.

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FDA Repeats Warning About Transplant Drugs

The organ transplant drugs CellCept and Myfortic can cause miscarriages and birth defects when used by pregnant women, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reminded doctors Friday.

In an online notice to doctors posted Friday, the agency recommended "confirming that a pregnancy has not occurred and ensuring that patients use effective contraceptive measures," the Associated Press reported.

The drugs suppress the immune system in order to avoid organ rejection in transplant patients. Last October, the FDA added its most serious warning to CellCept and Myfortic after it received reports of miscarriages and infants born with ear and mouth defects after their mothers took CellCept.

Most of these cases occurred in mothers who took the drug before they knew they were pregnant, said the FDA, which noted that some of the women were taking the drugs for unapproved conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, the AP reported.

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Most U.S. Teen Girls Suffer Sexual Harassment: Study

About 90 percent of American teenage girls have suffered at least one incident of sexual harassment, suggests a study that included 600 girls, ages 12 to 18.

The researchers found 67 percent of the girls reported receiving unwanted romantic attention, 62 percent were exposed to demeaning gender-related comments, 58 percent were teased because of their appearance, 52 percent were subjected to unwanted physical contact, and 25 percent were bullied or threatened with harm by a male, United Press International reported.

In addition, 76 percent of the girls reported sexist comments on their athletic abilities, and 52 percent received discouraging gender-based comments about their math, science and computer abilities.

The findings were published in the May/June issue of the journal Child Development.

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Scientific Laboratories Inc. Banned From Making, Distributing Drugs

Scientific Laboratories Inc. has been banned from making and distributing drug products until their manufacturing operations meet federal regulations and their products are approved, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The company is a contract manufacturer and distributor of various prescription cough and cold products. A number of Scientific Laboratories' drugs "have not undergone FDA review for safety and efficacy and may pose potential health risks," Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a prepared statement.

The unapproved new drugs manufactured and marketed by Scientific Laboratories as prescription cough and cold products include: B-Vex Suspension; Ben-Tann Suspension; D-Tann Suspension; D-Tann AT Suspension; D-Tann CT Suspension; D-Tann DM Suspension; D-Tann HC Suspension; Dur-Tann DM Suspension; Duratan DM Suspension; L-All 12 Suspension; Nazarin Liquid; and Nazarin HC Liquid.

Pharmacies should stop dispensing these products, and consumers with these products in their homes should talk to their health care provider about whether to stop using the products, the FDA said.

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Posted: May 2008


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