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Health Highlights: April 23, 2009

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

Morning Sickness Linked to Smarter Babies: Study

Children born to mothers who have morning sickness may be smarter than those whose moms don't have nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, suggests a new study.

Researchers found that the children of mothers with morning sickness scored higher on tests designed to assess children's IQ and mental acuity, the Canadian Press reported.

But while this difference was statistically significant, it doesn't mean that children born to mothers who didn't have nausea during pregnancy are developmentally slow, said senior author Dr. Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. It's just that the other children scored higher on the tests.

The study appears in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Nausea has long been recognized as a sign of a healthy pregnancy, according to the CP. Pregnant women who have morning sickness are less likely to have a miscarriage and less likely to have babies with congenital cardiovascular problems.


Missing Lab Samples Destroyed: U.S. Army

Three disease samples reported missing from a U.S. Army lab were likely destroyed, according to officials.

The samples of Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis were noted as missing last year during an inventory of samples left by a departing researcher, said Caree Vander Linden, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., the Associated Press reported.

An investigation determined that the three samples were likely among those destroyed when a freezer malfunctioned, Vander Linden said Wednesday.

A thorough investigation found no evidence of criminal activity, said U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command spokesman Chris Grey, the AP reported.


California Swine Flu Cases Investigated by CDC

Two California children were diagnosed with a unique type of swine flu, and the cases are being investigated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 10-year-old boy in San Diego County and a 9-year-old girl in neighboring Imperial County were diagnosed last week, and both have recovered, the Associated Press reported.

The CDC is determining the genetics of the virus in these two cases and trying to track down and test people who may have had contact with the children. However, the agency said there's no reason for the public to take special measures to protect themselves.

Both children, who had no contact with each other, became sick in late March, the AP reported. The boy's mother and brother, and the girl's brother and cousin, also had flu-like illnesses recently, but weren't tested for flu while they were sick.

More than a dozen cases of human swine flu virus infections have been reported in the United States since late 2005. Prior to that, about one case was reported to the CDC every one or two years.


Avastin Has Little Impact in Colon Cancer Recurrence: Trial

A clinical trial of about 2,700 early-stage colon cancer patients found that the drug Avastin didn't reduce the risk of recurrent colon cancer by a significant amount, drug manufacturer Genentech announced Wednesday.

The patients in the study had surgery and then received six months of standard chemotherapy or six months of standard chemotherapy plus Avastin. The trial did not meet its endpoint, which means the drug didn't reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by the targeted amount, The New York Times reported.

No more details were made public. Study data was expected to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, in Orlando, Fla., that begins in late May.

Avastin is approved for treatment of late-stage colon, breast and lung cancers. The new trial was designed to assess its effects on the course of colon cancer when used immediately after surgery to remove the tumor, The Times reported.

Current chemotherapy keeps about 70 percent of colon cancer patients disease-free three years after surgery. Achieving a significant improvement on that is viewed as a major challenge.

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Posted: April 2009