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Health Highlights: Aug. 9, 2010

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

Meningitis Risk Influenced By Certain Genes: Researchers

Genes that increase a person's risk of bacterial meningitis have been identified by an international team of scientists, who said their findings may lead to the development of new vaccines.

The researchers compared DNA from 1,400 people with bacterial meningitis and 6,000 healthy people and determined that differences in a family of immune response-related genes affect a person's level of risk for the infection, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the journal Nature Genetics.

"This exciting work has thrown new light on factors that play a part in determining why some people get meningococcal disease and others do not," Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust, told BBC News. "Further work will be needed to establish just what the genetic differences are in the genes which actually cause this susceptibility to invasive infection, but this is a promising start."


Scientists Regrow Spinal Cord Nerve Cells In Mice

In tests on mice, scientists achieved substantial regrowth of spinal cord nerve cells (axons) that control voluntary movement -- the first time this has been achieved, says a new study.

While the ability to grow new nerve cells is present at birth, that capability diminishes with age. As a result, axons can't regenerate after illness or injury, BBC News reported.

U.S. researchers attempted to reactivate the signaling pathway that encourages new nerve cell growth in young mammals. They did this by deleting a gene called PTEN in mice with severed spinal cords. Normally, this gene stops new cell growth.

The mice in the study showed substantial nerve regrowth in their spinal cords, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.


1 Million Pounds of Ground Beef Recalled

Suspected E. coli contamination, linked to illness in seven people, is prompting a California company to recall about 1 million pounds of ground beef.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that Valley Meat Co., of Modesto, sold the potentially tainted ground beef and beef patties in Arizona, California, Oregon, Texas, and abroad, the Associated Press reported.

The recall was prompted after the California Department of Health alerted the USDA to a number of E. coli illnesses reported in mid-July.

The beef in question was processed between Oct. 2, 2009 and Jan. 12, 2010. Most of the product is sold frozen and Valley Meat said it is working to get it off of grocery store shelves. Consumers who have bought meat possibly affected by the recall should discard it or return it to point of purchase for a full refund, the company said.

There's a complete list of the recalled products at Valley Meats.


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Posted: August 2010