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Health Highlights: Feb. 29, 2008

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

Walker's Four Bean Salad Recalled

Potential contamination with Clostridium botulinum bacteria has prompted a recall of 16-oz., 5-lb., and 10-lb. containers of Four Bean Salad made by Walker's Food Products Company of North Kansas City, Mo., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday.

This kind of bacteria can cause botulism, a serious and potentially fatal kind of food poisoning. Symptoms include general weakness, dizziness, double vision, trouble speaking or swallowing, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, abdominal distension and constipation. Anyone with such symptoms should seek immediate medical help, the FDA said.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the recalled Four Bean Salad, which was sent to distributors in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa for sale to retail stores and restaurants. The 16-oz. containers were packaged under the Kay's Gourmet brand name, while the 5-lb. and 10-lb. containers were packaged under the Walker's Food Products Co. brand name.

The recall includes salad with expiration dates 12/23/07 through 04/5/08. The expiration dates are stamped on the bottom of the round clear plastic containers.

Anyone who bought the recalled salad should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information, call Walker's Food Products at 1-800-725-2372.


Scientists Identify Gene That Blocks HIV

American and Canadian researchers have identified a human gene called TRIM22 that can block HIV infection by preventing certain forms of the virus from replicating, CBC News reported.

In laboratory tests, the scientists found that cells in which TRIM22 was switched off couldn't defend themselves against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"This means that TRIM22 is an essential part of our body's ability to fight off HIV," Dr. Stephen Barr, a researcher in the department of medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said in a prepared statement.

The study was published in the Public Library of Science journal Pathogens. Previous research had found that other genes in the TRIM family could prevent certain forms of HIV viruses from replicating, CBC News reported.

Barr and his colleagues are now investigating how TRIM22 can be switched on in people who can't defend themselves against HIV.

"We hope that our research will lead to the design of new drugs and/or vaccines that can halt the person-to-person transmission of HIV and the spread of the virus in the body, thereby blocking the onset of AIDS," said Barr, who added that this type of achievement could take decades.


Home-Based HIV Treatment Slashes Death Rates: African Study

Antitretroviral drug treatment of African HIV patients in their own homes instead of in a clinic slashed death rates by more than 90 percent, says a study of more than 1,000 HIV patients in rural communities in Uganda.

This home-based approach to treatment also reduced the number of deaths of young children within the families of the HIV patients, showing that good care of HIV-positive parents improves their ability to look after their children, BBC News reported.

The study, by a team from the Centers for Disease Control in Kenya, was published in The Lancet.

Antiretroviral drugs prolong the lives of HIV-infected people and these drugs are increasingly available in Africa. However, there are few clinics in poor areas of Africa, which makes it difficult to establish treatment programs, which rely on regular testing and medication adherence, BBC News reported.

This study shows that a home-based treatment approach could help address that problem, said Dr. Ade Fakoya, an adviser to the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

"Getting HIV treatment to people who live in rural areas is difficult, and this could have an impact. This is affordable and could be carried out on a larger scale," Fakoya told BBC news.


Alcohol Doesn't Erase Bad Memories

Alcohol doesn't help drown a person's sorrows, it actually makes bad memories linger, say researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan.

After conducting tests on rats, the researchers concluded that ethanol -- an intoxicating agent in alcohol -- locks memories in place, Agence France-Presse reported.

The rats in the study were shocked in their cages and then injected with either ethanol or saline. Afterwards, the rats would immediately curl up in fear when put in their cages. This fear response lasted longer (an average of two weeks) in the rats that were injected with ethanol. The findings were published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

"If we apply this study to humans, the memories they are trying to get rid of will remain strongly, even if they drink alcohol to try to forget an event they dislike and be in a merry mood for the moment," the study authors wrote. "The following day, they won't remember the merriness they felt."

Team leader and pharmacology professor Norio Matsuki said it's best to "overwrite" a negative memory with positive memory at an early stage and avoid drinking alcohol, AFP reported.

Many U.S. Adults Don't Get Enough Rest or Sleep

Only 29.6 percent of adults in four states (Delaware, Hawaii, New York and Rhode Island) reported no days of insufficient rest or sleep in the past 30 days, and 10.1 percent reported insufficient rest or sleep every day during the past month, according to a study that analyzed 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor data collected in those states.

The study also found that 24.8 percent of adults unable to work were more likely to have insufficient rest or sleep. The findings are outlined in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The article noted that 50 million to 79 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. Sleep disorders and sleep loss may be associated with mental distress, depression, anxiety, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and certain risk behaviors such as smoking, heavy drinking and physical inactivity, the article added.

More studies and data are needed to assess the prevalence and national impact of insufficient rest or sleep on adults, the article said. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.


FDA Approves Nexium for Young Children

The drug Nexium (esomeprazole magnesium) has been approved for short-term treatment of children ages one to 11 years with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

The approval includes delayed-release capsule and liquid forms of the drug.

Nexium belongs to a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which decrease stomach acid production and help heal erosions in the lining of the esophagus (erosive esophagitis).

The FDA said children prescribed this drug should be monitored by their doctors for side effects, which may include headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, gas, constipation, dry mouth and sleepiness.

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Posted: February 2008