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Health Highlights: July 1, 2009

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

TB Vaccine May Be Fatal for Infants With HIV

Infants with HIV can die if they're given a standard tuberculosis vaccine, according to a three-year study conducted in South Africa.

The World Health Organization said the study found that babies born with HIV were more likely to contract a deadly form of TB if they were given the BCG, or bacille Calmette-Guerin, vaccine, the Associated Press reported.

Infants with HIV should not receive the vaccine, and vaccination should be delayed if a baby's HIV status is unknown, the researchers said.

The study appears in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.


Colon Cancer Study Is Stopped

A late-stage study of the cancer drug Sutent as a treatment for colon cancer has been halted because the drug is not effective enough, the drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, announced Tuesday.

The study was designed to compare the use of a combination treatment of Sutent and a type of chemotherapy with use of the chemotherapy alone. Researchers found that the combination treatment was not more effective at extending survival without cancer progression.

There were no safety issues, according to Pfizer.

Sutent is approved in the United States for treatment of advanced kidney cancer and gastrointestinal cancer, the Associated Press reported.


U.S. Government to Seek Answers to Health-Care Questions

Should birth control pills be available over the counter? What's the best way to treat back pain? Should people with irregular heartbeats have surgery or take a drug?

The U.S. government plans to spend more than $1 billion to find the answers to questions such as those, according to an Associated Press report.

The money is part of the economic stimulus plan, specifically aimed at figuring out the so-called comparative effectiveness of various treatments, tests and strategies related to health care. The idea is to give doctors better information as to what's best for a particular patient and to give patients more ammunition to become active, informed participants in their health-care decisions, the AP said.

The questions released Tuesday came from the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, and included its top 100 priorities for study. The $1.1 billion set aside for the project would cover only a fraction of the research required to obtain answers, the AP reported.


Many Factors Contribute to AMD: Study

A wide range of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the risk of developing the eye disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD), says a U.S. study.

Researchers followed more than 1,400 people for an average of 6.3 years and identified a number of risk factors that were used to develop a predictive and possibly diagnostic model, United Press International reported.

The factors include gene variants, age, smoking, body mass index, and ocular and environmental factors. All were independently associated with AMD.

"The determinants of the model can be assessed by completing a questionnaire and taking a blood test, and it is a tool which could be used to help guide prevention and treatments," lead author Dr. Johanna M. Seddon, of Tufts University School of Medicine, and director of the Ophthalmic Epidemiology and Genetics Service and Tufts Medical Center, said in a news release, UPI reported.

The study was published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.


Healthy Eating a Challenge at Work: Survey

A bounty of unhealthy snacks in American workplaces makes it difficult for employees to stick to a healthy diet, according to a new survey.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they find it a challenge to eat healthy in their workplace and 47 percent said it's because there are too many unhealthy snack options available to them at work, United Press International reported.

Only 7 percent of respondents said they eat healthier at work than they do at home, said the survey, which was sponsored by Peapod Business Delivery.

Among the other findings:

  • 28 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the amount of healthy snack choices available to them at work.
  • Fresh produce is the food that employees most want in the workplace, but only 36 percent of companies regularly provide vegetables and fruits.
  • Candy is at the bottom of the list of foods that workers want, yet 1 in 3 businesses offer candy to employees.
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Posted: July 2009