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Health Highlights: July 6, 2009

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

Laser Treatment Shows Promise Against Vision Loss

A new laser treatment may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness among elderly people in the western world.

Improvements to sight were reported in about 50 people with diabetic eye disease who took part in early proof of concept trials, BBC News reported. Diabetic eye disease was used as a model in the tests because eye problems develop faster than in AMD, which affects central vision.

The painless laser treatment, developed by Professor John Marshall of King's College London, restores the back of the eye to a youthful condition. It does this by clearing away a build-up of natural waste materials produced by light-sensitive cells. As people age, the eyes' system for clearing away the waste materials can fail.

"If it is shown to work it is an extremely exciting development and potentially a real breakthrough," a spokeswoman for the Macular Disease Society in the U.K. told BBC News. "It will not sadly be useful in those who have already lost their sight to AMD, but it may have great hope for the future."


Utility Knife Blades Found in Energy Drinks

Consumers should avoid Hardcore Energize Bullet drink and New Whey liquid products because utility knife blades were found in one container each of the energy drinks, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The apparent case of tampering has prompted a recall of the products, which are sold in test-tube like vials. No injuries have been reported, the Associated Press reported.

New Whey, which is made and sold in the United States by IDS of Oviedo, Fla., comes in two flavors -- blue raspberry and fruit punch. Hardcore Energize Bullet is made by Protica Inc., of Whitehall, Pa., and is sold in Canada in two flavors, Black Rush and Blue Rage.


Many More Kids Vaccinated for Hepatitis A

One-dose hepatitis A vaccination coverage among U.S. infants ages 24 months to 35 months increased from 26.3 percent in 2006 to 47.4 percent in 2007, says a federal government study released Thursday.

The increase followed a 2006 recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that all children ages 12 months to 23 months be immunized against hepatitis A. Previously, vaccination was recommended only for children who lived in areas where hepatitis A rates were consistently higher than the national average.

The 2006 recommendation also lowered the age for hepatitis vaccine from 24 months or older to 12 to 23 months.

Following the new recommendations, the largest increases in vaccination rates occurred in areas of the United States where hepatitis A vaccination wasn't previously recommended, said the CDC researchers.

The study appears in the current Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which is published by the CDC.

The analysis of one-dose vaccine coverage suggests efforts to implement the new recommendations are well under way, the researchers said. They added that future analysis of two or more vaccine doses will offer a better idea of how well children are being protected from hepatitis A.


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.

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Posted: July 2009