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Health Highlights: May 18, 2012

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

U.S. Panel Mulls Bioterrorism Protection for Children

The question of whether the anthrax vaccine and other treatments being stockpiled in case of a bioterror attack should be tested on children is being considered by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

"We can't just assume that what we have for adults works for children," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the commission Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

The panel began discussing the issue Thursday and its recommendations are expected by the end of the year.

"There are serious ethical issues around the development of medical countermeasures for children in general," Sebelius said, the AP reported.

While it is important to develop ways to protect children from bioterror attacks, it must be done in a way that puts "our children's safety as our highest priority," she noted.


Stem Cell-Based Drug Approved in Canada

The first manufactured drug based on stem cells has been approved by Canadian regulators.

The drug Prochymal was approved to treat children suffering from graft-versusu-host disease, a potentially deadly complication of bone marrow transplantation. The drug is made by Osiris Therapeutics of Columbia, Md., The New York Times reported.

The approval is seen as a boost for the field of regenerative medicine.

"It's really a good day for the concept and the hope behind stem cell therapies becoming a reality," C. Randal Mills, the chief executive of Osiris, told The Times.

The company plans to apply later this year for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the drug.


Consumers Should Avoid South Korean Shellfish: FDA

U.S. federal and state officials are warning consumers against eating shellfish from South Korea and say that retailers should stop selling it.

A Food and Drug Administration analysis of the South Korean shellfish program found unacceptable water pollution levels in shellfish-growing areas and periodic presence of norovirus, which can cause gastroenteritis (stomach flu), the Washington Post reported.

On May 1, the FDA removed firms that transports South Korean shellfish off its list of approves shippers and said it may launch a recall of South Korean shellfish, specifically fresh, frozen or processed oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.

The FDA advisory does not affect South Korean crab or shrimp, or any shellfish grown and produced in the U.S., the Post reported.


Cancer Claims Life of Disco Queen Donna Summer

Disco diva Donna Summer has died of cancer at age 63, her publicist Brian Edwards announced Thursday.

Summer's career peaked in the mid- to late 1970s with a string of dance hits including "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls" and "Love to Love You Baby." Her career dipped somewhat during the anti-disco backlash of the early 1980s, but she had another huge hit in 1983 with "She Works Hard for the Money," CNN reported.

"I don't like to be categorized because I think that I am an instrument, and if you play me I'll make whatever particular sound is supposed to come out for that color," Summer told CNN in a 2008 interview.


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Posted: May 2012