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Health Highlights: May 29, 2009

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

Malaria Showing Signs of Drug Resistance

There's evidence that malaria in some parts of Cambodia is becoming resistant to front-line artemesinin drugs, a situation that needs to be contained because full-blown resistance would pose a serious worldwide health crisis, scientists warn.

Until now, these drugs cleared all the malaria parasites from a patient's blood within two or three days. But two teams of scientists conducting research in western Cambodia have found this process can now take four or five days, BBC News reported.

It's not clear why this resistance appears to be developing in this region of Cambodia, but the use of anti-malaria drugs isn't properly controlled and the local public health system is weak. Currently, malaria kills about a million people a year. About half the world's population faces exposure to malaria, BBC News reported.


Deadly New Virus Identified in Africa

A deadly new hemorrhagic virus has been identified in Africa after it infected five people, killing four of them. The so-called "Lujo" virus causes bleeding like the Ebola virus.

The outbreak of the new virus began last September when a women in Zambia became ill with a fever-like illness that quickly became much more serious. She was taken to a hospital in South Africa, where she died, the Associated Press reported.

A paramedic who treated the woman and three health-care workers also became infected and three of them died. It's believed the virus spreads from person to person through contact with infected body fluids, investigators said.

"This (virus) is really, really aggressive," Dr. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University epidemiologist involved in the discovery of the new virus, told the AP. He and his colleagues reported on the virus in a paper published online in the journal PLoS Pathogens.


Genes Main Cause of Premature Ejaculation: Study

Genes, not nerves, are the main cause of premature ejaculation, according to a Finnish study that included more than 3,000 men.

The men, all pairs of male twins and their younger or older brothers, were interviewed about the first time they had sex. Many of them said they experienced erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, United Press International reported.

The researchers concluded that premature ejaculation appears to be strongly associated with genetic factors, but not with external factors such as nervousness or intoxication. However, external factors can cause erectile dysfunction.

The study was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.


Illinois Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

A bill to allow Illinois residents to use medical marijuana if they have serious diseases such as AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis was passed by the Illinois Senate in a 30-28 vote, the Associated Press reported.

The Illinois House will now consider the bill. Earlier this year, a House committee passed a medical marijuana measure.

If the bill is eventually signed into law, Illinois would become the 14th state to have such measures in place, Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, told the AP.

Opponents say that legalizing medical marijuana would make it difficult for police to enforce other marijuana laws and would be a move toward general legalization of the drug.


Wisconsin County Eliminates Black Infant Mortality Gap: CDC

The elimination of a large disparity in black and white infant deaths in a Wisconsin county suggests that this type of achievement is possible across the United States, a new U.S. report concludes.

Between 2002 and 2007, the death rate among black infants in Dane County decreased by 67 percent, resulting in the elimination of the 3:1 black-white infant mortality gap that existed for all of the 1990s in the county, according to the study, published Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers noted that a disparity in black and white infant death rates exists in most, if not all, of the United States.

The large reduction in black infant deaths in Dane County was due to a sharp decline in the number of premature births and fetal deaths that occur during the sixth and seventh month of pregnancy, the study said.

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Posted: May 2009