| Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of The HealthScout News Service:
Antibiotics to Carry Warnings Against Overuse
Antibiotics are to carry new labels warning consumers and doctors that overusing them makes them less effective, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled.
The FDA warning cautions doctors to be certain a patient has a bacterial -- not a viral -- infection before prescribing antibiotics, the Associated Press reports. The agency also reminds physicians to stress to their patients that the drugs must be taken exactly as directed.
Some physicians treat children with viral ear infections or adults with colds or viral coughs with antibiotics, which are useless against viruses. The FDA estimates that 50 percent of the 100 million antibiotic prescriptions written in doctors' offices every year are unnecessary.
Germs are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Many common infections, such as staph, no longer respond to drugs like penicillin, the AP says.
Infrequent Shavers Run Higher Stroke Risk: Study
Men who have to shave less frequently than other men may run a higher risk of stroke, a new British study says.
In a 20-year study of more than 2,000 men aged 45 to 49, researchers at the University of Bristol in south Wales found that those who had to shave less than once a day had a 70 percent greater chance of stroke, BBC News reports.
The 500 occasional shavers in the study were also more likely to smoke, suffer from angina and do manual work, and were less likely to be married. Still, even after these and other risk factors were considered, the researchers found the men had a 70 percent greater risk of stroke, and a 30 percent increased risk of dying from any cause.
Lead researcher Professor Shah Ebrahim told the BBC News that the reasons for the elevated risk aren't clear, but "there may well be some hormonal explanation." The answer may lie with the possibility that these men had less testosterone in their bodies, the researchers say.
Smallpox Shots Slowed By Compensation Concerns
The Bush Administration's plan to inoculate 10.5 million healthcare workers against smallpox is doomed to fail unless the federal government provides compensation for people who suffer adverse reactions to the vaccine, health officials from numerous states warn.
In the two weeks since the inoculations began, 432 people in 11 states have been vaccinated, the Washington Post reports. Health officials blame the slow start on a number of factors, including logistics. But they say the major cause of the holdup is people's fear about the lack of compensation.
Because the issue remains unresolved, New York City and Michigan may postpone inoculations for several months, a source close to the project told the Post.
The smallpox vaccination is often described as the most dangerous inoculation available today. Serious side effects, such as blindness and swelling of the brain, can occur in a small percentage of people vaccinated.
Bioengineered Pigs May Have Entered Food Supply, FDA Says
Pigs that may have been genetically altered appear to have been improperly given to a livestock dealer and may have entered the food supply, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.
Based on the information it now has, the incident -- if confirmed -- raises no public health hazard, the FDA says. It would, however, represent a significant breach of FDA regulations and would warrant "strong action" action those responsible from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, the agency says. The regulations require such animals to be destroyed, the FDA adds.
Between April 2001 and January 2003, school researchers allegedly released 386 pigs from their studies to a livestock dealer. The research involved increasing mother pigs' milk production so that, presumably, their offspring would grow faster. The researchers claim that while the parents of these animals were bioengineered (transgenic), they have verified that the returned offspring did not inherit the inserted genetic material from their parents. But the FDA says the record-keeping during the experiments was insufficient to verify the researchers' claims.
The FDA says it and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are still investigating the incident and will take appropriate action as needed.
Southern U.S. Blood Supplies Run Low as Testing Goes On
Blood shortages in the Atlanta and Nashville areas continue to worsen as blood suppliers await word from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about mysterious white particles found last week in donated blood.
Initially, lab results were expected to be available yesterday, but spokespeople for the CDC and the American Red Cross now say the findings may not be released until tomorrow or later, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Meanwhile, up to 70 percent of the blood supply around Nashville and an unspecified amount in the Atlanta region has been quarantined, forcing postponement of elective surgeries and leaving some medical centers "in dire need of blood," one hospital spokeswoman tells the newspaper.
Last week, the unidentified white globs began appearing in blood samples distributed to two regional Red Cross centers covering Georgia, northern Florida and parts of South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri, the Journal-Constitution reports. Initial tests have found that the particles weren't caused by infectious agents or sabotage, the newspaper says.
New Video Technique Allows Tracking of Alzheimer's
A new video technique allows scientists to track progression of Alzheimer's disease through the brains of living patients, researchers report today in The Journal of Neuroscience.
The technique involves a computer-generated 3D video derived from single brain scans taken over time, reports The New York Times. It could help doctors and pharmaceutical companies track the progression of new anti-Alzheimer's drugs, experts say.
The technique was devised by scientists representing the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Queensland in Australia, Addenbrooke's Hospital in England, and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals.
After using the technique on 12 Alzheimer's patients, the researchers found that brain loss progressed at up to 5 percent a year in people with the disease, versus about 0.5 percent annually among people who aged normally.
-- Felicity Stone
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