Sunday, August 13, 2006

Health Highlights: Aug. 12, 2006

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

HIV Prevention Pill Needs More Study
Can a pill taken once a day prevent HIV infection?
There's some evidence that a drug called Viread (tenofovir) -- already approved for treating HIV/AIDS in combination with other drugs -- might do the job, but it's going to take a larger study to make sure, according to a report by the Associated Press.
The first test of Viread as an HIV preventative, the wire service reports, was in Africa, and fewer people became infected when they took the drug. The problem was that very few people in the control group -- the study subjects who took a placebo -- became infected either, so a larger study is needed to determine Viread's effectiveness.
The results of the Africa study were released in Toronto Saturday, as health professionals gathered for the International AIDS Conference. "It's incredibly encouraging," the A.P. quotes Dr. Helene Gayle, president of the antipoverty group CARE and co-chair of the conference, as saying. The drug "would be an incredibly important new prevention tool that we should make available as soon as possible," she added.
Initial research on animals has indicated that taking Viread before being exposed to HIV, either through drugs or sex, could help prevent infection, the wire service reported.
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Dehydration Poses Danger In Airline On Board Liquid Ban
The new ban on air travelers carrying any liquids with them when they board a flight carries a threat of dehydration for some people with medical conditions, the Associated Press reports.
As a result, the wire service reports, at least one airline -- Atlanta-based Delta -- is adding extra supplies of bottled water on board. Water, soda and nutritional drinks are banned from being brought aboard a plane under the new regulations implemented after British law enforcement officials arrested a number of men in connection with a plot that would have involved mixing liquids to make a bomb.
The possibility of dehydration does pose a problem for some people who need to keep their body chemistry constantly in balance. "Some people can't eat ordinary airline food," the A.P. quotes Dr. David Freedman of the University of Alabama at Birmingham as saying. Freedman noted the problems faced by people who rely on Ensure and other over-the-counter nutritional supplement drinks, which have been banned.
Dehydration can pose some dangers, Dr. Marc Siegel, an internal medicine physician with the New York University School of Medicine, told the wire service. It is especially dangerous for those with diseased hearts or kidneys, he said. "Though I'm not calling this life-threatening, dehydration is not a good state for anyone ill to be in," Siegel is quoted as saying.
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Internet Drug Purchases Can be Dangerous: Study
The dangers of buying drugs from online pharmacies are highlighted in a British study published in the current issue of The Lancet medical journal.
The study cites the case of a 64-year woman who went blind after four years of taking drugs she bought on the Internet, Britain's Independent newspaper reported. The woman self-diagnosed herself with chronic fatigue syndrome and, on the advice of a neighbor, bought oral steroids from an online pharmacy in Thailand.
As she suffered vision loss, doctors found cataracts in both eyes and signs of glaucoma, both side effects of steroid use. The study authors warned doctors to be alert for patients who may have bought drugs online, the Independent reported.
"Some of the drug therapies can be counterfeit and contain a concoction of compounds that bear little resemblance to the drug names on the bottle," the study authors noted.
"Even if the patient receives the actual drug, there are many problems with this unchecked availability, including interactions with coexisting treatment, side effects, and the lack of careful medical monitoring," they wrote.
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FDA Adds Raw Clams to Pacific Northwest Shellfish Warning
Raw clams from the Pacific Northwest were added Friday to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's list of raw shellfish from the region that should be avoided because they may harbor disease-causing bacteria.
The agency issued its first warning July 31 that people shouldn't eat raw oysters from the region, saying the shellfish could harbor Vibro parahaemolyticus (VP), which could cause gastrointestinal problems among healthy consumers and more serious illnesses like blood infection (septicemia) in the elderly and others with weaker immune systems.
VP is a natural bacteria that's most prevalent during summer, the agency said. The FDA attributed its warnings to an "unusual increase" in the number of recent cases of gastrointestinal illness attributed to Pacific Northwest shellfish. The region's shellfish are distributed nationwide.
"To date, there have been 72 laboratory-confirmed, and an additional 105 probable, VP illness[es] reported from Washington State, Oregon and New York linked to contaminated oysters and clams," the FDA statement said.
Anyone who wants to eat clams or oysters harvested in the Pacific Northwest and similar shellfish from unknown origin should thoroughly cook them first, the FDA warned in Friday's updated statement.
Officials in Washington State are continuing to identify and close affected oyster beds, and shellfish from beds identified as contaminated have been recalled, the agency said.
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HIV Spreading Rapidly Among Gay and Bisexual Men in Asia
Stigma, intolerance, and government inaction are fueling the rapid spread of HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- among gay and bisexual men in Asia, says a report released Friday.
The survey of nearly two dozen countries found that HIV rates among men who have sex with men could be as high as 28 percent in Bangkok, Thailand; 16 percent in Andhra Pradesh, India; and 14 percent in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Agence France Presse reported.
"...These data represent an alarming trend, since male-male sexual activity in the region is diverse, often completely hidden, and beyond the reach of current prevention efforts," the report's authors noted.
The report was written by a Bangkok-based group called TREAT Asia, an initiative of the U.S. AIDS campaign organization amFAR, AFP reported.
"Governments in the region and international donors need to support appropriate prevention, care and treatment efforts for MSM (men who have sex with men) populations, or face a spiraling epidemic that could be far worse than any seen in gay communities in the West," said Keven Frost, director of TREAT Asia.
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Coke and Pepsi in India are Safe, Companies Say
Some states in India have banned Coca-Cola products due to alleged high levels of pesticides, but the soft drink company says the beverages produced in India are as safe as others made elsewhere in the world.
"No detectable levels of pesticides (were found) in Indian soft drinks when measured against the EU (European Union) criteria in an independent lab study," said a statement released Friday by Coca-Cola.
Last week, the privately-funded New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment said it found unacceptable pesticide levels in 11 drinks made in India by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Agence France Presse reported.

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