In Briefs

In Brief

April 21, 2006


Pregnancy spacing affects baby health

Women who get pregnant less than 18 months after giving birth face a higher risk of having a small, premature or low-birth-weight baby, according to a new study. The report, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, also found that spacing pregnancies more than five years apart brought a higher risk of complications.

The study provided the most comprehensive look at the issue of spacing between pregnancies, which over the years has produced myriad recommendations. "Before we could talk about the importance of good spacing, but we couldn't talk about what it means," said Dr. Nancy Green, medical director of the March of Dimes. "Now the advice we give to a woman is very clear."

Dr. Agustin Conde-Agudelo of Santa Fe de Bogota Foundation in Colombia, who led the study, said the findings could prevent thousands of annual infant deaths. "The new evidence presented in our study makes child spacing compelling as a health issue of global importance," he said.

The research analyzed data from 67 studies conducted in the United States, Europe and underdeveloped nations during the past 30 years.



Illness risk higher on longer cruises

A three-week cruise sounds more leisurely than a three-night Bahamas getaway, but it also can increase the chances of contracting gastrointestinal illness, according to a new study released this week.

Unveiled at the annual meeting of the federal Vessel Sanitation Program in Port Everglades, Fla., the study found that the risk of gastrointestinal illness is greater on longer cruises. It also shows that last year did not see a significant decline in the high levels of viral intestinal disease that abruptly began in 2002.

Industry officials couldn't say why people on longer cruises are more at risk, but some speculate a higher number of days at sea without a port call could be a factor.

At least 101 cruises and 10,842 passengers have been hit by the virus family known as noroviruses since 2002. The viruses, which also occur on land, are common, hardy and easily spread by personal contact. This year, about a dozen cruises have had outbreaks of the nonfatal illness, which can cause 48 to 72 hours of vomiting and diarrhea.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Bacteria produces super adhesive

A common bacteria that clings to the inside of water pipes stays in place with the strongest glue known to exist in nature, according to a team of researchers reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists found that the bacteria Caulobacter crescentus can withstand a force equivalent to 5 tons per square inch - the pressure exerted by three or four cars balanced atop a quarter - before it is swept from its moorings.

Yves Brun, an Indiana University biologist who co-authored the research, said the super adhesive the bacteria produces could theoretically be mass-produced for engineering and medical purposes, including as a biodegradable glue to replace sutures and staples in surgery.

"The challenge will be to produce large quantities of this glue without it sticking to everything that is used to produce it," he said.



Mediterranean diet cuts risk

The arsenal against Alzheimer's may get a pleasurable addition: a Mediterranean diet chock-full of fish, olive oil, grains, fresh produce and moderate amounts of wine, a study suggests.

Investigators who studied 2,258 New Yorkers found that those who followed the diet most closely were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer's during the four-year follow-up, according to this month's Annals of Neurology.

Compared with those who followed the plan loosely, those who stuck with the diet's restrictions on dairy products, saturated fats, meat and poultry were about 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's, the study showed. The diet already has been associated with a lower risk of cancer, heart disease and premature death. Elements also showed promise against Alzheimer's in previous research, investigators said.

"The effect could be mediated by a vascular mechanism, because this diet has been related to lower risk of a series of cardiovascular diseases and conditions," said researcher Nikolaos Scarmeas, assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. The effects may also be because of the effects of antioxidants or reduced inflammation, he said.



Mushrooms can be vitamin source

Mushrooms may soon emerge from the dark as an unlikely but significant source of vitamin D - the sunshine vitamin that helps keep bones strong and fights disease. Preliminary research shows that brief exposure to ultraviolet light can zap even the blandest and whitest farmed mushrooms with a giant serving of the vitamin.

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