In Brief

In Brief

August 11, 2006


Bird flu watch for U.S., territories

Monitoring of wild migratory birds to prevent a deadly bird flu virus is expanding to cover the entire nation and U.S. territories in the Pacific Ocean.

The stepped-up testing will be done by scientists in the lower 48 states, Hawaii and other Pacific islands. They will begin keeping an eye out for the deadly H5N1 strain of the avian flu that has killed more than 100 people, mostly in Asia.

In Alaska, where the first migratory birds began arriving, monitoring started just before summer.

"This move to test thousands more wild birds throughout the country will help us to quickly identify, respond and control the virus if it arrives in the United States," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Wednesday. "Because we cannot control wild birds, our best protection is an early warning system."

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said more coordinated monitoring by federal agencies, states and universities "will be important this fall as birds now nesting in Alaska and Canada begin their migration south through the continental United States."


Colon cancer

Curry and onions may reduce risk

Curry and onions might do much more than spice up a meal. They also could help prevent colon cancer.

A new study in this month's issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, found that a pill containing large doses of curcumin (a chemical found in curry and turmeric) and quercetin, an antioxidant found in onions, helped prevent precancerous polyps in several people at high risk for colon cancer.

Five people with an inherited disease called familial adenomatous polyposis, which often leads to colon cancer, took the pill for six months. The average number of polyps the patients developed dropped by more than 60 percent, and the average size of the polyps was reduced by 50 percent, said Dr. Francis M. Giardiello, senior author of the study and a gastroenterologist at the cancer center at the Johns Hopkins University.

To have a real effect, the chemicals probably need to be taken in pill form, Giardiello says. "You can put a lot of turmeric on your food, and it's still only 3 percent to 6 percent of curcumin," he says. "The supplement is multiple times what you eat in a regular diet."

Los Angeles Times

Mental health

Drug gives quick help for depression

Government researchers say they have had striking success in treating depression in a matter of hours, using an experimental injectable drug that acts much more quickly than conventional antidepressants.

The study, based on a small sample, is part of a push to develop treatments that can bring quick relief to patients.

Much more work on ketamine needs to be done before patients can see benefits from the breakthrough, the researchers said.

Carlos Zarate Jr., chief of the mood disorders research unit at the National Institute of Mental Health, and his colleagues published a paper about their findings in Monday's issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Chicago Tribune


High statin doses cuts recurrence

High doses of a cholesterol-lowering drug may help some stroke survivors avoid a second stroke and future heart problems, the initial test of this approach found.

Experts said medical guidelines will probably be changed to recommend high doses of statin drugs as a routine part of stroke care for certain patients.

For every 100 people given high doses of the statin Lipitor, there were about two fewer strokes and three to four fewer major heart problems than among those given dummy pills, but also one more hemorrhagic stroke, or bleeding into the brain.

"Even with that risk, you can clearly see a benefit," said Dr. Adnan Qureshi, director of the cerebral vascular program at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.

Previous studies in heart patients found that statins cut the risk of a stroke, but this was the first test of one of the drugs specifically in stroke survivors. The findings were published in yesterday's New England Journal of Medicine. Lipitor's maker, Pfizer Inc., paid for the study.



UM center to study diarrheal diseases

The University of Maryland School of Medicine's Center for Vaccine Development has received a $27.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to study diarrheal diseases in young children in Africa and Asia.

Researchers said the goal is development of vaccines and other measures to prevent diarrheal diseases in the world's poorest countries.

"Diarrheal diseases are the second most common cause of death among young children in developing countries," said Dr. Myron Levine, a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Vaccine Development. "Children die in these countries because of a lack of clean water and proper sanitation and the consumption of contaminated foods."

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