November 10, 2008

Children in rainy areas may develop disorder


Children in California, Oregon and Washington are more likely to develop autism if they lived in counties with higher levels of annual rainfall when they were 3 or younger, suggesting that something about wet weather may trigger the disorder, according to a study released last week.

Among possible explanations: Bad weather could lead to more TV and video viewing, which in very young children have been linked to language-development problems. Or staying indoors could cause a deficit of vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin," increasingly found to play a role in health.

"If it rains a lot, children spend more time inside," said Sean Nicholson, a Cornell University policy analyst and an author of the study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. "It could be that there was something positive outside that they're getting less of, or there's something in the indoor environment that's harmful."

The study and an accompanying editorial stressed that the association between autism and precipitation has not been clinically proven and that possible explanations need further testing.

Los Angeles Times

Federal scrutiny delays release of various drugs


Stepped-up scrutiny by federal regulators is holding up the release of a string of drugs to treat such common ailments as high cholesterol and osteoporosis.

At least 10 drugs for treating a range of ailments from rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease to diabetes and acid reflux have been delayed or shelved indefinitely in the past three months, according to information compiled by the Chicago Tribune and disclosures by drug companies.

Such delays can be problematic for consumers because they may not be getting the best treatment for their ailments, drugmakers say. Although drug companies will not say how the delays will affect sales, new revenue is needed in an industry hampered by the economic downturn and myriad expiring patents and competition from cheaper generic drugs.

Chicago Tribune

Refrigerators, remotes common spots for germs


Someone in your house have the sniffles? Watch out for the refrigerator door handle. The TV remote, too. A new study finds that cold sufferers often leave their germs there, where they can live for two days or longer.

Scientists at the University of Virginia tested surfaces in the homes of people with colds and reported the results recently at a joint meeting of the American Society for Microbiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

For the study, researchers started with 30 adults showing early symptoms of colds. Sixteen tested positive for rhinovirus, which causes about half of all colds. They were asked to name 10 places in their homes they had touched in the preceding 18 hours. Researchers used DNA tests to hunt for rhinovirus.

"We found that commonly touched areas like refrigerator doors and handles were positive about 40 percent of the time" for cold germs, said Dr. Birgit Winther, an ear, nose and throat specialist who helped conduct the study.

Associated Press

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