The Ebola Outbreak: What You Need to Know

Ebola virus

Ebola has taken hold of the news recently, both because of the size of the outbreak and because of the terrifying nature of the disease. The outbreak is believed to have started in February in southeast Guinea, but has since spread to Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia. So far it has infected 1,100 people and has killed 660 of those infected. Among those now believed to be infected are two American physicians working with a relief organization to treat those infected in Western Africa. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Tylenol, Brown Fat, Sleep Patterns

Tylenol may not work for acute back pain: Acetaminophen has long been the first drug of choice for sudden (acute) back pain, but an Australian study is calling this into question. More than 1,600 people with acute lower-back pain either took acetaminophen tablets regularly three times a day, took acetaminophen only as needed or took placebo tablets for up to four weeks. “People in all three groups took about the same number of days to become pain-free: 17 days in the regular-dose group and the as-needed group, and 16 days in the placebo group. Participants also kept track of their daily pain (on a scale of 1 to 10), and pain scores across the three groups were about the same throughout the study.” (Fox)

Keeping brown fat may help control diabetes: Brown fat is the furnace of our bodies and uses energy to regulate our body temperature. This is especially important as baby’s, but as we get older and become better at regulating our temperature, we lose brown fat.  Researchers have known for some time that brown fat is also involved in regulation of body weight, but new research is showing it may also play a role in diabetes. “[A] report published in the journal Diabetes…[by researchers] at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found for the first time that adults who retained more amounts of brown fat were better able to keep blood sugar under control and burn off fat stores.” As of yet, researchers haven’t found a way to turn our natural stores of brown fat “on” or “off.” (Time)

What time you wake up may reflect your personality: It appears night owls may have a rougher time than early risers according to a new study from a group of researchers in Spain. “They found that morning people tend to be more persistent. Morning types are also more resistant to fatigue, frustration and difficulties, which often translates into lower levels of anxiety and lower rates of depression, higher life satisfaction and less likelihood of substance abuse. On the other hand, evening people tend to be more extravagant, temperamental, impulsive and novelty- seeking, ‘with a higher tendency to explore the unknown.’ They are more likely to suffer from insomnia and ADHD. They also appear to be more likely to develop addictive behaviors, mental disorders and antisocial tendencies, and even to attempt suicide.” Researchers think both social and genetic factors underlie these differences. (CBS)

Patients with Pill Changes More Likely to Stop Medications

Colored pills, tablets and capsules

When your doctor writes you a prescription, the pharmacy often swaps it out for a cheaper generic version of the pill. This can happen during medication refills as well, with some pharmacies even switching out different generics based on changing supply. All these switches can lead to pill color and shape changes, even if the medication and dose is the same.

With pill swapping behind the counter becoming more common, a group of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston wanted to know if these changes made any difference in whether or not people took their medications. The researchers looked at patients who had been discharged from the hospital after a heart attack and who were put on a variety of blood pressure and cholesterol medications. All medications studied had generic alternatives. They looked at how often the color or shape of pills changed while a person was taking them and looked to see whether that change was associated with how often they stopped taking their medications. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Probiotics, Fruit Recall, HPV Testing

Probiotics may help control your blood pressure: Researchers have found that consuming probiotics, which are the “good” bacteria found in cheeses, yogurt and milk, may help control blood pressure. “Researchers found that consuming the proper amount of probiotics over at least two months appeared to modestly lower blood pressure.Past studies have shown probiotics can have a positive effect on blood sugar, cholesterol and certain hormones – all of which can impact blood flow.” The reductions are modest with “probiotic consumption [lowering] systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 3.56 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 2.38 mm Hg, compared to a placebo or no treatment,” but the findings reveal an unexpected new ally in helping fight high blood pressure. (Reuters)

Fruit recall over concerns of bacterial contamination: Fruit supplies from a California grower are being recalled because of possible contamination with a bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. “Wawona Packing Co. is voluntarily recalling peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots that were packed at its Cutler, California, warehouses between June 1 and July 12.” Wawona supplies stores like Sam’s Club, BJ’s, Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Costco’s. No illness has been reported to date. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious infection in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with weak immune systems. Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. (CNN)

HPV testing more effective than Paps for cervical cancer screening: The Pap smear has long been the standard screening tool to prevent cervical cancer in women, but testing for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has become a standard addition since HPV causes the vast majority of cervical cancer. A new study using data from “more than 1 million women finds the HPV test outperforming the standard Pap test in assessing cervical cancer risk. Researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) conclude that a negative test for HPV (human papillomavirus) infection is associated with an extremely low risk for cervical cancer and provides greater assurance of low cervical cancer risk than a negative Pap test.” This supports the current practice of using both Pap smears and HPV testing to detect cervical cancer and “bolsters support for use of the HPV test alone as another alternative for cervical screening.” (CBS)

Today’s Headlines: Alzheimer’s Prevention, Friendship & Genetics, and Prostate Cancer Treatment

Diet and exercise effective in fight against Alzheimer’s: A Swedish study of 1,260 at-risk individuals shows lifestyle changes can help in Alzheimer’s prevention. “Half were randomly assigned to get an intensive lifestyle makeover, with both group and individual nutrition advice, an exercise trainer, and a nurse or physician who made sure they took their medications. In addition, these volunteers benefited from a social support system. The other half received appropriate health care, but not at the intensive level the intervention group did, and without the social support of their fellow participants. After just two years, the group that group that got the lifestyle makeover were in much better shape.” (TIME)

New study shows genetics may help people choose friends: Our friends are as similar to us genetically as you’d expect fourth cousins to be, according to the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This means that the number of genetic markers shared by two friends is akin to what would be expected if they had the same great-great-great-grandparents.” (Washington Post)

New study offers evidence against effectiveness of testosterone therapy in treating prostate cancer:Dr. Lu-Yao and her colleagues followed tens of thousands of men with early prostate cancer for as long as 15 years and found that those who received androgen deprivation therapy lived no longer on average than those who did not. The study joins a growing body of evidence indicating that for many men with early prostate cancer, avoiding testosterone-suppressing drugs altogether may be better than grappling with their potentially devastating toll.” (NYT)

 

 

 

Today’s Headlines: Contraception, Pelvic Exams, Diabetes in Elderly

Supreme Court rules in contraception case: The Supreme Court ruled on Mondaythat requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. It was, a dissent said, ‘a decision of startling breadth.’” (NYT)

American College of Physicians says pelvic exams not required during well visits: But the latest evidence review found that in non-pregnant adult women without symptoms, there are no studies showing that cancer is actually detected by pelvic exams alone. And the screenings are more likely to hurt women than help them.” (Washington Post)

Elderly more likely to be overtreated for diabetes: “A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine, by researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs, notes that among adults aged 65 and older, insulin and sulfonylurea drugs are ‘the second most common medications associated with emergency department visits or hospitalizations and adverse drug events.”’That’s just the tip of the iceberg, experts believe.” (NYT)

 

 

 

Today’s Headlines: Too Much TV, Acne Treatments, and Older Moms Live Longer

New study shows correlation between TV watching and premature death: The Journal of of the American Heart has published a study that suggests that watching too much television may cause an early death. Researchers looked at subjects’ driving time, computer time and time spent watching television. “They didn’t find any associations with computer time and driving, but they report that the risk for death was two times higher for participants who watched three or more hours at a time, even when the study authors accounted for other factors related to early death.” (TIME)

FDA warns consumers about acne treatments: The FDA is advising shoppers looking skin care products to be aware of certain ingredients that may cause rare allergic reactions. “For now the agency wants consumers to stop using the products immediately if they experience tightness of the throat, breathing problems, lightheadedness or swelling of the eyes, face or lips. Users can test their sensitivity to a new treatment by dabbing a small amount on their skin for three days. If they don’t experience a reaction the product can generally be used safely as directed.” (ABC)

Women who give birth at an older age may live longer: New research suggests that women who have children after the age of 33 without the assistance of fertility treatments are more likely to live longer than women who had their last child before they turned 30. “The results of the Boston University School of Medicine study are consistent with other findings on the relationship between maternal age at birth of last child and what researchers consider exceptional longevity–generally living until 95 or older.” (Washington Post)

Today’s Headlines: Baby Fat, Polio, and Reading Aloud

Regrowing baby fat may help metabolism: Researchers have found that cooler temperatures may help in the regrowth of brown fat (aka baby fat) which may help fight diabetes.”Dr Lee, a clinical research fellow from Sydney’s Garvan Institute recruited five healthy men to spend every night for four months in a temperature controlled lab set at 19 degrees celsius. During this time their brown fat cells grew a staggering 40 per cent and their metabolism increased. But when they were kept in a 27 degree room their brown fat cells and metabolism decreased.” (ABC)

Polio virus in sewage near World Cup: Tests showed that the polio virus was in sewage near an airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The WHO released a statement saying that due to the high immunity of World Cup attendees, the virus should not be a threat. “Tests suggest the virus came from Equatorial Guinea, a central African country that reported its first outbreak of polio, four cases, earlier this month. It’s a reminder that any disease is only a plane ride away from any country.” (NBC)

New recommendation asks parents to read to children from birth: The American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new recommendation for parents: read to children aloud from infancy. “With the increased recognition that an important part of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills, the group, which represents 62,000 pediatricians across the country, is asking its members to become powerful advocates for reading aloud, every time a baby visits the doctor.” (NYT)

Today’s Headlines: Ebola Deaths, ‘Selfie’ Diagnosis, Gut Health

World Health Organization reports Ebola outbreak: Three countries in Africa, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have reported cases of Ebola with a current estimated death toll at 337 people. “WHO has tried to coordinate the regional response but imposing the restrictions needed to control such an infectious disease has proven difficult. WHO said last month an earlier dip in cases masked the seriousness of the outbreak.” (Reuters)

Woman’s ‘selfie’ helps doctors with diagnosis: A Canadian woman documented her stroke symptoms via video. “Two days before the recording, doctors at a local emergency room in Toronto dismissed her face numbness and slurred speech as stress-related. They told her stroke tests had come back negative and counseled the 49-year-old legal secretary on breathing techniques.” The footage helped doctors diagnose the woman’s ‘mini strokes’ that were caused by a buildup of plaque in her arteries. (CNN)

Exercise may help foster good gut health: A new study suggests that physical activity could help contribute to a healthy digestive tract. The study looked at the stool of professional athletes versus samples from men with sedentary lifestyles. “As it turned out, the internal world of the athletes was quite different from that of the men in either of the control groups. The rugby players had considerably more diversity in the make-up of their gut microbiomes, meaning that their intestinal tracts hosted a greater variety of germs than did those of the other men, especially the men in the group with the highest B.M.I.” (NYT)

 

Today’s Headlines: Caffeine, Bionic Pancreas, Cancer Risk

Caffeine effects genders differently: “It’s established that caffeine consumption can increase blood pressure and lower heart rate in adults, and researchers from University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, have shown in the past that the same side effects happen in kids. This new research, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that the different ways caffeine affects males and females starts at puberty, with boys’ hearts more affected than girls’.” (TIME)

Man invents ‘bionic’ pancreas to help ill son: A biomedical engineer has created a machine that nay help in the regulation of blood sugar. “On Sunday, at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, Damiano – now an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University – and his colleague, Dr. Steven Russell of Harvard Medical School, presented the results of a study comparing this bionic pancreas to the insulin pumps that are currently used. In this small study, 20 adults and 32 adolescents used the device over the course of five days.” (ABC)

Sitting too much may raise cancer risk: A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that people who spend most of their day sedentary could have a higher risk for certain cancers. “People who spent the most time sitting during the day had a 24 percent increased risk of getting colon cancer compared to those who logged the least number of hours in a chair, according to the study.” (CBS)