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International Study Investigating Early Biology of HIV Infection

AIDS/HIVMay 02 06

In July 2005, the race to find a vaccine that would stem the worldwide rate of 13,000 new cases of HIV infection each day moved from competition among research institutions to a strategy of cooperation.

An international “virtual research center”  -  the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI)  -  was awarded up to $300 million over seven years to support efforts to develop an HIV vaccine.

The first of several research studies in this collaboration now is under way and is aimed at gaining new knowledge into the biology of HIV infection during its earliest days, before the immune system has produced antibodies to the virus.

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Teacher’s verbal abuse can lead to problem behavior

Children's HealthMay 02 06

Verbal abuse by a kindergarten teacher triggered by a child’s inattention or disruptive behavior can produce a “vicious cycle” that boosts the risk of delinquency and learning problems later on, a new study suggests.

The findings are not intended to put the blame on teachers, given that a child’s behavior is also a factor, but instead underscore the need for better support of classroom teachers in dealing with problem kids, Dr. Mara Brendgen of the University of Quebec in Montreal told Reuters Health.

“These are behaviors that cause disorder that make it very difficult for the teachers to manage the classroom,” she said.

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Kids may handle family gun unbeknownst to mom

Children's HealthMay 02 06

Parents’ perceptions about their children’s access to guns stored in the home are often inaccurate, according to the results of a survey conducted in a family practice clinic in rural Alabama.

In analyzing responses from 314 parent-child pairs, and 201 (64%) had guns in the house. While the researchers found that 39 percent of parents, particularly mothers, said that their child did not know where they stored the gun and 22 percent said their child had never handled the family gun, this was contradicted by the child’s response.

“Parents who locked their guns away and discussed gun safety with their children were as likely to be contradicted as parents who did not take such safety measures,” report Dr. Frances Baxley from San Francisco General Hospital and Dr. Matthew Miller from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

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Women with low vitamin D levels have small infants

Fertility and pregnancyMay 02 06

Pregnant women with relatively low amounts of vitamin D in their diets tend to give birth to smaller infants, a new study suggests.

Canadian researchers found that pregnant women who drank little milk or had a lower vitamin D intake tended to have smaller babies than women with higher intakes.

Fortified milk is a primary source of vitamin D in Western diets, and the nutrient may be the main reason why women’s milk consumption was linked to birthweight, according to the researchers.

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Antidepressants extend time to relapse in diabetics

DiabetesMay 02 06

Maintenance treatment with the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft) after a first episode of depression has resolved extends the time to relapse in patients with diabetes, study results suggest. And sustained remission of depression is associated with improved control of blood sugar.

Depression is highly prevalent among patients with diabetes, Dr. Patrick J. Lustman, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues note, and recurrence after initial successful treatment is common. Depression, in turn, is linked to increased morbidity and mortality among diabetics, they point out in the Archives of General Psychiatry for May.

Previous studies have been limited to no more than 16 weeks of treatment, the authors report. The goal of the current study was to see if continued antidepressant treatment beyond the first remission would be effective in prolonging depression-free periods and improving glycemic (blood sugar) control.

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Mom’s troubles up child’s risk of behavior problems

Psychiatry / PsychologyMay 02 06

When a mother suffers from mental health problems and other difficulties during her child’s first year of life, the child is more likely to have behavior problems later on, new research shows. And the more problems a mother faces, the greater the risk.

“The child’s brain is really shaped by the early environment, and mom is a big part of that, especially in the first year of life,” Dr. Robert C. Whitaker of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., in Princeton, New Jersey the study’s lead author, told Reuters Health.

This study provides “evidence of how early in life there’s a transfer of difficulty from one generation to the next,” Whitaker said, adding: “Early in a child’s life is an opportune time to break that cycle.”

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Calcium can reduce fracture risk in elderly women

Gender: FemaleMay 02 06

Calcium supplementation is an effective public health intervention for preventing fractures in elderly women, but it is only effective if women are compliant. Unfortunately, most women do not comply with treatment over the long-term.

Increased dietary calcium intake has been proposed as a population-based public health intervention to prevent fractures due to the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, note researchers in a report in Archives of Internal Medicine.

In a study lasting five years, Dr. Richard L. Prince, of the University of Western Australia, and colleagues examined whether calcium supplementation decreases fracture risk in elderly women.

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Brits warned against foreign IVF treatment

Fertility and pregnancyMay 01 06

British couples considering going abroad for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and other types of fertility treatment have been warned against the practice.

According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which monitors fertility clinics in England and Wales, people who choose to have their treatment abroad should understand the potential risks and implications before booking an IVF holiday.

The HFEA says standards in many countries do not match those in the UK and patients should consider what happens if something goes wrong, whether their information is kept confidential, the legal position of donors of eggs or sperm and how they are recruited, screened and compensated.

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Adolescents Need More Doctor Visits to Receive HPV Vaccine

Sexual HealthMay 01 06

Most adolescents currently do not see their health care providers often enough to receive the series of shots for the human papillomavirus vaccine, according to preliminary research from the University of Rochester Medical Center. However, the additional visits required would give physicians and nurses the opportunity to provide more preventive and other care.

Two types of the human papillomavirus (16 and 18), which is sexually transmitted, cause 70 percent of cervical cancers. Vaccines against those types of the virus are expected to be approved and recommended in the next six to 12 months.

“The benefits of giving adolescents the HPV vaccine are two-fold: The vaccine will greatly reduce their later risk for cervical cancer, and it will give us the opportunity to provide more preventive care, such as counseling against risky behaviors or screening for depression,” said lead investigator Cynthia Rand, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the university’s Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong.

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Small changes may stop kids’ ballooning waistlines

Children's HealthMay 01 06

Consuming one less soda or candy bar and walking an extra 2,000 steps every day may help prevent excessive weight gain in children, researchers report.

The findings, presented Sunday during the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco, are “really good news for families” in light of the widely-reported obesity epidemic among children, said Dr. James O. Hill of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

“With some very small changes you can begin to push back against childhood obesity,” he told Reuters Health.

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New theory on how the brain detects motion

BrainMay 01 06

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have discovered a neural circuit that is likely to play an important role in the visual perception of moving objects. Their finding, published in the April issue of the journal Neuron, forces neurobiologists to rethink the neural pathways that our brain relies on to detect motion.

It had long been assumed that sensory information about color and fine detail is relatively unimportant for the perception of moving objects. Mainly, because the neural pathways in the brain carrying color and fine detail information seemed to be completely separate from areas of the brain previously associated with motion processing.

In an elegant anatomical study, Salk researchers now show that a neural pathway carrying color and fine detail does connect to the motion processing areas of the cortex (the outer layer of the brain), and this information most likely helps the brain detect moving objects.

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Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine, Alcohol, Tobacco All Affect Children’s Behavior

Psychiatry / PsychologyMay 01 06

Children exposed to cocaine in the womb are more likely to grow up with behavior problems -  but so are those with prenatal exposure to legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco. These are the findings of a research paper by Dr. Henrietta S. Bada, chief, Division of Neonatology, professor of pediatrics, UK College of Medicine, and professor, UK School of Public Health, presented at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Francisco today.

When Bada and co-investigators from Brown University, University of Miami, University of Tennessee, Wayne State University, and Research Triangle Institute began their research, the effect of prenatal cocaine exposure on the behavior of children was unclear. With the presentation of Bada’s paper, “Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Trajectories of Childhood Behavior Problems Through Age Nine Years,” scientists have more insight into how drug use by mothers can affect children later in life.

The nine-year study found that even adjusting for factors such as socioeconomic status, home environment, caretaker depression and other prenatal drug exposures, the trajectory of behavior outcomes for children exposed to cocaine during fetal development differed significantly across three categories—external, internal and total behavior problems—from those for children not exposed.

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Forearm support may spare desk workers some pain

PainMay 01 06

Equipping office desks with a simple forearm support may help prevent the pain that can come with long days at a computer, new research suggests.

In a year-long study of 182 workers at a call center, researchers found that those who received forearm supports for their desks were less likely to suffer pain in the neck, shoulders, arm, wrist or hand.

They were also less likely to be diagnosed with a musculoskeletal injury in the neck or shoulders, according to findings published in the British Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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New method could predict individual patient responses to drug treatments

Public HealthMay 01 06

Scientists from Imperial College London and Pfizer have developed a new method that could predict individual patient responses to drug treatments. The authors anticipate that the development will advance biomedical research further towards development of personalised medicines.

Research published today in Nature demonstrates the new ‘pharmaco-metabonomic’ approach that uses a combination of advanced chemical analysis and mathematical modelling to predict drug-induced responses in individual patients. The method is based on analysis of the body’s normal metabolic products, metabolites, and metabolite patterns that are characteristic of the individual. The authors hypothesize that these individual patterns can be used to diagnose diseases, predict an individual’s future illnesses, and their responses to treatments.

Not all drugs are effective in all patients and in rare cases adverse drug reactions can occur in susceptible individuals. To address this, researchers from Imperial College and Pfizer have been exploring new methods for profiling individuals prior to drug therapy. The new approach, if successful, requires the analysis of the metabolite profiles of an individual from a urine, or other biofluid, sample.

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Autumn asthma peak driven by kids and colds

AllergiesMay 01 06

A Canadian study provides more evidence that the spike in hospitalizations for asthma that comes around every September is closely related to children returning to the classroom after summer vacation—because they catch viruses there that are known to exacerbate asthma, and share them with younger siblings and parents.

“The bottom line,” Neil Johnston from Ontario said, “is that asthmatics, especially those exposed to children, may be at high risk for worsening asthma symptoms following return to school after the summer vacation. They should be prepared for this,” he said, “by having and taking asthma control medications before and during this period.”

Johnston and colleagues analyzed Canadian asthma hospital admission data over a 13-year period. Their goals were to better understand the sequence of timing of September asthma hospitalization epidemics in children and adults and determine whether school-age children transmit agents that cause these epidemics.

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