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Health Headlines - May 26

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

Imported Monkfish May Actually be Poisonous Puffer Fish: FDA

Americans should not buy or eat imported fish labeled as monkfish that may actually be puffer fish containing a dangerous and potentially deadly toxin called tetrodotoxin, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

The agency said that 282 22-pound boxes of the fish were imported from China and distributed by Hong Chang Corp., of Santa Fe Springs, Calif. to wholesalers in Illinois, California and Hawaii beginning in September 2006.

Two people in Chicago became ill after they ate soup made with the fish and one of them had to be hospitalized. Initial symptoms of tetrodotoxin poisoning include tingling of lips, tongue, face and extremities. Subsequent symptoms may include headache, balance problems, excessive salvation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Anyone with these symptoms should seek immediate medical care, the FDA said.

Severe cases of tetrodotoxin poisoning can cause muscle paralysis and death due to respiratory muscle paralysis.

The boxes containing the fish are white, with one label that reads "FROZEN MONKFISH GUTTED AND HEAD-OFF" and "PRODUCT OF CHINA." A second label includes nutritional facts and the following information: "Ingredients: Monk fish; Imported by Hong Chang Corp, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670; Product of China (P.R.C.)" A third label has a checkbox indicating the size as either "0.5-1" or "1-2" and show the net weight as 22 pounds.

There are no manufacturing codes on the boxes. The fish are individually wrapped in plastic bags with no labeling.

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Kentucky Cardiologist Nominated as Next U.S. Surgeon General

Kentucky cardiologist Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr. has been nominated by U.S. President George W. Bush to be the country's next surgeon general.

Holsinger, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Kentucky, has held numerous academic and administrative positions. He served as Kentucky's secretary for health and family services, chancellor of the University of Kentucky Medical Center, and has taught at several U.S. medical schools. He also served more than three decades in the United Stares Army Reserve before retiring in 1993 as a major general, the Associated Press reported.

Bush said that, as the 18th surgeon general, Holsinger would focus his efforts on fighting childhood obesity. The Senate should quickly confirm Holsinger, urged Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.

The term of the previous surgeon general, Dr. Richard Carmona, was allowed to expire last summer, the AP reported. He was best known for a major report condemning secondhand smoke.

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TV Viewing Tied to Higher Blood Sugar in Diabetic Kids

The more time they spend in front of the television, the more difficult it is for diabetic children to control their blood sugar levels, concludes a Norwegian study in the June issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

The three-month study of 538 children with type 1 diabetes found that blood sugar levels increased with every hour of TV viewing. The highest blood sugar levels were in children who watched at least four hours of TV a day, the Associated Press reported.

The study authors said the findings "suggest that encouraging children with type 1 diabetes to watch less television may be important for improved blood glucose control and better health outcomes."

Snacking and overeating can increase blood sugar levels, while physical activity can help lower them. This study focused only on TV viewing. It didn't examine the children's diet or physical activity.

One expert said the study results may suggest that children with type 1 diabetes who already have consistently high blood sugar levels may feel too unwell to do anything but watch TV, the AP reported.

"It's very clear that there's a relationship. Now the question is what underlies that relationship," said Jill Weissburg-Benchell, a psychologist and diabetes educator at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

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FDA Approves New Drug for Bacterial Vaginosis

Tindamax, the first new oral treatment for bacterial vaginosis in a decade, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Mission Pharmacal of San Antonio, Texas announced Tuesday.

The new drug provides a shorter course of treatment, with fewer doses per day, than metronidazole, the current standard of care, the company said. Patients take two tablets (a total of one gram) of Tindamax once a day for five days or four tablets (two grams) once daily for two days. Metronidazole is taken twice-daily for seven days.

The FDA approval is supported by a study of 235 women with bacterial vaginosis that reported a cure rate of 27.4 percent for women who took two grams daily for two days and a cure rate of 36.8 percent for women who took one gram daily for five days. Women who took a placebo had a cure rate of 5.1 percent.

Side effects included nausea, anorexia, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, weakness/fatigue, dizziness and headache.

Bacterial vaginosis, which affects about a third of women in the United States, is the most common vaginal infection among women of childbearing age. The infection often causes no symptoms. Left untreated, it can increase a woman's susceptibility to other sexually transmitted diseases and the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and cervicitis.

Tindamax is also approved to treat trichomoniasis, the most common curable sexually transmitted disease in the United States.

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High-Fat, High-Fructose Diet Can Spur Fatty Liver Disease

Mice that ate a high-fat, high-fructose diet -- similar to what many Americans eat -- quickly developed fatty liver disease and signs of diabetes, according to a Saint Louis University study presented at the Digestive Diseases Week meeting in Washington, D.C.

Fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis and death.

The diet offered to the mice contained 40 percent fat (about what would be found in a typical McDonald's meal) and plenty of high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener used in sodas and some fruit drinks. The researchers also restricted the rodent's amount of activity.

"We had a feeling we'd see evidence of fatty liver disease by the end of the (16-week) study," study author Dr. Brent Tetri, associate professor of internal medicine at the university's Liver Center, said in a prepared statement. "But we were surprised to find how severe the damage was and how quickly it occurred. It took only four weeks for liver enzymes to increase and for glucose intolerance -- the beginning of type 2 diabetes -- to begin."

These findings in mice are a warning for humans, he said.

"A high-fat and sugar sweetened diet compounded by sedentary lifestyle will have severe repercussions for your liver and other vital organs," Tetri said. "Fatty liver disease now affects about one of every eight children in this country. The good news is that it is somewhat reversible -- but for some it will take major changes in diet and lifestyle."

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NIH Ends Chimpanzee Breeding

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced this week that it is permanently ending the breeding of government-owned chimpanzees for research.

The move was applauded by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

"This decision is a huge step towards a day when chimpanzees are no longer used in invasive biomedical research and testing," Kathleen Conlee, director of program management for animal research issues for the society, said in a prepared statement. "This will spare some chimpanzees a life of up to 60 years in a laboratory. While it doesn't help chimpanzees already living in laboratories, it is a monumental decision."

The NIH's National Center for Research Resources said that a lack of money to support the breeding of more chimpanzees was the reason for the decision. Currently, the U.S. government spends $20 million to $25 million a year on the care of chimpanzees in laboratories. A lifetime of care for one chimpanzee costs $300,000 to $500,000.

Of the estimated 1,200 chimpanzees in nine laboratories throughout the U.S., about 500 are government owned or supported. About 90 chimpanzees formerly used in research are now retired and live in a federal sanctuary.

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