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Health Headlines - November 2

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:22pm

Most U.S. Adults Support School-Provided Birth Control

Most U.S. adults (67 percent) favor allowing public schools to provide birth control to students and 62 percent said they believe providing contraception would reduce the number of teen pregnancies, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Thursday.

Those in favor of schools providing contraceptives include 37 percent who think they should be given only to students who have parental consent, and 30 percent who believe contraceptives should be available to any student who asks for them.

The survey of 1,004 adults found that those who were younger and from cities or suburbs were more likely to support no restrictions, while minorities, older and lower-income people were more likely to favor parental consent, the AP reported.

Whites and high-income earners were most likely to be opposed to schools providing birth control to students.

Other survey findings included:

  • 51 percent of respondents said sex education and birth control would be better for reducing teen pregnancies, while 46 percent said morality and abstinence were better methods. Nearly 70 percent of white evangelicals and about half of Catholics and Protestants preferred abstinence.
  • 49 percent of respondents said providing teens with birth control wouldn't encourage sexual intercourse, while 46 percent said it would.

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New Laser Technique Kills Bacteria and Viruses

Targeted laser pulses can destroy harmful bacteria and viruses and may prove effective in treating infections, according to an Arizona State University study in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter.

The researchers developed a method -- called impulsive stimulated Raman scattering (ISRS) -- that uses laser pulses to destroy microorganisms without harming healthy human cells. The scientists said this technique may eventually offer a new way to control viruses and bacteria commonly found in hospitals, CBC News reported.

The research to date "suggests that ISRS will be ready for use in disinfection and could provide treatments against some of the worst, often drug-resistant, bacterial and viral pathogens," study author Professor Kong-Thon Tsen said in a prepared statement.

Currently, ultraviolet (UV) rays are used to zap bacteria and viruses, but these types of rays often lead to cellular damage, CBC News reported.

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New Staining Techniques Produce "Brainbow"

Using the latest cell staining techniques to highlight neurons in up to 90 distinct colors, Harvard University researchers have created a vivid "brainbow" of brain tissues, BBC News reported.

This use of multiple fluorescent proteins to highlight specific areas could help research into the circuitry of the nervous system and improve understanding of brain wiring problems associated with a number of diseases. Until now, fluorescent labeling only had the capability of producing a few colors.

"In the same way that a television monitor mixes red, green, and blue to depict a wide array of colors, the combination of three or more fluorescent proteins in neurons can generate many hues," said researcher Dr. Jeff Lichtman.

"There are few tools neuroscientists can use to tease out the wiring diagram of the nervous system. Brainbow should help us much better map out the brain and the nervous system's complex tangle of neurons," said Lichtman, BBC News reported.

The research appears in the journal Nature.

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U.S. Portion of Global Drug Sales to Decline in 2008: Report

Drug sales in the United States will decline from half of global sales two years ago to one-third of the worldwide market by 2008, says a new report released by the health care research firm IMS Health.

The company said the shift is a result of increasing prescription drug sales in China and other emerging economies, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's tighter scrutiny of drugs, the Associated Press reported.

Global sales of drugs are expected to increase by 5 percent to 6 percent to between $735 billion and $745 billion in 2008, compared with sales of between $695 billion and $705 billion in 2006, IMS said.

In the United States, prescription drug sales are predicted to increase 4 percent to 5 percent in 2008, to between $295 billion and $305 billion, the AP reported.

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FDA Must Improve Oversight of Foreign-Made Drugs: Lawmakers

American lawmakers say the Food and Drug Administration isn't doing enough to monitor the growing number of foreign-made drugs sold in the United States, and they want the agency to boost its efforts in that area, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA's lopsided emphasis on inspections of domestically made drugs puts the public at risk, say members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

Congressional investigators noted that nearly all U.S. drug makers are inspected at least once a year, while foreign drug manufacturers can go eight or more years between inspections, the AP reported.

Between 3,000 and 6,700 foreign makers of prescription drugs and drug ingredients sell their products in the United States, according to a briefing memo prepared for members of the subcommittee, which is holding hearings on the issue. The chief of the FDA has been called to testify at the hearings.

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Cold Sore Virus Linked to Alzheimer's

A British study adds to growing evidence that there may be an association between the cold sore-causing herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and Alzheimer's disease, BBC News reported.

In lab experiments, University of Manchester researchers found that brain cells infected with HSV-1 had increased levels of beta amyloid protein, which creates the plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The findings appeared in New Scientist magazine.

In other experiments, the researchers found that the brains of mice infected with HSV-1 showed increased levels of beta amyloid, and that HSV-1 was attached to the plaques found in the brains of dead Alzheimer's patients.

Previous research found that HSV-1 is present in the brains of up to 70 percent of Alzheimer's patients, BBC News reported.

This line of research may help in the development of a vaccine to prevent Alzheimer's, but any such breakthrough is a long way off, experts say.

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