Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Immune System Quiz and other KidsHealth Information Just for Kids

The Immune System Quiz uses upbeat music and wild cheering to motivate kids to progress through 10 questions.

The quiz is provided by KidsHealth, part of The Nemours Foundation‘s Center for Children’s Health Media.
See the About page for more information about this site whose content is reviewed by doctors before publication.

The Movies and Games section includes links to not only games and movies but also experiments, quizzes, and experiments.
These links are also found within Kids Health Web pages addressing specific  topics.

Here is a sampling on the sections for kids ( there are also sections for teens and for parents)

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preventing Bacterial Infections from Medical Devices – Research Study Results

Preventing Bacterial Infections from Medical Devices – Research Study Results

Microscope image of clumps of spherical bacteria.This scanning electron micrograph shows a clump of Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria (green) in the extracellular matrix, which connects cells and tissue. Image courtesy of NIAID/Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

From the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Matters news release

New research has identified a protein that helps bacteria break away from medical devices like catheters and spread throughout the body. The finding gives insight into how bacterial communities called biofilms cause disease and provides a potential target for future treatments.

Biofilms are complex, multi-layered microbial communities. They can form on biological surfaces like teeth, or on medical devices that are placed inside a patient, like catheters. Bacteria in biofilms are resistant to antimicrobial agents and difficult to treat. Biofilms made up of Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria are a major cause of infection in hospitals, and can lead to sepsis.

A research team led by Dr. Michael Otto of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) set out to determine how bacteria from biofilms detach and disperse. They looked at a protein released by S. epidermidis called phenol-soluble modulin beta, or PSMβ. They chose PSMβ because of its structure, which hinted that it might act like a type of molecule, called a surfactant, that can help bacteria spread.The scientists first confirmed that S. epidermidis in biofilms make PSMβ protein. Then, to test whether the protein promotes biofilm formation, they cultured mutant bacteria that can’t make their own PSMβ. They found that adding medium levels of PSMβ to the cultures led to more biofilm formation, but high levels led to less. This suggested that PSMβ may play a dual role, helping biofilms form while also helping bacteria detach from them.

To look at detachment more directly, the researchers genetically engineered bacteria to turn green upon making PSMβ. When examined under a microscope, the bacteria making PSMβ were seen mostly at the outer layers of the biofilm, or detached and floating in fluid. Moreover, a strong green signal usually appeared just before bacteria disappeared from that area. This suggested that bacteria made PSMβ immediately before leaving the biofilm.

To see if PSMβ could help bacteria spread in a living organism, the team put 2 catheters in mice. One catheter had normal S. epidermidis on it. The other had a mutant lacking PSMβ. Within a few days, the normal bacteria spread to the organs and body fluids, but the PSMβ-lacking bacteria barely migrated at all.

In an attempt to stop the bacteria from spreading, the team treated mice with antibodies against PSMβ. The antibodies prevented bacteria from spreading to all the organs except for the lymph nodes, where numbers were significantly reduced.

PSM proteins have also been found in other Staphylococcus species. Although this research is still in its early stages, it opens up new avenues for curbing biofilm-related infections. “This is very important particularly because it links this mechanism of biofilm detachment to spread of infection in vivo,” Otto says.

—by Allison Bierly, Ph.D.


December 29, 2010 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using the nutrition facts label – A FDA guide for older adults

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a nutrition facts label guide in PDF format.

It includes information on how to read the labels and also provides guidance in other nutrition areas as calories, daily values of nutrients, and importance of select nutrients as fat, fiber, cholesterol, and calcium.

The FDA Website has a Web page devoted to food safety, regulations, and other FDA related topics. It includes links to recall information, information on dietary supplements, food ingredients, and more.

Related Web Sites of Note

Nutrition (MedlinePlus) provides links to overviews, health check tools, videos, patient handouts, and related issues

Diet and Nutrition (Netwellness) gives links to general nutrition information, symptoms & tests, how to stay healthy tips, and treatment (as the DASH diet)

One may Ask-An-Expert, and receive a reply within a few days. There is a link to previously answered questions.

Food and Nutrition ( has links to general nutrition Web pages, nutrition for weight loss, kids & nutrition, and special diets (as the Mediterranean diet)


December 29, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drug Overdoses on the Rise in Most Age Groups

Various prescription and street drugs may caus...

Image via Wikipedia

Pyschoactive_Drugs.jpg‎ (457 × 400 pixels, file size: 37 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)

Image taken from English Wikipedia, originally uploaded by Thoric.

An arrangement of pyschoactive drugs including (counter-clockwise from top left): cocaine, crack, methylphenidate (Ritalin), ephedrineMDMA (Ecstasy – lavender pill with smile),mescaline (green dried cactus flesh), LSD (2×2 blotter in tiny baggie), psilocybin (dried Psilocybe cubensis mushroom), Salvia divinorum (10X extract in small baggie), diphenhydramine(Benadryl – pink pill), Amanita muscaria (red dried mushroom cap piece), Tylenol #3 (contains codeine), codeine containing muscle relaxant, pipe tobacco (top), bupropion (Zyban – brownish-purple pill), cannabis (green bud center), hashish (brown rectangle)

From the December 23, 2010 Reuters health news item

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) — More and more people are dying from abusing or misusing drugs, including both prescription and illegal drugs, new research suggests.

In some groups, deaths from “accidental poisonings” — most the result of drug overdoses — are more than ten times higher than they were in the late 1960s, the study found.

While the notoriously drug-loving baby boomers account for part of the recent increase as they age and embrace prescription medications, death from accidental poisoning is higher across almost all age groups than it was a few decades ago, especially among white Americans. And the upward trend doesn’t appear to be leveling off.

“I went in expecting to see a blip (in increased accidental poisonings) with the baby boomer(s),” Dr. Richard Miech, the study’s lead author and head of Health and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver, told Reuters Health. After all, he said, “you’ve seen pictures of Woodstock.”

Miech was surprised that the boomer generation’s impact on the death rates was overshadowed by a “huge increase” in accidental poisoning deaths overall — an increase he attributes to the growing number of prescription drugs being taken in the United States by all age groups.

Miech and his colleagues analyzed data from the U.S. Census, which counts all people in the country, as well a register that tracks the number of deaths from different causes every year. Putting them together, the researchers could calculate the percentage of people of different ages and races dying from accidental poisonings annually.

Overall, white men and women were more than nine times as likely to die from an accidental poisoning in 2005 through 2007 than they were in 1968 and 1969 according to the analysis, which is published in the journal Addiction. Black men and women were about three times more likely to die from the same cause in recent years than they were 40 years ago.

Because of changes in the body or changes in drug use, the greatest proportion of overdoses happen in people in their 40’s and 50’s — and that age group, which currently includes the tail-end of the baby boom generation, is where some of the biggest changes in poisoning rates over time showed up.

In 1968, for example, about one in every 100,000 white women in their early 50’s died from accidental poisoning. In 2007, 15 out of 100,000 did so. Among black women of the same age, accidental poisoning deaths during the same timeframes increased from about two people in 100,000 to almost 17 in 100,000. Both white and black men had even larger jumps.

While the increases weren’t quite as striking in younger adults, the study found that deaths from accidental poisonings are significantly higher for almost every age group. That trend that was particularly clear among white Americans.

Although the authors couldn’t tell what drugs were responsible for the most accidental poisonings, the majority of prescription drug abuse involves painkillers, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Vicodin (containing acetaminophen and the opiate drug hydrocodone) is the most commonly abused prescription drug in the U.S.

Such medications having become so common is likely one of the major drivers behind the increasing deaths, Miech said. According to a 2004 government report, almost half of all Americans take a prescription drug. With more prescriptions come more opportunities for people to get addicted, to take drugs that aren’t theirs, or to use drugs for non-medical purposes, all of which can have dangerous consequences.

Theodore Cicero, who studies drug abuse at Washington University in St. Louis, agrees. In general, he said, a certain percentage of the prescription drugs that are given to patients will be used for non-medical purposes. “Even if it’s a very small percentage, when the number of people (getting prescriptions) grows, obviously you’re going to have more drugs in the illicit market,” he told Reuters Health.

But it’s hard to tell someone with chronic pain, for example, that the risk of abuse or misuse isn’t worth a drug’s benefit, Miech said. And that leaves researchers and policy makers stuck.

What’s needed is for people to be more aware of the dangers these drugs pose, Miech said. Yet even with the deaths of celebrities like Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson, he pointed out, the public still hasn’t stopped to take a closer look at how prescription drug use can go wrong.

“You can, in fact, overdose on prescription meds just as easily as you can overdose on illegal drugs,” Cicero said. “Addiction is addiction no matter what the drug source is. That message has not yet come across.”

Death from prescription painkiller overdose has “been an epidemic in the last ten years,” Dr. Wilson Compton, director of the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told Reuters Health.

But figuring out how to stop prescription drugs from ending up in the wrong hands is harder than it looks. The government, Compton said, can’t encourage people to flush their extra drugs down the toilet — that could harm the environment — and pharmacies aren’t set up to take them back.

Miech has the same fears. “Ultimately, I don’t have any silver bullets to come up with a way to reduce this huge increase” in deaths from accidental poisoning, he said.

Related MedlinePlus Pages


Prescription Drug Abuse

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment


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