Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Loss Of Biodiversity May Lead To Increase In Allergies And Asthma


Biodiversity (Photo credit: Dom Dada)

From the 9 May 2012 article at Medical News Today

Declining biodiversity may be contributing to the rise of asthma, allergies, and other chronic inflammatory diseases among people living in cities worldwide, a Finnish study suggests. Emerging evidence indicates that commensal microbes inhabiting the skin, airway, and gut protect against inflammatory disorders. However, little is known about the environmental determinants of the microbiome.

Ilkka Hanski et al. from the Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, investigated whether reduced human contact with nature and biodiversity influences the composition of commensal skin bacteria and allergen sensitivity in a random sample of 118 teenagers living in eastern Finland. The authors found that subjects living on farms or near forests had more diverse bacteria on their skin and lower allergen sensitivity than individuals living in areas with less environmental biodiversity, such as urban areas or near bodies of water. …

May 9, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , , , | Leave a comment

Ethical and Scientific Issues in Studying the Safety of Approved Drugs


Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the summary at Full Text Reports (May 5, 2012)

Ethical and Scientific Issues in Studying the Safety of Approved Drugs
Source:  Institute of Medicine
In any given month, an estimated 48 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug. Prescription drugs are crucial for preventing and treating diseases and improving the public’s health, but they can also have unintended harmful effects. Often, their benefits and risks cannot be fully identified until after a drug has been used by a large, diverse group of patients over time, mainly because clinical trials conducted before approval may be too small or too short to detect all possible risks. The passage of the Food and Drug Administration Act in 2007 provides the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with additional postmarketing regulatory tools to better protect the health of the public, including the authority to require manufacturers to continue studying drugs that are being marketed.
To help determine when it is appropriate to require a postmarketing study, which types of studies to require, how to best protect the rights and interests of patients who participate in research, and how to use research in making regulatory decisions, the FDA asked the IOM to evaluate the scientific and ethical aspects of conducting safety studies for approved drugs. The IOM concludes that the FDA’s current approach to drug oversight in the postmarket setting is not sufficiently systematic and does not ensure that it assesses the benefits and risks of drugs consistently over the drug’s life cycle. Adopting a regulatory framework that is standardized across all drugs, yet flexible enough to adapt to regulatory decisions of differing complexity, could help make the agency’s decision-making process more predictable, transparent, and proactive. These changes could allow the FDA to better anticipate post-approval research needs and improve drug safety for all Americans.

The free full text report is at

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Study Shows How Bird Flu Could Jump to Humans

From the 2 May 2012 article at MedPage Today
Action Points
  • Note that a paper published in Naturedemonstrated transmissibility between ferrets of a reassortant H1N1 influenza strain with four mutations in an H5N1 hemagglutinin.
  • Note that while the reassortant virus transmitted easily by respiratory droplets and that ferrets are a good model for human transmission, the virus did not cause a fatal illness in the animals.

A hotly debated study pins down four mutations in a key gene in the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu that allow it to adapt to mammals.

The mutations, in the hemagglutinin gene of the avian flu, are enough to make it easily pass among ferrets in droplet form, much as human-adapted flu passes among humans, researchers reported.

But the modified virus – a construct combining the modified H5N1 gene and seven genes from the human H1N1 pandemic flu — was not lethal to the animals, according to Yoshihiro Kawaoka, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin Madison, and colleagues.

And it remains unclear if a wild-type H5N1 virus that acquired the four mutations would be transmissible among mammals, Kawaoka and colleagues wrote in an online Nature report that was the subject of heated discussion even before it was published….

May 9, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | Leave a comment

Repairing the tear in health care’s safety net with social media

Excerpt from the post at (May 5, 2012)

…And while social media is by no means a replacement for in-person care, it should be a viable means for consumers to get safe, trusted health information from medical professionals online that provides enough orientation and preventative guidance that they do not need to visit the ER for routine care.

America needs to reverse the role of the safety net system back to its designated place of original design – with safety net care serving critical need patients without insurance or other economic means who require both proactive and reactive medical care.  We remain optimistic that healthcare reform will address some of these critical issues – and help to deploy more efficient protocols.  In the interim, we are hopeful that consumers and physicians will recognize the role that “information sharing” can play in empowering both patients and doctors to collectively embrace better, more accessible solutions…

May 9, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment

National Women’s Health Week (May 13-19 2012)

Why stop with just glancing at the information below? Maybe this is the time to take another small step to better health.
Maybe subscribing to the US Office on Women’s Health would be that step. (Left column at

These email updates have led me to recipes, health tips, and more.
For example, I’ve now been part of the Women’s Challenge to increase daily physical activity for about a year now. The Women’s Challenge  is part of the President’s Challenge…exercising often to get point based virtual bronze, silver, gold, and platinum medals. At my rate, it will take about 15 years to go platinum, but it is a goal!
Woman Challenge

More information about the Women’s Challenge here and the President’s Challenge here. 

From the Web site

It’s your time!

National Women’s Health Week is a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. It brings together communities, businesses, government, health organizations, and other groups in an effort to promote women’s health. The theme for 2012 is “It’s Your Time.” National Women’s Health Week empowers women to make their health a top priority. It also encourages women to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases:

Learn more about National Women’s Health Week.

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment


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