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Health Tips ... from UPI

By LIDIA WASOWICZ, UPI Senior Science Writer   |   Oct. 7, 2002 at 4:45 AM
FALL OFFERS NO RELIEF

The coming of fall does not lessen the threat of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus or hundreds of other diseases that affect both humans and animals, scientists caution. These are called zoonotic diseases. The good news is most of the ailments are avoidable and treatable, said the investigators from Purdue University. So, when the leaves turn color, people should continue to be on their guard. In fact, October can be among the worst months for mosquitoes, entomologists said. Last October, Indiana recorded its first West Nile fatality in a horse. This year, by the end of September, the illness had infected more than 3,500 horses nationwide and about 2,200 people, causing 95 human deaths. Many other zoonotic diseases aren't spread by mosquitoes, and most aren't passed directly from animals to humans, said Larry Glickman, professor of epidemiology and environmental health. The general public is familiar with many of these ailments, such as rabies and Lyme disease, but others, such as Ehrlichiosis and larva migrans, are relatively unknown. "Zoonotic diseases run the whole gamut of types of organisms," Glickman said. "Some of these organisms don't appear to cause disease in the animal that harbors them, while others are as toxic to the animal host as they are to the human or animal to which the illness is passed." The best way to avoid mosquito- and tick-borne diseases is to limit exposure to the insects, said Ralph Williams, an expert on disease-spreading insects. For protection, wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants and use insect repellent containing diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), Williams advised.


WARNING: RAW SPROUTS MAY BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH

The Food and Drug Administration is warning that eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts may endanger health. The federal organization is updating its health advisory on such risks because of recent outbreaks of the E. coli bacteria associated with food poisoning. The cautionary note includes raw and lightly cooked mung bean sprouts. Since the FDA issued its original health advisory in 1999, sprouts have been implicated in several outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. Children, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and other vulnerable individuals should not consume raw or lightly cooked sprouts, government scientists said. Symptoms of bacteria-contaminated sprouts can include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping and fever for several days.


UNIQUE STUDY FOCUSES ON ANOREXIA NERVOSA

The National Institute of Mental Health is funding the first government-sponsored genetic study of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. The five-year, $11 million study brings together 11 groups of researchers from North America and Europe. The aim is to find regions of the human genome that contain genes that affect anorexia risk. To find the regions, the researchers will recruit families with two or more members with present or past anorexia and analyze their DNA. "There is no known treatment for anorexia nervosa. Studies such as this one should help us understand how differences in the genes of some individuals contribute to this illness. These findings should help develop truly effective therapies," said Dr. Walter Kaye, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and co-principal investigator. "In addition to the development of new treatments, studies that identify the genetic basis of illnesses such as anorexia nervosa will undoubtedly help to reduce unfair stigma toward the mentally ill," said Dr. Harry Brandt, head of the department of psychiatry at St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore.


CHANGE OF THINKING ON HIV

For a while now, scientists have thought that people whose disease-battling systems cannot control HIV have too few virus-fighting white blood cells called DC8+ T cells. But the latest research results suggest a different answer. It appers it's not the number but the qualtiy of these cells that counts. In view of the findings, scientists are reviewing their ideas about why the disease-fighting immune system of some individuals with HIV can control the spread of the virus, which cannot be reined in by most infected individuals. The new study shows that those who can and cannot control the virus have about the same number of HIV-fighting CD8+ T cells, but the cells of the so-called "nonprogressors" function better. "Understanding the mechanisms by which the immune systems of long-term nonprogressors control HIV is important to our development of effective vaccines," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Studies like this one, which reveal basic knowledge about how the immune system interacts with HIV, form the foundation of our effort to fight this disease." Details of the study are published in the online issue of Nature Immunology.


(EDITORS: For more information about FALL, contact Susan Steeves at 765-496-7481 or ssteeves@purdue.edu; about SPROUTS, contact Kim Rawlings at 301-436-2288 or krawlings@oc.fda.gov; about ANOREXIA, contact Craig Dunhoff at 412-647-3555 or DunhoffCC@upmc.edu; about HIV, contact Jeff Minerd at 301-402-1663 or jminerd@niaid.nih.gov.)

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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