Health Tips

March 7, 2002 at 4:40 AM
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According to studies at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, mood as well as smoking and eating habits influence upper respiratory tract infections. The first study recruited 498 healthy students who were asked to return if they developed an upper respiratory tract infection within six to 96 hours of symptoms developing. "The 188 participants who developed colds were more likely to drink and smoke than those who remained healthy, which confirms previous findings," says study author Professor Andy Smith. "Not only that, but smokers and participants who had a lot of stress in their lives became ill more quickly than non-smokers." The second study was based on participants keeping a diary for 10 weeks and recording illness and problems of memory and attention. "We found that those who had more than one illness were less likely to eat breakfast and consume alcohol," says Smith. "Those who developed multiple illnesses had also endured more negative life events in the last 12 months."


Higher HIV levels among men significantly increases the likelihood they will spread the virus that causes AIDS to their female sex partners, according to research conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, found that with every 10-fold increase in the HIV viral load, the likelihood of transmission increased 81 percent. The study is also the first to document this trend among people infected with HIV subtype E, which is closely associated with heterosexual transmission of the disease and is a common strain in Thailand and other parts of Asia. "For our study, we examined many factors involved in the heterosexual transmission of HIV from men to women," says Kenrad Nelson, a doctor and a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins. "As the viral loads increased among men, the likelihood of HIV transmission increased dramatically."


The National Blood Service in the United Kingdom says it's actively considering restrictions on blood donated by women who have been pregnant, because it can trigger a fatal lung condition in the recipient, The London Times reports. Four people are known to have died in Britain in the past four years because they have received blood from donors who are mothers. "Women who have been pregnant produce antibodies to protect themselves from the foreign cells of the fetus, and the levels rise with each pregnancy," says Elizabeth Love, a hematologist. These antibodies can cause a rare condition, Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury, in some patients. In fact, there are an average 15 cases a year, Love said. News of the British deaths emerged after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration alerted doctors to be aware of problems caused by the blood condition. According to the FDA, in the past eight years at least 55 people have died from blood donated by women after their second pregnancy. One possibility being considered by the British is for blood from women who have had several pregnancies to be used only in low-risk situations, such as transfusions with the plasma removed.


A team led by University of California at San Francisco researchers has determined how the weapons producers of the immune system -- the B cells that make antibodies -- find the T cells they must team up with to attack invading pathogens. The discovery may provide a strategy to block autoimmune diseases, according to a report published in the journal Nature. Before they encounter foreign microbes, B cells concentrate in regions where few T cells reside, moored by their attraction to a certain kind of molecule called a chemokine. But contact with antigen from an invading microbe triggers changes in the B cell surface that draw them, irresistibly, to another type of chemokine, concentrated in T cell-rich sites. This shifting balance of opposing chemical attractants may underlie a broad range of cellular movement in embryological development, the scientists conclude. "We have known for some time that the antigen triggers a change that prompts B cell migration, but we didn't know how the process worked," says Jason Cyster, at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "This process is not only critical in the action of most vaccines, but it likely plays a central role in autoimmune diseases."

(EDITOR: For more information, about BREAKFAST, call (44) 1793-413122; about IMMUNE, call (415) 476-2557.)

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