“Eliminated” Measles is Still a Costly Disease

Seven patients with confirmed measles in a 2008 outbreak were not vaccinated against the disease. (Image: Douglas Allen/iStockphoto.com)

Three years ago, a 37-year-old Swiss traveler arrived at a Tucson, Ariz, emergency department with respiratory problems and a rash. Details of the case released today emphasize the high cost of measles more than a decade after the viral disease was eliminated in the United States.

An online account in the Journal of Infectious Diseases explains that the woman, who was not vaccinated against measles, was hospitalized on February 13, 2008, after she developed a fever during a brief trip to Mexico. Her measles diagnosis was not confirmed for a week. The case launched an outbreak of 363 suspected measles cases, 8 probable cases, and 14 confirmed cases in Tucson. Seven patients with confirmed measles were infected in health care settings, 6 in the same hospital. Four patients were hospitalized, 2 in intensive care units. Continue reading

Discovery Sheds Light on Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Researchers have discovered a mechanism that allows certain bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, to counter the effects of antibiotic therapy. (Image: Janice Carr/CDC)

Scientists have discovered a novel method that certain strains of bacteria use to counter the effects of certain antibiotics. The finding, published online in Science, could help drug researchers create new compounds that work in conjunction with established antibiotics to overcome a bacterium’s resistance mechanism.

The discovery comes at an opportune time as Congress considers legislation that would boost antibiotic-resistance research and provide incentives for companies to develop new therapies targeting drug-resistant bacteria. Continue reading

Armadillos Linked with US Leprosy Cases

Armadillos appear to have transmitted a unique strain of the bacterium that causes leprosy to humans in the southern United States. (Image: John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS)

Armadillos have been implicated in infecting humans in the southern United States with a never-before-seen strain of the bacterium that causes leprosy.

Researchers have known for decades that armadillos harbor Mycobacterium leprae, which causes leprosy, also known as Hansen disease. But cross-species infection is rare. In today’s New England Journal of Medicine, researchers in Switzerland and the United States report on extensive DNA analyses they conducted to link human leprosy cases with the unique strain of M lepraefound in armadillos. Continue reading

Author Insights: Adopting Guideline-based Treatments May Lower Risk of Fatal Heart Attack

Tomas Jernberg, MD, PhD, and colleagues in Sweden documented an association between adoption of guideline-based treatment strategies for patients with heart attacks and reductions in death rates. (Image: Tomas Jernberg, MD, PhD)

Patients who experience a heart attack are more likely to survive when they are treated according to guidelines that recommend evidence-based invasive procedures and drug therapies. But adoption of such evidence-based treatment strategies appears to be slow.

In an article appearing today in JAMA, researchers report that an assessment of data from a Swedish national registry of all patients with heart attacks found that death rates decreased as hospitals began to adopt recommended procedures and therapies. For example, between 1996 and 2007, the proportion of patients who were treated with a procedure to open up blocked coronary arteries increased from 10% to 84% and the number of those who were prescribed a statin to lower their cholesterol level increased from 23% to 84%. During the same period, the proportion of patients dying within 30 days of their heart attack decreased from 15.0% to 8.6%; the proportion dying within 1 year decreased from 21.0% to 13.3%. Continue reading

Pediatricians: More Regulation of Chemicals Needed to Protect Children, Pregnant Women

The federal government needs to improve its oversight of chemicals to better protect children and pregnant women, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. (Image: Baloncici/iStockphoto.com)

Children and pregnant women have special vulnerabilities to hazardous chemicals in the marketplace and the federal government should to do more to protect them, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

In a policy statement issued today in Pediatrics, the academy says that the primary federal law governing chemical management, the Toxic Substances Control Act, does not safeguard the health of children and pregnant women and has not undergone any meaningful revision since its passage in 1976. The AAP argues that the law has been used to regulate only 5 chemicals or chemical classes, namely polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), fully halogenated chlorofluoroalkanes, dioxin, asbestos, and hexavalent chromium. But tens of thousands of chemicals are in use and the law does not require chemical companies to conduct safety tests on their products before they go on the market or to perform follow-up studies after these chemicals are in the marketplace. Continue reading

Bullying: All in the Family?

Bullying is a widespread public health problem that could be more closely linked with family violence than previously realized. (Image: Helder Almeida/iStockphoto.com)

Bullying may be more of a family affair than previously realized, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A first-of-its-kind statewide survey shows that children and teens in Massachusetts who were involved in bullying were 3 to 7 times more likely than their nonbullying classmates to have witnessed violence in their families or been physically harmed by a family member.

The 2009 Massachusetts Youth Health Survey asked 2859 middle school students and 2948 high school students whether they had bullied others or been bullied at school during the previous year.

Prior studies have linked bullying with alcohol and illicit drug use, poor academic performance, and mental health problems. However, few have examined whether family violence plays a role. Continue reading

Pesticides Linked With Children’s Lower IQ Scores

Pesticide use has been linked with lower IQ test scores in children. (Image: Dušan Kostić/iStockphoto.com)

A trio of new studies shows that children whose mothers are exposed to organophosphate pesticides (OP) while pregnant score lower on intelligence tests and may have memory problems at age 7 years.

The studies, published online today in Environmental Health Perspectives, followed up women in California and New York during their pregnancies and tested their children’s cognitive development at various intervals up to age 9 years.

One of the studies, at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, included 329 children whose mothers’ urine samples were analyzed while they were pregnant for a breakdown product of OPs that indicates their exposure levels. Continue reading