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Health Updates 22 May 2012

  • Urban hospitals may act as breeding ground for MRSA“A dangerous antibiotic-resistant ‘superbug’ appears to originate in hospitals in large cities and then spreads to smaller hospitals, according to a new study.  Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland analyzed the genetic makeup of more than 80 variants of a major clone of methicillin-resistant Staphlycoccus aureus (MRSA) bacteria found in hospitals.  Their findings are published in this week’s online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  ‘We found that variants of MRSA circulating in regional hospitals probably originated in large city hospitals.  The high levels of patient traffic in large hospitals means they act as a hub for transmission between patients, who may then be transferred or treated in regional hospitals,’ study leader Dr. Ross Fitzgerald said in a university news release.  Older patients and those with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to MRSA….Poor hand washing by health care workers and lack of good infection-control practices add to the problem.  In the new study, the investigators also found that the MRSA they studied evolved from antibiotic-sensitive bacteria that existed more than 100 years ago.  MRSA first appeared about 50 years ago, after the introduction of antibiotics.” (MedlinePlus)
  • Study ties secondhand smoke to bladder irritation in kids: “Parents who smoke may put their children at greater risk for bladder irritation, according to a small new study.  Young children between the ages of 4 and 10 were at particular risk from exposure to secondhand smoke.  Bladder irritation involves the urge to urinate, urinating more frequently and incontinence.  The study revealed that exposure to secondhand smoke is linked to more severe symptoms of bladder irritation: The more exposure the children had, the worse their symptoms became.  Led by Dr. Kelly Johnson, researchers from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Rutgers University analyzed survey information on 45 children ranging in age from 4 to 17.  All had symptoms of bladder irritation….The children with moderate to severe symptoms were more likely to have consistent exposure to secondhand smoke, the researchers notes.  Of these kids, 23 percent had a mother who smoked and 50 percent of them were regularly exposed to secondhand smoke while riding in a car.  On the other hand, the children whose mother didn’t smoke and were not exposed to secondhand smoke in the car had only very mild or mild symptoms of bladder irritation”.  Note that the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until the study has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Secondhand smoke is the leading cause of preventable death in the US.  (HealthDay)
  • Some fats may harm the brain more: “Some studies have linked dietary fat to the development of dementia later in life.  A new study suggests that the risk may depend on the type of fat consumed.  Scientists studied 6,183 women over age 65, tracking their fat consumption and changes in their mental abilities over four years.  The women completed a food questionnaire at the start of the study, then periodically took tests of mental ability.  The researchers assigned a ‘change score’ to each volunteer, summarizing changes in memory and abstract thinking over time — the lower the score, the greater the decline.  The study appeared online…in the journal Annals of Neurology.  After controlling for many health and socioeconomic factors, the researchers found that women who consumed the most saturated fat were 60 percent more likely than those consuming the least to have change scores that put them below the 10th percentile.  On the other hand, women who reported consuming the most monounsaturated fat were 44 percent less likely to have change scores in the lowest one-tenth.  Consumption of polyunsaturated fats and trans fats was not associated with any change, nor was total fat.  ‘People might consider making changes or substitutions in their diet, switching out saturated fats in favor of monounsaturated fats,’ said lead author, Dr. Olivia I. Okereke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard.” (NY Times)
  • New data on harms of prostate cancer screening: “In a controversial finding that will affect at least 44 million American men, a government task force published its final recommendations against regular prostate cancer screening, concluding that the harms of the simple blood test far outweigh any potential benefit.  The recommendations, from the United States Preventive Services Task Force, offer the most detailed breakdown to date of the potential risks and benefits of the prostate specific antigen blood test, commonly known at the PSA.  Most important, the task force found that, at best, one man in every 1,000 given the PSA test may avoid death as a result of the screening, while another man for every 3,000 tested will die prematurely as a result of complications from prostate cancer treatment and dozens more will be seriously harmed.  Even so, the suggestion that men should give up annual prostate cancer screening has met with resistance, particularly from prostate cancer advocacy groups as well as some medical groups, including the American Urological Association.” (Tara Parker-Pope, NY Times)
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