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Health Updates 12 July 2012

  • Antibiotic resistance spikes during flu seasonResistance to antibiotics spikes during flu season, likely because that’s when the drugs are prescribed more often, researchers report.  Physicians and scientists have worried for years about the possible overuse of antibiotics, since germs can adapt and become immune to them over time.  The researchers looked at statistics regarding antibiotic use and levels of resistance to the drugs.  They found that levels of drug-resistant E. coli went up after spikes in prescriptions of two antibiotics, aminopenicillin and fluoroquinolone.  The same thing happened to the antibiotic-resistant staph infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA.  In the months after prescriptions for two other antibiotics, fluoroquinolones and macrolides, went up, so did cases of MRSA.  ‘The correlations are concerning, but they also suggest that interventions to reduce antibiotic overuse would help reduce seasonal spikes in resistance,’ study author Ramanan Laxminarayan said in a Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy news release.  ‘Patients and doctors should work together to reduce the number of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions by not taking or prescribing antibiotics to treat viral illness, such as colds and flu.  Flu shots also have an important role to play, reducing illness in winter months and leading to fewer doctor visits and few antibiotic prescriptions as well’.  The study appeared online this month in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.” (HealthDay)
  • OxyContin remake sends abusers to other opioids: “Reformulating OxyContin to make it less abusable has led drug users to switch to other opioids, particularly heroin, a survey showed.  OxyContin abuse fell significantly after the abuse-resistant version was introduced 2 years ago, but use of other opioids — including fentanyl (Duragesic), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), oxymorphone (Opana), and heroin — jumped from about 20% to 32%…according to Theodore Cicero, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues.  ‘Abuse-deterrent formulations may not be the ‘magic bullets’ that many hoped they would be in solving the growing problem of opioid abuse’, they wrote in a letter in the July 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine The new version of OxyContin — harder to crush, chew or dissolve — entered the market in August 2010.  Between July 2009 and March 2012 the researchers surveyed 2,566 patients who were opioid-dependent but were entering a treatment program.  About 100 of these patients also gave personal interviews for further information about abuse patterns.  The researchers found the percentage of patients using OxyContin as their drug of choice fell from 35.6% before the new formulation was introduced to 12.8% almost 2 years later.  But the primary abuse of other powerful opioids…rose markedly during that time, from 20.1% to 32.3%, they found.  Indeed, clinicians and law enforcement officials now consider oxymorphone abuse a bigger problem than OxyContin abuse….While the abuse-deterrent OxyContin ‘successfully reduced the abuse of a specific drug’, the researchers wrote, it also ‘generated an unanticipated outcome’ that users simply switch to other opioids.  That’s a concern not only because it doesn’t do anything to stop the current opioid addiction epidemic, they said, but also because more powerful drugs such as heroin, which can put patients at greater risk of complications such as respiratory depression, can pose an even greater public health risk.” (Kristina Fiore, MedPage Today)
  • Massage right after muscle injury may boost healing: “Massage is known to help heal muscle injury, but the degree of recovery may depend on certain factors, such as the timing of the treatment, according to the results of a study in rabbits.  The findings could one day lead to specific prescriptions for massage to help exercise-induced muscle injury in athletes, the researchers said.  Knowing that massage therapy could ease muscle pain and weakness associated with exercise, the researchers from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center studied 24 white rabbits to determine the massage pressure, duration and timing needed to improve healing following a muscle injury.  In conducting the animal study, the researchers used a mechanical device that mimics movements associated with exercise and a second device that mimics a massage motion.  They compared different frequency, pressure and duration tests to determine their effect on muscle.  ‘We have translated what we thought was going on in humans, largely based on self-reporting, into the laboratory and designed the instrumentation to apply controllable and measurable forces,’ Dr. Thomas Best, co-director of OSU Sports Medicine, said in a university news release.  ‘We found if damaged muscle is massaged right away – for 15 minutes – there is a 20 to 40 percent chance of recovery.  Initial injury in the animal model was extended if massage did not take place within 24 hours,’ Best explained in the news release.  While the findings hold promise, experts note that research involving animals frequently fails to lead to benefits for humans.  The study authors said their findings provide potential guidelines for future clinical trials.  ‘We’re excited about the clinical implications of this research’, said Best.  ‘After testing in humans, we’ll potentially be able to prescribe specifics for massage to help exercise-induced muscle injury in athletes’.  The study was published online June 26 in the British Journal of Sports of Medicine.” (Ohio State University/MedlinePlus)
  • Health Tip: Help Prevent Drowning “Drowning is the fifth-leading cause of unintentional death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The CDC offers these suggestions to help reduce the risk of drowning:
    • Adults should always carefully supervise children around any body of water — including a bathtub.  Avoid any distractions, such as reading or talking on the phone.
    • Everyone should always swim with a buddy.
    • Everyone should take formal swimming lessons, especially young children.
    • Anyone with a seizure disorder should be carefully supervised around water.
    • Always wear a life jacket when on a boat.
    • Always build a barrier around pools to protect children, even if they know how to swim.
    • Don’t substitute water toys for life jackets.
    • Never drink alcohol while boating, swimming or supervising children in the water.
    • Never let children hold their breath for an extended period under water.” (Office on Women’s Health)
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