Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
A vaccine that has shown promise in preventing tuberculosis in adults does not work for babies, a study published this week found. Another study related to child health found a link between low birth weight and air pollution. A conference on stroke research also produced news this week. One study presented there found differences in stroke risk based on diet. Southern food, such as fried foods and sweet drinks, was linked with the greatest risk. Another study showed that about 8% of stroke survivors consider suicide or think it would be better if they died. Other research released this week found that steroid shots don't help tennis elbow in the long run. They may actually hinder recovery, the study concluded.
This Issue: TB Vaccine Not Effective for Babies Study Links Pollution to Lower Birth Weights Southern Diet May Increase Stroke Risk Survey: Many Weigh Suicide after Stroke Study: Steroids May Hinder Tennis Elbow Recovery
In the News:
TB Vaccine Not Effective for Babies
The potential tuberculosis (TB) vaccine that is furthest along in development doesn't work for babies, researchers reported this week. The vaccine, called MVA85A, has shown promising results in tests involving adults. Newborns already are given a vaccine known as BCG. But it's only partly effective, so researchers are trying to produce a better vaccine. About 2,800 South African babies who already had received the BCG shots were randomly divided into 2 groups. Half received the new vaccine and half got placebo (fake) shots. In the next 3 years there were 39 cases of TB in the placebo group and 32 cases in the vaccine group. That means it was only 17% effective. A dozen other TB vaccines are also being tested now. The journal Lancet published the study online this week. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Study Links Pollution to Lower Birth Weights
Babies of mothers who breathe in polluted air are more likely to be underweight at birth, a new study finds. The study was released this week. Researchers based their conclusions on more than 3 million births. The locations included 14 sites on 5 continents. Less than 5.5 pounds is considered to be a low birth weight. These babies have a higher risk of health problems than babies of normal weight. Researchers looked at both coarse and fine particles in the air. They adjusted their numbers to cancel out the effects of the mother's income on birth weight. For every increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of inhalable coarse particles, the average baby weighed 3% less. For each similar increase in fine particles, birth weight decreased 10%. The highest pollution levels were in Seoul, South Korea. The lowest levels were in Vancouver, Canada. California had the highest U.S. pollution levels. Worldwide, it ranked in the middle. Parts of Europe and South America had higher levels than California. These areas permit more particle pollution than the United States does. The journal Environmental Health Perspectives published the study. The New York Times News Service wrote about it.
Southern Diet May Increase Stroke Risk
The classic meal of fried chicken and sweet tea may be setting up Southerners for a greater risk of stroke, a study released this week suggests. The finding also might explain a lot of the higher stroke rate that blacks have compared with whites, researchers said. Blacks nationwide were 5 times more likely to eat a Southern diet than whites were. The Southern diet included fried foods, processed meats such as ham and bacon, organ meats such as liver and gizzards, and sweetened tea and sodas. Hamburgers and hot dogs also were included. People who ate 6 meals a week featuring these foods had a 41% higher stroke risk than people who ate them about once a month. Stroke risk was 29% lower for people who ate a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish than for those who ate little of these foods. The study was based on food surveys given to more than 20,000 adults, ages 45 or older. Stroke patterns were seen during 5 years of follow-up. The Associated Press wrote about the study. Results were presented at a conference of the American Stroke Association.
Survey: Many Weigh Suicide after Stroke
About 8% of stroke survivors have thought about suicide or thought they'd be better off dead, a survey suggests. Researchers said the percentage of those pondering suicide after stroke was higher than for people who had heart attacks, cancer or other health problems. The study was based on a large national health survey taken during the years 2005 through 2010. It included a total of 17,000 people. In all, 678 reported having a stroke at some time in the past. People were asked: "Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself?" About 6% of heart attack survivors, 5% of people with diabetes and 4% of people with cancer reported such thoughts. A stroke damages the brain. That damage might affect mood and lead to higher rates of depression than with the other conditions, an expert not linked to the study told the Associated Press (AP). Survey results were presented at a meeting of the American Stroke Association this week. AP wrote about the study.
Study: Steroids May Hinder Tennis Elbow Recovery
Steroid shots may make tennis elbow worse in the long run and more likely to return, a new study finds. Tennis elbow is caused by repeated or excess use of the arm. This produces small tears in tendons attached to the elbow. Rest, ice and pain medicines can help relieve symptoms. But many people also get shots of steroids such as cortisone to reduce inflammation and pain. The study included 165 adults who had tennis elbow for longer than 6 weeks. They were randomly divided into 4 groups. One group got a steroid injection. Another group got a fake injection. The other two groups got real or fake shots plus physical therapy. After 4 weeks, people who got the steroids were doing best. After a year, 83% of them had recovered. But 93% of those with the fake shots recovered. So did all of those who got fake shots plus physical therapy. Tennis elbow returned for about half of those who got steroids. Only 5% of the physical therapy group and 20% of those who got the fake shot had this problem. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study this week. The Associated Press wrote about it.
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