Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
A baby treated with three anti-HIV drugs shortly after birth apparently has been cured of the disease, doctors said this week. The baby was born to a woman whose HIV infection was diagnosed when she was in labor. The child's treatment lapsed, but she still has no traces of the virus at age 2½, doctors said. U.S. health officials said this week that another big class of bacteria is becoming hard to cure. These antibiotic-resistant infections are caused by Enterobacteriaceae. They have now been seen in 42 states. An experimental treatment may have helped 3 women with extreme anorexia nervosa to gain weight, researchers said this week. The treatment uses stimulation with electrodes implanted deep in the brain. A new analysis of U.S. death statistics shows a downward trend in length of life for women in many places. This trend includes almost half of U.S. counties, the study found.
This Issue: Early Treatment Said to Cure Baby's HIV CDC Alarmed about Newer 'Superbugs' Brain Stimulation May Help Curb Anorexia Women Dying Sooner in Much of United States
In the News:
Early Treatment Said to Cure Baby's HIV
Early and aggressive treatment of a girl born with the virus that causes AIDS apparently has cured the disease, doctors said this week. They described the unique case at a conference. The baby was born in Mississippi to a woman whose infection with HIV was not known until she was in labor. Treatment of the baby with 3 anti-HIV drugs started the next day. That's faster and stronger treatment than usual in such a case. Treatment started even before tests confirmed that the girl was infected. It continued until the girl was 18 months old, when the family stopped bringing her to appointments. By the time she returned, she had not been taking medicine for 5 months. But tests showed no trace of HIV in her body. This was later confirmed by the most sensitive tests available. The girl is now 2½ and still HIV-free, doctors said. They described her as "functionally cured." Usually, stopping medicine leads to a relapse when HIV that has been hiding in the body starts to grow again. Doctors think starting treatment so early may have prevented these hidden pockets of virus from forming. The Associated Press and USA Today wrote about the new case.
CDC Alarmed about Newer 'Superbugs'
U.S. public health officials sounded an alarm this week about another group of "superbugs." Officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said these "nightmare bacteria" are increasingly resistant to treatment. They have been seen in 42 states. In the first 6 months of last year, about 4% of hospitals had at least 1 case, the CDC said. The rate was 18% in specialized, long-term hospitals. The announcement did not focus on germs that are widely found in drug-resistant form. MRSA, a type of staph infection, is one of the best known. Rather, the newer concern is about the family known as Enterobacteriaceae. At least 5 of the 70 types of bacteria in this group have become resistant to carbapenem antibiotics, the CDC said. These drugs are among the last lines of defense against bacteria that resist other antibiotics. The resistant bacteria include Klebsiella pneumoniae. This infection killed at least 7 patients in the National Institutes of Health's own hospital. Another type has become resistant because of a change in a gene called NDM-1. These infections are particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems. About half of those with bloodstream infections die, the CDC said. The Associated Press wrote about the announcement.
Brain Stimulation May Help Curb Anorexia
Researchers reported partial success this week with using deep-brain stimulation to help women with severe anorexia nervosa. The 6 patients were 24 to 57 years old and had the disease for 4 to 37 years. Standard treatments did not help them. They were extremely low-weight, with an average body mass index of 13.5. That's equal to about 65 to 70 pounds for a woman 5 feet, 5 inches tall. The women were severely ill and "in a state of starvation," researchers said. So the medical team decided to try something new. They implanted electrodes in each woman's brain. These were connected to a device similar to a pacemaker. This device delivered electric pulses to an area of the brain that is involved with regulating mood and anxiety. This area is overactive in people with anorexia. The study was designed just to find out if the treatment was safe. But within 9 months, 4 of the women had improvements in mood. Three were able to gain weight. The journal Lancet published the study. Canadian Press wrote about it.
Women Dying Sooner in Much of United States
Life expectancy is dropping for women in nearly half of U.S. counties, a study released this week found. The study calculated death rates for women ages 75 and younger across a 10-year period. These deaths were considered "premature" because they occurred at younger ages than expected. Nationwide, early deaths for women fell from 324 to 318 per 100,000. But in 43% of counties, the average early-death rate rose, from 317 to about 333 per 100,000. Many of these areas were in the South and West. Men had higher death rates in only about 100 counties. These numbers were adjusted to account for education, income and some other factors that affect early-death rates. Other studies have found similar trends. Women continue to live longer than men, but the gap is narrowing. Researchers are not sure why this is happening. Obesity and increases in women's smoking rates may be factors. The journal Health Affairs published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it.
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