Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
New research released this week showed that type 2 diabetes in children and teens may be hard to keep under control. A controversial study involving a lethal strain of bird flu was published this week after delays over security concerns. The study showed how easily the virus could change and be able to spread among mammals. Two reports on the health of babies were published this week. A study found that the rate of narcotic withdrawal symptoms in newborns has tripled in 10 years. A report from several health groups said that 1 out of 10 babies born worldwide is premature. Facebook made health news this week by launching a feature that helps people sign up as organ donors.
This Issue: Study: Type 2 Diabetes Hard to Control in Kids Painkiller Withdrawal Triples in Newborns Report: 15 Million Born Too Soon Each Year Controversial Bird Flu Research Published A New Facebook Status: Organ Donor
In the News:
Study: Type 2 Diabetes Hard to Control in Kids
Teens who develop type 2 diabetes may have a hard time controlling it, a study published this week suggests. The study included 699 children, ages 10 through 17. All had been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This type is usually diagnosed in adults. But more cases have occurred in children as obesity rates rise. The teens in the study were given the drug metformin to return their blood sugar levels to normal. Then they were randomly divided into 3 groups. Everyone took metformin. One group had no other treatment. One also received diet and exercise counseling. The third group also took the drug rosiglitazone (Avandia). After 4 years, half of those taking metformin alone were meeting their blood sugar goals. Results were about the same in the diet and exercise group. Control was a bit better, about 61%, for those who took 2 drugs. But a study leader told the Associated Press (AP) that this 2-drug treatment would not be recommended. Since the study began, Avandia has been linked to a higher risk of heart problems. Researchers said the study shows a need for prevention of child obesity and diabetes. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study online.
Painkiller Withdrawal Triples in Newborns
The growth of painkiller use and abuse has led to another surge in drug dependence, this one among newborns, a new study finds. The study takes the first close look at the problem. Newborns go through withdrawal symptoms if their mothers take opiate drugs. These include street drugs such as heroin. But similar effects occur with prescription painkillers. Hydrocodone (Vicodin and others) and oxycodone (Oxycontin and others) are the best known. Researchers looked at data on U.S. hospital stays between 2000 and 2009. They found that in those 10 years the number of babies with withdrawal symptoms tripled. Babies need to be weaned off these drugs slowly, in the hospital. Usually, they are given smaller and smaller doses of methadone, which is used to treat addicts. This can take weeks or months. Hospital charges for treating the babies grew from $190 million to $720 million in the same 10-year period, the study estimated. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study this week. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Report: 15 Million Born Too Soon Each Year
About 15 million babies are born early (prematurely) each year around the world, a report released this week says. That's more than 1 out of 10. More than 1 million of those babies die, the report says. In the United States, the premature birth rate is 1 out of 8. That's on par with the rates in Somalia, Thailand and Turkey. It's twice as high as in Sweden and Japan. In all, 127 countries have lower rates than the United States. But U.S. survival is high because of its advanced medical care. Premature birth is defined as birth before the 37th week of pregnancy. About 3 out of 4 premature babies could survive even without costly medical care, the report says. For example, $1 steroid shots are routine during premature labor in developed nations. They help babies' lungs to mature. "Kangaroo care" also could save thousands of babies, the report says. This means that a mother carries the baby next to her chest, skin to skin. It allows the baby to stay warm when there's no incubator available. The March of Dimes, the World Health Organization and a group of health experts released the report. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Controversial Bird Flu Research Published
Research about bird flu was published this week after months of delays based on security concerns. The study suggests that only a few changes to a gene on the surface of the H5N1 flu virus might allow it to spread easily among mammals. The virus has a high death rate among birds and humans. But very few humans have become ill. Those who did had been in close contact with chickens or other birds. The virus is not thought to spread from person to person. Research described in the journal Nature involved an H5N1 virus that was changed in the laboratory. Four changes were made on a single gene. This was fused with genes from a different kind of flu, H1N1. This type of virus caused a world flu outbreak in 2009. The journal Nature published the new study. The journal Science will publish a related study. No date has been set. The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity had argued against publishing the papers. It said making the research public could threaten security and public health. But scientists said they needed the information to help with future research and keeping track of natural changes in the virus. Canadian Press wrote about the research.
A New Facebook Status: Organ Donor
A new Facebook feature led to thousands of new organ donor volunteers this week. The social networking site said it had added a feature that lets users list themselves as organ donors. More than 100,000 did so within a day, Facebook said. The site also added a link to online organ donor registries. At least 22,000 people had followed that link by mid-week. Donate Life America, which promotes donations, said at least 6,000 filled out forms to be organ donors. The group said 3,900 new donors signed up in California alone. The Associated Press wrote about the new effort.
Used with the permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. The above summaries are not intended to provide advice on personal medical matters, nor are they intended to be a substitute for consultation with a physician.