Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
A human rights group filed a claim against the United Nations this week on behalf of Haitians harmed by the cholera epidemic. The group blames the UN for the epidemic. It says that peacekeeping troops caused it through poor sanitation. A study released this week found that babies who grow very quickly are more likely to become obese. Another study suggests that children with autism have extra cells in parts of their brain. A third study published this week supports a change in rules for liver transplants given to alcoholics. It suggests that carefully selected patients should not have to wait six months before a transplant to prove they can stay sober.
This Issue: UN Called Liable for Cholera Damages Obesity Risk Cited for Fast-Growing Babies Study Shows Extra Brain Cells in Kids with Autism Faster Liver Transplants for Alcoholics?
In the News:
UN Called Liable for Cholera Damages
A human rights group is seeking damages from the United Nations for the cholera epidemic in Haiti that apparently started with UN troops. The outbreak began last fall. About 6,500 people have died. More than 500,000 have become sick. Before this, cholera had never been reported in Haiti. Several studies have traced the outbreak to UN peacekeeping soldiers from Nepal who were stationed in Haiti. The research found that untreated waste from the UN base was dumped into a major river. Cases first appeared along the river basin. The group Justice and Democracy in Haiti filed claims this week with UN offices in New York City and Haiti. They were filed on behalf of families who lost breadwinners or spent their life savings on funerals. The claims estimate damages at hundreds of millions of dollars. The group would like the UN to fund sanitation and clean water programs in Haiti. The Associated Press wrote about the claims.
Obesity Risk Cited for Fast-Growing Babies
Babies who grow very fast may be at risk to become obese, a study published this week says. The study looked at medical records for more than 44,000 children. Their growth measurements were put into charts that compared children's weight with others of the same height (or length, for babies). Heavier children were in the higher percentiles. Researchers checked to see when children crossed certain milestones on the charts. At the higher end, these milestones included the 50th, 75th, 90th and 95th percentiles. Babies who crossed 2 milestones by the age of 2 were twice as likely to be obese by age 5. The authors said such rapid growth could be a sign that a child is being overfed or not active enough. The journal Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine published the study. An editorial in the same issue urged caution in using these measurements. Babies grow at different paces, it noted. In the study, about 40% crossed at least two milestones by age 6 months. But fewer -- about 12% -- were obese at age 5. The Associated Press wrote about the study.
Study Shows Extra Brain Cells in Kids with Autism
Children with autism may have too many connections in parts of their brain, a study published this week concludes. Researchers looked at the brains of 13 boys. Most had died in accidents. Seven had autism. Six did not. Researchers found that those with autism had 67% more cells called neurons in a region called the prefrontal cortex. They also had heavier brains overall. Neurons carry messages in the brain. The prefrontal cortex helps to control language, social behavior, mood and attention. Children with autism tend to have problems in these areas. Neurons are formed before birth, researchers told the New York Times News Service. Extra ones usually are pruned away as the fetus grows. But this apparently didn't happen normally in the boys with autism. The result could be like a traffic jam, the article said. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study this week.
Faster Liver Transplants for Alcoholics?
A study published this week questions the need to make alcoholics who need a liver transplant wait until they have been sober for 6 months. That's the policy most transplant centers follow. The new study included 26 carefully chosen patients. All were alcoholics with severe hepatitis. Drug treatment was not helping them. They pledged to quit drinking and had good support from family or friends. They were given transplants as soon as livers were available. Six months later, 77% were still alive. In a comparison group that did not get transplants, only 23% were alive. Researchers kept track of people for 2 to 3 years. In that time, only 3 of the 26 had started drinking again. Among alcoholics who meet the 6-month sobriety rule, about 30% typically start drinking again. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study November 10.
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