Health Highlights: Feb. 20, 2018
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Treatment for Severe Peanut Allergy Shows Promise in Company Study
An experimental treatment to reduce the risk of serious allergic reactions to peanuts yielded promising results in a study conducted by the company that developed the therapy.
The study included nearly 500 youngsters, ages 4-17, with severe peanut allergies. They took either capsules of peanut flour or a dummy (placebo) powder in steadily increasing quantities for six months, then kept taking that final level for another six months, the Associated Press reported.
By the end of the study, 67 percent of the participants who took the peanut flour were able to tolerate the equivalent of roughly two peanuts, compared with only 4 percent of those who took the placebo.
About 20 percent of participants in the peanut powder group dropped out of the study, 12 percent due to reactions or other problems, the AP reported.
The findings announced Tuesday by California-based Aimmune Therapeutics have not been reviewed by independent experts, but will be presented next month at a medical meeting.
The company plans to file for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the therapy by the end of 2018, and for approval in Europe early next year. If approved, it would be the first such treatment available in the U.S.
Peanut allergies affect millions of children and can trigger life-threatening reactions in some, the AP reported.
Moderate Drinking Tied to Long Life: Study
Having a hobby or drinking few glasses of beer or wine a day may help you live longer, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at 1,700 people in California and found that those who drank about two glasses of beer or wine daily had an 18 percent lower risk of premature death than those who did not drink, United Press International reported.
University of California neurologist Claudia Kawas and colleagues also found that the risk of premature death was: 21 percent lower for those who spent at least two hours a day on a hobby; 11 percent lower in people who exercised 15 to 45 minutes a day; 10 percent among those who drank about two cups of coffee a day.
People who were slightly overweight, but not obese, had a 3 percent lower risk of premature death than those who were underweight or normal weight, according to the study presented Saturday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Austin, Texas.
""These people are inspiring -- they drink wine, drink coffee, gain weight, but they exercise and use their brains. Maybe that can tell us something," said Kawas, UPI reported.
Retina May Reveal Heart Attack Risk
A retinal examination by artificial intelligence may reveal a person's risk for heart attack or stroke, according to a new study.
Google researchers said this approach was 70 percent accurate in identifying patients who would suffer a heart attack or other major cardiovascular problem within five years and those who would not, USA Today reported.
That rate is similar to blood tests to measure cholesterol levels.
For the study, the researchers used models that were based on data from 284,335 patients and validated using two separate data sets of 12,026 and 999 patients. The findings were published Monday in the online journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
The study authors noted that much more research needs to be done.
"The caveat to this is that it's early, (and) we trained this on a small data set," lead researcher Lily Peng told USA Today. "We think that the accuracy of this prediction will go up a little bit more as we kind of get more comprehensive data. Discovering that we could do this is a good first step. But we need to validate."
Possible Drug Contamination Triggers Dog Food Recall
Possible contamination with the drug pentobarbital has led The J.M. Smucker Company to recall a number of types of canned dog food sold under the Gravy Train, Kibbles 'N Bits, Ol' Roy, and Skippy brands.
Pentobarbital is commonly used in animals as a sedative, anesthetic, or for euthanasia, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.
Consuming high levels of pentobarbital can cause coma and death, but initial tests suggest that the recalled products contain low levels of pentobarbital that are unlikely to pose a health risk to dogs, according to the FDA. It said it is trying to determine how the drug ended up in the dog food.
The agency is also monitoring for reports of any dogs that become ill due to pentobarbital contamination in the recalled dog food. Consumers can report incidents electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling their local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators, the FDA said.
Dogs that eat pet food contaminated with pentobarbital may develop drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea, nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth in a jerky manner) and inability to stand. Dog owners who believe their dog may have eaten food contaminated with pentobarbital should contact their veterinarian, the FDA said.
Consumers with the recalled dog food should safely dispose of the cans and/or contact the J.M. Smucker for information about returning the product.
For more information, consumers can email or phone the company at 1 (800)-828-9980, Monday through Friday 9 am to 5 pm EST.
Measles Cases Jump 400 Percent in Europe
A reluctance to get vaccinated is one reason why measles cases in Europe jumped 400 percent in 2017, with more than 20,000 cases and 35 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
It said there was a record low of 5,273 measles cases in Europe in 2016, BBC News reported.
In 2017, the U.K. and 14 other European region countries had large measles outbreaks. Cases were highest in Romania, Italy and Ukraine.
Measles is highly infectious, but the MMR vaccine can prevent it. However, a discredited study published 20 years ago about a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism continues to make some people wary of the vaccine, BBC News reported.
"Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated," said the WHO's Zsuzsanna Jakab.
"This short-term setback cannot deter us from our commitment to be the generation that frees our children from these diseases once and for all," Jakab added, BBC News reported.