Health & WellnessS


Risks of tainted food: Amid high-profile scares, FDA safety testing has fallen by half since 2003 -Money for War, but None For American Public Health

The federal agency that's been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago.

The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls.

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Scientific Body Backs Creation Of Human-Animal Chimeras

Scientists should be allowed to create human-animal hybrid embryos in the search for treatments for nervous system disorders, a Government advisory body said yesterday.

The Human Genetics Commission will give its unanimous backing to the research in a public consultation to be carried out later this year by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.


Big Pharma Merck set up offshore accounts to avoid U.S. taxes; settles with IRS for $2.3 billion

American pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. for years held offshore accounts in Bermuda to hold patents for two of its drugs, and then used the royalties from these patents as tax deductions in the United States.

On Wednesday, the company agreed to pay $2.3 billion to the Internal Revenue Service, settling a three-year tax evasion dispute.


Synthetic Biology -- Genetic Engineering on Steroids

In the past 5 years, the science of genetic engineering has made giant strides. Starting from scratch using lifeless chemicals, scientists are now able to create viruses, such as the polio virus. Technically, viruses are not "alive" because they require cells to survive. But soon -- perhaps some time this year -- scientists expect to create bacteria, which are definitely alive. From there, it will be a short step to manufacturing new forms of life that have never existed on Earth before. This startling new enterprise is called "synthetic biology."


Want to stop disease from spreading? Open a window

Washington - Preventing the spread of disease in a hospital may be as simple as opening a window, an international team of researchers reported on Monday.

The low-tech solution could help prevent the spread of airborne infections such as tuberculosis -- and ironically, old-fashioned hospitals with high ceilings and big windows may offer the best design for this, they reported.

They worked better than modern "negative pressure" rooms, with expensive design aimed at pumping out infected air, the researchers report in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.


Man aged 107 forsakes sex for longevity - But he smokes!

Hong Kong - A 107-year-old Hong Kong villager, who still enjoys an occasional smoke, has attributed his longevity in part to decades of sexual abstinence, a newspaper said on Sunday.


Guys: The biological bell tolls for thee, too

Rupert Murdoch had a daughter when he was 72. Actor Tony Randall became a dad for the first time at 77. When the average life expectancy of the American male was a few months shy of 78, Nobel Prize-winning writer Saul Bellow fathered a kid at 84.

Long after a woman's biological clock stops ticking, most men can still father children. Yet many men say it's not just women who worry that they are too old to have kids. The physiology might allow for septuagenarians to bounce their beloved bundles on their arthritic knees, but the psychology suggests there is an age to stop bringing another baby on board.


Of Bamboo and French Fries

Chinese scientists report finding a way to diminish the development of acrylamide - a potential carcinogen - in baked and fried foods: Dip them in an extract of bamboo leaves prior to cooking. It's the newest of several experimental approaches to limiting acrylamide in foods.

Nearly 5 years ago, reports by Swedish scientists catapulted acrylamide to public attention around the world. The researchers found that high-temperature cooking, baking, or frying of a range of foods could induce one or more chemical reactions that generate acrylamide (SN: 5/4/02, p. 277). Topping the list of affected foods were many dietary staples: breads, crackers, breakfast cereals, cookies, and even french fries.

Prior to the Swedish team's work, acrylamide had been known solely as a synthetic chemical used for purifying water and making some plastics. Commercial users handled acrylamide carefully because studies had shown that at high doses the chemical is a moderately potent carcinogen in rodents.


Chronic Dizziness May Be Caused By Psychiatric And Neurologic Illnesses

Approximately 9 million to 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from recurrent bouts of dizziness and 3 million experience symptoms of dizziness nearly every day. According to a paper that appears in the February issue of Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that chronic subjective dizziness (CSD) may have several common causes, including anxiety disorders, migraine, mild traumatic brain injuries, and neurally mediated dysautonomias - disorders in the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions.

Among the various forms of dizziness, clinicians have found CSD to be particularly vexing. "Patients with CSD experience persistent dizziness not related to vertigo, imbalance, and hypersensitivity to motion, which is heightened in highly visual settings, such as walking in a busy store or driving in the rain," says Jeffrey P. Staab, MD, MS, Assistant Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Otorhinolaryngology at Penn, and coauthor of the paper.


Study: Herpes drug may curb AIDS virus

Treating genital herpes can also help keep the AIDS virus under control in women with both infections, and might reduce the spread of HIV, too, the first major study to test this strategy suggests. Many people with HIV are also infected with the herpes type 2 virus, and scientists have long known that herpes sores on the genitals can make it easier to become infected with the AIDS virus and could increase the risk of transmitting HIV to others.

In the latest study, conducted in Africa and published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, women who took the herpes drug valacyclovir had less HIV in their blood and in their genital secretions.

The study did not look at whether the drug, sold as Valtrex by GlaxoSmithKline PLC, actually reduces transmission of the AIDS virus. However, scientists generally have found that the more virus someone has, the greater the risk of transmission.