|Teenage Abstinence! |
Dogs Dying! Dogs Sniff Cancer?
Electric Nose! SUVs Not Safer!
Measuring Pluto's Charon!
Journal of Adolescent Health News Release
"While abstinence from sexual intercourse is theoretically fully protective from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, in actual practice, abstinence often is not maintained which leaves teenagers vulnerable to pregnancy and STIs."
In reviewing scientific literature, the report finds abstinence-only programs demonstrate little evidence of efficacy in delaying initiation of sexual intercourse. Conversely, efforts to promote abstinence as part of comprehensive reproductive health promotion programs, which provide information about contraceptive options and protection from STIs, have successfully delayed initiation of sexual intercourse.
"Typically, abstinence-only education programs provide incomplete and/or misleading information about contraceptives, or no contraceptive information at all. In many communities, abstinence-only education has replaced comprehensive sexuality education," observes Dr. Santelli.
The paper includes specific recommendations from The Society for Adolescent Medicine, a multidisciplinary organization committed to improving the physical and psychosocial health and well-being of all adolescents through advocacy, clinical care, health promotion, health service delivery, professional development, and research.
By Susan S. Lang
January 6, 2006 - Even though Diamond, Country Value and Professional brand dog foods have been recalled for containing highly toxic aflatoxins, they have caused at least 100 dog deaths in recent weeks, say Cornell University veterinarians, who are growing increasingly alarmed. Some kennels and consumers around the nation and possibly in more than two dozen other countries remain unaware of the tainted food, and as a result, they continue to give dogs food containing a lethal toxin.
To better screen affected dogs so they can be treated as soon as possible, Cornell veterinarians report that they now have a new test, adapted from one used in humans, to accurately assess aflatoxin poisoning in dogs (see companion story). Currently, about two-thirds of dogs that show symptoms after eating the tainted food die.
"Entire kennels have been wiped out, and because of the holiday these past few weeks, the dispersal of recall information was disrupted," says Sharon Center, a professor of veterinary medicine who specializes in liver function and disease at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell, which is emerging as a central clearinghouse for information about the dog food poisoning.
The Cornell Vet College is continually updating its Web site to keep the public and veterinarians informed as new information on the poisonings emerge. Cornell's Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC) is analyzing blood and liver samples from sick dogs around the country, testing suspected dog food, conducting autopsies and collecting as many livers as possible from dead dogs to confirm cause of death, tracking dogs that have died and following up on the health of dogs that survive the food poisoning. The AHDC has information for veterinarians on its Web site http://diaglab.vet.cornell.edu/news.asp
"We suspect that dogs have been dying since November, perhaps even October, but it took the perfect storm of circumstances to get the diagnosis," said Karyn Bischoff, the veterinary toxicologist at Cornell who first identified aflatoxin as the culprit in the recent wave of deaths.
Trying to save dogs
Over the recent holiday weeks, Center and her staff worked around-the-clock to try to save the 17 poisoned dogs admitted to Cornell's Hospital for Animals. "I've been working with liver disease in dogs for 30 years, and I've never seen such miserably ill dogs," said Center, noting that severely affected dogs suffer from intractable vomiting and internal bleeding. "Despite our understanding of this complex toxin, we have no direct antidote for this poisoning. This has been an immensely sad holiday and one that will leave an indelible mark on the owners that lost their cherished family members."
Of those 17 dogs, Center euthanized 12 when it became clear they could not survive; five are still being treated. Dogs that have survived had consumed a smaller amount of the food than dogs that died, Center said. "Some dogs were stealing food from the kitchen counter. Others just stopped eating the food and begged for treats. Unfortunately, some owners used gravy and other mixers to entice their dogs to consume what they thought was safe, quality dog food."
"It's devastating to dog owners who feel responsible for poisoning their beloved dogs," said Bischoff.
Although only about two dozen animal deaths have been officially linked to the tainted pet food, Center and Bischoff know that many more have died or become ill from the tainted food, based on their many communications with veterinarians as far south as Georgia.
"Every day, we're hearing reports from veterinarians in the East and Southeast who have treated dogs that have died from liver damage this past month or so," said Center. "We're also concerned about the long-term health of dogs that survive as well as dogs that have eaten the tainted food but show no clinical signs." She suspects that surviving dogs may develop chronic liver disease, perhaps liver cancer, and that many dogs that ate the tainted food appear healthy are nevertheless victims of liver damage.
Yet many dog and kennel owners remain unaware that some 19 brands of Diamond, Country Value and Professional dog foods have been recalled.
"About half of our clients bringing in sick dogs this past week say that they were not aware of the contaminated dog food problem," said Sara Sanders, one of the veterinarians at Mendon Valley Animal Hospital near Rochester -- the sort of ground zero for the epidemic that resulted in the recall. She first realized that several dogs she was treating for liver problems in December were all eating Diamond food, and she sent food and tissue samples to Cornell, her alma mater, for testing.
Screening ill dogs
Early signs that a dog has been poisoned by afltoxin include lethargy, loss of appetite and vomiting and, later, orange-colored urine and jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes, gums and nonpigmented skin that reflects substantial liver injury). Severely affected dogs produce a blood-tinged vomit and bloody or blackened stools. "Since dogs can take several days to three weeks to exhibit serious signs of illness, all animals that consumed recalled lots of food should be examined by a veterinarian as early as possible," Center said. "Physical exams and blood tests are necessary to differentiate dogs that have been poisoned from those that have not. Unfortunately, the latent onset of signs may require that an individual dog be evaluated several times."
Cornell veterinarians have verified diagnostic tests enabling detection of seriously poisoned dogs. Aflatoxin curtails the production of cholesterol and many proteins that profoundly affect blood clotting. A minimum screening profile should assess the liver enzyme ALT to detect damage to the liver, serum cholesterol, total bilirubin concentration and the activity of the anticoagulant proteins antithrombin III (ATIII) and protein C. The coagulation protein tests, which have been adapted for dogs by Cornell researchers, have high value in detecting affected dogs but require collection of a special blood sample (citrated plasma sample) and an assessment by Cornell's Animal Health Diagnostic Center.
Any dog suspected of aflatoxin poisoning should also have a liver specimen sent to Cornell to definitively confirm the pathologic changes in the liver unique for aflatoxin toxicity, such as fatty degeneration of individual cells.
"Even if dogs show no signs of illness, if they have eaten the affected food, they should have blood tests submitted to detect liver injury," Center stressed. "Dogs that show positive results on any of the above tests should be prescribed liver protectants for two months." For more details, veterinarians should check the Cornell Vet College Web site.
Owners also should take cats that might have eaten contaminated dog food to a vet. Two cats that may have eaten the tainted dog food have died, but no cause of death was determined.
|Can Dogs Sniff Out Cancer?|
January 5, 2006 - In a society where lung and breast cancers are leading causes of cancer death worldwide, early detection of the disease is highly desirable. In a new scientific study, researchers present astonishing new evidence that man's best friend, the dog, may have the capacity to contribute to the process of early cancer detection.
In this study which will be published in the March 2006 issue of the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies published by SAGE Publications, researchers reveal scientific evidence that a dog's extraordinary scenting ability can distinguish people with both early and late stage lung and breast cancers from healthy controls.
The research, which was performed in California, was recently documented by the BBC in the United Kingdom, and is soon to be aired in the United States.
Other scientific studies have documented the abilities of dogs to identify chemicals that are diluted as low as parts per trillion. The clinical implications of canine olfaction first came to light in the case report of a dog alerting its owner to the presence of a melanoma by constantly sniffing the skin lesion.
Subsequent studies published in major medical journals confirmed the ability of trained dogs to detect both melanomas and bladder cancers. The new study, led by Michael McCulloch of the Pine Street Foundation in San Anselmo, California, and Tadeusz Jezierski of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding, is the first to test whether dogs can detect cancers only by sniffing the exhaled breath of cancer patients.
In this study, five household dogs were trained within a short 3-week period to detect lung or breast cancer by sniffing the breath of cancer participants. The trial itself was comprised of 86 cancer patients (55 with lung cancer and 31 with breast cancer) and a control sample of 83 healthy patients. All cancer patients had recently been diagnosed with cancer through biopsy-confirmed conventional methods such as a mammogram, or CAT scan and had not yet undergone any chemotherapy treatment.
During the study, the dogs were presented with breath samples from the cancer patients and the controls, captured in a special tube. Dogs were trained to give a positive identification of a cancer patient by sitting or lying down directly in front of a test station containing a cancer patient sample, while ignoring control samples.
Standard, humane methods of dog training employing food rewards and a clicker, as well as assessment of the dog's behavior by observers blinded to the identity of the cancer patient and control samples, were used in the experiment.
The results of the study showed that dogs can detect breast and lung cancer with sensitivity and specificity between 88% and 97%. The high accuracy persisted even after results were adjusted to take into account whether the lung cancer patients were currently smokers.
Moreover, the study also confirmed that the trained dogs could even detect the early stages of lung cancer, as well as early breast cancer. The researchers concluded that breath analysis has the potential to provide a substantial reduction in the uncertainty currently seen in cancer diagnosis, once further work has been carried out to standardize and expand this methodology.
The article "Diagnostic Accuracy of Canine Scent Detection in Early and Late Stage Lung and Breast Cancers" can be accessed at no-charge for a limited time on the Integrative Cancer Therapies web site at http://ict.sagepub.com
SAGE Publications - http://www.sagepub.com
|Electric Nose Smells Gas|
January 5, 2006 - Scientists at the University of Manchester have invented a new device which remotely monitors bad odours and methane gases at waste landfill and watertreatment sites.
The device, which works like an electronic nose, could be the solution many communities and waste management companies, who regularly encounter problems with bad odours and air pollution, are searching for.
20.9m tonnes (72%) of household of waste produced in Britain is disposed of in landfill sites. There are currently over 4000 licensed sites in the UK. Eighty per cent of the population live within 2km of a site. Methane gas and odours, which contribute to global warming, are produced by decomposing waste.
Currently there is no other instrumentation sensitive enough to monitor low concentrations of odours and gases on these sites. Gases and odours are analysed manually using handheld detectors and by panels of volunteers asked to smell samples of air.
The new device has four sensors which analyse the composition of gases in the air. Air is sucked into the device at regular intervals and then profiled. The chemical profile of the air is then sent in real-time via a built-in GPS modem to a remote computer. Based on the concentration of various chemicals, the system is able to determine whether the methane gases or odours have reached an unacceptable level. The air is then filtered before being expelled back into the atmosphere.
Professor Krishna Persaud, who has developed the device, said: "Current methods mean odour and gas levels are only monitored on a weekly basis. In that time bad odours can build up. What this device offers is the ability to monitor these levels in real-time, enabling waste companies to act before levels reach an unacceptable level.
"Ultimately, this device has the potential to create a much healthier environment which will benefit both local communities and waste management companies by alerting them to the build up of bad odours and enabling them to ensure monitor methane emissions remain at a safe level."
Developed in collaboration with the Silsoe Research Institute, the device has already been successfully tested at the Brookhurst Wood Waste Land Fill Site, near Gatwick Airport. Five of the devices have been positioned around the perimeter of the site since May, 2005. Professor Persaud is also working with a major UK water company to monitor foreign chemicals and materials in water which is processed through water treatment plants.
University of Manchester - http://www.manchester.ac.uk
|SUVs Not Safer for Children!|
January 4, 2005 - New research from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia shows that children riding in SUVs have similar injury risks to children who ride in passenger cars. The study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, found that an SUV's increased risk of rolling over during a crash offset the safety benefits associated with larger, heavier-weight vehicles.
The study, part of an ongoing research collaboration of Children's Hospital and State Farm Insurance Companies, looked at crashes reported to State Farm involving 3,933 child occupants between the ages of 0 and 15 years who were in either SUVs or passenger cars that were model year 1998 or newer.
Rollover contributes significantly to risk of injury in both vehicle types and occurred twice as frequently in SUVs. Children involved in rollover crashes were three times more likely to be injured than children in non-rollovers.
"We want parents to be able to make fully informed decisions regarding the choice of vehicle for their family," says Lauren Daly, M.D., co-author of the study. "Ideally, a safe family car has enough rear-row seating positions with lap-and-shoulder belts for every child under 13 that requires them, and enough remaining rear-row positions to install child safety seats for infants and toddlers."
|Magnetic Healing Questionable|
January 5, 2006 - Patients should be advised that magnet therapy has no proved benefits, and that any healing effect is likely to be small, say US researchers in this week's BMJ.
Magnetic devices that are claimed to be therapeutic include magnetic bracelets, insoles, wrist and knee bands, back and neck braces, and even pillows and mattresses. Annual sales are estimated at more than a billion dollars globally.
But Professors Leonard Finegold and Bruce Flamm argue that many studies of magnet therapy are suspect because it is difficult to blind subjects to the presence of a magnet. They suggest that money spent on expensive and unproved magnet therapy might be better spent on evidence based medicine.
More importantly, self treatment with magnets may result in an underlying medical condition being left untreated, they warn.
|Measuring Pluto's Charon|
January 4, 2006 - Being in the right place at the right time gave a group of Massachusetts research astronomers a unique opportunity to study Pluto's largest moon Charon. The resulting measurements, to unprecedented accuracy, of Charon's size and possible atmosphere provide insight into the way this distant world may have formed.
On July 10, 2005, astronomers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and Williams College in Williamstown observed the light from a star as it disappeared behind Charon and reappeared on the other side – an event known as a stellar occultation. Occultations provide important information about the size of remote bodies, as well as the makeup of their atmospheres (if they have them).
According to team member Jim Elliot, a professor in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science and in the Department of Physics, observations of a stellar occultation like this one have been made only once before, from South Africa in 1980. "We have been waiting many years for this opportunity," he said. "Watching the star vanish as it was blocked by Charon was spectacular."
Although the star disappeared behind Charon for less than a minute, data from the observations provided considerable information about this tiny moon. In a paper released in the January 5, 2006, edition of Nature, the MIT-Williams collaboration determined Charon's radius to be 606 ± 8 km. For perspective, this radius is roughly twice the width of Massachusetts with an error of only 5 miles. The size was combined with mass measurements from Hubble Space Telescope data to establish a density for Charon of 1.72 g/cm3. This density, roughly 1/3 that of the Earth, reflects Charon's rocky-icy composition.
What makes this achievement so remarkable is that the observation could only be made from a narrow, 650-mile wide region in South America. The MIT-Williams observers were located at four telescopes in Chile and one telescope in Brazil for the event.
The largest telescope employed by the consortium was the 8-meter Gemini South Telescope on Cerro Pachón. The observations utilized the Acquisition Camera, a guider instrument that is typically used for telescope pointing and target selection, as a high-speed photometer. Portable camera systems constructed by the MIT-Williams group were mounted on the other telescopes: the 6.5-meter Clay and 2.5-meter du Pont at Las Campanas Observatory in La Serena, Chile, the 0.8-meter at the Observatório Cerro Armazones in Anofagasta, Chile, and the 0.6-meter at Observatório Pico dos Dias, Itajubá, Brazil. Observations were successful at all stations excluding Brazil, which was clouded out.
"Our observations show that there is no substantial atmosphere on Charon, which is consistent with an impact formation scenario," said Nature lead author Amanda Gulbis. "We also find that Charon contains roughly 10% less rock by mass than Pluto. This difference suggests that either, or both, objects involved in a Charon-forming collision had concentrations of heavier materials in their cores." A collisional formation like this has a parallel in theories for the formation of the Earth-Moon system.
Pluto has recently received considerable attention, with NASA's New Horizons mission to be launched in January 2006, the discovery of two new moons, and the discovery of several Kuiper belt objects that are Pluto-sized (or even larger). The success of the MIT-Williams team in observing the Charon occultation bodes well for their ability to observe occultations of different stars by these newly discovered objects.