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Health Highlights: Aug. 3, 2009

Clarcon Skin Products Pose Health Threat: FDA FDA Approves Avastin for Most Common Kidney Cancer Blocking Protein May Prevent Premature Labor Pneumonic Plague Outbreak In China Claims Second Victim

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Clarcon Skin Products Pose Health Threat: FDA

Consumers shouldn't use any skin sanitizers or skin protectants made by Clarcon Biological Chemistry Laboratory because they contain harmful bacteria, warns the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency said some of the bacteria in the products can cause opportunistic infections of the skin and underlying tissues that may need medical or surgical treatment and may cause permanent damage, the Associated Press reported.

No cases of infection have been reported. Consumers with the products should dispose of them in household garbage. More than 800,000 bottles of the products, marketed under several different brand names, were distributed in various regions of the United States since 2007.

U.S. Marshals Service officers seized all skin sanitizer and skin protectant products, including ingredients, at Clarcon's facility in Roy, Utah, the Associated Press reported. The seizure took place after Clarcon didn't comply with an FDA order to promptly destroy the products.


FDA Approves Avastin for Most Common Kidney Cancer

The drug Avastin has been approved in the United States for treating patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Avastin to be used in combination with the drug interferon-alpha, Agence France Presse reported.

A study found that patients treated with a combination of the drugs lived nearly twice as long without disease progression compared to patients treated with only interferon-alpha.

Since the end of 2007, Avastin has been available in Europe as a first-line treatment for advanced kidney cancer, AFP reported. Last week, European officials approved the drug for treatment of breast cancer.


Blocking Protein May Prevent Premature Labor

Blocking a key protein may help prevent premature labor, say researchers at Imperial College London in Britain.

They found that when Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) detects bacterial infection in pregnant women, it triggers inflammation, which appears to induce premature birth, BBC News reported.

But the researchers said they found a way to turn off this reaction.

"We are excited about the findings of this research, as we have now discovered how to block a key pathway which leads to premature birth," lead researcher Professor Philip Bennett told BBC News. "Although more research needs to be done, we believe this is a step forward in the development of treatments to prevent premature birth."

Premature labor is the major cause of death and disability among babies.


Pneumonic Plague Outbreak In China Claims Second Victim

A second death has been reported in a pneumonic plague outbreak in a town in the northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai.

The official Xinhua state news agency said the 37-year-old male victim was a neighbor of the first person who died, a 32-year old herdsman, the Associated Press reported. Another 10 people, mostly relatives of the first victim, are infected with the highly contagious deadly lung disease and undergoing treatment.

The local health bureau said the town of Ziketan has been sealed off and a team of experts sent to the area.

The measures taken so far to treat and quarantine infected people are appropriate, said World Health Organization officials in China, the AP reported.

Pneumonic plague, one of the deadliest infectious diseases, is spread through the air and can be transmitted through coughing, according to the WHO. People can die within 24 hours of infection.

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