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Health Highlights: Feb. 25, 2015

Lawsuit Launched Over Beneful Kibble Dog Food Researchers Question Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Paying HIV Patients to Take Medications Doesn't Work: Study Flu Drug May Help in Early Stages of Ebola Infection: Study U.K. First to Approve Three-Parent Babies

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

Lawsuit Launched Over Beneful Kibble Dog Food

A popular dog food brand contains toxins that can poison and even kill dogs, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month against Nestle Purina PetCare Company.

The lawsuit alleges that thousands of dogs have been harmed by eating the company's Beneful dry kibble dog foog, NBC News reported.

The legal action was launched in California by Frank Lucido, who said his three dogs became ill after they started eating Beneful exclusively beginning in late December or early January. One of the dogs eventually died.

More than 3,000 similar complaints about Beneful kibble dog foods have been made online. Symptoms consistently listed include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, stomach internal bleeding, and liver malfunction or failure, NBC News reported.


Researchers Question Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines

Researchers worry that more Americans may die from undiagnosed lung cancer because they aren't eligible for low-dose CT scans.

The problem is that lung cancer screening guidelines have remained the same even though smoking rates have fallen in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic experts, CNN reported.

They found that the percentage of lung cancer patients who smoked at least 30 pack-years decreased over the study period, while there was a rise in the percentage of lung cancer patients who had quit for more than 15 years.

"As smokers quit earlier and stay off cigarettes longer, fewer are eligible for CT screening, which has been proven effective in saving lives," epidemiologist Dr. Ping Yang said in Mayo news release, CNN reported. "Patients who do eventually develop lung cancer are diagnosed at a later stage when treatment can no longer result in a cure."

The study was published Feb. 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Paying HIV Patients to Take Medications Doesn't Work: Study

Paying HIV patients to take their medications doesn't work, a new study says.

It included people with HIV in the Bronx and Washington who were paid up to $280 a year to take their pills daily in an effort to improve their health and to reduce the spread of HIV, The New York Times reported.

However, the payments did little to improve overall medication adherence rates, the researchers said Tuesday at an AIDS conference in Seattle.

The study paid out $2.8 million to 9,000 patients at 39 clinics over three years. Patients who received payments did 5 percent better in taking their medications than those who weren't paid, but that is a statistically insignificant difference, The Times reported.

Only one-quarter of the 1.1 million Americans with HIV take their drugs regularly enough to not be infectious, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Flu Drug May Help in Early Stages of Ebola Infection: Study

An experimental flu drug shows some promise against Ebola in the early stages of infection, according to a new study.

The drug favipiravir was given to 80 Ebola patients in Guinea, one of the West African nations hardest hit by the deadly disease, NBC News reported.

While 93 percent of the patients who were seriously ill with high levels of the virus when they received the drug died, the death rate among those who weren't as ill was 15 percent.

The researchers at the French medical institute INSERM noted that this is very preliminary data and the study was too small to determine if the drug helped Ebola patients, NBC News reported.

However, the data is encouraging, the team said at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.


U.K. First to Approve Three-Parent Babies

The United Kingdom is the first country to permit the creation of babies using DNA from three people so that mothers don't pass certain diseases to their children.

The bill authorizing this approach was passed earlier this month by the House of Commons and received final approval Tuesday from the House of Lords, the Associated Press reported.

The procedure is meant to prevent children from inheriting defects in the mother's mitochondria, which are the energy-producing structures outside a cell's nucleus. Mitochondrial defects can cause diseases such as muscular dystrophy, severe muscle weakness and heart, kidney and liver failure.

In the procedure, an egg is altered before being transferred into a woman. Nucleus DNA is removed from the egg of a mother and placed into a donor egg from which the donor DNA has been removed. This can be done before or after an egg is fertilized, the AP reported.

The egg would then have nucleus DNA from its parents but mitochondrial DNA from the donor, which would account for less than 1 percent of the embryo's genes.

This is a "monumental moment" in efforts to fight muscular dystrophy, according to Robert Meadowcroft, chief executive of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

"This result will be life-changing for many women living with mitochondrial disease, giving them the precious chance to bear unaffected children, removing the condition from a family line and reducing the numbers faced with its devastating effects," he said in a statement, the AP reported.

Critics say this approach crosses a fundamental scientific boundary because the genetic changes will be passed on to future generations.

At a U.S. Food and Drug Administration meeting last year, scientists said it could take decades to determine if this type of procedure is safe, the AP reported.

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