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Health Highlights: July 11, 2006

World's First Test Tube Baby is Pregnant Male Circumcision Could Reduce HIV Infection Rates in Africa Wal-Mart Recalls Office Chairs Experts Say Tobacco Will Kill 1 Billion This Century Tests Find Higher Levels of Mercury in Tuna Imports Researchers Grow Sperm From Stem Cells

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

World's First Test Tube Baby is Pregnant

The world's first test tube baby -- who was born in Great Britain on July 25, 1978 -- is due to deliver her first baby in January.

Louise Joy Brown, who got pregnant the old-fashioned way, has been married for two years to Wesley Mullinder. The couple live outside of Bristol, the Toronto Star reported.

"This is a dream come true for us," Brown told The Daily Mail.

Louise was conceived after her mother Lesley, who had blocked fallopian tubes, underwent experimental in-vitro fertilization (IFV) on Nov. 10, 1977. Louise's birth in 1978 marked the start of a new medical era that offered hope to millions of couples who could not conceive children naturally.

Since then, about three million test tube babies have been born worldwide.


Male Circumcision Could Reduce HIV Infection Rates in Africa

Widespread male circumcision could slash the number of HIV infections and deaths in Africa by millions, says a study in the journal PLoS Medicine.

A team of international researchers collected data on HIV infection rates and the prevalence of male circumcision. They then used mathematical modeling to determine what would happen if, over the next 10 years, all men in sub-Saharan Africa were circumcised, BBC News reported.

The researchers concluded that, over the following 20 years, there would be about six million fewer HIV infections and three million fewer AIDS deaths. Men would experience the greatest reduction in HIV infection.

"The big message from the paper is that there is tremendous potential for male circumcision to have an effect on the HIV epidemic, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa," said study co-author Catherine Hankins, chief scientific advisor to the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

However, further research is required, including whether and how to promote male circumcision in order to prevent HIV infection, BBC News reported.


Wal-Mart Recalls Office Chairs

Wal-Mart is recalling about 762,000 office chairs that pose a fall hazard to consumers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said Tuesday.

The legs and backs of the Mainstays Associate Office Chairs can break, and the chairs can easily tip over. So far, Wal-Mart has received nine reports of chairs breaking and two reports of tipping. There have been seven reported injuries, including a broken wrist, the CPSC said.

The chairs, made in China, have a UPC Code Label #9501401610, which is located under the seat. The chair model is #VCR1022. The chairs were sold at Wal-Mart stores from April 2003 through April 2006 for about $36.

Consumers with the chairs should immediately stop using them and return them to Wal-Mart for a full refund. For more information, contact Wal-Mart at 1-800-925-6278 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.


Experts Say Tobacco Will Kill 1 Billion This Century

Tobacco will be the biggest killer of this century, taking a billion people worldwide -- 10 times the toll it took in the 20th century -- if current trends continue, public health officials said Monday.

"In all of world history, this is the largest train wreck not waiting to happen," John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said at an International Union Against Cancer conference in Washington, D.C., the Associated Press reported.

Two new reference guides, the newly revised Tobacco Atlas and the new Cancer Atlas, show that tobacco is responsible for one in five cancer deaths, or 1.4 million deaths a year. Adding in cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases related to tobacco use brings the yearly global death toll to nearly 5 million. That number is expected to increase as population rises, the experts said.

The guides project that 1.25 billion people smoke cigarettes and that more than half will die from the habit. Reducing tobacco use would have the single largest effect on worldwide cancer rates, health officials said.


Tests Find Higher Levels of Mercury in Tuna Imports

Lab tests by a company that has been used by the U.S. government show that imported canned tuna often has mercury levels higher than the federal limit.

Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group, found the highest mercury levels in tuna from Ecuador and Mexico -- countries known for setting nets where they see dolphins to catch large tuna swimming below. That practice results in the capture of larger, more mature fish, which have higher mercury levels, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The group tested 164 cans of tuna from Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and the United States. Tests were done by New Age/Landmark laboratory, of Benton Harbor, Mich., AP said. Analysis of the samples found that the average mercury content of U.S. tuna was generally lower than imported tuna and that tuna from Asia had the lowest average levels of mercury. Latin American tuna had the highest mercury levels.

The lab also found high levels of mercury in light tuna, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers to be low in mercury. The FDA says it's safe to eat two meals a week of fish and shellfish low in mercury, such as canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish. The agency urges people to limit albacore, or "white," tuna to one meal per week because it contains higher levels of mercury, AP reported.


Researchers Grow Sperm From Stem Cells

Women may one day concieve babies on their own, after British researchers turned stem cells from an embryo into sperm capable of producing offspring.

A Newcastle University team led by Professor Karim Nayernia used embryo cells to produce seven baby mice -- six of which lived to adulthood. The animals were either too small or too large, and they died prematurely, however.

Nayernia said that the advance could help men with certain types of infertility to become fertile or to remain fertile for longer. It might even one day enable a lesbian couple to have children that, at the genetic level, are truly their own, London's Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

In the long term, Nayernia said, cloning methods could be used to turn a skin cell from a man into sperm and it might even be possible to do the same using a cell from a woman. The findings were published in the current issue of the journal Developmental Cell.

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