Health Highlights: July 14, 2009

Girl's Heart Heals Itself Kidney Transplant Drugs Must Carry Infections Warning: FDA Stop Routine Use Of Antibiotics in Farm Animals: White House Fewer Drunks on U.S. Roads: Survey

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

Girl's Heart Heals Itself

If doctors can determine how a British girl's heart healed itself, it may lead to new ways to treat cardiac patients.

In 1995, Hannah Clark had a donor heart implanted directly onto her own failing heart. After 10 years, her original heart had healed itself to the point that doctors could remove the donated heart, the Associated Press reported.

Since her donor heart was removed in 2006, the 16-year-old has started playing sports, taken a part-time job, and plans to return to school in the fall. Her case history was published online Tuesday in The Lancet medical journal.

"This just shows that the heart can indeed repair itself given the opportunity," Dr. Douglas Zipes, past president of the American College of Cardiology, told the AP. "The heart apparently has major regenerative powers, and it is now key to find out how they work."

Another expert said Clark's case offers encouragement to both patients and doctors.

"It reminds us that not all heart failure is lethal," Dr. Ileana Pina, a heart failure expert at Case Western Reserve University, told the AP. "Some heart failure patients have a greater chance of recovery than we thought."


Kidney Transplant Drugs Must Carry Infections Warning: FDA

Certain drugs used to prevent rejection of transplanted kidneys must carry a warning about the risk of serious infections, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.

The drugs include CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) and generics, Myfortic (mycophenolic acid), Rapamune (sirolimus), Sandimmune (cyclosporine) and generics, and Neoral (cyclosporine modified) and generics.

The drugs, which already carry the FDA's most serious boxed warning outlining their various risks, must now also mention the increased risk of "opportunistic infections," including activation of dormant viral infections such as one caused by the BK virus, the Dow Jones news service reported.

Infections associated with the immunosuppressive drugs may lead to serious problems, including kidney graft loss, said the FDA. The agency noted that a warning about the increased risk for opportunistic infections already is included in the labeling of the immunosuppressive drug Prograf (tacrolimus).


Stop Routine Use Of Antibiotics in Farm Animals: White House

In an effort to reduce the spread of dangerous bacteria in humans, the Obama administration wants to ban routine use of antibiotics in farm animals.

Feeding antibiotics to healthy cattle, pigs and chickens in order to encourage rapid growth should be stopped and farmers should no longer be allowed to use antibiotics in farm animals without the supervision of a veterinarian, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said in written testimony to the House Rules Committee.

He said such routine use of antibiotics in farm animals leads to the development of bacteria that are immune to many treatments, The New York Times reported.

The House hearing was held to discuss a proposed measure to ban the use in animals of seven classes of antibiotics important to human health. It would also limit other antibiotics to therapeutic and some preventive uses in animals.

The measure is supported by the American Medical Association but opposed by farm groups, which means the measure is likely to fail. However, supporters hope the measure will be included in legislation to overhaul the U.S. health system, The Times reported.


Fewer Drunks on U.S. Roads: Survey

Tougher laws, tighter enforcement and a shift in social attitudes may be among the reasons why there's been a major decrease in the number of drunk drivers on U.S. roads in the past 30 years, the Associated Press reported.

In 2007, 2.2 percent of drivers had blood-alcohol levels of 0.08 or higher, compared with 7.5 percent in 1973, 5.4 percent in 1986, and 4.3 percent in 1996, says a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration roadside survey.

The new survey also found that the highest number of drunk drivers (4.8 percent) were on the road between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Saturday and that 1.2 percent of drivers were drunk between 10 p.m. to midnight on Friday night, the AP reported.

Researchers conducting the survey of weekend nighttime drivers used breath samples to measure blood alcohol concentrations, and also collected oral fluid and blood samples to check for drugs.

While 16.3 percent of the drivers tested positive for drugs, researchers noted that drugs can remain in a person's system for weeks, which makes it difficult to determine whether the drivers are impaired, the AP reported.

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