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

Survey Finds Drops in Drug, Alcohol Use Among Students

The number of students in grades six through 12 who report having used drugs, alcohol or cigarettes in the past year has dropped to the lowest level since the early 1990s, a new survey says.

In interviewing more than 101,000 students, the 2001-2002 Pride Survey found that students using drugs -- including marijuana, cocaine and heroin -- fell to 22.3 percent, the lowest level since the 1993-94 school year.

Sixty-five percent of students reported drinking alcohol, and 36 percent said they smoked cigarettes in the past 12 months, which were the lowest figures seen since the Atlanta-based survey began 15 years ago, reports the Associated Press.

The 2001-2002 survey also found that students are receiving more warnings from parents and teachers about the dangers of drug use, and are getting more encouragement to take part in extracurricular or religious activities.


Drug-Resistant Gene Found in Malaria Parasite

Malaria may be caused by a parasite that is not only older but more drug-resistant than previously thought, according to two new studies.

In mapping sections of the parasite's DNA, researchers with the National Institutes of Health say they found that instead of dating back just 3,000 to 5,000 years, which had been believed, the parasite may date back as far as 100,000 to 180,000 years, reports the Associated Press.

The researchers say dating the parasite is important for developing the best treatments for the deadly disease.

In another study, to be published tomorrow in the journal Nature, researchers say they've isolated a gene that allows the malaria parasite to resist the effects of the common anti-malaria drug chloroquine, and they've found that the gene is far more widespread than previously believed.

Transmitted through mosquitoes, malaria afflicts an estimated 500 million people each year and claims the lives of as many as 3 million.


Woman Bears Second Child of Dead Husband

A British woman who won a legal battle to use her dead husband's sperm to have a child has had a second child using the same method, reports the BBC.

Before Diane Blood's husband, Stephen, died in 1995 from bacterial meningitis, sperm was collected from him while he was in a coma.

But since Blood had not given written permission allowing his sperm to be used, it took a three-year court battle for Diane Blood to gain the right to conceive using her late husband's frozen sperm.

One of the conditions for winning the case was that Blood leave Britain to have her insemination treatment. In addition, the birth certificates for her first child, Liam, born three years ago, and the child born yesterday, Joel Michael, must list the father as being "unknown."


TV Docs Shape Our Health Attitudes: Study

Prime-time medical dramas help shape the viewing public's perceptions about health care, according to a new study reported by CNN.

Researchers at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation applauded the shows for informing the public about some hot-button issues, but said the shows virtually ignored others. The dramas reviewed during the 2000-2001 season were ER, Strong Medicine, Gideon's Crossing, and City of Angels.

Commonly raised topics included life and death issues, patients' rights, social disparities in receiving care, HMOs, biotechnology and clinical trials, the report said. Issues virtually ignored included long-term care, the uninsured, and prescription drug coverage.

The study also found that although most issues were not examined in great depth, they were generally covered in a fair and balanced manner.


Neck Cushions on Planes Could Be Dangerous

Inflatable neck cushions commonly used by airline passengers could pose a lethal danger during a sudden loss of cabin pressure, according to experts cited by BBC News Online.

They say under such circumstances, the pressure inside the cushion would remain constant, forcing it to expand up to three times its normal size. This could cut the flow of blood to the brain through the carotid arteries.

They also say the cushion could explode, causing temporary deafness and possibly damaging vertebrae in the neck.

"Having seen one or two tests," the BBC quotes aviation expert Dr. Ian Perry as saying, "I think that these cushions are dangerous unless proved otherwise."


Drake's Recalls 'Sunny Doodles'

Interstate Bakeries Corp. is recalling all Drake's Sunny Doodles snack cakes marked with "Best Before" or "Sell By" dates of July 22 through August 2, because of undeclared soy flour used during manufacturing. No other Drake's cakes are affected by this recall, the Food and Drug Administration says.

Consumption of this product by people who have an allergy or sensitivity to soy protein could cause a serious allergic reaction. As a precaution, Drake's says it is removing all affected Sunny Doodles from store shelves. The company has not received any reports of illness.

Sunny Doodles are distributed in 3-oz. snack packs and 12-oz. family packs, primarily in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

People with soy allergies should not consume the recalled product, and should contact Interstate Bakeries at 816-502-4012 or visit for details on obtaining a full refund.

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