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

Beef Recall Expanded After E.coli Contamination

An E. coli outbreak that has made 19 people ill has prompted an expanded beef recall to cover 21 states and involve 18 million pounds of meat, reports the Associated Press.

The recall comes from ConAgra Beef Co., of Greeley, Colo., and expands on a recall of 354,200 pounds of beef made last month after a positive E. coli test was found at the Denver packing house that had supplied the beef.

Agriculture officials say no E. coli has been detected at the plant since July 11, but the expanded recall is being taken as a precautionary measure.

The 19 illnesses were reported in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The recall is the largest since 1997, when 25 million pounds of ground beef were recalled by Hudson Foods after 15 people became ill from E. coli upon eating hamburger from the company's Columbus, Neb. Plant.


Doctor Named Britain's Worst Serial Killer

In concluding that a trusted family doctor probably murdered at least 215 patients before being jailed in 2000, officials have named the doctor, 56-year-old Harold Shipman, as the worst serial killer in Britain's history.

Shipman was convicted in 2000 of killing 15 of his patients with lethal heroin injections at his family practice in a small northern England community, but the new inquiry found that hundreds of other deaths at the practice were "highly suspicious," reports the BBC.

While most of Shipman's victims were elderly, they were said to range in age from 47 to 93. Among them, 171 were women and 44 were men.

One big issue that remains a mystery is Shipman's motive. The 2,000 page report said there were no signs of "sexual depravity" and money was suspected of being taken in just one case.

Shipman is serving 15 life terms with no chance of parole.


Anxiety is in the Gene

The thought of a tax audit is enough to make anyone's palms sweat, but those of us whose anxiety runs even stronger may have our parents to blame. People with a clipped version of a gene that controls a key emotion molecule have overactive brain reactions to stressful stimuli, a new study has found.

The gene is called SLC6A4, and the protein it encodes helps brain cells transport a messenger molecule known as serotonin after they've released the chemical. A region of this gene, called the promoter, controls how much of the transporter is produced, reports HealthDay.

One-third of people in this country have two long versions, or alleles, of the SLC6A4 promoter region. As a result, their brains produce more of the protein, which keeps their serotonin from lingering before it's absorbed. The rest have one or two short forms that lead to less efficient transport of the messenger chemical.

Serotonin is an important factor in depression and anxiety, and studies have shown that people with one or two copies of the short allele lean slightly toward the anxious and fearful on personality tests. This effect is modest -- 3 percent to 4 percent, on average -- and it's not clear how much it might influence behavior. However, studies in twins have determined that between 40 percent to 60 percent of the variation in anxiety levels between people are genetic in origin.

The new research is reported in today's issue of Science.


More Than 60,000 Grills Recalled

If you're planning a cookout this weekend, beware -- the Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced two recalls of more than 60,000 grills because of their potential to collapse or cause burns.

Wal-Mart Stores are reportedly recalling 60,000 of their Red Devil grills due to a problem in the air intake tube that can cause the grills to warm up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat not only poses the potential for burning, but of causing the grills to collapse.

The CPSC says there have been 44 reports of people receiving burns on legs, hands and fingers due to the problem. The grills say "Red Devil" and show an image of a devil cooking, reports the Associated Press.

And about 1,800 grills made by the Flat Rock Grill Co., of Powhatan, Va., are also being recalled due to reports of glass in the grills' thermometers breaking. No injuries have been reported.

Those grills include Models 2000 and 3000 of the Flat Rock Grill Shoreline series stainless steel grills. The grills were sold in the southeastern and south central United States and on the company's web site from July 1999 to July 2002.


Gov't Probes J&J Anemia Drug Factory

The Justice Department and the Food and Drug Administration are investigating a Johnson & Johnson drug factory in Puerto Rico, where an anemia drug is produced that has been linked to a recent spike in a serious illness, The New York Times reports.

The drug, Eprex, is meant to boost the number of red blood cells in anemic people, many of whom are undergoing chemotherapy. In recent months, a growing number of users in Europe and North America have developed red cell aplasia, a condition in which the body stops producing red blood cells almost entirely. People who develop the condition become dependent on blood transfusions to survive.

A former J&J employee, Hector Arce, has filed a whistle-blower suit against the company, alleging he was forced to falsify data to cover up manufacturing problems at the plant. The company, which fired Arce in March 1999, denies the allegations, saying Arce was a boiler operator who wasn't directly involved in the manufacture of Eprex. The company says Arce was fired for various breaches of corporate policy and for dishonesty.

The newspaper quotes unnamed scientists who say slight deviations in manufacturing practices could cause problems in drugs like Eprex, which is made using living cells.


Two Get HIV From Donated Blood

Two people have contracted the AIDS-causing HIV virus from blood transfusions provided by a regional blood bank in Florida, the Associated Press reports.

The blood recipients, described as a young adult and another in the mid-60s, reportedly contracted the virus from transfusions in Hillsborough and Pinellas county hospitals, according to Florida Blood Services, which processed the blood.

The donor gave the blood on May 11, but had contracted the virus too recently for tests to detect it, a blood bank spokesman told the AP. Once contracted, HIV takes seven to 10 days to become detectable.

Experts cited by the AP say the chances of getting HIV from donated blood is 1 in 2 million to 3 million transfusions. This latest incident marks the second reported time since 1999 that HIV has been transmitted through donated blood. The first case infected a man in San Antonio, Texas, last September.

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