Health Highlights: May 30, 2012

New Tests for E. Coli in Beef to Begin Monday Childhood Cancer DNA Research May Lead to New Treatments Disease Could Wipe Out Gray Bats in U.S. Many Working-Age Veterans Lack Health Coverage: Study

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

New Tests for E. Coli in Beef to Begin Monday

Beginning Monday, U.S. food safety inspectors are scheduled to begin testing for six strains of potentially deadly E. coli bacteria that will not be permitted in certain cuts of raw beef.

The implementation of long-delayed federal regulations target a group of E. coli bacteria collectively referred to as "the Big Six," reported.

These strains of E. coli will be classified on the same level of danger as the better known E. coli O157:H7, which is often implicated in serious illnesses associated with hamburger.

The new strains of E. coli to be the subject of testing include E. coli O26, O111, O103, O121, O45 and O145, reported.


Childhood Cancer DNA Research May Lead to New Treatments

The world's largest collection of genetic data on childhood cancers has been released by U.S. scientists in order to hasten the development of new treatments.

The U.S. Pediatric Cancer Genome Project team mapped the complete genome (all the DNA) of 260 young cancer patients and their work appears in the journal Nature Genetics, BBC News reported.

The data has already revealed a new treatment for a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma and also provided new information about aggressive childhood cancers of the brainstem and blood.

"We have identified unusual, 'cryptic' changes in many patients' cancer cells that we would not have found using other methods," said Dr. Richard Wilson, head of the Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine, BBC News reported.

"We are pleased to be able to share this data with the research community in the hope that others can build upon our initial discoveries," Wilson added.


Disease Could Wipe Out Gray Bats in U.S.

Gray bats in the United States could be wiped out within a few years due to white-nose disease, Fish and Wildlife Service officials said Tuesday.

The first cases of the highly contagious disease were confirmed in the endangered bat species this spring, the Washington Post reported.

White-nose fungus has killed millions of bats in the northeastern U.S. and could prove especially devastating to gray bats, which live in the southeastern part of the country. Ninety percent of the gray bat population is found in nine caves in five states. The bats live in the caves year-round, which could lead to a fast spread of the disease.

"They could potentially be wiped out in just a couple of years," Ann Froschauer, the Fish and Wildlife Service's national communications leader on white-nose syndrome, told the Post. "If the disease behaves in a similar way it has in the Northeast, we really could be looking at losing this species."


Many Working-Age Veterans Lack Health Coverage: Study

A new study finds that more than 1.3 million working-age veterans in the United states don't have health insurance and are not taking advantage of health care available through Veterans Affairs.

Veterans ages 19-64 are more likely to have health insurance than people in the general population, but about 1 in 10 of the nearly 12.5 million veterans in that age group do not have any type of health coverage, reported.

Veterans under age 35 appear to have especially high rates of uninsurance, according to the study from researchers at the Urban Institute.

Their analysis of census data also showed that uninsured veterans also tended to have lower incomes and lower levels of education, and were less likely to have full-time jobs than veterans with health coverage, reported.


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