Health Highlights: Sept. 12, 2011

Malaria Drug Discoverer, 2 Others to Be Honored Federal Court Throws Out Challenges to Health Law Water Contamination Threatens Flood-Ravaged Northeast

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

Malaria Drug Discoverer, 2 Others to Be Honored

The prestigious Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation medical awards will be presented to two researchers who unraveled how proteins work within cells and a third scientist who discovered a malaria drug that has saved millions of lives, according to the Associated Press.

And public service award will be presented to the Clinical Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The center is described by the foundation as "a model research hospital, providing innovative therapy and high-quality patient care, treating rare and severe diseases and producing outstanding physician-scientists."

The foundation will present the $250,000 prizes, which were announced Monday, on Sept. 23 in New York City.

The clinical research award will go to Tu Youyou, 81, of Beijing's China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, who discovered the key to the highly successful malaria drug artemisinin after poring over ancient documents on folk remedies, the AP said.

Dr. Arthur Horwich, of Yale University, will share the award for basic research with a German researcher, Dr. Franz-Ulrich Hartl, of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried. The foundation said their findings on cells and proteins could potentially lead to treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's, the AP said.


Federal Court Throws Out Challenges to Health Law

Saying that the cases lacked legal standing, a federal appellate court in Richmond, Va., dismissed two lawsuits on Thursday that challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, enacted by the Obama administration in 2010.

Two of the three Democratic judges on the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Court also said they would have upheld the law if they could have ruled on the cases' substance, The New York Times reported. But they threw out the lawsuits on technicalities, saying that the plaintiffs in each case had no legal right to sue.

One of the lower courts overturned the law's requirement that most Americans must purchase health insurance by 2014, a key provision of the law. The other lower court upheld the insurance requirement.

Other cases challenging the landmark health-care reform measure have been heard in states from Georgia to Ohio, the Times said. A final decision will likely rest with the U.S. Supreme Court.


Water Contamination Threatens Flood-Ravaged Northeast

Many areas of the Northeast, ravaged by flooding from tropical storms Irene and Lee, now have to wonder if their water is safe.

"We face a public health emergency because sewage treatment plants are underwater and no longer working," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said after torrential rains from Lee saturated the central and eastern portions of the state, the Associated Press reported.

In Vermont, flooded by Irene nearly two weeks ago, 12 towns were still on boil-water restrictions because sewage and other toxins may have contaminated drinking water. Other states have similar restrictions in place.

Besides the threat of sewage runoff, residents in flooded regions have to fear a toxic cocktail of pesticides, paints and other contaminants carried from basements, garages and driveways to areas downstream.

Vermont health officials were providing residents with private water wells with free kits to test for bacteria. Additional tests would be needed for any wells smelling of gasoline or oil, the AP said.

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