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Health Highlights: Aug. 3, 2003

Doctors Perform World's 1st 'Triple Swap' Kidney Transplant President Bush in 'Excellent' Health Medical Author Criticized for Conflict of Interest FDA Drops Olestra Warning Label U.S. Army Investigating Pneumonia Outbreak in Iraq

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

Doctors Perform World's 1st 'Triple Swap' Kidney Transplant

It's believed to be the world's first simultaneous "triple swap" kidney transplant operation. And it has given a new lease on life to a 30-year-old woman from Florida, a 39-year-old woman from Pennsylvania, and a 13-year-old boy from Maryland.

The "triple switch" was orchestrated Monday by doctors and nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. It was necessary because each of the recipients had a willing donor, but their blood or tissue types weren't compatible with the friend or relative they had hoped to give their organ to.

So nurses at Hopkins turned to the hospital's Incompatible Kidney Transplant Program, which can cross-reference donor-recipient pairs to find a compatible match. Since 2001, the hospital has performed four double transplants using this technique. But this was the first time a "triple switch" kidney transplant had been done, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The 11-hour surgery took place Monday and all six people involved are doing well, hospital officials said.

"She gave me my life back," Tracy Stahl, the 39-year-old from Johnstown, Pa., said of Julia Tower, 57, of Hyattsville, Md. Tower had initially hoped to give her kidney to family friend Jeremy Weiser-Warschoff, 13, of Silver Spring, Md.

The other lucky recipient is Germaine Allum, 30, of Miami.

Lead surgeon Dr. Robert Montgomery said, "It was really possible because these three donors desperately wanted to see their loved ones receive a kidney and were open to any possibility to make that happen."


President Bush in 'Excellent' Health

Maybe U.S. health officials should make President Bush the centerpiece of their campaign to get sedentary Americans off the couch and into the gym.

The 57-year-old Bush, a devoted exerciser, got a clean bill of health from his doctors Saturday before leaving for a month-long working vacation at his 1,600 acre ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The president's regimen includes running three miles three times a week, using an elliptical trainer for 25 minutes three times a week, lifting weights twice a week and water jogging -- walking briskly through the White House swimming pool -- once a week, the Associated Press reports.

Bush also doesn't drink alcohol, enjoys an occasional cigar, and takes a daily aspirin.

His payoff? Bush is in the "superior" fitness category for men his age, the news service quotes his doctors as saying.


Medical Author Criticized for Conflict of Interest

A doctor who wrote an article for the medical journal Nature Neuroscience on the value of experimental treatments for depression has been criticized for not disclosing he had financial ties to the companies that produce some of the therapies, The New York Times reports.

Dr. Charles B. Nemeroff, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, says he would have reported the conflict, but the journal did not have a policy requiring him to do so.

"I have always been totally compliant, probably gone overboard, with disclosure," Nemeroff said. "If there is a fault here, it is with the journal's policy."

Dr. Charles G. Jennings, who is executive editor of the Nature Research Journals, which includes Nature Neuroscience, said the publications were weighing whether to change the disclosure policy, given the criticism.

Jennings said disclosures of conflicts of interest were required only on articles about original research. Nemeroff's article last November was a review of previously published research.

The two doctors who raised the concerns are Dr. Robert T. Rubin, director of the Center for Neurosciences Research at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, and Dr. Bernard J. Carroll, director of the Pacific Behavioral Research Foundation in Carmel, Calif.. They said they faulted the policy of Nature Neuroscience, and Nemeroff for not disclosing the potential conflict, the Times reports.

Nemeroff said Carroll was "stirring up things" because of past differences between the two doctors, the newspaper says.


FDA Drops Olestra Warning Label

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says snacks containing olestra, a substitute for fat, no longer have to carry warning labels saying they may cause stomach aches or diarrhea.

In announcing the decision Friday, the agency said it had concluded the faux fat, which is made by Procter & Gamble and contains no calories, rarely causes digestive problems.

"Real-life" consumption studies of products containing olestra showed the chemical caused only infrequent, mild gastrointestinal effects. A six-week study with more than 3,000 people showed that the group consuming potato chips containing olestra experienced only a minor increase in bowel movement frequency compared to those people who consumed only full-fat chips, the agency says.

The FDA approved olestra's sale in 1996, as long as packages bore labels spelling out possible gastrointestinal side effects.


U.S. Army Investigating Pneumonia Outbreak in Iraq

Fourteen U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq have been stricken with serious cases of pneumonia and two have died, prompting the Army to send a six-person team of specialists there to investigate, the Associated Press reports.

Nine soldiers have recovered from the illness and three are still hospitalized. All were so ill that they had to be evacuated from the region while on respirators, the AP says. Most are being treated in Germany

The medical team en route to Iraq includes infectious disease experts and those who will take air, soil, and water samples. The illness has stricken troops from different units in widely scattered areas.

So far, there is no evidence of association with biological weapons or exposure to SARS, military officials told the AP.

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