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Health Highlights: Aug. 3, 2005

U.S. Woman on Life Support Gives Birth to Baby Girl Dog Cloned by South Korean Scientists Latest Suspect Cow Tests Negative for Mad Cow Famine Increases Schizophrenia Risk: Study Vietnam Launches Large-Scale Poultry Vaccination Program

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

U.S. Woman on Life Support Gives Birth to Baby Girl

A 26-year-old pregnant cancer patient kept on life support for three months -- in order to give her fetus more time to develop -- gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday.

Susan Anne Catherine Torres, who weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces at birth, was delivered by Caesarean section at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington and is doing well, the Associated Press reported.

Her mother, Susan Torres, lost consciousness after she suffered a stroke on May 7, following the spread of aggressive melanoma to her brain. Doctors told her husband, Jason, that her brain functions had ceased. She was about seven months pregnant when her baby daughter was delivered Tuesday.

Doctors had hoped to delay delivery until 32 weeks' gestation. The baby is being monitored in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

Susan Torres was removed from life support on Wednesday and died after receiving the final sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church, the AP reported.


Dog Cloned by South Korean Scientists

Scientists at South Korea's Seoul National University have cloned the first dog, an Afghan hound.

The genetically identical pup, named Snuppy, joins a growing list of cloned animal offspring that includes sheep, mice, cows, goats, pigs, rabbits, cats, mules, horses, and rats, the New York newspaper Newsday reported Wednesday.

Dog cloning was considered a major feat because of the difficulty involved in manipulating canine reproductive cycles, the newspaper said. The successful researchers reported in the journal Nature that they transferred 1,095 dog embryos into 123 recipients. Of the three pregnancies that resulted, one ended in miscarriage and a second live birth died three weeks later.

The scientists said their experiment proved that the method they used to clone the animal -- a technique known as somatic nuclear transfer -- could work. But they said it was not their intent to promote the routine cloning of pets.

Several U.S. companies have offered to clone pets for wealthy clients who were willing to pay as much as $50,000. One California firm has cloned a half-dozen cats, including two for paying customers, Newsday said. Such efforts have drawn criticism from animal-welfare activists and ethicists, who say the procedures are risky and could involve the use of scores of embryos and surrogate mothers to produce a single live clone.


Latest Suspect Cow Tests Negative for Mad Cow

The latest cow suspected of harboring the brain-wasting mad cow disease has tested negative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.

After initial tests indicated the possibility of infection, tests at a USDA laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and at an internationally recognized lab in Weybridge, England, came back negative, a department spokesman said.

The animal suffered complications while giving birth and died at the unidentified farm where it lived, the USDA said. A local veterinarian removed some of the animal's tissue after the cow was incinerated in April, but had forgotten until recently to submit the samples for testing, the Associated Press reported.

There have been two confirmed U.S. cases of mad cow: a Texas cow in June and a Canadian-born cow in Washington state in 2003. The consumption of tainted meat can lead to a fatal disorder in people called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which killed about 150 people during an outbreak in the 1980s and 1990s, mostly in Great Britain.


Famine Increases Schizophrenia Risk

Babies born during famines have an increased risk of schizophrenia, says a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers from China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University compared rates of schizophrenia among people in the Wuhu region born before, during and after the Chinese famine of 1959-1961. Those born during the famine had up to a 2.15 percent greater risk of developing schizophrenia later in life, BBC News reported.

The study authors suggested a number of reasons why famine may be linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia.

The overall lack of food available to pregnant women may affect the brains of developing embryos. Or the lack of certain essential nutrients in the diet of pregnant women may cause harm to the embryos, similar to the way that folic acid deficiency can lead to neural tube defects in newborns.

A third possibility is that during the Chinese famine, pregnant women ate more food substitutes that may have been toxic to embryos, the study said. For example, during the famine, women ate tree bark and green algae grown at home in vats of urine.

The findings support those of a previous study that found double the risk of schizophrenia among children born in Holland during food shortages in 1944-45, BBC News reported.


Vietnam Launches Large-Scale Poultry Vaccination Program

In an effort to fight bird flu, Vietnam began this week to administer the first of about 20 million vaccinations to the country's poultry stock. It's the largest bird-flu vaccination program to be conducted in Vietnam.

The program faces many pitfalls. The vaccine has to be kept cool, and millions of free-ranging chickens will have to be caught by hand twice -- the first time for the initial injection and then again three-to-four weeks later for a booster shot, the Associated Press reported.

Officials say the effort will begin with a pilot program in two provinces. If that goes well, the vaccination program will be expanded to include nearly all of Vietnam's provinces by the end of the year.

Vietnam has been hardest hit by the bird flu, which has killed 41 people in that country and led to the death or slaughter of about 45 million birds. Bird flu has killed 12 other people in Thailand, four in Cambodia and three in Indonesia.

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