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Health Highlights: Aug. 4, 2005

1st Large-Scale Breast Milk Donor Center Opens in California Yoga May Contain Mid-Life Spread: Study FDA Broadens Approval of Blood Pressure Drug New Cleaning Method for Surgical Instruments May Halt Spread of CJD Resistant Bacteria Being Brought Home by Wounded U.S. Soldiers

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

1st Large-Scale Breast Milk Donor Center Opens in California

A California firm says it has opened the nation's first large-scale breast milk donor facility to treat premature and sick infants.

The Prolacta Bioscience facility said it will accept donated milk from banks around the country, using pasteurization techniques to produce milk that's ideal for babies born too soon. Prolacta said it also is looking to supply donated milk for babies with heart defects, those at risk of infection, and children on chemotherapy.

Breast milk has certain minerals, enzymes and antibodies that, when compared to commercially produced milk, are credited with keeping babies healthier, the company said in a statement. The firm said it will ensure that its supplies also have appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and pH levels.

The processed milk will be distributed to hospitals and neonatal intensive-care units across the country, Prolacta said.

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America told BBC News that it questioned the "buying and selling of human milk," saying the practice could pressure low-income mothers into selling their milk.

The British network didn't publish any Prolacta response to the group's concerns.


Yoga May Contain Mid-Life Spread: Study

Yoga may help people suppress the typical middle-age spread, say researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

While the art of slow-stretching and meditation won't burn calories as quickly as jogging or a workout at the gym, people in their 50s who regularly practiced yoga lost about five pounds over 10 years, the study leaders noted. By contrast, study participants in the same age group who didn't practice yoga gained more than 13 pounds over the same span, the Associated Press reported.

Alan Kristal, a study co-author, told the wire service that yoga's benefits may have less to do with burning calories and more to do with participants keeping in tune with their bodies and practicing better eating habits.

"You become very sensitive to the feeling of being stuffed," he said.

Results of the study appear in the July/August issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.


FDA Broadens Approval of Blood Pressure Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved expanded use of the blood pressure medication Diovan (valsartan) to include improving certain patients' chances of surviving a heart attack, manufacturer Novartis Pharmaceuticals said Thursday.

The new indication applies only to high-risk heart attack survivors who have a condition called left ventricular dysfunction, the company said.

The FDA also broadened the drug's labeling to allow doctors to prescribe it to a wider range of heart-failure patients, Novartis said. Up to now, the drug had been officially limited to heart-failure patients who were intolerant to a class of medicines called ACE inhibitors.

The company warned that Diovan should be discontinued as soon as a woman learns she is pregnant because the drug could cause serious harm, even death, to a fetus.


Cleaning Method for Surgical Instruments May Halt Spread of CJD

A new method of cleaning surgical instruments developed by University of Edinburgh scientists may help stop the spread of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human form of mad cow.

Prions, the infectious particles that cause the disease, are known to be immune to most traditional sterilization techniques. These prions vary so much from known viral and bacterial infections that they can remain on surgical instruments even after the instruments have been sterilized.

This new method of cleaning surgical instruments uses gas that can reduce the presence of prions a thousand times lower than current cleaning methods and will greatly reduce the risk of CJD spread in surgical departments, the London Daily Mail reported.

"This new technique is significant because, unlike viral and bacterial pathogens, prions are proteins which are resistant to high temperatures and adhere very strongly to metal surfaces," said Professor Robert Baxter of the University of Edinburgh's School of Chemistry.


Resistant Bacteria Being Brought Home by Wounded U.S. Soldiers

High rates of infection with a drug-resistant bacteria are being seen in wounded American soldiers brought back to military hospitals in the United States, say military doctors.

The bacteria, called Acinetobacter baumannii, are not found only in Iraq. They live in the soil and water in many parts of the world and can invade wounds, the bloodstream and other areas of the body. Infection with the bacteria can be treated with only certain kinds of antibiotics, The New York Times reported.

About 240 cases of infection have been treated at U.S. Army hospitals since 2003.

"It is not difficult to treat. If the antibiotic works, it works easily," Col. Bruno Petruccelli, a physician and director of epidemiology and disease surveillance fore the United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, told The Times.

However, he noted that especially resistant strains of bacteria can cause prolonged infection.

No American soldiers from the Iraq war have died from infection with the bacteria. However, five seriously ill patients in hospitals treating wounded soldiers became infected with the bacteria and later died.

It's not known whether the patients died because of the bacterial infection or due to their underlying illnesses, Petruccelli told The Times.

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