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Health Highlights: July 5, 2004

Sen. Hatch Predicts Easing of Stem Cell Restrictions Polio Outbreak Reported in Northern NigeriaNo Evidence of Mad Cow Disease in Suspected Animal'Swallow This Pill - Now, Smile' FDA Warns About 'Permanent' Makeup WHO Urges Tighter SARS Controls

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

Sen. Hatch Predicts Easing of Stem Cell Restrictions

The Bush administration's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research may be close to ending, a U.S. Senate Republican leader has predicted.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told CNN's Late Edition Sunday that there were enough votes in the Senate to end a filibuster on the issue. But, Hatch said, he believed that it was more likely that a compromise would be reached between supporters of using embryonic stem cells for disease research and those in the Bush administration who oppose any sort of research that uses the stem cells from human embryos.

The standard for the compromise might be set by the the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Hatch said. "That has to be done, or we're going to have a mess on our hands all over the world," he told CNN.

The issue has re-emerged since Nancy Reagan, shortly before her husband's death, spoke publicly in favor of resuming embryonic stem cell research. Proponents claim that it might help find cures for a number of diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

"I personally believe that in the end the president and those who are in the administration will see that [embryonic stem cell research needs to be resumed]," Hatch said on Late Edition. "And we need to support this. Nancy Reagan happens to be right on this."


Polio Outbreak Reported in Northern Nigeria

It may be nothing more than a bad memory in Western society, but polio continues to ravage areas of the world where the vaccine is either unavailable, or in one case, rejected.

The Associated Press reports a "suspected large-scale polio outbreak" in a province of the African nation of Nigeria, where its leaders had not allowed children to get the polio vaccine.

The heavily Muslim state of Kano is one of several in northern Nigeria that had rejected the polio vaccine, which is almost universally accepted as a foolproof deterrant to polio. According to the wire service, Kano leaders believed the vaccine was part of a U.S.-led plot to cause Muslim girls to become sterile.

The A.P. says dozens of polio cases were reported Friday in the city of Rogo, about 60 miles southeast of the capital city, also called Kano. At least one local official is calling for the Kano state's top official to intervene.

The cases showed classic polio symptoms -- fever, fatigue, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs -- and some had already resulted in paralysis.

The World Health Organization has told Kano's leaders that the polio vaccine is safe, but so far there has been no official response.


No Evidence of Mad Cow Disease in Suspected Animal

There's good news for all of those Americans firing up their barbecues for the holiday cookouts.

The second of two cows whose initial tests for mad cow disease had originally been inconclusive does not have the dangerous ailment, government officials say. The first cow was given a clean bill of health July 1.

According to the Associated Press, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture cleared the animal from having bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the scientific name for mad cow disease. There has been only one confirmed case of mad cow in the United States -- last December, in a Holstein living on a farm in the state of Washington.

Mad cow disease's fatal effects on cattle can also transfer to humans. The disease affects the brain and nervous system, and people who eat meat containing the BSE protein can get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which also is fatal.

In the 1990s and into the 21st century, hundreds of thousands of animals were destroyed in England and Europe to stem a BSE outbreak. In the United States, more than 8,500 animals have been tested under a new program designed to catch any cases before they become widespread.


'Swallow This Pill - Now, Smile'

Doctors at an Arkansas hospital are experiencing a new way of looking at things -- literally.

The Associated Press reports that a tiny camera inside a pill is being used at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock to see patients' entire digestive tracts.

The device, called the M2A Capsule, can take 50,000 photos over an eight hour period, has its own flash bulbs, and can show doctors much more of a child's intestinal tract than the standard endoscopy.

Two male patients, both suspected of having Crohn's disease, were the first to use the device, the wire service said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved the M2A for use in the fall of 2003.

The capsule is less than an inch long with a circumference of about one-quarter inch. It's taken with a glass of water, and the patient then spends the next eight hours wearing a belt that records the images the capsule sends back. These images are then transferred to a computer.

Because the device is much less invasive than an endoscopy, its developers say, it can help with diagnosing illnesses that sometimes evade traditional diagnostic tools.


FDA Warns About 'Permanent' Makeup

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a consumer alert about "permanent makeup" that can cause infection, scarring, and serious disfigurement.

The reactions have been reported in people who've had certain micropigmentation procedures, a form of tattooing, used to apply permanent makeup for lip liner, eyeliner, or eyebrow color.

These adverse events are associated with certain ink shades of the Premier Pigment brand of permanent makeup inks, made by the American Institute of Intradermal Cosmetics, doing business as Premier Products, in Arlington, Tex.

So far, the FDA has been alerted to about 50 reported cases of adverse events connected with these inks. Swelling, cracking, peeling, blistering, scarring, and serious infection in the areas of the eyes and lips are among the side effects reported to date.

Some people have suffered serious disfigurement.

The agency urged consumers to report adverse reactions from tattoos, including permanent makeup, to the FDA and to state and local health authorities.


WHO Urges Tighter SARS Controls

China and other countries must tighten controls on the SARS virus, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

The demand for more stringent control of the SARS virus was made after Chinese investigators on Thursday revealed that shoddy controls at a Beijing laboratory resulted in an April SARS outbreak that infected nine people, killing one.

The investigation found that two workers at the lab fell ill in February with SARS-like illnesses. But the workers weren't tested for SARS and they returned to work after they recovered, the Melbourne Herald Sun reported.

The two workers were tested only after the start of the April outbreak. They tested positive for SARS antibodies.

"The fact that these cases weren't found sooner suggests that the detection system isn't fully in place throughout the Chinese health system," Roy Wadia, a WHO spokesperson in Beijing, told the Sun.

One of the two lab workers who became sick in February oversaw inactivation of the SARS virus. That should have made her a prime suspect for SARS when she became ill, Wadia said.

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