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Health Highlights: June 26, 2004

U.S. Tests for Possible Mad Cow Case Triple Therapy Controls Type 2 Diabetes Without Weight Gain U.S. Approves Wider Use of Rapid HIV Test Veggies May be Cancer Fighter Bladder Control Loss Common, Under-Treated in U.S. Defective Fuse Leads to Fireworks Recall

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

U.S. Tests for Possible Mad Cow Case

U.S. health officials said Saturday that it was safe to eat beef, even though preliminary testing indicated a possible second case of mad cow disease in the country, the Associated Press reported.

A preliminary screening test designed to give rapid results had indicated an animal had mad cow disease, which is also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). These preliminary tests can't confirm whether an animal is truly infected, the AP said.

Definitive tests are being done at the U.S. Agriculture Department's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. Results from those tests could take up to seven days, the news service quoted the department as saying. The Iowa lab diagnosed the nation's only confirmed case of BSE, in a Washington state Holstein, last December.

Until those definitive tests are complete, the Agriculture Department said it would not identify the animal, the state it came from or the slaughterhouse where it was killed, the AP said.

"The inconclusive result does not mean we have found another case of BSE in this country," said Dr. John Clifford, deputy administrator of the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. "Inconclusive results are a normal part of most screening tests."

The department remains confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply, Clifford said. Meat from the animal did not enter the human food supply or livestock feed, he said. Keeping the carcass out of the supply chain is one of several federal safeguards against introduction of BSE into the food supply. These include rules that prohibit the use of the riskiest cattle parts, such as brains and spinal cords, according to the AP.

People who eat infected products can contract a rare but fatal disease similar to BSE, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.


Triple Therapy Controls Type 2 Diabetes Without Weight Gain

People with type 2 diabetes working to control their blood sugar levels often experience weight gain. But a new study reports that taking two drugs in combination with insulin can effectively regulate blood sugar without the weight gain.

The findings, by researchers at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, appear in the July issue of Diabetes Care. It's the first study to analyze the safety and effectiveness of triple therapy using insulin, metformin and a drug in the thiazolidinedione family, the scientists said.

"We've shown spectacular control of blood sugar levels in the absence of weight gain, a common side effect of drug therapies for type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Philip Raskin, professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study. "And we can keep the blood sugar under control with relative ease. This is a step in the right direction for effectively treating type 2 diabetes."

Type 2 diabetics who use drug therapy typically take insulin and only one of the drugs. Those patients often reduce their blood sugar below the 7 percent limit suggested by the American Diabetes Association. But they also tend to gain weight and often have to increase their insulin doses, said Raskin.

In the new study, all 28 patients who used the triple therapy reduced their blood-sugar levels below 7 percent without increasing insulin.


U.S. Approves Wider Use of Rapid HIV Test

An oral test that can determine within 20 minutes whether a person is infected with the virus that causes AIDS will gain wider use across the country, the Bush administration announced Friday.

The new rules will allow the test for HIV screenings in counseling centers, community health centers and doctors' offices. Previously, use of the OraQuick test was mainly limited to hospitals and large health clinics, according to the Associated Press.

"HIV testing has never been easier or more accessible than it is today," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said. Announcement of the widescale testing plan came in advance of National HIV Testing Day on Sunday.

The OraQuick test allows a technician to wipe a treated cotton swab along the gums, picking up not saliva but cells lining the mouth. Older HIV tests often took two weeks to provide results. It's hoped the new oral test will lead to more screening of high-risk people. And because it's needle-free, it should be safer for health-care workers, the AP said.

An estimated 850,000 to 950,000 Americans are infected with HIV, and 25 percent of them don't know it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Veggies May be Cancer Fighter

Concerned about your risk of cancer? Try some sprouts and other vegetables.

That's the advice of researchers from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland who report that roughly four ounces of sprouted vegetables every day appear to protect against DNA damage in human blood cells, according to a United Press International report.

"DNA damage is associated with cancer risk. Sources of DNA damage include diet-related carcinogens, and bodily processes like oxidative stress -- and the raw sprouts protect against this kind of damage," said study co-author Ian Rowland.

"Just a 4-ounce portion per day of a mix of broccoli, radish, alfalfa and clover sprouts was enough in our tests to show the protective effect," Rowland added.

The study appears in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, according to the news agency.


Bladder Control Loss Common, Under-Treated in U.S.

About one in three Americans between the ages of 30 and 70 have some degree of bladder control loss, but 64 percent of them have not been diagnosed by a doctor and aren't doing anything to manage the condition, according to a Harris Interactive survey.

The survey of more than 1,400 people found that diagnosis of bladder control loss results in better knowledge, communication, and successful treatment of the condition, which affects tens of millions of Americans.

People who've been diagnosed are much more likely to successfully manage their symptoms, to feel a sense of relief, and to feel that their quality of life has improved, and are more comfortable talking with family members and doctors about the condition.

The survey, sponsored by the National Association for Continence (NAFC), also found that, on average, diagnosed adults waited six years after the first symptoms of bladder control loss to talk about it with a doctor. Moreover, people who are diagnosed are nearly twice as likely to report higher self-esteem than those who are managing their symptoms but are undiagnosed.


Defective Fuse Leads to Fireworks Recall

About 11,700 fireworks with defective fuses are being recalled, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced Friday.

The defective fuse on the "T6" Titanium 6 Break Artillery Shell Fireworks can fail to ignite the device. People who try to re-light the fuse after it goes out could suffer serious injury. There have been no reported injuries so far.

The fireworks model number CP1104 is listed on the launch tube and packaging. The device consists of a colorful plastic launch tube and six break display shells. The fireworks were sold from May 2004 through June 2004 for about $40.

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