Today's Health Highlights: Nov. 23, 2001

  • No Anthrax Found in Home of Elderly Victim
  • Anthrax Confirmed in Chile
  • Scientists Create Self-Assembling Bone

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

No Anthrax Found in Home of Elderly Victim

Connecticut Gov. John Rowland announced in frustration today that no anthrax was found in the home or the mail of the 94-year-old widow who died of the disease.

"So far, all samples have tested negative," WTNH-TV quoted Rowland as saying. The tests are preliminary. Also, new tests of the two postal facilities also turned up negative, Rowland said. And while that's good news for workers there, "it's bad news from an investigative standpoint," the New Haven television station quotes Rowland as saying. "We still are frustrated at not finding the source of the anthrax."

Agents in biohazard suits spent Thanksgiving searching "every square inch" of the home of Ottilie Lundgren, the woman whose death from lung anthrax Wednesday deepened the bioterrorism mystery.

The Hartford Courant reported that investigators are doing everything possible to reconstruct the last month of Lundgren's life. That includes a sweeping search of the victim's home, including "every bag of household garbage," state police spokesman J. Paul Vance told the Courant.

FBI agents specializing in hazardous materials were joined by two dozen specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at Lundgren's home. Officials declined to say whether anything was seized.

The prime suspect in Lundgren's death remains the mail, FBI spokeswoman Lisa Bull told the Courant.

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Anthrax Confirmed in Chile

Officials confirmed the first case of anthrax-tained mail outside the United States on Thursday. The CDC and the Chilean Health Ministry say a letter was sent to a pediatrician at a hospital in Santiago, according to the Associated Press.

The recipient, Dr. Antonio Balfi, opened the letter. He has not tested positive for exposure to anthrax spores, but he and 12 co-workers have been given antibiotics as a precaution, the AP says.

Several false alarms have been reported overseas since the anthrax scare began last month, but this is the first positive case. The doctor became suspicious of the letter because it had a return address in Florida but was postmarked in Zurich, Switzerland, according to the AP.

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Scientists Create Self-Assembling Bone

Scientists say they've created a self-assembling scaffold with key properties of the natural skeleton that one day could help repair not only broken or diseased bone, but other tissues and organs, too.

According to an article in HealthDay, past attempts to grow bone have hit snags because bone consists of two main and structurally distinct layers. They've run into trouble convicing one layer, collagen, to grow on a synthetic bed, according HealthDay.

A team at Northwestern University has created tiny molecules called nanofibers, just 8 millionths of an inch in diameter, or 10,000 times narrower than a human hair. When placed in an acidic solution with varying salt concentrations, the fibers arrange themselves in long tubes that resemble the structure of bone collagen, according to the HealthDay article.

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