Archive for January, 2010

More Severe Asthma Linked to Low Vitamin D Levels

LungsLow levels of vitamin D are associated with greater asthma severity, report researchers in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. In their recent study, low levels of vitamin D correlated with poorer lung function, increased airway reactivity, and reduced response to steroid treatment in adult asthmatics. As a result of these findings, the researchers suggest that vitamin D supplements might improve symptoms in some asthma patients, but this particular study did not specifically prove that vitamin D supplements would reduce asthma symptoms.

The importance of Vitamin D is considered to be one of the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2007 and researchers are continuing to find evidence of its critical importance in immune function and many other systems in the body.

In recent years, low Vitamin D levels have been linked with a number of  serious, chronic diseases such as weak bones and muscles, mental decline in elderly, diabetes, gum disease, multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, osteoporosis, and possibly cancer, stroke, and heart disease have all been found to be associated with low levels of Vitamin D.

Yet despite the importance of this vitamin, a deficiency of Vitamin D remains widespread. 

The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set the Upper Limits (UL) for vitamin D at 2,000 IU for children, adults, pregnant, and lactating women, and 1,000 IU for infants up to 12 months of age.  A simple blood test can measure the circulating Vitamin D levels in your blood. Many doctors have recently been drawing blood levels of Vitamin D to to make sure patients are getting enough vitamin D to optimize good bone health and prevent chronic disease. Ask your doctor about this.

Read more about Vitamin D 

Source: Sutherland E, et al “Vitamin D levels, lung function and steroid response in adult asthma” Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2010; DOI: 10.1164/rccm.200911-1710OC.

Source: “Low Vitamin D Worsens Asthma”, MedPage Today, January 28, 2010

Beware of this Super Bug in the Sand at the Beach

Sand at the beach can harbor dangerous bacteriaSand at the beach may harbor the super bug MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), according to researchers from the University of Washington.  Recently, public beaches in Seattle were tested by the researchers and nearly all of them contained staphylococci in the sand at the shoreline, with MRSA in half of the staph bacteria.

It is well known that staphylococci are frequently found in sand and salt water, but the more dangerous MRSA strain of staphylococci was unexpected by the researchers. 

As a result of these findings, the investigators are recommending caution for beechgoers, especially those who have exposed cuts or abrasions, or those who are ”medically fragile”.  Covering up with sand or digging down into the sand appears to increase the chance of coming in contact with a dangerous strain of staph, and a break in the skin provides the portal of entry for the super bug. 

A thorough shower with lots of soap and water immediately after the beach is always a good idea, and any signs of infection, nodules, ulcerations, persistent rash, or fever are important signs that should be brought to the attention of your doctor.    

Read more about MRSA

Source: Soge OO, et al “Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Methicillin-Resistant Coagulase-Negative Staphylococcus spp. (MRCoNS) from West Coast Public Marine Parks” ICAAC 2009; Poster C2-146.
Source: “MRSA Found on Beaches in Washington”, MedPage Today, September 2009


Rare Strain of Super Bug Emerges in the USA

The super bug, MRSA, is being monitored closely by scientistsA rare strain of the Super Bug, MRSA, has been found by researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.  The drug-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus is about five times more deadly than other strains, say researchers. In fact, half of the patients with bloodstream infections caused by this rare strain of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) died within 30 days of diagnosis.

At this point, the strain of MRSA, referred to as USA600, has been more common in Europe than the U.S.

See photos and read more about MRSA

Source: Moore CL, et al “USA600 Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus bacteremia (MRSA-b) Associated with reduced vancomycin susceptibility and significant mortality” IDSA 2009; Abstract LB-40.
Source: “Rare MRSA Strain Deadlier than Others”, MedPage Today, November 3, 2009


Can You Get Bad Germs From a Toilet Seat?

A toilet seat can harbor a variety of germsYes, a toilet seat can harbor a variety of germs. MRSA, pinworms, and viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting are just some of the pathogens that can be transmitted to you by the toilet seat.   

Researchers are now describing a new wave of irritating and itchy rash on the upper thighs and buttocks of children.  Harsh chemical cleaners on toilet seats and/or exotic wooden toilet seats appear to be the main culprits causing this problem.  A recent study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center documents recent cases of toilet seat dermatitis in children, some of whom suffered for years before being diagnosed.

Toilet seat dermatitis was first documented and described in 1927 when varnish, lacquers, and paints were used on wooden toilet seats.  In the 1980s and 1990s, plastic toilet seats replaced wooden ones and sanitary seat covers came into use.  These changes were associated with a dramatic decline in the condition.

Recently, however exotic wooden toilet seats, as well as harsh toilet seat detergents have made a resurgence in popularity.  Cleaners with ingredients such as didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride and alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, are being used as toilet seat cleansers although they have previously been documented to cause severe skin irritation.

To prevent any of these conditions, avoid sitting directly on a toilet seat or use a protective barrier in public restrooms.  Avoid harsh cleansers at home and replace all wooden toilet seats with plastic ones.

Read more about the Super Bug, MRSA 

Source: “Toilet Seat Dermatitis Making a Comeback”, MedPage Today, January 2010
Source: Center for Disease Control


A Blood Test That Detects Colorectal Cancer

Blood testResearchers in Israel have found a new blood test that detects early colorectal cancer and precancerous adenomas.

This is very exciting news, but don’t cancel your colonoscopy yet. The blood test is still under investigation and is not yet available. Colonoscopy remains the best way to detect early colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths.

The current recommendations are for all patients to have screening colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter. Some physicians, however, recommend more frequent screening at 5-year intervals. Also, those at increased risk for colon cancer may be advised to undergo colonoscopy at an earlier age with more frequent follow-ups. Check with your primary care provider to find out what is best for you.

Read more about colonoscopy

Source: “Blood Test Detects Colorectal Cancer”, MedPage Today, January 21, 2010

Scientists Are Learning How to Slow Aging

Scientists are getting closer to unraveling the mystery of aging and now a new study points to evidence that omega-3 fatty acids appear to slow the biological aging process.  University of California researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids may slow aging by protecting the body’s chromosomes from the usual damage that occurs with aging. In their recent study of patients with heart disease, those who had the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the most slowing of their biological aging process, while those who had the lowest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had evidence of the fastest rate of aging.

To determine the speed of biological aging, the researchers measured the length of telomeres on the patients’ chromosomes. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes and the shortening of telomeres has been linked to not only the aging process,  but cancer and a higher risk of dying. Telomeres allow cells to divide while keeping the genetic material intact. Every time a cell divides, telomeres get progressively shorter until the cell ultimately dies.  This normal aging process can be sped up by environmental factors such as obesity, poor diet, inactivity and smoking.  Scientists theorize that counteracting telomere shortening could allow people to be healthier and live longer.

In the University of California study there was no distinction between meals of fatty fish and fish-oil supplements—leaving open the question of whether it’s better for people to eat more fish, to eat plants such as flaxseed or just to take omega-3 supplements.

Experts point out that the results of this study are preliminary and need to be replicated before physicians should use them in practice, but a number of other studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to heart health, and the American Heart Assn. recommends that patients with known coronary artery disease get at least one gram a day of omega-3 fish oil through intake of oily fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines, or the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

Source: MedPage Today January 19, 2010

Video source: JAMA