Entries in Common Cold (10)


Discovery May Hold Key for Universal Flu Vaccine

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We might not have a cure for the common cold, but scientists have discovered a potentially powerful new treatment for much more dangerous flu viruses.

Researchers at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and Crucell Vaccine Institute in the Netherlands say they have discovered a human antibody that protects against essentially all influenza A and B strains.

The researchers believe the antibody could be used to offer something that has never been available before – an actual treatment for patients who are infected with the flu. Currently, such patients are only given supportive treatment while their bodies fight off the infection on their own.

The discovery may even pave the way to a universal flu vaccine, effective against nearly all flu strains, that could be delivered in a one-time shot similar to immunization against diseases like chickenpox and measles.

Ideally, such a vaccine would eliminate the need for annual flu shots, which are specifically tailored to seasonal strains.

Their report appeared Thursday in the journal Science.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Common Cold Virus Attacks Cancer, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A virus that causes the common cold can also track and attack tumors, according to a new study that opens the door to novel cancer treatments.

British researchers injected reovirus into the bloodstreams of 10 patients with bowel cancer that had spread to the liver and found the virus set up deadly “reproduction factories” in the tumors but not in healthy tissue.

“It seems that reovirus is even cleverer than we had thought,” study author Dr. Alan Melcher, professor of clinical oncology and biotherapy at Leeds University in the U.K., said in a statement. “By piggybacking on blood cells, the virus is managing to hide from the body’s natural immune response and reach its target intact. This could be hugely significant for the uptake of viral therapies like this in clinical practice.”

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, suggest cancer-killing viruses can target hard-to-treat tumors after being injected into the bloodstream like standard chemotherapies.

“It would have been a significant barrier to their widespread use if they could only have been injected into the tumor, but the finding that they can hitch a ride on blood cells will potentially make them relevant to a broad range of cancers,” study co-author Dr. Kevin Harrington of the Institute of Cancer Research said in a statement. “We also confirmed that reovirus was specifically targeting cancer cells and leaving normal cells alone, which we hope should mean fewer side effects for patients.”

Other viral cancer therapies, some of which require direct injection into tumors, are currently in phase 3 testing. But this is the first time reovirus has been shown to safely and effectively home in on tumors through the blood.

In an accompanying editorial, John Bell of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada said the study provides an “important proof-of-concept” for intravenous viral cancer therapies.

“The authors and, more importantly, the patients who participated in this trial have made crucial contributions to the translation of [oncolytic virus]-based therapies,” he wrote.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Chronic Stress Feeds Common Cold, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Stress makes the common cold more miserable and harder to kick by letting inflammation linger, a new study found.

Men and women who had chronic stress caused by work woes or marital strife were more likely to develop persistent cold symptoms after inhaling the cold virus than their stress-free counterparts. The culprit: cortisol, a stress hormone that serves as the off switch for the body's inflammatory response.

"The symptoms of a cold are not caused directly by the virus, they're caused by the inflammatory response to the infection," said Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and lead author of the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "You want to produce enough of inflammation to fight off the infection, but not so much that you experience cold symptoms."

With chronic stress, cortisol is overproduced, and the immune system becomes resistant. In the absence of the off switch, inflammation lingers long after the cold virus is gone.

"You have people whose immune cells are not responding to cortisol and, at the same time, they're exposed to a virus system creating an inflammatory response. But the body doesn't have the mechanism that allows it to turn off the inflammatory response, which manifests as cold symptoms," said Cohen.

The finding sheds light on the elusive connection between emotional stress and physical symptoms.

"There's quite a bit of evidence that people under chronic, enduring stressors, when exposed to a virus, are more likely to develop a cold than people who aren't suffering stress. What we didn't really know is how stress gets under the skin, so to speak, to influence these diseases," said Cohen. "This really suggests that inflammatory diseases, like asthma, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, would most likely be affected by stress."

Dr. Redford Williams, director of Duke University's Behavioral Medicine Research Center, said the study adds weight to stress management as a medical treatment.

"This provides a new mechanism for how stress plays a role in all kinds of diseases, not just colds but also coronary artery disease," he said. "And there's evidence that coping skills training can really reduce both the psychological and biological manifestations of stress."

Williams said the link between stress and disease has long been recognized, but only recently have researchers begun to tease out how stress makes the body more vulnerable to diseases.

"We have to focus on the biological pathways between stress and disease," he said. "As we learn more about that, I think we'll be able to design interventions that are more likely to be effective. We will enter an era of personalized medicine where we're able to prevent the disease from ever starting."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is Your Christmas Tree Making You Sick?

Zoonar/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Allergists say they are seeing an increase in the number of patients coming in with respiratory issues – and get this: the culprit could be your Christmas tree.

“The Christmas trees, especially the live Christmas tree, when you bring it indoors, you're giving mold a good opportunity to grow,” said allergist Philip Hemmers in Bridgeport, Conn. “The warm environment, the nutrition on the tree -- mold will start growing and spores will be released into the air.”

“We noticed that our patients were having allergy symptoms at a time of the year that it was unexpected,” Hemmers said. “Typically allergy patients are worse in the spring and fall. A lot of our patients had symptoms around the holidays.”

The problem will occur in patients who are allergic to mold or have problems with dampness and humidity, Hemmers said.

So how can you prevent this? “Typically, the way they're stored can lead to increased levels of dust mites,” Hemmers said. “Other recommendations are to keep the tree in the house for a short a period as possible.”

The longer the tree is inside the house, Hemmers said, the higher potent levels may be.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Are America’s Dirtiest Surfaces?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(IRVING, Texas) -- A new survey has exposed the dirtiest surfaces that Americans touch and not surprisingly they are some of the most frequently touched items we come across every day.

The top offenders on the list include gas pumps, handles on public mailboxes, escalator rails, and ATM buttons.  Following closely were items like vending machine buttons, parking meters, and buttons on crosswalks.

The survey was released Tuesday by Kimberly-Clark Professional, a unit of the personal hygiene giant Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Testers drew more than 350 swabs from surfaces in U.S. cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia, and analyzed them for levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which signals the presence of animal or vegetable bacteria, yeast, or mold cells.

Everyday objects with an ATP reading of 300 or higher are considered to have a high risk for illness transmission, researchers said.

So how many of the germiest surfaces contained an ATP reading of 300 or more?

  • 71 percent of gas pump handles
  • 68 percent of mailbox handles
  • 43 percent of escalator rails
  • 41 percent of ATM buttons
  • 40 percent of parking meters/kiosks
  • 35 percent of crosswalk buttons
  • 35 percent of vending machine buttons

The fact that the top offenders were all in public places and items that people touch on their way to work, in the mall, or on the street came down to one simple fact, the survey’s leaders said: nobody cleans the things that you’re going to touch on a daily basis,” said Dr. Kelly Arehart, program leader of Kimberly-Clark’s Healthy Workplace Project.

Arehart’s colleague at the project, Brad Reynolds, said the solution is nearly as simple as the problem: wash your hands. Germs from people’s hands can transfer seven times before leaving the skin, so people should wash their hands as soon as they get to work and swab their desks frequently with a cleaning product, Reynolds said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Allergies or Sinusitis? Most Get It Wrong

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LANDOVER, Md.) -- The pollen count is through the roof and once again, you have a stuffy nose, sinus pain, fatigue and reduced sense of smell and taste. Oh great, another bad allergy season, you think.

And you'd be wrong. These are the hallmarks of a sinus infection, not allergies, though most allergy patients can't tell the difference, according to a recent survey by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

In an online survey of more than 600 asthma and allergy patients, researchers found that about half self-diagnosed their symptoms as allergies when really they had a sinus infection, or sinusitis.

Despite the fact that 70 percent of those surveyed most trust a primary care physician to correctly diagnose allergies or sinusitis, only 36 percent reported consulting a physician when they had symptoms of these conditions.

Here's a breakdown of which symptoms belong to which ailments.

The Common Cold -- "Cold and allergy can present similarly," says Dr. Stacey Silvers, an ear, nose, and throat doctor at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City, so the defining difference is the length: If your congested nose and breathing difficulty last longer than seven to 10 days, it's probably not a cold. Most likely, it's allergies, and needs to be treated with an antihistamine, not a decongestant.

Seasonal Allergies -- If your sinus congestion is accompanied by watery or itchy eyes and it tends to last several weeks, it's may be allergies, says Silvers. The problem is, many often treat their allergies like a cold, with over-the-counter decongestants, which will work in the short run but are not advisable. "When someone is taking a daytime decongestant every day and a nighttime one to sleep, for weeks and weeks, this is not good," she says. Especially when their allergy might be due to an environmental trigger, such as a feather pillow, that could be easily eliminated.

Sinusitis or Chronic Sinusitis -- With sinusitis, the nasal passageways become inflamed and the liter or more of mucus created every day by your body gets backed up in the sinuses. "This is when you get patients complaining of headache, pressure or pain in their face and chronic fatigue," Silvers says.

A headful of mucus is an exhausted head, one that's hard to lift off the pillow and patients can be irritable and fatigued on most days," says Silvers. If you suffer from facial tenderness, pressure or pain, headache behind the eyes and forehead, or loss of taste or smell and fatigue, you may have sinusitis.

If you experience this three or more times a year, you may have chronic sinusitis and should consult with your physician or an ear, nose and throat specialist. What most people don't know, Silvers says, is that you can have sinusitis without having a runny or stuffy nose or difficulty breathing, because the mucus is congested further back in the sinuses.

If you suffer from any of the above symptoms and they do not resolve within a week or so (and hence are unlikely to be a cold or flu), you should consider seeing your physician, who may refer you to an allergist or an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Zinc Helps Tame the Common Cold

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(OXFORD, England) - A recent systematic review of several studies has determined that zinc is indeed helpful for shortening and reducing the effects of the common cold, although some medical professionals remain skeptical.

The Cochrane Library announced Tuesday that a review of 15 studies that examined a combined 1,300 patients found that a zinc supplement is efficient if taken by healthy individuals within 24 hours after symptoms begin.

The review also found that taking a zinc supplement reduced the risk of developing a cold by 36 percent. Others, however, are not so sure.

ABC News' chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard E. Besser, responded to Thursday's findings.
"The current state of the science makes it impossible to say whether zinc works," Besser said. "I am most skeptical of zinc as a means of preventing colds in people who are otherwise well-nourished."

Dr. Besser said he does not recommend zinc for either the prevention or treatment of colds. Rather, he recommends washing your hands and using alcohol-based sanitizers frequently for prevention. Although he said most over-the-counter products are ineffective for treatment, Dr. Besser said acetaminophen and ibuprofen are effective pain and fever medications. Nasal decongestants, tissues, salt water nose drops and petroleum jelly can also help to ease affects of the common cold.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Link Type 1 Diabetes in Children to Common Cold

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SYDNEY, Australia) -- Researchers say the common cold could be linked to type 1 diabetes in at risk children. 

This research can explain the dramatic rise in diabetes cases among very young children, researchers suggest, and could lead to improved treatment and prevention.

The analysis of the 26 studies published in BMJ Online First showed that young type 1 diabetic patients are 10 times more likely to exhibit symptoms of enterovirus infection than children without the disease.

Researcher Maria Craig, PhD, of the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia told WebMD, "We saw a very strong association between enterovirus infection and type 1 diabetes."

"Obviously studies like the ones we looked at cannot prove cause and effect, but the findings make a strong case for this association," she added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Teacher Defies Odds, Hasn't Called in Sick in 40 Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Alphonse Dattolo, a language teacher at Glen Rock High School in New Jersey, says he has worked more than 7,000 days in a row without one single day off. For those trying to do the math, that's more than 40 school years without an absence from the daily school grind.

Dattolo, 62, says he has been sick here and there in the past 40 years, but nothing that warranted a missed day of school. His students keep him going, Dattolo said, and he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

Some doctors say Dattolo was probably blessed with a great immune system, but it is unlikely that Dattolo has never had the flu or another contagious illness in the past four decades.

"He may not have perceived himself to be ill, but it's not possible that he hasn't had multiple infections with common gastrointestinal and respiratory problems in that long of time," said Dr. Susan Coffin, medical director of infection and prevention and control department at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

But Dr. Paul Glezen, professor of molecular virology, microbiology and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, said that some bodies are better at fighting illness than others.

"Some people are just genetically programmed to have a better innate immunity, and they have a natural ability to respond to viruses," said Glezen. "[Dattolo] is in contact with students regularly, so he may be fortunate in that he can overcome those infections more rapidly and with fewer consequences than others."

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor, agreed that it is quite possible a person can avoid severe illness for most of their lifetime. Getting a flu shot, washing your hands, eating right, and getting plenty of rest can keep a person healthy and robust.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Exercise Could Fend Off the Common Cold

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(KANNAPOLIS, N.C.) -- New research suggests that staying fit could reduce your risk of catching the common cold.

People who exercised at least five days a week spent 43 percent fewer days with an upper respiratory tract infection than those who exercised no more than once a week, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Similarly, those who rated themselves as highly fit had 46 percent fewer days with a respiratory infection than those who reported low fitness, based on the findings of David Nieman, a researcher at Appalachian State University in Kannapolis, N.C., and colleagues.

Researchers followed 1,002 adults up to age 85 during two 12-week periods in 2008; half participated in the fall and half in the winter.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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