Entries in Prevention (16)


Genetically Modified Cells Could Prevent Death from HIV/AIDS, Study Finds

(NEW YORK) -- Using genetic modification to treat HIV could create cells that are resistant to the two major types of the virus, preventing it from evolving into AIDS, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of Texas at Austin used a method known as targeted trait stacking to paste a series of HIV-resistant genes into T cells — immune cells targeted by the AIDS virus — blocking infection at multiple stages and providing protection against R5-tropic and X4-tropic, the two separate forms of HIV. Any truly useful treatment for HIV would have to protect against both of these forms.

“We inactivated the CCR5 gene, and then introduced 3 additional genes,” Dr. Matthew Porteus, an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford and lead investigator in the study, told ABC News. “When cells had all four of these traits, we found that after 25 days the cells were completely resistant to both types of HIV.”

One of the major obstacles to treating HIV is the high mutation rate of the virus. Patients must use a cocktail mix of drugs, known as Highly Active AntiRetroviral Therapy (HAART), in order to fight the virus at different stages.

“HIV is a great shape shifter,” said Sara Sawyer, an assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the study.  “It can come up with new solutions, so a single drug does not work very well. That’s why HIV patients are given multiple drugs at once.”

Ideally, researchers hope to discover a cocktail of genes, not just drugs.  They informally call it genetic-HAART, and it would bolster a patient’s immune system with HIV-resistant T cells. While other non-resistant cells were being killed by the virus, these supplemented T cells would remain, strengthening the patient’s immune system and serving as an alternative to traditional HIV treatments.

“This method would give people a protected reservoir of T cells that would thwart off immune system collapse, and the secondary infections that give rise to AIDS,” said Sawyer.

The next steps in refining this particular approach to combating HIV/AIDS include finding the right cocktail of genes, and inserting them into T cells from AIDS patients. These modified T cells could then be used in animals to determine whether or not they remain resistant over time. These steps are required by the Food and Drug Administration before it can approve clinical trials, which could take 3-5 years.

“To develop novel therapies you have to be an optimist,” said Porteus. “The findings in this study are a proof of concept; we’ve proven this could work.”

The study was funded by the Foundation for AIDS Research and will be published in the Jan. 29 issue of the journal Molecular Therapy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Future of Alzheimer's Battle Lies in Prevention, Doctor Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- First-degree relatives of adults with Alzheimer's disease have a higher lifetime risk for developing the condition than those without a family history.  However, there is currently little that these relatives can do that is proven to lower their risk of developing the disease later.

It is this problem that Dr. Sam Gandy, professor of Alzheimer's disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, believes will be addressed sooner rather than later.  And he says a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday may set the stage for Alzheimer's prevention studies in the near future -- studies that may have more implications for the children of patients than for the patients themselves.

The new study looked at adults who had a genetic form of Alzheimer's but had not yet displayed symptoms.  Interestingly, researchers found that changes in the levels of a protein associated with Alzheimer's, called amyloid, can be detected up to 25 years before symptoms begin.

In an editorial accompanying the new study, Gandy explains why this matters.

"I think this study sets the stage for prevention studies," Gandy tells ABC News. "The only way to know how important amyloid is is to prevent it from forming altogether."

The editorial comes at a time when the potential role of amyloid in Alzheimer's is a topic of growing controversy.  A number of trials for amyloid-lowering drugs failed to show any benefits in patients with mild Alzheimer's.

Gandy argues that these recent drug trials were started too late.  Instead, he argues, new studies should target Alzheimer's prevention, ideally decades before patients show any signs of the disease.  

Hypothetically, the trials could target adults in their 40s and 50s with a family history of the disease.  If a safe amyloid-lowering drug was available, first-degree relatives could potentially get a trial of the drug, and researchers could monitor these individuals to see if they developed Alzheimer's or not.

Most Alzheimer's experts contacted by ABC News agree that the new data is promising.

"In my view, the editorial is precisely on target," says Dr. Paul Aisen, director of the Alzheimer's disease cooperative study at the University of California San Diego.  "This is an important message to share with the scientific community and with families affected by [Alzheimer's] who are discouraged by the disappointing results of large anti-amyloid trials conducted in individuals with dementia."

"Ultimately, to make a real impact, we have to focus on prevention," says Dr. James Galvin, professor of neurology and psychiatry at New York University Langone School of Medicine.  "This means identifying markers of disease to initiate effective treatments before symptoms begin.  Waiting until someone already has memory loss suggests that there is already substantial damage to vital brain systems."

Some experts, however, were more skeptical of the editorial's message.  Specifically, they question whether amyloid is really the true or only culprit behind Alzheimer's -- and whether focusing on it so heavily may close the door too early on exploring other potential factors behind the disease.

"The danger is that if we rely only on the amyloid hypothesis for developing treatment, we might miss other opportunities," says Dr. Zaven Khachaturian, president of the Prevent AD 2020 Campaign.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Guidelines Extend Women's Cancer Prevention Debate

Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Everyone agrees that preventive care helps reduce the threat of cervical or breast cancer for women. But women often face conflicting recommendations by health care professionals when it comes to cancer prevention.
The government-run U.S. Preventive Services Task Force no longer recommends that women receive annual pap smears to screen for cervical cancer.

But the American College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists disagrees. It's issued new guidelines recommending annual well-woman exams for proper health maintenance beginning at age 21, and even sooner, if a woman has pelvic pain, a menstrual disorder or other worrisome symptoms. However, they say it's not necessary to have an exam before starting birth-control pills.
The college also believes that women between the ages of 20- and 39-years-old should have clinical breast exams every one to three years, and annual exams beginning at age 40.
That's where the doctors' group differs from the government task force. It recommends annual testing for breast cancer beginning at 50 years old.
The differing guidelines may be confusing, but it's best to consult with your own doctor to come up with the best preventive health care plan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New York, California Lead States in Injury Prevention

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to injury prevention -- with tougher policies on such things as seatbelt use, bike helmets and drunk driving -- New York and California lead the way, according to a new report released on Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report ranks states on steps taken to reduce the risk of accidental injury, the country's fifth-leading cause of death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There are proven, evidence-based strategies that can spare millions of Americans from injuries each year," Trust executive director Jeff Levi said in a statement.  "This report focuses on specific, scientifically supported steps we can take to make it easier for Americans to keep themselves and their families safer."

New York and California scored nine out of 10 on a list of injury prevention policies.  Eighteen states lack primary seat belt laws; 29 states do not require bicycle helmets for children; 31 states do not require helmets for all motorcycle riders; and 34 states and Washington, D.C. do not require mandatory ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers, according to the report.

"Seat belts, helmets, drunk driving laws and a range of other strong prevention policies and initiatives are reducing injury rates around the country," Amber Williams, executive director of the Safe States Alliance, said in a statement.  "However, we could dramatically bring down rates of injuries from motor vehicles, assaults, falls, fires and a range of other risks even more if more states adopted, enforced and implemented proven policies."

The rankings also reflect anti-violence and sport safety laws, as well as prescription drug monitoring programs.

While New York and California earned top scores, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington tied for second place with scores of eight out of 10.  Montana and Ohio ranked last with scores of two out of 10.


The report says state policies aimed at curbing accidents and violence pay off in the number of lives saved.  New York has an annual accidental injury rate of 37.1 per 100,000 people compared to Montana's 86.5, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The national average is 57.9 deaths due to injury per 100,000 people.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Proof at Last? Colonoscopy and Cancer Prevention

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Do you really need that colonoscopy? It’s a question that seems simple at first. After all, as more Americans routinely undergo the oft-dreaded colonoscopy with each passing year, cases of colorectal cancer have continued to drop.

Yet data from large, conclusive studies that prove this test, currently the primary weapon in a doctor’s arsenal to catch colon cancer early, actually saves lives has so far been lacking.

Some doctors believe that new research, released Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, takes a big step in this direction. In the study, researchers led by Ann G. Zauber of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York suggest that removing non-cancerous growths known as polyps could have a big impact on death from colorectal cancer. Doctors routinely remove these benign polyps during a colonoscopy. The new study indicates that people who have polyps removed slash their risk of death from colorectal cancer by more than 50 percent over the next decade and a half compared to the general population.

“This study confirms the suspected benefit of colonoscopy as it relates to reducing mortality from colorectal cancer,” says Dr. Fritz Francois of NYU Medical Center, who was not involved with the study.  He added that while certain questions still remain surrounding the overall body of research on colonoscopy, “the important message is clear: colonoscopy saves lives.”

Not so fast, say other cancer experts. Dr. Rita Redberg of the University of San Francisco, editor of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, was less impressed by the new study. She said a major shortcoming of the study was that it did not factor in the so-called “healthy-user effect.” In other words, she said, those people in the study who received colonoscopies and had polyps removed may very well be more healthy than the average person in the general population -- perhaps doing things like eating a healthier diet, exercising or taking medications regularly. These aspects of their lifestyle may lower their chances of developing colon cancer even before colonoscopy is considered.

The healthy-user effect has confounded medical professionals before. Redberg said the healthy-user effect is, “the same reason we thought hormone replacement therapy [HRT] was protective against heart disease for women for many years, until a randomized trial was done.”  In the case of HRT, when such a trial was performed, researchers actually found a slight increase in heart disease and strokes among women taking the measure that was supposed to have improved their health.

Other doctors contacted by ABC News agreed that it is difficult to make any conclusions from the study at hand. That said, government health agencies have made prevention of colorectal cancer a top priority and, as a result, have strived to encourage more Americans to have screening colonoscopies. Current guidelines recommend that every American age 50 to 75 undergo screening colonoscopy -- though CDC data suggest 22 million Americans who should be getting screened aren’t.

The stakes for preventing colorectal cancer are high. In the U.S., among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the third most common and the second-leading cause of cancer death, according to the CDC. And the idea that finding and removing precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer seems a logical way to try and solve the problem.

So will doctors ever know conclusively whether or not colonoscopy and the removal of benign polyps save lives? Most experts contacted by ABC News believe so.

“If your doctor finds a polyp on colonoscopy, that’s a tissue we know may turn into cancer,” said Dr. Eric Esrailian, a gastroenterologist at UCLA. “It can be removed during the procedure and the cancer never develops....We can basically prevent cancer.”

Until this can be proven more conclusively, most agree that routine screenings may help -- and are unlikely to hurt.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fire Safety: Seven Life-Saving Preventive Measures

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A devastating house fire killed three young girls and their grandparents early Christmas morning in Stamford, Conn. Authorities say the three-alarm blaze engulfed the Victorian home and tore through the upper floors.

It's a tragedy all too common during this time of year.  Most homes built since the 1980s burn up to six times faster than older homes because they are made with synthetic materials that are cheaper and sturdier, but also more flammable.

Fire officials advise that if the smoke detector is sounding and it takes more than a cup of water to put out the blaze, the fire fighting should be left to the professionals.

But the most important action families can take happens well in advance of any fire.  ABC News spoke with Jim Bullock, a retired deputy chief from the New York City Fire Department and owner of NY Fire Safety Institute, who recommended every family take these seven preventive measures:

1. Have a Plan -- Every family should have an evacuation plan and a designated meeting place to go after leaving the house.  If the home has more than one story, each room should have a way to reach the ground without having to use the stairs; for many rooms rope ladders may be necessary.

2. Put Smoke Detectors Outside Bedrooms -- Smoke detectors should be placed in the hallway outside of the bedrooms because they will be triggered sooner, allowing for more evacuation time.  If the bedrooms are located in different areas of the house or on a particularly long hallway, multiple smoke detectors may be needed.  It is also vital that smoke alarms are checked regularly to verify they are operational.

3. Shut Bedroom Doors at Night -- Every bedroom door should be closed at night.  In case of a fire, that simple step slows the speed at which the smoke and poisonous gasses enter the rooms.

4. Use Candles Infrequently -- Open flames start the most house fires.  Candles burn at 1,000 degrees and if one ignites a blanket or pillow, within three or four minutes an entire room can be consumed by flames.  Bullock recommends using electronic candles instead.

5. Place Fire Extinguishers in Areas with Open Flames -- In most houses, fire extinguishers should be placed in the kitchen and the boiler room, or any area with an open flame.  If one of the residents of the house smokes, an extinguisher should be placed in the room where that person smokes the most.  It is important the adults in the house know how to properly use the extinguisher prior to a fire.

6. Throw Away Christmas Trees After Christmas -- Christmas trees become extremely dangerous when they dry out and should be disposed of as soon as that happens.  A tree can set an entire room on fire in three to four minutes.  Bullock said fire officials say Christmas trees are “like a gasoline can in the middle of your living room.”

7. Extension Cords Are Temporary
-- Extension cords are intended for temporary use only, if a permanent solution is needed, rewire and add an outlet in the place it is needed.  Additionally, do not connect multiple extension cords or power strips together.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Holy Smokes! How to Prevent a Hazardous Holiday

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROCKVILLE, Md.) -- “O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree! Thy leaves are so unchanging.”

This may be true for this classic and beloved song…but for those of us with trees in our homes that happen to be too dry, those leaves are easily a holiday hazard waiting to catch on fire.

Tuesday in Rockville, Md., the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission demonstrated how in only 40 seconds your entire holiday could come melting to the ground, along with your house.

“No matter how well you water a tree or how fresh it is when you bring it home, trees last only a maximum of four weeks,” John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for Underwriters Laboratories Inc., which independently tests products and provides safety recommendations, told ABC News.   

“It’s the speed at which it burns that’s so scary because you need time to get out once your smoke alarm goes off,” said Drengenberg.

According to the CPSC, between 2006 and 2008, there are an average of four deaths a year related to Christmas tree fires, causing an estimated $18 million in property damage.

But, Christmas trees are not the only fire hazards around the holidays. The No. 1 culprit: candles, which account for approximately 130 deaths and $360 million in property losses.

“They can be very pretty and they are very much fun to have, but you have to be careful,” Drengenberg said. “The main tip that Underwater Laboratories can give anyone is blow out the candle before you leave the room.” It may be inconvenient, said Drengenberg, but this small act can “save you a lot of grief.”

“Christmas is a time of many traditions and people like to use grandma’s table cloth on the table for Christmas dinner, but lights should not be a tradition,” Drengenberg said. Tossing lights, he said, is one thing you should feel good about doing.

If the light is frayed with wires showing or has too many bulbs burnt out CPSC and UL recommend purchasing new ones.

Drengenberg explained that a red UL sticker, which can be found on a metallic sticker attached to the lights, means the product has been tested for rain, humidity and UV light, among other things, and has been approved for outdoor use. A green UL means the lights are for indoor use only and should never be placed outside.

Tagging such as this helps to make sure you don’t purchase lights that are too thin and easily broken or that don’t have the proper surge protectors.

Inez Tenenbaum, head of the CPSC, highlighted regulatory enforcement efforts within the United States. This past week, Christmas lights arriving at a port in Long Beach from China were so thin the light could be snapped off the wire.

“Our people at the port saw that they didn’t meet the standard and we seized them and kept them from being sold in the United States,” Tenenbaum said.

Bottom line: Unsafe lights could possibly slip through the cracks and make their way into homes, so ultimately the consumer needs to verify lights are safe.

CPSC estimates that during November and December of 2010, more than 13,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for holiday decoration-related injuries, a number that has continued to rise since 2007.

Here are holiday tips from CPSC to make sure your holiday stays merry:

  •     Use the appropriate ladder when hanging Christmas lights
  •     Don’t use decorations that look like candy or food, as these can confuse young children or pets
  •     Make sure your decorations are lead-free
  •     Designate a family tree waterer to avoid the tree drying out too early
  •     Check smoke alarms and batteries
  •     Have a family emergency plan should you need to evacuate

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


1 in 100 Adults Made Suicide Plans in Past Year

Hemera/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- About 1 in every 100 U.S. adults reported making plans to commit suicide in the past year, with suicide attempts more common among Rhode Islanders and serious thoughts of suicide most common among people in Utah.

Because suicide is a preventable problem, the first-ever state-by-state snapshot of how frequently Americans consider, plan or attempt to end their lives suggests there are opportunities to intervene before people succeed in killing themselves, according to a report released today by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nationwide, someone dies by their own hand every 15 minutes, with millions more entertaining thoughts of ending it all.

Suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts are more frequent among young adults 18-29, and women are more prone than men to consider suicide, although men are more likely to succeed in ending their lives, the report found. The enormous regional variations it identified in the thoughts and behavior leading up to suicide suggest that suicide prevention programs need to be tailored to local communities.

“We can identify risks and take action before a suicide attempt takes place,” said Dr. Thomas M. Frieden, director of the CDC in Atlanta. “This is not a problem to shroud in secrecy. We need to work together to raise awareness about suicide and learn more about interventions that work to prevent this public health problem.

Interventions can range from public education campaigns to broadly raise suicide awareness to targeted psychotherapy for people at risk of committing suicide, especially those with a history of suicide attempts.

The report prepared by the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), was based on information from the 2008-2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).  Among its main findings:

  • More than 2.2 million adults reported making suicide plans in the past year. Rates of adults planning to kill themselves ranged from 0.1 percent in Georgia to a high of 2.8 percent in Rhode Island.
  • More than 1 million adults reported attempting suicide in the past year, with rates of attempted suicide lowest in Delaware at 0.1 percent and highest in Georgia at 1.5 percent.
  • Suicide rates have been consistently higher in the West, particularly in the Rocky Mountain states. However, adults in the Midwest and West were more likely to think about killing themselves than those in the Northeast and South. Adults in the Midwest were more likely to have planned to kill themselves than their counterparts in the South.
  • Suicide attemptS didn’t vary by region.

Previous studies have found that for every suicide, there are 25 attempted suicides. Men most frequently use guns to kill themselves. Women most often kill themselves by overdosing on tranquilizers, painkillers, antidepressants and other prescription drugs.

Anyone considering suicide can call 1-800-273-TALK/8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. The CDC website also contains resources for recognizing and preventing suicide.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


IUDs May Protect Women from Cervical Cancer

Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Intrauterine devices (IUDs), the small plastic devices inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy, may also offer women protection against cervical cancer, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

An international team of researchers analyzed 26 studies that included nearly 20,000 women from 14 countries and found that the risk of cervical cancer in women who used IUDs was nearly half that of women who never used them.

While the researchers did not find a link between IUDs and a lower risk of infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus that leads to cervical cancer, the study's authors believe IUDs may cause an immune response that can get rid of the virus once it enters the body.

"The hypothesis is that an IUD, because it's a foreign body, creates an inflammatory response that gets rid of the HPV, which reduces the risk of cervical cancer," said Dr. Howard Jones, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Previous studies have found IUD use reduces the risk of endometrial cancer, but few have looked at the relationship between IUDs and cervical cancer.

Experts not involved with the research say while the findings offer important insight into how cervical cancer develops, clinicians are unlikely to change how they prescribe IUDs as a result of this research since this study does not determine whether a cause-and-effect relationship exists between IUDs and cervical cancer.  The study also did not evaluate specific types of IUDs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cranberries or Antibiotics for Prevention of Infections?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) -- Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are quite common with almost half of all women experiencing at least one in their lifetime.  Although it’s not completely clear how they work, it is not uncommon for cranberries and cranberry products to be used for UTI prevention by women who develop recurrent infections -- a condition for which they are usually prescribed preventative low-dose antibiotics.  

Although cranberries have had some observed effectiveness in UTI prevention, how do the little red berries stack up against the low-dose antibiotic?  According a new study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, not very well.
Researchers at the College Pharmacy at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences gave either a daily low-dose antibiotic or cranberry capsules to 221 women for a period of 12 months.  They then measured the frequency of UTI symptoms.  They found that women taking the low-dose antibiotic had an average of 1.8 UTI recurrences compared to four recurrences for women taking cranberry capsules.  

So it seems that antibiotics are more effective at preventing recurrent UTIs than cranberry capsules.  But taking the antibiotics also increased the rate of antibiotic resistance of the bacteria causing the infections. The authors stated that because “many women are afraid of contracting drug-resistant bacteria using long-term antibiotic prophylaxis [preventative treatment]...cranberry prophylaxis may be a useful alternative despite its lower effectiveness.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio