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In Brief



Prozac, other drugs cause lung disorder

New research has linked the use of Prozac and similar antidepressants during pregnancy to yet another complication in newborns: an uncommon but life-threatening lung problem.

Infants whose mothers took the antidepressants in the second half of pregnancy had six times the expected risk of developing the lung disorder, the researchers reported in yesterday's New England Journal of Medicine.

The antidepressants implicated are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, a class of drugs that includes Eli Lilly & Co.'s Prozac, GlaxoSmithKline's Paxil and Pfizer's Zoloft. "This is the latest in a series of troubling reports of possible adverse effects of SSRIs on the fetus," Dr. James L. Mills of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego called the risk very low and said 99 percent of women who took the antidepressants late in pregnancy would deliver a child without the problem.

Dr. Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of New Drugs, called the results worrisome and said the agency would be issuing a public health advisory in a few days.

Associated Press


Herbal pill may not help prostate

A popular herbal pill used by millions of men doesn't reduce the frequent urge to go to the bathroom or other annoying symptoms of an enlarged prostate, a rigorous new study concludes.

The yearlong research found the plant extract, saw palmetto, was no more effective than dummy capsules in easing symptoms for the 225 men in the study. The results contrast with previous research that showed it helped.

More than 2 million American men take the herb to treat an enlarged prostate and it is widely used in Europe, the researchers said. Until their results are confirmed by more studies, men who take saw palmetto and feel it works should keep using it, researchers said. The findings were published in yesterday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Associated Press


Sex of baby affects mother's asthma

Women with asthma who are pregnant with girls are likely to suffer from more severe symptoms than women with asthma who are pregnant with boys, Yale School of Medicine researchers report.

Researchers monitored 702 pregnant women with asthma, who measured their own lung function every 10 days.

Asthma worsened in all the mothers until about 30 weeks after conception, after which the women experienced improvement in lung function. However, mothers carrying a male fetus had 10 percent better lung function throughout their pregnancies.

The authors speculate that the hormone testosterone, secreted by male fetuses, might relax bronchial tissue and inhibit the response to allergens. The research appears in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Hartford Courant


Scientists find two mega solar systems

Astronomers have spotted evidence of two mega solar systems - giant stars enveloped by what appear to be huge disks of planet-forming dust.

Cloudy disks around stars are believed to represent current or future planetary systems. Our sun is surrounded by the Kuiper Belt, a disk containing dust, comets and other bodies. Astronomers said the latest findings were surprising because such massive stars are thought to be inhospitable to the formation of planets.

"Our data suggest that the planet-forming process may be hardier than previously believed, occurring around even the most massive stars," Joel Kastner of the Rochester Institute of Technology reported in today's Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The new stars were measured to be 30 to 70 times more massive than the sun. They were found using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope during a survey of 60 bright stars.

Associated Press

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