In Brief



Smaller drug dose better after stroke

Patients who suffer a particularly dangerous type of stroke recover better with a much smaller dose of a drug that's often used to treat them, a new study has shown.

In strokes caused by bleeding in the brain, or intracerebral hemorrhage, doctors often use 3 milligrams of the clot-busting drug known as tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA. But Dr. Daniel Hanley, a neurologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said his research showed that cutting back the dose to 1 milligram reduced rates of continued bleeding and death.

"Ten years ago, the mortality rate for this type of stroke was at 80 percent. One year ago, it was 50 percent. In this study it was 13 percent," Hanley said during preparation for last weekend's International Stroke Conference in Kissimmee, Fla.

An intracerebral hemorrhage -- bleeding in the brain -- is the only type of stroke without a clearly defined treatment.



Mating lessens genetic mutations

There is nothing like sex to clean out old genomes, Indiana University researchers report in the current issue of Science.

Biologists have long sought to explain the benefits of comparatively time- and energy-intensive sexual reproduction over asexual reproduction, the simple splitting of cells. Studies of the water flea support the idea that sex is actually a sort of genetic housecleaner, which sweeps away harmful genetic mutations. The researchers reached the conclusion by studying the rate of mutations in Daphnia pulex, water fleas that have sexually and asexually reproducing strains. They found that asexual lines of water fleas accumulated rates of harmful mutations at four times the rate of strains of fleas that reproduce sexually. Asexual reproduction is useful to organisms because they do not need mates, but in the long term, the strategy may be flawed, the scientists said.

Hartford Courant


Anti-munchies drug awaits OK

An anti-obesity drug that turns off the same brain circuits that trigger the marijuana-induced munchies appeared to produce sustained weight loss among patients who took it in a two-year study.

A report in the Feb. 15 Journal of the American Medical Association also said the drug -- Sanofi-Aventis' Acomplia, or rimonabant -- needed more study for its long-term effects, and noted that the research was limited by a high dropout rate. The study, by New York's Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, was funded by the drug company.

Rimonabant is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration. However, there has been speculation that it could become the world's first blockbuster anti-obesity medication, with analysts estimating sales topping $3 billion a year.

The report was based on a study involving more than 3,000 patients. The basic findings were released at an American Heart Association meeting in late 2004.

Los Angeles Times


Children 2 to 5 need flu shots

Annual flu shots should be given to children 2 to 5 years old, greatly increasing the number of kids protected against the common virus, a panel of scientists told federal health officials this week.

The recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices would add more than 5 million children to the group of 180 million Americans already urged to get flu shots every year, including infants 6 to 23 months old, pregnant women, seniors and people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease.

The panel's recommendations are usually adopted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which sets national vaccination guidelines.

Knight Ridder/Tribune

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